Ibn Qudama on Tafwid

Posted on September 1, 2006. Filed under: 202 - Advanced Asma wa Sifaat |

It is true that some scholars have opined that ibn Qudama is a Mufawwidh.

However, upon reading the rest of his statements in Lum’at al-I’tiqad, as well as his other books in theology, it is clearly noticed that he affirms the dhahir of the texts, and therefore, by the term tafwidh, he means tafwidh of the kayf and not negation the dhahir.

The following examples will prove beyond doubt that Ibn Qudama affirmed the dhahir, and he was not a mufawwidh.

Ibn Qudama says in Lum’at al-I’tiqad: ‘From the verses that have come in relation to Allah’s attributes is the saying of Allah, ‘the Face of your Lord…’, and His saying, ‘Rather His two Hands are outstretched’. He then mentions a number of verses affirming a self for Allah, His Coming, His Pleasure, His Love, His Anger and Dislike. He then mentions the Hadeeth about Allah’s descent every night, His Amazement, and His Laugh, and considering it all from His Attributes. He then says:

‘These texts and the like, the chain of which has been authenticated, and the narrators of which are upright, we believe in them, and do not reject them nor deny them, nor do we give them a ta’wil which opposes their dhahir.’

From this we deduce, a) If he had negated the dhahir of the texts, he would not have affirmed the Face and Hands of Allah as His Attributes, and b) his objection to any ta’wil which opposes the dhahir of the texts clearly shows that he does not negate the dhahir, rather he affirms it, and therefore, he is not a mufawwidh.

2) He then quotes various textual proofs from the Quran and the Sunnah about Allah being above the heavens and clearly makes ithbat of the dhahir implications of such texts and believes that Allah is literally above the heavens. If he was a mufawwidh, he would have sufficed at simply narrating the texts as they are, without affirming the dhahir, which he did. In fact, he wrote a whole book called al-‘Uluw, dedicated to affirming the dhahir of the texts pertaining to Allah’s literal highness over the creation, and thus he says in its introduction:
اما بعد فإن الله تعالى وصف نفسه بالعلو في السماء ووصفه بذلك رسوله محمد خاتم الانبياء واجمع على ذلك جميع العلماء من الصحابه الاتقياء والأئمة من الفقهاء وتواترت الأخبار بذلك على وجه حصل به اليقين وجمع الله تعالى عليه قلوب المسلمين وجعله مغروزا في طباع الخلق اجمعين فتراهم عند نزول الكرب بهم يلحظون السماء باعينهم ويرفعون نحوها للدعاء ايديهم وينتظرون مجئ الفرج من ربهم وينطقون بذلك بألسنتهم لا ينكر ذلك الا مبتدع غال في بدعته

‘As for what follows, then surely Allah Ta’ala has described Himself with being Elevated in the Heavens, and similarly He has be described by His Messenger Muhammad, the last of the prophets; something upon which all of the scholars from the pious companions held a consensus, as did the Imams from the jurists. The reports concerning that became so numerous, that a level of certainty was achieved. Allah Ta’ala united the hearts of the Muslims on this issue, and made it a part of the natural instincts of Allah the creation, and therefore, you notice them when some calamity befalls them that they look with their eyes to the sky, and raise their hands towards it, waiting for alleviation of calamity from their Lord, while their utter [this belief] with their tongue. No one denies this except a heretic, fanatic in his heresy…’

This clearly shows that Ibn Qudama certainly affirmed the dhahir of the texts pertaining to Allah’s elevation over His creation, and therefore, he was not a mufawwidh.

3) He says about Allah’s speech and affirms that Allah speaks with a sound, a further proof that he affirmed the dhahir of the texts, which confirm that Allah Speaks with a sound. In fact, in his violent rebuttal of Ash’aris in his time, he calls them heretics for saying Allah speaks without sound and letters.

4) He then has a whole section about the Quran being the Speech of Allah, consisting of letters, words, ayat, surahs, in the Arabic language, a belief that a mufawwidh would never hold.

5) In his work Dham al-Ta’wil (Censure of Ta’wil), Ibn Qudama states:
ومذهب السلف رحمة الله عليهم الإيمان بصفات الله تعالى وأسمائه التي وصف بها نفسه في آياته وتنزيله أو على لسان رسوله من غير زيادة عليها ولا نقص منها ولا تجاوز لها ولا تفسير ولا تأويل لها بما يخالف ظاهرها

‘The Madhab of the Salaf is to have Iman in the Attributes of Allah Ta’ala and His Names, with which He described Himself… without giving explanation, or a ta’wil that opposes its dhahir.

It clearly implies that Ibn Qudama affirms the dhahir, due to which he opposes any ta’wil that contradicts the dhahir. For if he was a mufawwidh, he would have negated any type of ta’wil, irrespective of whether or not it opposes the dhahir.

6) Ibn Qudama then explains exactly what the Salaf meant when they negated the ‘meaning’:
وعلموا أن المتكلم بها صادق لا شك في صدقه فصدقوه ولم يعلموا حقيقة معناها فسكتوا عما لم يعلموه

‘[The Salaf] knew that the one who conveyed to us [the information about Allah’s Attributes] is truthful, with no doubt in his truthfulness. Hence, they believed him, without knowing the reality of the meaning, and remained silent over that which they did not know.’

Hence, Ibn Qudama declares that the Salaf made tafwidh of the reality of the meaning, and not the dhahir itself, and therefore, he was not a mufawwidh.

7) In the same book he quotes the statement al-Hafidh Abu Bakr al-Tayyib in his support, without showing any discontent or disagreement:
أما الكلام في الصفات فإن ما روي منها في السنن الصحاح مذهب السلف رضي الله عنهم إثباتها وإجراؤها على ظاهرها

‘As for the subject of Allah’s Attributes, then whatever has been narrated in the authentic collections of Sunan, the Madhab of the Salaf is to affirm them and accept the dhahir of it.’

This further proves that Ibn Qudama affirmed the dhahir, and therefore, was not a mufawwidh.

8) He also comments on Imam Malik’s statement on Istiwa, that ‘Istiwa is not unknown’, saying:
وقولهم الاستواء غير مجهول أي غير مجهول الوجود لأن الله تعالى أخبر به وخبره صدق يقينا لا يجوز الشك فيه ولا الإرتياب فيه فكان غير مجهول لحصول العلم به وقد روي في بعض الألفاظ الاستواء معلوم

Their statement: ‘al-Istiwa is not unknown’, meaning, its existence is not unknown, because Allah Ta’ala informed about it, and His information is certainly the truth, and it is not permissible to doubt it, nor to waver therein, and hence, it [the rising] was not unknown, for the knowledge thereof has been achieved. It has also been narrated in some of the wordings: ‘The Rising is known’.

The mufawwidha explain this statement of Malik saying: the fact that al-Istiwa is mentioned in the verse is known, but what it actually means is not. While Ibn Qudama affirms more than the wording, for he affirms that The Rising actually took place, and therefore he was not a mufawwidh.

9) Ibn Qudama says in Dham al-Ta’wil:
فإن قيل فقد تأولتم آيات وأخبارا فقلتم في قوله تعالى ( وهو معكم أين ما كنتم ) أي بالعلم ونحو هذا من الآيات والأخبار فيلزمكم ما لزمنا
قلنا نحن لم نتأول شيئا وحمل هذه اللفظات على هذه المعاني ليس بتأويل لأن التأويل صرف اللفظ عن ظاهره وهذه المعاني هي الظاهر من هذه الألفاظ بدليل أنه المتبادر إلى الأفهام منها وظاهر اللفظ هو ما يسبق إلى الفهم منه حقيقة كان أو مجازا

‘If it is said: ‘You made ta’wil of verses and reports, for instance, you said with respect to Allah’s statement: ‘He is with you wherever you are’, meaning: with His knowledge, and the like of these verses and reports, and therefore, your arguments are as much applicable to you as us.

We say: We did not make ta’wil of anything, for to hold such texts in these meanings is not at all ta’wil, because ta’wil is to change the meaning of a word from its dhahir, and what we say here is the dhahir of the wording, that is, what comes first to the mind from that text, irrespective of whether it is haqiqa or majaz.’

Hence, Ibn Qudama explicitly states that he believes in the dhahir of these texts, and therefore he is not a mufawwidh.

10) He says in his rebuttal of Ibn ‘Aqil al-Hanbali, Tahrim al-Nadhar fi Kutub al-Kalam:

‘There is no need for us to have knowledge of what Allah meant with His Attributes. For no action is required of us based on that [the meaning of His Attributes], nor is there any legal responsibility (taklif) attached to it, except to have Iman therein. It is possible to have Iman therein, without knowing the meaning, for Iman in that which is unknown is correct. For Allah Ta’ala ordered us to believe in His angels, His books, His messengers, and what He revealed to them, even if we do not know of the aforementioned except names.’

Therefore, Ibn Qudama likens our belief in the verses about Attributes of Allah, like our belief in Angels, Books etc. Hence, just as we affirm the existence of Angels, literally, by accepting the dhahir of the texts, we also accept the verses and narrations about Allah’s Attributes, literally, acknowledging the dhahir of the text. This also proves beyond doubt that Ibn Qudama was not a mufawwidh.

11) In the same book, Ibn Qudama presents his argument against Ta’wil saying:

‘The muta’awwil combines between (two errors, a) describing Allah with an Attribute, Allah did not describe Himself with, nor attributed to Himself, (and b) denying the Attribute He attributed to Himself. So if one says: The meaning of Istawa (rose over) is Istawla (took control), then he has described Allah Ta’ala with istila (taking control), while Allah has not described Himself with that; as He has also negated the Attribute of Istiwa (rising over), even though Allah Tabarak wa Ta’ala mentioned it in the Quran in seven different instances.’

If Ibn Qudama negated the dhahir meaning of the text, he would not have condemned the muta’awwila for negating the Attribute Allah which He attributed to Himself, which is the dhahir of the text. For the mufawwidha negate the dhahir, and therefore, do not affirm any Attribute for Allah, whereas Ibn Qudama believes in the dhahir, and therefore, affirms the attribute.

12) In the same book Ibn Qudama says:
I heard some of our (Hanbali) colleagues say: A people said to us: ‘The Hanbalis say, ‘The Most Merciful Rose over the Throne!’ So I said to them: Dear people! For Allah’s sake! You are attributing to the Hanbalis something they are not worthy of! This is the statement of Allah, and you attributed it to the Hanbalis and elevated their status!’

If Ibn Qudama didn’t believe in the dhahir of these texts, he would have said in reply: In fact, we do not believe that Allah Rose over the Throne, we simply affirm the wording. But Ibn Qudama showed no qualms about affirming the dhahir, and that is: Allah literally Rose over the Throne.

13) In the same book Ibn Qudama says about Ibn ‘Aqil:
‘He clarified that if one asks us about the meaning of these words (with respect to sifat), We would say: We do not add more to the wording anything that will give a meaning. Rather, its recitation is in fact its meaning (tafsir), without any particular meaning or tafsir.’

Therefore, Ibn Qudama clearly believes that the texts about sifat have a tafsir, and that is the dhahir of the wording.

14) Ibn Qudama then says: ‘But we do know that these texts generally do have a meaning, known by the one who spoke these texts, and we believe in those meanings. Hence, if one took such stance, how can he be asked about the meaning, when he says: I do not know? How can he be asked of the kayfiyya, when he regards the question to be an innovation’. He then makes a reference to Malik’s statement about Istiwa.

This clearly shows that by the terms, ‘meaning’ and ‘tafsir’, he is referring to the ‘kayfiyya’, and not the tafsir/ma’na which is the recitation itself, i.e. the dhahir.

15) He then speaks about the Speech of Allah, and that He Speaks with a sound; then mentions the Quranic verse about Musa: ‘He was called out (nudiya): Indeed, I am your Lord’, to prove that Allah speaks with a Sound, and further says: ‘The Sound has been explicitly mentioned in the narrations’.

If he was a mufawwidh, he would have affirmed the wording ‘nudiya’ (he was called), without using that to affirm a sound for Allah. However, because he affirms the wording and the dhahir, he deduces from the word nida’, that Allah Speaks with a sound.

If he was a mufawwidh, he would have said that only the wording of ‘sound’ has been mentioned, although we negate the dhahir thereof, and simply do not know what it means. Nor would he have made a big deal out of Ibn ‘Aqil denying that Allah speaks with a Sound. However, Ibn Qudama is a muthbit, and not a mufawwidh, and hence, his fierce attack on Ibn ‘Aqil.

16) As for his book: Hikayat al-Munadhara fil-Qur’an Ma’a Ba’dh Ahl al-Bid’a, his rebuttal of the Ash’aris in the issue of Sound and Letters, then the book in its entirety proves that he is a muthbit and not a mufawwidh.

In light of the above quotes and references, it becomes more than clear that when Ibn Qudama affirms the wording, he affirms the dhahir of it as well, because ‘its recitation is in fact its tafsir’.

An important point to note is that one would only perform tafwidh, in the Ash’ari sense of the word, if he finds the dhahir problematic and contradictory to his kalami principles. For example, the Ash’aris negate any movement from Allah, because movement is an accident that comes into being from nothingness, and any object that allows movement to subsist in itself, then that object must also have a beginning.

If Ibn Qudama subscribed to this view, then it would make sense for him to negate the dhahir. But if he doesn’t subscribe to this view, which clearly is the case because he is not a mutakallim, why then would he find problematic affirming the dhahir of the texts that Allah Rose over the Throne, or that He descends to the lowest heaven, or that He will come on the Day of Judgement?

Another equally important point to note is that when the Salaf said: ‘transmit these narrations as they have been narrated’, they did not at all mean negating the dhahir of those traditions. Rather, ‘transmitting them as they have come’, while negating the dhahir, was a relatively new phenomenon, at least according to al-Dhahabi who says in his book al-‘Uluw: ‘The latter ones from Ahl al-Nadhar (people of Kalam), came up with a newly invented belief. I do not know of anyone who preceded them in that. They said: These Attributes are to be accepted as they are, and not made ta’wil of, while believing that dhahir is not the intent.’

This shows that the Salaf never negated the dhahir of these texts, and that to negate that was something newly introduced. Ibn Qudama, as shown above, was no different to the Salaf in his approach, and to him, the recitation was itself the tafsir, meaning the dhahir.

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