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Archive for January, 2016

Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah was a termed used by the early Muslims (Salafus Saleh) to distinguish themselves, from Ahlul Bidah (Mutazilah), in matters of Aqida. Aqida was transmitted from the Salafus Saleh by two Imams, Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Ahmad.

Imam Tahawi later codified the Aqida of Imam Abu Hanifa, and describe his text on Aqida as representing the Aqidah of Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah.

Imam Tahawi said, “..the following is an exposition of the creed of the People of the Prophetic Way and Majority of scholars (Ahl al Sunnah wa al jama’ah) in accordance with the understanding of Muslim jurists such as Imam Abu Hanifa al Nu’man bin Thabit al Kufi, Abu Yusuf Yaqub bin Ibrahim al Ansari, and Abu Abd Allah Muhammad b. Al Hasan Al Shaybani. It includes their beliefs about the foundations of the religion upon which they base their worship of their Lord of the worlds. (Aqida Tahawi)

The Ashari Aqida is contained in Aqida Tahawi

Imam al Subki (d771), the great Shafi scholar, noted that the Hanafis, Shafis, Malikis and Hanbalis are one in creed, he said,

“All of them follow the opinion of the Prophetic Way and the Majority of the scholars (Ahl al Sunnah wa al jama’ah). They worship Allah in accordance with the creed of Abu al Hasan al Ashari. None of them deviates from it, save the riffraffs among the Hanafis and Shafis who adopted the rationalist creed and those among the Hanbalis who opted for anthropomorphism. However, Allah protected the Malikis from such things, for we have never seen a Maliki except that he was Ashari in creed. In summation, the creed of Al Ashari is what is contained in the Creed of Imam Abu Jafar al Tahawi, which the scholars of the various legal scholars have endorsed and are content with as a creed…. So say to those fanatics among the sects, “Take heed, leave your fanaticism, abandon your heresies, and defend the religion of Islam.”


The Asharis and Maturidis are upon the creed of Imam Abu Hanifa as expressed by Imam Tahawi, in Aqida Tahawi, the Aqida of Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah.

This Aqida of Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah is quite different from the Mutazilah, Jahmiyyah and the anthropormorphist (mushabbihah).

Imam Tahawi says, “We pray to Allah that He may confirm us in faith, let us die upon it, save us from the erroneous ideas and heretical doctrines such as those advanced by the anthropormorphist (mushabbihah), the Mutazilah, Jahmiyyah, determinists (jabariyyah), free willers (Qadariyyah), and others who have differed from Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaah and fallen into error.” (Aqida Tahawi)

And Allah knows best.

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Dealing with the unclear verses and hadiths pertaining to Allah’s Attributes

Imam Nawawi said, “Scholars disagree about the Quran verses and hadiths that deal with the Attributes of Allah, [such as Allah’s ‘hand’ (Quran 48:10), His ‘eyes’ (52:48), or His ‘nearness’ (50:16)] as to whether they should be discussed in terms of a particular figurative interpretation (tawil) or not.
Some say that they should be figuratively interpreted as befits them (ie interpreting His hand for example, as an allusion to His omnipotence). And this is more well known of the two positions of the scholastic theologians.

Others say that such verses should not be given a definitive interpretation, but rather their meaning should not be discussed, and the knowledge of them should be cosigned to Allah Most (tafwid), while at the same time believing in the transcendence of Allah Most High, and that the characteristics of created things do not apply to Him (Allah). For example, it should be said we believe that

“the All Merciful is ‘established’ (Arabic: istawa) on the Throne.” (Quran 20:5)

But we do not know the reality of the meaning of that, nor what is intended thereby, though we believe of Allah Most High that

“there is nothing whatsoever like unto Him (Quran 42:11)”

And that He is above indwelling in created things (hulul), or having the characteristics of temporal, contingent existence (huduth). And this is the path of the Early Muslims or the vast majority of them, and is the safest, for a person is not required to enter into discussions about this. When one believes in Allah’s transcendence above created things, there is no need for debate on it, or taking risks over what there is neither pressing necessity nor even any real call for.
But if the need arises for definitive interpretations to refute someone making unlawful innovations and the like, then the learned may supply them, and this is how we should understand what has come down to us from scholars in this field. And Allah knows best. (Al Majmu- Nawawi)

To summarize and highlight some important key points.

There are two approaches toward the unclear verses and hadith pertaining to Allah’s Attributes

1. Tafwid, saying, “such verses should not be given a definitive interpretation, but rather their meaning should not be discussed, and the knowledge of them should be cosigned to Allah Most (tafwid), while at the same time believing in the transcendence of Allah Most High, and that the characteristics of created things do not apply to Him (Allah).”

“And this is the path of the Early Muslims (Salafus Saleh) or the vast majority of them, and is the safest, for a person is not required to enter into discussions about this.” Imam Nawawi is saying that it is the path of the vast majority of them, indicates, that a small group of Salaf engaged in tawil, the second approach.

The Basis for Tafwid in the Quran

Quran 3:7 can be read two different ways.

(1) Proof for Tafwid: “He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book: In it are verses basic or fundamental (of established meaning); they are the foundation of the Book: others are allegorical. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: “We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord:” and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding. “(Qur’an, surah 3 verse 7)

Ibn Masud read it this way. ((Suyuti- Itqan v.2, p. 4)

This position of tafwid is reinforced with the Quranic verse, Say: The things that my Lord has indeed forbidden are….and saying things about Allah of which you have no knowledge. (7:33)

In essense, the knowledge of Allah can only come from two sources, the Quran and Sunnah, since Allah and His Messenger did not explain the meaning of the Hand of Allah, neither explaining that it should be taken upon it’s apparent (literally) meaning (ala Dhahiri) nor explaining it to meaning, power (qudra) or favor (nima) it is best to remain silent. This is why Imam Shafi said, “I believe in what comes from Allah in the meaning meant by the Messenger of Allah,.” (Ibn Qudamah in Lam’at al Itiqad)

Tafwid is to believe in the wording of the Quran and hadith when related to the unclear verses and hadiths pertaining to Allah and that it is true and from Allah, but to remain silent concerning its meaning and its howness as Allah and His Messenger did not delve into it.

2. Tawil. Saying, “Some say that they should be figuratively interpreted as befits them (ie interpreting His hand for example, as an allusion to His omnipotence). And this is more well known of the two positions of the scholastic theologians.” (Meaning more well known among the scholars of the khalaf – later generation)
When is tawil done?
Imam Nawawi says, “But if the need arises for definitive interpretations to refute someone making unlawful innovations and the like, then the learned may supply them, and this is how we should understand what has come down to us from scholars in this field.”

The point is that tawil is done, when innovation exist, and it is the only way to keep the common people save from such innovation. And the reason it is done this way is because, this is when the Salafus Saleh (Early Muslims), usually engaged in tawil. Imam Ibn Hajar Asqalani said, “al-Bayhaqi and others have narrated from the four imams, from the two Sufyan, the two Hammad, al-Awza’i, from al-Layth and others, that they DID interpret this text (make tawil) according to what befits Allah, and what is in use in the language of the Arabs.” (1)

Imam Ali Qari said, “The Salaf and Khalaf agree over tawil. The difference between them is only in terminology (al Khilafu baynahuma) as they have Consensus (ijma) over the fact that the outward terms must not be taken literally (sarf al lafzi min zahirih). However, the tawi of the Salaf is general (ijmali) as they practiced resignation (tafwid- consigning or remaining silent) to Allah Most High of the intended meaning of the wording, which is not taken literally as Allah is beyond that. As for the Khalaf, their tawil is specific (tafsili) because they were forced to recur to it due to the abundance of innovators. They did not intend, in so doing to diverge from the pious Salaf – Allah is our refuge from such a thought. It is only that necessity demanded it, in their time, due to the many anthropomorphists (mujassima_, Jahmiyya, and others of the people of misguidance, lest they prevail over the minds of the general public. They intended thereby the deterrence and routing of their arguments. This is why many of them apologized and said, “if only our times had the same purity of faith as that of the Salaf!” So what is obligatory upon us is what we mentioned regarding belief, together with negation of resemblance. And if it is feared for laypersons that they do not understand istiwa – short of saying it means istila (dominion) – except in the sense of contact 9ittisal) and the like among the requirements of corporeal requirements, then there is no harm in reorienting their understanding to meaning of istila in strict avoidance of what is forbidden, and in saying “istiwa means istila.” (Al Qari- Miraq al Mafatih Sharh Mishkat al Masabih)

Examples of Tawil among the Salafus Saleh:

Ibn Abbas and the Companions of the Prophet, sallahu alayhi wa salam:

Concerning the verse, “The day that a Shin will be laid bare,” (Quran 68:42) Ibn Abbas interpreted the “shin” to mean “severity.”

Commenting on this verse, Imam al Tabari said, “A group of the Prophet’s companions and their disciples, and the people of figurative interpretation have said, ‘He will uncover a severe matter.’ And among those who interpreted the shin to mean ‘severity’ from the Imams of Quranic exegesis are Mujahid, Said Bin Jubayr, Qataba and others. Allah be He exalted said, ‘And the sky we built with hands. And it is We who give expanse.’ (Quran 51:47). Ibn Abbas said concerning it: “With strength.” (Tafsir al Tabari) That is, “We built it with strength.”

Imam Ahmad

Concerning the verse, “Do they but wait until Allah comes to them in the canopies of the clouds?” (Quran 2:210)
Qadi Abu Yala mentioned that Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal commented on this passage saying that, “The meaning of it is , ‘His power and command.’ (Ibn Jawzi, Daf Shubah al Tashbih)

Imam Bukhari

Imam al Bayhaqi reports that Imam Al Bukhari said concerning the hadith, “Allah laughs at two men, one of them kills the other and both of them enter Paradise,” that laughing means, “mercy.” (Bahaqi Al Asma wa al Sifat) That is, “Allah shows mercy to both of them.”

Sufyan al Thawri

Sufyan al Thawri said concerning Allah’s saying, “And He is with you where ever you are” (Quran 57:4) “It means with His knowledge.” (Tashih al Mahafim al Aqadiyya)

The Basis for Tawil in the Quran

Quran 3:7 can be read two different ways.

(1) Proof for Tafwid: “He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book: In it are verses basic or fundamental (of established meaning); they are the foundation of the Book: others are allegorical. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: “We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord:” and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding. “(Qur’an, surah 3 verse 7)

Ibn Masud read it this way. ((Suyuti- Itqan v.2, p. 4)

(2). Proof for Tawil: “He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book: In it are verses basic or fundamental (of established meaning); they are the foundation of the Book: others are allegorical. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge. Say: “We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord:” and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding.”(Qur’an,surah 3 verse 7)

Ibn Abbas said, “I am of those well grounded in knowledge, who know the meaning (of the allegorical verses).” (Suyuti- Itqan v.2, p. 4)

Ibn Taymiyyah says, “This reading has been reported from Ibn Abbas, Mujahid, Muhammad Ibn Ijma Ibn Az Zubayr, Muhammad Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Qutybah and others. To me this and the other reading are both correct… Both readings have been reported from ibn Abbas and both are correct.” (Ibn Taymiyyah al Majmoo Al Fatawa)

Proof from Hadith

The Prophet, sallahu alayhi wa salam said, “May Allah make radiant someone who hears something from us, and then conveys it as he heard it (Quran and Hadith), for it might be that someone who it is conveyed to understands better than the one who heard (it first). (Sahih-Tirmidhi)

This hadith illustrates, that the later generations may have a better understanding of something the early generation did not.

And Allah knows best.

(1) Imam Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, while explaining one of the versions of the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, sometimes referred to as hadith an-Nuzul (and which would give the impression that Allah descends on Earth every night, in his book Fath al-Bari, volume 3, page 23, illustrates all these points, mentioned by Imam Nawawi.. Imam Ibn Hajar al Asqanlani said, “As for his saying ‘Yanzilu Rabbuna ‘ila s-Samaa’i d-Dunya“, those who confirm a direction to Allah, have relied on this text and said that it is the direction of ‘above’ (al-uluww), and this has been refuted by the scholars (al-jumhur), because talking like that equals limiting Allaah, who is exempted from that. Thereafter people have diverged about the meaning of an-nuzul: some took it according to its literal meaning and verily, these are the anthropomorphists (al-mushabbihah) , and Allaah is absolutely free (exempted) from what they say. Others have resorted to deny the truthfulness of all the hadiths which have been narrated in that regard: those are the Khawaarij and the Mu’tazilah, and these are really astonishing because on the one hand they interpret what has reached [us] in the Qur’an which is similar to this, and on the other hand they deny what has come from hadith, either due to ignorance, or to stubbornness. Others have read those texts as they were revealed, believing in them in general, while freeing Allaah from the manner [kayfiyyah] of the anthropomorphists, and these are the majority of the Salaf. [On top of that], al-Bayhaqi and others have narrated from the four imams, from the two Sufyan, the two Hammad, al-Awza’i, from al-Layth and others, that they DID interpret this text according to what befits Allaah, and what is in use in the language of the Arabs. Some other ones went so far in their interpretation that it ended up being a type of distortion. Others [still] made a difference between what is a ‘close’ interpretation’, i.e. in use in the language of the Arabs, and what would be a ‘far-fetched’ one, and as a result they have interpreted in some cases and made tafweed [i.e. leaving the meaning to Allaah] in some cases, and this has been narrated from imam Malik. It has been confirmed by Ibn Daqiq al-Id that al-Bayhaqi said that the safest [of all these methods] is to believe in those texts without a how (bila kayf) and to not speak about what is intended.”

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