Allah’s Establishment Over the Throne

If they say: Why don’t you let the verse pass according to its external sense without interpreting it, and only say that it is among the mutashabihat whose meaning only Allah knows? We say: If the questioner wants to let istiwa’ pass according to the external sense it commonly suggests, which is physical settlement, then such a sense drives us to anthropomorphism, but if that is explicitly shown to be impossible, then the external sense ceases… at which time it is not far-fetched to understand the verse rightly and reasonably according to the demands of the Divine Law and the obligation to avoid ta’wil, lest wrong belief results.

  • Imam Abu Hamid Ghazali (d. 505) says almost the same thing as Abu Mansur al-Baghdadi in the Ihya’, section on qawa`id wa `aqa’id (principles and doctrines), and something related to it in the Iljam which we have excerpted already.

  • The grammarian al-Raghib (d. 507?) says:

The expression istawa `ala has the meaning of istila’ or holding mastery over something, as in the verse of Qur’an: al-rahmanu `ala al-`arsh istawa… It means that everything is alike in relation to Him in such manner that no one thing is nearer to Him than another thing, since He is not like the bodies that abide in one place exclusive of another place.”

  • Imam Fakhr al-Din Razi (d. 606) in his al-Tafsir al-kabir says in his commentary to verse 19:93:

Since it is affirmed by this verse that “All those in the heavens and the earth must come to Allah as His slave,” and since it is obligatory that Allah is clear of being a slave, He is therefore clear of being in a place or direction, or on the Throne or the Chair.”

  • Imam Abu Mansur Ibn `Asakir (d. 620) says in his `Aqida: “It must not be said: When was He, or where was He, or how was He. He exists without a place.”

  • Ibn al-Jawzi said:

Whoever says: He is established on the Throne “in person” (bi dhatihi), has diverted the sense of the verse to that of sensory perception. Such a person must not neglect that the principle is established by the mind, by which we have come to know Allah, and have attributed pre-eternity to Him decisively. If you said: We read the hadiths and keep quiet, no one would criticize you; it is only your taking them in the external sense which is hideous. Therefore do not bring into the school of this pious man of the Salaf — Imam Ahmad — what does not belong in it. You have clothed this madhhab with an ugly deed, so that it is no longer said “Hanbali” except in the sense of “anthropomorphist”….

Then they say: We take them according to their external senses. O wonder! What is the “external sense” of what Allah alone knows? Is the “external sense” of istiwa’ other than sitting down? and is the “external sense” of nuzul other than displacement?…

They said: He is established on the Throne “in person.” But this addition is not related by anyone! It is only what they understood with their senses, namely, that one is not established other than with his own person…

  • Imam al-`Izz ibn `Abd al-Salam (d. 660) was asked in his Fatawa:

“What do you say about Abu Zayd al-Qayrawani al-Maliki’s (d. 386) saying: ‘”Allah is above His exalted Throne in person (bi dhatihi), and He is in every place with His knowledge': Does such an affirmation attribute a direction to Allah or not? And is the one who holds such belief declared a disbeliever (kafir) or not?”

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