The Early Ash'aris Affirmed Allaah is Above the Throne, With His Essence, Without That Necessitating He is a Body (Jism) and The Refutation of Ibn Rushd Against Those Who Contest This View from the Philosophers, Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah
Posted by Abu.Iyaad on Friday, September, 04 2009 and filed under Articles
Key topics: Early Ash'aris Later Ash'aris Al-Uluww Early Ash'aris Later Ash'aris Al-Uluww

We have covered in previous articles that many of the Early Ash'aris affirmed that Allaah, with His Essence (bi dhaatihi) is above the Throne, whilst negating that this necessitates He is a jism (body). And they opposed the factions of the Karraamiyyah who said that Allaah is above the Throne and He is a jism (body) but not like the created bodies. You can read the view of the Ash'aris on the Karraamiyyah who affirmed jism (body) in this article.

As for the Ash'aris holding the view mentioned, you can refer to:

With respect to Ibn Fawrak, then two views are reported from him, and it is apparent that the two sayings indicate that he likely changed his view, tending towards the view of his predecessors al-Ash'ari and al-Baqillani and Ibn Kullaab (d. 240H) for whom he had great admiration - see here.

Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullah) said in "as-Sawaa'iq al-Mursalah" (Mukhtasar of al-Mawsilee, pp.504-507):

The translation of which is:


The most informed of people (meaning Abu Walid Ibn Rushd, d. 595H) regarding the sayings of the Philosophers has quoted the agreement of the Hukumaa (knowledgeable people of all nations) that Allaah, and His Angels are above (fis-samaa, elevated), just as all the [revealed] legislations are united upon that. And he has corroborated that through a rational method that is of the type of the corroboration of Ibn Kullaab, al-Haarith al-Muhaasibee, Abu al-Abbas al-Qalanisi, Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari, al-Qadi Abu Bakr al-Baqillani and Abu al-Hasan az-Zaghuni, and others besides them who say that "Allaah is above the Throne and is not a body (jism)". They said: Affirmation of the attribute of al-uluww (elevation) and fawqiyyah (aboveness) for Him, the Sublime, does not necessitate Jismiyyah (being a body), and nor affirmation of place (makaan).

This has been documented from the likes of al-Baqillani, al-Qalanisi and the others who assert that Allaah is above the Throne with His Essence whilst negating from him Jismiyyah, using a variety of different wordings in that regard, such as "without confinement" and "without contact or touching" and "not a body (jism)" and so on. So it is abundantly clear that they did not speak of the false necessities of the later Jahmite Ash'aris, such as ar-Razi who made it impossible for Allaah NOT to be a body if it was the case that He was above the heaven, above the Throne.

Ibn al-Qayyim continues:

And the Philosophers based that upon what Ibn Rushd has mentioned that place (al-makaan) is [defined as] the internal surface of a containing body meeting the outward surface of the contained body. Thus, a man to them is the interior of the air that surrounds him.

This is the definition of "place" (makaan) in the view of the Philosophers and the Mutakallimoon, and you can see Aristotle's treatment of it here.

Ibn al-Qayyim continues:

And every internal surface is the place (makaan) for the outward surface (of the contained body) that it meets. And it is known that there is not (in existence), [beyond] the [created] bodies, any internal surface of a body that contains anything. Therefore, there is no "place" (makaan) there, because if there was a "place" there that contains the surface of a body, then the container too would be a body [and would also be contained, and so on to infinity].

Here, Ibn al-Qayyim elaborates upon the proof used by Ibn Rushd, which is that according the definition of "place" (makaan) used by the Philosophers and the Mutakallimoon (Jahmiyyah, Mu'tazilah, Ash'ariyyah) who oppose him, then there must be a point at which the universe (created bodies) end, and as such the absence of the internal surface of another surrounding body outside of it. If this is not the case, then the universe would continue to infinity, negating the existence of a Creator, and the opponents of Ibn Rushd would not submit to that. Hence, there is a point at all "places" (amkinah) come to an end, and beyond that, there is no such thing as "place" (makaan) - in the sense that it is something contained by the internal surface of another container (which is also a body).

Ibn al-Qayyim continues:

And for this reason he (Ibn Rushd) said: When the proof has been established for the presence of an existent (mawjood) in this direction (i.e. above), then it is obligatory that He is not a body (jism), because that which prevents His existence there is the presence of a body, and not the presence of that which is not a body.

So after establishing what has preceded of the argument used by Ibn Rushd, Ibn al-Qayyim explains that according to this therefore, after having proven that:

  • The universe must come to an end at some point without there being any further internal surface of a containing body around it - otherwise the universe would be infinite and this negates the existence of a creator - there is no sane person who can dispute this fact - this is undeniable.

  • That whatever is beyond the universe, therefore, is not a "place" (makaan), in the sense of the "place" (makaan) that exists within the boundaries of the created universe - this again is a binding necessity

It follows therefore, that Allaah must exist beyond the universe, and it follows on from that and it is obligatory that Allaah is not a body (jism).

The thing that would make it impossible for Him to be there would be if He was a body - because then, by definition, there would have to be something surrounding Him - which is an internal surface of another surrounding body - and that is impossible, as has already been established.

However, His not being a body does not conflict with what has already been established (of the universe having an outer limit and end), and thus, this is the truth - which is that Allaah is outside of and beyond the outer limit of the universe and is not a body (jism).

Ibn al-Qayyim continues:

And he corroborated the possibility (imkaan) of that, just as he corroborated its affirmation due to what he mentioned that it is necessary for there to be a relation between Him and the perceived universe, and [as this is the case] it is obligatory that He is in the direction of above (al-uluww).

Again, Allaah exists, and therefore, the perceived universe must come to an end at some point, and therefore what is considered to be "place" (makaan), meaning those created "places" also come to an end - and if Allaah exists, there must, by necessity, be a relationship between His existence and the universe, and this relationship is that He is above the universe and affirming direction for him in this manner of Ibn Rushd, does not necessitate "makaan" (place) and "Jismiyyah" as has already been established previously, as there is no such thing as "makaan" as it is within the boundary of the universe beyond the boundaries of the universe.

Then Ibn al-Qayyim mentions what is possible for the disputants of Ibn Rushd to say in response to him:

Those who dispute against him (Ibn Rushd) from the Philosophers, the Jahmiyyah and the Mu'tazilah, it is possible for them to say (in response): It is not possible that anything should be found there (outside the boundaries of the created universe), neither a body, nor what is not a body (as for what is not a body, then it is for the reason already mentioned), and as for the body (not existing there), then it is because the fact that it is pointed towards (with the senses) that it is "there" necessitates that it has to be a body.

So the argument of the other Philosophers, Jahmites and Mu'tazilites who oppose Ibn Rushd, is that since Allaah is not a body, and since if we were able to point towards something and say "it is there", then this by necessity must mean He is a body. And therefore, Allaah being a body is what prevents Him from being above the heaven. The Philosophers, Jahmites and Mu'tazilah (and the later Ash'aris) make this binding, absolutely, and hence they say that it is not possible for Allaah to be "above" the universe in the sense already mentioned and because He cannot be a body, then He cannot exist there - and this, as you can see, is practically Atheism - and Allaah not being a (jism) body does not conflict with Him being above the heaven, outside of the universe, as has already preceded.

Ibn al-Qayyim continues:

And then, those affirming (Allaah to be above) would respond to whoever disputes with them regarding that: The presence of an existent (mawjood), established by Himself, being neither beyond (the boundaries) of the [created] bodies of the universe, and nor within the universe is something that is either possible (mumkin) or is not possible. So if this is not possible, then your saying is falsified, and if it is possible, then the presence of an existent, beyond the [created] bodies of the universe, and which is not a jism (body) is more worthy of permissibility.

So the response is that if what you are saying (the negators), that there is one that exists (Allaah) and He has his own independent existence, established by Himself, and that He is neither within the universe, nor outside of it - if what you are saying is either something plausible and possible or it is not. If it is not, your saying is falsified, and if it is, then that there should be one that exists (Allaah) beyond the universe, without that necessitating Him being a body, then this is more worthy of acceptance and more acceptable to the intellect than what you are trying to claim.

Then Ibn al-Qayyim elaborates on this response that would be given to the deniers:

Then, [in addition], if we present to the intellect, the presence of an existent, established by Himself, neither within the universe, nor outside of the universe, and not being [possible] to point towards Him, and then we also presented to [the intellect] the presence of an existent that can be pointed towards, above the universe, and not a body, then the intellect's rejection against the first (scenario), and its impossibility, would be greater than its rejection of the second one and its impossibility.

And if the judgment of the intellect upon the first is acceptable, then accepting its judgment upon the second is also obligatory. And if the second is rejected, it is obligatory to reject the first, and it is not possible for the sound intellect to accept the the first but reject the second.

So if these two sayings was presented to the intellect, it would find the first (the saying of the other Philsophers, Jahmites, Mu'tazilah and the Ash'aris) to be more absurd, ridiculous and impossible and more worthy of rejection.

And if you claim that the judgment of the intellect is favorable to the first saying and is acceptable, then accepting its judgment upon the second saying is obligatory likewise. And if the intellect rejects the second saying (that Allah is above the universe without being a body), then it must also reject the second, without dispute.

This argument of Ibn Rushd al-Hafeed (d. 595H), and elaborated upon by Ibn al-Qayyim is a very strong argument, and there has not been found a Jahmee to date that has been able to rebut it convincingly. You need to read it many times over and over, and then when the Jahmites present their doubts, you will see the futility in them immediately and will know how to respond to them.

Summary and a Question the Contemporary Ash'ari Must Answer With Humility

The Early Ash'aris affirmed that Allaah is above the Throne, above the heaven and not a body - and in that they are opposed by the later (Jahmite) Ash'aris who assert that it is impossible for Allaah to be above the heaven and NOT be a body. So it is requested from all Ash'arites today to explain to us which of the two parties they hold to be upon the truth and which of the two parties are upon falsehood.

So either:

  • The earlier Ash'aris were irrational (claiming Allaah is above the Throne, above the heaven, and not a body) in addition to being Mujassimah (claiming Allaah is above the Throne, above the heaven, which necessitates that He must be a body according to the later Jahmite Ash'aris) - and therefore, the later Jahmite Ash'aris were more rightly guided than those who preceded them (including the entirety of the Salaf, let alone those who said Allaah is above the heaven and not a body).

  • Or: The Early Ash'aris were upon the truth, and they opposed the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah of their times who tried to negate al-uluww and al-istiwaa for Allaah (using ta'teel and ta'weel). And that the Early Ash'aris were in agreement with the Salaf in their affirmation that He is above the heaven with His Essence except in their use of the phrase "... and He is not a body..." and therefore the Later Ash'aris such as al-Juwaynee (d. 478H), al-Ghazali (d. 505H) and ar-Razi (d. 606H) and others were upon misguidance having simply tended towards the same ta'teel and the ta'weels of the Jahmites and Mu'tazilah.

So we would like a clear firm, honest, truthful answer from any modern day Ash'ari - and we ask you to stand humbly in front of Allaah and be honest with yourself and with Allaah and answer this question. You can use the contact page to send us your answer.