[2/3] THE HADITH OF ALLAH’S “DESCENT” By GF Haddad

[2/3] THE HADITH OF ALLAH’S “DESCENT” By GF Haddad

THE HADITH OF ALLAH’S “DESCENT”, part 2

By Dr. G. F. Haddad

 

AL-MATURIDI, IBN HAZM, AND IBN `ABD AL-WAHHAB

Imam Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (d. 333) said: “To suggest a place for Allah is idolatry.”32 Similarly Ibn Hazm al-Zahiri – the declared enemy of the Ash`ari school – said: “By no means whatsoever is Allah in a place or in a time. This is the position of the vast majority of the scholars (al-jumhur) and ours as well, and other than this position is not permissible, for anything other than it is false.”33 He further states:

[Allah's descent] is an act which Allah Almighty and Exalted does in the nearest heaven pertaining to an opening for the acceptance of supplication. It refers to the fact that that hour is the likeliest time for acceptance, answer, and forgiveness for those who strive, seek forgiveness, and repent.34

Even Sulayman ibn `Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Wahhab declared as an unbeliever anyone who attributed place to Allah: “Whoever believes or says: Allah is in person (bi dhatihi) in every place, or in one place, is a disbeliever (kafir).”35 Accordingly Hammad ibn Zayd’s statement that “He is in His place and He comes near His servants however He wishes,” if authentic, must be interpreted in a way to suggest other than the ascription of place, as did al-Bayhaqi with Ibn Rahuyah’s answer to the Jahmi.36

IBN `ABD AL-BARR’S CONTROVERSY

Literalists often quote Ibn `Abd al-Barr’s controversial words on the hadith of descent in al-Tamhid:

The hadith [of Allah's descent] provides evidence that Allah is in (fi) the heaven, on (`ala) the Throne, above (fawq) seven heavens, as the Congregation (jama`a) said, and this is part of their proof against the Mu`tazila and the Jahmiyya’s claim that Allah is in every place and not on the Throne….

Part of the right owed Allah’s Speech is that it be taken in it literal sense (`ala haqiqatihi), until the Community concurs that what is meant is the metaphorical meaning, when there is no way to follow what is revealed to us from our Lord except in that way….

Istawa is known in the language and understood to be height (`uluw), rising above something, fixity in a place (al-tamkin), and settledness in it (al-istiqrar fih)…. and istawa is “settledness in height” (al-istiqrar fi al-`uluw). Allah said to us: “That you may mount upon (tastawu) their backs, and may remember your Lord’s favor when you mount (istawaytum) thereon” (43:13), “And it (the ship) came to rest (istawat) upon (the mount) al-Judi” (11:44), “and And when you are on board (istawayta) the ship, you and whoso is with you” (23:28).37

IBN AL-`ARABI’S REFUTATION OF IBN `ABD AL-BARR

The above was firmly rejected by Ibn al-`Arabi in his commentary on the hadith of descent in al-Tirmidhi:

Some ignorant people have trespassed bounds in interpreting this hadith, claiming there is proof in it that Allah “is in the Heaven, on the Throne, above the seven heavens.” We say that this is a sign of tremendous ignorance.

What the hadith said is “He descends to Heaven” without specifying from where He descends or how He descends. Yet they said – and their proof is, again, based on the literal sense – {The Merciful established Himself over the Throne} (20:4).

We ask: What is the Throne in Arabic, and what is istawa?

They reply: As Allah said: “That you may mount upon (tastawu) their backs, and may remember your Lord’s favor when you mount (istawaytum) thereon” (43:13).

We say: Allah is Mighty and Higher than to have His istiwa‘ on His Throne compared to our sitting on the backs of animals.

They say: “And as He said: And it (the ship) came to rest (istawat) upon (the mount) al-Judi” (11:44).

We say: Allah is Mighty and Higher than a ship that sailed and then docked and stopped.

They said: “And as He said: And when you are on board (istawayta) the ship, you and whoso is with you” (23:28).

We say: Allah forbid that His istiwa‘ be similar to that of Noah and his people. Everything in the latter case is created, as it consists in istiwa‘ with an elevation and a settling in a place involving physical contact. The entire Umma is in agreement, even before hearing the hadith of descent and the arguments of those who rejected it, that Allah’s istiwa‘ does not involve any of those things. Therefore do not give examples from His creation for Him!…

Page 1 of 5 | Next page