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Ash’ari Contentions: On Tafweedh and Allah’s Hand

We, the Sunnis believe the following about the Attributes of Allah

We believe they are muhkam in meaning and mutashabih in nature.

 

So the Ash’ari contention to this is the following

Can you please tell us the meanings of the following when they are ascribed to Allah:

hand:
face:
fingers:
foot:
leg:

Since the meanings are clear-cut and obvious (Muhkam), it should be a piece of cake.

We, the Sunnis say

Hand means “Hand”
Face means “Face”
Fingers means “Fingers”
Foot means “Foot”
I don;t know leg but if you mean “Shin” then most of the Sunni scholars did not regard the ayaah of exposing of the shin as a Sifa of Allah. For those who did
then
Shin means “Shin”

if we were talking about humans, then if one says “Hand” then the obvious meaning would allude to an actual “limb” or “part” with blood running through it. However, we are speaking about Allah now, which means the obvious meaning of these words resorts back to the nature of the One being referred to. So if I were to say “Ibn Abdul-Sattar’s hands formed this pottery” then the obvious meaning of hand is that you used your limb called hand which has blood flowing through it with five fingers, etc.

But if we are speaking of Allah, we cannot use that same reasoning because the subject has been changed from that which is created to that which is not created. Thus when we say “Hand” for Allah, the obvious meaning is not limbs, or a bodily part with blood or what have you. And anyone who has this view of that word when speaking about Allah as the subject is a mushabih who is likening Allah to His creation for constricting and thinking of Allah on creational aspects and terms rather than separating Him from these creational aspects and terms. That is why when we, the ahlu-sunnah, view the verses discussing the attributes of God, we don’t think in creational boundaries because doing so would take us away from the methodology of ahlu-sunnah and into the methodology of the mushaabiha and mujassima.

If it is still unclear then allow me another example.

if the subject that we are speaking of is a “clock” then that means when we say “The hand of the clock is on the 2” we don’t mean a hand with blood flowing through and with five fingers since that is not the obvious meaning, rather we mean a hand that is befitting the subject i.e. the clock, i.e. a material made of plastic or metal or some type of material that looks like an arrow pointing at a circumferential direction. That is the obvious meaning of “Hand” when the subject is a “clock”.

Another example
when we say the clausal phrase “the kingdom is in the hand of Phillip” the most obviously understood meaning implied here is that the kingdom is under his dominion and rule, and not in the literal thing called hand with five fingers etc. However, the grammarians o the religion pointed out that in order for an attributed to be attributed to an individual like this expression above, then the prerequisite of using such an expression is that the subject must be among the class or genre of those things that have an actual hand. In other words, for simplicity, we coul not say “the food is in the hand of the table” because the subject being discussed i.e. the table, is not among the genre or things which actually have hands.

Likewise when Allah says
“Nay, both of My Hands are outstretched” the obvious meaning hinted in this ayaah is that His generaosity knows no limit and it is not pointing to the literal thing of a Hand. However, it is becaue Allah has Hands which qualifies Allah to be the subject of attributed this ayaah for Him WHY? because He is among the class or thing which actually has Hands. In other words, if Allah did not have hands, then the person who subscribed to this viewpointm from a grammtical level is attributing illogic to Allah because Allah attributed this ayaah to Himself without possessing the Attribute of Hands.

However, in other ayaa, He says
“Why have you not bowed down to one whom I have created with My Own Hands”

The obvious meaning here does not leav us with the obvious meaning of the first, because in this ayaah, the bounties of Allah is not what is being implied here, but the actual merit of Adam because of the fact that Adam was created by Allah’s literal Hands. SO here, Hands means Hands, it is just that we have no grasp, or understanding of what these Hands are. This is the reality of knowing the meaning and not knowing the nature.

this is the atharism displayed by Maalik wherin he said
“istiwaa is not unknown (meaning it is known) and how it is, is not known”

 

However, the above raises another contention among Ash’aris which could be worded as

Some Asharis might say your saying the same thing as they are.

They would say YAD doesn’t mean limb. We don’t know what it means when it refers to Allah, but we will affirm for Allah a YAD.

Now your saying that Hand means Hand… what does that mean? What is a Hand? You won’t know the meaning of hand unless you know what it is being ascribed to, right? So the meaning of hand when ascribed to a human being is different than when to ascribed to a clock. Similarly, it would have a different meaning when ascribed to Allah and that is where Asharis would say that we don’t know its meaning.

We say in response

This is wrong. To the ash’aris, when you say yad, they perceive in their minds a literal humanlike hand, thats the basis for why which they deny the Attributes of God. An ash’ari friend whom I know has proven this point. when he was asked by the salafis “do you believe Allah has a hand, his reply was “I do not believe Allah has a limb”, in other words, they beleieve that when we as Muslims are to do what we are suppose to do, making ithbaat of Allah’s kalaam about Himself, then that by default is the tajsim.

The second reason why this is wrong is because Sufyaan ath-Thawri, and I believe Ishaaq Ibn Rahaweih said about this very topic
“its meaning is its recitation” i.e the very meaning of these Attributes is what we recite which is why Maalik said “Its meaning is not unknown and how it is, is unknown.

that is why when he asked me what were the meanings of those attributes, I immediately gave the meanings to them and regulate the knowledge of its functionality and nature to Allah, and this is the true tafweedh that we see from the aimah, and not the tafweedh of “I don’t know what is meant by Allah rose over the Throne”.

It means hand, what else could it mean but hand. it does not mean feet.

hand is hand

So when it is said “You won’t know the meaning of hand unless you know what it is being ascribed to, right?” then we say

NO, you won’t know the NATURE of hand unless we know what it is being ascribed to.

 

So when it is stated

So the meaning of hand when ascribed to a human being is different than when to ascribed to a clock

Then we say that the correct wording should be

So the NATURE of hand when ascribed to a human is different than when it is ascribed to a clock

Likewise when it was stated this

“Similarly, it would have a different meaning when ascribed to Allah and that is where Asharis would say that we don’t know its meaning.”

Then we say that the correct wording is

Similarly, it would have a different NATURE when ascribed to Allah.…”

When the ash’aris say they don’t know the meaning, that means in actuality that the expressions that Allah used in the Qur’an were blasphemous to begin with. That is because to them, the versus of Attributes are all tajseemi in nature which is why they came up with the bid’i concept of
“tafweedh in general, and t’awil where necessary” because both of these are deterrents from having the beleiver hold the aqidah of ithbaat. When the ash’aris say they don’t know the meaning, they are indirectly saying that “yeah, these meanings if you were to affirm them for Allah, is kufr because Laysa Kamithilihi Shay” and then negate the very attribute itself under the pretext of not knowing the meaning.

that is the fundamental difference between their meaning and some of our athari Imaams who used the same linguistic usage of the term m’ani, but in reality were pointing to the kaifi aspect of the matter, and not the general import that we get.

If we look at the verse
“Whom I have created with My Own Hands”

this verse is the back breaker that makes the athari shine and exposes the heretic for who he is. That is because the athari, will affirm the so called “figurative” meaning of hand like in
“Nay, both His hands are outstretched” (in arabic, this figurative is also refered to as dhaahir)

however, the fact that He mentioned the creation of Adam by His Own Hands marks some pivotal realities.
1. That the verse is speaking about the literal self of Allah by expressing His Yad in the context of sifaat dhaatiyyah. Ash’aris disbelieve that Allah has an essence. Well, at least to the juggernauts of the madhaab, not necessarily the laymen because most of the laymen do not even know the excruciating details of their own theology. Anyways the proof for this fact is because Allah is telling Iblees, “you’ro not going to bow down to One whom I have created with My Own Hands”. the obvious meaning of the ayaa is signifying that part of the reason why you need to listen to my command and why I gave such a lofty status to Adam is because of the specialization of His creation, because with the rest of creation, He simply said Be, and it was. For Adam, it was a different ballgame; He actually created Him from His Own Hands.

Furthermore

We know what yad (hand) means without being ascribed to anything.
BUT it can’t be imagined in the mind, or its reality (kayfiyyah) be known
without ascribing it to something.

If someone says “yad\hand”, we know what yad generally means (an attribute of the essence that does actions of grasping …etc.), but we can’t give a description of it, or know its reality (kayfiyyah) unless it is ascribed to something.

Then if someone said “the yad\hand of a bear”, or “a human” or “a robot”,
we can imagine it and give a description of it.

When you say to Asharis Allah has a hand, the first thing that comes to their imagination is the “human hand”, as if the human hand is the only hand existent in creation.

If some man discovered a new creature, and called it bod (a made up name), and told people that it has hands, but didn’t show them its picture, nor did he inform them if there was a creature they know which resembles it, nor gave them any details of how that creatures hand is.

will those people be able to imagine how the creature’s hand is?
Can you imagine it? or give any description of it?

There are creations with hands that we have never seen, such as Angels and Jinn.

If one asked you to describe an angel’s hand, will you be able to?
The answer is :No, but you still believe it is a real\literal (not majazi) yad, but have no clue how it is.

If this is with something that is created, then how is it with Allah Azza wa Jal who has no similar, nothing is like unto Him !

Furthermore

adh-Dhahabi says in al-‘Uluw:
“The latter ones from the speculative theologians (ahl al-nadhar) invented a new belief, I do not know of anyone preceding them in that. They said: ‘These attributes are passed on as they have come and not interpreted (la tu’awwal), while believing that the apparent meaning is not intended (dhahiruha ghayr murad).’

This follows that the apparent meaning (dhahir) could mean two things:

First; that it has no interpretation (ta’wil) except the meaning of the text (dilalat al-khitab), as the Salaf said: ‘The rising (al-Istiwa) is known’, or as Sufyan and others said: ‘Its recitation is in fact its interpretation (tafseer)’ – meaning, it is obvious and clear in the language, such that one should not opt for interpretation (ta’wil) or distortion (tahrif). This is the Madhab of the Salaf, while they all agree that they do not resemble the attributes of human beings in any way. For the Bari has no likeness, neither in His essence, nor in His attributes.

Second; that the literal meaning (dhahir) is what comes to imagination from the attribute, just like an image that is formed in one’s mind of a human attribute. This is certainly not intended, for Allah is single and self-sufficient who has no likeness. Even if He has multiple attributes, they all are true, however, they have no resemblance or likeness”

So, when we are speaking about ash’aris and how they view what is dhaahir, then in their minds, dhaahir is the second classification that adh-Dhahabee gives, which is why they are in fact the mushabiha of the ummah. They cannot fathom the meaning or reality of acepting the ayaah upon its dhaahir with the meaning described in the first category that adh-Dhahabee mentions

secondly, while on the subject of tafweedh

Here is what al-Juwayni says about the Madhab of the Salaf in his last work he wrote after his repentance, al-‘Aqida al-Nidhamiyya – published by al-Kawthari:

“The Imams of the Salaf believed in abstaining from interpretation (ta’wil) and passing the literal meanings of the texts as they have come (ijra’ al-dhawahir ‘ala mawaridiha), while relegating (tafweedh) the meanings to the Lord Most High

In this passage, “meaning” was used twice, and each time it was used, its obvious meaning points at a different meaning to each other

1. passing the literal (apparent) meanings of the texts as they have come

Our creed is that we believe “in what has come to us”. Here, al-Juwainee uses dhaahir, which is understood as the apparent or obvious meaning, while in the second usage of the term meaning
2. while relegating the meanings to the Lord.

It does not logically make sense in the realm of reason to employ the same concept on two different occasions and have a different methodology for each one, except that for each occasion is different from the other.

in other words, al-Juwainee is saying
“pass the apparent meanings as they come” and then turns around and says
“relegate those meanings to Allah”

A person like al-Juwainee does not make an inherently contradictory statement unless the “meaning” described in the second is different than the “meaning” described in the first.

so the statement “passing the apparent meaning as it has come” means exactly what it says. We affirm the apparent, obvious, dhaahir meaning. So Hand means Hand, Face means Face, Shin means Shin, Eyes means Eyes. Rising means Rising, Foot means Foot, etc.

So if we affirm these as the meaning, then when al-Juwainee states
“while relegating the meanings (tafweedh) to the Lord”

then the most obvious understanding that comes out of this is its nature, its kayfiyyah. That is the essence and reality of the Imaams of sunnah saying
“ijra’ al-dhawahir ‘ala mawaridiha, bila kayf”

i.e.

“We pass the apparent meanings as they have come, without how”

that is the true athari creed that we hold.

That is, we AFFIRM the dhaahir and relegate the nature to Allah.