Are the Statements of the Pious Salaf -on Allah’s Elevation- About Status ?

All Praise is due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, and upon his family and Companions;
If one looks at the statements of the Righteous Salaf and studies them carefully, he would see that their statements regarding Allah’s elevation point to the elevation of the Essence, and not that of status, in addition to their belief in Allah’s high status.

What follows is an explanation of how that is:

1. Through the context, where their speech wasn’t about status, for example:

The Sahabi Abdullah Ibn Masud –May Allah be pleased with him- said: «Between the lowest heaven and the one after it is the distance of five hundred years, and between every two heavens is the distance of five hundred years, and between the seventh heaven and the Kursi is the distance of five hundred years, and between the Kursi and the water is the distance of five hundred years, and the Throne (Arsh) is above the water, and Allah the Almighty is above the Throne (fawqa Al-Arsh). And nothing is hidden from Allah of your deeds.» And in another narration «He knows what you are upon». (1) Its grading is: hasan.
Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (d. 241 H.) : Abu Yusuf bin Musa Al-Qattan said: “It was said to Abu Abdullah Ahmad ibn Hanbal: ‘Allah –Azza wa Jal- is above the seventh Heaven on His Throne separate from His creation, and His Ability and Knowledge is everywhere?’
He replied: «Yes, (He is) over the Throne, and no place is free from His Knowledge.»” (2) Sahih
– Khushaish bin Asram (d. 253 H.) said in “Al-Istiqamah” : «If He (Allah) was on earth like He is above the Heavens, nothing would come down to earth from the Heavens, but it would ascend from the earth to the Heavens like it descends from the Heavens to the earth, and there have come reports from the Prophet – Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam- that Allah is above the heavens and not the earth.» (3)

2. Some of them explicitly saying: «with His Essence» (bi-dhatihi or bi-nafsihi), and the testification of the scholars who came after them of that, for example:

– Uthman Ad-Darimi (d. 280 H.) said: «Because He (Allah) said in many ayat what confirms that He is above His Throne, above His Heavens, He is like that with no doubt. When He stated that He is with every person in a secret councel, we said: ‘His Knowledge and Sight is with them, and He is Himself on the Throne, as He has described.» (16)
– Abu Ja`far bin Abi Shaybah (d. 297 H.) said: «He is above the Heavens and above the Throne by His Essence (bi-dhatihi) free from His creation, separate from them. His Knowledge is in His creation, they cannot leave His Knowledge. » (4)

– Abu Umar At-Talamanki Al-Maliki (d. 429 H.) said in “Al-Wusul Ila Ma`rifat Al-Usul”: “The Muslims from Ahl As-Sunnah are upon consensus that the meaning of His saying: {And He is with you (by His Knowledge) wheresoever you may be} [57:4] and what is similar to it from the Quran is: by His Knowledge, and that Allah –Ta`ala- is above the Heavens by His Essence (bi-dhatihi), Mustawen (I.e. Done Istiwa, Has Risen) above His Throne however He willed. And Ahl As-Sunnah said regarding His saying: {The Most Gracious over the Throne Istawa (Rose)} [20:5]: That the Istiwa from Allah on the Throne is upon the haqiqah (literal), and not majaz (metaphorical).” (5)
– Abu Nasr As-Sijzee Al-Hanafi (d. 444 H.) said in “Al-Ibanah”: “Our Imams such as Sufyan Ath-Thawri, Malik, Hammad bin Salamah, Hammad bin Zayd, Abdullah bin al-Mubarak, Al-Fudail bin `Iyad, Ahmad bin Hanbal, and Ishaq bin Rahwaih, are upon agreement that Allah –Subhanahu wa Ta`ala is by His Essence (bi-dhatihi) above the Throne, and His Knowledge is everywhere.” (6)

3. The Pious Salaf’s interpretation of “al-Istiwa“ to mean: Rise above (`alaa), and ascended (irtafa`a). And “al-istiwa” by the meaning of uluw (elevation/rising) can only be a literal uluw by the Essence. As for uluw in status, it is not one of the meanings of al-Istiwa in the Arabic language. The following are some of the authentic statements of the pious salaf on the meaning of Istawa:

– Tabi`ee Mujahid (d. 102 H.) said: «Istawa (meaning) : Rose (`alaa) above the Throne.» (7)
– Bishr bin Umar Az-Zahrani (d. 207 H.) said: «I heard more than one of the commentators (scholars of tafsir of the Quran) say: “{Ar-Rahman above the Throne Istawa}: Ascended (Irtafa`a)”.» (8)
– The Linguist Abu Al-Abbas Tha`lab (d. 291 H.) said: «{Istawa over the Throne} Rose above (`alaa).» (9)

4. Their interpretation of this ayah: {And Fir‘aun (Pharaoh) said: “O Hâmân! Build me a tower that I may arrive at the ways; The ways of the heavens, and I may look upon the Ilâh (God) of Mûsâ (Moses) : But verily, I think him to be a liar.} [40:36-37],.
5. Their statements were a reply to the Jahmiyyah who believed that Allah Ta’ala was literally everywhere, so they replied to them that Allah is not everywhere, but above His Throne. If they had meant by it: His status, then it would not have been a reply to the Jahmi’s belief, because the Jahmiyyah did not negate Allah’s high status in order for the Salaf to reply back that Allah has higher status than the Throne !

– Ibn Al-Mubarak (d 181 H.) : Ali Ibn al-Hasan Ibn Shaqeeq reported: I asked Abdullah Ibn al-Mubarak: “How are we to know our Lord –Azza wa Jal-? ”
He replied: «He is over the seventh Heaven over His Throne. We do not say as the Jahmiyyah say: that He is here on the earth.» (10) Sahih.
– Jarir Ibn Abdul-Hamid Ad-Dabbi (d. 188 H.) said: «The beginning of the speech of the Jahmiyah is honey, and the end of it is poison, verily they are only trying to say: that there is no ilah (diety) above the heavens.» (11)
– Sa`eed bin `Aamir Ad-Dab`i (d. 208 H.), one of Imam Bukhari’s teachers, said: «The Jahmiyyah have said worse than the Jews and Christians, the Jews, Christians and the people of religions have agreed that Allah –Tabaraka wa Ta`ala- is over the Throne, and they (the Jahmiyyah) said: ‘There is nothing over the Throne.’» (12) Sahih chain.
6. Their saying: «above the heavens and not the earth“», because if they meant elevation of status, then their saying would be a negation of Allah’s high status over the earth, which is a fault/defect.
Examples :

– Khushaish bin Asram (d. 253 H.) said in “Al-Istiqamah” : «And Jahm denied that Allah is above the heavens without being on the earth, and the Book (The Quran) is evident in that Allah is above the heaven and not the earth …» (13)
– Abu Bakr bin Abi `Asim (d. 287 H.) said in “As-Sunnah” :«Chapter: What was reported regarding Allah being above the heaven without (being on) the earth.”, then he narrated the hadith of the slave girl in which the Prophet – Sallallahu Alayhi wa Sallam- asked her “Where is Allah?” (14)
– Ibn Abi Zayd Al-Qairawani Al-Maliki (d.386 H.) in “al-Jame` “: “What the Ummah has agreed upon from the matters of religion, and from the Sunnah which its opposition is bidah and misguidance, is that Allah -Tabaraka Ismuh- …” He then mentions a number of beliefs, one of them being:
“And that He is above His Heavens on His Throne and not His earth, and that He is everywhere by His Knowledge.” Then he says at the end:
“And all that we have mentioned previously is the belief of Ahl As-Sunnah and the Imams of the people in fiqh, and Hadeeth, and all of it is the belief of (Imam) Malik, from him it has been reported, and it is known from his madhhab.” (15)
7. Many of their statements included: «And His Knowledge is everywhere.» or “His Knowledge encompasse everything» and such. If we interpreted their statement to mean Allah’s dominion, , power, sovereignty, control, and such; then it would be like this: «Allah is above the Throne, or in the Heavens with His sovereignty, dominion, and control; and His knowledge is everywhere.», which would result in Allah’s sovereignty, power, dominion, and control being restricted to the Throne and the Heavens, and only His knowledge is everywhere; and as Imam Abu Isa At-Tirmidhi (d. 279 H.) said in his “Sunnan”: «Allah’s Knowledge, Ability, and sovereignty is everywhere, and He is on the Throne as He described Himself in». Thus, such interpretation of their statement is false.

Related Articles:

(1) Al`Adhamah by Abu Ash-Shaykh Al-Asbahani (2/688-689); Al-Mujalasah wa Jawahir Al-`Ilm by Ahmad ad-Daynuri (6/406); An-Naqd by Ad-Darimi (1/422); Sharh I`tiqad Ahl AsSunnah wal Jama`ah by Al-Lalikai (3/395-396); Ithbat Sifat Al-Uluw by Ibn Qudamah (p.151-152) and others.
(2) Sharh I`tiqad Ahl AsSunnah by Al-Lalikai (3/402); And it was narrated by al-Khalal in “As-Sunnah” from his Shaykh Yusuf bin Musa Al-Qattan, as is mentioned in “Kitab al-Arsh” by Adh-Dhahabi (2/247), and “Al-Uluw” (p.176), so the chain is sahih.
(3) At-Tanbih wa Al-Rad `Ala Ahl AlAhwa’ wal Bida` by Muhammad Al-Malti Ash-Shafi`i , chapter: Al-Firaq wa Dhikruha.
(4) Al-Arsh wama Ruwiyah Fihi by Abu Ja`far bin Abi Shaybah (291-292)
(5) Al Uluw by Adh-Dhahabi (p.246)
(6) Kitab Al-Arsh (2/341); Siyar A`lam An-Nubala (17/656); Al-Uluw (p.248)
(7) Sahih Al-Bukhari, Kitab “At-Tawheed”, chapter {And His Throne was over water}
(8) Musnad Ishaq bin Rahawaih (d. 238 H.), as is reported in “It-haf Al-Maharah” by Al-Busairi (1/186), and “Al-Matalib Al-`Aliyah” by Ibn Hajar (12/570); the chain is sahih. It was also narrated by Al-Lalika’i in “Sharh I`tiqad Ahl-Assunnah wal-Jama`ah, with a chain to Ishaq bin Rahwaih (3/396).
(9) “Sharh Usool Ahl AsSunnah by Lalika’i (3/399); its chain is saheeh.
(10) “As-Sunnah “ by Abdullah bin Ahmad (1/111) with a sahih chain.
(11) Kitab Al-Arsh by Adh-Dhahabi (2/191) from the route of Ibn Abi Hatim Ar-Razi who narrated it in “Ar-Rad `ala Al-Jahmiyyah”.
(12) Khalq Af`al Al-Ibad by Imam Al-Bukhari (2/17) Tahqiq: Fahd al-Fehaid.
Also, Adh-Dhahabi narrated it in “Kitab Al-Arsh” (2/207) through the route of Ibn Abi Hatim who narrated it in his book “Ar-Rad `Ala Al-Jahmiyyah”.
(13) At-Tanbih wa Al-Rad `Ala Ahl AlAhwa’ wal Bida` by Muhammad Al-Malti Ash-Shafi`i , chapter: Al-Firaq wa Dhikruha.
(14) Kitab As-Sunnah by Ibn Abi Asim (1/342)
(15) Kitab Al-Jame` fi As-Sunan wal Adab wal Maghazi by Ibn Abi Zayd Al-Qairawani (p.107-108 & 117)
(16) Ar-Rad `ala Al-Jahmiyyah by Ad-Darimi (p.44)


Via :  Um Abdullah al-Misawi


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