Sayings of Mainstream Salaf and khalaf Scholars on Attributes of Allah

Sayings of Mainsream Salaf and Khalaf Scholars on the Understanding of Allah’s Attributes

Allah’s establishment over the Throne (Istiwa Allah ala al-arsh)

The position of sunni scholars will continue to be listed in an effort to establish a sound understanding about the attributes mentioned in the Quran and sunna and to refute any unsound understanding.

Umm Salama, the Prophet’s salalahu alayh i wa salam sife, said the following about Istiwa: “The establishment is not unknown (Ghayr majhul) and its modality isinconceivable in the mind (ghayr maqul); one does not ask “how” about Him; “how” is inapplicable to Him. (Ibn hajar, fath al-bari 13:406-407 Beirut 1989 ed.)

Sufyan al-thawri (d. 161) forwarded Imam al-haramayn al-juwayni’s (d.478) (in his al-irshad ila qawati al-adilla fi usul al-itiqad) interpretation of Istiwa in the verse 20:4 as “a command concerning the throne” (amrun fi al-arsh), as qouted by al-yafii in his book kitab marham al-ilal al-mudila fi daf al-shubah wa al-radd ala al-mutazila (Book of the resolution of difficult problems for the removal of doubts and refutation of the mutazila):

The understanding of Istiwa as Allah’s turning to a particular command concerning the throne is not far-fetched, and this is the tawil of Imam sufyan al-thawri, who took as corroborating evidence for it the verse, “Then turned he (istawa) to the heaven when it was smoke” (41:11) (in al-yafii, marham al-ilal al-mudila, ed E. Denison Ross (Calcutta: Asiatic society of bengal1910 p245)

Imam abu hanifa (d.150) says in his Wasiyya:

Had He been in a place and needing to sit and rest before creating the throne, then the question “Where was Allah?” would have applied to Him, which is impossible…We assert that Allah is established on the throne without His need(haja) nor settlement (Istiqrar) upon it, for He it is who preserves the Trone and other than it without needing any of them. (Abu hanifa, wasiyyat al-imam al-azam abu hanifa , ed. Fuad Ali rida Beirut Maktabat al-jamahir 1970 p.10)

He said in his al-fiqh al-akbar:

Allah has no limits, nor any rivals…He who says, “I do not know if my Lord is in the heavens or on the earth” is a disbeliever, and he who says, “He is on the throne, and I do not know whether the throne is in the heaven or on the earth,” he is also a disbeliever.

Imam abu mansur al-maturidi explained this in the saying, “The reason is that by such words he suggests a place for Allah and this is idolatry.” (Abu hanifa, kitab al0fiqh al-akbar bi sharh al-qari (Cairo: Dar al0kutub al-arabiyya al-kubra 1327/1909 p16; cf. al-maturidi, sharh al fiqh al akbar in majmuat rasail (hyderabad: matbaat majlis dairat al-maarif al-nizamiyya 1321/1903)

A man asked Imam malik (d179), “How did Allah make istiwa on the throne?” Imam malik inclined his head and was silent until the sweat of fever covered his brow, then he looked up and said, “Istiwa is not unknown (ghayru majhul), the modality of it is inconceivable in the mind (al-kayfu minhu ghayru maqul); but belief in it is obligatory, and inquiring about it is a heretical innovation. You are an innovator.” And he gave orders for him to be taken out. (Ibn abi zayd al-qayrawani, al-jami fi al-sunan wa al-adab wa al-maghazi wa al-tarikh, ed. M. Abu al-ajfan and uthman battikh (Beirut: Muassasat al-risala: Tunis: Al-maktaba al-atiqa 1402/1982 p123)

Imam Shafii (d.204), in his small treatise entitled al-fiqh al-akbar said, “Whoever says, ‘al-rahmanu ala al arsh istawa’, it is said to him, ‘This verse is one of the ambiguous verses (mutashabih) concerning which one is perplexed to give an answer, and the same is said regarding similar verses.”” (al-shafii, al-fiqh al-akbar p.17)

Others who list the verse of istiwa among the mutashabihat are imam malik ibn anas, the fuqaha of madina, and al-asmai according to abu mansur abd al-qahir al-baghdadi in usul al-din (al-baghdadi, usul al-din p.112-113)

The imam of Sunnis, abu al-hasan al-ashari (d324), says in his al-ibana fi usul al-diyana:

Allah is above the heavens, above the throne, above everything, with a loftiness (fawqiyya) which does not make Him any closer to the throne or the heavens, just as it does not make Him any further from the earth. He is close to everything in existence, He is closer to the servant than his jugular vein, and He is a witness over all things.

He also says, as reported by abu mansur al-baghdadi in usul al-din:

Allah’s establishment on the throne is an action He has created named istiwa and related to the throne, just as He has created an action named ityan (coming) related to a certain people; and this implies neither descent nor movement. (al-baghdadi usul al din p.113)


3 thoughts on “Sayings of Mainstream Salaf and khalaf Scholars on Attributes of Allah

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  1. As-salaamu `alaykum muslimeen…

    Please inshaa’llaah, shaykh, allow me to offer my observations learned from argument on this subject with those who insist that allaah has a place and yet deny this same thing in the clause suffixed to their affirmation of place for allaah, ie. “Allaah is over the throne, but not as the creation would be over something.” and other such misguided statements.

    Most often, we hear these characters intimidating people with odd questions such as “Where is allaah?”… It is evident to most people with eemaan that something is not quite right about this question even if they are not people of knowledge, but then they are told that they are denying the attributes of allaah, and even denying al-qur’aan, if they do not reply that “Allaah is over/upon the throne.” or all of ayat-ul-kursi.
    Usually i reply to such people who ask this question with the statement “I believe in the qur’aan; all of it and reject none of it. It is the truth, and it is all from our Lord.” and yet i am normally vilified for this reply even though i have learned this reply directly from the qur’aan itself in 3:7 with regard to the mutashaabihaat aayaat of the qur’aan.
    I get told “You are denying allaah’s attributes!” and i reply “You are attributing place to allaah.” to which they rebut “We are not doing any such thing!”…
    This is where most people, i have observed, seem not to be able to prove very easily that this is what they are doing even though it is clearly evident that this is the way they interpret this verse since they always banter on that “There is NO allegorical verse in the qur’aan” in complete contradiction to what ALLAAH says clearly in verse 7 of chapter 3 of the qur’aan.
    How do we answer them?
    Well… try this:

    “WHERE” predetermines “PLACE” and if they refuse to accept they meant “place” by this then you may proceed to ask “Then WHY did you base a question containing the word ‘WHERE’ with allaah being the subject of this word on a verse which mentions the word ‘OVER’, another word that could be taken to predetermine ‘PLACE’ if taken according to the linguistic meaning of the word as always pushed by your scholars, when the prophet عليه الصلاة و السلام himself NEVER applied this question to this verse and, in fact, there is even much evidence to suggest that this verse is NOT to be interpreted in a lexical fashion?”
    It may also be asked “Is the LEXICAL understanding of the word ‘OVER’ actually anything other than indicative of a PLACE and how so?”
    If they answer this question then they have completely contradicted their own asl “Everything in the qur’aan is to be understood by the LANGUAGE!” and they have made a TA’WEEL – the very thing they always say is Haraam and term as a form of denial of attributes of allaah!
    I hope my observations have been of use to your work in establishing the truth inshaa’llaah.

  2. * It should be noted that when asking the final question it is best not to let them know it is a trap for them to expose their own ikhlaaf in `aqeedah as well as other deeni issues.

  3. … not until after they have fallen into the trap, when it is usually good to drop this semantic-bomb on them in order to silence their misbehaviour and so that they may know they are not dealing with an imbecile and they might begin to realise the error of their ways and seek knowledge from the correct sources instead of the water filled oil lamps of arabia.

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