Al-Buti’s Recapitulation of the Two Methods part 2 of 2

An example of his position in the second case is what he said in his commentary on the hadith of Abu Dawud narrated by Jubayr ibn Mut`am from his father from his grandfather who said:An Arab came to Allah’s Messenger and said, O Messenger of Allah, people are in distress, the children are hungry, the crops are withered, and the animals are perishing, so Ask Allah to grant us rain, for we seek you as our intercessor with Allah, and Allah as our intercessor with you.” The Prophet said: “Woe to you! Do you know what you are saying?” Then the Prophet declared Allah’s glory and he went on until the effect of his speech showed on the faces of his Companions. He then said: “Woe to you! Allah is not to be sought as intercessor with anyone. Allah’s state is greater than that. Woe to you! Do you know Allah’s greatness? Verily, His Throne is on His Heavens like this” and he formed with his fingers something like a dome over him, “and it groans on account of Him like a saddle groans because of its rider.”” Ibn Bashshar added in his version: “Allah is above His Throne and His Throne is above His Heavens.”(11) Al-Khattabi comments:If this discourse is taken in its outward sense, then it suggests modality (kayfiyya), which does not apply to Allah and His Attributes. It is therefore understood that the import of the hadith is not to attribute modality to Him or suggest boundaries to Him in this manner. Rather, it consists in words spoken roughly in order to give an idea of the greatness of Allah and make understandable to the questioner what is beyond his level of understanding, for he was an uneducated beduin unversed in the minutiae of language and the sutbleties of speech which elude the mind.In this discourse, we find ellipsis and allusiveness. Thus the meaning of his saying: “Do you know what Allah is?” means: Do you know Allah’s greatness? and his saying: “It groans under him” means that it is unable to carry His Majesty and Greatness. Thus it groans under him for it is known that the reason a camel saddle groans under the rider is because of the weight of what is on it and its inability to carry it. By drawing this kind of similitude he illustrates the meaning of Allah’s Greatness and Might and the height of His Throne in order for it to be known that the holder of lofty rank, mighty status, and exalted name, is not to be made an intercessor with one who lesser in position and below Him in degree.(12)

Notice the difference between Khattabi’s first and second positions regarding the same subject. This is the Mutashabih Allah has mentioned in the Qur’an. This is the very subject which, until today, prompts some people to devise a barrier between the “school” of the Salaf and the “school” of the Khalaf. Then they substitute what they have called “the school of the Salaf” (madhhab al-salaf) to the one and only Method (manhaj) that is agreed upon in understanding these texts and explaining them.

However, the opposite is true in the matter as we have seen in some of the positions taken by this Imam whom we have quoted extensively, and he is, as we have previously stated, closer to the Salaf than to the Khalaf. Despite that, he uses for his guiding light in the positions which he takes on these texts and phrases what he calls “the meanings of the foundations of the Religion and the schools of the scholars.” He did not take for his guide the partial ijtihads made by many of the scholars of the Salaf. Therefore the matter is, as he has put it, dependent upon the situations at hand, changing circumstances, and the methods of teaching which, no doubt, vary greatly between uneducated bedouins and educated researchers examining the issues with the light of the arts of the Arabic language and its standards of eloquence at a time when the scientific methods of knowledge in general and the explanations of texts in particular has reached completion.

We can see the selfsame flexibility even in the positions of the Salaf themseleves, and we have already stated many examples in this regard. Whoever wishes to refer to the Imam al-Tabari’s commentary on the verses of Allah’s attributes will find many more examples in addition to those we have already mentioned.

This concludes our exposition of the fact that the ijtihad of the Salaf and Khalaf in the explanation of the verses of Allah’s Attributes and other of the mutashabihat that may pertain to it is not, in itself, considered a textual evidence or a binding method which all are obliged to follow, whether the purported obligation to abide by the ijtihad of the Salaf be their closeness to the time of the Prophet, or whether to abide by that of the Khalaf be for their involvement in the era of knowledge, culture and literary achievements.

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