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Misconceptions About the Scholars of the Salaf
  Shaikh ul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah and al-Jihah (Direction for Allaah)
Source: Daf' Shubhah al-Ghawiyyah (trans A. Iyaad)
Article ID : MSC060002  

Shaikh ul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah is undoubtedly one of the foremost Imaams of Ahl us-Sunnah and his efforts in reviving the creed and methodology of the Salaf us-Saalih is a reality unquestionable to those with a share of knowledge, justice and wisdom. The following paragraphs expound upon the stances of Shaikh ul-Islaam with respect to certain issues related to the Attributes of Allaah and will hopefully efface and demolish the childish distortions and fabrications made concerning him by the Ahl ul-Bid’ah, those lacking any sense of fairness and justice. The material below is an excerpt from the book 'Mountains of Knowledge' (Salafi Publications 1998)

The Creed of Shaikh ul-Islaam in the Issue of 'al-Jihah' (Attributing Direction to Allaah)

The basis of this matter and its essence is that Shaikh ul-Islaam - may Allaah have mercy upon him - affirms in his books Allaah's highness above His creation and that He is above His heavens and His Throne - free is He from imperfection - just as He described Himself, and he makes it clear that this is the saying of the Imaams of the Sunnah, and of the Scholars of the Sharee'ah without any exception. In fact he quotes the concensus from more than one person, as will be mentioned in detail.

However, a group from among the philosophic theologians said, "These words necessitate from him that Allaah is in a particular direction, threfore he must be in a certain place surrounded by the creation, and therefore he must be a body (jism) like the other types of bodies, which is all in opposition to how He described Himself:

There is nothing like Him and He is the all-Hearing, all-Seeing [Shooraa 42:11]

This saying can seem correct to the one who has been deceived - due to a group amongst these philosophical theologians who fill weak Muslims with terror and alarm - as a result of which they deny Allaah's being high above His creation and that He is above His Throne, because this necessitates, in their view, that Allaah has a direction, and this is confining Allaah and a false encompassment!!

They then come with a rational proof which is that the transcendency of Allaah (His being above the creation) necessitates that Allaah is limited and confined. Having made this (initial) claim they then bring forth a textual proof , "There is nothing like Him and He is the all-Hearing, all-Seeing [Shooraa 42:11]" and they end up with the result which is (but) a denial of the verses of Allaah and the affirmed sunan and interpolating them with what agrees and reconciles with the base and foundation, the claimed 'rational proof'.

Is there is any soundness or proof for this foundation? What is the correct saying regarding the word 'al-jihah' (direction)? The answer is completed by the following:

The First

Know that the meaning which is prohibited and shunned - which is that Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic is in a direction where He is surrounded, encompassed and held - then Shaikh ul-Islaam has not spoken by it ever, and nor has any amongst the Imaams of the Sunnah. And this meaning - which is suspected by the common-folk and their likes due to their thinking that it is necessitated by those who affirm the highness of Allaah above the creation that they say it and speak with it - is a false meaning, and is a ridiculous way of confusing the truth.

Shaikh ul-Islaam said in 'Bayaan Talbees ul-Jahmiyyah' (1/559), "And when it is firmly established in the souls of those being addressed that Allaah is the Exalted, the Most High (al-'Aliyy al-A'laa), that He is above everything, then that which is understood from His saying that He is "in the sky (fis-Samaa)" [Mulk 67:16] is that He is high and raised and that He is above every single thing. Likewise the slave-girl, when he (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said to her, 'Where is Allaah?', replied, 'In the sky (fis-Samaa)' and she intended (by this) Allaah's highness and being above and over everything (al-'Uluww) but without designating for Him a created body and His containment in it.

And when it is said 'al-'Uluww', it represents what is above the whole of creation. So whatever is above it, is (said to be) in the sky (fis-Samaa), and it is not necessitated or required by this that there be something in existence which envelopes Him, since there is nothing in existence above the creation except for Allaah."

Then he said, "Then, whoever presumes that Allaah's being above the sky (fis-Samaa) with the meaning that the sky encompasses and holds Him, then He is a liar if he narrates this from someone else, and he is astray if he believes this regarding His Lord, and we have not heard anyone understand this from the wording and nor have we seen a single person narrate this from anyone." End of his words.

And he said also in 'Dar' at-Ta'aarud' (1/253), "So when the Creator, the Exalted is separate and distinct from the creation, high and raised above it, and there is nothing in existence except the Creator and the created, then there is nothing that exists along with Him, which is besides Him, let alone that He - free is He from all imperfection - should be in some existing thing which surrounds and encompasses Him." End of his words.

The quotations with this meaning from the books of Shaikh ul-Islaam are very many, making clear that what the the people of theological rhetoric presume and imagine that Allaah's ascendancy over His creation and His being above His Throne has the meaning that He is encompassed and that he is limited to a place and other such claims and delusions - no one has ever spoken with this and no one who affirms the highness of Allaah over His creation has ever spoken it!

The Second

A group from the philosophers, those who denied Allaah's ascendancy (al-'Uluww) - the Mighty and Majestic - depended, in their denial, upon what they called, 'the rational proof'and that Allaah's being upon the Throne, necessitates, from a rational point of view, that He is in a certain place and confine.

And you will be amazed when you come to learn that they themselves are not agreed upon this matter of rational proof. This Ibn Rushd, who is one of their intelligentsia, establishes that this necessity which the philosophers presume [1] is not actually a necessity and can never be so, rather it is falsehood from its very foundation. He (Ibn Rushd) said in 'Manaahij al-Adillah', as occurs in 'Dar' ut-Ta'aarud' (6/212), "The speech regarding 'al-jihah' (direction): As for this attribute, then the people of the Sharee'ah of the very first affair (i.e. of the earliest generations), affirm it for Allaah, free is He from all imperfections. Then the Mu'tazilah denied it and they were followed in this by the later Ash'arees, such as Abu al-Mu'aali and whoever followed his saying. The apparent senses of the Sharee'ah necessitate and require the affirmation of direction (al-jihah), such as His saying:

Ar-Rahmaan ascended the Throne [Taa Haa 20:5]

and His saying:

He arranges (every) affair from the heavens to the earth, then it (affair) will go up to Him, in one Day, the space whereof is a thousand years of your reckoning (i.e. reckoning of our present world's time). [Sajdah 32:5]

and His saying:

And the angels will be on its sides, and eight angels will, that Day, bear the Throne of your Lord above them. [Haaqqah 69:17]

and His saying:

The angels and the Ruh [Jibrael (Gabriel)] ascend to Him [Ma'aarij 70:4]

and His saying:

Do you feel secure that He, Who is over the heaven (Allaah), will not cause the earth to sink with you... [Mulk 67:16]

and other such verses, which if ta'weel (metaphorical interpolation) were to be applied to them, then the whole of the Sharee'ah would become interpolated. And if it were said regarding such verses that they are from the 'mutashaabihaat' (the unclear allegorical verses) then the whole of the Sharee'ah would become from the mutashaabihaat. This is because the whole of the Sharee'ah is founded upon the fact that Allaah is above the sky (fis-Samaa) and that from it (the sky) the Angels descend upon the Prophets with revelation and that the Books descended from the sky and to it was the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) raised until he approached the Sidratul-Muntahaa."

Then he said, "And the doubt which the deniers of 'al-jihah' (direction) used to reject it, is that they held that affirming direction necessitates a place, and affirming a place necessitates the affirmation of a form (jismiyyah). But we say that all of this is not necessitated, for direction is something other than a place and this is because direction is either the surfaces of an object itself which encompass it and they are six, and it is from this that we say that (material) things have a 'bottom', 'top', 'right', 'left', 'front' and 'behind', or (direction) is the surfaces of another object which encompass the first object from the six directions. As for the surfaces which are of the body itself then they do not constitute a place/location for the body itself, fundamentally. But as for those surfaces of another object/matter which encompass and surround it then they constitute a 'place/location' for it. [2] An example is like the surfaces and planes of the winds/atmosphere which surround man, or the surfaces of the celestial bodies (planets) which surround the winds/atmosphere - these too constitute a place for the winds/atmosphere. These celestial bodies too, some of them encompass and surround others (due to their orbits etc.) and (as such) constitute a 'place/location' for them.

As for the external surface of a celestial body, it has been demonstrated that it is not outside of it with a form of itself, because if that was the case then that outer form too would have to have another form outside of that, and this would go on and on till it never ends.[3] Therefore, the surfaces of the extreme ends of the universe do not constitute a place, since it is not possible to find another 'object/form' (jism) there (i.e. outside of it, after its end has been reached). Thus, if evidence is established to prove the existence of something in this location, it should exist there without a form (jism), for that which prevents its existence there, is the exact opposite of what the people presume it to be..."

And this is an inescapable rational proof, the essence of which is that if whatever is above the sky is a confined and limited place, then it must have something which confines and restricts it, so that it is surrounded, confined and restricted by a place other than it (otherwise it cannot be defined as a 'place' as Ibn Rushd explains) and then there must be another place confining and surrounding this one and so on till there is no end [4]. Therefore it is obligatory to stop at a place (jihah) at which all other places terminate, and that is what is above the sky, and Allaah is above that, without place, limitation, encompassment or inclusion. And this refutes what the deniers of al-'Uluww (Allaah's being high above the creation) presume and imagine. This (refutation) arose from a philosopher, skilled in their sciences and who was well-known for theological rhetoric and philosophy. He demonstrated with clear rational proof the falsehood of what they have thought to be rational and for which they have twisted and interpolated the texts. It has become clear from this that the foundation upon which ta'weel (allegorical interpolation) and denial is based in this issue, the 'rational' or 'intellectual proof', is a shattered foundation in the view of the philosophers themselves, let alone those besides them!

The Third

Shaikh ul-Islaam placed in 'Dar' ut-Ta'aarud' (6/250) an invaluable chapter which contains quotations from the Scholars of the ummah and their most senior persons (of knowledge) regarding the affirmation that Allaah is above the Throne and he quoted their words from their books by the very letters. If it were not for the fear of lengthening the affair I would have quoted it all, with its length, however I will suffice with only a portion from each book and quotation, perhaps it may accomplish what is desired.

He - may Allaah have mercy upon him - said, "The Shaikh, Abu Nasr as-Sijzee said, in the book 'al-Ibaanah', 'Our Imaams, such as Sufyaan ath-Thawree, Maalik, Sufyaan ibn 'Uyainah, Hammad bin Salamah, Hammaad bin Zaid, 'Abdullaah ibn al-Mubaarak, Fudayl ibn 'Iyaad, Ahmad bin Hanbal, and Ishaaq bin Raahawaih are unanimously agreed that Allaah is above His Throne with His Essence (bi Dhaatihi).'

And Shaikh Abu 'Umar at-Talamankee al-Maalikee, one of the Imaams of his time in Andalus, said in his book 'al-Wusool ilaa Ma'rifatul-Usool', 'And the Muslims from Ahl us-Sunnah are agreed upon the meaning of His saying, 'And He is with you wherever you may be' [Hadeed 57:4] - and what is similar to that in the Qur'aan - that that is His knowledge, that Allaah is above the heavens, with His Essence (bi Dhaatihi), and that He ascended His Throne in the manner that He wishes.'

And Shaikh Nasr ul-Maqdisee ash-Shaafi'ee said in the book 'al-Hujjah', 'And if someone should say, 'You have mentioned what is obligatory upon the People of Islaam of following the Book of Allaah and following the Sunnah of His Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) ...' until he said, ' he mentioned their madhaahibs (ways, i.e. what they were upon and held to) and what they had agreed upon with respect to their beliefs and what we are obliged to hold from those matters that they had ijmaa' upon, so what is obligatory: that which I found the People of Knowledge upon and those whom I met and took knowledge from and those whose saying has reached me from other than them ... then he mentioned a summary of the creed of Ahl us-Sunnah and in it occurs, 'Verily, Allaah ascended His Throne, and is separate and distinct (baa'in) from His creation'." End of his words.

Shaikh ul-Islaam also quotes from Abu 'Umar Ibn 'Abdul-Barr, from the Shaikh and 'Aarif, Ma'mar bn Ahmad al-Asbahaanee, from Abdur-Rahmaan bin Abee Haatim, the athar of al-Awzaa'ee, from Abu Hasan al-Ash'aree and some of his major companions. He also quotes from Ibn 'Asaakir, Ibn Fawraak and Alee bin Mahdee at-Tabaree, who are the greatest of the companions of al-Ash'aree and also from al-Qurtubee the mufassir as occurs in 'Bayaan ut-Talbees' (2/332). In fact he quotes this ijmaa' from twenty imaams from the Salaf and the Khalaf as occurs in 'Dar' ut-Ta'aarud' (1/245), including the Imaam, Ahmad bin Hanbal, Alee bin al-Madeenee, Ishaaq bin Ibraaheem, Daawood bin 'Alee, Uthmaan ad-Daarimee, Ibn Khuzaimah, Ibn Kullaab, al-Qalaanisee, al-Ash'aree, Abu Hasan at-Tabari, Abu Bakr al-Ismaa'eelee, Abu Nu'aym al-Asbahaanee, Ibn 'Abdul-Barr and others which are many in number.

All of those Imaams say that Allaah is above the Throne with ijmaa' (concensus) [5]. So do they (also) agree upon the opposing rational proof, which the intellect (seemingly) proves to be correct? Far be it from them! For there is no intelligence, nor textual proof with the philosophers, only doubts, crimes, desires and suspicions, some of which destroy others!!

The Fourth

That the saying of those philosophers necessitates the most ugly and detestable of requirements and that is describing Allaah with non-existence. Shaikh ul-Islaam said in 'Bayaan ut-Talbees' (2/104), "And this is from that which the Scholars of Ahl us-Sunnah and the Imaams of the Deen are agreed upon, that the saying of the Jahmiyyah that, 'He is not above the Throne nor inside the world, nor outside of it' implies that He is non-existent, having no reality, nor existence, and they (the Ahl us-Sunnah) have explained this more than once." End of his words.

Know that the objective here is not to narrate rational proofs, requisites and refutations against the doubts that the philosophers amongst Ahl ul-Kalaam have preferred. Whoever desires a lengthy treatment should return to the books of Shaikh ul-Islaam, such as 'Bayaan Talbees ul-Jahmiyyah' and 'Dar' ut-Ta'araud', for they contain hundreds of pages of the refutation of the false principles of the philosophers, those for which they are not capable of bringing any criticism or reply. Let that which we have quoted be a key and an illumination by which the heart of the seeker of truth is strengthened.

The Fifth

After this Shaikh ul-Islaam established that the difference in applying 'al-jihah' (direction) to Allaah is a difference in wording (alone), for all of those who affirm the highness of Allaah above His creation (at the same time) negate the direction which the philosophers presume, which limits Allaah and confines Him, and they affirm that Allaah is above His Throne, regardless of whether you call it 'al-jihah' (direction) or not. Therefore, the difference occurs with respect to the wording, and not in the meaning.

Shaikh ul-Islaam said, in 'Minhaaj us-Sunnah' (1/216), "The people have three sayings about the application of (the word) 'al-jihah'. A group negates it, another affirms it and the other explains the matter: and this divergence is found amongst the affirmers of the Attributes of the companions of the four Imaams and their likes. The dispute of the People of Hadeeth and Sunnah, however, regarding the denial and affirmation of it is a dispute regarding the word itself, it is not a dispute concerning the meaning. For this reason, a group from the companions of Ahmad, such as the Taimees [6], al-Qaadee in one of his two sayings negates it and another group the majority of which affirm it, and this is also the second of the two sayings of al-Qaadee. This (difference) is because the word 'al-jihah' (direction) sometimes refer to that which exists and can sometimes refer to that which does not exist. It is also known that there is nothing in existence save the Creator and the created. So when something that exists that is other than Allaah is intended by the word 'al-jihah', it is from the creation of Allaah, and nothing from the creation surrounds or encompasses Allaah, the Most High [7]. And if by 'al-jihah' (direction) something which does not exist is intended - and that is whatever is above the world, then there is nothing above it save Allaah alone." End of his words.

The summary of this discussion is that Allaah is above the Throne, the aayaat and ahaadeeth in this regard are overwhelming; that the Imaams of Islaam and their associates and companions have spoken with this and that whoever makes it binding that their saying leads to limiting and confining Allaah, then he has forged a lie against them twice: Firstly, since he fabricated against them that which they did not say, and made binding upon them (i.e. from their belief concerning Allaah) that which they did not make binding upon themselves and which they did not themselves say, in fact they criticised and denied it. Secondly, that this necessity which the philosophers talk about (i.e. the implication of affirming Allaah is above the Throne, above the Heavens, over His creation) is in reality falsehood and even in the words of others amongst the Ahl ul-Kalaam (such as Ibn Rushd) it is not correct and binding, rather it is falsehood according to them. Therefore, the actual dispute concerning the word 'al-jihah' (direction) is amongst the People of Truth and it is a difference with respect to the word not the meaning, since they are unanimously agreed upon the denial and negation of Allaah being encompassed and surrounded, and this is the meaning which is forbidden. So whoever says, 'The word 'al-jihah' (direction) is used because its meaning is that Allaah is above the Throne' and whoever says, 'The word 'al-jihah' is not to be used because it has not been narrated or reported (from the Salaf), rather it should just be affirmed that Allaah is above the Throne', then both of them have negated the meaning which is prohibited (i.e. that Allaah is limited and confined) and they have followed the aided truth. And by all of this, the deceit and suspicion is unveiled from its very foundation, and Allaah is the Guide.


1 I.e. that affirming Allaah is above the creation, above His Throne, necessitates that He is confined and limited to a place.

2 i.e. something can only be said to be in a 'place' or 'location' if it is surrounded by other things/objects. For it is in reference to these objects that something is said to be in a certain 'place' or 'location' and these surrounding objects constitute a holding place for it.

3 In other words there is a place at which the external surface of something stops and teminates and is distinct and separate from that which is besides it.

4 And in this is a denial of the very existence of Allaah!

5 Refer also to the Creed of the Imaam of Siyar, Imaam adh-Dhahabee, in his book 'al-Uluww'.

6 They are 'Abdul-'Azeez bin al-Haarith and his two sons 'Abdul-Waahid and 'Abdul-Wahhaab, and al-Hufaid Rizqullaah bin Abdul-Wahhaab, all of them are Taymees. Refer to 'Tabaqaat ul-Hanaabilah' of Ibn Abee Ya'laa (2/139, 82, 250).

7 As has preceded in the second point above.

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