Al-Qurtubee, adh-Dhahabee and al-Albaanee on al-Istiwaa and al’Uluww


Imaam adh-Dhahabee said in the final lines of his most excellent work, ‘al-Uluww lil-‘Aliyyil-Ghaffaar’ (pp.286-287):

“Al-Qurtubee said concerning the saying of Allaah, the Most High, “Then he ascended (istawaa) the Throne”,

“We have explained the sayings of the Scholars regarding this issue in the book ‘al-Asnaa fee Sharh al-Asmaa al-Husnaa’ and we mentioned fourteen different sayings therein”

up until he said,

“And the Salaf of the very first times – may Allaah be pleased with them all – never used to negate direction (al-jihah) for Allaah and nor did they used to express this (negation). Rather, they, and all of the others, used to speak with its affirmation for Allaah, the Most High just as His Book has spoken about it and just as His Messengers informed of it. And not a single one of the Salaf denied that his ascending (istawaa) the Throne was real and true (haqeeqah) (as opposed to metaphorical, majaaz). And Allaah specified the Throne with istawaa because that is the greatest of all His creation. However they assumed ignorance only of the exact nature (kaifiyyah) of istiwaa, for the true nature of that is not known. Imaam Maalik said, ‘Istiwaa is known…’, meaning in the language, ‘…its true nature is unknown and asking about it is an innovation.”

And al-Qurtubee also said in ‘al-Asnaa’,

“Many of the past and contemporary philosophers said, ‘When it is necessary to purify the Creator (al-Baaree) – whose Magnificence is great – from having direction (jihah) and demarcation (tamayyuz), then from the requirements and necessary consequences of this, in the view of most of the past scholars and their leading contemporaries, is the purify the Creator (al-Baaree) from having direction (jihah). In their view, direction does not have the aspect of ‘above’ to it. This is because to them, when Allaah is designated with direction, this would necessitate that He is restricted to a place (makaan) and a confine (hayyiz). (Subsequently), a place and a confine necessitate (for Him) (such) movement and stillness that is related to distinction (tamayyuz), transformation (taghayyur) and new occurrences (hudooth) . This is the saying of the philosophers.

I (adh-Dhahabee) say, “Yes, this is what the deniers of the ‘uluww (highness) of the Lord, Mighty and Majestic, have depended upon. And they turned away from the requirement of the Book, the Sunnah, the sayings of the Salaf and the innate dispositions of the whole of creation. What they claim to be necessitated (from affirming Allaah’s highness) is only applicable to created bodies. Yet there is nothing like Allaah and the necessities arising from the clear and evident texts (of the Book and the Sunnah) are also true. However, we do not make use of any explanation except one that comes through a narration. In addition to this we say, ‘We do not accept that the Creator’s being upon His Throne and above the heavens, necessitates that He is confined and in spatial direction, since whatever is below the Throne is said to be confined and in spatial direction. However, what is above the Throne is not like that. And Allaah is above the Throne as the very first generation are unanimously agreed upon and as the imaams after them have quoted from them. They said this in refutation of the Jahmiyyah, those who said that He is in every place seeking as a proof His saying, ‘And He is with you…’. So these two sayings were the very two sayings which were present in the time of the Taabi’een and their successors who came after them. And they are the two sayings that can be understood in this statement (i.e. of the philosophers). As for the third saying which came around after this which is that’ Allaah the Most High is not in any place, nor is His Holy Essence (Dhaat) confined, nor is He separate and distinct from His creation, nor is he in any spatial direction, nor is outside of any spatial directions, and nor this and nor that…’ then this is something that cannot be comprehended nor understood [1], along with the fact that within it is opposition to the verses (of the Book) and the narrations (from the Salaf). Therefore flee with your religion and beware of the opinions of the philosophers. Believe in Allaah and what has come from Him upon the desired intent of Allaah, then submit your affair to Him and there is no power nor movement except by Allaah.”

The book is completed and all praise is to Allaah alone…” End of quote from adh-Dhahabee.

[1] The Shaikh, Muhaddith and Imaam of the era, Naasir ud-Deen al-Albaabee – may Allaah guard him – said, commenting upon the words of adh-Dhahabee, “I say: Yes, only those who speak with Wahdatul-Wujood (the Unity of Existence) understand this, and that the Creator and the created are one and the same thing, rather, nothing exists which is called ‘creator’ or ‘creation’, everything you see with your eye is Allaah! Exalted is Allaah from what the oppressors say. And perhaps Jahm (ibn Safwaan) and his likes from the very first callers (to this misguidance) used to intend to implant the aqeedah of the Wahdatul-Wujood, that which necessitates the denial of the existence of the Creator, the Blessed and Exalted, by their saying Allaah is in every place and that He is not upon the Throne. However, (they would do this) in a hidden and repugnant way. This is why the Salaf’s rejection of him and his followers was very severe and some of them made it very clear – as has preceded in the biography of the Imaam Ibn al-Mubaarak and others – that the Jahmiyyah claim that Allaah is not an entity (i.e. not in existence). So what then would the righteous Salaf say if they were to hear on this day, the excessive Soofees saying while upon the pulpits (of the mosques), ‘Allaah is not above, nor below, nor to the right, nor to the left, nor in front, nor behind, nor inside the creation, nor outside of it’!”.

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