Al-Ghunya li-Talibi Tariq al-Haqq - 1

Concerning knowledge of the Creator [Sani']
(Almighty and Glorious is He)

 

We shall now give a concise account of our knowledge [ma'rifa] of the Creator [Sani'] (Almighty and Glorious is He), citing the relevant Qur'anic verses [ayat] and evidence from other sources.

The believer must acknowledge and be thoroughly convinced that He is Single [Wahid], Unique [Fard], Eternal [Samad].

Say: "He is Allah, the One! Allah, the Everlasting! He does not beget, nor was He begotten; and there is none comparable unto Him." (112:1-4)

There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. (42:11)

He has no match [shabih] and no counterpart [nazir], no assistant ['awn] and no partner [sharik], no aide [zahir] and no minister [wazir], no peer [nidd] and no adviser [mushir]. He is not a physical body [jism], for if He were, He could be touched. He is not a material substance [jawhar], for if He were, He would be accessible to sensory perception. He is not an accidental property ['arad], for if He were, His existence would be impermanent. He is not an entity with a composite structure [tarkib], nor is He an apparatus [ala] and a combination of elements [ta'lif], a constitution [mahiyya] and a formal definition [tahdid].

It is He, Allah, who is holding the sky aloft and keeping the earth in place, not some property of nature [tabi'a mina't-taba'i'], not some astronomical configuration [tali' mina't-tawali'], not a darkness that looms, and not a light that gleams. He is:

* Hadir. Present to all things through cognition [ 'ilm]

* Shahid. Witness to all things without physical contact

* 'Aziz. Almighty

* Qahir. Irresistible

* Hakim. Governing

* Qadir. Omnipotent

* Rahim. Merciful

* Ghafir. Forgiver of sins

* Satir. Veiler of faults

* Mu'izz. Ennobling

* Nasir. Supportive

* Ra'uf. Kind

* Khaliq. Creator

* Fatir. Maker

* Awwal. First

* Akhir. Last

* Zahir. Outwardly Manifest

* Batin. Inwardly Concealed

* Fard Ma'bud. Uniquely Worthy of Worship

* Hayyun la yamut. Living, never to die

* Azaliyyun la yafut. Existing from All Eternity, never to pass away

* Abadiyyu'l-Malakut. Eternal Ruler of the Kingdom

* Sarmadiyyu'l-Jabarut. Everlasting Lord of the Dominion

* Qayyumun la yanam. Self-Sustaining, without ever taking rest

* 'Azizun la yudam. Almighty, never to suffer any harm

* Mani'un la yuram. Impregnable, never to be overcome.

Thus to Him belong the Splendid Names [al-Asma' al-'Izam] and all the Noble Talents [al-Mawahib al-Kiram].

He has decreed that all human beings [anam] shall enjoy but a fleeting existence, for He has said:

Everyone who dwells upon the earth must pass away, yet the Face of your Lord still abides, in Majesty and Glory. (55:26,27)

On high is He established, upon the heavenly Throne ['Arsh], encompassing the kingdom [of heaven and earth], while His cognitive awareness ['ilm] embraces all things.

Unto Him good words ascend, and the righteous deed He does exalt. (35:10)

He directs the business [of His entire creation] from the heaven to the earth, then it goes up to Him in one day, the measure of which is a thousand years by your reckoning. (32:5)

He has created all creatures [khala'iq] and their doings [af 'al], and He has predetermined their means of sustenance [arzaq] and their spans of life [ajal]. No one can bring forward what He has postponed, and no one can postpone what He has brought forward.

He willed the whole universe ['alam] and what His creatures would be doing. If He had chosen to prevent them from sinning, they would never have offended against Him. If He had wished them to obey Him entirely, they would certainly have obeyed Him.

He knows the secret and [what is yet] more deeply hidden. (20:7)

He is Cognizant ['Alim] of what is in the breasts [of men]. How should He not know, He who created? And He is the Subtle One [Latif], the All-Aware [Khabir]. (67:14)

He is the One who sets things in motion [Muharrik] and the One who brings things to rest [Musakkin].

No concept of Him can be formed by any stretch of the imagination, nor can He be assessed by any effort of the mind. He cannot be judged by comparison with human beings. He is far above being likened to that which He has wrought, or being correlated with what He has invented and devised.

He is the Enumerator of breaths [Muhsi'l-anfas], the One 'who reckons with every soul [nafs] according to what it has earned.'

He has indeed counted them, and He has numbered them exactly. And every one of them shall come to Him on the Day of Resurrection, all alone. (19:94,95)

The Hour is surely coming, but I would rather keep it hidden, so that every soul may be recompensed for what it is striving to achieve. (20:15)

So He may reward those who do evil with what they have done, and so He may reward those who do good with goodness. (53:31)

He is Independent of His creation [Ghaniyyun 'an khalqihi], Provident to His creatures [Raziqun li-bariyyatihi]. He supplies food, but He does not need to be fed. He provides sustenance, but He does not need to be sustained. He offers protection, but He does not need to be protected. Every created being [khaliqa] is dependent on Him for all its needs. He created them not for the sake of obtaining some benefit, not to ward off some injury, not because of some motive that prompted Him to do it, and not because of some notion [khatir] that occurred to Him or some idea [fikr] that suggested itself, but by sheer Will [irada mujarrada]. As He Himself has said-and He is the Most Truthful of speakers [Asdaqu'l-qa'ilin]–He is:

Lord of the Throne, the All-Glorious, Doer of what He will. (85:15,16)

He is Uniquely Capable of inventing material substances, of doing away with damage and distress, of transforming substances and altering conditions.

Every day He is about some awesome business [kulla yawmin Huwa fi sha'n]. (55:29)

In other words, He is about the business of steering that which He has predestined [qaddara] toward that which He has scheduled in time [waqqata].

[The believer must also acknowledge and be thoroughly convinced] that He (Exalted is He) is Living in the sense of having life [Hayyun bi-hayat], Knowing in the sense of having knowledge ['Alimun bi-'ilm], Powerful in the sense of having power [Qadirun bi-qudra], Willing in the sense of having will [Muridun bi-irada], Hearing in the sense of having a faculty of hearing [Sami'un bi-sam'], Seeing in the sense of having a faculty of sight [Basirun bi-basar], Consciously Aware in the sense of having conscious awareness [Mudrikun bi-idrak], Articulate in the sense of having a faculty of speech [Mutakallimun bi-kalam], Commanding in the sense of giving orders [Amirun bi-amr], Forbidding in the sense of issuing prohibitions [Nahiyun bi-nahy], and Communicative in the sense of imparting information [Mukhbirun bi-khabar].

[The believer must be convinced] that He (Exalted is He) is Equitable ['Adil] in His ruling and His judgment, and Graciously Beneficent [Muhsin Mutafaddil] in His gifts and His favors; that He is an Originator [Mubdi'] and a Restorer [Mu'id], a Giver of Life [Muhyin] and a Causer of Death [Mumit], a Producer [Muhdith] and an Inventor [Mujid], a Rewarder [Muthib] and a Punisher [Mu'aqib], One who is so Generous [Jawad] that He is never stingy, so Long-suffering [Halim] that He is never in a hurry, so Heedful [Hafiz] that He is never forgetful, so Vigilant [Yaqzan] that He is never inattentive, so Wakeful [Ariq] that He is never negligent.

He causes feelings of constriction [yaqbid] and He causes feelings of expansion [yabsut]. He makes us laugh and He makes us happy. He loves and He hates. He disapproves and He approves. He displays anger and He manifests displeasure. He shows compassion and He forgives. He gives and He withholds. He has two hands [yadan], and each of His two hands is a right hand [yamin].

As He has said (Glorified and Exalted is He):

And the heavens are rolled up in His right hand. (39:67)

According to a report transmitted on the authority of Nafi', Ibn 'Umar (may Allah be well pleased with him and with his father) once said: "Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) was in the pulpit [minbar] when he recited the words of the Qur'an: 'And the heavens are rolled up in His right hand,' then added: 'There they are in His right hand, so He tosses them about, just as a young boy might toss a ball. Then He says: "I am the Almighty! [Ana'l-'Aziz]."'"

Ibn 'Umar went on to say: "I noticed that Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) was quaking up there in the pulpit; so much so that he was on the verge of falling down."

Ibn 'Abbas (may Allah be well pleased with him and with his father) once said: "He clutches all the earths and all the heavens together, yet not even the very edges of them can be seen to protrude from His grasp."

We have it on the authority of Anas ibn Malik, who heard the report from Ibn 'Abbas (may Allah be well pleased with them), that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) once said:

Those who act justly and fairly [muqsitun] will be mounted, on the Day of Resurrection, in pulpits of light upon the right hand of the All-Merciful [ar-Rahman]–and each of His two hands is a right hand.

He created Adam (peace be upon him) in the form proper to him ['ala suratih]. He planted the Garden of Eden [jannat 'Adn] with His own hand, and the Tree of Bliss [shajarat Tuba] with His own hand. He wrote the Torah with His own hand, and He delivered it to Moses from His hand to his hand. He also spoke to Moses by addressing him directly, with no intermediary channel and without an interpreter.

The hearts [qulub] of His servants are between two fingers of the All-Merciful [ar-Rahman], so He spins them around [yuqallibuha] as He wills, and He instills in them whatever He wishes.

On the Day of Resurrection, the heavens and the earth will be in the palm of His hand, as we know from the tradition [hadith], and He will set His foot in Hell [Jahannam], one part of which will shrink away toward another, while it cries: "Enough! No more!" A group of human beings will issue forth thereafter.

The people of the Garden [of Paradise] will actually see His face, and they will behold it without suffering any injury or harm in the process of beholding it.

As we have learned from the tradition:

He will reveal Himself [yatajalla] to them, and He will give them what they most desire.

He has told us (how Glorious is He as One who tells!):

To those who do good belongs the finest-and an extra reward! [li'lladhina ahsanu'l-husna wa ziyada]. (10:26)

There are those who maintain that 'the finest' refers to the Garden [of Paradise], and that the 'extra reward' is the contemplation of His noble countenance. He has also said (Exalted is He):

That day will faces be resplendent, looking toward their Lord. (75:22,23)

His servants will all be paraded before Him on the Day of Judgment and Doom [yawm al-fasl wa'd-din]. He will take it upon Himself to settle their accounts, and He will not make anyone other than Himself responsible for carrying out this task.

Allah (Exalted is He) created seven heavens, one above another, and seven earths, one below another. [The time it takes to travel] from the highest earth to the lowest heaven is five hundred years, and the distance between each heaven and the next is also a journey of five hundred years. There is water above the seventh heaven, and the Throne of the All-Merciful One ['Arsh ar-Rahman] is above the water. Allah (Exalted is He) is upon the Throne, and beneath Him there are seventy thousand veils of light, of darkness, and of what else He knows best.

The Throne has bearers [hamala] who carry it. As Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) has said:

Those who bear the Throne, and those who are around it, proclaim the praise of their Lord and believe in Him, and they ask forgiveness for those who believe, [saying]: "Our Lord, You embrace all things in mercy and knowledge; therefore forgive those who repent and follow Your way. Ward off from them the punishmentof Hell!" (40:7)

The Throne has a border [hadd], which only Allah knows. [In His own words (Almighty and Glorious is He):]

And you shall see the angels circling around the Throne. (39:75)169

It consists of a single ruby [yaquta hamra'], and its size is equal to that of all the heavens and all the earths combined. Next to the Throne, the Footstool [kursi] is like a ring thrown on the ground in a desert tract.

He (Almighty and Glorious is He) knows what is in the seven heavens and what is between them and what is beneath them, and what is in all the earths and what is beneath them and what is between them, and what is beneath the surface of the land, and what is in the depths of the oceans, and the point of growth of every hair and every tree and every seed that grows, and the place where every leaf will fall, and the number of all of these, and the number of all the pebbles and all the grains of sand and all the specks of dust, and the weights of all the mountains, and the measures of all the oceans, and the actions of His servants and their secret thoughts and the breaths they breathe and the words they speak. He knows everything. Nothing of this is hidden from Him.

He is far above any resemblance to His creation. No place is beyond the scope of His cognizance ['ilm]. It is not permissible, however, to describe Him as being in every place. The correct statement to make is that He is in Heaven [fi's-sama'] upon the Throne ['ala'l-'arsh]. As He Himself has said (let us extol Him as befits His Majesty!):

The All-Merciful has established Himself upon the Throne [ar-Rahmanu 'ala'l-'arshi 'stawa]. (20:5)

...then established Himself upon the Throne, the All-Merciful.... [thumma'stawa 'ala'l-'arshi'r-Rahmanu...]. (25:59)

He has also said (Exalted is He):

Unto Him good works ascend, and the righteous deed He does exalt. (35:10)

As for the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), he judged that the Community [Umma] had truly accepted Islam when he said to its members: "Where is Allah?" and they all pointed toward heaven.

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) once said, according to the tradition [hadith] of Abu Huraira (may Allah be well pleased with him):

When Allah created the creation, He recorded a writ incumbent upon Himself [kataba kitaban 'ala Nafsihi], which is there in His presence above the Throne, [and in it He declared]: "My mercy has overwhelmed My wrath [inna rahmati ghalabat 'ala ghadabi]."

It is proper to use the expression 'firmly established Himself ' in a quite straightforward, literal sense [itlaq], without subjecting it to forced interpretation [ta'wil]. It must also be clearly understood to mean the Self-establishment of the Divine Essence [istiwa' adh-Dhat] upon the Throne, not in the sense of bodily sitting down [qu'ud] and making physical contact [mumassa], as maintained by the [heretical sects known as] the Mujassima and the Karramiyya, not in the abstract sense of exaltedness ['uluww] and elevated dignity [rif'a], as maintained by the Ash'ariyya, and not in the sense of control [istila'] and domination [ghalaba], as maintained by the Mu'tazila. These doctrines are unacceptable because they are not in accordance with the sacred law [shar'], and nothing to support them has been handed down to us on the authority of any of the Companions [sahaba] and Successors [tabi'un], the masters of tradition [ashab al-hadith] among our righteous predecessors [as-salaf as-salih]. On the contrary, all the evidence that has been transmitted from them supports the case for the straightforward, literal expression [itlaq].

On the subject of the words of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He): "The All-Merciful has established Himself on the Throne [ar-Rahmanu 'ala'l-'arshi 'stawa]," Umm Salama, the wife of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), is reported as having transmitted the saying:

Exactly how–that cannot be grasped by the human mind [al-kaif ghair ma'qul]. But that He has 'established Himself' is not beyond our ken [wa'l-istiwa' ghair majhul], so the affirmation of the fact is obligatory, and the negation of it amounts to unbelief [kufr].

In his Sahih [collection of authentic traditions], Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj has traced the transmission of this saying from her, as his authority for attributing it to [her husband] the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). A similar version occurs in the tradition [hadith] of Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be well pleased with him).

Ahmad ibn Hanbal (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) said, shortly before his death: "The traditional reports [akhbar] concerning the attributes [sifat] [of Allah] must simply be accepted as they have been handed down to us, without [erring in one direction by] giving them an anthropomorphic interpretation [tashbih], and without [erring in the other direction by] negating the very existence of those attributes [ta'til].

He also said, according to the account of his teaching transmitted by some of his followers: "I am not a professor of theology [sahib kalam], and I do not see any value in making theological pronouncements on any of these subjects, except for what is stated in the Book of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He), or in a tradition [hadith] that has been handed down from the Prophet himself (Allah bless him and give him peace), or from his Companions [ashab] (may Allah be well pleased with them all), or from the Successors [tabi'un]. As far as anything other than this is concerned, theological debate on the subject is not to be commended. The attributes of the Lord (Almighty and Glorious is He) should therefore not be spoken about in terms of how and why. The only people who speak in such terms are the doubting skeptics [shukkak]."

It was on a different occasion, according to another account of his teaching, that Ahmad [ibn Hanbal] (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) said: "We believe that Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) is upon the Throne, however He wills [kaifa sha'a] and just as He wills [kama sha'a], without reference to any definition or description that might be offered by someone attempting to describe or define."

[We believe this] because of what has been reported to us on the authority of Sa'id ibn al-Musayyib, to the effect that Ka'b al-Ahbar once said: "Allah (Exalted is He) has said in the Torah:

I, Allah, am above My servants, and My Throne is above the whole of My creation, and I am upon My Thone, whereon I regulate [the affairs of] My servants, and nothing pertaining to My servants is ever hidden from Me."

Indeed, the fact that He (Almighty and Glorious is He) is upon the Throne is mentioned in every Scripture that has been revealed [fi kulli kitabin unzila] to every Prophet who has been sent forth to deliver His message ['ala kulli nabiyyin ursila], without further explanation [bi-la kaif].

In all the records that are still available to us, Allah (Exalted is He) is also characterized as possessing the attributes of Exaltedness ['uluww] and Omnipotence [qudra], as exercising control [istila'] and domination [ghalaba] over the whole of His creation from the Throne, and so on.

None of this, therefore, can be what is meant by His 'Self-establishment' [istiwa']. Self-establishment must be one of the attributes of the Divine Essence [sifat adh-Dhat], since He has informed us of it, mentioned it explicitly, and stated it emphatically in seven verses [ayat] of His Book, and since this view is confirmed by the Prophetic tradition [sunna ma'thura]. It must be an attribute [sifa] that is intrinsic to Him [lazima lahu] and properly befitting Him [la'iqa bihi], like the Hand [yad], the Face [wajh], the Eye ['ain], the Hearing [sam'], the Sight [basar], the Life [hayat] and the Power [qudra], all of which are properly attributed to Him, as well as His being Creator [Khaliq], Sustainer [Raziq], Giver of Life [Muhyin] and Causer of Death [Mumit].

We do not depart from the Book and the Sunna. We read the Qur'anic verse [aya] and the traditional report [khabar]. We believe what these two sources contain, and we entrust the detailed understanding [kaifiyya] of the [divine] attributes to the knowledge ['ilm] of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He). As Sufyan ibn 'Uyaina (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him) once put it: "Just as Allah (Exalted is He) has described Himself in His Book." In other words, the reading of it is self-explanatory, and there is no need of further interpretative commentary [tafsir]. This is all that is required of us, because the rest is a mystery [ghaib], the comprehension of which is beyond the scope of the human mind ['aql].

We beg Allah (Exalted is He) to grant pardon ['afw] and well-being ['afiya], and we take refuge with Him in case we should say anything about Him or His attributes that we have not been taught by Him or by His Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace).

[The believer must also acknowledge and be thoroughly convinced] that He (Exalted is He) descends each night to the heaven of this lower world [sama' ad-dunya], however He wills and just as He wills, and that He then forgives those who have sinned, erred, offended and disobeyed; those of His servants, that is to say, whom He chooses and wishes to forgive. Hallowed and Exalted is the All-High, the Most High [tabaraka wa ta'ala'l-'Aliyyu'l-A'la].

There is no god but He [la ilaha illa Hu]. His are the Most Beautiful Names [lahu'l-asma'u'l-husna]. (20:8)

This is not to be understood as meaning the descent of [Allah's] mercy [nuzul ar-rahma] and His spiritual reward [thawab], as maintained by the Mu'tazila and the Ash'ariyya, because we know from the report transmitted by 'Ubada ibn as-Samit (may Allah be well pleased with him) that Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) once said:

Allah (Hallowed and Exalted is He) descends each night to the heaven of this lower world, when the last third of the night is still remaining, and He says: "Is there anyone begging?" --so that He may grant him his request. "Is there anyone seeking forgiveness?" --so that He may forgive him. "Is there anyone held captive ['anin]?"--so that He may release him from his captivity. [This continues] until it is time for the dawn prayer to be performed, then our Lord (Hallowed and Exalted is He) ascends on high.

According to another traditional report [riwaya], also on the authority of 'Ubada ibn as-Samit (may Allah be well pleased with him), the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:

Allah (Hallowed and Exalted is He) descends each night to the heaven of this lower world, when the last third of the night is still remaining, and He says: "Is there not one of My servants who will call upon Me, so that I may respond to him? Is there not someone, a person who has wronged himself [zalim li-nafsih], who will call upon Me, so that I may forgive him? Is there not someone, a person who lacks the sustenance he needs, who will call upon Me, so that I may procure his sustenance for him? Is there not some victim of oppression [mazlum], who will invoke My name, so that I may help him? Is there not someone held in captivity, who will call upon Me, so that I may release him?" He goes on like this until the dawn appears, and then He ascends to His Pedestal [kursi].

This same tradition [hadith] has been transmitted, with some differences in the wording, on the authority of Abu Huraira, Jabir and 'Ali (may Allah be well pleased with them all). Versions of it have also been handed down from 'Abdu'llah ibn Mas'ud, Abu'd-Darda', Ibn 'Abbas and 'A'isha (may the good pleasure of Allah be upon them), all of whom attribute the saying to Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace). This explains why they used to regard it as preferable to perform the ritual prayer [salat] in the last part of the night, rather than in the first part of it.

As reported by Abu Bakr, the Champion of Truth [as-Siddiq] (may Allah be well pleased with him), the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) also said:

Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) descends to the heaven of this lower world on the night of the middle of Sha'ban, and He then forgives every soul, excepting only the individual in whose heart there is malice [shahna'], or the attribution of partners [shirk] to Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He).

Abu Huraira (may Allah be well pleased with him) is reported as having said that he once heard Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) say:

When the first half of the night has elapsed, Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) descends to the heaven of this lower world, and then He says: "Is there anyone seeking forgiveness, that I may forgive him? Is there anyone begging, that I may give to him? Is there anyone repenting, that I may relent toward him?" [This continues] until the early dawn [fajr] begins to break.

Somebody once said to Ishaq ibn Rahawaih: "What are these traditions [ahadith] you are relating, to the effect that Allah (Exalted is He) descends to the lowest heaven? Does Allah then rise up again? Does He move about?" Ishaq replied by asking the questioner: "Would you say of Allah (Exalted is He) that it is possible for Allah to descend and to ascend, and to do so without moving about?" When the man gave the answer "Yes," Ishaq went on to ask: "So why do you have a problem with this?"

Yahya ibn Mu'in once said: "If a Jahmi asks you: 'How does He descend?' you should reply by asking: 'How did He ascend?'" As for al-Fudail ibn 'Iyad (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him), he offered this advice: "If a Jahmi tells you: 'I am a disbeliever [kafir] in a Lord who is supposed to descend,' you should say to him: 'I am a believer [mu'min] in a Lord who does whatever He wills.'"

When somebody once told Shuraik ibn 'Abdi'llah (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him): "We have here a group of people who refuse to accept these traditions [ahadith]," he is said to have replied: "Has anyone handed down to us [reports transmitted by] names that cannot be traced back to Allah's Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace)? [It is from these traditions that we have learned the rules of] the ritual prayer [salat], the fast [siyam], the alms-due [zakat] and the pilgrimage [hajj], and through these traditions we have acquired knowledge ['arafna] of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He)."

 

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