Posted on August 24, 2006. Filed under: 202 - Advanced Asma wa Sifaat |

“From the Sunnah of Allah, is that when He decides to champion His religion, He gives rise to those who oppose it; thereby establishing the truth with His Words, and dashing the truth upon falsehood, smashing its brains, and behold, it vanishes!(21:18)”
(Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya al-Harrani al-Hanbali, during his last imprisonment, a few months before his demise, writes these lines using coal)

All praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, who does what He wills, when He wills and as He wills, far from what the Jahmites attribute to him from deficiencies.

I recently came across an article called ‘Apples and Oranges’, written by an anonymous author who claimed to be a Hanbali. What struck me about the article is his dubious claim, in which he obviously has no predecessor, that the Hanbalis, supposedly represented by al-Saffarini, were in fact the mufawwidha of the Ash’ari type, negating the literal meanings of Allah’s Atributes that seem pagan and anthropomorphic to a handful of Neo-Aristotelians known as Ash’arites.

What disturbed me even more, is when I glanced through the article and found grave errors, deliberate misquotes, and a total lack of competence to speak on such, or any religious issues. Yet, what really broke the camels back, is when I noticed the sincere Muslims amongst the commoners being duped by someone, who was clearly a fraudster to me, and therefore, decided to write this short rebuttal.

Please do note that what you are about to read is far from an academic discussion, for such discussions can only take place between academics, who have studied the subjects they are discussing. The author of ‘Apples and Oranges’ on the other hand, deserves an exposure, not an academic discussion, and hence, some of the harshness displayed in the rebuttal.

Some have taken Imām Muhammad as-Safārīnī al-Hanbalī al-Atharī as a Salafi, whereas the reality is quite different. Some time ago, I said that whoever wants to see the real difference between the old Athari creed held by the non-Mujassim Hanābilah and the neo-Salafi Mujassim creed of yesterday and today, all they have to do is read Imām as-Safārīnī’s work and look for all of the salafi footnotes refuting him and even accusing him of lying.

Who exactly is the author referring to as ‘Mujassim Hanbalis’? Is it the Sheikh al-Madhab al-Qadhi Abu Ya’la that the author is referring to, in particular? Or is it Ibn al-Zaghuni? And has any Hanbali authority ever referred to them as such? If not, then on what basis is the author trying to distort the Hanbali view of history?

Perhaps, the only Hanbalis he can think of are four:

1) Rizq Allah al-Tamimi, whose entire Hanbali family was intimately close to the Ash’aris, and in particular, al-Baqillani, and hence, the Ash’ari influence on the Tamimis. It was under this influence that Rizq’s uncle, Abul-Fadhl al-Tamimi wrote his book: al-I’tiqad, where he, instead of transmitting narrations from Imam Ahmad, gave his own view of what Imam Ahmad believed. Hence, through out the book, he would say: ‘… and Imam Ahmad used to say, such and such’, attributing to the Imam, things he was never reported to have said, in any of the books of Sunan by any of his students.

Due to Rizq Allah’s odd love for the Ash’aris, he had immense hatred for the Sheikh al-Hanabila, al-Qadhi Abu Ya’la, about whom he said: ‘He urinated upon the Hanbalis in such a way that even the ocean cannot purify it!’

Yet, Rizq Allah is no match for al-Qadhi Abu Ya’la, and anyone slightly familiar with the history and biographies of Hanbalis knows and realizes that. Abu Ya’la is undoubtedly the leading authority in the Madhab, in spite of being a contemporary of Rizq Allah, and authored various books in the usul and the furu’ of the Madhab, such that the Madhab historically remains indebted to him. How can Rizq Allah’s status in the Madhab by compared to Abu Ya’la, while the former only contributed two books to the Madhab, and one of them is merely a Sharh of a manual in Fiqh?

Moreover, Rizq Allah was boycotted by some of the Hanbali Imams for his closeness to the Ash’aris which resulted in his hatred for Abu Ya’la.

Ibn ‘Asakir reports in his Tarikh Madinat Dimashq (52/356), that when Imam Ibn al-Banna al-Hanbali visited Rizq Allah al-Tamimi and informed him of the death of Abu Ya’la, Rizq Allah replied: ‘May Allah not be merciful to him! He defecated upon the Hanbalis, such that it would not be washed until the Day of Resurrection!’ Upon hearing this, Ibn al-Banna al-Hanbali boycotted him until he died.

Yet, Rizq Allah al-Tamimi, is no a match for either of the leading authorities of the Hanbalis, neither Abu Ya’la, nor Ibn al-Banna.

Having said that, even Rizq Allah al-Tamimi, along with his entire Tamimi family are considered anthropomorphists according to the author’s and the modern day Ash’ari standards. For Abul-Fadhl al-Tamimi, like the early Ash’aris, explicitly affirms many of the Attributes of Allah, saying that Allah has a Face, literally and not allegorically, just as He has Two Hands. (al-I’tiqad p. 17-23)

An interesting point to note is that the author, elsewhere, often refers to the ‘Rizq Allah family’ and the ‘Tamimi family’ as if they were two different families. However, anyone who has a scant knowledge of Tabaqat of Hanbalis, knows that Rizq Allah was from the Tamimi family, and not that there were two different families. This, of course, highlights the bogus claim of the author to Hanbalism.

2) Ibn ‘Aqil al-Hanbali, who was influenced by the Mu’tazila in his early days, by his own admission. His Mu’tazili influence lead him to write a book called ‘al-Nasiha’ (An Advice), which Ibn Qudama refers to as ‘al-Fadhiha’ (A Scandal). In this book he launched a ferocious Jahmite attack on the Hanbalis, which caused the Hanbalis, lead by Sharif Abu Ja’far to make his blood Halal. Ibn ‘Aqil then made an escape attempt and boarded a ship, only to meet a young man who said to him: ‘Who is this man, Ibn ‘Aqil? Tell me, so that I can kill him!’ Hearing this, Ibn ‘Aqil was struck with fear, so he returned to Baghdad, sat at the feet of Sharif Abu Ja’far and repented in presence of a group of Hanbalis!

In spite of this, Ibn ‘Aqil, confirming with the Hanbali tradition, was an avowed enemy of the Ash’arites, and in fact, he wrote a book refuting the Ash’arites: al-Radd ‘ala Al-Ash’ira.

3) Ibn al-Jawzi, was greatly influenced by Ibn ‘Aqil’s works, which is why the former held exactly the same opinions as the latter. It is well documented in all the major Hanbali historical and biographical works that Ibn al-Jawzi departed from the Madhab of Imam Ahmad in beliefs, something that even an amateur Hanbali is aware of. Ibn al-Jawzi, therefore, was never a reference point in Hanbali creed, not in his time, nor ever after his death. Not to mention that he was severely criticised by the Hanbali Sheikh of his time al-‘Althi, who bluntly told him to look for a different Madhab!

In spite of this, he too, like Ibn ‘Aqil whom he admired, was an avoid enemy of the Ash’arites, who once said of them: ‘The heretics claim; i) there is no god in the Heavens, ii) neither is there Qur’an in the Mushaf, and iii) nor is there a Prophet in the grave; ‘your three shameful facets’’

4) Najm al-Din al-Tufi al-Hanbali
, is often mentioned as a great Hanbali critique of Ibn Taymiyya. Yet, one only needs to refer to Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqat al-Hanabila of Ibn Rajab to find out that al-Tufi, as he admitted himself, was an Ash’arite and a Rafidhi! Such a person’s testimony is rejected about himself, let alone Ibn Taymiyya or Imam Ahmad.

So if the author knows of any other Hanbali ‘authorities’ who referred to the Hanbalis as Mujassima, then please let us know.

Yes, al-Qadhi Abu Ya’la’s book, Ibtal al-Ta’wilat, did receive a fair share of criticism, but not due to anthropomorphism; rather, due to extremism in affirming Attributes for Allah, using extremely weak and often fabricated narrations.

This is not a research by any means. Some brothers requested that I make this information public and in the English language for general benefit, so here it is. My work in this is very insignificant.

Indeed, it is far from being called a research. In fact, this is a blatant example of cut-and-paste job of the words, the author managed to understand or misunderstand, from the passages, which if placed out of context may seemingly agree with his heresy. His only objective is to deliberately paint a false picture of the Hanbali creed.

I did a cursory reading of Imām as-Safārīnī’a Lawāmi’ al-Anwār al-Bahiyyah wa Sawāti’ al-Asrār al-Athariyyah which is an explanation of his own poem in Atharī creed tittled: ad-Durrah al-Madiyyah fi Aqīdah al-Firqatil Mardiyyah. In this cursory reading. I highlighted the more obvious differences between the Atharī creed and Salafi creed of old and new.

At least, though surprisingly, he is honest enough to declare that he has not properly studied the source he is quoting from for the public, thereby, taking his fake ‘traditionalism’ to its lowest depths.

As for the author, al-Saffarini, his poem and his Sharh, then his poem on ‘Aqida is very popular, widely circulated and memorised amongst the Hanbalis across Najd and Hijaz. However, the poem itself has been criticised by the Hanbalis for delving into Kalam. For example, he says:

‘Our Lord is not a substance (jawhar), nor is He an accident (‘aradh), or a body (jism), may His Highness be exalted’

Whereas Imam Ahmad often repeated in many of the narrations that Allah is not to be described, except with what He has described himself with.

In this regard, the great Hanbali authority of Damascus, Sh Ibn Badran al-Hanbali in his Madkhal (Intro to Hanbali Madhab) criticised al-Saffarini for taking a way between the mutakallimun and the Atharis.

Furthermore, Ibn Badran, in al-‘Uqud al-Yaqutiyya, wrote a detailed criticism of al-Saffarini’s poem as well as his Sharh on various issues, concluding that often his Sharh contradicts the poem, and the Sharh itself.

An example of that is: In the poem he mentions that the saved sect is none but the Atharis. He then mentions in his Sharh that Ahl al-Sunnah are three, Atharis, Ash’aris and Maturidis. Later he says in the same Sharh that some scholars claim that the saved sect refers to the three aforementioned groups (Atharis, Ash’aris and Maturidis), whereas the literal meaning (dhahir) of the Hadith (that my Ummah will be divided…) clearly contradicts that claim, and that the saved sect only applies to the Atharis.

The Sharh of al-Saffarini itself, in fact, refutes much of the poem, because during the Sharh he extensively quotes Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn al-Qayyim, in support of his argument, clearly contradicting the actual verse in his poem, while there is not a hint of any negative remarks, or even disapproval towards Ibn Taymiyya or Ibn al-Qayyim.

For example, in the issue regarding Allah’s actions whether they are based on a reason/wisdom (‘illah) or not (which the Hanbalis affirm and the Ash’aris deny) he states in his poem that it is permissible for Allah to punish His righteous servant for no crime of theirs, in agreement with the Ash’aris. Yet, in the Sharh, however, he states: We have already discussed this issue while explaining (the verse of the poem): ‘But Allah does not Create the creation without a purpose’. Let the reader refer back to that, for indeed the Imam, the Muhaqqiq, Ibn al-Qayyim, like Sheikh al-Islam (Ibn Taymiyya), and a group of scholars, were not content with this view. They shattered this argument, and proved and affirmed the wisdom and reason for Allah’s actions…’
Further to that, it is worthy to note that al-Saffarini, when introduces his work, the methodology and the terminologies used, he mentions only three scholars, which indicates his heavy reliance on their works and statements. He says:

My intent by the term ‘The Sheikh’, or ‘Sheikh al-Islam’ when uttered is Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya. My intent with by term ‘al-Muhaqqiq’, is his student Ibn al-Qayyim, and by the term ‘al-‘Allama’: Ibn Muflih.

Moreover, anyone who reads the two volumes of the Sharh, realises that the most often quoted scholar in the work, who is cited in nearly every chapter without a single rebuke or disagreement, is none other than Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya, and then Ibn al-Qayyim. A person does not even need to know Arabic well to discern the status of Ibn Taymiyya in Hanbali ‘Aqida, for he can do that just by flicking through the pages, searching for: ‘… and Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya said…’

As for the author’s claim of apparently highlighting the differences between the Athari and the Salafi creed, while admitting that he has not even studied the book, is the most ridiculous of all claims, which only highlight the fact, that the author is ignorant of the Athari and the Salafi creed, and therefore unable to make any comparison.

I have kept my comments to a minimum because I feel that the Imām’s words are enough. I didn’t bother to explain many of the Kalāmi terms used by Imām as-Safārīnī because, in all honesty, those who stand to benefit from his words already know what they mean, and those who don’t, probably shouldn’t be reading this in the first place until they learn those terms.

This is simply pretentiousness from the author, who most probably did not translate the Kalami terms, because he has no acquaintance with Kalam. For if his knowledge of a supposedly simple Athari creed is zilch, how is he then supposed to have any knowledge of Kalam, when the Ash’aris themselves are ignorant thereof?!

By no means have I gathered everything there is on this topic and by no means do I make the claim that there are no real differences between the Atharīs and their brothers from the Ashā’irah and Mātūrīdiyyah. But the time has come for us to mature and admit the valid diversity within Ahlus-Sunnah, they being all three together.

The author here fakes maturity by claiming that there is diversity amongst Ahl al-Sunnah, which according to him, comprises of the so-called ‘Atharis’, and Ash’aris and the Maturidis, but not Salafis, whom are regarded to be a heretical sect by the author; and to this end, he endeavours to prove how the Salafis are not the traditional Atharis. Hence, the bottom line of his argument is, that Sunnism is simply Neo-Aristotelianism represented by the Ash’aris or the Maturidis, while the Atharis are only those less-intelligent who subdue to their negative theology, and negate the literal meanings of the Divine Attributes.

Furthermore, how can the author claim diversity and harmony amongst ‘Ahl al-Sunnah’, when the Ash’aris and the Maturidis, let alone the Hanbalis, have historically been at each other throats? Maybe the author needs to learn about the Maturidis imputing disbelief on the Ash’aris, and forbidding one to pray behind them, because they allow one to say: ‘I am a believer, InshaAllah’, or because they say that Iman is created? (See Fatawa al-Subki 1/53)

What would they say of the confession of their modern Ash’ari Sheikh, Muhammad Abu Zahra, that upon deep investigation it becomes clear that there is a great difference between the Ash’aris and the Maturidis, in that one is more inclined towards ‘aql than the other? How about his statement that the Maturidis are closer to the Mu’tazilas than Ahl al-Sunnah? (See Tarikh al-Madhahib 176)

Finally, why did the author ignore al-Saffarini’s statement in his poem and his Sharh where he regards the Atharis, the followers of Imam Ahmad, to be the only saved sect?

This text (about the saved sect) cannot be applied to any sect
Save the Ahl al-Athar

Why does not the author also refer to its Sharh:

‘Some scholars said: (the saved sect) meaning, Ahl al-Hadeeth, i.e. the Atharis, the Ash’aris and the Maturidis.

I say: The wording of the Hadeeth, i.e. his statement: ‘except one sect’, contradicts the idea of multiplicity, and thus I said:

This text (about the saved sect) cannot be applied to any sect
Save the Ahl al-Athar’ (1/76)

All Tawfīq is from Allāh. He is our Mawlā. May He unite the hearts of the believers and guide us to the path of true Tanzīh and remove us from the cesspool of Tajsīm and Tashbīh

May Allah show the author the falsity of his Greek Imam, Aristotle, in whose name he carries out his mission of so-called Tanzih, which ultimately results in negation of God from the existence; and guide you to have Iman in the words of your Lord and His Messenger, Ameen.


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