Ahl al-Sunna Refutations of Those Who Attribute a Direction to Allah

“Good words ascend to Him” ilayhi yas’adu alkalimu alttayyibu;  and (6:18, 6:61)

 هُوَ الْقَاهِرُ فَوْقَ عِبَادِهِ

“He is the Omnipotent over His servants” Huwa alqahiru fawqa ‘ibādihi as proof that He is above in sensory fashion, forgetting that sensory aboveness is only applicable to bodies or atoms, and that aboveness can also be expressed for loftiness of rank.

Furthermore, just as He said: “above His servants,” He also said (57:4): وَهُوَ مَعَكُمْ  “and He is with you” wa Huwa m’akum. Therefore whoever interprets the latter as meaning “with you in knowledge,” permits his counterpart to interpret istiwá (in 20:4) as “subduing” (al-qahr)….

Abu Ya`la says: “What is meant by ‘aboveness’ is Allah’s istiwá in person on the Throne, which is a limit for him in the direction that is bounded by the Throne. As for the other directions, such as above, behind, in front, and left, they are not bounded.” I say: these words are the very root of anthropomorphism, because what bounds is either greater or smaller than what is bounded, and these dimensions only apply to bodies.

  • Ibn Hajar states in Fath al-bari:

The fact that the two directions of “above” and “below” are inapplicable and impossible for Allah does not preclude His being described with the attribute of elevation (`uluw), for such description is only from the standpoint of the meaning of elevation, not that of sensory perception.

Al-Kirmani said: “The outward meaning of the saying: “He Who is in the heaven” (man fi al-sama’) is not meant. Allah is transcendent above immanence and place. However, because the direction of aboveness is nobler than any other direction, Allah linked it to Him to indicate the loftiness of the Essence and the Attributes.” He addresses the other expressions of aboveness in the same manner.

  • Ibn al-Hammam al-Hanafi (d. 681 AH) said in al-Musayara, a commentary on Ghazali’s tenets of belief:

The seventh foundation of Islamic belief is that Allah, the Exalted, is not characterized by a direction, because directions — above, below, right, etc. — are created with creatures… and if, by “direction” other than that is meant, which does not suggest the immanence of boundaries or corporeality, let it be made plain (i.e. that it is a loftiness of rank, not space), so that it can be examined whether it belongs truly to transcendence, and if it is misphrased or other than that, then it must be shown to be corrupt.

  • Imam al-Yafi`i (d. 768 AH) in the end of his Kitab marham al-`ilal al-mu`dila devotes an entire chapter to the refutation of the anthropomorphists. The title of the chapter is: Bayan al-istidlal `ala nafi al-jiha wa al-jismiyya wa batalan madhhab man qala bihima min al-karramiyya wa al-hashwiyya wa muta’akhkhiri al-hanbaliyya (The exposition of the proofs upon which are based the negation of direction and corporeality and the invalidity of the school of those who assert them among the karramiyya and the hashwiyya and the late Hanbalis). It begins with the words:

The true Imam and teacher of the scholars of kalam, Imam al-Haramayn said: “The madhhab of the People of Truth (Ahl al-Sunna) is absolutely unanimous on the question that Allah is exalted above boundaries and above being characterized by directions. The Karramiyya and some of the Hashwiyya have said that He is bounded and that He is characterized by the direction of aboveness… and each of these two positions is tantamount to declaring that Allah has a dimension or that He has parts, and constitutes pure disbelief.”… I quoted this from his book al-Irshad.

  • Abu Bakr ibn al-`Arabi al-Maliki (d. 543 AH) labels the believers in Allah’s direction “followers of Pharaoh” in his `Aridat al-ahwadhi:

Page 2 of 3 | Previous page | Next page