Philosophy & Theology / `Aqida Text Commentaries

Ibn Abi Zayd: The `Aqida of al-Qayrawan

العقيدة القيروانية

أبو محمد عبد الله بن أبي زيد القيرواني

قال أبو محمد عبد الله بن أبي زيد القيرواني – الملقب بمالك الصغير – رحمه الله[1]

باب

ما تنطق به الألسنة و تعتقده الأفئدة من واجب أمور الديانات

من ذلك الإيمان بالقلب والنطق باللسان بأن الله إله واحد لا إله غيره ، ولا شبيه له ، ولا نظير له ، ولا ولد له ، ولا والد له ، ولا صاحبة له ، ولا شريك له ، ليس لأوليته ابتداء ، ولا لآخريته انقضاء ، ولا يبلغ كنه صفته الواصفون ، ولا يحيط بأمره المتفكرون ، يعتبر المتفكرون بآياته ، ولا يتفكرون في ماهية ذاته ، ولا يحيطون بشيء من علمه إلا بما شاء وسع كرسيه السماوات والأرض ، ولا يؤوده حفظهما ، وهوالعلي العظيم ، العالم الخبير ، المدبر القدير ، السميع البصير ، العلي الكبير.

وأنه فوق عرشه المجيد بذاته ، وهو بكل مكان بعلمه.

خلق الإنسان ويعلم ما توسوس به نفسه ، وهو أقرب إليه من حبل الوريد ، وما تسقط من ورقة إلا يعلمها ، ولا حبة في ظلمات الأرض ولا رطب ولا يابس إلا في كتاب مبين.

على العرش استوى ، وعلى الملك احتوى، وله الأسماء الحسنى والصفات العلى ، لم يزل بجميع صفاته وأسمائه تعالى من أن تكون صفاته مخلوقة وأسماؤه محدثة ، كلم موسى بكلامه الذي هو صفة ذاته ، لا خلق من خلقه ، وتجلى للجبل فصار دكا من جلاله

وأن القرآن كلام الله ، ليس بمخلوق فيبيد ، ولا صفة لمخلوق فينفد.

والإيمان بالقدر خيره وشره ، حلوه ومره ، كل ذلك قد قدره الله ربنا ومقادير الأمور بيده ، ومصدرها عن قضائه ن علم كل شيء قبل كونه ، فجرى على قدره ، لا يكون من عباده قول ولا عمل إلا وقد قضاه وسبق علمه به ألا يعلم من خلق وهواللطيف الخبير ، يضل من يشاء فيخذله بعدله ، ويهدي من يشاء فيوفقه بفضله ، فكل ميسر بتيسيره إلى ما سبق من علمه ، وقدره من شقي أوسعيد ، تعالى أن يكون في ملكه ما لا يريد ، أويكون لأحد عنه غنى ، خالقا لكل شيء ، ألا هورب العباد ، ورب أعمالهم ، والمقدر لحركاتهم وآجالهم.

الباعث الرسلَ إليهم لإقامة الحجة عليهم ، ثم ختم الرسالة والنذارة والنبوة بمحمد نبيه صلى الله عليه وسلم ، فجعله آخر المرسلين ، بشيرا ونذيرا ، وداعيا إلى الله وسراجا منيرا ، وانزل عليه كتابه الحكيم ، وشرع بدينه المستقيم ، وهدى به الصراط المستقيم.

وأن الساعة آتية لا ريب فيها، وأن الله يبعث من يموت ، كما بدأهم يعودون.

وأن الله سبحانه ضاعف لعباده المؤمنين الحسنات ، وصفح لهم بالتوبة عن كبائر السيئات ، وغفر لهم الصغائر باجتناب الكبائر ، وجعل من لم يتب من الكبائر صائرا على مشيئته ، إن الله لا يغفر أن يشرك به ولكن يغفر ما دون ذلك لمن يشاء ، ومن عاقبه الله بناره أخرجه منها بإيمانه ، فأدخله في جنته ، فمن يعمل مثقال ذرة خيرا يره ، ويخرج منها بشفاعة النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم من شفع له من أهل الكبائر من أمته .

وأن الله سبحانه قد خلق الجنة وأعدها دار خلود لأوليائه ، وأكرمهم فيها بالنظر إلى وجهه الكريم ، وهي التي هبط منها آدم نبيه وخليفته في أرضه بما سبق في سابق علمه ، خلق النار فأعدها دار خلود لمن كفر به وألحد في آياته ، وكتبه ، ورسله ، وجعلهم محجوبين عن رؤيته

وأن الله تبارك وتعالى يجيء يوم القيامة والملك صفا صَفا لعرض الأمم وحسابهم، ، وتوضع الموازين لوزن أعمال العباد ، فمن ثقلت موازينه فأولائك هم المفلحون ، ويؤتون صحائفهم بأعمالهم ، فمن أوتي كتابه بيمينه فسوف يحاسب حسابا يسيرا ، ومن أوتي كتابه وراء ظهره فأولائك يصلون سعيرا .

وأن الصراط حق يجوزه العباد بقدر أعمالهم ، فناجون متفاوتون في سرعة النجاة عليه من نار جهنم ، وقوم أوبقتهم فيها أعماله

والإيمان بحوض رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ، ترده أمته ، لا يظمأ من شرب منه ، ويذاذ عنه من بدل وغير.

وأن الإيمان قول باللسان ، وإخلاص بالقلب ، وعمل بالجوارح ، ويزيد بزيادة الأعمال ، وينقص بنقصانها، فيكون بها النقص وبها الزيادة ، ولا يكمل قول الإيمان إلا بالعمل ، ولا قول ولا عمل إلا بنية ، ولا قول ولا عمل ولا نية إلا بموافقة السنة ، وأنه لا يكفر أحد بذنب من أهل القبلة.

وأن الشهداء أحياء عند ربهم يرزقون ، وأرواح أهل السعادة باقية ناعمة إلى يوم يبعثون ، وأرواح أهل الشقاوة معذبة إلى يوم الدين.

وأن المؤمنين يفتنون في قبورهم ويسألون ، يثبت الله الذين ءامنوا بالقول الثابت في الحياة الدنيا وفي الآخرة .

وأن على العباد حفظة يكتبون أعمالهم ، ولا يسقط شيء من ذلك عن علم ربهم ، وان ملك الموت يقبض الأرواح بإذن ربه.

وأن خير القرون الذين رأوا رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وآمنوا به ، ثم الذين يلونهم ، وأفضل الصحابة الخلفاء الراشدون المهديون أبوبكر ثم عمر ثم عثمان ثم علي رضي الله عنهم أجمعين ، وأن لا يذكر أحد من صحابة الرسول إلا بأحسن ذكر ، والإمساك عما شجر بينهم ، وأنهم أحق الناس أن يلتمس لهم المخارج ، ويظن بهم أحسن المذاهب

والطاعة لأئمة المسلمين من ولاة أمورهم وعلمائهم.

واتباع السلف الصالح ، واقتفاء آثارهم ، والاستغفار لهم ،وترك المراء والجدال في الدين ، وترك كل ما أحدثه المحدثون .

*وصلى الله على سيدنا محمد نبيه وعلى آله وأزواجه*

* وذريته وسلم تسليما *

*كثيرا*

Translation:

Section:

The obligatory religious matters the tongue must affirm and the hearts must Bind upon

“…and from this belief include: believing in the heart and expressing with the tongue that Allah is One God and that there is no deity other than Him, nor is there any like Him, nor any equal to Him. He has had no child. He had no father. He has no wife. He has no partner.[2] There is neither beginning to His ‘firstness’ (awwaliyyah) nor any end to His ‘lastness’. Those who try to describe Him can never adequately do so nor can thinkers encompass Him in their thought. Real thinkers may derive lessons from His signs (min ayatihi)[3] but do not try to think about the nature of His Essence. (But they do not attain any of His knowledge except what He wills) (2:254). (His Throne embraces the heavens and the earth, and their preservation does not tire Him. He is the Most High, the Magnificent) (2:254). The All-Knower and the All-Aware, the Arranger and the All-Powerful. The All-Hearer and the All-Seeing. The High and the Great.

He is over His Glorious Throne by His Essence and He is everywhere by His knowledge.

He created man and He knows what his self whispers to him and He is nearer to him than his jugular vein. No leaf falls without Him knowing of it nor is there any seed in the darkness of the earth, or any wet thing nor any dry thing, that is not in a clear book.

He is established on His Throne and has absolute control over His kingdom.  He has the most beautiful names and the most sublime attributes and He has always had all these names and attributes. He is exalted above any of His attributes ever having been created or any of His names having been brought into temporal existence. He spoke to Musa with His speech which is an attribute of His essence and not something created. He manifested Himself to the mountain and it disintegrated through exposure to His majesty.

The Qur’an is the speech of Allah, not something created which must therefore die out, nor the attribute of something created which must therefore come to an end.

Also included is belief in the Decree both the good of it and the evil of it, the sweet of it and the bitter of it. All of this has been decreed by Allah, our Lord. The way things are decided is entirely in His hand and the way they happen is according to His decree. He knows all things before they come into existence and they take place in the way He has already decided. There is nothing that His servants say or do which He has not decreed and does not have knowledge of. (Does not He who creates know, when He is the Subtle and the Aware). (67:14).[4] He leads astray whomever He wills and in His justice debases them and He guides whomever He wills[5] and in His generosity grants them success. In that way everyone is eased by Him to what He already has knowledge of and has previously decreed as to whether they are to be among the blissful or the wretched.[6] He is exalted above there being anything He does not desire in His kingdom, or that there should be anything not dependant on Him, or that there should be any creator of anything other than Him, the Lord of all people, the Lord of their actions, the One who decrees their movements and the time of their death.

He has sent Messengers to them in order that they should have no argument against Him. He sealed this Messengership, warning, and Prophethood with his Prophet Muhammad (saw) whom He made the last of the Messengers – (A bringer of good news and a warner, calling to Allah by His permission and an illuminating lamp). He sent down on him His Wise Book and by means of him He explained his upright din and guided people to the Straight Path.

Also part of what must be believed is that the Final Hour is coming – there is no doubt about it. It must be believed that Allah will raise up all who have died: (As He brought them into existence the first time so they will be brought back again…)

It must be believed that Allah (glory be to Him) multiplies the reward of the good actions (al-hasanat) of His believing servants. He pardons them for their major wrong actions by virtue of their repentance (tawba) and He forgives them for their minor wrong actions by virtue of their avoidance of the major wrong actions. Those who do not repent of their major wrong actions become subject to His will. (He does not forgive anything being associated with Him, but He forgives anything other than that to whoever He wills). Those He punishes with His Fire, He will remove from it because of any belief they have and by this He will cause them to enter His Garden. (Whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it). (99:7). Any of the community of the Prophet (saw) who have committed major wrong actions (ahl al-kaba’ir) and for whom he intercedes, will be brought out of the Fire by his intercession.

Allah has created the Garden and has made it ready as an everlasting abode for His friends (awliya’). He will honour them in it with the vision of His Noble Face. This is the same Garden from which He sent down Adam, His Prophet and Khalifah, to the earth, which was as it had already been decreed in His foreknowledge. He has created the Fire and has made it ready as an everlasting abode for those who disbelieve in Him and deny His signs and Books and Messengers and He keeps them veiled from seeing Him.

Allah, may He be blessed and exalted, will come on the Day of Rising together with the angels, rank upon rank. All the different peoples are confronted with their accounts and their punishment or reward. The balances will be set up to weigh people’s actions – (Whoever’s actions are heavy in the balance – they are the successful). People will be given pages on which their actions are recorded – (Whoever is given his book in his right hand will be given an easy accounting and whoever is given his book behind his back – they will burn in a Fire). (84:7-13).

The Bridge (sirat) is true and people will cross it according to their actions. Those who cross it, and achieve safety from the Fire, do so at different speeds, while the actions of others cast them to their destruction in the Fire.

Also included is belief in the Basin (hawd) of the Messenger of Allah (saw) which his community will come down to drink from after which they will never feel thirst again. But those who make any changes or alterations in the deen will be driven from it.

Belief consists of what you say with the tongue, what you believe sincerely in the heart, and what you do with the limbs. Belief increases when your actions increase and decreases when they decrease. So it is through actions or the lack of them that increase and decrease in belief occurs. The statement of belief is not complete without action. Neither statements nor actions are complete without intention (niyyah). And neither statements nor intentions are complete unless they are in accordance with the Sunna. No Muslim (= ahl al-Qibla) becomes an unbeliever (kafir) through [performing] wrong actions.

Martyrs (shuhada’) are alive, receiving their provision in the presence of their Lord. The souls of the blissful (ahl al-sa`adah) remain in bliss until the day they are raised again. The souls of the wretched (ahl al-shaqawah) are tormented until the Day of Judgment.

The believers are tried and questioned in their graves. (Allah makes those who believe firm by giving them firm words in the life of this world and the next world).

People have recording angels (hifza) over them who write down their actions. Nothing people do escapes the knowledge of their Lord. The angel of death seizes people’s souls by the permission of his Lord.

The best generation is that who saw the Messenger of Allah (saw) and believed in him. Then those who followed them and then those who followed them. The best of the Companions (sahaba) are the rightly-guided khulafa’. Firstly, Abu Bakr, then `Umar, then `Uthman, then `Ali (may Allah be pleased with all of them). None of the Companions of the Messenger should be mentioned except in the best way and silence should be maintained concerning any disagreements that broke out between them. They are the people who are most worthy of being considered in the best light possible and the people whose opinions should be most respected.

Obedience to the leaders of the Muslims, both their rulers and their men of knowledge, is obligatory.

It is also obligatory to follow the Salaf al-Salih (righteous predecessors) to tread in their footsteps and ask forgiveness for them. It is also obligatory to avoid wrangling and argumentation (al-jidal) regarding the din and to avoid every new thing which people have introduced into it.

May Allah give abundant blessings and salutations to our Master and His Prophet Muhammad, and his family and his wives and his descendants.”

Some Notes:

1. Divine Portents

  • The notion of ayah (‘sign’, ‘portent’)[7] is one of the most commonly exhibited notions in the Qur’an (nearly 400 occurrences) followed by the term bayyinah (‘clear proof’) with nearly 60.
  • Several other words also convey the principal idea or some nuances of the word ayah, for example:
  1. ‘lesson’ (`ibrah, Q. 12:111),
  2. ‘pattern’ (uswah, Q. 60:4),
  3. ‘fact’, ‘story’, ‘discourse’ (hadith, Q. 45:6),
  4. ‘example’ (mathal, Q. 43:57),
  5. ‘proof’ (burhan, Q. 4:174),
  6. ‘proof’ (sultan, Q. 30:35),
  7. ‘signs’ (sha`a’ir, Q. 22:36),
  8. ‘signs’ (athar, Q. 30:50) and
  9. ‘sign’ (dalil, Q. 25:45).
  • Signs are so obvious that one cannot ignore them. Being produced by Allah (e.g. Q. 6:109; 7:203; 29:50 and only with his permission (e.g. Q. 13:38; 40:78), such signs can be detected in all spheres of life.
  • Linguistic terms help indicate the origin, nature and mode of transmission of signs, e.g.
  1. “To bring,” ata bi, ata, ja’a bi, cf. Q. 2:106, 211 & 43:47.
  2. “To bring down or to reveal,” nazzala, anzala, e.g. Q. 6:37; 10:20.
  3. “To come,” ata, e.g. Q. 6:158.
  4. “To send,” ba`atha bi, arsala bi, e.g. Q. 10:75 & 11:96.
  5. “To make clear”, bayyana, “to cause”, sarrafa, “to present, explain”,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      fassala all indicate that the signs are explained or made clear Q. 5:75; 6:46; 7:174 & 9:11.
  6. Others e.g. dhakkara, qassa indicate that the signs are mentioned, told and recited, e.g. Q. 6:130; 8:31 & 10:71.
  • These different verb types are intended to deliver the message that Allah’s signs not only exist but are brought down and revealed to people, they are transmitted by recounting or recitation and, beyond that, they are made clear in order to convince humans of Allah’s power and providence, so that they will worship him. Without the Prophet’s explanation, signs remain a “means of non-linguistic communication”[8] which humanity is obliged to decipher.[9]
  • The expressions of Allah’s signs are diverse and many revealed in both the realms of human beings and the created order[10] encompassing for example:
  1. Language, Q. 30:22-3.
  2. Allah’s intervention against the wicked and evil doers, Q. 11:102-3.
  3. Sustenance, Q. 7:26.
  • One example of a sign passage is Q. 13:2-3:

(Allah is He who raised up the heavens without pillars you can see, then he established Himself upon the throne; He subjected the sun and the moon, each one running to a term stated. He directs the affair; he distinguishes the signs; haply you will have faith in the encounter with your lord. It is He who stretched out the earth and set therein firm mountains and rivers, and of every fruit he placed there two kinds, covering the day with the night. Surely in that are signs for a people who reflect)

  • Some of the function of Allah’s signs (ayat) are for:
  1. Calling human beings to thank Allah, e.g. Q. 16:14; 30:46; 36:73.
  2. To Worship Allah, cf. Q. 10:3.
  3. As a means to belief in Allah, cf. Q. 2:211.
  4. To demonstrate Allah’s Power, e.g. Q. 46:33; 35:9; cf. also 75:38-40 (= rational possibility/analogy of Resurrection).[11]
  5. To establish miracles and hence establish the truth of a Prophet’s message (risalah), Q. 58:5.
  6. To warn against a severe chastisement and punishment, Q. 11:102-3; see also Q. 15:77; 25:37; 26:103, 121, 139, 158, 174, 190; 27:52; 29:35 & 34:19.

2. Divine Predestination

  • Pre-Islamic Arabs had notions of a destiny and fate (equating it with ‘Time’ [dahr/zaman])[12] which for them was an unfriendly and antagonistic impersonal force[13] that permeated all aspects of an individual’s life such as his time of death (ajal), fortune and even daily sustenance (rizq).
  • They believed in the inevitable predestination of an action’s consequence(s) and outcome(s) but not necessarily the action.
  • Thus, individuals could not escape their inevitable ‘doom’ or what eventually lay in store for them.
  • Thus, the pre-Islamic Arabs saw qadar as a kind of impersonal fate and saw qada’ as God’s fixed decision over something.[14]
  • al-qadar wa ’l-qada’ is referred to by Muslim theologians as Allah’s power and decree often drawing upon Qur’anic materials.
  • QADAR (“to measure, to determine”): = this term denotes Allah’s Omnipotence and power to measure and determine His creation (cf. Allah’s attribute of al-Qadir and al-Muqatadir). The Qur’an depicts Allah as:
  1. The Lord of Time who governs day and night, Q. 73:20.
  2. The Lord who governs the Sun and the Moon, Q. 13:2; 31:29; 35:13; 39:5.
  3. The Lord that determines human sustenance, Q. 51:22, 58; 56:82; 89:15-6, birth, Q. 77:20-3; 80:18-22 and death, Q. 56:60.
  4. The Lord that determines the fate of people after death, Q. 70:38-42.
  • QADA’ (“to decide, to determine, to judge”): = that which denotes Allah’s absolute power and creative power in verses of the type: (When he decrees a thing, he says to it ‘Be’ and it is…) as in Q. 2:117; 3:47; 19:35; 40:68; also cf. 19:21; to emphasize Allah’s ultimate judgment (Q. 40:20; 10:93; 27:78; 45:17; etc. or to declare Him the master of death (Q. 39:42 and 34:14).
  • The Qur’an depicts Allah also as:
  1. Fixing the appointed life-span (ajal)[15] for all beings, q 11:3.
  2. Fixed terms for communities, Q. 7:34; 10:49.
  3. Fixed terms for the entire Universe, Q. 30:8; 46:3.
  4. Qada’ is Allah’s divine and fixed decision prior to creation, cf. Q. 2:117; 3:47; 19:35; 40:68.
  5. Allah sets the fate of all things, Q. 6:2; 10:11 (= a parallel term with qadar).
  6. Allah’s qada’ and His amr (command)[16] are linked and even conjoined in one place, e.g. Q. 12:41 implying the inseparability of creation from its pre-established fate.
  7. The Qur’an also declares that what has been predestined for an individual or the universe has been recorded in a primordial book (kitab or kitab mu`ajjal)[17] of fate: (No misfortune can happen on earth or in your souls but it is [recorded] in a book before we bring it about – Q. 57:22); cf. also Q. 3:145, 154; 6:38, 59; 9:51; 10:61; 20:52; 27:75 & 35:11.

3. Prophets and Revelation

  • Human Individuals who have received revelation from God or through an angelic or celestial emissary (mala’ikah).[18]
  • Nabi = Prophet; Nabuwwah = Prophethood; rasul = Messenger [also referred to as a mursal, pl. mursaluna]; risalah = Message.
  • A nabi has no new independent Message or book whereas a rasul brings a new shari`ah, hence a rasul is more distinguished than a nabi in that sense.
  • Every Messenger is a Prophet but not every Prophet is a Messenger.
  • Prophets (al-anbiya’) are the honored elite endowed with Divine revelation.
  • Prophets are the most distinguished in their moral properties. They have a status, a pedigree and are ‘elected’, ‘especially chosen’ (istafa); e.g. Q. 22:75 it is stated that God chooses (yastafi) messengers (rasul) from among the angels and from among the people. The same verb is used to describe election of individual prophets, such as Abraham (Q. 2:130), Moses (Q. 7:144) and Mary (Q. 3:42).
  • Another verb, ijtaba, also denotes divine election of prophets, such as Adam (Q. 20:122), Abraham (Q. 16:121), Joseph (Q. 12:6) and Jonah (Q. 68:50). Less frequent is the verb ikhtara that denotes the same type of divine election (Q. 44:32) and describes the election of Moses (Q. 20:13). The latter’s election is also conveyed by the verb istana`a (Q. 20:41).
  • The Qur’an alludes to a hierarchy or grades of human beings: And whoever obeys God and the messenger, these will be [in paradise] with the prophets and the truthful (al-siddiqun) and the martyrs (al-shuhada’) and the righteous (al-salihin), upon whom Allah has bestowed favors.
  • They are considered a blessing (ni`mah) from Allah, Q. 5:20.
  • Prophets were sent when human beings became overtly distanced form moral uprightness and justice and became iniquitous and corrupt.
  • Prophet shave a genealogy (= dhurriyyah; Q. 19:58), i.e. they emerge in succession (‘one after another’ [qaffayna], Q. 2:87 and ‘one by one’ [tatra], Q. 23:44).
  • The Prophets being especially elected enables them to be endowed with:
  1. Powers such knowledge of the unseen (ghayb), e.g. Q. 72:26-7 & Q. 3:179.
  2. Moral impeccability being immune from Sin and moral blemish.
  3. Given unique epithets and descriptions, e.g. Abraham is described in Q. 4:125 as one whom God took as a “friend” (khalil). Moses is described as “pure” (mukhlas, Q. 19:51) and as one whom God “brought near in communion” (wa-qarrabnahu najiyyan, Q. 19:52) and with whom God ‘spoke’ (kallama, Q. 4:164).
  • Modes of the revelation: Allah is the source and origin of the revelation. It comes from Him (swt).
  • Various verbs convey the idea of prophetic revelation, the most frequent being those derived from the root n-z-l, namely, nazzala (2nd form) and anzala (4th form). They denote an act of ‘bringing down’, which means that the prophetic revelation is perceived as being sent down from heaven.
  • Occasionally, the revelation itself is described as descending (nazala, tanazzala), without directly specifying the agent (fa`il) that causes it to come down.
  • A common name of the Qur’anic revelation is tanzil (e.g. Q. 20:4; 26:192 & 32:2), i.e. a “bringing down”. A less common name is amr (‘affair’) which in Q. 65:12 is said to have been ‘descending’ (yatanazzalu) through the seven heavens. The mufassirun explain that the ‘affair’ stands here for divine revelation that is being brought down from heaven to earth.
  • Revelation (al-wahy) is also mediated through an Angelic emissary, e.g. in Q 16:2: (He sends down [yunazzilu] the angels with the spirit [al-ruh] by His commandment on whom He pleases of His servants….). The mufassirun, however, hold that only Gabriel (Jibril [as]) is meant here, the angel who was commissioned to bring down prophetic revelations, or the “spirit,” to the Prophet (saw). In Q. 16:102 the agent bringing down (nazzalahu) the Qur’anic revelation is himself called “the Holy Spirit” (ruh al-qudus), which is again interpreted as an epithet of Gabriel. The same applies to Q. 26:193, in which the revelation is brought down (nazala bihi) by the “faithful spirit” (al-ruh al-amin). Similarly, the mufassirun say that it is Gabriel who says to the Prophet (saw) in Q. 19:64: (We do not descend [with revelations] but by the command of your Lord).
  • There are various terms denoting the actual revelation that is being brought down. They are:
  1. ayat (‘signs’) which commentators on the Qur’an have identified with the Qur’anic verses (e.g. Q. 57:9).
  2. sura (Q. 9:86), a term that came to be identified with the Qur’anic chapters and
  3. qur’an, standing for something which Allah sends down (Q. 76:23).
  4. kitab, a “book, scripture” (e.g. Q. 7:2). Specific scriptures, namely the Torah and the Gospel, are also described as being sent down by Allah (Q. 3:3-4), which implies that all monotheistic scriptures represent the same divine revelation.
  • Metaphorical terms are also used to describe a descending revelation, e.g.
  1. The title furqan (Q. 3:4). Some exegetes have explained it in the sense of a scripture distinguishing between truth and falsehood.
  2. Light (nur) is also a name for the guiding revelation that Allah has sent down (Q. 64:8).
  • Another widely used verb denoting the act of providing revelation is awha, with wahy as the noun denoting the revelation itself. The verb means:
  1. To ‘prompt, ‘inspire’, ‘suggest’ but it is not confined to prophetic revelations.
  2. Occasionally it simply means to ‘instruct,’ or ‘command,’ as in Q. 8:12 in which Allah instructs (yuhyi) the angels to support the believers.
  3. In Q. 99:4-5 Allah instructs (awha) the earth to tell its story on the day of resurrection and
  4. In Q. 16:68 Allah instructs (awha) the bee to make hives in the mountains.
  5. Even when prophets are addressed, the verb awha can be a request to act rather than imparting a text for recitation. Thus in Q. 23:27 Allah instructs (awhayna) Noah to make the ark and
  6. In Q. 7:117 Allah prompts (awhayna) Moses to cast his rod.
  • An act designated as awha can also be performed by humans. In Q. 19:11, for example, Zechariah signals (awha) to his people that they should glorify Allah in the morning and evening.
  • In most cases, however, awha stands for an act performed by Allah himself, as in Q. 41:12. Here Allah reveals (awha) the “affair” (amr) of the seven heavens, i.e. enjoins His commandment on the heavens.
  • But what Allah reveals mostly as wahy is the prophetic inspiration itself. This is the case in Q. 42:52 in which Allah reveals (awhayna) a “spirit” (ruhan) to His prophet. The spirit is interpreted here as standing for the qur’anic revelation. This accords with Q. 53:4-5 in which the Qur’an is explicitly described as a ‘revelation’ (wahyun) that is ‘revealed’ (yuha).
  • In Q. 35:31 it is the “book” that has been revealed as wahy.
  • Other lesser terms of modes of revelation include:
  1. “Cast” (alqa) as in Q. 40:15. Here Allah is said to have cast (yulqi) the inspiration (al-ruh) by His command upon whom He pleases of his servants) In Q. 28:86 it is the book that has been cast unto the Prophet, while in Q. 77:5 some unspecified persons are mentioned who are described as “casting the reminder” (fa-l-mulqiyati dhikran). The exegetes say that the “reminder” signifies the prophetic inspiration and that those who cast it are the angels who deliver it to God’s prophets and messengers.
  2. “To give” (ata) may also signal prophetic revelation, as is the case in Q. 2:87, in which Allah “gives” Moses “the book.”
  3. alhama (from l-h-m), denoting divine inspiration but not specifically prophetic. Thus in Q. 91:8 it is indicated that God has inspired (fa-alhamaha) the human soul to understand what is right and wrong for it.
  • The contents of the revelation (wahy) are many, e.g.
  1. The sheer idea of monotheism (tawhid), e.g. Q. 21:108 it states: (Say: It is only revealed [yuha] to me that your God is one God).
  2. Specific legal obligations (ahkam shar`iyyah). Allah reveals (awhayna) to the previous prophets (the doing of good and the keeping up of prayer and the giving of alms – Q. 21:73). The Qur’an also repeats several times the injunction given to the Prophet to follow (ittabi`) what has been revealed (yuha) to him, e.g. Q. 10:109 & 33:2.
  3. “Wisdom” (hikmah) which seems to refer to moral lessons which must be derived from the history of past generations. This is confirmed by the fact that in Q. 11:49 the wahy consists of “accounts of the unseen” (anba’ al-ghayb) i.e. stories of the history of past generations which are now being revealed to the Prophet. The stories deal with sinful nations that Allah punished and destroyed because they had rejected their prophets.

And Allah knoes best.

S. Z. Chowdhury


[1] See La Risâla, ou Epître sur les éléments du dogme et de la loi de l’Islâm selon le rite mâlikite, texte arabe et traduction française avec un avant-propos, des notes et trois index par Léon Bercher, Algiers : J. Carbonel, 1952, pp.18-26 (texte Arabe).

[2] Allah is one, the unique sovereign Being of the heavens and the earth and the only ruler (who has no associate (sharik) in the sovereignty – Q. 17:111; 25:2) and does not share His power with anyone within His dominion. This categorical denial of any partner in divine power is the Qur’anic expression of the explicit rejection of shirk – the foremost religious crime in Islam – which is that of associating partners with Allah. The phrase is directed against pre-Islamic idolatry or polytheism and, equally, against the Christian claims of divine sonship because Q. 17:111, which is engraved in the outer hall of the Dome of the Rock, pointedly adds, (who has not taken to himself an offspring [lam yattakhidh waladan]). Q. 25:2 repeats the phrase and Q. 19:35 projects the polemics onto Jesus, son of Mary, (it is not for God to take to himself an offspring – cf. also Q. 2:116). The language of the Qur’an is multivalent in this case: it may refer to ancient Arab deities, such as the daughters of Allah, al-Lat, Manat and al-`Uzzah (e.g. Q. 53:19-20; 16:57-9 & 52:39), and/or to polemics against the Christian belief in the son of God because the term walad (‘offspring’)can be masculine or feminine, singular or plural, and the term lam yattakhidh (‘has not taken’) can imply adoption or generation. The categorical denial of associating partners with God is reiterated in the passage, (He has taken to himself neither a consort [sahibah] nor an offspring – Q. 72:3 and cf. 6:101).

Most pointedly, however, the denial of shirk is expressed in the pithy verses of Q. 112:1-4, (Say, he is Allah, one [ahad], Allah, the impenetrable. He has not begotten nor has He been begotten [lam yalid wa-lam yulad], and no one is equal to Him). This short surah lays great stress on rejecting the idea of generation within the concept of God and denies the Nicean creed, “begotten, not made,” in the nutshell of a qur’anic creedal formula proclaiming God as one. Other phrases reinforce this strict monotheism of the Qur’an, (Say, he is only one God [qul innama huwa ilahun wahidun] – Q. 6:19; cf. 16:51; 14:52 & 4:171), (your God is one God [annama ilahukum ilahun wahidun] Q. 18:110; 21:108; 41:6; cf. 2:163; 16:22 & 22:34), (no god is there but one God [wa-ma min ilahin illa ilahun wahidun] -Q. 5:73) and, (surely your God is one [inna ilahakum la-wahdun] – Q. 37:4). The same monotheistic stress is achieved with the help of a divine name, (Glory be to Him! He is Allah, the one, the Omnipotent [al-wahid al-qahhar] Q. 39:4; 12:39; 13:16; 40:16 & 14:48) and reinforced by the statement that (God is sufficient to himself [anna llaha ghani] – Q. 2:267). Based on G. Böwering, art. “God and his Attributes” in The Encyclopedia of the Qur’an, 2:316.

[3] From the numerous verses mentioning Allah’s signs, Muslim theologians and philosophers derived a developed teleological argument especially Ibn Rushd. Cf. H. A. Davidson, Proofs for Eternity, Creation, and the Existence of God in Medieval Islamic and Jewish Philosophy, 311–335; H. A. Wolfson “Averroes’ lost treatise on the prime mover”, in Studies in the History of Philosophy and Religion vol.1, pp.402–429; C. Steel and G. Goldentops “An unknown treatise of Averroes against the Avicennians on the First Cause: edition and translation”, Recherches de Theologie et Philosophie Medievales, 64 (1997), pp.86–135.

[4] Cf. the lawh/“tablet” (e.g. Q. 85:22), qalam/“pen” (e.g. Q. 68:1), and kitab/“book” (with 261 occurrences, including attestations in the plural and dual forms). The first two concepts (i.e. lawh and qalam) remain undeveloped in the Qur’an, while the last — the ‘Book’ along with verses related to “writing” where God is the Author — plays a central role as the manifestation of God’s knowledge, will and wisdom as best exemplified in the verse (Nothing will happen to us except what God has written for us – Q. 9:51). From here, it is an easy step to the thoroughly predestinarian view that God has determined all events in pre-eternity. A closer scrutiny suggests, however, that the kitab verses — like the qada’, qadar, ajal, amr, and rizq verses — are really about Allah’s absolute, infinite sovereignty as opposed to the measured, limited, contingent nature of His creation. It is for this reason that the Qur’an is adamant about Allah’s supreme agency, as in the verse (You did not throw when you threw, but God threw – Q. 8:17), referring to the battle of Badr when the Prophet (saw) threw a handful of dust toward the Meccan forces.

[5] As for these intriguing types of verses such as (Allah guides to truth whom He wills and leads astray whom He wills – Q. 14:4), they would seem to deny any agency to humans in their salvation. An examination of these ‘will-verses’ suggests, however, that they are to be understood as expressions of Allah’s absolute liberty of action, or better yet, as powerful reminders of his final authority and power. Simply put, nothing happens outside the orbit of His will (mashi’ah). Perhaps the best way to reconcile the apparent discrepancy between this unflinching Qur’anic insistence on Allah’s omnipotent, overpowering agency and its equally fundamental assumption of human accountability as demonstrated, among other things, by its highly developed eschatology is to argue that the Qur’an is prescriptive, not descriptive. It is a document that is meant to bring about a change in human attitude and behavior in order to orient humanity towards God; it is not a cold, descriptive account of the scope and boundary of divine and human action. It is meant to reawaken and strengthen human capacity for moral action, not to stifle it by relentless reiteration of God’s power. See “Fate” in Encyclopedia of the Qur’an, 2:185 and F. Rahman, The Major Themes in the Qur’an, p.22.

[6] Although the text here is emphatic on Allah’s Omnipotence and Power that may suggest an eclipse of human agency, this is not the case. The Qur’an insists (and indeed reason indicates) that there is a reality to human agency. It is the responsibility of human beings to purify their souls (e.g. Q. 91:7-10) and they have the initiative on this front since God only turns them in the direction they choose (e.g. Q. 4:115) and does not change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (Q. 13:11). Those who fail bring misfortune upon themselves by doing injustice to their own souls (for which there are numerous verses, e.g. Q. 65:1). If human beings realize their error and sincerely repent, Allah forgives them and guides them to the right path (e.g. Q. 28:16). However, if they persevere in their injustice, Allah entrenches them in this state by placing seals on their hearts and ears and veils over their eyes (e.g. Q. 2:7). The Qur’an itself is best understood as Allah’s guidance to humanity prompting them to help themselves by acknowledging His sovereignty and serving Him by committing good deeds.

[7] See Abrahamov, “Sign” in The Encyclopedia of the Qur’an, 5:22.

[8] See T. Izutsu, God, pp.133-139.

[9] See Abrahamov, “Sign” in Encyclopedia of the Qur’an, 5:22.

[10] Cf. for example, al-Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb (= Tafsir al-Kabir), 25:111 for the distinction between signs in human beings (dala’il al-anfus) e.g. (O my people, this is the she-camel of God, to be a sign for you – Q. 11:64) and signs in the creation (dala’il al-afaq), e.g. (And it is Allah who sends down out of heaven water and therewith revives the earth after it is dead. Surely in that is a sign for a people who listen – Q. 16:65; cf. 30:24).

[11] See Imam Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-`Azim, 1:558.

[12] The Qur’an rejects that Time is what determines one’s fate. See Q. 45:24 & 26; cf. the famous hadith: “I am dahr; in my hand are night and day,” Bukhari, Sahih, under Q. 5:24 as cited in W. M. Watt, The Formative Period of Islamic Thought, p.91.

[13] The Qur’an alludes to this in Q. 45:24 & 76:1. cf. also its reference to “accident of time” (rayb al-manun) in Q. 52:30.

[14] See Ringgren, Studies in Arabian Fatalism, pp.5-61 and 97-105 and F. Rahman, Major Themes of the Qur’an, pp.12, 23, 67

[15] See “adjal” by Goldziher/Watt in EI2, 1:204.

[16] Which can mean that everything is subject to the laws of Allah; Allah’s intervention in human affairs and history (e.g. Q. 11:73, on the conception of Ishaq and Q. 30:3-4) as well as Allah’s supreme sovereignty (e.g. Q. 3:128)..

[17] This primordial book or tablet is not to be confused with the special book in which all human deeds are recorded; see Q. 17:3-4, 71; 45:28-9.

[18] Also referred to as ‘messengers’ (rasul), e.g. Q. 35:1. For more on the Prophets from which this section is taken, see “Prophets and Prophethood” by U. Rubin from The Encyclopedia of the Qur’an, 4:289.

4 thoughts on “Ibn Abi Zayd: The `Aqida of al-Qayrawan

  1. as-salam ‘alaikum sidi, There appears to be a translation error above. You’ve translated وأنه فوق عرشه المجيد بذاته ، as ‘He is established (istawa) over His Glorious Throne by His Essence ….’ I believe this should be translated as ‘And He, Honorable is His essence, is above His throne.’ Of course some may dispute this but please see here why this is more accurate: http://marifah.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=6991 was-salam

    • wa `alaykum al-salam.
      Dear brother, jazakallahu khayran for this comment and may Allah reward you for your intentions. I’m well aware that this phraseology of the Imam (Allah have mercy on him) is a point of theological contention among commentators. Maliki commentators have given context as to the phraseology (cf. Sidi Ahmad Zarruq’s explanation in his Sharh of the Risalah) which I’m sure you are aware of. I am also aware of the different descriptive/non-literal translations of the original but I have left the translation more literally as it is felt this is more the original syntax and on which other translators have done (cf. Bewley’s rendering as
      “The High and the Great. He is over His Glorious Throne by His Essence”).

      Thank you again for reading this page and please give advice and feedback to improve translations of other passages as well.

      barakallahu fik.

      wassalam.
      s.z.c.

  2. as-salam ‘alaikum brother s.z.c., I appreciate your response but please allow me to make one last comment. How can you possible translate وأنه فوق عرشه المجيد بذاته ، as ‘He is established (istawa) over His Glorious Throne by His Essence ….’ there is no mention of istawa in the arabic text at all. The text reads And He [Allah] is above the Throne al majeed bi dhatihi. Now how you translated al majeed bi dhatihi is up for discussion and depends on whether you understand the text as ….al-‘Arshi, al-Majīdu bī Dhātihi [above the Throne, Glorious in His Essence] or as al-‘Arshi al-Majīdi bī Dhātihi as Ustadha Aisha did. Again please refer to the link I posted earlier. And Allah knows best. p.s. I enjoy reading your website and have gained much from it.

    • My dear brother,
      thank you again for your feedback.
      The error you pointed out is something that was amended.
      Yes, there is a view to reading the text in syntactically various ways, e.g. as with a break or as one clause but depending on the makhtutah (manuscript) used. I am aware of the link you have given and this is discussed there.
      I thank you for your feedback and your time to read the posts here. I have benefited enormously from feedback like those you have given to improve accuracy, content and references.
      barakallahu fik.
      duas.
      s.z.c.

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