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Hisham Kabbani
  Exposing Kabbani 17 : Kabbani's Attempts to Ascribe Ta'wil to Imaam Ahmad
Author: Abu Hudhayfah
Article ID : NDV070017  


Kabbani claims:

"As we mentioned already in the excerpt from Dr. Muhammad Sa’id Ramadan Buti’s al-Salafiyya, it is established that Imam Ahmad explained Allah’s ‘coming’ in the verse 2:210 as the coming of His order (amr) as related by Bayhaqi in his Manaqib Ahmad with a sound chain cited by ibn Kathir in his al-Bidaya wa al-nihaya... Similarly, Imam Ahmad explained verse 89:22 to mean Allah’s order according to Ibn Hazm in al-Fasl fi al-milal and Bayhaqi’s al-Asma’ wa al-sifat..."

(Kabbani, p.193, also pp.144-145)

Similarly, Nuh Ha Mim Keller said: "The hadeeth master Haafidh ibn Katheer reports in al-Bidaayah wan-Nihaayah that Imaam al-Bayhaqee related from Haakim, from Aboo ‘Amr ibn Sammaak, from Hanbal, the son of the brother of Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s father that, quote: ‘Ahmad ibn Hanbal figuratively interpreted the word of Allaah, Most High: "And your Lord shall come..." as meaning: His recompense shall come.’ Al-Bayhaqee said this chain of narrators has absolutely nothing wrong with it."

(From a taped lecture delivered at the Islamic Cultural Centre, London Central Mosque, 1995)

This presentation of Imaam Ahmad’s view is rejected for a number of reasons:

i. The chain of transmission of the narration which al-Bayhaqee mentions from Haakim from Aboo ‘Amr ibn as-Sammaak is weak. Adh-Dhahabee said in his Talkhees of al-Haakim’s al-Mustadrak (1/539) that Aboo ‘Amr ibn as-Sammaak is unknown.

ii. What is authentically related from Imaam Ahmad is that which al-Qaadee Aboo Ya’laa narrates in his book Ikhtilaaf ur-Riwaayatain (1/250) and also ibn al-Qayyim in Mukhtasar us-Sawaa’iq (p.386): "Hanbal said: I said to Aboo Abdullaah (Imaam Ahmad): ‘Allaah - the Mighty and Magnificent - descends to the lowest heaven?’ He said: ‘Yes.’ I said: ‘Is His descent by His Knowledge or what?’ He said to me: ‘Be quiet about this’, and he became very angry and said: ‘Pass on the hadeeth as it has come". And Abdullaah bin Ahmad said in his book as-Sunnah: "I asked my father: ‘Allaah descends to the lowest heaven. How is his descending, is it His knowledge or not?’ He said: ‘Be quiet or severe punishment shall afflict you!’ Then he said: ‘Pass on the hadeeth as it has come."

iii. Ibn Taymiyyah said: "There is no doubt that that which is reported in mutawaatir form from Ahmad opposes this narration (in which Imaam Ahmad is supposed to have resorted to ta’weel) and makes it clear that he does not say: ‘The Lord comes (meaning) His command comes and descends’, rather he rejects the one who says that." (ibn Taymiyyah, Sharh Hadeeth an-Nuzool, p.202)

iv. Ibn al-Qayyim wrote: "As for the narration reported from Imaam Ahmad - then his companions are divided into three groups regarding it. The first: That this is mistakenly attributed to him since the only one who spoke about it is Hanbal and he is one who has many opinions/reports which are in opposition to what is well known from the madhhab of Ahmad... However, what is correct is that it is a rejected narration (shaadh) which opposes the essence of his madhhab." Ibn al-Qayyim went on to say that a similar difference arose amongst the companions of Imaam Maalik: "Something similar to this difference occurred in the madhhab of Maalik. It is well known from him and from the Scholars of the Salaf to affirm the texts of the Attributes and the prohibition of resorting to ta’weel (interpolation). It has been reported from him (Maalik) that he interpolated the saying (of Allaah’s Messenger): "Our Lord descends…" with the meaning: His command descends. This report (from Maalik) has two chains of narration; the first: from Habeeb his scribe, and this Habeeb is not the actual Habeeb, rather he is a liar (kadhdhaab) and a forger (waddaa’) by unanimous agreement of all the Ahl ul-Jarh wat-Ta’deel and not a single one of the scholars depended upon him in his narration and in the isnaad. The second, in which there is an unknown person (majhool) whose condition is not known. Therefore, amongst his companions are some who affirm this narration and amongst them are those who do not because the most famous of his companions have not narrated anything like this from him." (ibn al-Qayyim, Mukhtasar us-Sawaa’iq al-Mursalah, 2/260-261)

v. Furthermore, ibn Jareer at-Tabaree in his Tafseer of 89:22 reports the following narrations from the Salaf in explanation of the verse: Ad-Dahhaak said: "…the angels descend in ranks of separate lines, then the Exalted King descends with Jahannam next to Him, on His left." Qataadah said: "… and Allaah comes on that Day with Jahannam." He also said: "Paradise and Hellfire are next to Him when He descends from His Throne to His Kursee to judge His creation."

vi. And ibn Katheer, despite recording the statement attributed to Imaam Ahmad in his al-Bidaayah, wrote in his Tafseer of 89:22: "The Lord - Blessed and Exalted is He - comes as He wills, and the Angels come in front of Him, ranks upon ranks."


Continuing with his proofs for figurative interpretation, Kabbani writes:

"Further proof of the figurative import of Allah’s ‘descent’ from high is the hadith narrated by Tirmidhi and Ahmad on the authority of Abu Hurayra whereby the Prophet said: ‘By Him in Whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, if you were to extend a rope down all the way to the seventh earth, verily you would alight upon Allah!" (p.163)

The chain of transmission of this hadeeth is not authentic since the narrator reporting from Aboo Hurairah is al-Hasan al Basree and he is classified amongst those who commit tadlees.

Furthermore, at-Tirmidhee said: "This hadeeth is rare (ghareeb) by this route. It is reported from Ayoob, Yoonus bin ‘Ubayd and ‘Alee ibn Zayd that they said: ‘Al-Hasan (al-Basree) did not hear from Aboo Hurairah.’"

Likewise, an-Nasaa’ee said in his Sunan (no.194): "He (al-Hasan) did not hear from Aboo Hurairah."

Ad-Daaraqutnee said: "In the narration of al-Hasan on the authority of Aboo Hurairah there is a break, it is not established that he heard from Aboo Hurairah. It is reported via another disconnected route on the authority of Aboo Dharr."

(Refer to Dhilaal al-Jannah fee Takhreej as-Sunnah no.578 of Shaykh al-Albaanee)

There is also no proof for figurative interpretation in the explanation Kabbani provides for Allaah's Laughter (as mentioned in the hadeeth of the Prophet) which he takes to mean Allaah's Pleasure or Allaah's Mercy. Kabbani writes:

"Ibn Hajar quotes al-Khattabi: 'The literal attribution of wonder to Allah is absurd and its meaning is good pleasure (rida)... and it could mean that Allah causes His angels to wonder at the good deed of the couple... Abu 'Abd Allah (al-Bukhari) said: 'The meaning of Allah's laughter here is mercy (rahma).' Ibn Hajar comments: 'I did not see this in the manuscripts of Bukhari which have reached us.' Bayhaqi in al-asma' wa al-sifat confirms al-Khattabi. Al-Khattabi continues: 'The interpretation of laughter as good pleasure is more likely than its interpretation as mercy because the laughter of the recording angels (al-kiram) indicates good pleasure.' Ibn Hajar comments: 'Good pleasure on Allah's part necessiates mercy from Him, since the two necessarily go together.'" (p.206, also pp. 205-207)

Firstly, al-Bayhaqee does not mention a chain of transmission for this statement back to al-Bukhaaree. Secondly, there is no record in al-Bukhaaree's Saheeh of him saying such a thing despite having recorded ahaadeeth concerning Allaah's Laughter in a number of places. Ibn Hajar said: "I did not see this in the manuscripts of Bukhari which have reached us."

From Kabbani's work we see the following explanations being offered for Allaah's Laughter:

(i) His pleasure (pp. 205-207)

(ii) His mercy (pp. 205-206)

(iii) His generosity (p. 207)

(iv) His goodness (p. 207)

(v) Allaah causing the Angels to wonder (pp. 206-207)

Which of these is the correct interpretation? Some of them, all of them, or just one of them?

The Messenger of Allaah sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said:

"Our Lord Laughs at the giving up of hope of His slave whilst the change in his circumstance is near." A Companion said: "O Messenger of Allaah, does our Lord, the Mighty and Majestic, Laugh?" He said: "Yes." So he said: "We do not (therefore) give up hoping for good from a Lord that Laughs."

(Ahmad, 4/11-12, ibn Maajah no.181, al-Bayhaqee in al-Asmaa was-Sifaat p.987, ibn Abee ‘Aasim in as-Sunnah 1/244. It was authenticated by Shaykh al-Albaanee in as-Saheehah no.2810)

If we take Laughter in this hadeeth to mean 'pleasure' as Kabbani has postulated, the question of the Companion to the Prophet: " Does our Lord Laugh?" would mean: "Does our Lord become pleased?" which is something affirmed in numerous places in the Qur'aan.

"Allaah well-pleased with them, and they with Allaah." (5:119)

"If you are grateful, He is pleased with you." (39:7)

"Allaah’s good pleasure was on the Believers when they gave the oath of allegiance to you underneath the tree." (48:18)

"Come back to thy Lord, well pleased, and well-pleasing unto Him." (89:28)

As for Laughter, this is not mentioned in the Qur'aan, and there is no hint whatsoever in the words of the Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam that he offered the Companion a figurative meaning for Allaah's Laughter.

And if we take Laughter in this hadeeth to mean 'mercy' as Kabbani has also presumed, the question of the Companion to the Prophet: "Does our Lord Laugh?" would mean: "Does our Lord show mercy?" which is equally unconvincing.

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