The Prophet’s (s) Seating on the Throne

The hadith is graded weak by the author of ‘Awn al-Ma‘bud. Al-Dhahabi terms it an “extremely strange” one-chained narration (gharîb jiddan) and says: “Allah knows best if the Prophet (s) ever said such a thing or not; Allah –(there is nothing whatsoever like unto Him) (42:11)!”[19] We have already mentioned Ibn Kathir’s similar opinion of the hadith. As for its chain of narration, it is de­clared weak by the editors of Ibn Abi ‘Asim’s al-Sunna and al-Ajurri’s al-Shari‘a. This is due to the concealment (tadlîs) of the mode of transmission through ‘an‘ana or undecisive transmission terminology by one of its narrators, Muhammad ibn Ishaq ibn Yasar al-Muttalibi while another narrator, Jubayr ibn Muhammad ibn Jubayr ibn Mut‘am, is merely “acceptable” (maqbûl),[20] which makes him unreliable in a narration that is not independently verifiable. There are other problems with the chain and the text, which Ibn ‘Asakir addresses inBayan al-Wahm. Ibn al-Qayyim alone claimed that the least grading of this narration was hasan.

“The import of the hadith ‘and it groans… like a saddle’ …consists in a metaphor to give an idea of the greatness of Allah and make understandable to the questioner…”Abu Sulayman al-Khattabi

The hadith master Abu Sulayman al-Khattabi (d. 386) states in his commentary on Abu Dawud:

If this discourse is taken in its outward sense, then it suggests modality (kayfiyya), which does not apply to Allah and His Attributes. It is therefore understood that the import of the hadith is not to attribute modality to Him or suggest boundaries to Him in this manner. Rather, it consists in a metaphor (kalâm taqrîb) to give an idea of the greatness of Allah and make understandable to the questioner what is beyond his level of understanding, for he was an uneducated Bedouin unversed in the minutiae of language and the sutbleties of speech which elude the mind. In this discourse, we find ellipsis and allusiveness. Thus the meaning of his saying: “Do you know what Allah is?” means: Do you know the greatness of Allah? and his saying: “It groans under him” means that it is unable to carry His Majesty and Greatness. Thus it groans under him for it is known that the reason a camel saddle groans under the rider is because of the weight of what is on it and its inability to carry it. By drawing this kind of similitude he illustrates the meaning of the Greatness and Might of Allah and the height of His Throne in order for it to be known that the holder of lofty rank, mighty status, and exalted name, is not to be made an intercessor with one who is lesser in position and below Him in degree.[21]

“The meaning of the groaning of the kursî is its impotence before the majesty and greatness of Allah” Ibn Jawzi

A similar mode of interpretation was adopted by later scholars. Ibn al-Athir (d. 630) in his Nihaya fi Gharîb al-Hadith under the entry “a-t-t” said: “There is no actual groaning, it is only a metaphorical expression in order to confirm Divine magnificence” (wa in lam yakun thamma atît wa innamâ huwa kalâmu taqrîb urîda bihi taqrîru ‘azamat Allâh ta‘âlâ). Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 597) stated something identical in his Daf‘ Shubah al-Tashbih:

The meaning of the groaning of the kursî is its impotence before the majesty and greatness of Allah, as it is known that the groaning of the camel saddle under its rider is a indication of the power of what sits on top of it, or its impotence to bear it. The Prophet (s) drew this kind of simile for Divine greatness and majesty in order to teach the Arab who had sought the intercession of Allah (swt) with the Prophet (s) that the One whose great­ness is overwhelming is not to be sought as an intercessor with those under His station. As for al-Qadi Abu Ya‘la’s words: “The groaning is because of the pressure of the Essence of Allah on it” – this is overt anthropomorphism.[22]

Al-Dhahabi eludes the issue by stating that the groaning of the Throne is unrelated to the Divine Names and Attributes but would be similar to the shaking of the Throne at the death of Sa‘d ibn Mu‘adh (as narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim) and the cleaving of the heaven on the Day of Resurrection.[23]

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