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Ibn al-Jawzi, The Ash’aris, and The Awkward View on God’s Attributes

Bismillahi ar-Rahman ar-Raheem

Of  all the amazing figures in Islamic history, Ibn al-Jawzi al-Hanbali seems to be one of the most confusing figures of Islamic history. He was the Imaam, the austere, the pious, the friend of God, and whose renown and fame was far and wide. However, as the scholars of ahlu-sunnah wal’jama’ah have commented upon this great Hanbali mujtahid, he had strange opinions about God. In on time he would agree with the philosophizing ash’aris and the next minute he would come out with a book rebuking ash’aris for the very thing he did the day before, which was philosophizing about God’s Characteristics (Attributes). In this analysis of our we shal examine a comment of his that is among the most awkward views he ever expounded about God which defies any logic and reason and only sounds acceptable to a mind that has been plagued by nonsensical philosophy.

said the Imaam, the Alaamah (great scholar)

Furthermore, from another point of view, it can be pointed out that He is neither in this world nor outside it because entering and exiting are inseparable attributes of things which occupy space. Entering and exiting are just like movement and stillness and all other accidents which apply to bodies only.

Notice that Ibn al-Zaghūnī claims above [Ibn al-Jawzī had quoted from one of his books] that He did not create things in His Essence (dhāt); therefore, he presumes it is established that they are separate from Him. [In refutation of this claim] we declare [that is, Ibn al-Jawzī] that the Essence of the Transcendent God (dhātuhū al-muqaddasah) is
beyond having things created in it, or that things should occur in it. Now, material separation in relation to Him requires of Him what it requires of substances [namely, that He be defined by finite limits]. Indeed, the definition of location is that what occupies it prevents a similar thing from being found there; [whereas, nothing is similar to God in any way].

It is apparent that what [these anthropomorphists] presume is based on sensory analogy.
Their inability to conceive of a reality beyond material experience led them into bewilderment, and to liken the attributes of the Transcendent God to the attributes of originated things [that is, to commit tashbīh].

 Our Sunni responses are

1.        The last statement is exactly what he (rahimahu Allah), the Asha’irah and mutakalimeen were doing in relation to Allah’s attributes

Because they could not comprehend a hand that is not like what we see and know, because of Their inability to conceive of a reality beyond material experience led them into bewilderment and to liken the attributes of the Transcendent God to the attributes of originated things [that is, to commit tashbīh] in their minds, which then caused them to reject its dhahir thinking it leads to tashbih, and choose a figurative meaning for it !
They did the same with most of Allah’s attributes.

What he said describes him (rahimahu Allah), the Ash’aris and the other groups who denied Allah’s attributes or made tawil of it, rejecting its dhahir meaning.

It does not describe us at all.

How is that ?

Firstly: Islam did not come with anything that is irrational (contradicts intellect\reason\’aql)

Islam came with

محارات العقول
maharat al ‘uqool (what bewilders\puzzles the mind)

but did NOT come with

محالات العقول
mahalat al ‘uqool (what is impossible in the mind or unfeasible )

The belief in Allah having a yad (hand) that is different than that of creation, a hand that we could not imagine because of not seeing something similar to it, for Allah is not like anything, is not impossible.
Yes, it puzzles the mind, it is uncomprehendable because it is something that we have not seen anything like, but it is not impossible, only puzzling and bewildering.

If someone had told the people of the past, who came thousands of years before us, about the computer and internet that we have today, they would not beleive it because they wouldn’t be able to comprehend it since they have not seen anything even close to it, but does that mean it is impossible just because they couldn’t comprehend it, or seen anything like it? No.

The same with the fruits of al Jannah and its rivers, castles..etc. It basically shares the name and general meaning of the fruits, rivers..etc. of this dunya, but in its description (kayfiyyah), it is different, it is not like anything we have seen or imagined.

So our belief that Allah has a hand that is not like the of creation, or anything we have seen or know, or exists in creation, a hand that is befitting Allah, is not impossible, it is from the first category (maharat al uqool) not from the second (mahalat al uqool).

We all agree that Allah Has an Essence, and we have no problem believing that His Essence is not like that of any essence we have seen or can imagine, it is not something that is impossible in the mind, the same applies to all of Allah’s attributes.

Meanwhile, from my understanding, Asharis make it (believing Allah to have a hand that is not a limb) from mahalat al uqool (impossibilities of the mind), based on greek logic (ilm al kalam), which is purely derived from some human minds, concluded from limited human observation of the creation , with no backing from shar’i text, then they used this flawed limited human logic in understanding the ayah (nothing is like unto Him), applying it to the Creator’s [Allah] attributes.

Thus contradicting the ayah (nothing is like unto Him), since they used those mens’ conclusions from the limited observation of creation to accept or reject an attribute of the Creator, and give it another meaning that fits more with their logic.

Our belief is based on evidence from the Quran and Sunnah with the understanding of righteous Salaf and Imams of sunnah who came after them. Our beliefs are based on sama’ (hearing/the text), not based on human logic, but at the same time, our belief is not something that is impossible in the human mind, it does not contradict the sound mind.

While Asharis and other groups’ beliefs were affected by ilm al kalam and their flawed understanding of the ayah (Nothing is like unto Him) using their aql (mind) to apply that ayah, if the mind could not comprehend except a hand that is a limb, then it cannot be accepted.

2.    Firstly, and for mostly, there is nothing in the legal texts nor in the statements of those erroneously deemed as “mujassimah” by which all of them say that He enters and exits. And the statement ” the creation exists outside of Him” or the term “He is separate and distinct (ba’in)” from creation does not equal in any reasonable and formal logic as “the object which enters and exits”. In other words, the attribute of entering and exiting has no relation at all to a reality that a thing may exist outside or separate of another thing.


هَلْ يَنْظُرُونَ إِلَّا أَنْ يَأْتِيَهُمُ اللَّهُ فِي ظُلَلٍ مِنَ الْغَمَامِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ
Do they then wait for anything other than that Allah should come to them in the shadows of the clouds and the angels?

that’s the first flaw which makes the mode of his deduction inapplicable to the Sunni argument to begin with

Secondly, If entering and exiting are inseparable attributes of things that occupy space, then this would form a line of argument that dictates denial that Allah can “come” as He says

then the obvious conclusion of this line of logic is that this Aristotelian “rule” can only be applied to the creational objects within the creational realm. Thus the rule does not and could not be applied for anything outside of the creational reality, of which the only One who is Above this creation is Allah.
Alas, the tashbeeh of the Aristotelians continues in full force.

3.    His statement

Entering and exiting are just like movement and stillness and all other accidents which apply to bodies only.

Yes, ONLY within this creational dimension, which does not apply to Allah because “laysa kamithlihi shay”

4.    His statement

Notice that Ibn al-Zaghūnī claims above [Ibn al-Jawzī had quoted from one of his books] that He did not create things in His Essence (dhāt); therefore, he presumes it is established that they are separate from Him. [In refutation of this claim] we declare [that is, Ibn al-Jawzī] that the Essence of the Transcendent God (dhātuhū al-muqaddasah) is
beyond having things created in it, or that things should occur in it.

 

Hence Ibnul-Jawzi conforms to Ibnul-Zaghuni

5.    His statement

Now, material separation in relation to Him requires of Him what it requires of substances

Does anyone have any doubt now that Ash’arism is a madhaab of tashbeeh and the subjugation of Allah into their finite world of theories of accidents and substances. This statement is not in need of a reply, it is self explanatory

6.    His statement

Indeed, the definition of location is that what occupies it prevents a similar thing from being found there; [whereas, nothing is similar to God in any way].

Firstly, the occupation of a location is not limited to the prevention of something “like it” rather it includes ALL things, those that are like it or those that are not like it, thus the application of the ayaah makes no sense under the line of argument he brings.

Secondly, the definition of location itself as he brings is itself incorrect. Location is defined as an area set by boundaries. Its meaning is that of “place, which is a particular portion of space, whether of definite or indefinite extent. Location is not defined by that which occupies it, it is identified by that which occupies it in most cases.

7.    His statement

It is apparent that what [these anthropomorphist] presume is based on sensory analogy.

with all due respect, look who’s talking. Who is subjecting the world of the Divine, His essence, to man-made logic that is based on creational rules of this creational dimension. I cannot think of a greater case of the pot calling the kettle, black.

8.    His statement

Their inability to conceive of a reality beyond material experience led them into bewilderment

With all due respect, History has shown that it is people of the Aristotelian lot who are of those who are bewildered!

a-Fadheelati-Shaykh al-Haafidh Ibnu-Salaah mentioned that ‘al-Qubt at-Tawghaani informed me twice that he heard Fakhru-deen Raazi (Famous Mutakalim;scholar of kalaam) mentioned “if only I had not devoted mysrlf to ilmu-kalaam and he would weep”. itiqaadaat Firaaq al-Muslimeen

“So, that which i have engaged in persistency Is the perpetrator of the most terrible misfortune
I stayed in the wilderness (kalaam) with no knowledge and drowned in an ocean with no boat”“I have surpassed the limit of most, to what is higher and travelled and left behind in the centres
I plunged into a fathomless ocean and drove myself through open deserts
I persisted on speculation then came to my senses (accepting the truth) prefering (that truth) the religion of old ladies (salafiyyah)”“The very limit of what I attained from my studies and my reflections, after much contemplation,
Was suspension in bewilderment between the two paths.
What then is the knowledge of the person who has known only bewilderment.”“They have been given intelligence but have not been given integrity, they have been given acumen but have not been given knowledge, they have been given hearing, sight, and hearts and then he quotes the ayaah
“We gave them hearing, sight, and hearts, but heir hearing, sight, and their hearts did not benefit them in the slightest because they denied the revelations of Allah and so they were encompassed by that which they mocked at” (auraatu-Ahqaaf 46;26)

 

Raazi’s disappointment of where kalaam landed hi was evident in some lines of poetry he wrote narrated from Ibnu-Qayyim in Sawa’iq al-Mursala

One of the greatest mutakalim Imaams Abdul-kareem ash-Shahrastani, whose knowledge of places, peoples and creeds was unrivaled has depicted the state of the mutakalimeen concerning knowledge of doctrinal matters in the introduction to his book “Nihaaya al-Kalaam fil-Ilm al-kalaam” he says
“By my life, i have visited all the scholarly instituations and let my eyes roam around these places, Alla i have found are people with hands to their chins, In bewilderment or gnashing their teeth in regret.”

According to the mutakalimeen, they viewed the salafi creed and manhaj as the beleif of old women. The imaams of his time known as the imam of al-Haramayn, Juwaiynee spoke nearing his death the following words.

I have plunged into the vast ocean and abandoned the people of islam and their knowledge. i immersed myself in what they forbade me from and now if Allah does not meet me with His Rahmah, then woe to me. Here am i dying on the same beleif as my mother (athari sunni creed)”. Niayaat al-Iqdaam fil kalaam

another mutakalim is mentioned by Ibnu-Qayyim to have said the following
“Testify against me that I die and I know nothing except that the possible requires the necessary’, he then replied “requirement is something non existant, therefore i know nothing.”

again in sawa’iq mursalah another mutakalim said “The people who have doubt at the time of death are the mutakalimoon.

The rewvered Imaam Ibn-Waazeer said “Some of the mutakalimeen and the heretics acted contrary to the prophets and His awliyyah and the imaams of the salaf with respect to reflection and contemplation. They made it burdensome, delved deeply, expressed clear meanings with ambigious expressions and returned, after a long journey, to doubt, bewilderment, enmity and accusing each other of lying”

Ibn Abu hadeed, one of those foremost in kalaam said

Another mutakalim said

Imaam ash-Shawkaani who is in no need of introduction said about the later part of his life when he delved into this science in his younger part the following. This one is very beautiful and informative of the nature of kalaami logic in creed.

Whoever examines the bafflement of ther mutakalimoon knows the very truth about what Shaykhul-islam Ibnu-Taymiyyah said when he said

I see al-Ghazzali words most befitting when he said

‘ilm al-kalam creates more doubts instead of solving them!”

So with due respect, the people of whom Ibnul-Jawzi borrowed this line of logic are the last of those to speak about the bewilderment of those whom he insinuates are bewildered

 

9.    His statement

Indeed, the bewilderment of some of them reached such a degree that they declared: “The reason God mentioned His ascension (istiwā’) on the Throne is that it is the nearest thing to him.”

Well, that is definitely a statement of bewilderment and if such a statement has been said, it is wrong, but we do not know of any of the ahlul-hadeeth and the people of athaar to have used this reasoning to prove Allah istiwaa the Throne.

10.   His statement

Obviously, this is preposterous because nearness in terms of distance can only be conceived of in relation to bodies [whereas, in relation to the Transcendent God who is not a body, it is inconceivable].

yes, of which it can only be true if bodies is limited and confined into the world of creational thought patterns like limbs, parts, corporeality, material, space, etc.

11.   His statement

Others declared that the Throne is opposite what confronts it of the Divine Essence (dhāt), but not opposite the entire dhāt . This, of course, is explicit in saying that God is like a body (tajsīm), and that He is susceptible to division. I am at a loss to understand how a person [who believes such heretical nonsense] has the audacity to ascribe to our school of law [that is, the hanbalī madhhab]!

Firstly this declaration makes no sense in either the way they worded it or in the way it has been represented (by the author rahimahullah).

Secondly, Accepting the premise that He is separate and distinct from the creation does not equal that He Himself is divided into parts.

What I am more at a loss to understand is how a person (who believes in this rhetoric) has the audacity to ascribe to the theology of Islam of who’s preconceived notions of their Lord is based on pagan concepts of creational logic that completely defies common sense and logic, and more importantly, Allah’s words.

 We ask Allah to bestow mercy upon Imam Ibnul-Jawzi and may He sanctify his soul and expand his grave and enlighten it and that He (Allah) may save us from the torment of following the school of thought of the Aristotelians in trying to understand the nature and essence of God.