Jahmite Ash'aris And al-Baqillani's Affirmation of al-Uluww (Bi Dhaatihi): From Initial Shock to Wilful Ignorance to Stubborn Denial
Posted by Abu.Iyaad on Friday, July, 24 2009 and filed under Articles
Key topics: Abu Bakr Al-Baqillani Al-Uluww Istiwaa Abu Bakr Al-Baqillani Al-Uluww Istiwaa

We have covered in numerous articles previously the affirmation of Abu Bakr al-Baqillani - perhaps the most important figure in the codification and formalization of the Ash'arite creed - of Allaah being above the Throne with His Essence (bi dhaatihi) and his affirmation of Face, Hands and Eyes for Allaah without ta'weel, takyeef, tamtheel or ta'teel, and his refutation of those who made ta'weel of "hand" to power (qudrah) or favour (ni'mah).

So when al-Baqillani's position was made known, a faction amongst the Jahmite Ash'aris with weak hearts and timid dispositions swooned with the shock and after regaining composure, sought psychological comfort and relief in their mantra that Allaah cannot be above, because that necessitates being a body (jism), since location and direction are only the special qualities of bodies (jism) that are made up of indivisible particles (al-jawaahir al-munfaridah). And according to the Aristotelian manhaj of the classification of the universe into jawhar (substance) and 'arad (accident), incidental attributes (such as space, location) can only be said of bodies (ajsaam, made up of jawhar, substance) and thus, the only thing we see from what al-Baqillani said is that he denies space (makaan) and direction (jihah) for Allaah. As for the other things he said, like Allaah being above the Throne, with His Essence, then we can't see it. We don't see it. We won't see it.

And the reason why their intellects cannot see it is because their intellects have been corrupted by the terms and phrases they borrowed from the Philosophers and the atheists who classified all reality into either matter (maadah) and form (soorah) or substance (jawhar) and accident ('arad), and thus in attempting to prove to such Philosophers, materialists, existentialists and atheists, they devised a rational proof using these same concepts, with a view to establishing a creator, the prophethood and the ressurrection.

And then they made these principles and their rational foundation to be the judge and criterion and thus they judged what Allaah can and cannot be described with, and so the texts of the Book and the Sunnah became of little value to them, except as a means of playing around and fooling around inventing and fabricating ta'weels to make sure that their intellectual, rational proof for the createdeness of the universe is left intact.

What Is It About What al-Baqillani Affirmed That Jahmite Ash'aris Don't Grasp?

Let's go through it again.

Here is what al-Qurtubi (considered an Ash'ari) said regarding the position of al-Baqillani. In his book "al-Asnaa Fee Sharh Asmaa Allaah il-Husnaa", Abu Abdullaah Muhammad bin Ahmad al-Qurtubi (and he is the mufassir, author of al-Jaami' Li Ahkaam il-Qur'aan) says, when discussing the numerous opinions held on the issue of Allaah's istiwaa (ascending) over the Throne (Volume 2, page 123):

And here is the translation of this statement:

And the sixth: The saying of at-Tabaree, Ibn Abee Zayd, al-Qaadee Abdul-Wahhaab and a group (jamaa'ah) of shuyook (scholars) of hadeeth and fiqh (jurisprudence) and it is apparent (from) some of the books of the qaadee, Abu Bakr [al-Baqillani] - may Allaah be pleased with Him, and [also] Abul-Hasan [al-Ash'ari]. And al-Qaadee Abd ul-Wahhaab quoted this from him, I mean from al-Qaadee Abu Bakr, textually - which is that He, the Sublime, ascends over His Throne with His Essence (bi dhaatihi) - and in some places they applied (the words) "above His Throne (fawqa arshihi)".

The Imaam, Abu Bakr (Muhammad bin al-Hasan al-Hadramee al-Qayrawaanee) said: "And that which I say is [what is] correct [i.e. Allaah being above the Throne, making istiwaa with His Essence], without confinement, nor fixing in a place, nor being inside of it, and without touching".

I [al-Qurtubi] say: This is the saying of al-Qaadee Abu Bakr in the book of his "Tamheed ul-Awaa'il". And we have mentioned it. And this has also been said by the teacher, Abu Bakr bin Fawrak in "Sharh Awaa'il il-Adillah", and it is the saying of Ibn Abdul-Barr, and at-Talamankee and others from amongst the Andulusians, and [also] al-Khattaabi in the book "Shi'aar ud-Deen", and that has already preceded.

Al-Qurtubi makes it clear that Abu Bakr al-Baqillani held Allaah to make istiwaa bi dhaatihi (with His Essence) and that He is above His Throne (fawqa arshihi) and that this is the same view as Ibn Abee Zaid (al-Qayrawaanee al-Maalikee) al-Haafidh Abu Umar Ibn Abdul-Barr and Abu Umar at-Talamankee.

Now if al-Qurtubi said this is the same view as that of al-Qayrawaane, at-Talamankee and Ibn Abdul-Barr, then we can get more clarity by simply referring back to their statements. So here they are (again):

From adh-Dhahabee's Mukhtasar al-Uluww

Abu Umar at-Talamankee (d. 429H) in his book al-Wusool ilaa Ma'rifat il-Usool, in two volumes:

The Muslims from Ahl us-Sunnah are unanimously agreed that the meaning of His statement, "He is with you wherever you may be" and what is similar to that from the Qur'an is that it [refers to] His knowledge, and that Allaah, the Most High, is above the heavens with His Essence (bi dhaatihi), ascended (mustawin) over His Throne however He wills.

And Ibn Abee Zayd al-Qayrawaanee (d. 389H) said:

And He, the Exalted, is above His Glorious Throne, with His Essence (bi dhaatihi) and He is in every place with His knowledge.

And Ibn Abdul-Barr (d. 463H) after discussing the hadeeth of Nuzool:

This is an authentic hadeeth, none of the Ahl ul-Hadeeth have differed over its authenticity, and it contains an evidence that Allaah, the Exalted, is above the heaven, over the Throne, above the seven heavens, as has been said by the jamaa'ah and it is their proof against the Mu'tazilah, and this is more famous to the general and specific (folk) and more well-known for it to require frequent quotation ...

Now, so far so good. Now let's go back to what al-Baqillani said in at-Tamheed (pp.300-301):

Chapter: And if someone says: Where is He? It is said to him: Asking where (al-ayn) is asking about place (al-makaan) and He is not one that a place (makaan) is permitted to enclose (yahwee), and nor [one that] places can encompass. Except that we say: Indeed He is Above His Throne, [but] not with the meaning of a body [being as such] through contact and adjacency, Exalted is He above that with a Lofty Exaltation.

And also what he said in his book "al-Ibaanah" - as quoted by adh-Dhahabi (Mukhtasar al-uluww pp.258-259)

Then if it is said: "Do you say that He is in every place?"

It is said (in reply): "Refuge is with Allaah, rather He is ascended (mustawinn) above His Throne, just as He informed [us] in His Book, saying, "Ar-Rahmaan has ascended above the Throne", and He said, "The good word (al-kalim ut-tayyib) ascends up to Him", and He said, "Do you feel secure that He who is above the heaven ..." ... [he, al-Baqillani said]: And if He was in every place, then He would have been in a man's stomach, his mouth, and in the [public] toilets, and it would be necessitated that He increases with the increase of spaces (places) when He creates of them those that did not previously exist, and it would be correct that [people turn to Him], seeking Him towards the earth, and to behind of us, and to our right and our left. And the Muslims are agreed upon what opposes this and [agreed] upon declaring the one who says this to be erroneous..."

Putting it All Together

We've already highlighted above how the Jahmite Ash'ari mind is incapable of conceiving that Allaah can be above the Throne, above the seven heavens - which is what is clear and manifest from the texts of the Book and the Sunnah - without that necessitating that He is confined by space, or body (jism) like the bodies (ajsaam) - upon the language of the Mutakallimoon.

So here al-Baqillani, brought these two things together - namely affirming that Allaah is above the Throne, with His Essence (bi dhaatihi), and qualifying that with the negation of confinement by space and negation of Tajseem and whatever would necessitate that.

So in other words that means it is plausible and conceivable to one of the most important figures in the Ash'ari madhhab that it can be held that Allaah is above the Throne, with His Essence (bi dhaatihi) whilst negating confinement by space and Tajseem and the likes.

Now, if we put aside the terminology, then this is exactly what Ahl us-Sunnah say, like Ibn Abdul-Barr, al-Qayrawaanee, at-Talamankee and the entirety of the Salaf - however the usage of the statements like "confinement by space" and so on, these are the inventions of the Mutakallimoon (Theologians) who were poisoned with ilm ul-kalaam and so they introduced this type of language into their creed - and this was a necessity for them because otherwise what they made to be the foundation of their religion (proving the createdness of the universe through "hudooth ul-ajsaam" - see this article) would be uprooted and destroyed and falsified.

However, the Early Ash'aris were more sound and consistent and they knew they could not reject what is clear and manifest in the revelation and which all the Salaf were united upon - and thus in these issues - like for example Allaah being above the Throne, with His Essence - they adopted the truth and spoke in terms which approximated to the truth and this is the general import of the statement of al-Baqillani.

So walillaahil-hamd ... the truth is clear and manifest and the statements of al-Baqillani and the corroboration of that by al-Qurtubi (in his honest and fair assessment of what the Salaf were upon) are like a nuclear blast at the core of the Ash'arite creed which is simply extended from the usool (foundations) of the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah who came a couple of centuries before them.

What About the Sayings of al-Qurtubi?

As for al-Qurtubi, then the issue with his statements - [see this article and this article where al-Qurtubi states unequivocally that the belief of the Salaf was that Allaah is above the Throne, separate and distinct from the creation]- then the issue is that he was just and fair in that he correctly affirmed what the true and real position of the Salaf was, even if he stated that he does not adopt it. What al-Qurtubi holds as his view is actually irrelevant since our use of the quotation from al-Qurtubi is not because we consider the saying of this scholar to be an independent proof - rather it was quoted to show the fairness and justice displayed by al-Qurtubi, even if he disagrees with the view that he has defined and characterized, honestly, correctly and with integrity.

Thus, Jahmite Ash'aris have a problem in that al-Qurtubi correctly characterizes and defines the actual view of the Salaf - which is Allaah being above the Throne, separate and distinct from His creation, and he went as far as to say that the Salaf affirmed "jihah" for Allaah (see previously linked article here) - even though we say that the use of this word is not befitting and that the words of the Book and the Sunnah should be adhered to. So what al-Qurtubi holds (of negation of location and direction, makaan and jihah) is irrelevant to the issue - since our creed does not depend on the statement of al-Qurtubi, or al-Baqillani - rather it is based upon the ijmaa' of the Salaf before, during and after the emergence of the Imaams of ta'teel (the Jahmiyyah and the Mu'tazilah) and their effeminates, the Ash'ariyyah, who tried to take a middle path, neither being full men, nor full women.