Allah’s Establishment Over the Throne

Whoever says: al-Rahmanu `ala al-`arsh istawa, it is said to him: This verse is one of the mutashabih (ambiguous matter) concerning which one is perplexed to give an answer, and the same is said regarding similar verses.

  • Others who list the verse of istiwa’ among the mutashabihat are Imam Malik ibn Anas, the fuqaha‘ of Madina, and al-Asma`i according to Abu Mansur `Abd al-Qahir al-Baghdadi in Usul al-Din.

  • The Imam of Ahl al-Sunna, Abu al-Hasan al-Ash`ari (d. 324), says in his Al-ibana fi usul al-diyana:

Allah is above the heavens, above the Throne, above everything, with a loftiness(fawqiyya) which does not make Him any closer to the Throne or the heavens, just as it does not make Him any further from the earth. He is close to everything in existence, He is closer to the servant than his jugular vein, and He is a witness over all things.

He also says, as reported by Abu Mansur al-Baghdadi in Usul al-Din:

Allah’s establishment on the Throne is an action He has created named istiwa’ and related to the Throne, just as He has created an action named ityan (coming) related to a certain people; and this implies neither descent nor movement.

  • Al-hafiz Abu Hatim Ibn Hibban al-Busti (d. 354) flatly denied that Allah had limits and was expelled from Sijistan under pain of death by the anthropomorphists, as mentioned above.

  • Ibn Jarir al-Tabari (d. 310) said in his Tafsir:

Allah made himself exalted over the heaven with the exaltation of sovereignty and power, not that of displacement and movement.

  • Imam Abu Mansur `Abd al-Qahir al-Baghdadi (d. 429) in Usul al-Din says:

The correct position according to us is the interpretation of the Throne in this verse to mean the sovereignty (al-mulk), as if He meant that the sovereignty has not been established for any but Him. This interpretation is taken from the saying of the Arabs: “So-and-so’s Throne has toppled” if he lost his power.”

He then cites three examples from poetry illustrating this. He says about the characteristics of Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama`a in his al-Farq bayn al-firaq (The differences between the sects):

Ahl al-Sunna are in consensus (ajma`u) that Allah, the Flawless, the Exalted, is not bounded by location.

He then reports the saying of Sayyidina `Ali:

Allah created the Throne as an indication of His power, not for taking it as a place for Himself.

  • Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni (d. 478) said in his al-Irshad as quoted by al-Yafi`i in the latter’s book Kitab marham al-`ilal al-mu`dila:

Care must be taken to show the vulgar anthropomorphists (hashwiyya) the verses upon which they do practice ta’wil so that when they invoke as proof of their belief in Allah’s “settling” (istiqrar)the external meaning of “The Merciful is established on the Throne” (20:4), ask them for the meaning of “And He is with you wheresoever you are” (57:4). If they take the latter according to its external sense also, then they annul the external sense of His being established on the Throne which they claim, and they also proclaim the disgrace of their beliefs for all reasonable persons to see; however, if they understand it as referring to His encompassing us with His knowledge, then they have applied ta’wil, and it is no longer forbidden for us to do the same in interpreting His establishment as “subduing” (qahara) and “prevailing over” (ghalaba), as is permitted by the Arabic language… Moreover, istiwa’ in the sense of istiqrar, or settling, presupposes a prior state of disturbance, and to hold this is disbelief (kufr)….

Page 2 of 4 | Previous page | Next page