Wahhabism: Understanding the Roots and Role Models of Islamic Extremism

Zubair Qamar

Wahhabis attribute a place and direction to Allah

While accusing the masses of Muslims of being polytheists, Wahhabis themselves have differentiated themselves from other Muslims in their understanding of creed. Due to the Wahhabis’ adherence to an unorthodox, grossly flawed literal understanding of God’s Attributes, they comfortably believe that Allah has created or human attributes, and then attempt to hide their anthropomorphism by saying that they don’t know ‘how’ Allah has such attributes. For example, Bilal Philips, a Wahhabi author says:

He has neither corporeal body nor is He a formless spirit.  He has a form befitting His majesty [italics mine], the like of which no man has ever seen or conceived, and which will only be seen (to the degree of man’s finite limitations) by the people of paradise.

Discussing each part of his statement will shed light into his anthropomorphic mind.  Bilal Philips says that “Allah has a form befitting His majesty…”  What he confirms in his mind is that Allah definitely has a form. He even specifies the kind of form by saying: “He [Allah] has neither corporeal body…” meaning that Allah has a form that is not like the forms of creation, and then says, “nor is He a formless spirit.  Then he says, “He has a form befitting His majesty…”  The problem with such statements to a Muslim is that they express blatant anthropomorphism. What Bilal Philips is doing here is foolishly attributing a “form” to God that, in his mind, nobody has ever seen.  Therefore, Bilal Philips believes that God has some type of form, or non-corporeal body. No orthodox Sunni Muslim scholar has ever said such a perfidious thing.

Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, one of the greatest mujtahid Sunni imams ever to have lived, refuted such anthropomorphic statements over a thousand years before Bilal Philips was born.  The great Sunni Ash`ari scholar, Imam al-Bayhaqi, in his Manaqib Ahmad relates with an authentic chain that Imam Ahmed said:

A person commits an act of disbelief (kufr) if he says Allah is a body, even if he says:  Allah is a body but not like other bodies.

Imam Ahmad continues:

The expressions are taken from language and from Islam, and linguists applied ‘body’ to a thing that has length, width, thickness, form, structure, and components.  The expression has not been handed down in Shari’ah.  Therefore, it is invalid and cannot be used.

Imam Ahmed is a pious adherer of the time period of the Salaf that was praised by Prophet Muhammad (s).  How can Bilal Philips claim to represent the pious forefathers of the Salaf?  He not only contradicts them but is vehemently refuted by them. The great pious predecessors had refuted ignoramuses like Bilal Philips in their times long ago.

 Blatant anthropomorphism is also illustrated by the Wahhabi Ibn Baz’s commentary on the great work of Imam Abu Ja’afar at-Tahawi called “Aqeedah at-Tahawiyyah” (The Creed of Tahawi), a work that has been praised by the orthodox Sunni community as being representative of Sunni orthodoxy. The now deceased Ibn Baz was Saudi Arabia’s grand Mufti.

Article #38 of Imam Tahawi’’s work states:

He is beyond having limits placed on Him, or being restricted, or having parts or limbs. Nor is He contained by the six directions as all created entities are.

Ibn Baz, in a footnote, comments:

Allah is beyond limits that we know but has limits He knows.

In another footnote, he says:

By hudood (limits) the author [referring to Imam Tahawi] means [limits] such as known by humans since no one except Allah Almighty knows His limits.

Ibn Baz deceptively attempts to represent the noble Sunni Imam al-Tahawi as an anthropomorphist by putting his own anthropomorphic interpretation of Imam Tahawi’s words in his mouth.  It must be emphasized that not a single orthodox Sunni scholar understood Imam Tahawi’s statement as Ibn Baz did.

Ibn Baz’s also shows anthropomorphism in a commentary by the great Sunni scholar Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani.  Ibn Baz says:

As for Ahl ul-Sunna – and these are the Companions and those who followed them in excellence – they assert a direction for Allah, and that is the direction of elevation, believing that the Exalted is above the Throne without giving an example and without entering into modality.

Another now deceased Wahhabi scholar, Muhammad Saleh al-Uthaymeen, blatantly expresses his anthropomorphism.  He says:

Allah’s establishment on the throne means that He is sitting ‘in person’ on His Throne.

The great Sunni Hanbali scholar, Ibn al-Jawzi, had refuted anthropomorphists who were saying that Allah’s establishment is ‘in person’ hundreds of years ago:

Whoever says:  He is established on the Throne ‘in person’ (bi dhatihi), has diverted the sense of the verse to that of sensory perception.  Such a person must not neglect that the principle is established by the mind, by which we have come to know Allah, and have attributed pre-eternity to Him decisively.  If you said:  We read the hadiths and keep quiet, no one would criticize you; it is only your taking them in the external sense which is hideous.  Therefore do not bring into the school of this pious man of the Salaf – Imam Ahmad [Ibn Hanbal] – what does not belong in it.  You have clothed this madhab [or school of jurisprudence]  with an ugly deed, so that it is no longer said ‘Hanbali’ except in the sense of ‘anthropomorphist’

Sulayman ibn `Abdul Allah ibn Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Wahhab, the grandson of the Wahhabi movement’s founder, says:

Whoever believes or says:  Allah is in person (bi dhatihi) in every place, or in one place: he is a disbeliever (kafir).  It is obligatory to declare that Allah is distinct from His creation, established over His Throne without modality or likeness or exemplarity.  Allah was and there was no place, then He created place and He is exalted as He was before He created place

Just as Bilal Philips affirms a form to Allah in his mind, and Ibn Baz confirms limits to Allah in his mind, al-Uthaymeen confirms that Allah is literally sitting ‘in person’ on the Throne in his mind.  All of them have loyally followed the footsteps of Ibn Taymiyyah and Muhammad ibn `Abdul-Wahhab – the two arch-heretics who were instrumental in causing tribulation (fitna) and division among the Muslim masses because of their reprehensible, unorthodox interpretations of the Islamic sources.

Wahhabi anthropomorphists say: Allah is in a direction, Allah has limits, Allah is literally above the Throne, and that Allah is sitting ‘in person’ on the Throne.  To a Muslim, the fact is that the Throne is located in a particular direction and a certain place.  By understanding Allah to be above the Throne literally as the Wahhabis do, they are attributing Allah with created attributes and, as a result, are implying that a part of the creation was eternal with Allah.  This opposes what the the Qur’an and the following hadith authentically related by al-Bukhari says:

Allah existed eternally and there was nothing else [italics mine].

Sunni orthodoxy clears Allah of all directions and places.  To a Sunni, Allah has always existed without the need of a place, and He did not take a place for Himself after creating it.  Orthodox Sunni scholars have said exactly what was understood by Prophet Muhammad (s) and his Companions (ra).  Imam Abu Hanifah, the great mujtahid Imam who lived in the time period of the Salaf said:  “Allah has no limits…”, period.  And this is what Sunni orthodoxy represents.

Peace and Blessings upon the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions


© 2012 As-Sunnah Foundation of America

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