Fiqh al-Akbar Commentary (al-Maghnisawi)

4. Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar_Allah is unlike Anything…

Allah is unlike Anything

_Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar

Section: Fiqh al-Akbar: “wa huwa shay’un … bi-la kayf.”

Notes:

  • Allah is a ‘thing’ (shay’).[1]
  • Allah is a thing not like any other thing.[2]
  • Allah is without body (jism), substance (jawhar) & accident ([`arad] = this is what it means to be a shay’).[3]

Point: All bodies (ajsam) are divisible (munqasim), every divisible thing is complex (murakkab), every complex thing is originated (muhdath), and every originated thing requires an originator (muhdith). Therefore, every originated thing is in need of the Necessary Being (wajib al-wujud).[4]

  • Allah has no limit/definition (hadd), i.e. His quiddity cannot be defined by parts (ajza’) and He cannot be contained.
  • Allah has no opposite (didd).
  • Allah has no equal (nidd).
  • Allah has no likeness (mithl), i.e. Allah has no co-members and is not part of a ‘family’ of deities.
  • No-one can comprehend Allah.[5]
  • Allah has a ‘hand’,[6] ‘face’[7] and ‘self’[8] as mentioned in the Qur’an.
  • Allah possesses a ‘hand’, ‘face’ and ‘self’ as mentioned in the Qur’an without modality (bi-la kayf).
  • Allah has attributes (sifat) without modality (bi-la kayf).[9]
  • Allah’s ‘hand’, ‘face’ and ‘self’ as mentioned in the Qur’an
  • It is not permitted to say: ‘Allah’s Hand is His power or blessing’ (i.e. yad = qudrah & ni`mah).
  • Saying that ‘Allah’s Hand is His power or blessing’ would invalidate them (ibtal).
  • The view that invalidates the attributes is that of the Qadariyyah and the Mu`tazilah.
  • Allah’s anger (ghadab) and pleasure (rida) are from His attributes without modality.[10]

Point: bi-la kayf: without modality, i.e. the ‘how-ness’ of the attribute is unknown which is the description. The reality of the attribute cannot be negated and denied but the description ought not to be delved into and sought out.[11] It is best left or ‘consigned’ (tafwid) to Allah.[12]

It is said in the Kitab al-Wasiyyah[13] of Imam Abu Hanifah (RA) regarding Allah’s settlement on the `arsh `azim (Majestic Throne) that:

  • Allah is established on the `arsh.
  • Allah is established on the `arsh without need.
  • Allah is not resting (istiqrar) on the `arsh.
  • Allah is the guardian of the Throne.
  • Allah is transcendent (tanzih) of settling, sitting, etc.[14]


[1] Based on Q. 6:19. This is the active form as opposed to a passive form of the word shay’ in Q. 2:274. Cf. Fiqh al-Akbar II, art. in Wensinck’s The Muslim Creed, pp.207-210.

[2] Based on Q. 42:11.

[3] Substances are a substratum or locus (mahall) in which accidents (a`rad) and created things (hawadith) subsist and adhere. This cannot be said of Allah. Cf. al-Ghawji, al-Ta`liq al-Muyassar, pp.118-119.

[4] See al-Maghnisawi, Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar, p.100.

[5] See `Ali al-Qari, Minah al-Rawd al-Azhar, p.117.

[6] See Q. 48:10.

[7] See Q. 55:27.

[8] See Q. 5:116.

[9] For all that, see al-Maghnisawi, Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar, p.99.

[10] See al-Maghnisawi, Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar, p.99.

[11] The famous narration (riwayah) from Imam Malik although al-Maghnisawi attributes the statement to Imam Ahmad. For Ahmad’s position that istiwa meant `uluw/exaltation and irtifa`/elevation (and not contact or meeting) or was either one of Allah’s active attributes (min sifat al-fi`l) or His Essential Attribute (min sifat al-dhat), see Abu ’l-Fadl al-Tamimi as cited by Ibn Abi Ya`la in Tabaqat al-Hanabilah, 2:296-297 and al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani, Fath al-Bari, 13:406. From Malik, there are three versions: The sound versions of Imam Malik are:

1. “The ‘how’ of it is inconceivable; the ‘establishment’ part of it is not unknown; belief in it is obligatory; asking about it is an innovation; and I believe that you are a man of innovation!” Narrated from Ja`far b. `Abd Allah by al-Dhahabi in Siyar al-A`lam al-Nubala’, 7:415.

2 “(The Merciful established Himself over the Throne) just as He described Himself. One cannot ask ‘how.’ ‘How’ does not apply to Him. And you are an evil man, a man of innovation. Take him out!” Narrated from Ibn Wahb by al-Bayhaqi with a sahih isnad in al-Asma’ wa ’l-Sifat, 2:304-305 (no. 866); al-Dhahabi in the Siyar al-A`lam al-Nubala’, 7:416 and Ibn Hajar in in Fath al-Bari, 13:406-407.

3 “The establishment is not unknown; the ‘how’ is inconceivable; belief in it is obligatory; asking about it is an innovation; and I do not think that you are anything but an innovator!” Narrated from Yahya b. Yahya al-Tamimi and Malik’s shaykh Rabi`ah b. Abi `Abd al-Rahman by al-Bayhaqi with a sahih isnad in al-Asma’ wa ’l-Sifat, 2:305-306 (no. 867) and by Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani in al-Jami` fi ’l-Sunan, p.123.

4. There is another fourth version also from Rabi`ah which has: “The ‘how’ is unknown” (al-kayfu majhul) from al-Bayhaqi again in al-Asma’ wa ’l-Sifat, 2:306 (no. 868) also with a sahih isnad but it is considered an aberrant or anomalous narration (riwayah shadhdhah). Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya in Dar’ Ta`arud al-`Aql wa ’l-Naql, 1:278 and Majmu` al-Fatawa, 17:373 uses this version to support his position on the matter.

[12] See al-Maghnisawi, Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar, p.102 and al-Ghawji, al-Ta`liq al-Muyassar, pp.127 and 302-303. Cf. Ibn `Abd al-Barr, Kitab al-Tamhid, 7:151-152.

[13] See Kitab al-Wasiyyah, art. 8 as in Wensinck’s The Muslim Creed, pp.115-117.

[14] See Kitab al-Wasiyyah, art. 8 and Fiqh al-Akbar I, art. 9 in Wensinck’s The Muslim Creed, pp.147-149 and 115-117 respectively. Cf. also `Ali al-Qari, Minah al-Rawd al-Azhar, pp.126-127.

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