Al-Buti’s Recapitulation part1 of 2

That is the question in which those who stubbornly claim for themselves the name of “salafi” differ with us, substituting their purported affiliation with the pious Salaf, to the Method (manhaj) upon whose perfection in every single doctrinal principle and juridical method there is complete and general agreement. The bases of their claim against us are, first, that the Salaf of this Community, who are the best of Muslims, showed no tendency for specific interpretation whatsoever, nor added anything beyond what Allah established for Himself in those texts, together with His transcendence above all that does not befit His lordship and divinity and loftiness above any kind of partner or rival. And the second of their proofs against us is that any inroad one makes into the words whose lexical sense Allah has linked to Himself, any probing of their import as figures, or metaphors, or similitudes, is necessarily, in one way or another, a form of divestiture (ta`til)!

We say, relying upon Allah for our success, that we consider neither one of the above two proofs binding upon us, for they are both unacceptable and inapplicable, and because they are not real, unlike what they imagined. For it is not true that none of the Salaf tended to apply specific interpretation in commenting on the verses of the divine attributes; and even if we were to suppose hypothetically that that were true, it is not true that interpreting these attributes in conformity with the principles of religion and the rules of the Arabic language, and in accordance with their Qur’anic contexts, constitutes a form of divestiture.

In refutation of their first claim we say: We know that countless numbers of the Salaf of this Community, the Muslims of the first three centuries, whom the Prophet himself said were the best of all people, applied specific interpretation in commenting upon the verses of the attributes and the hadiths related to them: the same kind of interpretation which displeases those who call themselves “Salafis” today. Examples:*

Imam Ahmad’s authentic interpretation of Allah’s coming in the verse “And thy Lord shall come with angels, rank on rank” (89:22) as referring to the coming of His order (amr) according to the verse: “Wait they aught save that thy Lord’s command (amr) should come to pass?” (16:32)(2)*

The Prophet’s saying: “Allah smiled/laughed last night at the good deed of both of you…” which is part of a longer hadith about the Ansari who hosted a guest of the Prophet’s while he himself remained hungry with his wife. Bukhari and Muslim extracted it through various chains. Al-Bukhari interpreted Allah’s smile or laughter as His mercy, and he did not stop and content himself to say: “Let it pass without asking how.”(3)*

Bayhaqi in his al-Asma’ wa al-sifat related Hammad ibn Zayd’s interpretation of Allah’s descent to the nearest heaven, in the hadiths of descent, as His drawing near to His servants.(4)*

Ibn Taymiyya related Ja`far al-Sadiq’s interpretation of Allah’s “face” in His saying: “Everything will perish save His face” (28:88) as meaning Religion; and al-Dahhak’s interpretation of the face in the same verse as meaning: Allah’s essence, Paradise, the Fire, and the Throne. As for Ibn Taymiyya himself, he interprets the face as meaning direction (jiha), so that the meaning would be for him: Everything will perish save that by which Allah’s direction is sought. Then he adds: “This is what the vast majority of the Salaf have said.”(5)*

Al-Bayhaqi relates that al-Muzani reported from al-Shafi`i the following commentary on the verse: “To Allah belong the East and the West, and wheresoever you turn, there is Allah’s face” (2:115): “It means — and Allah knows best — there is the face towards which Allah has directed you.” Bayhaqi continues: “The hafiz Abu `Abd Allah and the hafiz al-Qadi Abu Bakr ibn al-`Arabi have related to us… from Mujahid that he said regarding this verse: “It means Allah’s qibla, therefore wheresoever you may be, East and West, do not turn your faces except towards it.”(6)*

Ibn Hajar in Fath al-bari and al-Baghawi in his Tafsir related that `Abd Allah ibn `Abbas and the majority of the commentators have interpreted istawa in Allah’s saying “The Merciful is established on the Throne” (20:4) as meaning He rose above it (irtafa`a). Similar to it is what Ibn Hajar related, in his long commentary on that verse, from Ibn Battal: “The commentary on istawa as meaning He towers above it (`ala) is correct and the true position and the saying of Ahl al-Sunna.”(7)

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