On Akhbar Ahad

Posted on January 31, 2007. Filed under: 202 - Advanced Asma wa Sifaat |

66. He states that “the rejection of traditions is obligatory because they are traditions transmitted by a single traditionist (akhbar ahad)” and that “the decisive rejection of tashbih and tamthil-anthropomorphism has been firmly established by rational proofs.” As for the former statement, there are two ways of answering it:
67. First, by clearly showing that it is obligatory to accept these traditions for two reasons. First, the agreement of the Imams as to their transmission, relation and publication in the Sahih and Musnad collections of traditions,[51] and their registration in the other collections of tradition; also, the traditionists of the Huffadh pronouncing them to be sound, and pronouncing their relators to be precise (al-itqan) and upright (al-’adala). Discarding them would therefore be in contradiction to the consensus (ijma’) and in rebellion against the people of universal agreement. He should therefore not be paid any regard or attention. Secondly, the relators of these traditions are themselves the transmitters of the Law and the relators of the legal prescriptions. It is they who are entrusted as to the clear distinction between the lawful and the unlawful, and what constitutes obedience to God. If we nullify their doctrines by our interpretation, these doctrines would of necessity become refuted; then the Law will become void, and religion will disappear.
68. Second: We will not submit to him that all of them are traditions transmitted by a single traditionist. There are those among them which have been transmitted through numerous concurring ways, each confirming the other, each bearing witness in favour of the other. Although each tradition transmitted by a single traditionist cannot claim transmission by tawatur, yet there results from the aggregate the decisiveness and certainty of the steadfastness of its origin. This is sufficient for the constitution of tawatur. Thus we confirm the generosity of Hatim[52], the bravery of ’Ali, the equity of ’Umar, the religious knowledge of ’A’isha and the caliphate of the first four Caliphs, without there having been transmitted to us with regard to them as a sole tradition by tawatur. But since various traditions made them public, each tradition confirming the other, and no one discrediting them, tawatur resulted from the aggregate. So is it also in the present case.
69. As for the allusion he makes regarding the rejection of tashbih and tajsim-anthropomorphism, it is merely something which the speculative theologians and the partisans of heretical innovations have invented, seeking thereby to obtain the nullification of the prophetic traditions, the rejection of the traditions of the Companions and Successors, and the deception of the ignorant and the inexperienced, in order to have them believe of them that “our purpose is merely to purify the essence of God and reject tashbih-anthropomorphism.” This is comparable to the practice of the Esoterics (batiniya)[53] in clinging to the Prophet’s family, and in making an outward show of thorough inquiry, causing the common people to imagine that they wish to aid them against their enemies. But they only used the Prophet’s family as a screen to cover up their efforts to nullify the Law and enable themselves to blame the Companions and the four orthodox Caliphs by accusing them of unjust treatment of the Prophet’s family and of transgression against them.
70. In the same manner, the sect of speculative theologians and heretical innovators has clung to the rejection of tashbih-anthropomorphism, seeking thereby to blame the people of tradition and to abolish the traditions. If not, then in what way has this anthropomorphism resulted? If it has resulted from a sharing in names and expressions, then they themselves have surely assimilated God to man, since they have predicated of Him such attributes as hearing (al-sam’), sight (al-basar), knowledge (al-’ilm), power (al-qudra), will (al-irada) and life (al-hayat), in spite of the sharing of humans in the expressions denoting these attributes. God has ninety-nine names among which there are but two, ” Allah” and “al-Rahman,” which could not be applied to any other than Himself; all the rest, however, can be so applied without constituting tashbih or tajsim-anthropomorphism.
71. Furthermore, how do they intend to deal with the Quranic verses which have been revealed concerning the divine attributes? Do they have any means of rejecting them? or a way of nullifying them? or will they affirm them in spite of what they claim to constitute tashbih-anthropomorphism? But they already know—God willing—that there is no tashbih-anthropomorphism in any of this; still, they forge lies and they are not ashamed.—May God banish them from all that is good! Now if it be that God has indeed blinded their minds so that they supposed this, it would not be too farfetched. For we have seen those who have ascribed to us the words of God and those of His Apostle, by way of blaming us for them as their authors, saying: “You say ’The Merciful rose over the throne;’”'[20:5] you say, ’God spoke directly to Moses;’”'[4:164] and you say, ’God descends each night to the heaven closest to the earth’[54]”. But these are the words of God, which “Falsehood comes not to it from any side. It is a revelation from One wise and praiseworthy.”[41:42] And they are also the words of His Apostle. They were induced by their partisanship and blindness of mind to considering them as our own words, then they blamed us for them. But he who finds fault with the Book of God and the Sunna of His Apostle is not a Muslim; and he who attributes the words of God to any other than Himself is ignorant and stupid.
72. I once heard one of our companions say: “I have heard some people say: ’The Hanbalis say: “The Merciful rose over the throne”[20:5].’ He continued: “So I said to them: ’O people, fear God! You are ascribing to the Hanbalis that for which they are not fit, and to which they shall never attain. These are the words of God: “If men and jinn assembled to produce the like of this Quran, they could not produce the like of it, though the one should help the other!”[17:88] But you have made them to be those of the Hanbalis, raising their dignity to such an extent as to make them worthy of them. Now, tashbih and tajsim-anthropomorphism result only from him who makes the attributes of God accord in meaning with the attributes of created beings. But we do not believe this, nor do we follow it as our religion; on the contrary, we know that so far as God is concerned, “There is nothing anything like Him. He is the Hearing, the Seeing,”[42:11] and we know that His attributes do not resemble those of created beings. All that which occurs in the mind or the imagination, God is different therefrom. He has neither a match, nor an equal, nor a similar, nor an auxiliary; “There is nothing anything like Him. He is the Hearing, the Seeing.” [42:11]
73. As for our belief in the Quranic verses and the traditions treating of the divine attributes, it is purely a belief in the expressions themselves,[55] the soundness of which may not be doubted, nor their veracity suspected. Their Author knows best their intended sense; so we believe in them according to the meaning intended by our Lord. Thus we combine faith, which is obligatory, with the rejection of tashbih-anthropomorphism, which is prohibited. This is a more true and a more worthy doctrine than the doctrine of him who considers the Quranic verses and the traditions as tajsim– and tashbih-anthropomorphism, and contrives artfully to nullify and refute them by making them accord in meaning with the meaning intended by the attributes of created beings, through the badness of his private opinion and the evilness of his creed—We seek protection by God from far-reaching error!


[51] A Sahih collection is one in which the compiler only lists traditions that are deemed authentically attributed to the Prophet – SallAllahu ‘alaihi wa-allam. A Musnad collection is one in which the compiler arranges the traditions in order of the Prophet’s companions.

[52] Hatim b. ‘Abdullah al-Ta’i al-Qahtani was a famous Arab poet and a knight of the pre-Islamic era, who became a legendary symbol of generosity and hospitality. He is said to have died eight years after the Prophet’s birth. (Khayr al-Din al-Zirikli, al-A’lam 2/151, 15th edition Dar al-‘Ilm al-Malayin 2002)

[53] Batiniyya, or Esoterics is a name given to the Isma’ili Shi’as in medieval times, referring to their stress on the batin, the “inward” meaning behind the literal wording of sacred texts. It is also used as a derogatory description for anyone accused of rejecting the literal meaning of such texts in favour of the batin.

[54] Al-Bukhari and Muslim.

[55] See footnote #41

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