The “Book Written Above the Throne”

It should be realized that the scholars referred to by Ibn Abil-`Izz as the “deniers of aboveness” did not need to change Tahawi’s text in order to put forward their interpretation of fawqiyya as referring to rank: the Maturidi commentary of Sharh al-`Aqida at-Tahawiyya by Akmal al-Din Babarti has used the wording preferred by Ibn Abil-`Izz, and explained the fawqiyya as being highness of rank. So has Basim Jabi’s edition of the `Aqida.

This indicates to us that the wording which Ibn Abil-`Izz preferred has been used by non-“Salafis” as well as “Salafis,” but interpreted differently. Thus even if Tahawi’s wording were as claimed by Ibn Abi al-`Izz, there is no problem with it, provided it is taken in the correct manner. As Ghazali stated in the section entitled al-Qawa`id wa al-`aqa’id of his Ihya’: “Allah is above the Throne, above the heavens, above everything, with a highness that does not make Him any closer to the Throne or the Heavens, just as it does not make Him any further from the Earth.”

Ibn Hajar says in Fath al-Bari concerning this:

When we say: “Allah is above the Throne” (Allah `ala al-`arsh), it does not mean that He is touching it or that He is located on it or bounded by a certain side of the Throne. Rather, it is a report which is transmitted as is, and so we repeat it while at the same time negating any modality, for there is nothing like Him whatsoever, and from Him is all success.

As for “above His throne” (in the hadith) it refers to the Book. Some have taken it in the sense of “upwards from His Throne,” as in Allah’s saying: “a gnat, or anything above it” (2:26), but this is far-fetched. Ibn Abu Jamra (d. 695) said:

“It may be said from the fact that the Book is mentioned as being “above the Throne” that the divine wisdom has decreed for the Throne to carry whatever Allah wishes of the record of His judgment, power, and the absolute unseen known of Him alone, so as to signify the exclusivity of His encompassing knowledge regarding these matters, making the Throne one of the greatest signs of the exclusivity of His knowledge of the Unseen. This could explain the verse al-rahmanu `al al-`arshi istawa as referring to whatever Allah wills of His power, which is the Book He has placed above His Throne.””

Ibn Abu Jamra’s explanation is in accordance with the sound understanding of Allah’s elevation (`uluw) as that of rank which we have already mentioned, and is reminiscent of Sufyan al-Thawri’s interpretation of istiwa’ in verse 20:4 as a divine command, which we have mentioned above. It is confirmed by the explanation of the hadith of Zaynab, the Prophet’s wife, in Bukhari when she said: “I have been married from above seven heavens” and also: “Allah gave me in marriage in the heaven” to refer to Allah’s decree and order in the Qur’an, which descended from the Preserved Tablet, not to Allah Himself.

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

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

© 2012 As-Sunnah Foundation of America

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