C – Problem of ta’wil (and majazi and haqiqi)
To say we need to make ta’wil implies tat Allah spoke incorrectly regarding the most noble matter. Also when one does ta’wil it opens the door to doing the same thing to other ayaat. There is no evidence to indicate we should make ta’wil or make it only in regards to Allah’s Attributes, as groups of kalam have done. In fact, it is what causes some people like the Agakhanis to make Hajj into a metaphor of just seeing Agakhan with the naked eye!
An example of ta’wil also is people who come and try to claim that istiwaa has 15 meanings and only Allah knows which one it really is. This is refuted by the athar of Imam Maalik (refer here).
Also related to this is the issue of majaz. Some later scholars made a categorization (that was later propagated heavily by the Mu’tazilah) of majaaz (metaphorical) and haqiqi (literal). This was a categorization unknown to early scholars and rejected by some later ones as well, such as ibn Taymiyyah and ibn al-Qayyim. No famous scholar of the Arabic language ever mentioned it either.
One thing to note about ibn Taymiyyah’s opinion is that he contextualized things to show the primary meaning. For example, if someone says “Abdullah was a lion on the battlefield” it is automatically known that this means bravery and not a physical reincarnation of a lion. Thus, ibn Taymiyyah would argue, this is in fact the haqiqi meaning even though technically it may be a ‘metaphor’.
The importance of this, is that groups of kalam would claim the Attributes of Allah were majazi. This is problematic for quite a few reasons. First is that they verses are taken to be haqiqi unless there is evidence indicating otherwise. It is quite inappropriate to claim that the ayaat revealed by Allah establishing the fundamental concepts of tawheed are all somehow metaphorical and detached from their apparent meanings.
If someone wants to interpret them differently, then they must bring proof showing the validity of the interpretation. Also, when one combines all the ayaat and narrations regarding the Attributes, etc. it becomes clear that the haqiqi meaning was intended. A good example of this is looking at all the narrations of the ‘Arsh (i.e. the hadith indicating there are Angels holding it, that it was above water, etc.).
If someone makes the fundamentals like tawheed open to metaphorical interpretation, what then about things like fiqh?
Even if majaz was true, it must still rest upon something that is known, and not unknown. For example, when you say so and so was a lion on the battlefield, it is known what is being referred to. But there can never be an analogy for Allah’s Attributes, and this is what the people who make ta’wil will fall into.
One of the ways majaz is defined is something that can be negated. For example, you can say Abdullah wasn’t a lion, but he was brave.
There is no clear way to differentiate haqiqi and majazi when it comes to the unseen when this methodology is employed. If Allah’s Attributes can be made metaphorical, then what about Jannah? Is it metaphorical as well? Unfortunately, some people even claimed later that Jannah is simply a state of mind.
Finally, all the early scholars of Islam were of the opinion that Allah’s Attributes are understood at face value, and are affirmed as Allah Himself affirmed them, but that they do not resemble at all the attributes of the creation.
Ibn Abdul-Barr (d. 463AH), a famous Maliki scholar, said that there is ijmaa (unanimous consensus) on this issue,
The Ahlus Sunnah have unanimously agreed in affirming those Attributes (of Allah) that are found in the Quran or Sunnah, and believing in them as haqiqi, not as majazi, except that they do not explain the ‘howness’ (kayfiyyah) of these Attributes, nor do they limit them to a particular manner. As for the people of innovations, from the Jahmiyyah, and the Mu’tazilah, and the Khawarij, then they deny these Attributes, and they do not understand them in a haqiqi manner…” [Majmoo’ al-Fatawa v. 5 p. 198]
In summary, the people of kalam approached the Quran with preconceived notions, and tried to twist the ayaat to fit those notions.
This also relates back to the muhkam and mutashabih, in that we affirm the meaning, and this is muhkam, but the ‘howness’ of the Attributes is mutashabih.
Posted on November 6, 2013, in Aqeedah 102, V - Disputing with the Language of the Sacred Texts and tagged Disputing with the language of the Sacred Texts. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.