An Introduction To The Methodology of Ahl us-Sunnah Towards Allaah's Names and Attributes - Part 1|
Posted by Abu.Khadeejah.SP on Monday, July, 06 2009 and filed under Basics
Key topics: Ithbaat Asmaa Sifaat Tamtheel Takyeef Ta'weel Ta'teel Ithbaat Asmaa Sifaat Tamtheel Takyeef Ta'weel Ta'teel
The Names and Attributes of Allaah are from the affairs of the unseen which a person could not possibly know in detail except by way of revelation due to the fact that human beings can never encompass Allaah's knowledge, just as Allaah has stated:
They cannot encompass Him in knowledge. (Taahaa: 110)
And speech regarding Allaah's Attributes is a branch of speech regarding Allaah's Essence (i.e. His Dhaat). So it is not possible for the human intellect to independently attain detailed knowledge, whether in affirmation or negation, of an Attribute or Name.
Whoever claims that this knowledge is attainable without referring to the Revealed texts of the Qur'aan and Sunnah is gravely mistaken and has strayed from Straight Path (as-Siraat al-Mustaqeem).
So it is obligatory upon the servant to withhold and restrict himself to the speech of Allaah and to the speech of his Messenger (sallallaahu 'alaihi wassalam) and to have certain belief in everything that is affirmed in the Revealed texts regarding the Names and Attributes of Allaah.
And likewise one must negate from Allaah whatever Allaah has negated from Himself or what the Messenger (sallallaahu 'alaihi wassalam) negated from Him of deficiencies and inadequacies.
And there are many texts in the Qur'aan and Sunnah that affirm the lofty and perfect Attributes for Allaah in detail, so we are obligated to affirm them in a manner that befit His Majesty. Likewise regarding the attributes of deficiency - they are negated from being attributed to Allaah, the Most High, and it is obligatory upon us to negate them and to affirm the perfect opposite of the deficiency for Allaah, the Most Perfect and Most High - and this is the obligatory right regarding the Names and Attributes of Allaah.
So what is the path of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah regarding the Names and Attributes of Allaah?
The Names and Attributes of Allaah can be summarised in three main headings as follows:
1. The path of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah in affirmation (ithbaat) of the Names and Attributes of Allaah
The path of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah in affirmation (ithbaat) of the Names and Attributes of Allaah to affirm whatever Allaah has affirmed for Himself in His Book or whatever the Messenger affirmed for Him, without distorting them (tahreef) or negating them (ta'teel), and likewise without saying how they are (takyeef) and making any resemblance and likeness with the creation (tamtheel). So Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah believe that Attributes of Allaah are real (haqeeqee) and not metaphorical - and these real and true Attributes befit His Majesty, High above is He, free from imperfections and His Attributes are not likened to the creation and there is no resemblance.
Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah likewise believe that all of the revealed Names are established by textual evidence, and not invented by the intellect - and we believe that every Name necessitates an Attribute for Allaah. So the name al-'Azeez (The Most Mighty) includes the attribute of Might (al-'Izza) for Allaah. So al-'Azeez is not merely a name without meaning or without an attribute that refers to it. And the name al-Qawiyy (The All-Powerful) includes the attribute of al-Quwwa (Power) and likewise is the case with the rest of the Attributes such as His name ar-Rahmaan (The Most Merciful) which denotes His Attribute of Mercy.
And whatever is affirmed for Allaah of Attributes, then they are Attributes of perfection and He is praised by way of them and glorified by way of them and there is no deficiency in them whatsoever.
2. The Path of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah in Negation.
Then we negate from Allaah whatever He has negated from Himself in the Qur'aan and whatever the Messenger (sallallaahu 'alaihi wassalam) has negated from His Lord in the pure Sunnah of attributes of deficiency and inadequacy - and it is obligatory to negate them from Allaah completely and it is not permissible to describe Allaah with them at all. And therefore whatever deficiency He has negated from Himself, then we must affirm its complete and perfect opposite.
To make this principle clear: we see that Allaah has negated from Himself oppression (dhulm), so it upon us to negate from Allaah oppression (dhulm) - and at the same time affirm for Allaah its perfect opposite and that is al-'Adl (perfect justice). Likewise Allaah has negated from Himself exhaustion, fatigue and weariness (al-Lughoob), so it is upon us to negate this from Allaah and at the same time affirm its perfect opposite, and that is al-Quwwa (complete power). And the same is applied to all the attributes of deficiency that Allaah, the Most High, has negated from Himself.
3. The Path of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah regarding an attribute that is neither affirmed nor negated by the texts
The path of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah regarding an attribute that is neither affirmed nor negated by the texts regarding which the people have disputed - such as al-Hayyiz (space and location), al-Jihah (direction) and other than that, then the Path of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah is not to utilize these terminologies but rather to withhold - not affirming them absolutely and not negating them absolutely due to the fact that they do not appear in the texts - and as for those who utilize these terminologies then detailed explanations are sought from them. So if the intended meaning is false and opposes the Book and Sunnah, then we reject it and free our Lord, the Most High, from false ascriptions. However, if the intended meaning is in accordance with the Book and Sunnah, then we accept the explanation.
And this is the method that is obligatory and is the middle path between those who negate the attributes from Allaah (ahlut-ta'teel) and those who resemble them to the creation (ahlut-tamtheel) - and this agrees with both the Revelation and the intellect.
As for the intellect, then it cannot affirm nor negate these affairs for Allaah because they are from the matters of the Unseen (al-Ghayb), not known except by Revelation, and it is not possible for the intellect to attain this knowledge for it cannot encompass these matters independently. So the intellect must affirm what Allaah has affirmed, negate what He has negated and remain silent regarding what Allaah, the Most Majestic, has not spoken about.
As for the Revelation, then Allaah, the Most High, has stated in the Qur'aan:
To Allaah belong the most beautiful Names so call upon Him by them! And leave the company of those who deviate in His Names. They will be recompensed for that which they used to do. (al-A'raaf: 180)
Allaah, the Most High, stated in His Book:
There is nothing like unto Him and He is the all-Hearing, the all-Seeing. (ash-Shoorah: 11)
And He, the Mighty and Majestic, said:
And do not pursue of that which you have no knowledge. (al-Israa: 36)
So the first verse proves the obligation of affirming for Allaah, the Most High, what He has affirmed for Himself without false interpretation or distorting the meaning from what is apparent in the text (i.e. tahreef), and also without denying the text or its apparent meaning (i.e. ta'teel) and without making any resemblance of of the Names and Attributes of Allaah with the creation (i.e. tamtheel). And that is because these three affairs are considered to be from deviation (i.e. ilhaad) as mentioned in the verse.
The second verse proves the obligation of rejection and negation of resembling Allaah, the Most Perfect and Most High, with His creation and the verse at the same time obligates the affirms Hearing and Seeing for Allaah in a manner that befits His Majesty.
The third verse proves the obligation of not speaking about how the attributes of Allaah are (i.e. takyeef). This is to say about an Attribute that it is 'like this' or 'like that'. It is also forbidden to ask how about an Attribute of Allaah, such as if a person was to say, 'How did He ascend over His Throne?', or, 'How does He descend to the lowest Heaven in the last third of every night?'
Rather what is affirmed and known from the Qur'aan and Sunnah is that He ascended and He descends, and the words 'ascending' and 'descending' are known and are carried upon their apparent meaning without asking how. This verse also forbids us from inventing metaphors for the Attributes of Allaah because that is to ascribe to Allaah that which He has not ascribed to Himself.