Abul-Hasan Ibn Mahdi at-Tabari (Early Ash'ari, d. 380H): Allaah Is Above the Throne With His Essence Without Tajseem and Demolition Of the Ta'weels of the Jahmiyyah, Mu'tazilah and Later (Jahmite) Ash'aris|
Posted by Abu.Iyaad on Tuesday, August, 25 2009 and filed under Articles
Key topics: Abul-Hasan Ibn Mahdi At-Tabari Al-Uluww Al-Istiwaa Abul-Hasan Ibn Mahdi At-Tabari Al-Uluww Al-Istiwaa
The Early Ash'aris (al-mutaqaddimoon) had a creed that differed in respects to the Later Ash'aris (al-muta'akhkhiroon) - those who came after such as Abul-Mu'aali al-Juwaynee (d. 478H), al-Ghazali (d. 505) and ar-Raazee (d. 606) and others. The latter reverted back to much of the ta'teel (negation) of the Mu'tazilah and the Jahmiyyah. In general the earliest Ash'aris affirmed Allaah is above the Throne with His Essence, and affirmed the attributes such as Face, Hands, Eyes, whilst negating Tajseem and takyeef and without resorting to ta'weel or tafweed. These affirmations are found in the book of the earlier Ash'aris. Even though they still had some aspects of negating other attributes, their positions on the whole were much sounder and closer to the truth than the later Jahmite Ash'aris, the chief orator and spokesman of whom was Fakhr ud-Din ar-Raazee (d. 606H).
In opposition to the Karraamiyyah, who held that Allaah is above the Throne with His Essence and is "a jism (body) but not like the created bodies" (as was said by factions amongst them), the Early Ash'aris held that Allaah is above the Throne, with His Essence, whilst negating Jismiyyah from Him, so they said "Allaah is above the Throne and is not a jism (body)" opposing the likes of the Karraamiyyah. And as for Ahl us-Sunnah, they said Allaah is above the Throne and they neither affirmed the word "jism" nor negated it as both these approaches are innovations in the creed. We have previously documented the view of the Early Ash'aris in this regard from al-Baqillani (see the links in this article). All of these factions, the Karraamiyyah, the Early Ash'aris and Ahl us-Sunnah affirmed Allaah to be above the Throne, and the Later Ash'aris, who adopted much of the ta'teel and ta'weel of the Jahmites, denied Allaah being above the Throne.
The Jahmites negated that Allaah is above the Throne because it contradicted their creed that "Allaah is in every place" and that "He is not in one place exclusive to another" which is their saying verbatim, and they claimed Allaah is in everything within His creation although He cannot be seen, nor perceived with any of the senses, despite being everywhere. Al-Jahm bin Safwan was the pioneer of this creed, after being confused by the Indian Materialist Philosophers known as the Sumaniyyah - whom he used to debate with (see here). So he concocted this creed, that Allaah is everywhere as a means to impress upon those Indian Philsophers that Allaah is all around them, however alongside that, Allaah cannot be perceived with any of the senses or described with anything, just like they (the Sumaniyyah) believed that souls occupy their bodies without them being able to perceive them, feel them, touch them, see them and so on. And this is where the bid'ahs of the Jahmiyyah of Hulool (Allaah dwelling within His creation) on the one hand, and ta'teel (negation of the Names and Attributes) on the other, arose.
The Jahmites, along with the Mu'tazilah, who devised the proof of "hudooth ul-ajsaam" to demonstrate the createdness of the universe, and therefore proof of a creator, also denied Allaah being above the Throne from the angle that it necessitated Allaah to be a jism (body). Thus, they rejected Allaah is above the Throne, and began to make ta'weels of the proofs in the Qur'aan and the Sunnah (some of which we will see a little later). So they plainly and flatly said, "Allaah is not above the Heaven, nor is He above the Throne, nor can it be said He is in direction (jihah)" - since all of this, to them, necessitates He is a body (jism) like the created bodies.
In reponse to them, the Karraamiyyah affirmed Allaah is above the Throne with His Essence, however, to counter what amounted to a rejection of a Lord, the Karraamiyyah said, "He is above the Throne and He is a body (jism), but not like the created bodies (ajsaam)" - and saying this, they countered an innovation with another innovation - which is using the term "jism" for Allaah.
And in response to the likes of the Karraamiyyah, the early Ash'aris said, "Allaah is above the Throne, and He is not a jism (body)" - and they likewise countered an innovation with another innovation, which is negating something not negated (or affirmed) in the Book and the Sunnah. See this article for more on the view of the Karraamiyyah and the rulings found in the Ash'ari textbooks regarding their saying, "He is a body (jism) but not like the created bodies (ajsaam)".
And it is important to note that the Early Ash'aris affirmed that Allaah is above the Throne, without that necessitating that He is a body, however they added to their negations that "Allaah is not a jism (body)", that He is above the Throne, "Without contact and without confinement" and what is similar to all of that to their affirmation that "Allaah is above the Throne".
And the strangest and most amazing thing is that the likes of ar-Raazee (d. 606H) and the later Jahmite Ash'aris oppose the very Early Ash'aris and argue the case for the Jahmite, Mu'tazilite creed in their denial of there being a Lord above the Heaven and a Deity above the Throne - utilizing the very same doubts and ta'weels of the texts that the Early Ash'aris refuted!!!
In this article we want to document the view of another of the early Ash'ari Scholars, called Abul-Hasan 'Ali Ibn Mahdi at-Tabari. He was an associate of Abu Hasan al-Ash'ari whilst in Basrah, and was a student of his, he was a muhaddith, faqeeh and mufassir, and he has many works amongst which is "Fee ta'weel al-Ahaadeeth wa Mushkilaat al-Waaridah fis-Sifaat". He was also an associate of other prominent Early Ash'aris such as al-Baqillani (d. 403H), al-Baahili (d. ~370H), al-Isfaraa'eenee (d. 401H), and Ibn Fawrak (d. 406H). Ibn Mahdi at-Tabari died around 380H. More information can be found in "Tabyeen Kadhib al-Muftaree" of Ibn 'Asaakir (p.195), the Tabaqaat ash-Shaafi'iyyah of as-Subkee (2/312).
Shaykh ul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah quotes from Ibn Mahdi at-Tabari in the course of refuting the later Jahmite Ash'ari Fakhr ud-Din ar-Raazee who argued in favor of the deen of the Jahmites as it related to Allaah's uluww (being above the creation).
And it is also mentioned in full by Imaam adh-Dhahabi in his "Mukhtasar al-Uluww", (pp. 250-252).
Notice in this quote that Ibn Mahdi at-Tabari is refuting the arguments of the Mu'tazilah who denied Allaah was above the Throne, and he is refuting their ta'weels and doubts - the very same ones that the Later Ash'aris adopted! In particular he is refuting Abul-Qasim Abdullah bin Ahmad bin Mahmood al-Ka'bi al-Balkhi (d. 319H), a chief of a faction amongs the Mu'tazilah from Khurasaan called the Ka'biyyah.
...Abul-Hasan 'Ali bin Mahdi at-Tabari, the Mutakallim (theologian), the associate of Abul-Hasan al-Ash'ari, said in his book he authored, "Mushkil ul-Aayaat", in the [chapter]:
Know that Allaah, the Sublime and Exalted, is above the Heaven (fis samaa), above everything, upon His Throne with the meaning that He is above it. And the meaning of "al-istiwaa" is "al-i'tilaa (to ascend, to be elevated)", as the Arabs say, "I ascended upon the back of the beast", and "istawaytu over the roof", meaning I ascended it ('alawtuhu), and "the sun rose over my head", and "the bird rose over the crown of my head", with the meaning that it rose in the air and so it was above my head.
Note that Ibn Mahdi at-Tabari is explaining the linguistic meaning of al-istiwaa, and he has used these examples to explain what this contains of meaning - and this does not mean that Allaah's istiwaa is just like that brought in these examples - and no one has ever said that or claimed that. And this is from the fabrications of the unjust contemporary (Jahmite) Ash'aris, that the people of the Sunnah claim Allaah ascends above the Throne, like one mounts a beast and the likes. And here we have one of the early Ash'ari figureheads and students of Abu Hasan al-Ash'ari and associate of the main Early Ash'aris, using these examples (from the texts) to establish the meaning and explanation of al-istiwaa in the language.
It is from the ways of the neo-Jahmite Ash'aris to fabricate sayings against their opponents, and then proceed to refute them, as if they were the actual views of their opponents.
The affair here is like understanding the meaning of seeing and hearing through what we know of the hearing and seeing that the creation is described with. Since we only understand meanings of things through what we know of in the creation. So once the meaning is understood, then we know Allaah has described Himself with those meanings, but the knowledge of the reality of how Allaah's hearing and seeing is, is denied, since it is impossible for us to know that. However, we understand that seeing has an understood meaning that is distinct to the meaning of hearing and which are both distinct from the meanings of life (hayaat) and speech (Kalaam) and power (qudrah) and so on. And we know the meanings of all these attributes only through what we see and know from the creation.
So by these examples, the scholars - and in this case, Ibn Mahdi at-Tabari, and early Ash'ari - establish what the meaning of al-istiwaa is based on what we see and observe within the creation. As for how Allaah makes istiwaa, (al-kaifiyyah), which is the actual reality of it, then that is unknown and it is not like that of the creation, and this is just like saying "Allaah has hearing, but not like our hearing, seeing, but not like our seeing", thus, we affirm the meanings of hearing and seeing, and similarly for al-istiwaa, we affirm it's meaning, but deny knowledge of its kaifiyyah (its reality) - and thus we do not say, "istiwaa like our istiwaa", just like we do not say, "seeing like our seeing" and so on.
At-Tabari Brings the Verses Establishing Allaah's Uluww
So al-Qadeem (the Eternal, meaning Allaah), the Mighty and Majestic, is lofty above His Throne.
At-Tabari Narrates the ta'weel of the Mu'tazilah
Al-Balkhi [the Mu'tazili] said:
So it is said [in response to al-Balkhi]: That which you have rejected is that Allaah's Throne is a jism (body) which He created and ordered the Angels to carry. He said,
And from what indicates that al-istiwaa (rising above) is not al-Isteelaa (conquering), is if that was the case it would not have been desirable for Him to specify the Throne with the conquering besides the rest of His creation. Since He has control over (mustawallin) over the Throne and over all of His creation, and the Throne does not have any distinction on account of what you have described it with (i.e. of being subject to isteelaa), and thus, the corruption of his saying becomes clear.
Next: Refutation of the Doubt Regarding the Verse "He Who is Fis-Samaa"
And if it is said, "What do you say about His saying, "Do you feel secure that He who is above (fee) the heaven..." (Mulk 67:12)?
Next: Refutation of the Doubt Regarding the Verse "And He is Allaah in the Heavens and in the Earth"
And if it is said, "Then what do you say regarding His, the Most High's saying, "And He is Allaah in the heavens and in the earth. He knows what you conceal and what you reveal..." (An'aam 6:3)?"
Next: Refutation of the Doubt Regarding the Verse "There is no secret counsel of three except that He is the fourth of them"
And if it is said, "What do you say regarding His saying, "There is no secret counsel of three except that He is the fourth of them..." (Mujaadilah 58:7)?
Next: Refutation of the Doubt Regarding the Verse "And the righteous action, He raises it"
Al-Balkhi [the Mu'tazili] said:
End of the quotation.
Notes and Comments
ONE: Not content with this creed of Ibn Mahdi at-Tabari, Hassan Ali Saqqaf attempted to claim that Abul-Hasan Ali bin Mahdi at-Tabari is majhool (uknown)! This is despite the fact that al-Haafidh al-Bayhaqi quotes from him often in his "al-Asmaa was-Sifaat", that Ibn Mahdi at-Tabari is a known associate of the earlier Ash'aris whose mention has already preceded at the beginning of this article, that Ibn 'Asaakir mentions him in his "Tabyeen Kadhib al-Muftaree" and that as-Subki includes him in the "Tabaqaat ush-Shaafi'iyyah", and he is also in "Mu'jam al-Mu'allifeen".
TWO: al-Bayhaqi mentions the view of Ibn Mahdi at-Tabari on the subject of al-istiwaa and al-uluww, with a mention of a part of what has been quoted above. He says (in "al-Asmaa was-Sifaat), tahqeeq al-Haashidee, 2/308):
...And Abul-Hasan Ali bin Muhammad bin Mahdi at-Tabari, from the others amongst the people of inspection, has gone to [the view] that Allaah the Most High is above (fee) the heaven, above everything, ascended over His Throne, with the meaning that He is elevated over it, and the meaning of al-istiwaa, is al-i'tilaa (elevation), as one says, "I ascended upon the back of the beast", and "istawaytu over the roof", meaning I ascended it ('alawtuhu), and "the sun rose over my head", and "the bird rose over the crown of my head", with the meaning that it rose in the air and so it was above my head. And al-Qadeem (the Eternal, meaning Allaah), the Mighty and Majestic, is lofty above His Throne, not sitting (qaa'id), nor standing (qaa'im) and nor touching (mumaas), nor distant (mubaayin) from the Throne.
And al-Bayhaqi comments upon this:
He means by this (i.e. that Allaah is not mumaas and not mubaayin from the Throne), the separation, distinction of the Essence (of Allaah) which is with the meaning of disassociation (al-i'tizaal) and remoteness (at-tabaa'ud) [from the Throne], since touching (i.e. contact, closeness) and remoteness which is its opposite, and standing and sitting are from the descriptions of bodies, and Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic is Ahad, Samad, He does not beget and nor was He begotten and there is none co-equal or comparable to Him. So what is permitted upon the (created) bodies is not permitted upon Him, the Blessed and Exalted.
And al-Bayhaqi is amongst those who makes ta'weel of much of the texts that affirm Allaah's uluww (aboveness, over the Throne) with the meaning of "loftiness in status" and so on and and he also expresses the negation of "makaan (location)", for Allaah - as is the way of the Mutakallimoon - and this is after his affirmation that the Throne is true and real and a created thing, that it is above the creation, and that Allaah is above His Throne.
And in the likes of al-Bayhaqi and some of the earlier Ash'aris we see their acceptance of the verses and ahaadeeth coupled with the influence of Kalaam in that they do not outright negate the manifest meanings of the texts (unlike the later Jahmite Ash'aris) but qualify these texts with their Kalaam, and thus we see from them - the earlier Ash'aris in their generality - what amounts to the saying that:
Allaah is above His creation, above His Throne, and He is not a body (jism) and nor is He confined in space (mutahayyiz), nor is He is said to have "location" nor confined by the Throne, neither touching the Throne, nor being remote from it ... etc.
So in general, they affirmed Allaah to be above the Throne and separate and distinct from His creation, and these expressions of negation they added were on the basis of the theory of al-jawhar (substance) and al-'arad (incidental attribute) and al-Jawhar al-Fard (the indivisible particle) that they made fundamental to their creed. However, al-Bayhaqi is much more "Athari" than the others in the sense that he relies much upon the narrations, as is evidenced in his books, and elaborates less upon the Kalaam philosophy of his predecessors (and of those who came after).
Because of the widespread knowledge of Allaah being above the Throne, above the Creation, and the overwhelming strength of proof for this being established and widespread, the earlier Asha'ris - unlike the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah - were not able to repel this or oppose it, due to it being firmly established in the minds and hearts of the both the Scholars and the common folk, and thus they acknowledged the evidences. However, under the influence of Kalaam, they added phrasees of negation that were not known to the Salaf, such as "He is not a jism (body)", "He is not in space", "He is not in a location", and so on, and this was partly in response to the likes of the Karraamiyyah, who in turn, had responded to the innovation of the Jahmites by saying that Allaah is above the Throne and is a body (jism) - and all these factions were refuting innovation with another innovation. And this is because they all spoke in the affair of proving the universe is created and brought about through the language and terminology of the atheist Philosophers such as Aristotle and his "al-Maqoolaat al-Ashar" - the Ten Categories - learn more about that here.
As for Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Athar, the Righteous Salaf, then they say, "Allaah is above the heaven, above His Throne" and when the need arose their Imaams added "with His Essence, separate and distinct from the creation" in refutation of the Jahmites - and these are very clear unambiguous meanings that are already present in the Book and the Sunnah, and they expressed these words to refute the Jahmites who said Allaah is merged with the creation, within it, in every place, including the interiors of dogs and swines, exalted is Allaah from that with a lofty exaltation. But the Salaf did not affirm nor negate for Allaah the generalized ambiguous terms that the Mutakallimoon devised, those that are can comprise both meanings of truth and falsehood depending on the intent of the one speaking with them, such as "jism", "hayyiz", "jihah", and so on.
This is because Allaah being above the creation and above the Throne does not necessitate that He is confined in space and the likes. What the Mutakallimoon define as "confinement by space" is only what is found within the boundaries of creation - and the creation has an outer limit where it comes to an end, and whatever is beyond that, then it is not said to be "confined by space", such that if Allaah was above the creation, above His Throne, he would be "confined" and the likes of these necessities which arose in the minds of the Mutakallimoon (the Jahmiyyah, Mu'tazilah, Ash'ariyyah) because of what they made to be the foundation of their religion - "hudooth ul-ajsaam" and the theory of "al-Jawhar al-Fard" (the indivisible particle).
These things never occurred in the minds of the Salaf, rather they submitted to what the narrations contained and passed them on intact without the takyeef of the Mujassimah and nor the ta'teel of the Mu'attilah (with the inventions of meanings and phrases, i.e. ta'weels, that the Salaf never spoke with).
...And from what Abul-Hasan bin Mahdi at-Tabari has narrated from Abu Abdullaah Naftawaih (who) said: Abu Sulaymaan - meaning Dawud - narrated to us, he said: We were with Ibn al-A'raabi and a man came to him and said, "What is the meaning of The Most Merciful ascended above the Throne?". He said, "He is above the Throne, just as He has informed." So he (the man) said, "Rather its meaning of His saying "istawaa" is "istawlaa" (He conquered)". So Ibn al-A'raabi said, "And what informs (of that)? The Arabs do not say, "so and so istawlaa (meaning conquered) the throne" unless he has some opposition from it, so whichever of the two is victorious, then it is said, "Istawlaa alayhi (he conquered the other)". But Allaah has no opposition to Him, and He is above the Throne, just as He informed".
And this corroborates what has been quoted by Shaykh ul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah in what has preceded.