Sunday, 21 November 2010

Imam al Haramayn Ibn al-Juwayni

Imam al-Haramayn Dhia' ul-Din Abd al-Malik ibn Yusuf al-Juwayni al-Shafi'i
(b.419H – d.478H)-(1028CE - 1085 CE)


'Abd al-Malik ibn 'Abd Allah ibn Yusuf, Abu al-Ma'ali ibn Rukn al-Islam Abi Muhammad al-Juwayni al-Naysaburi al-Shafi'i, known as
Imam al-Haramayn and Ibn al-Juwayni
Imam al-Ghazzali's teacher,
the jurist, scholar of legal principles,
expert in kalâm and debate, Shaykh al-Islam
"the Glory of Islam, absolute Imam of all imams, main authority in the Law, whose leadership is agreed upon East and West, whose immense merit is the consensus of Arabs and non-Arabs, upon the like of whom none set eyes before or after," (Ibn 'Asakir)
"whose work forms the connecting link between the respective methods of the Salaf and Khalaf" (al-Kawthari).
He is the main figure among the fifth generation of al-Ash'ari's students.
Al-Bakhirzi compared him to al-Shafi'i and al-Muzani in fiqh, al-Asma'i in manners, al-Hasan al-Basri in preaching eloquence, and al-Ash'ari in kalâm.
Ibn 'Asakir mentioned it and said: "Truly he is above that by far."
Ibn al-Subki said: "Whoever thinks that there is anyone in the Four Schools that comes near his clarity of speech has no knowledge of him." "He felt bound to follow neither al-Ash'ari nor al-Shafi'i."
Abu al-Ma'ali's a major authority of the Shafi'i school and among Ash'ari father is considered, like him, scholars.1
Famous for his intelligence, eloquence, learning, and charisma, Abu al-Ma'ali began to teach in Naysabur immediately after his father's death, only twenty and still a student in al-Bayhaqi's school. He took usûl from Imam Abu al-Qasim al-Iskaf al-Isfarayini and read the Qur'an under Abu 'Abd Allah al-Khabbazi. He took hadith first from his father, then from Abu Hassan Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Muzakki, Abu Sa'd 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Hamdan al-Nasrawi, Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ibn Yahya al-Muzakki, Abu Sa'd 'Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Hasan ibn 'Aliyyak, Abu 'Abd al-Rahman Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz al-Nili, Abu Nu'aym al-Asbahani, and others.
Abu al-Ma'ali fled from Naysabur at a time when the anthropomorphist governor al-Kunduri and other Mu'tazili and Shi'i-inclined Hanafis used to curse the Companions as well as Imam al-Ash'ari from the pulpit every Jum'a. Among those imprisoned or compelled to leave at that time were Abu Sahl al-Bastami, al-Furati, Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri, al-Bayhaqi, and others of the Shafi'is.2 He travelled to Baghdad, then Mecca where he taught and wrote for four years, earning his nickname of Imam of the two Sanctuaries. He then returned to Naysabur as the unchallenged grand mufti and headmaster of the newly-built Nizamiyya school where he remained for the next thirty years, forming generations of Shafi'i jurists and Ash'ari scholars and writing the following works:
  • In fiqh: Ghiyath al-Umam, Mughith al-Khalq, Nihaya al-Matlab fi Diraya al-Madhhab ("The End of the Quest in the Knowledge of the [Shafi'i] School"), his magnum opus, which Ibn 'Asakir said had no precedent in Islam, and Mukhtasar al-Nihaya.
  • In usûl: al-Burhan, al-Talkhis, and al-Waraqat.
  • In kalâm: al-Shamil, al-Irshad, and al-Nizamiyya.

Love of Knowledge

Imam al-Haramayn was humble and acknowledged his debt even to the unschooled if he had learned something from them, never belittling anyone. Inversely, he did not hide or gloss over his disapproval of something he disapproved of, even when it came to the words of his father or those of the famous imams.
The grammarian al-Mujashi'i said: "I never saw anyone crave after knowledge more than this imam. Truly he pursues knowledge for the sake of knowledge."
Ibn 'Asakir related: "His pleasure and leasure consisted in the sessions of knowledge." "Whenever he spoke of spiritual states and probed the sciences of the Sufis in his early morning gatherings, he wept and made everyone weep at his words."
Among his sayings:
"I do not eat or sleep out of habit, but only if sleep overcomes me whether by night or by day, and only if I need to eat, whatever the time."
"I did not utter one word of kalâm before first memorizing twelve thousand folios of the words of the qadi Abu Bakr [al-Baqillani] alone."
Ibn al-Sam'ani in Dhayl Tarikh Baghdad narrated from Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Abi 'Ali al-Hamadhani that Imam al-Haramayn said:
"I read fifty thousand times fifty thousand [folios]. Then I left behind the people of Islam and their Islam of outward sciences in those books. I took to the vast sea and probed what Muslims deem prohibited to probe. I did all this in the pursuit of truth. I used, in bygone times, to flee from imitation. Now I have returned from all this to the word of truth: 'Cling to the faith of old women' ('alaykum bi dîn al-'ajâ'iz).3
If Allah does not catch me with His immense kindness so that I shall die with the faith of old women and my final end be sealed with the uprightness of the People of Truth and the pure declaration: lâ ilâha illallâh - then woe to al-Juwayni's son!"
Something similar is attributed to 'Umar ibn al-Khattab in al-Qari's al-Asrar al-Marfu'a. On the phrase "Now I have returned from all this" Ibn al-Subki comments: "Ash'aris have two well-known positions regarding the affirmation of the Attributes and whether they are let pass according to their literal meaning but in confirmity with transcendence, or whether they should be interpreted.
The first position is that which is traced back to the Salaf and forms the Imam's choice in al-Risala al-Nizamiyya as well as in other passages of his kalâm works. So his 'return' means a return from interpretation (al-ta'wîl) to relegation (al-tafwîd). Neither the latter nor the former are condemned for it is a question of ijtihâd. I mean the question of interpreting on the one hand or relegating together with transcendence.
The great problem and terrible disaster consists in letting them pass according to literal meaning while believing that the latter is the actual meaning and that it is not impossible for it to apply to the Creator. And that is the creed of the idol-worshipping anthropomorphists. {Those in whose hearts is doubt} (3:7), their doubt impels them to pursue that which is allegorical {seeking to cause dissension}. Allah's curses be upon them uninterruptedly! How bold they are in committing lies, and how little is their understandings for realities!" Ibn al-Subki, TSK (5:191-192).
He died of jaundice and was buried in his house after a huge throng attended his funeral bare-headed. Unrestrained manifestations of grief by four hundred of his over-zealous students lasted for days in Khurasan.
Ibn 'Asakir said: "I believe that the marks of his hard work and striving in Allah's Religion shall endure until the rising of the Hour."


False Reports

Some anti-Ash'ari commentators have misconstrued al-Hamadhani's report cited above to read like a disavowal of kalâm on the part of Imam al-Haramayn. They have derived this conclusion from the sentence
"Now I have returned from all this to the word of truth: 'Cling to the faith of old women.'"
However, this sentence cannot be separated from what precedes and follows it, by which Ibn al-Juwayni meant not kalâm, but, as he said, the search for the truth independently of imitation, even outside Islam. He couched his ultimate abandonment of this search in terms of "the faith of old women," a formula that denotes basic faith unscathed by ignorance of all but absolute essentials.
This is similar to Abu Sa'id al-Shahham's dream that Abu Sahl al-Su'luki said after his death: 'Allah forgave me for questions old women used to ask me.'" 4
4 Abu Sa'id al-Shahham said: "I saw Abu Sahl al-Su'luki in my sleep and said to him: 'O Shaykh!' He replied: 'Drop the title of shaykh.' I said: 'What about those spiritual states?' He said: 'They availed us nothing.' I said: 'What did Allah do with you?' He said: 'He forgave me for questions which old women used to ask me.'" SAN (12:341-344 #3366); TKM (p. 184-187). Ibn al-Qayyim, Madarij (2:39).

also that this report comes only through al-Hamadhani, whom Ibn al-Subki declared unreliable as a narrator.

Ibn al-Sam'ani also narrated from the hadith master Abu al-'Ala' Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn al-Fadl, from the hadith master Muhammad ibn Tahir al-Maqdisi that the latter heard Abu al-Hasan al-Qayrawani in Naysabur say:

"I heard Abu al-Ma'ali say: 'Do not occupy yourselves with kalâm, if I had known where it would take me I would not have occupied myself with it.'" This report reads like a tendentious summary of al-Hamadhani's report to strengthen the revised image of Imam al-Haramayn as finally disavowing kalâm. Ibn al-Subki comments: "It is indeed very strange that no-one reported this story from this great imam whose students filled the earth except al-Qayrawani who is unknown, and only through Ibn Tahir who is known for his enmity to Imam al-Haramayn! I tend to believe it is a forgery."5
The hadith master Salah al-Din Khalil ibn Kikaldi al-'Ala'i cited al-Dhahabi's brief notice on Imam al-Haramayn in Siyar A'lam al-Nubala' as an example of al-Dhahabi's bias against Ash'aris, while Ibn al-Subki considers that his teacher did his best to slight the Imam.6
This is borne out by the fact that al-Dhahabi indiscriminately adduces the following weak or forged reports detrimental to the imam:
A false attribution by the Maliki scholar al-Maziri7
of a Mu'tazili position to the Imam in the form of the statement: "Allah knows universalities (al-kulliyyât), not specifics (al-juz'iyyât)." Ibn al-Subki asserted that such a statement constituted disbelief and is nowhere found in the books of the Imam. On the contrary, he states the opposite in the chapter on Jahm ibn Safwan in al-Irshad as well as other passages of his books.8
7He also attacked al-Ghazzali. See our biographical notice on the latter.
8Ibn al-Juwayni, al-Irshad (p. 103-105) cf. Ibn al-Subki, TSK (5:194-207).

A false report whereby Imam Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri swore that he would never address Ibn al-Juwayni and that the latter was expelled from Naysabur because of the above statement.

The truth is that Ibn al-Juwayni left Naysabur because of the climate of hostility that targeted Ahl al-Sunna there, and al-Qushayri admired him so much that he said: "Had al-Juwayni claimed prophethood, his eloquence would have met the need for evidentiary miracles!"
  • Another report claiming that Ibn al-Juwayni denied that creatures possessed any acting-power (istitâ'a), whereas his book al-Irshad contains thirty pages in which he adduces proof after proof that they do. [Ibn al-Juwayni, al-Irshad (p. 195-224).]

A report from Muhammad ibn Tahir:

Abu Ja'far al-Hamadhani heard al-Juwayni say:
"Allah was when there was no place, and He is now as He ever was."10
Al-Hamadhani said: "Tell us then, O teacher! About this imperious necessity in which we find ourselves. There is not one knower of Allah who says 'O Allah!' except he finds in his heart an imperious necessity to seek out the height (al-'uluw). He does not turn right nor left. How can we rid ourselves of this necessity?" Or he said: "Do you have a remedy by which we can get rid of this necessity in which we find ourselves?" Whereupon the imam exclaimed: "O dear! There is nothing left now except bafflement." Then he slapped his hand on his head, came down his chair, and went into an inordinate long period of silence. Later he said: "Al-Hamadhani baffled me."
This report comes only through al-Hamadhani, whom al-Dhahabi himself reported described as "little knowledgeable in the science of hadith,"11 and Ibn Tahir, already cited for his enmity to the Imam.
However, the greatest weakness of the report is in its internal incoherence, as it casts al-Hamadhani as an expert in the contents of the hearts of knowers of Allah and as claiming that he is one of them. It also makes blatant anthropomorphists of all the knowers of Allah. More importantly, it is highly unlikely that a master of debate such as Ibn al-Juwayni would concede defeat by such an elementary question, as Ibn al-Subki pointed out:
Was the Imam powerless to reply: "You have lied, O accursed one! For the knower of Allah does not harbor thoughts of corporeal aboveness for Allah, and only an ignoramus who believes that Allah has a direction sets such limits." We say: No knower of Allah says: "O Allah!" except he no longer see any directions. If the direction of aboveness was being sought, then, certainly, the worshipper would not have been prohibited from looking in that direction nor threatened with punishment if he did. As for the report that he cried out in bafflement and later said: "al-Hamadhani baffled me," it is a shameless lie. I wonder, what is it that that al-Hamadhani brought up as insinuation or proof so that one might say that he baffled him? If one such as the Imam was baffled and did not know what to think, then woe to the Imams of Muslims from the year 478 to this day! For the earth did not produce, from his time, one more knowledgeable of Allah than him. By Allah! What would be the position of al-Dhahabi and his likes if the Imam were to find himself baffled by such a question? This would be a disaster! I wish I even knew where this Abu Ja'far al-Hamadhani stands from the Imams of investigation and kalâm, and the verifiers among the imams of Muslims.
Even if the report were authentic, Ibn al-Juwayni's bafflement can more likely be interpreted to signify a rhetorical declaration of his opponent's ignorance. This device is used by Ibn al-Juwayni himself in his Nizamiyya:
If they [anthropomorphists] say to us: "So then you end up with confusion and bafflement!" we reply: Minds are baffled when it comes to understand Allah's reality, yet categorically affirm the existence [of Allah] to be transcendent above and exempt of the attributes of dependency."12

Al-Albani's Speculation

As for Albani's speculation13 that Ibn al-Juwayni's bafflement was the starting-point for his supposed return to a "Salafi" doctrine which culminated with his Nizamiyya, it is a clear proof that Albani did not read the Nizamiyya, which strongly reiterates the Imam's lifelong condemnation of anthropomorphism in many places.
13In his edition of Mukhtasar al-'Uluw (p. 277).
Albani's misreading stems from an isolated passage of the Nizamiyya - quoted many times by al-Dhahabi in his works - to which the anthropomorphist-inclined cling in order to purport, again, a denial of kalâm by the Imam.
The passage in question is found thus quoted in al-Dhahabi's Siyar:
The methods of the ulamas have differed on the outward expressions (al-zawâhir) of the Book and the Sunna, whose meaning the People of Truth could not ascertain .14
14The passage in parentheses was omitted by al-Dhahabi. This omission is highly significant as it shows that al-Dhahabi, following Ibn Taymiyya, considers that the outward expressions in question can be taken in their outward sense. This is precisely the position of the anthropomorphists which Ibn al-Juwayni's phrase precludes and which he strongly condemns in other passages of the Nizamiyya. Al-Dhahabi omits the phrase again in his citation of the passage in al-'Uluw.
As for the imams of the Salaf, they refrained from figurative interpretations, taking these outward expressions in the way that they came while turning over their meanings to the exalted Lord.15
15Al-Kawthari comments: "This means that whatever is widely known to be applicable to Allah in absolute terms in the Sunna, we apply to Him in absolute terms, without probing the meaning and so as not to suggest any false notion. The term 'outward' (al-zâhir) here stands in contradistinction to the term 'arcane' (gharîb) as in Malik's statement: 'The best knowledge is the outward and the worst knowledge is the arcane.' What is meant here is not the outward which is a sub-type of clarity." Nizamiyya (p. 23 n. 1). Cf. the Tâbi'î Ibrahim ibn Abi 'Abla's (d. 152) statement: "Whoever learns the aberrations of knowledge learns much evil." In SAN (6:486).
The position we favor and consider our doctrine before Allah is to follow the Salaf of the Community. It is preferable to follow and leave innovation. The unambiguous proof transmitted to that effect is that the Consensus of the Community is a proof that must be followed and the reference-point of most of the Law. The Companions of the Prophet Allah bless and greet him , as a matter of course, avoided addressing the meanings of those expressions and trying to comprehend their contents, although they were the purest elite in all Islam. They, alone of all people, carried the burdens of the Law. They left no stone unturned in clearly defining the foundations necessary to all Muslims, exhorting each other to preserve them, teaching people whatever they needed to know. If the figurative interpretation of those verses and external expressions were warranted or obligatory, their attention would have turned to it with greater diligence, perhaps, than to the branches of the Law. Therefore, if their time and that of the Successors were typified by the shunning of figurative interpretation, then such shunning constitutes a definite proof for the right way to follow.16
16Al-Kawthari comments: "By the terms 'figurative interpretation' (ta'wîl) is meant the transposal (sarf) of the meaning to a single sense among all the possible meanings that conform with Allah's transcendence - the latter being inferred from categorical, explicit proofs - without specific support for such transposal. The latter case amounts to arbitrarily deciding what Allah means and what His Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- means. As for the specific designation of a meaning through various indices (qarâ'in), there is no way out but to accept it. There are narrations to that effect from the Companions and Succesors. What the author did here is to show the maximum precaution in Allah's Religion, for which he should be given credit." Al-Nizamiyya (p. 24 n. 1).
It is therefore incumbent on those possessed with Religion to firmly believe in the Lord's transcendence above all the attributes of created beings and not probe the figurative interpretations of complex passages, entrusting their meanings to Allah Almighty.... The verse of the Establishment (20:5), that of the Coming (89:22), His saying There remains but the countenance of your Lord (55:27), That ran before Our eyes (54:14), and whatever is authentically narrated from the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- such as the hadith of descent and others: let all these be taken according to the principles we have mentioned.17
17Abu al-Ma'ali ibn al-Juwayni, al-Nizamiyya (p. 23-25), from the chapter entitled "What is incumbent to assert regarding Allah." Cf. al-Dhahabi, SAN (14:20-21) and Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari (1959 ed. 13:409).

Asha`ri to the Last -

Condemning Anthropomorphism

Following is an earlier passage of the Nizamiyya where the Imam details some of the guiding principles according to which he recommends that the above verses and hadiths be read:
No attribute of which possibility (al-jawâz) forms a portion can be used to describe the exalted Godhead. For preternity (qidam) and possibility are complete opposites. To elaborate: the quality of being created (al-hudûth) is characterized, with regard to us, by possibility; therefore, we declare Allah transcendent above it. Being formed of parts (al-tarkîb), possessing measure and form (al-taqaddur wa al-tasawwur), with regard to us, is characterized by possibility. There is no combination of parts except that a hypothetical variant is also possible. Nor is there any limit (hadd), dimension (qadr), length (tûl), or width ('ard) except their likes and variants are rationally possible. All these attributes, because they are possible, depend on specifications set by their Creator. Exalted is He above such attributes! This is the meaning of the statement of the liege-lord of humanity -- Allah bless and greet him --: "Whoso knows himself knows his Lord."18
Meaning, whoever knows himself to be utterly dependent knows his Lord's utter exemption of his own [human] attributes. For all Allah's Names are transcendent above any signification of need and He is utterly exempt of it. Accordingly, it is obligatory to declare the transcendence of the Creator of the worlds above the least attribution of any particular direction....
There lies the slippery path and greatest danger of misguidance for people! It is at this point that the masses of human beings separate into two factions and only the saved group who are on the right stand their ground firmly. We must now point out the reason for this split and clarify what impelled the People of Truth19 to stand firm and avoid splintering.
Some groups described the Lord in terms above which He is actually transcendent in His majesty such as confinement (al-tahayyuz) in a particular direction (jiha). Some extremists went so far as to attribute Him shape and representation - Exalted is He high above the claims of heretics! What made them do this is that they sought their Lord among perceptible objects, within the figments of their imaginations and the whisperings and phantasms of their thoughts. This is a complete swerving from [affirming] the true attributes of the Godhead. What difference is there between those people and those who worship celestial bodies?20
Even if the ancient people of bygone times and those of latter days banded together in defining the Spirit (al-rûh) according to that method, they would be unable to do so. Yet the spirit is only one of Allah's creatures. However, it is conceived of rationally, not sensorily. Allah said, among the unambiguous verses of His Book which is well-guarded from any kind of corruption: {They ask you concerning the Spirit. Say: The Spirit is by command of my Lord, and of knowledge you have been vouchsafed but little} (17:85).
Another group took the road of nullification (ta'tîl). Their minds held back from any comprehension of Allah's reality and they concluded that whatever thought cannot circumscribe does not exist. Had they been granted success they would have understood that knowing Him to exist is not rendered inconceivable by our impotence ('ajz) to comprehend His reality. The example of the Spirit, which we just cited, refutes them. For there is no doubt as to the existence of the Spirit. Yet there is no way to comprehend its reality. Nor can its existence be denied on the grounds of our impotence to comprehend its reality. A blind man knows colors through common hearsay yet he does not comprehend their reality. This, then, is the reason for the deviation of the nullifiers of the divine attributes (al-mu'attila), and they stand opposed to those who liken Allah to created beings (al-mushabbiha).
As for the party of truth, they kept to the straight path and treaded the ways of absolute truth. They understood that contingencies are in need of a Creator uncharacterized by the attributes that point to dependency. They understood that if the Creator were described with such attributes He would have resembled His creatures. Yet they did not lean towards negation on the grounds that they could not comprehend the reality of the Godhead. Nor did they deem inconceivable the existence of Him Who must categorically be asserted to exist even with our impotence to comprehend His reality....
Therefore we say: Whoever sets out to find the Disposer of his affairs and then rests satisfied that there is an Existent Being that his mind ended up with, is an anthropomorphist. And if he rests satisfied with pure negation then he is a nullifier. But if he categorcally asserts an Existent Being and at the same time acknowledge his impotence to comprehend His reality then he is a Muslim monotheist (muwahhid). The latter is what the Trusting and Truthful [Abu Bakr] means when he said: "Impotence to comprehend is comprehension" (al-'ajz min al-idrâk idrâk). If they say to us: "So then you end up with confusion and bafflement!" we reply: Minds are baffled when it comes to understand Allah's reality, yet categorically affirm the existence [of Allah] to be transcendent above and exempt of the attributes of dependency."21
The above excerpt shows that Imam al-Haramayn did not depart, in the Nizamiyya from the established stand of early and late Ash'aris concerning Allah's Attributes. On the contrary, he reiterates in concise form the condemnations of anthropomorphism spelled out in his earlier al-Irshad fi Usul al-I'tiqad.22 Adducing the Nizamiyya passage where the Imam states his preference for tafwîd in order to suggest an improbable shift on his part towards anthropomorphism shows ignorance of the principles for which he strove in his life and works, and which culminated in his last word on kalâm.
Main sources: Ibn al-Subki, Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra 5:165-222 #477; Ibn `Asakir, Tabyin Kadhib al-Muftari p. 272-278; al-Dhahabi, Siyar A`lam al-Nubala' 14:16-21 #4313.

By Dr. G.F. Haddad (for more info/ Notes:see original article:here)


Al-Juwayni related that he once dreamt of seeing the Prophet Yusuf -upon him peace-, whereupon he fell to his knees in order to kiss his feet, but Yusuf -upon him peace- prevented him as a mark of honour for the imam, so the latter kissed Yusuf's heels.
Al-Juwayni said: 'I interpreted it to mean that there would be blessing and honour in what I would leave behind.'
Ibn al-Subki commented: 'What greater blessing and honour than his son!'
Abu Salih al-Mu'adhdhin said: 'I gave Abu Muhammad his funeral bath. When we were wrapping him in the shroud I saw his right arm to the arm-pit luminous like the moon. I was bewildered, then I said to myself: these are the blessings of his legal responses.'

Imam Al-Haramayn Al-Juwayni

on the
Mujassimah and Istawa

Imam Al-Haramayn Al-Juwayni on the Mujassimah and Istawa
"We shall reproduce here a discussion presented by the Imam of the two Harams, Al-Juwayni – The Shaykh of Imam Al-Ghazzali, responding to the Karramiyyah, a group of anthropomorphists around 300 A.H.
As well as the entire group of anthropomorphists that existed until his passing (rahimahullah).
You will notice that many of the arguments he refutes are still, to this very day, utilized by the neo-Muqatilliyyah.
“Spatial extension (التحيز ) is among those that are particular to atoms and the doctrine of the people of Truth, without exception, is that Allah (SWT) ta’alaa transcends spatial extension and being particularized by a direction. The Karramiyyah and some of the anthropomorphists hold that the Creator – who is exalted above what they say – is spatially extended and particularized by the direction of upward. But the proof of the falsity of what they teach is that what is particularized by direction exists on a par with bodies and everything that is on a par with bodies cannot escape being equivalent in dimensions, or to the dimensions of a part of it, or by which a part of it is measured. Each principle leads either to the measurement of Allah (SWT) or to dividing Him into parts, both are obvious heresies. Beyond that, what measures bodies may be contiguous to them and what allows of bodily contiguity and apposition is itself temporally produced, since the way to prove the temporal production of atoms depends on their susceptibility to contiguousness and apposition, as previously noted. If they generalize the proof of the temporal production of the atom, accepting the temporal production of what they assert is spatially extended, must follow. If they reject the proof as a consequence of what they insist upon, the means to establish the temporal production of the atom ceases to be available.If, morever, they adduce support from the apparent meaning of Allah (SWT)’s words,
الرَّحْمَنُ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ اسْتَوَى
“The Merciful Istawaa upon the throne” [20:5],
our method is to counter with verses that allow us to give this statement an allegorical interpretation. Among these is His statement,
وَهُوَ مَعَكُمْ أَيْنَ مَا كُنتُمْ
“He is with you wherever you are.” [57:4]
أَفَمَنْ هُوَ قَآئِمٌ عَلَى كُلِّ نَفْسٍ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ
“Is then He who stands over every soul knowing what it earns…” [13:33]
What is the meaning of these verses? If they construe them as His being with us in terms of encompassing and knowledge, we cannot be prevented from understanding “Istawaa” as meaning supremacy and dominion. This is a meaning widely understood in the language since the ‘arabs say, “so and so holds [istawa] the seat of power” in a case where that person possesses the key of government and rules over the people. And mentioning in this instance the throne indicates that it is the most exalted of created things in the minds of men. He mentions it here as a reminder of all that is beneath it in rank.
If one were to claim that Istawaa, understood as dominion, intends a previous struggle and competition, we reply that this is false because, if “seating” gave that implication, “supremacy” would do likewise [which it does not].
But does seating in the sense of becoming firmly established presuppose disorder and agitation prior to it?
That requires, however, admitting to heresy. But, to construe istawaa as the purpose of Allah(SWT)’s command with respect to the throne is not out of line; this was the interpretation given by Sufyan Ath-Thawri (rahimuhullah) [See Comment A Below]. He supported such with the words of Allah (SWT), “Then He ascended [istawaa] to the sky and it was then smoke” [41:11], but here with the sense of “directed himself to”.
Someone might ask why not take the verse in its apparent meaning, instead of resorting to allegorical interpretation, by arguing that it is one of the ambiguous verses whose interpretation Allah (SWT) only knows. To that we say: If the purpose of this question is to keep istawaa strictly within the limits of what is meant when using it literally, then it surely means “to become firmly established” and that results necessarily in a doctrine of corporeality. Any doubt in this matter falls under ths same judgement and ends up as a belief in corporeality. Deciding that the sense “to become firmly established” is impossible, supposes, on the contrary, that the apparent meaning is not applicable in this case. And thus those who demand that the import of the verse remain within its apparent sense have no justification for this position.”
End Quote From كتاب الإرشاد إلى قواطع الأدلة في أصول الاعتقاد
Comment A regarding Sufyan Ath-Thawri and Istawa:
Shaykh Gibril Haddad writes,
Sufyan al-Thawri (d. 161) interpreted istiwa’ in the verse { The Merciful established Himself over the Throne } (20:5) as “a command concerning the Throne” (amrun fi al-`arsh), as related by Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni and quoted by al-Yafi`i in the latter’s book Marham al-`Ilal al-Mu`dila fi Daf` al-Shubah wa al-Radd `ala al-Mu`tazila (“Book of the Resolution of Difficult Problems for the Removal of Doubts and the Refutation of the Mu`tazila”):
The understanding of istiwa’ as the turning of Allah (SWT) – Most High – to a particular command concerning the Throne is not far-fetched, and this is the ta’wil of Imam Sufyan al-Thawri, who took as corroborating evidence for it the verse: { Then turned He (thumma istawa) to the heaven when it was smoke } (41:11), meaning: “He proceeded to it” (qasada ilayha).
[ftnt: In al-Yafi`i, Marham al-`Ilal (p. 245) and Abu al-Ma`ali Ibn al-Juwayni, al-Irshad (p. 59-60). taken from :]
He also quotes Imam At-Tabari saying,
Al-Tabari said, in his commentary on the verse { Then turned He (thumma istawa) to the heaven, and fashioned it as seven heavens } (2:29):
“The meaning of istiwa’ in this verse is height (`uluw) and elevation… but if one claims that this means displacement for Allah (SWT), tell him: He is high and elevated over the heaven with the height of sovereignty and power, not the height of displacement and movement to and fro.”
Comments: Here


Imam Abu Hanifa (d. 150) says in his Wasiyya: "Had He been in a place and needing to sit and rest before creating the Throne, then the question 'Where was Allah?' would have applied to Him, which is impossible... We assert that Allah is established on the throne without His need (haja) nor settlement (istiqrar) upon it, for He it is Who preserves the Throne and other than it without needing any of them."
He said in his al-Fiqh al-akbar: "Allah has no limits, nor any rivals... He who says: 'I do not know if my Lord is in the heavens or on the earth' is a disbeliever, and he who says: 'He is on the Throne, and I do not know whether the Throne is in the heaven or on the earth,' he is also a disbeliever."
Imam Abu Mansur al-Maturidi explained this to mean: "The reason is that by such words he suggests a place for Allah and this is idolatry."
A man asked Imam Malik (d. 179): "How did Allah make istiwa' on the throne?" Imam Malik inclined his head and was silent until the sweat of fever covered his brow, then he looked up and said: "Istiwa' is not unknown (ghayru majhul), the modality of it is inconceivable in the mind (al-kayfu minhu ghayru ma`qul); but belief in it is obligatory, and inquiring about it is a heretical innovation. You are an innovator." And he gave orders for him to be taken out.
Imam Shafi`i (d. 204) in his small treatise entitled al-Fiqh al-akbar said:
"Whoever says: al-Rahmanu `ala al-`arsh istawa, it is said to him: This verse is one of the mutashabih (ambiguous matter) concerning which one is perplexed to give an answer, and the same is said regarding similar verses."

Imam al-Haramayn al-Juwayni (d. 478) said in his al-Irshad as quoted by al-Yafi`i in the latter's book Kitab marham al-`ilal al-mu`dila:

Care must be taken to show the vulgar anthropomorphists (hashwiyya) the verses upon which they do practice ta'wil so that when they invoke as proof of their belief in Allah's "settling" (istiqrar) the external meaning of "The Merciful is established on the Throne" (20:4), ask them for the meaning of "And He is with you wheresoever you are" (57:4). If they take the latter according to its external sense also, then they annul the external sense of His being established on the Throne which they claim, and they also proclaim the disgrace of their beliefs for all resonable persons to see; however, if they understand it as referring to His encompassing us with His knowledge, then they have applied ta'wil, and it is no longer forbidden for us to do the same in interpreting His establishment as "subduing" (qahara) and "prevailing over" (ghalaba), as is permitted by the Arabic language... Moreover, istiwa' in the sense of istiqrar, or settling, presupposes a prior state of disturbance, and to hold this is disbelief (kufr)....
If they say: Why don't you let the verse pass according to its external sense without interpreting it, and only say that it is among the mutashabihat whose meaning only Allah knows
We say: If the questioner wants to let istiwa' pass according to the external sense it commonly suggests, which is physical settlement, then such a sense drives us to anthropomorphism, but if that is explicitly shown to be impossible, then the external sense ceases... at which time it is not far-fetched to understand the verse rightly and reasonably according to the demands of the divine Law and the obligation to avoid ta'wil, lest wrong belief results.

Imam Abu Hamid Ghazali (d. 505) says almost the same thing as Abu Mansur al-Baghdadi in the Ihya', section on qawa`id wa `aqa'id (principles and doctrines), and something related to it in the Iljam which we have excerpted already.
more info : Here


(Edited by ADHM)