The Sources of Ibn Taymiyya’s Ideas Part 2 of 3

On the Anthropomorphism of “Salafis”

Excerpts from `Uthman Ibn Sa`id al-Darimi al-Sajzi’s book al-Naqd `ala al-Jahmiyya (cont’d) p. 25: “He created Adam by touching him (masisan).”p. 75: “If He so willed, He could have settled on the back of a gnat and it would have carried Him thanks to His power and the favor of His lordship, not to mention the magnificient Throne.”

This is a risible, ugly, astonishing combination of tajsimtakyiftashbih, and tamthil. In a word, the author’s premiss for inferring that the object of his worship can settle on top of a gnat is his understanding that Allah physically settles on the Throne. One of the greatest indications of Ibn Taymiyya’s anthropomorphist views is that in advocating the interpretation of istiwa’ as istiqrar or settling — absolutely condemned by the Salaf, as we mentioned — he does not hesitate to reproduce the above statement verbatim. It is ironic that he does so in his Ta’sis, an attack on al-Razi for a book the latter wrote in refutation of anthropomorphists.1 “If the Lord sits on the chair or foot-stool (kursi), a kind of groaning is heard similar to that of the new camel saddle. This is because of the pressure of Allah’s Essence on top of it.”

The latter view — also held by Abu Ya`la — is but another illustration of the aberrations of the hashwiyya or populist anthropomorphists. As Ibn al-Jawzi and Kawthari mentioned, if the hadith of the groaning is established then it is a foremost case of figurative interpretation (ta’wil) whereby the groaning stands for the submission of the chair or foot-stool to the Creator. Yet, the authenticity of the hadith has been questioned. Ibn al-Jawzi mentioned the weakness of two of its narrators and Ibn `Asakir wrote a monograph entiled Bayan al-wahm wa al-takhlit fi hadith al-atit (The exposition of error and confusion in the narration of the groaning). Concerning its meaning Ibn al-Jawzi said after citing al-Khattabi:The meaning of the groaning of the kursi is its impotence before Allah’s majesty and greatness, as it is known that the groaning of the camel saddle under its rider is a indication of the power of what sits on top of it, or its impotence to bear it. The Prophet drew this kind of simile for Allah’s greatness and majesty in order to teach the Arab who had sought Allah’s intercession with the Prophet that the One whose greatness is overwhelming is not to be sought as an intercessor with those under His station. As for al-Qadi Abu Ya`la’s words: the groaning is because of the pressure of Allah’s Essence on it: this is overt anthropomorphism. 2 p. 100: “Who told you that the top of the mountain is not closer to Allah than its bottom?… The top of the minaret is closer to Allah than its bottom.”

According to the author the tall man is closer to Allah than the short one, and so is the one who flies a plane in comparison to those on the ground. The nearest to Him would then be the astronauts. However, this is contrary to the teaching of our religion, whereby Allah’s servant is closest to Him when in prostration,3 and prostration is abasement not elevation. Allah explicitly equated prostration with proximity to Him when He ordered: “Prostrate and draw near” (96:19). And the Prophet revealed that no Muslim uses the Prophet Yunus’ prayer: la ilaha illa anta subhanaka inni kuntu min al-zalimin (21:87) except it is answered, yet Yunus spoke it in the belly of the whale, deep under the sea.4 Besides this, Muslims clear Allah from place, whether high or low, and for them His `uluw or elevation is a loftiness of rank not spatial height, just as his`azama or greatness has nothing to do with bulk. The author’s influence on Ibn Taymiyya is undeniable, as the latter formulates a few centuries later the exact same view Darimi forwards. As Ibn Taymiyya explicitly declares in his Ta’sis, written against al-Razi’s Asas al-taqdis (The foundation of declaring Allah transcendent) itself written in refutation of Karrami anthropomorphists:

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