Al-Buti’s Recapitulation part1 of 2

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)

Those are some of the Attributes of Names and the Attributes of Action that have been mentioned in the Book of Allah and in the authentic Sunna of the Prophet and interpreted specifically by many of the men of the Salaf in detail. They did not stop at the general interpretation which is expressed in their saying, “Take their outward meaning without how.” Numerous other examples of what we have mentioned can be found in books such as in Bayhaqi’s al-Asma’ wa al-sifat, al-Khattabi’s Ma`alim al-sunan, al-Baghawi’s Tafsir, and other references.

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