I – Q & A on the ‘Laughter’ Of Allah
Sh Abdur Rahmaan al Barrak
Is it true that asking about attributes like Life, Power, Anger, and Pleasure is an inarticulate issue, in the sense that a person is not capable of making the meanings of these specific Attributes clear? If so, then is the same thing true for the Hand, the Shin, and especially Laughing since a person can make the meanings of these Attributes clear?
Asking about these attributes is in two ways. The first way of asking is to ask about their real nature and their howness. This type of question is the one about which Imam Malik said: “Asking about it is a bid’a”, because these are questions that no one has any way to answer.
The second way of asking is to ask about their meaning. Because of their clear meanings, no one asks about these attributes except someone who is false and obstinate. For example, if someone was to ask about water, the sun, or humans. We don’t say that it’s impossible to clearly describe these words. In fact, all of these words can be explained by their synonyms, by mentioning their antonyms, by mentioning their effects and what occurs because of them. The purpose is to understand the aim [of those words] and to get close to it.
There is no doubt that among named items are intangible concepts which the mind perceives, and there are tangible ones which the sensory organs are aware of. It’s well known that the tangible objects are clearer than the intangible concepts, even though there are some concepts which are easier to understand than tangible objects.
Is it correct to refer to language books which would contain the complete meaning of an attribute? For example, Mu’jam Maqaayees al Lugha by Ibn Faaris rahimahullah? It is mentioned in his text that the root meaning of laughing is “proof of exhaling and bulging”. So do we say that this is the meaning which is affirmed and understood? If so, why did the Bedouin say “We will not lack good from a lord that laughs”.
What Ibn Faaris has mentioned as the complete meaning of laughing, is incorrect. It is not right to say that Allah’s laughing means inhaling, and in fact “inhaling” does not explain “laughing”. This is Ibn Faaris’ attempt, and it is obvious that he said that because of the way a person laughs. So this explanation is closest to what the created beings do. As for the Laughing of the Lord, Allah is the Most Knowledgeable of its true nature. There is evidence that it includes Mercy and Pleasure, as in the hadith: “Allah laughs at two men, one of whom kills the other…”, and the hadith “so He shades and Laughs, and knows that your happiness is near”. For this reason, the Bedouin said: “We will not lack good from a lord that laughs”.
What is the correct answer to someone who says about the Laughing of our Lord:
We don’t know “laughing” except for what we see people doing, and this is what “laughing” means. So either you are making a similarity between Allah and humans, or you are simply making “laughing” an attribute [ie, without any meaning]
And they say that we don’t know anything about Allah’s laughter except that it means the intention of mercy and doing good, just like the Bedouin said: “We will not lack good from a lord that laughs”
The point that has been brought up in this question is the same suspicion that everyone has who denies the reality of attributes of action, like Loving, Pleasure, Anger, Happiness, and Laughter In fact, it is the same suspicion that everyone has who denies Allah’s Attributes or some of [His attributes]. And that is that they don’t know anything about these attributes except what they have seen or what they know from themselves. So according to them, affirming these attributes is making similitude of Allah to the creation. So they escaped from that by denying the reality of the attributes to Allah. They considered that anything which is affirmed to Allah that could be affirmed to the creation must be denied.
Then they went into two understandings with regards to the texts that prove the affirmation of these attributes to Allah:
Either by tafweedh and tajheel [ignorance], that there is no way to understand their meanings, or by making ta’weel and turning away from the obvious and clear meaning.
The Jahmiyya and Mu’tazila expelled [the meanings] from all the attributes. The Ashaira and those close to them differentiated between attributes which have no differentiation. So it became necessary for them to contradict affirmation, denial, and ta’weel, just like contradiction became necessary for the Jahmiyya and Mu’tazila. Shaikhul Islam Ibn Taymiyya said: “Every one of the deniers of the attributes mentioned by the Messenger SAWS, denied the attribute fleeing from danger, and ended up affirming something similar to what he was fleeing from”.
So it should be said to the one who asked this question: You have to say this same statement with regards to all of Allah’s attributes of Action, and also His attributes of Self. It’s not sufficient to make this statement only for His Laughter and Happiness.
Ahlus Sunnah, walhamdulillah, believe in all that Allah and His Messenger have informed about Him, and they believe Him to be far above anything similar to His creation. They do not speak about the howness of His attributes, but they make tafweedh of the howness by saying: None knows His howness except Him.
No one knows the howness of His attributes except Him, just like Imam Malik and others said: Istiwaa is known, but the howness is unknown.
This statement of Imam Malik is the methodology to be used for all of the attributes. So it would be said: Descending is known, but the howness is unknown. Anger is known, but the howness is unknown. Happiness is known, but the howness is unknown. Laughter is known, but the howness is unknown. Happiness is the opposite of sadness, and laughter is the opposite of crying, as Allah said: “And that He it is who maketh laugh, and maketh weep” [53:43] So Allah described happiness opposed to sadness, and laughter opposed to crying. His Happiness is connected to His Love and ta’ajub [amazement], as in the hadith “Allah is more happy by one of his slaves’ repentance than…” and the hadith “Allah Laughs at two men, one who kills the other…”