D – Affirm the Sifaat Without Likeness, and Negate Without Denial
Four things must be avoided:
Tahrif (change meaning)
The first two are extremes in affirmation, and the second two are extremes in denial. Ahlus Sunnah is always in the middle path.
This is to describe Allah by attributing a ‘howness’ to Him. For example, to describe ‘how’ Allah descends in the last third of the night. This is not knowledge that we know, it is not something that we were told, nor were we told to question it, nor did the Sahabah ever ask it. Also, it is fairly obvious that we can never fully understand Allah (swt).
This is more specific that Takyif, in that it describes the ‘how’ by comparing Allah (swt) to His creation. So for example, if one were to say Allah has Hands, the same way we have Hands, then this is tashbih. Every act of tashbih therefore is takyif, but not every takyif is necessarily tashbih.
An example is an ayah everyone quotes in this regard,
There is nothing like Allah, and He is the All-Hearer, All-Seer. [42:11]
It is interesting to note, that this ayah does not end in the Names of Allah like Jabbar, or Quddus, or something else, but it ends in Hearing and Seeing, something that is also a trait of the creation. This is in order to make us understand that Allah Sees and Hears, however, His Seeing and Hearing are different from our hearing and seeing. Just like we have milk, honey, and fruits in this life, are the milk, honey, and fruits of Paradise the same? Obviously, we understand the concept, but we know that they are different from what we know.
This is to change the meaning of a word, and is characteristic of other nations.
They change the words from their (right) places. [5:13]
Another example of this is the people of Musa saying ‘hinta‘ instead of ‘hitta‘ as they were commanded [al-Baqara]. Another example of this is to say that istiwaa (to rise over) means istawla (conquer). Tahrif can also be by letters, for example, some people changing the ayah, “wa kallamAllahu Musa takleema” to “kallamAllaha“, i.e., instead of saying Allah spoke to Musa, they change the letters to make it say Musa spoke to Allah.
This means to abandon. Every act of tahrif is ta’til, but not vice versa. It is like saying that the words have no meanings, for example, to say that Allah has a Yadd (hand) but that we don’t really know what “yadd” is, it is just like Alif Laam Meem. This is in clear contradiction to the principles established for approaching the Quran and Sunnah.