The Hanbalis Who Erred
As for these Hanbalis, they are: Abu Abdullah bin Hamid (d. 403H), Abu al-Hasan al-Tamimi, Abu al-Fadl al-Tamimi (d. 410H), Rizqullah al-Tamimi (d.448H), al-Qadi Abu Ya'laa (d. 453H) and his son, Ibn Abi Ya'laa, Ibn Aqeel (d. 513H), Abu al-Hasan Ibn al-Zaghuni (d. 527H) and Ibn al-Jawzee (d.597H). All of these had something of departure, in large, small, or negligible amounts, from the way of Imaam Ahmad, and they attributed (directly or indirectly) to the creed of Imaam Ahmad that which was not from the creed of Imaam Ahmad. It is interesting to note that many of the Ash'arites who came afterwards relied upon the likes of these scholars in order to characterize some of the viewpoints of Imaam Ahmad, and they were in error in this regard, particularly on the issue of the Qur'an.
As for the errors of these Hanbalis then they are:
ONE: Adopting some of the usul of Ibn Kullaab in relation to the chosen actions (Af'aal Ikhtiyaariyyah). Exaggeration in ithbaat (affirmation) of the attributes, and the use of fabricated narrations relating to the attributes. Falling into tafwid. These occurred from Abu Ya'laa (kalaam, ta'wil, tafwid, affirmation of fabricated narrations), and exaggeration in affirmation occurred from Ibn Haamid, and Ibn al-Zaghuni was similarly influenced by Kalaam (he in turn affected Ibn Aqil).
TWO: Departing from ithbaat (affirmation) somewhat and entering into something of the language of Ahl al-Kalaam (the Tamimis). Some of these Tamimis (Abu al-Fadl) had close associations with the likes of al-Baqillaani, the Ash'ari, and they ascribed to Imaam Ahmad certain statements which are not direct statements of Imaam Ahmad's speech but something they ascribed to him which was statements of Kalaam, and this is rejectd and all the well-known direct students of Imaam Ahmad never narrated anything like that from him. But these statements were popularized through al-Bayhaqi and others and they come through the likes of Abu al-Fadl al-Tamimi.
THREE: Falling into tajahhum and i'tizaal with respect to the attributes (Ibn Aqil, Ibn al-Jawzee).
That such errors should occur from the Hanbalis is not surprising given the fact that those who ascribed to Abu Hanifah, Malik and Shafi'ee had much greater deviations. Take for example the Hanafi Mu'tazilah, the Hanafi Jahmiyyah, the Hanafi Karraamiyyah Mujassimah, just by way of example.
So that something of deviation occurred from those ascribing to Imaam Ahmad is not unusual, and there even those who ascribed to the Prophets, whilst the Prophets are free of them and what they claim, such as the Qaraamitah and Baatiniyyah. That people who are in error should ascribe their way to promiment people, Prophets or otherwise, is nothing unusual and none of that can be used to revile, or mischaracterize, either the religion (if it is ascription to a Prophet) or the sound creed (if it is an Imaam from the established, firmly-grounded Imaams of the Sunnah from the era of the righteous Salaf in the first three hundred years).
Ibn Taymiyyah on These Hanbalis
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah said in Majmūʿ al-Fatāwā (6/54):
There is no doubt that the Ashʿarites of Khurasān had deviated towards taʿṭīl, and many of the Ḥanbalīs increased in affirmation.
The Ash'arites receded away from the way of Ibn Kullab and al-Ash'ari and fell into the ta'til of the Mu'tazilah (learn about that here), and likewise amongst the Hanbalis who increased in affirmation of that which was repugnant and founded upon fabricated and weak narrations. This is most represented in al-Qadi Abu Ya'laa. Imaam al-Dhahabi said of him in Siyar Aʿlām al-Nubulā, (18/91):
He (Abu Yaʿlā) did not have great experience in the knowledge of ḥadīth, and perhaps he used weak narrations as proof.
In his attempts to refute the Ash'ari Mutakallimin like Ibn Fawrak (d. 406H), al-Qadi Abu Ya'laa authored Ibtaal al-Ta'wilaat, and Ibn Taymiyyah said in this regard in Dar' al-Taʿāruḍ al-ʿAql wal-Naql (5/237-238):
And whilst he connected (the chains) of the āḥādīth he mentioned, and also mentioned their narrators, there are many fabricated āḥādīth therein, such as the ḥadīth of the [Prophet's] seeing [Allāh] with the eyes on the night of the ascent [of the Prophet] and its likes. And also within them are things from some of the Salaf, which some of the people reported in marfūʿ form , such as the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) sitting on the Throne, some of the people have narrated this through many routes of transmission in marfūʿ form, but all of them are fabricated ... for this reason and others, Rizqullāh al-Tamīmī [d. 448H] and others from the [later] associates of Aḥmad spoke against al-Qāḍī Abū Yaʿlā's authorship of this book with very harsh words, and his enemies poured scorn upon him on account of things he was innocent of, as he mentioned at the end of the book.
It is clear that these Scholars who were attached to hadith, like Abu Ya'laa were not as skilled, grounded and qualified like the Imaams of the Hadeeth in the golden era of hadeeth two centuries earlier, and thus they were not able to distinguish like those before them were able. As a result, although Abu Ya'laa had much truth with him in this book and aided the way of Ahl al-Sunnah and As.haab al-Hadeeth, he included certain narrations for which his opponents attacked him. In addition he was affected by the kalam of the mutakallimin based upon their proof of huduth al-ajsaam and this was reflected in his changing views on al-uluww and al-istiwaa and likewise in his position on the Qur'an.
The Hanbalis Affected by I'tizaal and Tajahhum
In response there were from the Hanbalis who rejected this from Abu Ya'laa, and they were the likes of Rizqullah al-Tamimi, Ibn Aqeel, and afterwards Ibn al-Jawzee. However from these Hanbalis were those who inclined towards tajahhum and i'tizaal, in particular Ibn Aqeel and Ibn al-Jawzee. As for Ibn Aqeel he was affected by the Mu'tazilah, and his Shaykhs include Abu Alee Ibn Waleed and Abu al-Qasim bin al-Tibyaan, both Mu'tazilees.
Imām al-Dhahabī in his biographical account (see al-Siyar 19/443-451) quotes Ibn ʿAqīl as saying, "And our associates, the Ḥanbalīs desired from me to boycott a group amongst the scholars, and that would have prevented me from beneficial knowledge," and al-Dhahabī commented on this saying,
They used to prohibit him from sitting with the Muʿtazilah, but he refused, until he fell into their snares and ventured into making taʾwīl of the texts, we ask Allāh for safety.
As for Ibn al-Jawzee he was confused and muddled, and was affected by the i'tizaal of Ibn Aqeel and had tajahhum with him too. He had many contradictory positions on the sifaat, and thus he is matrook in this subject. Ibn al-Jawzee wrote a refutation, Daf' Shubhah al-Tashbih, against those earlier Hanbalis like Abu Ya'laa and Ibn al-Zaghuni and Ibn Haamid, and their excess in ithbaat (affirmation), however, this refutation was from a Jahmee, Mu'tazilee perspective. And just like those earlier Hanbalis like Abu Ya'laa received something of rejection and scorn, likewise Ibn al-Jawzee received widespread condemnation from the leading Hanbalis of the time, as is documented by Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali in Dhayl Tabaqaat al-Hanaabilah. Abu al-Fadl Ubaydallah al-Althiyy wrote to Ibn al-Jawzee, on behalf of the Hanbalis, and within his letter to him there occurs:
Know that the rejection of the Scholars, the esteemed ones, and the best of those in the horizons against you has increased, on account ofyour corrupt sayings regarding the Attributes, and they have clarified the weakness in your saying, and they quote about you that you rejected the advice...
So how is permissible for you to follow the mutakallimin in their views, and dispute with those who dispute in that which they disputed, and then you show rejection against them. This is from the amazing, strange affairs. And if a created being described another with attributes without direct vision or a truthful report, he would have been a liar in his information. So how can you (people) describe Allāh, the Sublime, with something, whose authenticity you have not come across. Rather, (how can you speak) based upon mere presumptions, and happenings, and you negate the Attributes that He is pleased with for Himself, and [which] His Prophet related about Him, through the narration of firm, trustworthy narrators?...
So beware O pauper, before death (comes to you), and rectify your speech and action, for the appointed time has come, to Allāh belongs the affair, from before and after, there is no power nor might except by Allāh, the Most-High, the Mighty.
As for Abu Ya'laa, while he certainly had much for which he ought to be criticised, he was also slandered and lied upon based upon dubious narrations, and some of these were carried by Abu Bakr bin al-'Arabi through unknown reporters in his book al-'Awaasim min al-Qawaasim.
In short we can broadly divide these Hanbalis into three categories:
The first: Those affected by kalam and the Kullaabi usool who also exaggerated in ithbaat (affirmation), so they spoke with sayings similar to those of the Ash'arites, but exaggerated in ithbaat. Some of them also delved into something of ta'weel and tafwid.
The second: Those affected by the Jahmi Mu'tazili ta'teel and tahreef, although Ibn Aqeel repented from that at the end of his life, and Ibn al-Jawzee was confused and muddled with no consistency at all in any of his writings combining between tajahhum and i'tizaal and in some areas agreeing with Ahl al-Sunnah. He criticized not only Ahl al-Sunnah but also the Ash'arite heretics on their position on the Qur'an.
The third: Those affected by Kalaam due to their association with the Ahl al-Kalam from the Ash'arites and this includes the Tamimis, such as Abu al-Fadl al-Tamimi and Rizqullah al-Tamimi.
Each of these groups ascribed their way or particular views to Imaam Ahmad, and Imaam Ahmad is free of all groups - even if some of them were much closer to the truth than others. For the first two groups had ghuluww, either in ithbaat (affirmation) or in nafy (negation), just as they also had with them ta'wil (tahrif) and tafwid that Imam Ahmad was free of. The likes of Abu Yaʿlā misrepresented the way of Imām Aḥmad in the subject of the Qurʾān and the ṣifāt fiʿliyyah, upon the principles of Ibn Kullāb, just as they exaggerated in affirmation in relation to the ṣīfāt khabariyyah. Ibn al-Jawzee took the way of the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah.
How The Ash'arites Monopolize on the Above History To Propagandize for Their Tawhid of al-Jawhar wal-'arad
Before looking at the actual methodology of the contemporary Ash'arites in making political use of the above history, there are some background points that have to be kept in mind. They are as followss:
Point 1: As we have established in many articles on this site, the later Ash'arites took the way of the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah in their ta'til and left the way of Ibn Kullaab and al-Ashari, and this is demonstrated clearly in the issue of al-uluww and the sifat khabariyyah. So when they see what occurred to some amongst the Hanbalis, they take it as an opportunity to call to, justify and defend their creed. We mean here not the way of Ibn Kullaab and al-Ash'ari, but the way of the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah taken by the later Ash'arites.
Point 2: Abu Ya'laa no doubt had a lot of truth with him, since he supported the generality of the way of the Salaf, except that he had a type of baatil (falsehood) which is exaggeration in ithbaat, as a result of which the Ash'aris, in particular the Qushayris (father and son), criticized him and likewise Rizqullah al-Tamimi who was an "Ash'arified" Hanbali (as was Abu Ya'laa himself for a period), and in this those Ash'aris had a type of truth with them, even if in general, they were upon much baatil (ilm al-kalam, ta'til, tahrif). In addition to this, when those Hanbalis who came later, like Ibn al-Jawzee, wrote critiques of the likes of Abu Ya'laa upon Jahmee Mu'tazilee perspectives, this became an ideal opportunity for the Ash'arites to misrepresent the actual way of Imaam Ahmad.
Point 3: We also have to bear in mind here that the Ash'arites know full well, through experience in history that the fitrah upon which Allaah created mankind is averse to the language and terminology and classification that the Mutakallimun took from the Sabean star and idol-worshipping pagan disbelievers, which is the language of ajsaam and a'raad and a language that describes Allaah is "not a body, not a subjstance, not an incidental attribute, not above, nor below, not within, not without, not in place, not in direction, not in spacial occupation..." We have established that Ibn Sina (d. d. 429H), al-Ghazali (d. 505H), and al-Razi (d. 606H) have all explicitly wrote about this, acknowledged it, as a result of which they propose a type of conniving and deception, in the way that the average people are addressed in matters of their faith. Read these articles (here,here and here).
Point 4: That the Mujassimah and Mushabbihah that the Salaf and the Kullaabi Ash'aris condemned were those who likened Allah's essence (dhat) to the physical body of humans, in flesh and blood, and thus gave him the limbs of the creation, and these were the Raafidee Ahl al-Kalaam such as Hisham bin al-Hakam, the Rafidee Mutakallim. And likewise Hisham bin Salim al-Jawaaleeqi and Dawud al-Jawaaribee and others. Also the Hanafi Karramiyyah Mujassimah who said their Lord was a jism (body) [some of them said "but not like the created bodies"], and they delved into the takyeef of Allah's istiwaa and uluww and spoke with repugnant affairs. Note that all of these were Ahl al-Kalaam. As for those who affirmed the sifaat khabariyyah, like face, hands, eyes and also affirmed Allaah Himself to be above the Throne, then they are the entirety of the Salaf and the early Kullabiyyah Ash'ariyyah as is established without dispute. And this is acknowledged by the later Ash'arites and mentioned in their works (see this article) and they never included these factions as amongst the Mujassimah, Mushabbihah. Rather those who accused these affirmers as Mujassimah were the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah, and al-Baqillani and al-Ash'ari and Ibn Kullaab refuted them in this regard.
Point 5: That the likes of Abu Ya'laa fell into what they fell into due to their not being grounded in the field of hadith and so they affirmed baseless narrations and upon the sound principle of affirming for Allaah what Allaah and His Messenger affirmed for Him, they affirmed repugnant baseless matters for Allaah, the Most Highm through such baseless narrations. And so they were not Mujassimah nor Mushabbihah in the real sense of the word - like the Rafidi Mujassimah and the Hanafi Karraamiyyah Mujassimah and the Shafi'i Kurdish Mujassimah - but they fell into what is blameworthy and what is no doubt worthy of criticism through a route other than the route of the actual Mujassimah and Mushabbihah, who from the outset, claimed their Lord is a human in flesh and blood with limbs or is a body like the bodies, or a body unlike other bodies. In any case, he fell into what is repugnant and rejected.
Point 6: And this is one of their inner core secrets - wihch is that the later Jahmite Ash'aris actually are resentful of Imaam Ahmad, and their activities in using the likes of the Hanbalis that are the subject of this article and their aberrations is simply a stepladder to indirectly attack Imaam Ahmad and to belittle his great position as the greatest of the Imaams of the Sunnah and as the one who saved the Islamic aqidah from the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah. This is in order to propagate their spurious claim that they were the saviours of Islaam - and out of fairness and justice whilst the early Kullabi Ash'aris in particular like al-Ash'ari himself and al-Baqillani are indeed commended for what they presented of refutations against the factions and religions, the approach they inherited from the Kalaam groups of the seond century hijrah (Jahmiyyah, Mu'tazilah - huduth al-ajsaam) only opened the door for the enemies of Islam like al-Farabi and Ibn Sina and the Qaraamitah Baatiniyyah to use what the Mutakallimin were doing to the Sharee'ah texts in relation to the Names and Attributes (which is tahrif, distortion, in the name of "ta'wil", in order to comply with the proof of huduth al-ajsaam) as a justification to apply the same to the texts relating to creation, resurrection, the angels, and the sharee'ah commands - so they said to the Ahl al-Kalaam: Just like you consider the texts relating to belief in Allaah's attributes to be metaphors, and that is the greatest pillar of belief, then it is even more justified that what is less than that, such as belief in creation, resurrection, angels, revelation and the likes is also just metaphor, and likewise prayer, fasting, hajj and so on. So as the saying goes, "Neither Islam did they aid and nor the Philosophers did they destroy," yet they continue in their self-praise, aggrandisement and bigotry of claiming to have saved Islam, when all they did was poisoned themselves with philosophy and opened the door for Islam's enemies. So coming back to our point regarding Imaam Ahmad, when Imaam Ahmad subdued the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah who were the Kalaam groups, there arose the likes of Ibn Kullaab, Harith al-Muhasibee, and al-Karaabeesee and they entered into the snares of the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah and got put to trial in the issue of Allaah's chosen actions (af'aal ikhtiyaariyyah, sifaat fi'liyyah). And Imaam Ahmad was very, very, very severe against them. Imaam Ahmad knew the inner core and reality of the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah so when this faction emerged he knew exactly what it would entail and what would result from it - the revival of the din of the Jahmites that the Arabic Qur'an is created. This was from his perspicacity. And yes, which faction emerged championing this particular way? The Ash'arites who simply carried the usool of the Jahmiyyah, Mu'tazilah and Kullaabiyyah of negating Allaah's chosen actions, from which is Allaah's speech and which would inevitably lead to the saying that the Arabic Qur'an was created. Just take a look here, they actually admit that they believe that the Qur'an about which the Salaf said "uncreated" is "created" (see here, here, here and here) from their own writings! So, the way that the Ash'arites are upon is antithetical and contradictory to the way of Imaam Ahmad, and this is why they blot out that history, and give it no merit, or acknowledgement, that history which is the trial of Imaam Ahmad, and his stance against the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah. So these Jahmite Ash'aris who agree with al-Ja'd bin Dirham, al-Jahm bin Safwan, Amr bin Ubayd, Bishr al-Mareesee and their likes that the Arabic Qur'an is created, are deeply resentful of Imaam Ahmad, despite what they try to portray outwardly. For this reason, all of this commotion that you see from them regarding some of those Hanbalis who indeed erred in the matter of excessive affirmation, and using other Hanbalis who erred in the other direction, is simply a means of trying to attack the way of Imaam Ahmad itself and to distort it and misrepresent it, and to make the people averse to identifying the truth that was with the Hanbali scholars who remained firmly and staunchly upon what Imaam Ahmad was upon, which is nothing but what Imaam al-Shaafi'ee and Imaam Maalik and Imaam Abu Hanifah and the other leading Imaams of the Salaf were upon, like al-Awzaa'ee, al-Thawree, Ibn al-Mubaarak, Ibn Uyainah, Ishaq bin Raahuyah and countless others.
The War of the Worlds
With the above points established lets look at the methodology of the Ash'arite heretics of our time:
The First Step
The first step is to cultivate intellectual terrorism, which is instilling shock and awe in the minds and hearts of the people. You can liken this to the "War of the Worlds" broadcast on Sunday night, 30th October 1938 in the US. This was an adaptation of a book by H.G Wells, and millions of people heard it and hundreds of thousands actually thought it was real thinking that nasty, ferocious Martians were coming to Earth. So the first step the Ash'arites must use by necessity is to terrify their potential audience with their own "radio broadcast" [read lectures, forums, blogs, the tube, podcasts etc.] by portraying that those evil, nasty Mujassimah with their evil tajsim have landed and have come to "get you." Of course, the average, unassuming, knowledge-lacking Muslim is going to fall for this drama. Scared and terrified out of his wits, and looking over his shoulder in case a nasty Mujassim is stalking him, the average Muslim is looking for protection.
The Second Step
So when you have the average Muslim in shock and awe through that intellectual terrorism, the second step is now to compound the matter and to monopolize upon that raw fear, awe and terror that has just been created and to give it some credibility, because although people lose their wits through sudden intense fear, their senses do come back to them, so you've got to now build some credibility. And so enter "Daf' Shubhah al-Tasbhih", the book of Ibn al-Jawzee written from a Jahmee Mu'tazili perspective against those Hanbalis who exaggerated in ithbaat. And for sure, those Hanbalis are worthy of criticism and rebuke, but not from a Jahmee, Mu'tazilee perspective. Rather from a Sunni, Athari perspective, which is that they are rebuked for their lack of skill and expertise in a field as a result of which they fell into such repugnant errors, the consequence of which was to bring disrepute to the Hanbali madhhab, and give the opposers an opportunity to throw the accusation of tajsim and tashbih against the Hanbalis at large, and to taint and stain them with these matters.
But of course it is of propagandistic value in order to make their own creed of "Not a jism, not a jawhar, not an 'arad, not in jihah, not in makan, not in tahayyuz, not above, not below, not outside, not inside..." more palatable later on, when the average Muslim has been duped by them. So this is from the treachery, dishonesty and conniving of the Ash'arites knowing that their own theology of ajsaam and a'raad is rejected by the fitrah of mankind. Instead of using Ibn al-Jawzee why don't they go to standard Hanbali texts such as Ibn al-Bannaa al-Hanbalis al-Mukhtaar Fee Usul al-Sunnah and what is similar to it, which presents the true Sunni, Salafi, Athari aqidah of Ahmad bin Hanbal and all the Imams of the Salaf? So this is from their conniving and scheming no doubt.
The Third Step
This now takes us to the third step which is to use texts like those of al-Tahawi and in particular certain parts of it such as the negation of limbs, parts, confinement by directions and the likes, and all of these are in refutation of the Jahmiyyah who said Allaah is in all places, and of the Rafidi Mujassimah, and of the Hanafi Karramiyyah Mujassimah and the Shafi'i Kurdish Mujassimah and their likes. This is not a refutation of the entirety of the Salaf and the Kullabi Ash'aris who held Allaah Himself is above the Throne and affirmed the sifat khabariyyah, like face, hands eyes, and likewise the attributes of pleasure and anger (with the Salaf affirming them as sifat fi'liyyah, and the Kullabiyyah affirming them as eternal attributes). However, their aim here is to deceive the victim into thinking that what the Salaf and the early Kullabi Ash'aris were upon is in fact tajsim and tashbih. Texts like al-Tahawi's whose wording is often general and obscure serves this purpose of the Ash'arites in their propaganda. Thus, they try to misappropriate this creed, by giving it attention, focus, translating it, publishing it, with their own doctrinal bias. See examples of this from Hamza Yusuf (in this article). You will notice that these Ash'arites will never ever take any texts prior to 300H, despite the fact that there are scores and scores of texts preserved from the Imaams of the Sunnah, be they simple affirmation of the creed, or be they refutation of the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah. You can see a large list of such texts in this article.
The Fourth Step
This now takes us to the fourth step and here we get a little deep. After the first three steps, there has be a level of sophistication involved for the shrewder ones who have been caught in the snares, and this is by using statements in specific issues through decontextualization and this is best illustrated with an example, the example of al-'uluww. As for the view of Ahl al-Sunnah:
The Salaf as a whole in their entirety affirm three types of 'uluww for Allaah, that Allaah is above His creation Himself, (uluww al-dhaat), that Allaah is above His creation in rank, status (qadr) and that Allaah is above His creation in terms of domination (uluww al-qahr). This is undisputed and established without any doubt, anyone who challenges this is a kadhhaab (liar), a lying scoundrel, lacking honesty and justice.
Then amongst the Ahl al-Kalaam, there are two views:
First: Those who affirmed these three types of 'uluww for Alaah, and they are the Kullaabiyyah, the very Early Ash'aris and the Karraaamiyyah. As for the Karraamiyyah, they already held that Allaah is jism (body) and following on from this they delved into the takyif of 'uluww and al-istiwaa' and started saying that Allaah is touching the Throne, and that He fills the Throne and that He has a limit in the direction of the Throne and that He has no limits in all other directions, and some of them said that Allaah is separate from the Throne by an infinite distance and others said otherwise - and so this was a repugnant type of takyif from them. In response to these Hanafi Karraamiyyah, the Kullabiyyah and Ash'ariyyah had statements of refutation, alongside affirming Allaah is above the Throne, and so they would say that Allah is above the Throne but is not a jism (body) and that Allaah is above the Throne without touch (mummaassah) - and this particular statement was held even some of the Imaams of the Salaf like Abu Nasr al-Sijzee (d. 444H) - so they said the likes of these statements, and also that Allaah is neither said to be a great distance away from the Throne nor adjacent to it, and the intent in all of this was to rebut the takyif of the Karraamiyyah Mujassimah, but certainly not to oppose what the Salaf were united upon that Allaah Himself is above the Throne, separate and distinct from the creation. And in this regard we have mentioned their sayings on this site such as Ibn Mahdi al-Tabari and al-Baqillani, besides what is known from Ibn Kullaab and al-Harith al-Muhaasibee and al-Ash'ari.
Second: The Jahmiyyah, Mu'tazilah and Later Ash'aris all say that Allaah is neither within the universe nor outside the universe and can neither be said to be above or below or in front or behind and the likes. This saying actually emanates from the saying of the Jahmiyyah that Allaah is in every place. Then as Ahl al-Sunnah refuted them and exposed their falsehood to the common folk and the common folk knew of their falsehood, they began to say that what they really mean is that Allaah is not within things or outside of things and from this came the saying that Allaah is neither within the universe nor outside of it, and this was championed by kafirs like Ibn Sina (d. 439H) and was later taken up by the Ash'arites who came after like al-Ghazali (d. 505H) and al-Razi (d. 606H).
Once all of this is understood, we can now grasp the type of method used by the Ash'arites not just in this particular example but in many other issues of creed as well, such as in the sifat khabariyyah, its called decontextualization, so this is how it works.
They use the statements of the Kullabiyyah Ash'ariyyah where they negate mumassah (touch) and remoteness and nearness to the Throne - all of which was a rebuttal of the takyif of the Karraamiyyah Mujassimah AFTER agreement upon the foundation which is Allaah is above the Throne - and then apply them to Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah who hold Allaah to be above the Throne. In this manner they cause confusion, doubt and obfuscation about this particular belief. In this way, they attempt to erode this belief slowly and with subtelty.
Remember, these Ash'arite heretics we have present today are not following the early Kullaabi Ash'aris, they are followin kafirs like Jahm bin Safwan and kafirs like Ibn Sina, and the Later Ash'aris like al-Ghazali and al-Razi who followed the doctrines of those kafirs in this particular issue (see proof right here) - and of course the greatest obstacle to their theology is what is rooted in the hearts and minds (in the fitrah) of all of mankind that Allaah is above His creation. This innate belief clashes with the proof of huduth al-ajsaam which they took from the Sabean star and idol-worshipping pagan disbelievers who were versed in the study of natural sciences and - being far from Prophethood - devised their proof to demonstrate the universe is originated using the classification and terminology of Aristotle, of al-ajsaam and al-a'raad (bodies and their incidental attributes).
So the point here is that we have a layered approach, like layers in a cake, and so we start with the first layer intellectual terrorism, shock and awe, and everyone is terrified of those evil nasty Mujassims who have landed and are going to gobble you up, this layer has got to be thick and firm. Once that is in place we then build upon it, and along comes the second layer Ibn Aqil and Ibn al-Jawzee who were Jahmite and Mu'tazilite in sifaat, so they provide the corroboration, and no doubt this deceives many an uninformed individual. Then we have the third layer, which is to give this further credibility and use texts such as al-Tahawi's creed which have a certain value to the Ash'arites, even if al-Tahawi's creed is antithetical to theirs as is clear from his affirmation of the Throne as true and real created entity and Allah's uluww, and affirmation of the sifat fi'liyyah such as anger and pleasure, and speaking to Moses and taking Ibrahim as a friend, and likewise on the issue of the Qur'an that it originated with Allaah as His actual speech and so on. But there are some generalized obscure statements they find of utility and which they misunderstand and misapply, so this is the third layer. Finally, the fourth layer, which is embellishment, and here we see them taking liberties in some intricate matters where the average person will be unaware, so they decontextualize statements across of variety of subjects and then use them wrongly, so they take these statements and embellish the cake with them. The onlooker no doubt is stupefied, his mouth is watering, and he wants his slice of the action, and he wants it right now!
So this is how the Ash'arite heretics entice followers. However, this cake is laced, and it is laced with that ilm al-kalaam that the Salaf condemned, the ilm al-kalaam which is the language of al-ajsaam and al-a'raad and the corrupt proof of huduth al-ajsaam. So the unsuspecting Muslim, after having been intellectually terrorized, then wooed with the cake, is finally laced, and now its the perfect time to bring on the heavies, the real stuff, the Jawharahs and the Umm al-Baraaheens and the likes and here we will be getting that hardcore ilm al-kalaam, the legacy of the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah upon which the Ash'arites built their theology, and so now there are absolutely no barriers to start teaching the real stuff, the intent all along, "not a body, not a subjstance, not an incidental attribute, not above, nor below, not within, not without, not in place, not in direction, not in spacial occupation... - which is simply an extension of the "negative theology" which came from the Sabean star and idol-worshipping pagan disbelievers based upon their study of al-ajsaam and al-a'raad which became the foundation of the theology of the Mutakallimin, whose ilm al-kalam (in proving the universe is originated) is the very kalam of those pagan Philosophers as been stated by both Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari and Abu Sulayman al-Khattaabi.
And thus, will you understand the saying of the great Shafi'i Imaam, Ibn Suraij as-Shafi'ee (d. 306H) who said, as narrated from him by Abu Ismaa'eel al-Harawi in "Dhamm ul-Kalaam" and as mentioned by Ibn Taymiyyah in "Bayaan Talbees al-Jahmiyyah":
توحيد اهل العلم وجماعة المسلمين أشهد أن لا اله الا الله وان محمدا رسول الله وتوحيد اهل الباطل الخوض في الأعراض والأجسام وانما بعث النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم بانكار ذلك
The Tawheed of the people of knowledge and the jamaa'ah of the Muslims is "I testify none is worthy of worship except Allaah (alone) and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allaah". And the Tawheed of the people of falsehood is disputing about al-a'raad (incidental attributes) and al-ajsaam (bodies) and the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) was sent with the rejection of that.