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Where is Allaah?
  Ibn Abdul Barr on the Meaning of Istiwaa
Source: At-Tahdheeb (Prepared by Abu Rumaysah)
Article ID : AQD050002  [17551]  
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The 'Bukhaari of the west', the Imaam, the haafidh, ibn Abdul Barr (d.423), the Imaam of the Sunnah of his time said in his work at-Tamheed under the commentary of the 8th hadeeth:

"From Abu Hurayra that the Prophet (sallallaahu `alaihi wasallam) said, 'Our Lord descends every night to the lowest heaven when the last third of the night remains and says: "who is there calling upon Me that I may answer? Who is there asking of Me that I may give him?"'

"This hadeeth is established from the point of view of transmission having an authentic isnaad, the Ahlul Hadeeth do not differ as to it's authenticity...

...and in this is an evidence that Allaah is over (fee) the heaven, over (alaa) Throne, above (fawqa) the seven heavens, as is said by the Jama'ah, and this is their proof against the Mu'tazila and the Jahmiyyah in their saying that Allaah is in every place, not over the Throne. And the evidence for what the People of truth say on that is His saying:

  • 'The Most Merciful rose over the Throne'(20:5)
  • 'Then He rose over the Throne...' (32:4)
  • 'Then He rose over the heaven when it was smoke' (41:11)
  • 'Then they would surely have sought out a way to (ilaa) the Lord of the Throne' (17:42)
  • 'To Him ascend all goodly words...'(35:10)
  • 'So when His Lord appeared to the mountain, He made it to collapse to dust' (7:143)
  • 'Do you feel secure that he who is over (fee) the heaven will not cause the earth to sink on you?' (67:16)
  • 'Glorify the name of your Lord Most High' (87:1)

And this is from al-Uluww and likewise his saying:

  • 'The Most High, the Most Great' (2:255)
  • 'The Most Great, The Most High' (13:9)
  • 'Owner of High ranks, owner of the Throne.' (40:15)
  • 'They fear their Lord from above them' (16:50)

And the Jahmi says he is lower (than them)

  • 'He arranges every affair from the heavens to the earth, then it (affair) will go up to him.' (32:5)
  • 'O Jesus! I will take you and raise you to Myself' (3:55)
  • 'Rather, Allaah raised him to Himself.' (4:158)
  • 'From Allaah, the Lord of the ways of ascent. The Angels and the Spirit ascend to Him.' (70:2-3)

As for His saying, 'do you feel secure that he who is "fee" the heaven', then the meaning is 'who is over ('alaa) the Heaven' i.e. over the Throne. And the word fee is being used with the meaning 'alaa. Do you not see His saying, 'so travel freely fee the land' (9:2) meaning 'upon ('alaa) the land', and His saying, 'and I will surely crucify you on (fee) the trunks of the palm trees' (20:71) and all of this (i.e. interpretation of fee) is supported by His saying, 'the angels and the spirit ascend to Him'

And what we have recited and the like of it from the verses to do with this topic are clear in their denial of the saying of the Mu'tazila (i.e. Allaah is everywhere). And as for their taking istawaa metaphorically, and in ta'wil to mean istawlaa (conquering) then this is not a meaning of it because it is not clear (ghayru dhaahir) in the language. And the meaning of istawlaa in the language is conquering/overcoming, and Allaah the Exalted does not (need to) overcome or overwhelm anyone. And He is the One, the Eternal.

And from the right of the Words (of Allaah ) is that they be taken upon their literal meanings ('alaa haqeeqatihi), until the ummah is agreed that what is meant is the metaphorical meaning, when there is no way to follow what is revealed to us from our Lord except in that way. And the speech of Allaah is directed towards it's most famous and obvious meanings if that (i.e taking it upon its most famous meanings) is not stopped by something we have to submit to. And if all the claims of metaphors were allowed for every claimant then nothing would be established from the actions of worship. And it befits Allaah that he speaks only with that which the Arab understands according to the constraints of the speech (ie everyday language) from what is the correctly understood by the listener. And istawaa is known in the language and understood to be: Highness (uluww) and rising above something and establishing (at-tamkinu) and settling in it (istiqraar feehee).

Abu Ubaid said about His saying, 'the Most Merciful Istawaa upon the Throne' - 'Above ('alaa)...'

And others said, Istawaa meaning istaqarra (settling) and they seek support in His saying, 'and when he attained his full strength and was perfect (istawaa)' (28:14) i.e. completed his youth and grew settled and there was not any increase in his youth.

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