Elsewhere someone had posted a "refutation" from the spubs site containing various quotes in support of their position that the divine texts pertaining to the "attributes" are interpreted literally. I was able to track down the article to the notorious SPUBS site!
(see HERE for direct link to article)
Originally Posted by Salafis
What is interesting to note is that the majority of these quotes are not even taken from the Salaf but most would be considered to be from the Khalaf! So who then is the "khalafi" and who is the "salafi"?
It has already been clarified by one of the greatest Ulema from the Khalaf, Shaykh al-Islam Imam Nawawi RH, that regarding the Hadith and verses of the divine attributes:
"The school of the vast majority of the Salaf and some of the scholars of kalam holds that we must believe in their reality according to what befits Allah Almighty and Exalted, but that the literal import we commonly apply to ourselves is not meant, nor do we say anything to interpret them figuratively, believing firmly that Allah is utterly transcendent above the properties of contingence (huduth)."
Yet, he goes on to say that:
"The second school is that of the majority of the scholars of kalam and a number of the Salaf - related from Malik and al-Awza`i - and holds that they are interpreted figuratively but only according to their appropriate contextual meanings."
Anyway, the quotes provided from the Salaf and Khalaf by SPUBS are not a problem because they are merely affirming the methodology of the majority of the Salaf when understanding the mutashabihat - i.e. TAFWID.
Of course, the "salafis" have a problem with Tafwid so they invented a subdivision of Tafwid!
This is why one often hears from them such nonsensical and illogical statements as:
Originally Posted by Salafis
To quote Sh. GF Haddad: "....when the Salafiyya were faced with the reality of Tafwid (committal) among the Salaf, they invented the subdivision of Tafwid al-Kayfiyya ('committal of modality'!) so as to deny that the Salaf actually practiced Tafwid al-Ma`na ('committal of meaning'!)...."
InshaAllah this will all be made clear in the quotes from Imam Ahmad provided below.
Some of the quotes provided by SPUBS are from some of the Hanbali theologians so it may be worth quoting what Sidi Abu Ja'far al-Hanbali of www.htspub.com had to say when I asked him regarding a quote from Sh. Abdul Qadir al-Jilani earlier (see here ). The following excerpt is from the link provided:
And carrying on from his second email on the issue of Tafwid and the rejection by some of what some have referred to as tafwid al-ma’na as well as clarification of some the quotes provided by Salafiyyah from some Hanbalis such as Abdul Qadir al-Jilani RH mentioning taking the apparent meaning of certain texts pertaining to the attributes Sidi Abu Ja’far al-Hanbali mentioned:
With regard to the issue of tafwid, none of the Hanaabilah have ever made such a difference, whether that be in the creed of Imaam as-Saffaarini, rahimahullah or those besides him who are mu`tamad. The actual terms that you have quoted being used have yet to be substantiated in the Arabic dictionary or in the Shari`a of the believers.
Again there is no separation of tafwid into categories, for is someone was to say that they follow the tafwid in kayfiyyah, or howness but not in ma`na, meaning, this would mean that they know what the Attributes of Allah mean. Again, they are to be congratulated, as they have either seen Allah or been given information that the first three generations, including, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, did not know.
With regard to taking things on their apparent meaning, the word used in its' context is Zaahir or zawaahir. The context that the Hanbali theologians have used is that they pass the verses on their apparent wording. This means that they believe in the texts and affirm the wording, without interpretation or likening them. Thus the quote from Shaikh `Abdul Qaadir al-Jilaani, rahimahullah would have not problem with someone striving to follow the way of the Orthodox Muslims, for we do leave the texts on the outward form, but we do not assert a meaning for that outward form.
To give meaning to and assert a meaning for the outward form, the zaahir then becomes haqiqah, which would mean the actual form in which something is known in this life to us. Thus, when Salafi theologians say that they take the ayaat, pass them by on their haqiqah, they have gone from the zaahir to actually affirming a meaning for the ayaat that is known in this life. Thus if someone should say that this is a hand on its' haqiqah, this would mean that it was a literal hand as we understand it in this life.
This is what the word means in the Arabic language as well as the Shari`a. Thus one must be careful in its' usage. And this is where Salafiyyah and Orthodox Islam part ways, Salafiyyah teaching that the Attributes can be known and that they are haqiqah, literally meaning what they mean in this life and the Orthodox who state that we are to affirm the wording of the text and leave the meaning to Allah.
Thus any of the quotes that they have given you from the Orthodox fathers are going to necessarily be translated from the text out of context or the word zaahir is going to be translated, 'on its' apparent meaning.' They will then resort to interpretation to insist that this is the Salafi position which is the position of the ancient scholars, something that should be seen through by every believer.
Shaykh Nuh Keller summarises in his excellent article on the subject Literalism and the Attributes of Allah:
To summarize everything I have said tonight, we have seen three ways of understanding the mutashabihat, or ‘unapparent in meaning’ verses and hadiths: tafwid, ‘consigning the knowledge of what is meant to Allah,’ ta’wil, ‘figurative interpretation within the parameters of classical Arabic usage,’ and lastly tashbih, or ‘anthropomorphic literalism.’
We saw that the way of tafwid or ‘consigning the knowledge of what is meant to Allah,’ was the way of Shafi‘i, Ahmad, and many of the early Muslims. A second interpretive possibility, the way of ta’wil, or ‘figurative interpretation,’ was also done by the Companions (Sahaba) and many other early Muslims as reported above. In classical scholarship, both have been considered Islamic, and both seem needed, though tafwid is superior where it does not lead to confusion about Allah’s transcendence beyond the attributes of created things, in accordance with the Qur'anic verse,
"There is nothing whatsoever like unto Him" (Qur'an 42:11).
As for anthropomorphism, it is clear from this verse and from the entire history of the Umma, that it is not an Islamic school of thought, and never has been. In all times and places, Islam has invited non-Muslims to faith in the Incomparable Reality called Allah; not making man a god, and not making God a man.
Anyway, coming back to the quotes provided, it is clear that the majority of quotes are merely affirming the methodology of the vast majority of Salaf i.e. to leave the mutashabihat texts on their Dhahir and pass them by - commiting the meaning of the text to Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala [i.e. TAFWID]
Now, perhaps the reader will not buy any of the above so it becomes necessary to take some examples from what has been provided by SPUBs and elaborate further so as to clarify that all that is being mentioned is the methodology of TAFWID.
We should first look at the [only] quote provided from one of the Salaf – Imam Ahmad RH.
Originally Posted by SPUBS
It would appear to me that this quote has been ripped out of its context.
The following excerpt begins with point no 25. of Usool As Sunnah [Salafi translation so no idea about its authenticity] to understand what Imaam Ahmad is speaking about.
Imaam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d.241H) said:
25. To have faith in the Ru’yah (that Allaah will be seen) on the Day of Judgement has been reported from the Prophet(sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) in the authentic ahaadeeth.
26. And that the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam)saw his
Lord since this has been transmitted from the Messenger of It has been reported by Qataadah from ‘lkrimah from Ibn Abbaas. And al-Hakam ibn Ibaan reported it from ‘Ikrimah from Ibn ‘Abbaas. Also ‘Alee ibn Zaid reported it from Yoosuf ibn Mahraan from Ibn ‘Abbaas .
27. And the hadeeth, in our estimation, is to be taken by its apparent meaning (alaa dhaahirihi) , as it has come from the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam). And indulging in theological rhetoric with respect to it is an innovation.
(Usool as Sunnah no.25-27 of Imaam Ahmad)
Obviously when the statement provided by SPUBS is looked at in its context it becomes clear that the Imam is referring to a specific Hadith and not all hadith or verses.
In addition, to understand the methodology Imam Ahmad we can see what has been quoted from him by the Hanbali Imam Ahmad ibn Muhammad al-Khallal (311/923) in his al-Sunna [The sunna] through his chain of narrators from Hanbal [ibn Ishaq al-Shaybani] (d. 273/886), the son of the brother of Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s father, that
Imam Ahmad was asked about the hadiths mentioning "Allah’s descending," "seeing Allah," and "placing His foot on hell"; and the like, and he replied:
"We believe in them and consider them true, without ‘how’ and without ‘meaning’ (bi la kayfa wa la ma‘na) [emphasis mine]."
And he said, when they asked him about Allah’s istiwa’ [translated above as established]:
"He is ‘established’ upon the Throne (istawa ‘ala al-‘Arsh) how He wills and as He wills, without any limit or any description that be made by any describer
It has already been mentioned that Hanbalis in creed do not give literal meaning to the attributes of Allah, but defer the meaning to Allah, as Imam Ahmad did when he said:
'We believe in them, affirm them without how and without meaning.'
[Lum`at ul-I`tiqaad, p. 6]
So, Alhamdolillah the statement from Imam Ahmad has been made clear now as has his methodology. And so much for the rejection of Tafwid al-Ma'na by the pseudo-Salafiyyah!
By the way, we have already provided elsewhere an example of Imam Ahmad’s ta’wil but we will not digress here.
More on the other quotes later, inshaAllah.