Anthropomorphism

Hafiz Abu’l-Faraj `Abdu’r-Rahman Ibn al-Jawzi al-Baghdadi al-Hanbali says, in “Daf`u Shubah at-Tashbih,”
“Thus, since Allah knows that (human beings cannot comprehend Him), He described Himself with words which they understand . . . . Then, after establishing His existence by mentioning words which they were familiar with, He negated any resemblance (to what these words mean), by saying(translated), “There is nothing like unto Him” [Qur’an, 42:11].
. . . .
Then, (we should realize that) the Messenger did not mention the [allegorical] ahadith all at once. Rather, he used to mention a word from time to time. Thus, whoever collects (these ahadith) together in a way which conjures up images has committed a grave blunder.”
. . . .
“Then (we should bear in mind also that) they are very few in number, and the authentic reports among them are still fewer,and then they are Arabic, which allows the use of idiom and metaphor.”And he says, in “Talbis Iblis,” pp. 111 ff.,
“Common muhaddiths have taken in accordance with sensual perception that which is related to the attributes of the Originator, because they did not mingle with the jurists whereupon they might learn to interpret the allegorical (mutashabih) in conformity with the decisive (muHkam). And (in fact) we have seen in our times (people) from among them compiling books . . .”

He continues, later in “Daf`u Shubah at-Tashbih,
“I have seen some of our companions [i.e. Hanbalis] speaking about the fundamentals in an inappropriate manner, for they have compiled books by which they have soiled the madhhab. And I have seen them stoop to the level of laymen, for they have taken the Attributes according to sense-perception. Thus, they heard that Allah created Adam upon H/his image, and so attributed to Him an image and a face in addition to His essence, as well as a mouth, lips, molars, a glowing for His face, two hands, two fingers, a palm, a small finger, a thumb, a chest, a thigh, two shins and two feet. They said, ‘We have not heard any mention of the head.’ They have gone by the literal in (the matter) of the Names and Attributes, and have named (these things) attributes, (which is) an innovated appellation, for which they have no evidence, be it textual or rational.

Ibn al-Jawzi refers specifically, in his book “Daf`u Shubah al-Tashbih,” to Abu Ya`la and Ibn al-Zaghuni of the corrupt Hanbalis. Abu Isma`il `Abdullah ibn Muhammad al-Ansari al-Harawi, another anthropomorhist, compiled a collection of forty hadith, in which he drew upon weak, strange and fabricated hadith to attribute various bodily organs to Allah.
al-Subki relates, in “Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyyah al-Kubra”, that Abu Isma`il al-Harawi said, “‘I asked Yahya ibn `Ammar about Ibn Hibban, saying ‘Did you see him?” He said, ‘How could I not have seen him, considering that we expelled him from Sijistan? He had a lot of knowledge, but not much religousness. He came to us and denied that Allah has limits, and so we drove him out of Sijistan.’ (Subki says,) Look at how ignorant this critic is! I wish I knew who is deserving of criticism!! One who affirms limits for his Lord, or one who denies them?”

Ibn al-Jawzi continues, “And I have advised the followers as well as the followed, and told them, ‘O our companions! You are people of narration and following. Your great Imam, Ahmad ibn Hanbal (may Allah have mercy upon him) used to say, while he was under the (lashing of) whips, ‘How can I say that which has not been said?’ So, beware of innovating into his madhhab what is not a part of it. Then, you have said regarding the hadith, ‘They should be taken according to their literal (meaning),’ but the literal (meaning) of ‘foot’ is a (bodily) limb, and whoever says, ‘He istawa upon the Throne with His Holy Self,’ has considered Him as being in the realm of sense-perception.'”

Note : Istiwa’, an allegorical attribute, is mentioned in a number of verses of the Qur’an. The position of the salaf is therefore that we affirm it as an attribute for Allah, deferring its exact import to Him. Imam Malik was once asked, ‘How did He istawa upon the Throne?’ He became furious, and replied, ‘The istiwa’ is known, its specification is inapplicable, to believe in it is obligatory, and questioning about it is an innovation. And, I see you as nothing but an innovator.’ Then, he said to his companions, ‘So, expel him (from this gathering).’ The interpretation of istawa given by some of the latter Ash`aris is that it means that Allah conquered (i.e. established His authority over) His Throne. It is worth noting that the approach of the salaf is not anthropomorphism (tashbih), nor is the approach of the latter Ash`aris a negation or denial (ta`til) of the attributes.

Ibn al-Jawzi says, in the conclusion of the book, “When a group of the ignorant learned of this book of mine, it did not appeal to them, because they have become accustomed to the words of their corporealist shaykhs. Thus, they said, ‘This is not the madhhab.’ I said, ‘It is not your madhhab, nor the madhhab of those shaykhs of yours whom you have blindly followed, but I have exonerated Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy upon him), and cleared him from false reports and insane utterances.”

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