Wednesday, 15 February 2012

The Sunni Creed of Qadi Abu Bakr ibn Al-'Arabi

The Sunni Aqeedah
Qadi Abu Bakr ibn Al-'Arabi

Abu Bakr ibn al-Arabi or, in full Muhammad b. ʿAbdallāh, Ibn al-ʿArabī al-Maʿāfirī, al-Išbīlī, Abū Bakr 
(b.468AH/1076CE- d.543AH/1148CE)

Qadi Abu Bakr ibn Al-’Arabi said after some precious words,

“The sound hadiths in this chapterof the Divine Attributesfall into three categories.

The first category: Whatever is narrated which denotes pure perfection utterly devoid of defects. It is obligatory to believe them.
The second category: Whatever is narrated which denotes pure imperfection.

This can never be attributed to Allah most High in any way whatsoever and He is by absolute necessity expressly devoid of such a description, as in the hadith:
 “My servant! I was sick and you never visited Me” [Bukhari and Muslim by Abu Hurayrah] and the like.

The third category” Whatever denotes perfection but suggests likeness to creatures (tashbih).

In the first category there is, for example: Oneness (wahdaniyya), Knowledge (‘ilm), Power (qudra), will (irada), life (hayat), Hearing (sam’), encompassment (ihaata), decree of all circumstances (taqdir), Disposal (tadbir), and Exemption from any match (mathil) or counterpart (nathir). There is nothing to object to such reports.

As for the second category, for example His saying – Most High!
Who is it that will lend unto Allah a goodly loan” 2:245,
or in the hadith qudsi: 
“I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty [...]” [Bukhari and Muslim] then both those that are protected [against confusion] and those that are outside belief, the learned and the ignorant know that the above are figurative expressions (kinaya) for the tenor of the meaning pertaining to these defective states, but He attributed them to His glorious and sanctified Self as an immense honor and homage to His friend, to make hearts tender and soft.

This, O people of sound minds, is a warning to you regarding all possible wordings. For He has mentioned the safe wordings that denote perfection and are obligatory to believe in His regard; and He has mentioned the defective wordings and lowly meanings of which He is categorically and absolutely exempt. Now, if these two types of wordings are made to face one another, it becomes obligatory for every sensible believer to treat the latter as figurative expressions for the meanings that are appropriate for Him, and negate from Him what is impermissible to ascribe to Him.

Thus, His statements abolut “the arm/hand (al-yad)” “the forearm (al-sa‘id), the palm (al-kaff), and “the finger (al-isba’) are forceful and expressive style (‘ibaratun badi‘atun) pointing to lofty meanings.
For the forearm among the Arabs denotes strength, grip, and force. Do you not see what al-Zubayr said when he struck an enemy fighter with the sword and cleaved him in two until he reached what was under him, and he was told:
“That is some sword!” But he replied: “It is not the sword by the sa‘id!” ((Zamakhshari, al-Fa’iq 1:88 ))

This is the reason the Prophet said to Abul-Ahwas about the latter’s father: “He maims camels then calls them, ‘Allah’s Cripples’ – but the forearm (sa‘id) of Allah is stronger and His blade sharper!”
((narrated from Malik ibn Nadla by Ahmad, at Tabarani in al kabir 19:283, and ibn al-Qani’ in Mu’jam as-sahabah ))

This is a threat for him because of his ugly deeds and as a warning of Divine disgrace and requital. It is in this context that he attributed a forearm to Allah – for the entire matter belongs to Allah – just as he attributed a blade to Him.

Similarly, the saying of the Prophet:Truly, Sadaqa falls into the palm of the Merciful” by which He denoted the palm of the pauper as an honor for the latter. One of the scholars even said that in the saying, “The upper hand is better than the lower hand,” ((reported by the nine except ibn Majah )) the upper hand refers to the hand of the beggar who is given and takes the sadaqah for that reason.
 So the palm was attributed to Him as an honor for it. In the same way He said, “the she-camel of Allah” (90:13) and there are many more examples of this.

We have already clarified the use of the fingers and its wisdom in the context of the transformation effected by them.

[Note: He is referring to the hadith of The Nabi 'alayhis salam that states,
'Allah places the heavens on a finger, the earths on a finger, the trees on a finger, the undersoil on a finger, and all creatures on a finger." (Bukhari and Muslim and others) and, 'There is no heart except it lies between the two fingers of the Merciful. If He wishes, He will set it aright; and if He wishes He will lead it astray.' (Sahih Muslim, Tirmidhi and others)]

What is turned around by the fingers is easier, lighter, and faster. Therefore, the Creator wanted to show the lightness of the heavens, the earth, and all creation in comparison to His power, and to express the swiftness of the heart’s transformation by placing it between the two fingers as well as its helplessness and insignificance. Both the heart and all creatures are as nothing to the Merciful with respect to His power over them and their insignificance. It was also said that “between the two fingers” is a figurative expression for the two dispositions. One disposition comes from the angel inspiring one to choose goodness and confirm truth, the other coming from the devil inspiring one to choose evil and deny truth.
As for the cubit/arm (dhira‘), we have noted that it was mentioned in absolute terms without attribution to Allah most High who said “and then insert him in a chain whereof the length is seventy cubits” (69:32).

As for the hadith in which is found the term “the dhira‘ of Al-Jabbar’” ((reported by Ahmad with Abdur-Rahman ibn Abdullah ibn Dinar who hadith form no proof if it contains singularities.
The same hadith is narrated by Muslim, Tirmidhi, and Ahmad without the terms in question ))  it is inauthentic. [...] Rather, the sound-chained version from Abu Hurayrah states,The thickness of the skin of the disbeliever will be forty cubits” unmodified and without further additions. We do not look twice at the hadith containing an addition.”

[Al-'Awasim ibn al-Qawasim 2:42f, translated by Shaykh G.f. Haddad and taken from his masterpiece "The Refutation of Him who Attributes Direction to Allah" pages 120-123]


Ibn al-`Arabi al-Maliki's 
Refutation of the mujassima in the Commentary on the
 Hadith of Descent

It is evident that Bin Baz's outburst against Ibn al-`Arabi's position favoring interpretation is due to the fact that this Maliki scholar is among the most respected authorities of both the scholars of fiqh and those of hadith, and that he is scrupulous in his adherence to the strictest principles in most matters. Like al-Khattabi, Ibn Battal, Nawawi, Ibn Hajar, and so many others, he represents the soundest of the sound positions of Ahl al-Sunna, as demonstrated by his commentary in `Aridat al-ahwadhi on the hadith of descent in Tirmidhi, which we cite in full:

People are divided into three opinions regarding this hadith and the like:
  • Some of them reject it, because it is a single narration and its external sense is not suitable for Allah. These are the Innovators.
  • Some of them accepted it and took it as it came without interpreting it or discussing it, while believing that there is nothing that resembles Allah.
  • Some of them interpreted it and explained it and this is my position, because its meaning is easy in pure Arabic.
Some ignorant people, however, trespassed bounds in interpreting it. 

They say that in this Hadith there is proof that Allah is in the Heaven on the Throne above the Seven Heavens.

We say that this is a sign of tremendous ignorance.
[There is in this implicit criticism of Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani who belonged to Ibn al-`Arabi's own school and was criticized for stating in his Risala or Epistle on Islamic belief and law according to the Maliki school, that
 "Allah is on His glorious Throne in person
(innahu fawqa `arshihi al-majid bi dhatihi).

This was something that Imam Malik never said, since it has no precedent in Qur'an and hadith, and is therefore rejected.

Ibn Abi Zayd did not include "in person" in his other statement of creed in al-Jami` fi al-sunan although he said "He is above His heavens, on His Throne, outside His earth(innahu fawqa samawatihi `ala `arshihi duna ardihi).
Like Ibn `Arabial-`Izz ibn `Abd al-Salam and Ibn Hajar al-Haytami consider the saying
 "on His Throne in personunacceptable and characterize it as a reprehensible innovation which it is not permissible to follow.]

What the hadith said is "He descends to Heaven" without specifying from where He descends or how He descends. 

Yet they said, and their proof is again based on the external sense,
 "The Merciful is firmly established on the Throne" 
(al-rahmanu `ala al-`arshi istawa).
We ask: What is the Throne in Arabic, and what is istawa?
They reply: As Allah said: "That they may mount (li yastawu) upon their backs" (43:13).
We say:
Allah is Mighty and Higher than to have His istiwa on His Throne compared to our sitting on the backs of animals!
They say: And as He said: "And the ship came to rest (istawat) upon al-Judi" (11:44).
We say: Allah is Mighty and Higher than a ship that sailed and then docked and stopped!
They said: And as He said, "When you and those who are with you settle on the ship" (23:28).
We say: Allah forbid that His istiwa' be similar to that of Noah and his people! Everything in the latter case is created, as it consists in istiwa' with an elevation and a settling in a place involving physical contact. The entire Umma is in agreement, even before hearing the hadith of descent and the arguments of those who rejected it, that Allah's istiwa' does not involve any of those things. Therefore do not give examples from His creation for Him!
They say: Allah said"Then He made istiwa' on the Throne'' (20:4) means "Then He made istawa' to Heaven" (2:29).
We say: This is a contradiction. 
First you say that He is on the Throne above Heaven, then you say He is in Heaven according to His saying, "Have you taken security from Him Who is in the Heaven" (67:16) -- and you say that it means "above the Heaven." Therefore you must say that "The Merciful is firmly established on the Throne" means "to the Throne"!
They say: Allah said: "He rules all affairs from the Heaven to the Earth" (32:5).
We say: This is true, but it does not provide any proof for your innovation!
They say: All the firm believers in the Oneness of Allah raise their hands to the Heavens when supplicating him, and if Musa had not said to Pharaoh: My Lord is in the Heaven, Pharaoh would not have said: O Haman, build me a tower.
We say: You are telling lies about Musa, he never said that. But your conclusion shows that you are indeed the followers of Pharaoh, who believed that the Creator lies in a certain direction, and so he desired to climb up to Him on a ladder. He congratulates you for being among his followers, and he is your imam!
They say: What about Umayya ibn Abi al-Salt who said: "Glory to Him Whom creatures are unable to know in the way He deserves to be known, Who is on His Throne, One and One Alone, Sovereign and Possessor over the Throne of Heaven, unto Whose Majesty faces are humbled and prostrate"? and he (Umayya) had read the Torah, the Bible, and the Psalms.
We say: It is like you and your ignorance to cite as proof, first Pharaoh, then the discourse of a pre-Islamic Arab supported by the Torah and the Bible, which have been distorted and changed! And of all of Allah's creation the Jews are the most knowledgeable in disbelieve and likening Allah to creation.

[Ibn Hajar said in al-Isaba fi tamyiz al-sahaba: "There is no disagreement among the authorities in history that Umayya ibn Abi Salt died an unbeliever."]

What we must believe is that Allah existed and nothing existed with Him; that He created all creation, including the Throne, without becoming indicatable through them, nor did a direction arise for Him because of them, nor did He acquire a location in them; that He does not become immanent, that He does not cease to be transcendent, that he does not change, and that He does not move from one state to another.

Istiwa' in the Arabic language has fifteen meanings both literal and figurative. Some of these meanings are suitable for Allah and the meaning of the verse (20:4) is derived from them. The other meanings are not accepted under any circumstances.

For example, if it is taken to mean being in a place (tamakkun)settling (istiqrar)connecting (ittisal), or being bounded (muhadhat): then none of these are suitable for the Creator -- Exalted is He -- and no one should try to find His likeness in His creation.
One may refrain from explaining the verse, as Malik and others have said:
"The istiwa' is known" -- he means: its lexical sense-- "and the modality is unknown" -- that is: the modality of whatever is suitable for Allah among the senses of istiwa': therefore who can specify such modality? --"and asking about it is innovation" -- because, as we have just made clear, probing this matter is looking for dubious matters and that is asking for fitna.
Hence, from what the Imam of Muslims Malik has said we can conclude that the istiwa' is known; that what is suitable for Allah is left unspecified; and that He is declared transcendent above what is impossible for Him. As for specifying what is not suitable for Him, it is not permissible for you, since you have completed the declaration of oneness and belief by negating likeness for Allah and by negating whatever it is absurd to believe concerning Him. There is no need for you for anything beyond that, and we have already explained this in detail.
As for His saying: He descends, comes, arrives, and similar phrases whose meanings are not allowed to apply to His essence: they refer to His actions... al-Awza`i explained this when he said, about this hadith ("Allah descends"): "Allah does what he wishes." Or it suffices to know, or simply to believe that Allah is not to be defined by any of the characteristics of created things and that there is nothing in His creation that resembles Him and there is no interpretation that can explain Him.

They said: We must say "He descends" without asking how.
We say: We seek refuge in Allah from saying that! We only say whatever Allah's Messenger has taught us to say and what we have understood from the Arabic language in which the Qur'an was revealed. And the Prophet said:
"Allah says: O My servant, I was ailing and you did not visit me, I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you did not give me drink..."
and none of this is suitable of Allah whatsoever, but He has honored all these actions by expressing them through Him. In the same way, the saying "Our Lord descends" expresses His servant and angel that descends, in His name, with His order concerning whatever He bestows of His Mercy and gives of his generosity and showers His creation of His bounty.

The poet says:
I have descended
-- therefore do not suspect me of jealousy! --
in the station of the generous lover.

descent can be either figurative or physical. The descending that Allah spoke about, if understood as physical, would mean His angel, Messenger, and slave.
However, if you can understand it to mean that He was not doing any of this and that He then turned to do it in the last third of the night, thereby answering prayers, forgiving, bestowing, and that He has named this "descending from one degree to another and from one attribute to another," then that -- ironically enough -- is addressed to those who have more knowledge than you and more intelligence, who are firmer in belief in Allah's Unity and are less confused than you -- nay, who are not confused at all!

They say in ignorance that if He meant the descending of his Mercy he would not make that only in the last third of the night, because His Mercy descends day and night.
We say: Yes, he singled out the night, and the day of `Arafat, and the hour of Jum`a, because the descent of His mercy in them is more abundant, and its bestowal is even greater then. Allah warned us of this when He said: "And those who beg forgiveness in the early hours of the morning" (3:17).


Qādī Abu Bakr Ibn Al-Arabī Al-Mālikī 
on the Mujassima

Translated from Al-ʿAwāsim min Al-Qawāsim, (Cairo: Dar Al-Turāth) p.208-213

Qadi Abu Bakr ibn Al-’Arabi said in his book Al-ʿAwāim min Al-Qawāim:


When they hear:

What are they waiting for but for Allah to come to them in the shadows of the clouds, together with the angels…”
( Al-Baqara 2:210) and

 “And your Lord arrives with the angels rank upon rank
( Al-Fajr 89:22) and

 “…And Allah came at their building from the foundations…
( Al-Nal 16:26) and

 “Our Lord descends to the lowest sky every night…”
( ahīh Muslim and other collections.) 

they say that 

He moves, transfers, and comes and goes from one place to another.

When they hear His statement:

The All-Merciful, established firmly upon the Throne”( Taha 20:5)

 they say that He is sitting on it, that He is attached to it and He is bigger than it by four finger-lengths, as it is not valid for Him to be smaller than it, because He is The Most Great (Al-ʿAīm). Also, it is not like Him becauseThere is nothing like unto Him”( Al-Shūrā 42:11), and thus He is bigger than the Throne (Ar. Al-ʿArsh) by four finger-lengths.

A group of Sunnis in the city of Salām (Baghdad) have informed me about what Al-Ustādh Abū Al-Qāsim ʿAbdul Karīm Ibn Hawāzin Al-Qushayrī Al-Sūfī from Nīsābūr mentioned. He organised a gathering of dhikr and the whole creation was present. Then the reciter read: “The All-Merciful, established firmly upon the Throne.” The most distinguished of them said to me: ‘I saw – i.e. the Hanbalīs – standing during the gathering and saying: “Sitting! Sitting!”(ʿidun) with the loudest and farthest reaching voices.

The Sunnis from amongst Al-Qushayrī’s companions became furious at them, as well as the others present, and the two groups because enraged at each other. The majority overwhelmed them and forced them into the Nizāmiyya School and detained them therein. Then they pelted them with various objects and some of them died. The leader of the group rode off as well as some of their teachers, and thus they silenced their revolution and put out their flame.

They say that He speaks with letters and a voice, and they attribute it to Ahmad ibn Hanbal. Their falsehood causes them to go as far as saying that the letters are pre-eternal (qadīm)! They say that He possesses a hand, fingers, a forearm, an arm, a hip, a leg and a foot, with which He walks wherever He wants.
They also say that He laughs, walks and walks quickly.

I have been informed by one my sheikhs whom I trust that Abū Yaʿlā Muammad Ibn Al-Husayn Al-Farāʾ( the Elder) – the head of the Hanbalīs in Baghdad – when mentioning Allah the Exalted, as well as these literal interpretations that have been mentioned regarding His Attributes, would say: Impose upon me what you will, for indeed I adhere to it, apart from the beard and nakedness.’!

They conclude by saying: ‘If someone wants to know Allah, let him look at himself, for indeed Allah is in His eyes, except that Allah is transcendent above banes, pre-eternal without a beginning and everlasting without end. This is due to the statement of the Prophet, may Allah’s prayers and peace be upon him: “Indeed Allah created Adam in His image (sūra)” and in another narration: “In the image of the All-Merciful”, which is sahīhThus, Allah indeed has a face (wajh), and we do not negate it and we do interpret it any way that would lead to impossibilities that the intellect cannot accept.’

The head of this group in the Levant was Abū Faraj Al-Hanbalī in Damascus, Ibn Al-Rumaylī, the muhaddith, in Jerusalem, Al-Qatrawānī in the area of Nablus, Al-Fākhūrī in Egypt, and Abū Husayn Ibn Abī Yaʿlā Al-Farāʾ represented them in Baghdād.

Each one of them has followers from amongst the laity, a large number, [they are] a band rebelling against the truth and in partisanship against the creation.

If they had the ability to understand and they had been endowed with some knowledge of the Dīn of Islam, they would have restrained themselves due to the incoherence of their
statements and the general falsehood of what they say, but mental retardation (Ar. fidāma) has overwhelmed them and thus they don’t have hearts with which to understand, nor eyes with which to see or ears with which to hear. They are like cattle, but even more astray.( This is a paraphrase of Al-ʿAʿrāf 7:179) I have been informed by more than one person that Abū Hāmid Ahmad Ibn Abī Tāhir Al-Isfarāyīnī went out to meet his companions one day and he was very happy, so they asked him why.

He responded: ‘I debated with a layman today and I defeated him.’ It was then said to him: ‘You defeated a widow.( i.e. someone who is defenseless) How can you rejoice at defeating the laity?’ He said: ‘The scholar is held back by his knowledge, his intellect and his Dīn, while the layman is not held back by any understanding or Dīn, and thus I only defeat him rarely and occasionally.’

Al-Qadi Abū Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, said: ‘I will tell you something strange.
Indeed I have not come across a group without finding something in their positions that I
agree with – and Allah has protected me with his tawfīq from looking further into it – except
for the iniyya and those who liken Allah to His creation. Indeed they are a horde of whom I am convinced have no knowledge behind them. I discarded their statements as soon as I heard them, whereas with other groups one has to think rationally and legally about the evidence required until the intellect and law guide one to the source of salvation.(or safety)

Read more: Here

Translated by Mahdi Lock
Released by 


Qadi Abu Bakr ibn al-'Arabi

There are several records of contact between Abu Bakr ibn al-'Arabi and Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, the great sufi and author of Ihya Uluma'd-Din. When Abu Bakr arrived in Baghdad, al-Ghazali was still teaching to great acclaim in the Nizamiyya Madrasa and he attended his lectures along with countless others. The great change in al-Ghazali's life, when he left his academic post and became a sufi, happened the next year and it was after that, while al-Ghazali was writing his great work Ihya 'Uluma'd-Din, that Abu Bakr really got to know him. 

Abu Bakr's final meeting with al-Ghazali took place when he and his father were returning from hajj in 1096. They met in the desert between Iraq and Syria.

Qadi Abu Bakr says: "I saw al-Ghazali in the desert. He had a staff in his hand a coffee pot on his shoulder and was wearing a patched cloak. I had seen him in Baghdad with 400 turbaned men from the great and good attending his classes and taking knowledge from him. I went up to him and greeted him and said, "Imam, isn't teaching in Baghdad better than this." He looked hard at me and said, "When the moon of happiness rose over the horizon of my will, I set out for the sun of arrival."

This relationship between Qadi Abu Bakr and Imam al-Ghazali is extremely interesting in the light of the controversy which was to develop in al-Andalus regarding al-Ghazali's teachings, where at one point there was a public burning of al-Ghazali's works. From what we have seen of the relationship between the two men, it was clear that Abu Bakr respected al-Ghazali and did not reject either him personally or his teaching. To understand why what happened happened, it is necessary to look at the difference between the situation in Iraq and that in al-Andalus.

Imam al-Ghazali was reacting against the arid, rigid orthodoxy of the Islam of Iraq and attempting to breathe new life into it by restoring an inward reality to practices which had become a lifeless outward forms.

In al-Andalus and the Maghrib the situation was entirely different. There, rather than becoming rigidified, the shari'a had been eroded almost to the point that it was in danger of being lost. What was needed in the Maghrib was the revival of the shari'a itself.

What the Murabitun brought was an unadulterated version of pure Madinan Islam which harked back to the time when the deen was in its original unified state, when inward and outward were undifferentiated, when the spirituality of the Muslims was one with their establishment of the deen. This strong fresh breeze, redolent with direct contact with the very sources of the shari'a and sunna, swept through the maghrib with the Murabitun, purifying everything it touched, driving out the decadence and corruption that had eaten away at the deen.
In such circumstances there was no need, indeed no room, for the teachings of Imam al-Ghazali. To introduce them would in fact hinder rather than help in the task of re-establishing the basic Madinan paradigm, and what we find is that the enemies of the Murabitun, Ibn Tumart in North Africa and certain groups in al-Andalus, took advantage of the great prestige of Imam al-Ghazali, making political capital out of his teaching by using them to subvert the simplicity and purity of the Murabitun message. This is what forced the amir to take the action he took.
There is also an important historical lesson in this. The situation of the Muslims in the world today is far more comparable to that pertaining in al-Andalus in the 11th century than that in Baghdad at that time. The kafirs have made great inroads into the deen everywhere and on every front. This means that those who, as it were, take the al-Ghazali position, striving to breathe life back into the deen, whether they call themselves sufis or salafis, are bound to fail because the corpse of the Dar al-Islam as traditionally constituted is now corrupted beyond the point of possible resuscitation. What is now necessary is the successful Murabitun approach, cutting through the excessive red tape of accumulated, over sophisticated Islamic scholarship and reconnecting with the rough-hewn, pristine energy of primal Madinan Islam.

The tree of Islam must be grown again from seed if the life-giving fruits of Allah's deen are to be made available to the bereft people of the 21st century.

read more: Here