On Allah’s Elevation, Rising, and Direction

Posted on August 25, 2006. Filed under: 202 - Advanced Asma wa Sifaat |

Comments on issues pertaining to Allāh’s names and attributes
In the course of speaking of some of the deviated sects that have appeared in this Ummah, Imām as-Safārīnī said:
Six: The Mushabbihah; those who made Allāh to resemble His creation. They have differed regarding their methods of Tasbīh. From them there are the Musabbihah of the extreme Shi’ah as was mentioned earlier. From them are the Mushabbihah of the Hashawiyah who said that He the Exalted is from flesh and blood and that He posseses bodily limbs. Some of them said when asked by their companions: ‘leave the beard and private parts and ask me about anything besides them.’ And from them (the Mushabbihah) are the Karāmiyyah, the companions of Abdullāh Muhammad ibn Karām. They said that Allāh is upon the throne in the direction of Uluw (above) and that movement and descent is permissible for Him. It has been said (reported from them) that He fills the throne and they differed is that is the limit or is there something else besides it. From them (the Mushabbihah) are those who use the word Jism (corperal body) with regards to Him (Allāh the Exalted). In the Qāmūs it states: ‘And Muhammad ibn Karām like Shaddād the Imām of the Karāmiyyah who says that his object of worship (Ma’būduhu) is settled upon the throne (Mustaqirr, from the verbal noun Istiqrār) and that He is a Jawhar (matter), far exalted is He from that…(page 91)

Imam al-Saffarini, in this section, is only relating the beliefs of al-Karramiyya, as they have been described in the books of heresiographical works, irrespective of how much of it is correct or incorrect.

The one gifted with an atoms weight of sincerity in his heart would turn directly to very chapter which al-Saffarini dedicates to the discussion of Allah’s literal elevation upon His Creation, where he argues in support of Allah’s direction in twenty-three pages, the summary of which is as follows:

On page 190 of the first volume, he begins the section on Istiwa saying:
‘Glory be to Him’, the author mentioned the Glorification of Lord, referring to sanctifying Allah from the beliefs of the negators (mu’attila) and the beliefs of the anthropomorphists (al-mumathila). ‘He has risen’ over His Throne, above (fawq) the seven heavens, a rising that befits his Essence, ‘as has been mentioned in the text’ of the Quranic verses, and the Prophetic traditions, and the Salafi texts (from the Salaf), which are too numerous to be investigated. This is the Book of Allah, from beginning to the end, and the Sunnah of His Messenger, from the beginning to the end, then the general statements of the companions, may Allah be pleased with them, and the Successors to them in good, may Allah be merciful with them; then the statements of the rest of the Imams of religion, whose statements are held in high regard, and no one disputes therein, except every stubborn and arrogant person; that Allah Ta’ala is (mustawin) established above His Throne, separate from His creation. Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya and his student al-Imam al-Muhaqqiq Ibn al-Qayyim said, in his book al-Juyush al-Islamiyya (which Keller calls anthropomorphic)…’ He then quotes Ibn al-Qayyim for about half of the page, then begins to quote the Quranic verses in support for Allah’s literal elevation upon His creation.

He then begins to quote Ibn al-Qayyim, quoting Abul-Hasan al-Ash’ari in Ijtima’ al-Juyush al-Islamiyya, mentioning the story of Pharaoh, the story of the Prophet’s ascension where the Prophet traveled through the Heavens until he reached his Lord, and various other traditions from al-Bukhari.

Al-Saffarini then quotes al-Dhahabi from his work Kitab al-‘Arsh (which al-Kawthari says: I wish he didn’t write it!).

He then quotes Ibn Taymiyya literally affirming Allah’s elevation upon His creation saying: ‘Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya said: As for the traditions and narrations from the Companions and the Successors, then no one knows how numerous they are accept Allah. He (Ibn Taymiyya) said: Either, that which these texts contribute towards from affirming Highness of Allah Ta’ala over His creation and Rising above the Throne, that it is the truth, or the truth is the opposite of that, since the truth must either be of the two opposing possibilities. Either He, Jalla Sha’nuhu, Himself (nafsuhu) above the Creation, or He is not above the Creation as the Jahmites say; those who say that He Subhanahu is not above them, nor in them, nor inside the world, nor outside of it, nor separate, nor attached. Often they say, He is in Essence everywhere, while in both beliefs, they avoid saying that He Himself is above (fawq)…’ The quote then continues over two pages, up until Ibn Taymiyya says: ‘The scholars of Hadeeth have compiled the narrations from the Salaf concerning affirmation (of Highness), that none can count except the Lord of the Heavens; yet, no one has been able to narrate from them in negation (of Highness) a single letter, except fabricated lies narrated by one who is the most furthest of all from understanding their statements.’

I say (al-Saffarini): ‘The scholars wrote numerous works, and greatly endeavored to produce books, in affirmation of (Allah’s) Highness and Rising, pointing it out using the verses and traditions and what they comprise of. Hence, from them is one who narrates the traditions with chains, whilst from them is one who excludes the chains bringing meaningful wording. From them is one who extensively elaborates, whilst from them is one who wrote small-sized, medium-sized works, or refined existing ones. From such works is Mas’alat al-‘Uluw (The Issue of Allah’s Elevation) by Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya; al-‘Uluw by al-Imam al-Muwaffaq, the author of various Sunni works; al-Juyush al-Islamiyya by al-Imam al-Muhaqqiq Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya; Kitab al-‘Arsh by al-Hafidh Shams al-Din al-Dhahabi, the author of highly precious works; and other works which cannot be counted except with difficulty, while Allah Ta’ala is the source of ability.’

He then quotes ‘al-‘Allama al-Sheikh Mar’i al-Karmi al-Hanbali’ from his work Aqawil al-Thiqat, literally affirming Allah’s Elevation upon His creation, who further goes on to quote ‘Sayyadina al-Sheikh al-Kabir, al-Sheikh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jayli al-Hanbali – May Allah hallow His secret! – in his book al-Ghunya fil-Fiqh, who said: And He is in the direction (jiha) of Elevation, settled upon the Throne…’; and then goes on to quote al-Qurtubi in his Tafsir of Surah al-A’raf: The early Salaf – may Allah be pleased with them – would not negate direction (jiha), nor would they utter such. Rather, they and the rest uttered in affirmation of that (i.e. direction) for Allah Ta’ala, as did utter His Book, and His Messengers informed – to his words: None from the Salaf al-Salih denied that Allah Ta’ala Rose over His Throne in reality (haqiqatan)’. He then goes on to quote Ibn Rushd al-Maliki in his book called al-Kashf: ‘As for this Attribute, i.e. the belief in a direction (for Allah), then the people of Shari’a did not cease to affirm it, until the Mu’tazila and the latter Ash’arites negated it, such as Abul-Ma’ali (al-Juwayni) and those who followed him. He then said: ‘It has become obvious that the affirmation of direction (jiha) is obligatory, legally and intellectually..’

He then quotes al-Imam ‘Abdullah b. al-Mubarak, followed by Abul-Hasan al-Ash’ari from his al-Ibana, and then his Maqalat al-Islamiyyin, literally affirming Allah’s elevation above His creation. He then mentions al-Husayn b. Mas’ud from his tafsir, saying that he likewise followsing Abul-Hasan al-Ash’ari in this opinion, and then quotes al-Baqillani from his Tamhid, literally affirming Allah’s elevation upon His creation.

He then quotes Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya stating that the Ash’aris opposed many of their early scholars.

Al-Saffarini then says (1/198): ‘Once you know this, then be certain, that many people think that the one who believes in a direction (jiha for Allah), or Rising (Istiwa), is from the Mujassima, for they think that this belief necessitates Tajsim.’ He then discusses at length that ‘lazim al-madhab laysa bi madhab’, what one’s view may necessitate, is not necessarily the person’s view; and that the Salaf affirmed these Attributes while negating the kayf, and therefore, why should it necessitate tajsim? To this end he quotes the narration of Umm Salama, Rabi’a al-Ra’i the Sheikh of Imam Malik, Imam Malik himself, al-Sha’bi who says it is from the Mutashabih of the Quran, Imam al-Shafi’i and Imam Ahmad.

The author of the rotten ‘Apples and Oranges’, completely ignores the ten (of 23!) pages which I have just summarised, and jumps straight to the following statement of al-Saffarini (after quoting al-Sha’bi on the verse being Mutashabih), and then does not even have the courtesy to complete it:

“So the meaning of the statement of Umm Salamah radia Allah Anha in the Hadīth and those who traversed her path from the Imāms is that: Istiwā is known; meaning His description that He the Exalted is upon the throne (‘ala al-‘Arsh), (Istiwā) : meaning Istiwā that is known by way of textual evidence that is established by Tawātur (multiple chains of transmission)” (page 200)

He then omits the following continuation of al-Saffarini’s statement:
‘As for knowing the reality of the matter, which goes back to the kayfiyya, then that is unknown; and the reason why it is unknown is because there is no way for us to know the kayfiyya, for that always follows the Essence (i.e. we do not even know the kayfiyya of the essence, how can we know the kayfiyya of sifa?). He then goes on to explain that Allah Rising over His Throne does not necessitate that Allah has a limit. To this end he refers al-Qurtubi, Ibn Abi Zayd and al-Qadhi ‘Abd al-Wahhab from the Malikis, a group of Mashaikh of Hadeeth and Fiqh, Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, al-Qadhi Abu Bakr b. al-‘Arabi, Ibn Furak and countless many, that Allah is ‘Established above His Throne in person (bi dhatihi), and often said in some places: fawqa ‘arshihi (above His Throne)’. He then refers to al-Qadhi Abu Bakr and quotes extensively from Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya answering the objections of the Ash’aris saying that what they necessitate from our belief in highness and direction, is only applicable to bodies, whereas we affirm Allah’s Rising as it suits His Majesty and Greatness.

He then quotes al-Qurtubi saying: ‘The most correct of the beliefs (adhar al-aqwal), although I do not subscribe to it nor do I prefer it, is what is manifest in the verses and traditions, and (the statements of) the noble and the excellent ones, that Allah Subhanahu is upon His Throne, as He informed in His Books, without kayf, separate from His creation. This is basically the Madhab of the Salaf al-Salih.

Al-Saffarini then says: ‘What is amazing from al-Qurtubi, that he says: ‘although I do not subscribe to it nor do I prefer it’! Perhaps he feared that some envious people may misconstrue his words, so he guarded himself with this statement. This was said by al-‘Allama al-Sheikh Mar’i. The vast majority of the Hanbalis held this belief, while saying: Allah Rose as it befits His Self (dhat)…’

He then quotes Ibn Taymiyya extensively on the issue of ambiguous terms introduced by the Jahmites to describe Allah, and in particular, in this quote, Ibn Taymiyya discusses the usage of the term ‘direction’, arguing that it is a newly invented term, and therefore, it is not accepted, nor rejected, unless after enquiring what one actually means by this term. Therefore: ‘It is said to the one who negates direction, do you mean by the word ‘direction’ that it is a created existence? If so, then Allah is not inside his creation. Or do you mean by the term ‘direction’, whatever is beyond the universe? For then, there is no doubt that Allah is above the universe, separate from His creation…’

Al-Saffarini also quotes Sheikh al-Islam from his Tadmurriyya (a classical Hanbali manual on creed): ‘As for Allah’s Elevation, and His separation from His creation, then that is known from the intellect (‘aql). And as for His Rising over the Throne, then the way to have knowledge of this is the texts. Whereas there is no description in the Quran and the Sunnah, saying that Allah is not inside the world, nor outside thereof…’

Al-Saffarini then quotes al-Jalal al-Dawani (an Ash’ari) who implies that Ibn Taymiyya is the first one to call the negators of direction (jiha), ‘the negators’ (mu’attila), and then responds to him saying:

‘I say (al-Saffarini): Sheikh al-Islam is not the first one to call the negators (of Allah’s elevation) ‘the negators’ (mu’attila), for here is Abu Muhammad ‘Abdullah b. Sa’id b. Kullab, whose doctrine was followed by Abul-Hasan al-Ash’ari, although he differed with him in a few issues, nevertheless, he is still on his method of affirming the Attributes, Elevation (al-Fawqiyya), and Highness (al-‘Uluw) of Allah above His Throne…’

He further quotes Ibn Kullab saying: ‘If they say, He is not above (fawq), nor below (taht), they have negated him from existence! For that which is neither above, nor below is non-existence.’ He then further quotes Ibn Taymiyya, followed by ‘Imad al-Din al-Wasiti, referred to as ‘Junayd of his time’ by Ibn Taymiyya, literally affirming Elevation of Allah and a direction, from his famous work, Ithbat al-‘Uluw wa al-Fawqiyya; and thereby ending his long chapter on Allah’s literal Elevation upon His creation in 23 pages, which I managed to summarise in four pages.

Any reader, whether sincere or insincere, reading this summary knows for certain that the author is either terribly incompetent, or deeply insincere, or both, and perhaps latter is the case. For how could the author be blind to what I have quoted and summarised above – 23 long pages – and be deliberately selective by misquoting two sentences, and thereby, intentionally giving the impression to the reader that the Athari creed of al-Saffarini is different to that of the Salafi creed of Ibn Taymiyya?

Surely, it is more than obvious to anyone reading only the summary, the importance and the status given to Ibn Taymiyya by al-Saffarini.

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