Friday, January 05, 2007

A Quick Layman's Primer on Attributes of Allah

The post on RIS vs TDC, for some reason, spurred many tangents. One of them is on the Attributes of Allah. I think it deserves a quick, short primer. Now, I know there is tons of information out there on the web, and all sorts of proof from the texts, logic, etc. available as well. But, I'd like to give a very simple explanation. And the very fact that I can make it so simple, to me, represents the truth. Why? Because convincing someone about Islamic Aqeedah is simple, because it is the Fitrah of human beings (innate nature), and it makes sense, so its easy. Thus, the Aqeedah has to be simple to make its explanation simple. The religion of Islam is meant for everyone, from the not-very-smart to the very intellectual. The message is not like the Trinity or other complex rocket-science-type stuff. It is clear and concise.

When I took this same message to my Sunday school students, none of them had a hard time getting it, and so if they didn't, neither should you. So, ignore what you have heard in the propaganda, and lend me your ears for a few:

First of all, let's get on the same page: Allah knows what He wants to say or how He wants to say BETTER than what you can say or how you can say it. Right? If you have a problem with this sentence, then you might as well skip this post, because your very acceptance of your Creator's Knowledge is in doubt. OK, with that behind us, let's go to the basics:

  1. Accept Allah's Attributes AS-IS. We all know what AS-IS means, right? It means, what He says about Himself, subhana wa ta'ala, ACCEPT IT like He said it. Don't get into ta'teel, tahreef, takyeef, tamtheel (or tashbih), tafweed, or any other t-beginning Arabic word.
  2. Of course you need to know what those Arabic words are, otherwise you may fall into them.
    1. Ta'teel: Denying the Attributes completely. Simple enough.
    2. Ta'weel: Figuratively interpreting the Attributes. For instance, saying that Allah's Hand mentioned in the Quran refers to His Power.
    3. Tahreef: Distorting the meaning. For instance, Allah talks about when HE spoke to Moses, some people distort it to say that Moses talked to Allah instead.
    4. Takyeef: Describing Allah's Attributes by saying "how" they are. For instance, Allah says He has a Hand, but if someone were to describe how that hand looks, he has committed takyeef.
    5. Tamtheel/Tashbih/Tajseem: Comparing Allah to His creation or for tajseem, it is more specifically is likening Allah to a body.
    6. Tafweed: This is one of the more 'in-vogue' ones these days. Basically, saying that we don't know what Allah means when He talks about SOME of His Attributes. So Istiwa is like Alif-laam-meem; means nothing to us.
  3. Remember a guiding principle at all times, an ayah from the Quran, "Laytha kimithli shayan" (There is NOTHING like Him... Quran 42:11)
  4. Let's put it all together. Don't worry, you don't have to memorize or remember a single of these t-words, as long as you get your basic fundamentals right. Simply remember this: when Allah says anything about Himself, go back to the "AS-IS" principle. So, when Allah says that He has an Attribute in the Quran or authentic Sunnah (we only affirm what is authentic from the 2 texts), you accept it AS-IS. I'll give you an example to clarify: when Allah mentions His Hand in the Quran, we say that indeed Allah has a Hand. We all know what Hand means, but we have ABSOLUTELY no idea HOW His Hand is. Remember the ayah in bullet-3, there is nothing like Him. For instance, if I told you that someone or something has a beautiful hand, even amongst the creation, would you have any clue what it looks like? I mean it could be a chair's hand, it could be a human hand, an insect's hand (do insects have hands??), whatever, you get the point! Just because Allah has a Hand, does not mean that we know ANYTHING about it. Only He knows about it. All we do is to affirm what He has affirmed for Himself, and we STOP right there. Because you should know that our imagination cannot transcend the physical world, so we cannot imagine what Allah's Hand could look like, and trying to imagine it would take you in the realm of disbelief. So, hold your horses. Stop at the knowledge Allah has given you, and move on.
  5. Seems pretty simple? It is. Absolutely it is. But people make it complicated. Some say that if we say Allah has a Hand, for instance, then we are comparing it to creation because the creation has hands (that we are doing tashbih/tajseem). SubhanAllah! Did we say Allah has a Hand, or did Allah HIMSELF say that He has a Hand? Allah said it! So, some will deny the hand outright, while others will use the nifty technique of tafweed, and say we really don't know what yad (arabic for hand) means in the Quran. Herein lies the logical hole you throw yourself in when you go down this route: Consider the logical conclusion of this kind of methodology... ultimately it will lead you to denying all of Allah's Attributes. Because why is it that some will accept that Allah is as-Samee (the Hearer) and al-Baseer (the Seer) with complete meaning, yet, deny this for other Attributes?? I mean human beings and animals hear and we see, Allah Hears and Sees, yet these people (Ash'arees and others) will for some reason accept this interlink between the Creator and creation, yet they will deny it for other attributes. Sorry guys, if one is tajseem, the other is tajseem too. Because if you deny one, you gotta deny all of them. Since, each of them will lead to the same logical conclusion. Eventually, here is the danger I was referring to: IF you keep denying those attributes that you think makes Allah like his creation (in a narrow mind), you will eventually deny that Allah is Al-Hayyu (the Living) . Because one can argue that we live, and Allah lives, so does that mean Allah doesn't live, naudhubillah, because saying that He lives will be tajseem (based on the same principles that saying Allah's hands cannot be hands because humans have hands)? SO, like good Ahl-Sunnah boys, if we go back to the AS-IS basics, we would say we live AND Allah Lives, but Allah's Living is of a Perfect form, that no other living compares to, and that can be imagined by no created mind in the universe.
  6. Another point of common-sense that sometimes escapes people is that we consider the obvious meaning. What this means is that if it is obvious or if there is some other consistent and obvious evidence, then one may have to do a figurative explanation. For example, let's even take the English language... you may hear someone say "Get your head outta here", what it really means is that you should leave, not that you should cut your head and remove it. So, it is the apparent, understood meaning. Hence, an explanation of seeking Allah's Face may be seeking Allah's pleasure because of the obvious meaning. Most times you don't have to worry about it, because Allah's Attributes are usually clearly mentioned.
  7. The same problem occurs in the unsettled hearts, as they try to remove this 'tajseem' in issues of Allah's istiwa (rising) upon the Throne, or Allah's descent to the lowest heaven during the last third of the night, etc. Rather, this unsettling is in fact a deviation from Shaytan, who tries to whisper in sincere hearts that they are comparing Allah to His creations, while they are only affirming what He Himself says for Himself. So, here's the truth folks: when Allah says that He descends, then He does descend, because He says so. HOW he descends, no one knows. But, we know descends means coming down, a direction is defined and obvious, because Allah did not, even though He could, say that He ascends, which would mean upwards. People then jump at this point and say that we are affirming a direction or space for Allah. We are neither. Rather, we are saying what Allah says about Himself, that He has affirmed the direction of his move in the last third of the night, not us. We don't affirm for Allah what He has not affirmed for Himself.
  8. As one can see, the more one tries to delve into the hows, and the whys, and the comparisons, etc., one will start getting into doubts and confusion about Allah's Attributes. So, stick to the simple formula I mentioned: whatever Allah says, take it as-is. Never think about its "how" or its "why" or that it is "like someone". Nothing Allah is or does is like anyone else. So, rest your brain against those wacko thoughts.
In closing, Imam Malik's famous statement when a man came in and said: “O Abâ ‘Abd Allah, al-Rahmàn made istiwà on the throne. How did he make istiwà?” Màlik bowed his head [in thought] and sweat appeared on him. He said: “Al-Rahmàn did make istiwà on the Throne as He said about himself, but we do not ask how, for how does not apply to him. Moreover, you are an innovator. Put him out!” And the man was put out.

Hope this all is clear. Here are more references for further study:


illuminatingfaith said...

asSalaamu 'alaikum wa rahmatuAllah,

MashaAllah, that was really good. It should be published so many people can read that IMO-it's sadly a truth many people don't realize and need to know instead of overcomplicating matters.


PS Would it be ok to share this "article" of yours with other Muslims (as long as we link this site) for the sake of da'wah?

Hassan said...

Jazak-Allah for refreshing my aqeedah 102.

One thing people ask me, and I may have forgotten what ulema have answered about it, that I always tell my friend, Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal fought all his life on issue of "khalq-ul-quran". And we ahle sunnah wal jamaah say that Quran is speech of Allah, not creation. (Because kalaam people deny Allah's ability to speech or say He has some internal speech). My friend says, yeah its Allah's speech, but what difference it makes if its creation. I reply because creation
"can" be imperfect, but he says Allah can create perfect creation as well (angels). So can someone remind me that what is the issue if Quran was created rather than spoken? I mean if people(like my friend) do not deny Allah's ability to speech, but just question what is the difference?

Amad said...

Hassan: Angels are not perfect in the sense that Allah is Perfect. Because Allah's Perfection is Divine. Everything else in His creation has different levels of perfection... angels are perfect for instance in obedience. Also, angels are mortal, they are not eternal, and they also do not possess any divine attributes of course. So, this is why the Quran cannot be created, because if it is then it would be like any other creation-- mortal and undivine. Quran is the Speech of Allah, which makes it divinely perfect, and eternal--- it has always existed and will always exist.
To be honest, I don't know why people like to make things so complicated... why even argue about Quran's creation, if they don't deny Allah's speech? Make it simple. Allah speaks, His Speech is not like our speech or anything we know or imagine. And some of His eternal words are preserved in the Quran that we know of. To be honest, only a confused and 'too-intellectual-for-myself' mind came up with the Quran-creation theory. The Mu'tazilah, founders of this theory, were obviously a confused bunch!

Amad said...

Illuminatingfaith: jazakillhahkhair for ur comments... nothing special that has been done here... if it helps anyone understand simple concepts in a simple manner, then by all means, please do share. The only reason the link is important is that I have asked people with more knowledge to check on the contents and make sure it is accurate. All my corrections will be within the post, so a link would keep the info. accurate.
I see you have a new blog... keep it up, we need as many blogs of truth as possible.

umm luqmaan said...

Salams! mashallah great site. I really enjoy reading your posts. I really benfitted from this one especially. Jazak Allahu Khairan for the clarifcation of Allah's Attributes.

Amad said...

sister umm luqman, jazakillahkhair for ur kind words, i look forward to more of ur participation with comments and ideas inshallah.

lotaenterprises said...

jazakallahu khayr! nice resources at the end as well.

hassan said...

Jazak-Allah khyran for clarification on khalq-ul-quran issue.

Faatimah said...

Very good primer on Allaah's attributes, one of hte many things that are missing in Muslim layfolks Aqeedah keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

This is the anonymous brother who started this (by asking questions).
What do you have to say about the part from the 4th minute to 7th minute in the following piece?:

I know this might offend some people because Wahhabi's are referred to as human devils. Let's try to ignore that part.

Amad said...

Anon: One of the first principles of arguing is to understand who you are arguing with. Is the other person truthful? Does he belong to any openly deviant sects/cults? etc.

The group who created this hateful, vitriolic video was none other than the Ahbash (Habashis) who have the organization called AICP, based out of Philly, PA. I have been to that "Masjid" where the Qiblah direction opposes every other Masjid in America (except theirs). Needless to say I ran to the Sunni mosque nearby!

In any case, the Habashis are a cult, their takfeer of other Muslims is their hallmark, the Qiblah direction is a sign, and their take on Allah's attributes is one of innovation. They have created new names for Allah, and limit Allah's attributes to about 10 (I actually got a list of that from their Center).

Both the sufis and the ahl-hadith are unanimous in their reject of Habashis. Here is a link to their refutation at Naqshbandi organization. Here is another on Islamicweb.

So, I don't intend on wasting our time on cults.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for that information. Let's try to drop who they are, and listen to what they said. For them to say that Wahabi's are not Muslim, it's obviously ridiculous. However, a cult , organization, religion, etc, may offer or say something interesting that should be addressed. I came upon this video while browsing It was the number 1 video in Canada, which surprised me. The speaker tried to prove something wrong with Wahabis, and it sounded reasonable to me. Can you, or anyone else for that matter, refute it?

Amad said...

anonymous... since they are attacking "Wahhabis", I guess you have to contact a Wahhabi to refute it. Good luck in finding one.

And if you are smart, you will stop trying to learn from "refutations", rather look at what is being presented, and think for yourself it it makes sense or not.