Friday, April 07, 2006

Apples and Oranges

Part one of a series posted on Sunniforum by our brother Abu Junaydah al-Hanbali in exposition of the Creed of Imam as-Safarini al-Hanbali.

Apples and Oranges

A comparison between the Atharī creed as expounded by Imām as-Safarīnī and the Salafī creed


This is not a refutation. Whoever agrees with this, then al-Hamdulillah. Whoever disagrees, then al-Hamdulillah. The purpose of this collection of quotes is not to prove who is right and who is wrong among the Muslim groups, but rather, it is to establish who is who among the Imāms of this Dīn.

Some have taken Imām Muhammad as-Safārīnī al-Hanbalī al-Atharī as a Salafi, whereas the reality is quite different. Some time ago, I said that whoever wants to see the real difference between the old Athari creed held by the non-Mujassim Hanābilah and the neo-Salafi Mujassim creed of yesterday and today, all they have to do is read Imām as-Safārīnī’s work and look for all of the salafi footnotes refuting him and even accusing him of lying.

This is not a research by any means. Some brothers requested that I make this information public and in the English language for general benefit, so here it is. My work in this is very insignificant. I did a cursory reading of Imām as-Safārīnī’a Lawāmi’ al-Anwār al-Bahiyyah wa Sawāti’ al-Asrār al-Athariyyah which is an explanation of his own poem in Atharī creed tittled: ad-Durrah al-Madiyyah fi Aqīdah al-Firqatil Mardiyyah. In this cursory reading. I highlighted the more obvious differences between the Atharī creed and Salafi creed of old and new. I have kept my comments to a minimum because I feel that the Imām’s words are enough. I didn’t bother to explain many of the Kalāmi terms used by Imām as-Safārīnī because, in all honesty, those who stand to benefit from his words already know what they mean, and those who don’t, probably shouldn’t be reading this in the first place until they learn those terms.

By no means have I gathered everything there is on this topic and by no means do I make the claim that there are no real differences between the Atharīs and their brothers from the Ashā’irah and Mātūrīdiyyah. But the time has come for us to mature and admit the valid diversity within Ahlus-Sunnah, they being all three together.

All Tawfīq is from Allāh. He is our Mawlā. May He unite the hearts of the believers and guide us to the path of true Tanzīh and remove us from the cesspool of Tajsīm and Tashbīh
al-Faqīr ila Mawlāhu
Abul Junaydah


Comments on issues pertaining to Allāh’s names and attributes

In the course of speaking of some of the deviated sects that have appeared in this Ummah, Imām as-Safārīnī said:

Six: The Mushabbihah; those who made Allāh to resemble His creation. They have differed regarding their methods of Tasbīh. From them there are the Musabbihah of the extreme Shi’ah as was mentioned earlier. From them are the Mushabbihah of the Hashawiyah who said that He the Exalted is from flesh and blood and that He posseses bodily limbs. Some of them said when asked by their companions: ‘leave the beard and private parts and ask me about anything besides them.’ And from them (the Mushabbihah) are the Karāmiyyah, the companions of Abdullāh Muhammad ibn Karām. They said that Allāh is upon the throne in the direction of Uluw (above) and that movement and descent is permissible for Him. It has been said (reported from them) that He fills the throne and they differed is that is the limit or is there something else besides it. From them (the Mushabbihah) are those who use the word Jism (corperal body) with regards to Him (Allāh the Exalted). In the Qāmūs it states: ‘And Muhammad ibn Karām like Shaddād the Imām of the Karāmiyyah who says that his object of worship (Ma’būduhu) is settled upon the throne (Mustaqirr, from the verbal noun Istiqrār) and that He is a Jawhar (matter), far exalted is He from that…(page 91)

Further on, Imām as-Safārīnī mentions the text of his poem in creed. He said:

so they (the Athariyyah) affirmed the Nusūs (the texts regarding the Divine Attributes) with Tanzīh

without Ta’til (denial of the attributes) or Tashbīh

so all that has come from the Ayāt or been authentically reported from the reliable ones

from the Ahādīth, we pass it on as it has come so hear my poem (Nadhm) and know.

In the course of explaining the meanings of his own words, he said:

from the Ahādīth- the authentic ones and the clear Athār that appear to imply Tashbīh or likeness (tamthīl), they are from the Mutashābih that none know but Allāh, so we believe in them and that they are from Allāh and (pass it on as it has come) from Allāh or from the Messenger of Allah sallallahu alayhi was sallam. (page 95-96)

He further said:

So the Madh’hab of the Salaf is that they describe Allāh the Exalted with what He described Himself and what the Messenger of Allāh sallallahu alayhi was sallam described Him with, without any altering (tahrīf) or ‘howness’ (Takyīf). And He the glorified there is nothing like unto Him-not in His Dhāt, not in His attributes, and not in His actions. All that necessitates deficiency or Hudūth (change), then Allāh is free from that in reality (Haqīqatan), for He, the Exalted is the one fully deserving perfection that is the peak (of perfection) having nothing beyond it. The Madh’hab of the Salaf is to not to delve into the likes of this (Ta’tīl and Takyīf), to remain quiet concerning it, and to relegate knowledge of it (Tafwīd Ilmihi) to Allāh the Exalted. (page 96-97)

speaking of the Madh’hab of the true Hanābilah regarding Allāh’s Divine attributes, Imām as-Safārīnī says:

“…and it is obligatory to affirm them for Him in the manner that they have appeared (in the texts- kama warad) and we entrust the meaning of it to al-‘Azīz al-Hakīm.” (page 107)

Speaking on the obligation upon every legally responsible person, Imām as-Safārīnī says:

“It is obligatory in the Sharī’ah on every legally responsible person to know Allāh the Exalted with the attributes of perfection and to explicitly declare (that He) the Exalted (is one) and that He is not composed of parts or divisible, He is one and absolute.”

On the Qur’ān, Imām as-Safārīnī says in his poem:

His speech, the Exalted is ancient (Qadīm)

He futher said:

“And it (speech-al-Kalām) is obligatory upon Him the Exalted, meaning; it is obligatory to explicitly believe that He the Exalted speaks with speech that is Qadīm (ancient), Dhātī (from His essence), Wujūdī (present with Him), not created or Muhdath (newly founded?) or Hādith.” (page 132-133)

He further said:

“The clarified position of the Salaf is that Allāh the Exalted is Mutakallim (speaks) as has proceeded, and that His speech is ancient (Qadīm), and that the Qur’ān is the speech of Allāh and that it is ancient (Qadīm) in both its letters and meaning.” (page 137)

Imām as-Safārīnī says in his poem:

and our Lord is not a Jawhar nor (is He) and ‘Ard or Jism exalted be He the possessor of grandeur.

Glorified is He, He has (performed the act of) Istiwā as it has appeared (in the text) without a ‘how’ indeed exalted and far removed is He from being confined by a limit (Yuhadd)

On Istiwā

Imām as-Safārīnī said:

“It has been narrated from ash-Sha’bī that he was asked about al-Istiwā. He replied: ‘This is from the Mutshābih of the Qur’ān. We believe in it and we do not delve into its meaning’.”

He further said:

“So the meaning of the statement of Umm Salamah radia Allah Anha in the Hadīth and those who traversed her path from the Imāms is that: Istiwā is known; meaning His description that He the Exalted is upon the throne (‘ala al-‘Arsh), (Istiwā) : meaning Istiwā that is known by way of textual evidence that is established by Tawātur (multiple chains of transmission)” (page 200)

Imām as-Safārīnī said in his poem:

so all that has come in the evidence is established without any resemblance
from the likes of, mercy and His Wajh, His Yad and all things like this.
His ‘Ain and the attribute of Nuzūl and His (act of) creation so beware of descending (into Tashbīh)
For the rest of the attributes and actions are Qadīmah (ancient) for Allāh the possessor of grandeur
however it is without ‘howness’ or resemblance despite (the opposition) of the people of deviation and Ta’tīl
so pass them on as they have appeared in the reminder (the Qur’ān) without any Ta’wīl and without any Fikr (thought).

Imām as-Safārīnī says in explanation of his own words:

al-Hāfidh al-Bayhaqī said: ‘ the earlier generation of scholars (the Mutaqqadimūn) of this Ummah did not explain what appeared in the Ayāt of Akhbār (the Sifāt not known without textual affirmation) in this area, all the while they possessed belief that Allāh is One and that it is not permissible that He be divisible…’

Imām as-Safārīnī went on to quote the famous words of Imām an-Nawawī concerning the Hadith that affirm the word Yad (lit. Hand):

“This is from the narrations pertaining to the Divine attributes. So we either believe in them and we do not speak with Ta’wīl of them and believe that the apparent (meanings-the primary meaning for the words used in the Arabic language) are not intended and that they possess meanings that befit Allāh, or they are interpreted in such fashion that it is said that what is intended by them both being right (the Hadith stating that both of His Yads are right) is that it means in a good condition or high rank. In his statement that both of His Yads are right contains a notice that what is intended is not that they are limbs and that His two Yads the Exalted possess that attribute of perfection without any deficiency in either of the two because the left is deficient when compared to the right.

Here Imām as-Safārīnī quotes Imām an-Nawawī without any opposition, rather, this quote indicates support for his words.

In the section affirming belief in the attribute of al-‘Ain, Imām as-Safārīnī says:

“…rather, we assent and submit and comply and believe in all of that and affirm it with the affirmation of existence and not the affirmation of ‘howness’ or Tahdīd (giving it a precise meaning).”

Imām as-Safārīnī does not say explicitly “Without giving it a precise meaning”, but this is what is understood from the word Tahdid. This word comes from Haddada, Yuhaddidu Tahdīd which means to give a Hadd to something. Hadd, in the nomenclature of the scholars means meaning given to something.

The logician and grammarian, Imām Ibn Sabban said in a line of poetry about the introduction to sciences:

Inna Mabadi’a Kulli Fannin Ashara
al-Haddu wal Mawdu’u Thumma ath-Thamara…

Indeed the basics of every subject are ten
(from them) al-Hadd (the definition), the subject matter, and the fruit…

In affirmation of the attribute called ‘Ain, as taken from the Hadith of the Dajjāl being blind in one eye, Imām as-Safārīnī says:

“…al-Bayhaqī, al-Qurtubī and others mentioned: ‘in this narration there contains the negation of Awr (blindness) from Allāh the Exalted and affirmation of al-‘Ain for Him as an attribute. We know from His words: “There is nothing like unto Him.” that it is not an organ.”

Imām as-Safārīnī states:

Our scholars say:
“The divine texts have established an attribute for Him the Exalted that is called al-‘Ain, so it is passed on just like (the attribute) of hearing and seeing. By affirming the Ain, it is not (affirming what is) a bodily organ whose description is a piece of flesh because that Ain (eye) is a body that has a beginning and Allāh is far removed from that. As for the Ain that the Creator-the Mighty and Exalted- is described with, it is one that is befitting His essence in that it is not a Jism, a Jawhar, nor an‘Ard. So there is not known for it a how nor reality (the Māhiyah of it- i.e. the actual essence of it in the Haqīqah).”

Speaking of Nuzūl, he quoted Imām al-Bayhaqī saying:

“The safest position is Imān in it without ‘how’, and remaining quiet about what is intended by it unless expounded upon by the truthful and confirmed one (i.e. the Messenger of Allah) sallallahu alayhi was sallam whereby we could hold to that…and from the evidence for that, is their agreement that the particular Ta’wīl is not obligatory, so in that case, Tafwīd is safer.”

Again, Imām as-Safārīnī quoted without anything but tacit approval and acceptance.

Imām as-Safārīnī quoted al-Qādī (I suppose he is referring to Qadī ‘Iyād, although there is a possibility that he means Qādī Abdul Wahhāb) in explanation of the Hadith of Nuzūl:

“We do not affirm a Nuzūl (that means a Nuzūl) from a high position to a lower one, rather, (we affirm) a Nuzūl whose meaning is not comprehended and it is not comprehended in reality.” (page 250)

In this same page, Imām as-Safārīnī explicitly affirms Nuzūl without movement (Harakah) or relocation (Intiqāl)

He goes on to quote the words of Shaykh ‘Imād ad-Dīn al-Wāsitī who said:
“His (Allāh’s) Nuzūl is established and known and not Mukayyaf (given a ‘how’) with movement and relocation that is fitting for something created. Rather, His Nuzūl is as befits His Grandeur and Might. So His attributes, the Exalted, are known in general and affirmed, not comprehended in terms of ‘howness’ and Tahdīd. So the believer sees them (understands them) from one angle, and is blind from another. He sees (understands) in the sense of affirming their existence, and he is blind in the sense of ‘howness’ and Tahdīd and by Allāh is all strength.” (page 250)

In this text quoted above, it is clearly shown that Tahdīd is not synonymous with a new fangled term called Tafwīd al-Kayf.

On page 252, Imām as-Safārīnī shows that the Athariyyah are in agreement with the Māturīdiyyah in affirming the attribute of Takhlīq (creation).

On page 257, Imām as-Safārīnī affirms that the Atharī position is that the attributes of action such as Istiwā, Nuzūl, Majī, Khalq, ect are Qadīmah, i.e. they are ancient according to the Salaf of this Ummah and the Imāms of the Dīn. He says:

“Nothing of them are Muhdath, otherwise (if that were so) He would be subject to change and what is subject to change is created and Allāh is Exalted above that.”

The Salafi editors of this edition of Imām as-Safārīnīs book saw fit to place a footnote under his above mentioned words. They said after quoting a Salafi response from ibn Sahmān:

“So if you know this, it will become clear to you that the statement of the explainer (i.e. Imām as-Safārīnī) concerning Allāhs actions of Ikhtiyār (choice) that: ‘Nothing of them are Muhdath, otherwise (if that were so) He would be subject to change and what is subject to change is created and Allāh is Exalted above that’ -is not from the words of the Salaf and its Imāms, rather it is from the words of the people of innovation who are opposed to the Salaf.”

Explaining the line of poetry wherin he says ‘Without any Fikr (thought), Imām as-Safārīnī says:

“(without any Fikr) concerning its meanings for that is not within the capability of human beings for them to be responsible for that nor is it within their ability to know it. And upon that method, thus traversed the Imāms of the Salaf and the truth who passed

Concerning the Hadith mentioning the Isba’ (translated as finger), Imām as-Safarīnī quoted Imām ibn al-Hammām:

“The Isba’ and Yad are attributes of His, the Exalted, not with the meaning of a bodily part, rather, in a manner that befits Him and He the Glorified knows best.”

Imām as-Safārīnī went on to quote from Hujjatul Islam, Imām Abū Hāmid al-Ghazālī’s monumental tract on creed, called Iljām al-‘Awām ‘an Ilm al-Kalām wherein he said:

“Know, that the correct truth that contains no doubt therein according to the people of insight is the Madh’hab of the Salaf, and I mean the Companions and the Tābi’ūn, may Allāh be pleased with all of them…”

Then he said:

“The reality of the Madh’hab of the Salaf- and it is the truth according to us- is that all who reach them a Hadith from the Hadith of the Akhbār (the attributes) from the general body of the people, it is obligatory upon that person to (hold to) seven things;

1. at-Taqdīs (declaring Allāh far removed from having a Jism)
2. at-Tasdīq ( believing in what was said)
3. al-‘Itirāf bil ‘Ajz (admitting that one cannot comprehend)
4. as-Sukūt (remaining silent)
5. al-Imsāk (the hold back from altering the words used)
6. al-Kaff (holding back from thinking deeply and pondering its reality)
7. at-Taslīm li Ahlil Ma’rifah (submitting to the people of knowledge)…”

Imām as-Safārīnī quoted Imām al-Ghazālī and supported his words, so what can be said about this in comparison to the Salafi creed?

Part two: Qadr, Kasb, at-Tahsin and at-Taqbīh al-Aqli

coming soon in sha Allah.

waAllahu Alam.


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