The method of Ahl Assunah touching on the divine attributes

The method of Ahl Assunah touching on the divine attributes



It should, by now, be sufficiently clear in what way Ibn Taymiyya deviated from the doctrine of Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama`a. Much less can he and those who follow his ideas be properly described as Salafi. This section highlights the method of the true Salaf with regard to interpreting ambiguous verses of the Qur’an, and how the Khalaf or scholars of later generations, applied that method to the needs of their times, expanding its details but retaining its priorities, according to the paramount belief that there is nothing like Allah whatsover. Present-day “Salafis” attack the Khalaf and pretend that we should keep to the way of the Salaf, although “Salafis” are closer in spirit to those whom the Salaf and Khalaf fought, namely, the anthropomorphists. As said earlier, common to all Ahl al-Bid`a groups is their arbitrary reading of texts which admit of some uncertainty with regard to their interpretation. There are, in fact, two types of verses in the Qur’an. On the one hand, we find verses called muhkamat (conveying firm and unequivocal meaning). On the other, we find those called mutashabihat. It is in the interpretation of the latter that Ahl al-Bid`a come to the fore. The Mutashabihat (Ambiguities) In Qur’an and Hadith

Let us begin with the definition of the word mutashabih: a verse or a hadith is called mutashabih if:

  1. it has more than one meaning in Arabic and
  2. its meaning or interpretation is not explicit.

The definition of muhkam is a verse that has one explicit meaning. An example of the mutashabih is the verse:

al-rahmanu `ala al-`arsh istawa. (20:5) which is sometimes translated as “The Merciful is established on the Throne,” while the word istawa has over fifteen meanings in Arabic among which are:

  1. to settle (istaqarra), as in verse 11:44: “And the ship came to rest (istawat) upon al-Judi”; the anthropomorphists apply this to verse 20:5, as stated by Ibn Battal and Abu Bakr Ibn al-`Arabi.
  2. to ascend or rise (irtafa`a); al-Baghawi says that it is the meaning of 20:5 according to Ibn `Abbas and most of the commentators of Qur’an.
  3. to rise above or tower above (`ala); this is the meaning given by Mujahid for 20:5 in Sahih al-Bukhari, and Ibn Battal declares it to be “the true position and the saying of Ahl al-Sunna”;
  4. to become straight, as in verse 48:29: “And it stands firm (istawa) upon its stalk”;
  5. to attain maturity, as in verse 28:14: “And when he reached his full strength and was ripe (istawa)”;
  6. to subdue (qahara), conquer (istawla), and prevail or overcome (ghalaba), as in the poet’s saying concerning Bishr ibn Marwan’s conquest of Iraq: istawa bishrun `ala al-`iraq and that boasting: idha ma `alawna wa istawayna `alayhim ja`alnahum mar`a li nisrin wa ta’irin or: “When we tower over them and overcome them, we shall make them a pasture for eagles and other birds.” Ibn Battal and Abu Mansur al-Baghdadi attribute the interpretation of 20:5 as istawla chiefly to the Mu`tazila;
  7. to mount (sa`ida), as in verse 23:28: “And when you are on board (istawayta) the ship” and 43:13: “That they may mount (li yastawu) upon their backs,” and with regard to 20:5 this is worse than istaqarra;
  8. to attain the end-point of an act such as growth, as in verse 28:14 already cited, or such as creation (intiha’ khalqihi ilayh), as in verse 41:11: “Then turned He to the heaven when it was smoke.” This is the interpretation of Ibn Hazm who explains istiwa’ as “an act pertaining to the Throne, and that is the termination of His creation at the Throne, for there is nothing beyond it.” Etc.

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