The Sources of Ibn Taymiyya’s Ideas Part 2 of 3

Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani

On the Anthropomorphism of “Salafis”

Excerpts from `Uthman Ibn Sa`id al-Darimi al-Sajzi’s book al-Naqd `ala al-Jahmiyya (cont’d) p. 25: “He created Adam by touching him (masisan).”p. 75: “If He so willed, He could have settled on the back of a gnat and it would have carried Him thanks to His power and the favor of His lordship, not to mention the magnificient Throne.”

This is a risible, ugly, astonishing combination of tajsimtakyiftashbih, and tamthil. In a word, the author’s premiss for inferring that the object of his worship can settle on top of a gnat is his understanding that Allah physically settles on the Throne. One of the greatest indications of Ibn Taymiyya’s anthropomorphist views is that in advocating the interpretation of istiwa’ as istiqrar or settling — absolutely condemned by the Salaf, as we mentioned — he does not hesitate to reproduce the above statement verbatim. It is ironic that he does so in his Ta’sis, an attack on al-Razi for a book the latter wrote in refutation of anthropomorphists.1 “If the Lord sits on the chair or foot-stool (kursi), a kind of groaning is heard similar to that of the new camel saddle. This is because of the pressure of Allah’s Essence on top of it.”

The latter view — also held by Abu Ya`la — is but another illustration of the aberrations of the hashwiyya or populist anthropomorphists. As Ibn al-Jawzi and Kawthari mentioned, if the hadith of the groaning is established then it is a foremost case of figurative interpretation (ta’wil) whereby the groaning stands for the submission of the chair or foot-stool to the Creator. Yet, the authenticity of the hadith has been questioned. Ibn al-Jawzi mentioned the weakness of two of its narrators and Ibn `Asakir wrote a monograph entiled Bayan al-wahm wa al-takhlit fi hadith al-atit (The exposition of error and confusion in the narration of the groaning). Concerning its meaning Ibn al-Jawzi said after citing al-Khattabi:The meaning of the groaning of the kursi is its impotence before Allah’s majesty and greatness, 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 drew this kind of simile for Allah’s greatness and majesty in order to teach the Arab who had sought Allah’s intercession with the Prophet 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 Allah’s Essence on it: this is overt anthropomorphism. 2 p. 100: “Who told you that the top of the mountain is not closer to Allah than its bottom?… The top of the minaret is closer to Allah than its bottom.”

According to the author the tall man is closer to Allah than the short one, and so is the one who flies a plane in comparison to those on the ground. The nearest to Him would then be the astronauts. However, this is contrary to the teaching of our religion, whereby Allah’s servant is closest to Him when in prostration,3 and prostration is abasement not elevation. Allah explicitly equated prostration with proximity to Him when He ordered: “Prostrate and draw near” (96:19). And the Prophet revealed that no Muslim uses the Prophet Yunus’ prayer: la ilaha illa anta subhanaka inni kuntu min al-zalimin (21:87) except it is answered, yet Yunus spoke it in the belly of the whale, deep under the sea.4 Besides this, Muslims clear Allah from place, whether high or low, and for them His `uluw or elevation is a loftiness of rank not spatial height, just as his`azama or greatness has nothing to do with bulk. The author’s influence on Ibn Taymiyya is undeniable, as the latter formulates a few centuries later the exact same view Darimi forwards. As Ibn Taymiyya explicitly declares in his Ta’sis, written against al-Razi’s Asas al-taqdis (The foundation of declaring Allah transcendent) itself written in refutation of Karrami anthropomorphists:

“The Creator, Glorified and Exalted is He, is above the world and His being above is literal, not in the sense of dignity or rank.”5 We quote this passage in full below, in the section on Ibn Taymiyya’s conception of Allah’s “descent.” It is enough for now to show his remoteness from the position of Ahl al-Sunna in this respect. As Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani stated in Fath al-Bari:Al-Kirmani (d. 786) said: “The external meaning of “in the heaven”(fi al-sama‘) is not meant (in the Prophet’s hadith: “Do you not trust me who am trusted by the One in the heaven?”), for Allah is transcendent above incarnation in a place; but because the direction of elevation is nobler than any other direction, Allah predicated it to Himself to indicate the loftiness of His Essence and Attributes.” Others than Kirmani addressed in similar terms the expressions that came down concerning elevation and similar topics.6p. 121: “We do not concede that all actions are created. We have agreed by consensus that the movement, the descent, the walking, the running (al-harwala), and the establishment on the Throne and to the heaven are eternal without beginning (qadim).”The consensus of scholars says the exact reverse, and Ibn Hazm al-Zahiri (d. 456) explicitly states in his al-Fasl fi al-milal wa al-ahwa’ wa al-nihal:

“If the establishment on the Throne is eternal without beginning, then the Throne is eternal without beginning, and this is disbelief.”7 It is not only the false reference to consensus that is unsettling in these statements, or their utter lack of foundation in the Qur’an and the Sunna. Rather, the author should have begun by questioning the logic of attributing eternity without beginning to the establishment on the Throne and to the heaven, when the Throne and the heaven themselves are not eternal without beginning! This has been pointed out by Kawthari and others.

1 Ibn Taymiyya, al-Ta’sis fi al-radd `ala asas al-taqdis 1:568.

2 Ibn al-Jawzi, Daf` shubah al-tashbih p. 268.

3 Aqrabu ma yakunu al-`abdu min rabbihi wa huwa sajidun fa akthiru fihi al-du`a’, related by Muslim, Salat #482, Abu Dawud, Salat #875, al-Nisa’i 2:226, and Ahmad in the Musnad 2:421.

4 Da`watu dhi al-nuni idha da`a rabbahu wa huwa fi batni al-hut… lam yad`u biha rajulun muslimun fi shay’in qattu illa istajaba allahu lah, related by Tirmidhi (#3500), al-Nisa’i in `Amal al-yawmi wa al-layla (#656), al-Hakim 1:505 and 2:383. The latter declared it sound (sahih) and Dhahabi confirmed him.

5 Ibn Taymiyya, al-Ta’sis al-radd `ala asas al-taqdis 1:111.

6 Fath al-Bari 13:412.

7 Ibn Hazm, al-Fasl fi al-milal wa al-ahwa’ wa al-nihal 2:124.

Reproduced with permission from Shaykh M. Hisham Kabbani’s The Repudiation of “Salafi” Innovations (Kazi, 1996) p. 86-89.