Sunday, November 28, 2004

Pearls of Monotheism from Islamic History

Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him)

Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) said about the stars in the sky that his people were worshipping, "I don't like those who go away."(suurah 6, 76-78) He said this becasue going away is an event and an obvious sign that the star is a creation; it needs someone to specify its time, and it makes blatantly obvious its possibility of non-existence. He also said about the sun "this is bigger!". He was pointing out to his people that what is attributed with a limit (size needs a limit) is an event (something that has a beginning), because it needs someone to specify its size, like anything else with a size.

The Prophet Muhammad (may Allah raise his rank

Al-Bayhaqiyy, may Allah have mercy on him, related the hadith of the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam: "You are adh-Dhahir (the One Whose existence is obvious by proofs). Hence there is nothing above You, and You are al-Batin (the One Who is clear of the delusions of bodily attributes). Hence there is nothing underneath You." Then he said: "Some of our companions took that hadith as a proof to Allah's transcendence of place. If there is nothing above Him and nothing underneath Him, then He is not in a place." This hadith is also related by Muslim and others. Al-Bukhariyy, al-Bayhaqiyy and Ibn al-Jarud related that the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam, said: "Allah existed and there was nothing else existing." In other words, Allah existed eternally and there was no place or any other creation. After creating place, Allah, subhanahu, did not change from what He was. From this hadith and what is similar among the texts, Ahlus-Sunnah took their saying that Allah's existence is not in time or place. He is transcendent of them. Al-Tabaraaniyy, related that someone was praising Allah in his supplication, and said, "events do not change you," among other things. The Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam, gave him some gold because of the way he had praised Allah. From this we know that Muslims must believe that Allah is not something that changes or exists in time. Prophet Muhammad -may Allah raise his rank- recited his revelation, the Quran, to humankind. A subtle but powerful Quranic proof of Allah's transcendence is in the story of the Israelites who started worshipping a statue of a calf that they had made from their jewelry. Allah told us that they worshipped 'a calf, a body that makes the sound of cattle.' This description of their idol pointed out the flaws in this idol that should have made it obvious to them that it did not deserve to be worshipped, and one of these flaws is that it was 'a body', or 'jasad'in Arabic.

Umm Salamah and Rabi^ah Ibn Abi ^Abdar-Rahman

Imam al-Lalaka'iyy narrated from Umm Salamah and Rabi^ah Ibn Abi ^Abdar-Rahman a saying which means: "The attribute of istiwaa' is not unknown, because it is mentioned in the Qur'an. Al-­kayf,( that is, the how of it) is inconceivable," because its applicability to Allah is impossible. In other words, istawaa ^ala-l-^arsh does not mean 'to establish himself on the throne' or the like, because the concept of establishment is a bodily attribute and therefore has a temporal and spatial description, that is, "a how".

^Aliyy Ibn Abi Talib and His descendants

Abu Nu^aym in his book Hilyat-ul-Awliyaa’, in the biography of ^Aliyy Ibn Abi Talib, reported that Nawf Ibn ^Abdullah entered the quarters of the Emirate in Kufah (the house of ^Aliyy Ibn Abi Talib) and said: "O Amir of the Believers, there are forty Jews at the door." To this, ^Aliyy replied: "Let them in." When they entered, they said to ^Aliyy: "Describe your Lord for us, the One Who is in the sky. How is He? How was He? When was He? On what is He?" ^Aliyy sat up and said: "You Jews, hear me out and you would not have to ask anyone else. My Lord, the Exalted, is al-'Awwal (i.e., the One Whose Existence is without a beginning). He is not from anything, nor mixed with anything, nor deluded about, nor a person that would be sought, nor is he veiled, thus contained, nor did He exist after non-existence." And he said: "Allah spoke to Moses without limbs or instruments or lips nor uvulas.............. He who claims that our God is limited, is ignorant of the Creator Who is worshipped." Ar-Ramliyy and others narrated the saying of ^Aliyy Ibn Abi Talib, may Allah honor him: "Allah existed eternally without a place, and now He is as He was." Az-Zabidiyy narrated in the explanation of al-'Ihya' by a continuous chain of narration to ^Aliyy, Zayn al-^Abidin: "O Allah, the One Who is clear of non-befitting attributes, You are not contained in a place." ^Aliyy, Zayn al-^Abidin was the best of the family members of the Prophet at his time. Moreover, this statement was made by many other Muslim scholars like Abu Hanifah, Ibn Jarir at-Tabariyy, al-Maturidiyy, al-'Ash^ariyy, and others. Moreover, at-Tamimiyy related the consensus of Ahlus-Sunnah that Allah exists without a place. He mentioned it in his book, Al-Farqu Bayn al-Firaq.

Ibn ^Abbas

Al-Bayhaqiyy related that Ibn ^Abbas said: "Think of the creation of Allah and do not think of the Self of Allah.”

The Imam Abu Haniifah

In al-Fiqh-ul-'Akbar" he said: "He has been, unceasing, and He is, unceasing, with His names and attributes; both His attributes of self and those referring to His acts.... His attributes are eternal without a beginning and are not created. Whoever says that they are created or have a beginning, or is uncertain about the attributes or doubts them, is an unbeliever in God." He also said: "He is existing , but unlike other existing things; by saying "existing," we intend merely to affirm the reality of his existence without a body, substance, bodily property, limit, opposite, like or similitude."

The Imam Maalik Ibn Anas

Maalik Ibn Anas explaining the hadith where the Prophet -may allah raise his rank" ordered, "Don't prefer me over Yunus..." said, "He specifically mentioned Yunus to point out Allah's transendence (of direction or place), because He (may Allah raise his rank) was raised to the Arsh ("throne"), while Yunus was down in the sea (inside the whale), and despite of that their relationship to the Creator, as far as direction is concerned, is the same. If there was a preference as far as direction was concerned, then he (may Allah raise his rank) would have been better by that and would not have ordered against this."

When Maalik was asked "How did he istawaa" about the Aayah "Ar-rahmaan ^alaa al-^Arsh istawa" Maalik answered "the how of it is impossible" and said to the one who asked, "I think you are a deviant". This clearly shows that Maalik did not understand this Aayah literally.

The Imam Ash-Shafi^iyy

Al-Shaafi^iyy said, "Whoever seeks to know his Creator, and concludes that his Creator is something that exists which his mind can imagine, then he is a person who likens Allah to the creation. If he settles on pure non-existence, then he is an atheist. If he concludes that He exists, and admits that his mind cannot conceive Him, then he is practicing tawhid." Since no one knows the Reality of Allah except Allah, the Salaf prohibited thinking about the Self of Allah in an attempt to seek the Reality of Allah. In "ithaaf saadatu-l-muttaqiin" relates that al-Shaafi^iy said: "He existed and there was no place, then He created place and He was attributed then with eternal existence, just as He was before creating place. It is impossible that He should change or have one attribute substituted by another."

The Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal

Ahmad Ibn Hanbal used to denounce those that used to use the word 'body' about Allah and said, "Adjectives are taken from the sacred law and the language, and the linguists assigned this adjective for something that has length, width, thickness, assemblage, shape and formation; Allah transcends all these meanings, so it is not allowed to call him a "body", because the meanings do not apply to Him, and since the word has not come with the sacred law."

The Imam Al-Bukhaariy

In the section explaining the aayah, "ta^ruju al-malaa'ikatu wa-r-ruuh 'ilaihi" (70,4)which the ignorant and careless Pickthall translated as "the angels and the Spirit ascend unto Him," al-Bukhaariy says, "ta^ruj (linguistically speaking) means 'they ascend', and al-ruuh is Gabriel, and other meanings (of al-ruuh) have been said (by scholars)." Ibn Hajar al-^Asqalaaniy in his famous explanation of al-Bukhaariy related and approved the saying of some scholars that al-Bukhariy wanted in this section to reject the antropomorphists who believe that Allah is in a physical direction.

The Imam Ibn Jariir At-Tabariy

This famous mujtahid, explainer of the Quran, hadith master and historian, said in his book on world history, "He is the Creator of all beginnings...and there is nothing in the observable world except bodies (i.e. something that fills space) and what exists via bodies (i.e. things like color).... and anything that has this meaning must be created." Then he said, "It is clear from what we have said that the Creator of all things and the one who give all events their beginning existed before anything else...and that night, day, time and periods are all created... and that the createor does not resemble any of what He has created." He also said in his history "He existed before anything else... He existed and there was no time, no night, no day, no darkness, no light, no sky, no earth, no sun, no moon, no stars, and anything other than Him has a beginning, and is created. He alone created everything without a helper or a partner."

The Imam At-Tahaawiy

This Imam said in his summary of the sunni muslim beliefs: "Allah is clear of and above limits, ends, corners, limbs and instruments. Unlike all created things, He is not surrounded by the six directions".

The Imam of Hadith Ibn Hibbaan

He said, "Allah existed and there was no place or time."

Ibn Hazm of Andalus (Spain)

Ibn Hazm is a controversial figure among the scholars and was a fanatical literalist - he refuted analogical reasoning in Islamic jurisprudence lock, stock and barrel. Yet despite his literalist tendencies, he said in his al-Muhallaa, "Allah is not in place or time... place is only for bodies."

Abu Haamid Al-Ghazaaliy

This Imaam, who is the only scholar ever to receive the nickname "The Proof of Islam" said, "He is clear of and above being contained in a place or bounded by time."

The Imaam Al-Nasafiy

He said, "we have affirmed by aayas that allow no interpretation and by proofs of reasoning that it is impossible that Allah should settle in a place or be in all places."

Abu Ya^laa the Hadith Scholar and Hanbali Jurist

Abu Ya^laa was an antropomorphist at one stage in his scholarly career, but in his book "Al-Mu^tamad" he states, "It is impossible for Him to have a limit, an end, a beginning, an after, an under, a front or a behind, because these attributes have not been related in the sacred law, and because such attributes necessarily carry the meaning of location." We hope that this is what he settled upon as his belief. This hope is aided by the fact that he lived for 30 years after he was trialed for antromorphism.

Ibn ^Uqail the Hanbaliy scholar

He was the head of the Hanbaliy school (died 513 hijri), and said "Allah is clear of and above having attributes of pertaining to place".

The Hadiith Master Al-Qaadiy Ibn al-Arabiy of Andalus (not the sufi)

He said, "Allah is greater than to be limited by directions" and in another place "He is clear of being attributed with movement, because he is not bounded by space, just as He is not contained in time."

The Hadiith Master Qaadiy Ayaad of Andalus

"Allah's nearness is not of place and distance, because as we have related from Jaafar Ibn Muhammad al-Saadiq 'it is not a nearness of limits'."

The Hadiith Master and historian Ibn ^Asaakir

He related from another scholar and affirmed that "Allah is as He was before the creation of space."

The Imaam Al-Raaziy

Ayah 93 of Surat Maryam means: "All those in the heavens and earth must come to Allah as a slave." In his Tafsir (book of explaining the Qur'an), Imam ar-Raziyy said: "... and since it is affirmed by this ayah that everything that existed in the heavens and earth is a slave to Allah, and since it is obligatory that Allah is clear of being a slave, thus He is clear of being in a place or direction, or on al-^arsh or al-kursiyy."

In another place in his explanation of the Quran he said: "The earth is round, so it is impossible that Allah should be in the direction up." What al-Razi said is true, because what is "up" on one side is "down" on the other.


From this we know that the ahadith and the ayat that attribute aboveness to Allah, refer to the aboveness of status and not the aboveness of place, direction, touching or suspending. Know beyond doubt that the question 'how' does not apply to Allah, because this is a question about shapes, bodies, places, depths and dimensions; Allah is clear of all of that. Be firm that it is invalid to say about Allah’s attributes "... but we do not know how” because it falsely indicates that Allah has a color, shape, dimensions, body, place, movement, etc., except that one is ignorant of the 'how' of it.

The questions “How was he?”, “When was he?” and “Where was he?” do not apply to Allah