On affirming Allah’s Face

Posted on August 27, 2006. Filed under: 202 - Advanced Asma wa Sifaat |

Imām as-Safārīnī said in his poem:
so all that has come in the evidence is established without any resemblance
from the likes of, mercy and His Wajh, His Yad and all things like this.
His ‘Ain and the attribute of Nuzūl and His (act of) creation so beware of descending (into Tashbīh)
For the rest of the attributes and actions are Qadīmah (ancient) for Allāh the possessor of grandeur
however it is without ‘howness’ or resemblance despite (the opposition) of the people of deviation and Ta’tīl
so pass them on as they have appeared in the reminder (the Qur’ān) without any Ta’wīl and without any Fikr (thought).
Imām as-Safārīnī says in explanation of his own words:

The author is guilty of gross misrepresentation of facts for the following reasons:

1) The author translates al-Saffarini’s poem as follows:

His ‘Ain and the attribute of Nuzūl and His (act of) creation so beware of descending (into Tashbīh)

Firstly, he refuses to render the Attributes such as ‘Ain and Nuzul into English, as Eye and Descent, even though al-Saffarini affirms their literal meanings (dhahir), as has already preceded and will be mentioned again.

Secondly, the author assumes that al-Saffarini by his words: ‘so beware of descending’, intends, descending into Tashbih. The author only needs to refer to page 257 where al-Saffarini explains what exactly he meant by the word ‘so beware of descending’. He says:

‘Due to the fact that the people of this religion have differed, for from them are those who negated all the Attributes but affirmed the Names, and they are the Mu’tazilites; as from them are those who negated the Attributes affirmed by reports (sifat khabariyya, such as Hands, Face, etc.) as they also negated Attributes connected to Allah’s will (sifat ikhtiyariyya, such as Speaking, Rising, Descending, Loving and Hating), such as the Ash’aris and those who agreed with them; while the Madhab of the Salaf, the rest of the Imams and the majority of the Ummah is to affirm the Attributes of Essence (such as Knowledge, Life, etc), the Beautiful Names (The Most Merciful, etc), the Attributes affirmed by reports (sifat khabariyya, such as Face and Hands), and the Attributes connected to His will (sifat ikhtiyariyya, such as Rising, Descending, etc); the author (al-Saffarini) encouraged you to follow the Salaf of this Ummah, and warned you from innovations, and opposing the Sunnah and the noble Imams, thus he said: ‘So beware of descending (or sinking)’ from the peak of Iman, the spear of religion, the certainty, the climax of high rank and cognition, to the lowliness of innovation, the filth of novelty. For safety only lies in following the first generation, the group upon whom we trust, not that which the offspring of the Jahmites innovated, nor that which the masters of philosophy professed from the Masha’i or the Ishraqi sects (of philosophers).’

Even though, anthropomorphism is no doubt descending to heresy, the objective here is to show that al-Saffarini is referring to the Jahmites like the author in particular, as it is obvious from al-Saffarini’s own Sharh.

Another important point to note from the above citation is that al-Saffarini makes a clear distinction between the Mu’tazilas, the Ash’aris and the Salafis/Hanbalis. For he states that the Ash’aris do not accept Sifat Khabariyya, such as Face and Hands, nor Sifat Ikhtiyariyya, such as Rising and Descending; while the Hanbalis/Salafis affirm both for Allah Ta’ala, and that is the essence of Hanbali/Salafi doctrine as expounded by Ibn Taymiyya, which is evidently clear from the abundant citations of Ibn Taymiyya through out the Sharh.

2) The author ignored the important aspects of the Sharh of al-Saffarini where he explicitly affirms for Allah the Attribute of Mercy, Love, Anger literally, over five pages, quoting Ibn Taymiyya through out. These are the Attributes that the Ash’aris – both the muta’awwila and the mufawwidha – negate.

3) al-Saffarini then goes on to literally affirm the Attribute of Face to Allah, thus he says: ‘He (al-Saffarani) then mentions the Attributes of Allah which the Salaf affirmed, in exclusion to others, and began with the Attribute of Face for Allah Ta’ala, by saying: ‘… such as His Face…’, meaning: from the Attributes affirmed for Him Ta’ala is the Attribute of Face, affirming by that its existence (wujud), and not its nature (kayf) or definition (tahdid). This is what al-Khattabi and others narrated, that this is the Madhab of the Salaf and the four Imams. This was the opinion of Abu Hanifa, the Hanbalis, and many of the Shafi’is and others, which is to affirm the verse and traditions of Attributes literally (‘ala dhahiriha), while negating the nature (kayfiyya) and likeness (tashbih) from Allah, arguing that the belief in Allah’s Attributes is branched off from the belief in His Essence (dhat)

4) al-Saffarini then mentions the figurative interpretation by some Ash’aris, such as Ibn Furak and al-Qurtubi, and says in response: ‘The Madhab of the Salaf and the first generation upon whom we put our trust, is that the Face is an affirmed Attribute of Allah, which has come in the texts, and therefore wholeheartedly accepted.’ He then quotes al-Bayhaqi, al-Baqillani and al-Khattabi refuting the figurative interpretation of Face.

5) He then quotes al-Nawawi’s figurative interpretation of Allah’s Face, and then responds saying: ‘The truth in reality is the Madhab of the Salaf of this Ummah, and that which the Imams are upon, which is to affirm the Face, and the like…’ He then goes onto literally affirm Allah’s Hands.

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