Philosophy & Theology

Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi_Tahrim al-Nazar

Muwaffaq al-Dīn b. Qudāmah al-Maqdisi’s Treatise:[1]

Tah}rīm al-Naz}ar fī Kutub Ahl al-Kalām[2]

ابن قدامة المقدسي: تحريم النظر في كتب أهل الكلام

By S. Z. Chowdhury

August 2003.

Paragraphs: 72-73

“I once heard one of our companions say: “I heard a people saying: ‘The H{anābilah say: (Allah sits upon the Throne).’”[3] He continued: “So I said to them: ‘O people! By Allah! You are ascribing to the H{anābilah things which are not appropriate and that which they cannot possibly hold. This is the word of Allah Glorified and Most High: (Say: If men and jinn assembled to produce the likes of this Qur’an, they could not produce the likes of it even if one should help the other).[4] But you have made the saying that of the H{anābilah, elevating their rank to the point that they are people who hold them.[5]

Now, likening Allah to His creation (tashbīh) and anthropomorphism (tajsīm) only arises when one carries the attributes of Allah Most Glorified and High as being like that of the creation in meaning (‘alā s}ifāt al-makhluqīn fī ’l-manā) but we do not believe that and neither do we profess it as a matter of the religion rather, we know about Allah Blessed and High that: (There is nothing like unto Him. He is the All-Hearing, All-Seeing)[6] and that His attributes do not resemble that of created things (wa anna s}ifātahu tushabbihu s}ifāt al-muh}dathīn). Whatever is conjured by the mind
(khat}ara bi-qalb) or imagination (wahm), Allah – Most Dignified and Exalted – is utterly different to it. He has neither a likeness (shabīh), equal (naz}īr), a match (‘idl) nor a Helper (z}ahīr). (There is nothing like unto Him. He is the All-Hearing, All-Seeing).

As for our belief in the Qur’ānic verses and the reports (akhbār)[7] regarding the attributes, it is only belief in the expressions (al-alfāz}) wherein there is no doubt regarding its validity (sih}h}atihā) and no doubt as to its veracity (lā rayba fī s}idqihā). Their author (qā’iluhā)[8] knows best their [intended] meanings and so we believe in them according to the meaning intended by our Lord Most Blessed and High.[9] Thus, we join between belief which is obligatory with the rejection of anthropomorphism which is prohibited (nafy al-tashbīh al-muh}arram). This is a more true and worthier [of views] than the view of the one who considers the verses of the Qur’an as well as the reports [from the Prophet] as likening Allah to His creation or anthropomorphic and contrives to nullify them (tah}ayyalaalā ibt}ālihā) and refutes them (raddahā) making them accord with the meanings of the attributes of created things by his evil opinion and repugnant belief – and we seek refuge in Allah from such gross misguidance!” 


And Allah knows best.


[1] For a list of Imām ibn Qudāmah’s works see C. Brockelmann’s Geschichte der Arabischen Litteratur (GAL, I, 398, Supplement, I, 688-689) and ibn Rajab al-H{anbalī’s compendium T{abaqāt al-H{anābilah from the MS. of the Z{āhiriyah Library in Damascus, Tārīkh, 61 fols. 230 a-b; cited in H. Laoust, Precs. xxx, n. 2.

[2] The Censure of Speculative Theology. The edition used is that edited and annotated by Professor George Makdisi, E. J. W. Gibb Memorial Trust, Cambridge 1985, reprinted from the 1st edition of 1962, pp.42-43 (Arabic) & 28-29 (English). Imām ibn Qudāmah’s attack on kalām is not generic and sweeping as is mistakenly thought but rather it is directed (vehemently no doubt) at a sub-endeavour of speculative theology which is excessive theorising without sufficient evidence. For an account of the term kalām see D. B. Macdonald’s entry in The Encyclopaedia of Islam, s.v.

[3] That is, the allegation that the H{anbalīs ascribed a literal modality to Allah’s act of sitting which Imām ibn Qudāmah flatly denies.

[4] See Qur’ān.

[5] Imām ibn Qudāmah is attempting to absolve his school from such claims and accusations but the point is more historical in that there was a discernable anthropomorphic strain running through the H{anbalī madhhab and many disconcerted cries were made about it e.g. Imām ibn al-Jawzī al-H{anbalī’s (d.597) horror at such an anthropomorphic ‘tilt’ as documented in his small treatise DafShubh al-Tashbīh bi-Akuff al-Tanzīh, 1st edn. ed. by H{asan al-Saqqāf, Dār al-Imām al-Nawawī, ‘Ammān 1991. See also al-Shahrastānī, al-Milal wa ’l-Nihal, Cairo 1317AH, p.145. Thus, for example, H{āfiz} ibn H{ibbān being expelled from Khorasan and Sijistan for precluding any limits to Allah and Imām Bukhārī being expelled for believing that the pronunciation of the Qur’ān was created were all done by followers of Imām Ah}mad b. H{anbal. See Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūtī’s Tadrīb al-Rāwi Sharh} Taqrīb al-Nawāwī, al-Maktabah al-‘Ilmiyyah, Beirut 1379AH, pp.54-55 and Hisham Kabbani, Islamic Beliefs and Doctrine According to Ahl al-Sunnah: A Repudiation of “Salafi” Innovations, As-Sunna Foundation, U. S. A. 1996, vol.1, pp.59-73.

[6] See Qur’ān 42:11. This verse has always been wielded by luminaries of the Salaf and Khalaf as being the foundational assertion regarding Allah’s attributes, thus a revulsion against any form of tashbīh was the primary endeavour of these luminaries. See al-H{āfiz} Sulaymān al-Khat}t}ābī’s Maālim al-Sunanalā Sunan Abī Dawūd, vol.5, p.95 as quoted in Ramad}ān al-Būtī’s al-Salafiyyah Marh}alah Zamāniyyah Mubārakah lā Madhhab Islāmī, 1st edn. Dār al-Fikr,Beirut 1988, p.140.

[7] Meaning the ah}ādith of the Prophet (S{AW).

[8] i.e. Allah (SWT).

[9] This is an explicit statement of the doctrine known as “bi-lā kayfa” (lit. ‘without asking how’), that is, submitting to the accounts regarding Allah’s attributes as they are transmitted in the texts without attempting to explain their modality. This was precisely the position of Imam Abū ’l-H{asan al-Ash‘arī (d.935) as in his small theological treatise al-Ibānahan Us}ūl al-Diyānah, Hyderabad 1948, p.54. See also A short Introduction to Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Mysticism by Majid Fakhry, Oneworld Publications,Oxford 1997, p.65.

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