& the Mistake of Changing Their Meanings
By Br. Abdul Wahid Abdul Muntaqim
Ibn al-Qayyim once wrote that love
for a beloved originates in the beauty and perfection of the beloved.
Hence, by knowing and becoming familiar with Allahs names,
attributes and actions, one will love Him more and his Iman (faith
and acceptance) will become stronger.
When Ibn Taymiyyah explained what
the most precious and beneficial knowledge is, the first matter
he mentioned was the knowledge of Allahs Names, Attributes,
and Actions, which plants in the heart the love, hope, fear and
glorification of Him (swt). No one would deny that knowing the One
we worship improves our `Ibadah and that not knowing who Allah is
makes our `Ibadah almost meaningless. Allah (swt) said Himself:
"So know that
Laa ilaaha ill Allah (there is nothing worthy of worship but Allah)..."
To understand Tawheed correctly,
we need to have an understanding of Allahs Names and Attributes.
The question is, how are we to understand these names and attributes?
Should we rely on our minds and speculative theology, or should
we refer to the Quran, Sunnah and the understanding of the
early predecessors? Many have strayed based on this point and, if
Allah permits, we shall try to clarify some misconceptions related
to tahreef (interpretation and changing the meanings) of Allahs
Attributes in particular.
The scholars say, the correct Faith
in Allahs attributes means believing in them without denying
them or their meanings (ta`teel), without interpreting them and
changing their meanings (tahreef), without explaining how they are
(takyeef) or likening Allahs attributes to those of the creation
(tamtheel). Although a few scholars have slightly differed on this
point, it is known that the consensus of the predecessors and leaders
of this Ummah is as stated above. There is an overwhelming amount
of evidence to support this, but we shall, by Allahs will,
quote several renowned scholars who wrote about this matter.
Often, the best way to explain what
is Islam is by pointing out any contradistinction to what Islam
is (or should not become). Therefore, if we study the beliefs of
the misguided sects, our understanding of the Truth will be, by
Allahs permission, improved. A good example of this is, comprehending
Tawheed is greater when accompanied with an understanding of Shirk.
This issue is also a matter of manhaj
(program, way) and who we take our knowledge from. A student of
knowledge has recently commented that todays Ash`arites are
in fact Jahmees, because they still interpret some of Allahs
Attributes, which, in fact, leads them to negating the meaning of
these Attributes [such as Allahs Istawaa above the `Arsh,
His Face, His Hand, His Hearing, His Seeing etc.]. We have been
warned of the great sin of speaking about Allah without understanding.
"Say (O Muhammad):
My Lord has only forbidden indecencies, those of them that are apparent
as well as those that are concealed, and sin and rebellion without
justice, and that you associate with Allah in worship that which
He has sent down no authority, and that you say about Allah that
which you do not know."
So it is indeed a dangerous to explain
an Attribute of Allah without proof from correct Sources.
There is no doubt that all sects
have deviated because they did not understand Usool (basic principles
of) ud Deen. Therefore, the best way to safeguard ones faith
is to gain a solid understanding of the basics, before proceeding
to study things that are not of the greatest importance, particularly
those of us who are not scholars. Let us all realize the fact that
we need to understand Aqeedah, and Tawheed in particular, before
we proceed to study other matters, such as Fiqh. Verily, man has
been created impatient, but we need to understand what the priorities
are. If we consider the fact that (good) deeds of those who disbelieve
are not accepted (see Quran 24:39, for example), we can see
the importance of having a correct belief. Furthermore, the lack
of understanding of the true Aqeedah among Muslims has led to great
divisions and it would not be unfair to say that ignorance of the
Aqeedah is the primary cause of our division today (at least indirectly,
because if we knew the correct Aqeedah we would put most differences
to one side).
Shall we not cling to the Rope of
Allah (i.e. the Quran) and be united? Nowadays, groups are
separating and those that have deviated or gone astray have even
started cursing those who speak the truth.
Let it be clear that there is no
compromise in the matters of Aqeedah as it is taken from the Quran
and Sunnah, as understood by the `ijmaa, and let it also be clear
that the consensus among scholars on this issue is very clear. Indeed,
those who are close to the tradition (i.e. the Book and Sunnah)
differ less among themselves than those who are far from the Truth.
For this reason, it can be seen that the sincere ones who have slight
differences in manhaj, but share the same authentic creed are one
big step closer to unity (which should be very clear to those who
follow the Ummahs affairs). On the other hand, those whose
very foundation is not firm will differ in a great number of issues.
In addition, they are easy prey for Shaytaan, who seeks to misguide
such people even further.
To reiterate how the Sifaat Allah
are to be understood, we shall consider what Ibn Taymeeyah said
in his Al-Ikleel Fee Al-Mutashbaabih Wa al-Taweel:
"God may be characterized by
how He characterizes Himself and by how His Prophet characterized
him. The course to be followed (in understanding this doctrine)
is that of the predecessors, the people of faith and knowledge,
and of the meanings understood from the Book and the Sunnah. Response
(to revelation) ought not to confuse it for such would be a distortion,
a disbelief, an abandonment of the Book..."
And at-Tahaawee said in al-Aqeedah
"To imagine Allah in a certain
form is not correct. The safest way for a Muslim is to believe in
all the attributes of Allah is without adding any interpretation.
To negate the attributes of Allah altogether or to compare Him to
someone is a deviation from the right path. Our Lord is unique and
without any equal at all."
What is ironic, is that most of those
who call themselves Ash`arites today contradict their own teacher.
For, Al-Ash`aree refuted many deviant claims of those who commit
tahreef or tateel. He wrote in al-Ibaanah `an Usool ad-Diyaanah
an arsenal of arguments against different heretics, and here is
an example from this book, which represents the Aqeedah on which
he finally settled:
"Whosoever questions us and
says, Do you believe God has a face?, the answer is:
We believe it contrarily to the belief of the innovators;
and His words And the Face of your Lord full of Majesty and
Honour will abide forever (Quran 55:27) are a proof
He also stated: "If anybody
says, You do not deny that Gods words from what
Our hands have made and His words, before him whom I
have created with My two hands are metaphorical", the
answer is: The rule of the Word of God is that it is to be interpreted
literally and truly, and a thing is not transferred from its literal
meaning to a metaphorical one, except by proof."
We therefore affirm these attributes
of Allah (swt) and realize that "There is nothing like unto
Him" (Quran 42:11), that "There is none comparable
to Him" (Quran 112:4) and that "No vision can grasp
Him, but His Grasp is over all vision." (6:103). Can we Muslims
settle on these issues and finally move on and do what Allah has
ordered us to do? Or are we (some of us) still going to wonder blindly
in following deviations? Are pantheist Sufis going to realize the
fallacy of wahdat ul wujood and are some of the devotees of Sufism
going to stop hiding the fact that they approve of it? Are Ash`arites
going to stick to their creed in spite of what Al-Ash`aree actually
said? Are the proponents of the Ash`arite theology in the Shaafi`iyy
madh-hab going to stop picking bits and pieces from their scholars
books and start taking their teachings as a whole? Will dont
they, for instance, realize how an-Nawawi regarded al-Ibaanah by
Al-Ash`aree? Or how ash-Shaafi`ee, Abu Haneefa, Maalik and Ibn Hanbal
understood Sifaat Allah? Are they going to realize the words of
Al-Juwaynee, or al-Ghazaalees teacher, who also changed his
view towards the end of his life and accepted the truth in this
matter? He said in Ar-Rasaail al-Muniriah:
"I used to fear confirming al-Istiwaa
and that Allah descends (if He will) to avoid limiting Allah, or
assimilating Him (with the creation).
However, when I read the evidence
from the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger (saws), I
find that these evidences confirm these meanings (al-Istiwaa
and descending). I find that the Prophet (saws), unequivocally confirms
them, when talking about His Lord and describing Him(swt). I know
for sure that his audience contained the knowledgeable and the ignorant,
the smart and the slow, the Bedouin and the hard hearted. Yet, I
find no quotations, clear or implied from him after describing Allah,
that explains these meanings with what is not apparent, or what
distorts these meanings as some of their philosophers did."
Many had strayed by committing small
innovations, but Shaytan later led them to further from the truth.
Interpreting Allahs Attributes such as His Istawaa (rising
over al-`Arsh in a manner that suits His Majesty), or His Face,
has led people to deny them and to explain them in a manner which
suited their opinions, based on reliable proof. If they only pondered
over the words of Naaim ibn Hammad, al-Bukharis teacher,
who was quoted by ibn Katheer in his Tafseer:
"Whoever assimilates Allah with
His creation has committed kufr (disbelief). Whoever denies Allahs
description of Himself has committed Kufr. Assimilation to (the
creation) cannot be understood from the description of Allah by
Allah, or His Messenger (saws). Whoever confirms the Attributes,
mentioned in the clear Aayat (verses of the Quran) and authentic
ahaadeeth, believing that these Attributes are in a manner befitting
to Allahs Majesty, and denying all ill descriptions of Allah;
he has followed the way of guidance."
Ibn Katheer, in his tafseer of the
verse Quran 20:5, clearly stated that we should follow the
understanding of the predecessors and not commit takyeef, tahreef,
tashbeeh, ta`teel and tamtheel.
Imaam Al-Barbahaaree said, "Whatever
Allah says is just as He says. There is nothing to contradict what
He says. He is as He says."
And Allah (swt) states in the Quran:
can be truer than Allahs?"
Ibn Taymeeyah said, "The early
generations of Muslims and their Imams were in complete unanimous
agreement that the Lord is separate and distinct from his creation.
He (swt) is to be described only that which He described Himself
(i.e. in the Quran) or with which His Prophet (saws) described
Him, without distorting, negating, delving into the exact nature
of, or believing them to be the same as something known such as
human characteristics of the same names. Allah is described with
all characteristics of perfection and no characteristics of weakness
or imperfection. He (swt) knows that there is nothing comparable
to Him, nor with His words in regards to any of His characteristics
"Say: He is
Allah, One. Allah, The Self-Sufficient. He begets not, nor was He
begotten. And there is none equal or comparable to Him."
Ibn Mas`ood and others said: "He
is the one who has no cavity. The attribute of One (al-Ahad) means
the one to whom there is no one comparable. Thus, the name as-Samad
entails all of Allahs attributes of perfection, and negation
of any imperfections, and the name al-Ahad denotes the complete
lack of anybody or anything being comparable to Allah in His names
Finally, to those who perform interpreting
Allahs Names according to their desires and based on no proof,
and propagate it to others, we reply with the response given by
Shaikh as-Sabt in his book "Ar-Rahmaanu `Alaa-l `Arshi Istawaa":
"This type of writer studied
Tawheed and made their own minds as the judge and authority in this
matter. They confirmed, of Allahs Names and Attributes, what
they thought appropriate, and rejected what they thought wrong.
They subjected their Lords Names and Attributes to their own
logic and understanding. Some of them approved of only seven Attributes
and others were more generous to add six more.
This led to their understanding and
believing Attributes of Allah, which are not the same as in the
Quran. To those we say: Do you know Allah more than
Himself? This type of writers subjectively interpreted the
verses of the Quran and the ahaadeeth of the Prophet (saws),
in accordance with their own minds, changing their meanings. They
made their thoughts as the base and changed meanings of the Quran
to accommodate their opinion. They ignored the most basic rule of
Tawheed, that is, to shape our thoughts and minds to accommodate
the Nass (text of the Quran and Sunnah), confirming what the
Nass confirms and rejecting what it rejects. These writers did the
opposite; they shaped the Nass to accommodate their opinions and
thoughts. They made their mind the god they worship. They fell into
what they sought to escape from. They worshipped themselves, when
they claimed immunity from error for their minds. Worshipping is
following and obeying (Allah and His Messenger), is it not?"