The meaning of Allaah’s ma’iyyah (Allaah’s being “with” someone)
Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al ‘Uthaymeen rahimahullaah
With regards to the ma’iyyah of Allaah (Allaah’s being “with” someone) Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al ‘Uthaymeen rahimahullaah states:
The ma’iyyah is divided into two types: that which is general and that which is specific.
And the specific is (sub) divided into two types: that which is restricted to a person and that which is restricted to a description.
As for the general, then this includes everyone – from the believer and the disbeliever, the righteous one and the wicked one. And the proof for it is His statement, He the Most High:
<> [Soorah al Hadeed (57) aayah 4]
As for the specific (type) restricted to a description: then an example is His statement, He the Most High:
<> [Soorah an Nahl (16) aayah 128]
As for the specific (type) restricted to a particular person: then an example is His statement, He the Most High, about His Prophet sall Allaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam :
When he said to his companion (Aboo Bakr), “Do not grieve; indeed Allaah is with us.” Soorah at Tawbah (9) aayah 40
And He said to Moosaa and Haaroon:
<>Soorah TaaHaa (20) aayah 46
And this (ma’iyyah restricted to a person) is more specific than that which is restricted to a description.
So the ma’iyyah is of levels: that which is general and unrestricted, and that which is specific and restricted to a description and that which is specific and restricted to a person.
So the most specific of the types of ma’iyyah is that which is restricted to a person, then that which is restricted to a description, then that which is general.
The ma’iyyah which is general necessitates (Allaah’s) encompassing the creation with knowledge and ability and hearing and seeing and authority, and other than that from the meanings of His Ruboobiyyah.
And the ma’iyyah which is specific, with its two types, necessitates (along) with that nasr (aiding) and ta-yeed (giving support).
(Sharh of waasitiyyah of Shaykh Muhammad ibn Saalih al ‘Uthaymeen rahimahullaah , quoted in Mu’jam at Ta’reefaat p387, translated by Nasser ibn Najam)
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…”
The Honored Shaikh, Allama Abdur Rahman Nasir al Barrak may Allah Protect him answered the following question regarding tafwidh:
There is a tafwidh type of doubt which the Ashaira innovators have repeated. They say:
You Salafis say about all of Allah’s Attributes: that the meaning is known but the howness is unknown. So what is your response if we ask you about the meaning of the Hand, the Shin, and the Foot? And what about Laughing and Anger? Is the answer which you affirm found in the dictionaries or is it something else?
If it is something else, explain it. If you do not mention anything explaining its meaning then you are actually practicing tafwidh even if you stubbornly claim otherwise.
In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. All praise is due to Allah and may the Peace, Blessings, and Peace of Allah be upon His slave and messenger.
The methodology of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah with regards to the Names of Allah and His Attributes is the methodology of truth which is in accordance with the saheeh revelation as well as clear logic. It is built upon three principles,
- Affirmation of what Allah has affirmed for Himself,
- Denial of any similarity between Himself and His creation, and
- Denial of any knowledge about the howness.
As for affirmation, the proof is His statement:
“Believe, therefore, in Allah and His Messenger, and in the Light which we have sent down. And Allah is well acquainted with all that ye do. ” [Taghabun 64:8] The point of quoting this ayah is that part of eman is to believe in what Allah has Attributed to Himself and to believe in what His Messenger has attributed to Him.
The proof for denying similarity:
“And there is none like unto Him.” [Ikhlas 112:4] , “there is nothing whatever like unto Him” [Shura 42:11], and other ayat.
The proof for denying knowledge about the howness:
“But they shall not compass it with their knowledge” [Taha 20:110], “And pursue not that of which thou hast no knowledge” [17:36], “Say: the things that my Lord has indeed forbidden are: shameful deeds, whether open or secret; sins and trespasses against truth or reason; assigning of partners to Allah, for which He has given no authority; and saying things about Allah of which you have no knowledge.” [A’raaf 7:33]
It is known that the names and attributes which have been mentioned as attributed to Allah have also been attributed to humans. In fact some of the attributes attributed to humans are mentioned as attributed to animals, for example: the face, hand, head, and eyes. It is known that despite the names being the same, humans and animals are not similar. Otherwise it would be correct to say that the human is exactly like the monkey, pig, donkey, or any other animal for which these attributes are mentioned. However, because these created animals can be seen, their howness is known.
In the same way, some of the attributes which are attributed to humans, like the face, hand, or eyes, are attributed to some animals; [other attributes] like wings, have been mentioned as being attributed to the angels. Allah the Exalted said: “the angels stretch forth their hands” [Anaam 6:93].
He also said: “made the angels, messengers with wings,- two, or three, or four (pairs): He adds to Creation as He pleases: for Allah has power over all things” [Fatir 35:1].
It is understandable that the meaning of the word hand as mentioned for angels and humans indicates taking, giving, doing, grasping, and extending.
And that wings indicate flight.
It is not necessary from this that the hands of the angels are like the hands of humans and animals, nor that their wings are like the wings of birds. The meaning is known but the howness is unknown, in spite of the fact that all of these are created beings.
The attributes of the angels are indicated as having the same name as the attributes of the humans and animals, and the meanings are understood by the listener. As for Allah, the matter is greater than that. Everything which is attributed to Allah befits Him, and indeed Allah is not similar to anything from His creation, and nothing from His creation is similar to Him. In the same way are His attributes [dissimilar], nothing is like Him, neither with regards to His Self, His Attributes, or His actions.
The methodology of Ahlus Sunnah in this matter is the straight path. Everyone who is different from them has deviated from the straight path in varying levels. The methodology of Ahlus Sunnah is straight without any contradiction or confusion. Opposing methodologies are self-contradictory; they affirm something and deny its counterpart, and they deny something and affirm its counterpart. All of this is inevitable for the one who denies something that the Prophet SAWS came with. They have no escape from the self-contradiction except by returning to the truth via affirming everything that Allah affirmed for Himself, and His messenger affirmed for Him in the manner which is befitting to His Majesty. Otherwise the matter ends up with complete denial of the existence of Allah the Most Exalted.
Those of the Jahmiyya and Mu’tazila who make ta’teel of all of the attributes built their methology based upon doubts which they considered as rational arguments; using those arguments they disputed the texts of the Quran and Sunnah. They alleged that the conclusion of these arguments is the truth which must be believed in, and that the obvious meaning of the texts is disbelief and baseless. For this reason they mandated deviation from the obvious meaning using various ta’weel which have no evidence. In this way, they joined ta’teel of Allah’s Attributes and tahreef of His words and the words of His messenger.
As for the Ashaira, they have joined with the Jahmiyya and Mu’tazila in many of their falsehoods in this science. They denied many of the attributes, and affirmed only a few of them. The evidence they used in denial of (most of) the attributes is the same evidence that the Jahmiyya and Mu’tazila used in denial of all the attributes. The Ashaira joined with them in their methodology and evidences. But the attributes that they affirmed were still mixed-up, for example in the issue of Allah’s Speech and Allah’s Sight. Since they affirmed and denied, they contradicted themselves in the most obvious way. The evidence they used to deny requires denial of what they affirmed, and the evidence they used to affirm requires affirmation of what they denied. So they should either affirm everything or deny everything, but they wavered in their position towards the texts of the attributes which they denied.
Among the Ashaira are those who made ta’weel of the texts; the ta’weel being turning away from the obvious meaning of the texts towards possible, preferred meanings. These meanings are far from the obvious meanings, and there is no evidence that requires turning towards them. The Ashaira’s way in this issue is the way of the Jahmiyya and Mu’tazila; they combined tahreef and ta’teel, ruling that the obvious meaning is invalidated tamtheel. Also among the Ashaira are those that made tafweedh of the texts mandatory; saying that the reality is that these texts do not prove any understandable meaning; that no one understood them, neither the Messenger nor the Sahaba nor anyone else. They say that the requirement, and in fact the reality, of these texts is that these attributes do not contain any explanation for the people, and that there is no guidance or cure, and that these statements are not among the best of speech. They say this because something which has no meaning and is not understandable by anyone does not contain any of those things. The people of tafweedh among the Ashaira and others are not any less misguided than the people of ta’weel, because they deny some attributes and therefore participate in ta’teel. They also participate in the idea that no one should believe in these texts in the obvious meaning, because they think that the obvious meaning is not the purpose. There is no doubt that if anyone believes that the obvious meaning is tashbeeh, then it is impossible that the obvious is the purpose. However, Ahlus-Sunnah reject this concept, because Allah the Most Exalted is the All Knowing, and All Wise, and would not make the obvious understanding of His Words to be tamtheel of His creation. Allah the Most Exalted did not mention His Names and Attributes without also making them free from any similarity to His Creation, as He said:
“There is nothing whatever like unto Him, and He is the All Hearing, the All Seeing” [Shura 42:11].
He affirmed for Himself hearing and seeing, and denied that anything in His creation is similar to Him. The meanings of His Names and Attributes are known to the listeners because Allah revealed the Quran in a clear Arabic language. Because of these understandable texts, the believers know their Lord is one who has actual hearing which encompasses all sounds, has actual sight that nothing can be hidden from, has actual life due to which He is not overcome by tiredness or sleep, that He is the Ever-Alive who never dies, that He has complete power such that nothing in the earth or the skies can escape it, and that He has all-surrounding Knowledge over everything such that not even the tiniest atom in the earth or the skies is forgotten by Him. He the Most Exalted is free from the opposite of all of these attributes: like deafness, blindness, death, and forgetting. Just as He the Most Exalted is described by all these attributes which can be understood by listeners, the same is true for all of the attributes which Allah has attributed to Himself, like ascending over the Throne, descending to the lowest heaven in last one-third of the night, love, being pleased, anger, happiness, laughing, and everything which has come in the Quran or the Sunnah. The meanings are known but the howness is unknown to us, along with having the determination that these meanings specified for Allah are not similar to the meanings specified for the creation. For example, even existence; Allah exists and the slave exists, but the existence of the Creator is not like the existence of the creation; neither is the existence of the creation similar to the existence of the Creator even though they both exist and this is in opposite to nonexistence. Even though in meaning, both of them are in agreement (i.e., they both exist), it does not mean that every specific detail is the same between the Creator and the creation.
As for the statement about the names and the meanings that are present in language dictionaries, some of the meanings are explained only for the creation. For example, explaining anger to mean the boiling of the heart’s blood, or explaining mercy to mean delicate, etc. Some of the meanings can be explained in a general manner which can be applied to the Creator or the creation. For example, the statement that knowledge is the opposite of ignorance, that life is the opposite of death, that hearing is perception of sounds, and that sight is the perception of images. It is difficult to take the meanings of many terminologies to the complete extent even though they are still understood, for example: love and hatred. However, life, hearing, and sight are all explained by their opposites and the requirements therefrom. This does not mean that the actuality of these attributes is denied; for example: affirming love and the rewards due because of it, and affirming hatred and the punishment because of it. Denial of the actuality and what it requires is ta’teel of that attribute along with what it contradicts, because affirming something necessitates affirming what it requires, and denying a requirement necessitates denial of what is requiring it.
The imams of Ahlus-sunnah have statements which are built upon the clear truth. Among them is the statement of Imam Malik when he was asked about istiwaa. He said: Istiwaa is known, and its howness (modality) is not understood.
Others said with regards to the texts of the attributes: Pass them along as they came, without howness. ie, don’t make ta’weel of them; rather believe in them. Believing in them includes belief in the words as well as the meanings because if anything does not have a meaning, no one says about it: to believe in it without howness.
So it’s required to belive that The Most Exalted is the way He has described Himself and is the way His Messenger described Him. Everything that has come regarding the Quran and Sunnah is the truth which befits His Glory. One says that Allah is alive and the creation are alive, but this life is not like that life, and that Allah is hearing and seeing, but this hearing is not like that hearing and this seeing is not like that seeing. In the same way we say that He loves, is pleased with, He hates, and the creation are described with all these attributes, but there is no similarity between these attributes as ascribed to Allah and the attributes as ascribed to the creation. So we know about our Lord that He loves His allies and is pleased with them, that He hates His enemies and His wrath is on them. In the same way, we believe that He becomes happy with the repentance of His slave as the best of the creation mentioned about Him. His happiness includes His love, and the Messenger SAWS mentioned this in order to increase people’s desire to repent. So it is necessary for the slave to hurry towards what Allah loves and is happy with; His happiness in the slave’s repentance indicates the greatness of His Generosity and Beneficence, and He is the Most Generous, the Most Merciful.
So we ask Him, the Most Exalted, to have mercy on us, and to accept our repentance.
Nuzool is one of the most controversial attributes for the people of kalam. The basis of it is a hadith which has been narrated by 39 Sahabah, and is recorded in practically every book of hadith (most notably Bukhari and Muslim).
The following is one of the narrations of it,
Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Our Lord, the Blessed and the Exalted, descends every night to the lowest heaven when one-third of the latter part of the night is left, and says: Who supplicates Me so that I may answer him? Who asks Me so that I may give to him? Who asks Me forgiveness so that I may forgive him? [Muslim]
This hadith is explicit and nothing can be understood from it except the fact that indeed it is Allah(swt) who descends and asks who is asking of HIM so that HE may forgive us.
Some of the mutakallimoon tried to argue that this means His Mercy descends and not Him. The response to this is that aside from the fact that this is ta’wil, the hadith mentions “Allah Tabaraku wa Ta’aala descends” so how could it make sense that “His Mercy the Exalted and Most High” descends?
There is an ijmaa’ of the early scholars on this issue as well. Fudayl ibn Iyaad (d. 187AH) said that if someone says I do not believe in a Lord that descends, to say I believe in a Lord that does as He wills.
This hadith as mentioned, is mutawaatir, and has hundreds of chains of narration. See again the contradiction of the people who say they will only take mutawaatir narrations in Aqeedah, and then reject this narration.
Another argument they employ is to use logic and say that it is always the last third of the night somewhere, so is Allah constantly descending? ibn Taymiyyah responded to this by saying that this is a perfect example of the methodology of the people of kalam. Time and space are both created, so how can they try to confine the Creator who is far above time and space to these restrictions?