The “Book Written Above the Throne”

(fawq al-`arsh)

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Concerning the saying of the Prophet (s) cited in the Book of Tawhid of Sahih al-Bukhari, chapter 22, and again, in two versions, in chapter 55:

When Allah created creation He wrote with Him above His Throne: Verily My mercy precedeth My wrath [22];

When Allah created creation He wrote a Book that is with Him, saying: My mercy overcometh or precedeth My wrath [55 #1];

Allah wrote a Book before He created creation, saying: Verily My mercy precedeth My wrath; and it is written with Him above the Throne [55 #2].

“With Him” refers to the position of a rank, not that of a location, because location does not apply to Him and the Exalted cannot be the literal object of a preposition denoting location.

The claim that has been made by some, that “there is nothing created over the Throne,” as if the Throne, which is created, was somehow the geographical limit between the creation and the Creator is refuted by these hadiths. Not only is it unfounded in the Book and the Sunna, but it also suggests an understanding of Allah’s aboveness in relation to the Throne as spatial rather than figurative and related to rank.

The passage related to the Throne in the text of the `Aqida tahawiyya (#50-51 in the translation cited above) has been transmitted in two different versions. The correct version, used by al-Ghunaymi’s commentary on the `Aqida, has:

He is independent of the Throne and of what is beneath it;

( مُحِيْطٌ بِكُلِّ شَيْئٍ وَبِمَا فَوْقِهِ )

He encompasses all things and that which is above it;

and what He has created is incapable of encompassing Him.

Other versions, such as Ibn Abi al-`Izz’s (d. 792) commentary, have:

( مُحِيْطٌ بِكُلِّ شَيْئٍ وَفَوْقَهُ )

He encompasses all things and is above it;

and what He has created is incapable of encompassing Him.

Ibn Abi al-`Izz’s arguments for the veracity of the latter wording:

i) the word “wa” has been inadvertently dropped from the text by some copyists, giving محيطٌ بكل شيئ فوقِه — similar to the first version, which is incorrect in his view. Yet, by the same token, it could have been inserted unintentionally by some copyists.

ii) there is nothing of creation above the Throne in his view. In this he follows Ibn Hazm who took as his evidence istawa in the sense of “an act pertaining to the Throne, and that is the termination of His creation at the Throne, for there is nothing beyond it”! As we have said this is baseless, for in the authentic hadith, Abu Hurayra narrates that the Prophet said: “When Allah created creation, He wrote a book, which is with Him above the Throne, saying: My mercy overcomes My wrath.” This Book which is above the Throne is the Preserved Tablet, which contains a record and decree of all things past and future. This was mentioned by Ibn Hajar in his commentary on chapter 55 of Bukhari’s Tawhid. Neither Ibn Hazm nor Ibn Abi al-`Izz make mention of this hadith in their discussions.

iii) the word wa could have been deliberately expunged by some “deniers of aboveness (fawqiyya)” — which he takes in the literal sense. Again, who is to say that the word was not, on the contrary, interpolated by some fanatic literalists?

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