Muhammad Al-Ghazali(b. 1917) on Ibn Taymiyya

Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani

Regarding Ibn Taymiyya, Ibn Qayyim, Ibn `Uthaymeen

Ibn Taymiyya says in ‘al-Ta’sees’ [a refutation of Razi’s ‘al-Asaas’]:

“The Creator, Glorified and Exalted is He, is above the world (fawqu al-`aalam) and his being above is literal (fawqiyyatan Haqeeqiyyatan), not in the sense of dignity or rank (laysat fawqiyyat al-rutba). It may be said of the precedence of a certain object over another that it is with respect to dignity or rank (rutba), or that it is with respect to location (makaan). For example, respectively: the precedence of the learned over the ignorant and the precedence of the imam over the one praying behind him. God’s precedence over the world is not like that, rather, it is a literal precedence (i.e. in time) (qabliyya Haqeeqiyya). Similarly the elevation (`uluww) above the world could be said to be with respect to dignity or rank, as for example when it said that the learned is above the ignorant. But God’s elevation over the world is not like that, rather He is elevated over it literally (i.e. in space)(huwa `aalin `alayhi `uluwwan Haqeeqiyyan). And this is the known elevation and the known precedence.”

Now, can a rational person doubt that what Ibn Taymiyya means by the above is a physical aboveness and a physical elevation? And here is Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya who does not deny that God is on the Throne, and that while He is there, He places his feet on the ‘kursi‘, and that Muhammad (s) is sitting by His side on the Throne. This resembles what is found in the Gospel according to Mark (19:16): “Then the Lord [Jesus], after he spoke to them, was raised to the heaven, and sat at the right of God.” Ibn Qayyim said in his book ‘Badaa’i` al-Fu’aad‘ (4:40): “The hadith about the intercession of Ahmad is upon the authority of Ahmad al-Mustafa (s) himself, and the hadith of his being made to sit on the Throne has also come to us, so we do not reject it (hadeethu al-shafaa`ati `an aHmad ila aHmad al-muSTafa musnaduhu wa jaa’a al-Hadeethu bi iq`adihi `ala al-`arshi ayDan fa la najHaduhu).”

[Note: The Commentator and grammarian Abu Hayyaan says in his ‘Tafseer al-nahr al-maad min al-baHr al-muHeeT’ [The Commentary of the River Extending From the Ocean] (Damascus ms.? 1:254): “I have read in a book by this — our contemporary — Ahmad ibn Taymiyya written with his own hand and which he entitled ‘Kitaab al-`arsh‘ [The Book of the Throne]: “God the Exalted sits (yajlisu) on the Kursi, and He has left a space vacant to let the Prophet (s) sit with Him.” Taj al-Din Muhammad ibn `Ali ibn `Abd al-Haqq al-Baarnibaari tricked him into thinking that he was supporting him until he took that book from him and we read this in it.” This phrase is reportedly found in the Damascus manuscript of the ‘Nahr‘ but not in the Cairo printed edition.]

Part 2

Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al-`Uthaymeen says in his explanation of Ibn Taymiyya’s ‘ `Aqeeda waaSiTiyya ‘ (Cairo: Maktabat al-`ilm ed. p. 23):

“Coming and arrival (al-majee’ wa al-ityaan) are (two) of God’s active attributes (min Sifaat Allah al-fi`liyya). These two are established as belonging to God in the way that befits Him. Their proof is that He says: “And thy Lord shall come with angels, rank on rank” (89:22) “Wait they for naught else than that Allah should come unto them in the shadows of the clouds with the angels?” (2:210). To explain these verses as a reference to the coming or arrival of God’s order (amr) is unsound, because it contravenes the external meaning (zaahir al-lafz) of the verse and the consensus of the early generations (ijmaa` al-salaf), and there is no proof-text for it (la daleela `alayh).”...

The commentator is saying that “the coming” is not explained as “the coming of the order,” rather it is explained as a coming which befits the majesty of God without anthropomorphic imagery nor suggestion of modality (min ghayri tashbeeh wa la takyeef). That is, he is establishing that there is a body that moves by coming and by returning (ay annahu yuthbitu jisman yataHarraku bi al-majee’i wa al-rujoo`), however, he does not declare it openly as a bodily entity (la yuSarriHu bi al-jismiyya). And this is the Salafi madhhab.

From ‘Daf` al-shubuhaat `an al-Shaykh Muhammad al-Ghazali’ [The Refutation of False Arguments Made Against the Shaykh Muhammad al-Ghazali] (Cairo: Maktabat al-kulliyyaat al-azhariyya, 1410/1990) p. 57-58.

Shaykh Muhammad ibn SaaliH al-`Uthaymeen says that Allah is in the heaven in person or with His Essence (bi dhaatihi) and that despite this he draws near to the servant during the latter’s prayer, *just as the sun is in the heaven, while its rays reach creatures on earth.*

[Note #1: Ibn Taymiyya establishes this clear-cut case of similitude (tamtheel) for Allah’s Attributes of knowledge, watchfulness and protection in the ‘ `Aqeeda waaSiTiyya ‘ (Salafiyya ed. 1346/1927 p. 20): “The phraseand He is with you (cf. 57:4) does not mean that He is mixed in (mukhtaliT) with creation… Nay the moon… one of the smallest of God’s creations, is both placed in the heaven (mawdoo`un fi al-samaa‘) and present with (wa huwa ma`) the traveler and the non- traveler wherever they may be, and [a fortiori] He, the Exalted, is over (fawq) the Throne (but) as a watchful guardian of His creatures; He is their protector and is cognizant of them”.]

[Note #2: Ibn Taymiyya elsewhere denies this simile as valid for attributes according to Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah in ‘Kitaab al-RooH‘ (Madani ed. 1984 p. 59): ” [The soul’s movement] is unrelated to the body, for it rises until it reaches what is above the heavens (taS`adu ila ma fawq al-samaawaat) then it alights back on earth between the time that it is seized and that of the body’s burial in the grave — and that is a brief time — whereas the body neither rises nor alights like it. Similarly its ascension from and return to the body during sleep or wakefulness. Some have compared it to the sun and its rays, for the sun is in the heaven (fa innaha fi al-sama’) while its rays are on earth (shu`aa`uha fi al-arD). But our shaykh (Ibn Taymiyya) said: “This example does not apply, because the sun itself or in its essence (fa inna nafs al-shams) does not descend from the heaven, and the radiance that is upon the earth (`ala al-arD) is neither the sun *nor its attribute* (laysa huwa al-shamsu wa la Sifatuha), but merely a nonessential, contingent accident (`araD) which happens to take place because of the sun, and because of an (earthly) body facing it; whereas the soul itself (al-rooHu nafsuha) ascends and descends.'”]

Ibn `Uthaymeen says (‘SharH al-`aqeedah al-waasiTiyya’ p. 44):

“The proof that Allah is (directly) in front of the person who prays is the Prophet’s (s) saying: If one of you stands in prayer, let him not spit in front of him (qibala wajhihi) for Allah is in front of him (fa inna Allaha qibala wajhihi)’; and so this confrontation (muqaabala) is established for Allah literally (thaabitatun lillahi Haqeeqatan), in the way that befits Him. Nor does it contradict His elevation (`uluwwahu), for what reconciles the two matters is that with respect to the creature (fi Haqq al-makhlooq) both can be put together, just as the sun at its rising (kama law kaanat al-shamsu `inda Tuloo`iha) is facing him who faces the East (fa innaha qibalu wajhi man istaqbala al-mashriq), at the same time being in the heaven (wa hiya fi al-samaa’). And if this is true for created things, then it is more rightfully so for the Creator.”

These are the very words of Shaykh Ibn `Uthaymeen who is a Salafi. It is possible to force upon him the proof (based on his own words) that the external meaning (zaahir) of Allah’s words: “Prostrate thyself, and draw near (unto Allah)”(96:19) indicates physical proximity. But no rational person can say that such a meaning is meant here, for when the person at prayer prostrates, he does not draw near to a body nor to Allah’s body! This proves that the proximity in question is that of His mercy (al-iqtiraab iqtiraabu raHmatih), and that the words “in front of him” in the above hadith mean that Allah is looking over him and taking account of his works (Allah naaziruhu wa muHSi `alayhi a`maalahu).

Part 3

Shaykh Ibn `Uthaymeen differentiates between the ‘kursi‘ and the ‘`arsh‘. He says (‘SharH al-`aqeeda al-waasiTiyya’ p. 15): “The kursi is the place of the two feet, and the `arsh is that upon which Allah made istiwaa‘.” The meaning of his words is that Allah sits on the `arsh and then places His Feet on the kursi. This is anthropomorphism (tajseem).

Furthermore, it is not permitted to differentiate (between kursi and `arsh), for the one who sits on the `arsh does not place his feet on the kursi; also, there are many texts adducing that the `arsh is the kursi.

The Shaykh Ibn `Uthaymeen reinforces his opinion concerning anthropomorphism by saying (‘SharH’ p. 42):

“It is established that Allah the Exalted has feet (al-qadam thaabit lillahi ta`aala), and the People of the Way of the Prophet (ahl al-sunna) have explained the leg and the foot (al-rijl wa al-qadam) as being literal according to what befits Allah (haqeeqatan `ala al-wajhi al-laa’iq billah); whereas the People of Figurative Interpretation (ahl al-ta’weel) have explained ‘al-rijl’ as being the group which Allah will place in the Fire, and ‘al-qadam‘ as being those who are sent forth (muqaddameen) to the Fire… and I reject and return their explanation to them on the grounds that it contravenes the external meaning of the words (bi annahu mukhaalifun li zaahir al-lafz).”

[Note: See al-Sufuri, ‘Nuzhat al-Majalis’, entitled “[6] Correct Belief”: “Concerning the Prophet’s (s) saying: “The Fire (Jahannam) will not cease to be thrown into, and it will say: ‘Is there more?’ until the Lord of Might (Rabb al-`izzat) places into it His ‘qadam‘ [lit. “foot”],” Hasan al-Basri (r) said that ‘qadam‘ means those whom God has sent forth (qaddamahum Allah) from the most evil of creatures, and has established as inhabitants of the Fire. Others have said that the ‘qadam‘ are a creation which God creates and then casts into the Fire. It is confirmed by what is found in the sound narrations: “Paradise will remain partly vacant until God gives rise (yunshi‘) to a special creation and makes them dwell in it and fill it.” Another sound narration has “His ‘qidam‘ (timelessness),” and another narration has: “Until the Lord of Power (al-Jabbar) places his ‘rijl‘ [lit. “leg”]…” ‘Rijl‘ is an expression to mean a large assembly (jamaa`a), and it is said: “A ‘rijl‘ of locusts have fallen upon us.”]

What inspired Ibn `Uthaymeen to say such words (as God’s feet or legs being literal) is the external meaning of the ahadith such as the following: “al-Khallal said in ‘Kitaab al-Sunna’ on the authority of Qutaat ibn al-Na`maan who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (s) saying: ‘When Allah was relieved from His creation he established Himself over His Throne (istawaa `ala `arshihi) and reclined (istalqa) and placed one of His legs on top of the other (wa waDa`a iHda rijlayhi `ala al-ukhra), and said: Verily it does not befit human beings (innaha la tuSliHu li bashar).” Al-Dhahabi and others said: “Its chain of transmission is sound according to the criteria of Bukhari and Muslim.” And note well that the Salaf are the “People of hadith” (ahl al-Hadeeth), and that they do not practice figurative interpretation (la yu’awwiloon)!

From ‘Daf` al-shubuhaat `an al-Shaykh Muhammad al-Ghazali’ [The Refutation of False Arguments Made Against the Shaykh Muhammad al- Ghazali] (Cairo: Maktabat al-kulliyyaat al-azhariyya, 1410/1990) p. 59.

Peace and Blessings upon the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions