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

On the Anthropomorphism of “Salafis”

by Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani

`Abd Allah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 290): He wrote a book which he named Kitab al-sunna, but whose stand in relation to the Sunna and anthropomorphism can be judged by the following excerpts:1 p. 5: “Is istiwaother than by sitting (julus)?” p. 35: “He saw Him on a chair of gold carried by four angels: one in the form of a man, another in the form of a lion, another in that of a bull, and another in that of an eagle, in a green garden, outside of which there was a golden dais.”

This seems taken verbatim from the Bible, Book of Revelation (4:2-7): “There was someone on the Throne… from it issued lightning, voices, and thunder… in its midst and around it stood four angels… the first was like a lion, the second like a young bull, the third has the face of a man, and the fourth is like an eagle in flight.” Kawthari appropriately calls this “the grossest idol-worship (al-wathaniyya al-kharqa’) to which they (“Salafis”) are calling the Umma today.” p. 64: “Allah spoke to Musa with His lips” (mushafahatan), that is: upper lip against lower lip.

Kawthari mentions that the same is found in Abu Ya`la’s Tabaqat in his biography of al-Istakhri, and falsely attributed to Imam Ahmad.p. 68: “Verily Allah did not touch with His hand except Adam, whom He created with His own hand, Paradise, the Torah, which He wrote with His own hand, and a pearl which He wrought with His own hand, then dipped into it a stick to which He said: Stretch thyself as far as I please and bring out what is in thee with My leave, and so it brought out the rivers and the vegetation.” p. 70: “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.” Ibn Sa`id al-Darimi also endorses this, the previous, and the next view in his book.p. 71: “Allah sits on the kursi and there remains only four spans vacant.”

This is a commonplace of the hashwiyya. Al-Khallal (d. 310), one of Imam Ahmad’s companions, repeats it countlessly in his Kitab al-sunna, attributing it to Mujahid, and declares anyone who denies it to be a jahmi kafir zindiq.2 Ibn al-Qayyim endorses it unreservedly in his Bada’i` al-fawa’id,3 and the grammarian and commentator Abu Hayyan al-Andalusi relates the same about Ibn Taymiyya in his Tafsir al-nahr al-madd min al-bahr al-muhit (The commentary of the river extending from the ocean): “I have read in a book by our contemporary Ahmad ibn Taymiyya written in his own hand and which he entitled Kitab al-`arsh (The Book of the Throne): “Allah the Exalted sits (yajlisu) on the kursi, and He has left a space vacant for the Prophet to sit with Him.” Taj al-Din Muhammad ibn `Ali al-Barnibari tricked him into thinking that he was supporting him until he obtained that book from him and we read this in it.”4

It is related that the commentator of Qur’an and historian al-Tabari (d. 310) was nearly killed for questioning it, as Ibn Hibban was nearly killed for questioning that Allah had a limit. The Hanbalis asked about the purported hadith of the Prophet’s sitting on the Throne next to Allah. This hadith is traced to Layth who is supposed to have related it from Mujahid. In the view of some of the Hanbalis it provided the meaning of the verse: `asa an yab`athaka rabbuka maqaman mahmuda, “Perhaps your Lord shall raise you to an exalted station” (17:79). Tabari replied: “It is absurd” and declaimed: subhana man laysa lahu anis wa la lahu fi `arshihi jalis which means: Glory to Him who has no comrade nor “one-who-sits-next-to-Him” on the Throne. When they heard this they threw their inkwells at him and he withdrew to his house. Suyuti mentions some of this in Tahdhir al-khawass min akadhib al-qussas (The warning of the elect against the lies of story-tellers), and Ibn al-Jawzi relates in Al-muntazamthat Thabit ibn Sinan mentions in his “History”: “I hid the truth about this because the mob had gathered and forbidden the visit of Tabari in the daytime, and said that he was a rejectionist (rafid) and a heretic (mulhid).5

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