Regarding the Hadith “he who draws near to Me a hand span, I draw near to him an arm’s length”


       Regarding the Hadith: صحيح البخاري التوحيد (7405) ، صحيح مسلم التوبة (2675) ، سنن الترمذي الدعوات (3603) ، سنن ابن ماجه الأدب (3822) ، مسند أحمد بن حنبل (2/535). “…he who draws near to Me a hand span, I draw near to him an arm’s length…”

Q26: I have read in Riyadh Al-Salihin, verified by Al-Sayyid ‘Ulwy Al-Maliky and Mahmoud Amin Al-Nawawi, a Hadith Qudsy (Revelation from Allah in the Prophet’s words) mentioning the “Running of Allah,” Exalted be He, which is narrated by Anas (may Allah be pleased with him), who narrated it from the Prophet (peace be upon him), who narrated that Allah, Glory be to Him, says: صحيح البخاري التوحيد (7536) ، صحيح مسلم التوبة (2675) ، سنن الترمذي الدعوات (3603) ، سنن ابن ماجه الأدب (3822) ، مسند أحمد بن حنبل (2/251). If the servant draws near to Me a hand span, I draw near to him an arm’s length; and if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I come to him running. Narrated by Al-Bukhari.

In their commentary they both explain that this Hadith metaphorically likens a concept to something physical for the sake of clarifying it. The meaning of this simile is that if a person performs a simple good deed, Allah will redouble his reward and give him much good in return. Otherwise, there are absolute proofs that no physical comparison can be made and that Allah does not walk or run. Allah is Exalted and Glorified far above having the attributes of His creatures.

Does the statement of the two commentators about Allah’s “walking” and “running” conform with what the Salaf (righteous predecessors) said about accepting Allah’s Attributes as they were revealed and confirming them as true? If there are proofs indicating that Allah does not walk or run, please explain them. May Allah grant you success!

A: All praise be to Allah and peace and blessings be upon the Messenger of Allah, his family, his Companions and those who follow his guidance. This Hadith is Sahih (authentic).

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It has been authentically narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:صحيح البخاري التوحيد (7405) ، صحيح مسلم الذكر والدعاء والتوبة والاستغفار (2675) ، سنن الترمذي الدعوات (3603) ، سنن ابن ماجه الأدب (3822) ، مسند أحمد بن حنبل (2/251). Allah (may He be Exalted and Glorified) says: If he (My servant) makes mention of Me within himself, I make mention of him within Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than it. And if he draws near to Me a hand span, I draw near to him an arm’s length; and if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I come to him running.

This Sahih Hadith indicates how great the Grace of Allah, Glory be to Him, is. It also indicates that He generously gives His servants what is good for them. Allah is more eager to reward servants with Goodness, Blessings, and Bounties than they are in hastening to perform good deeds.

There is no objection to accepting the apparent meaning of the Hadith the way the Salaf did, because when the Companions heard this Hadith from the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) they did not argue, ask about it, or draw their own allegorical interpretation, even though they are the most elite and finest people of the Muslim nation. They were the most learned in the Arabic language and knew best what Attributes can and cannot be ascribed to Allah, Glory be to Him.

So one’s duty in this concern is to accept the Hadith and understand correctly what it says. An attribute that befits Allah’s Glory is still unlike any attribute of His creation. Allah’s drawing closer to His servant is unlike the servant’s drawing closer to other beings; His walking and running are unlike that of His servants. Allah’s Wrath, Good Pleasure, His Coming on the Day of Resurrection to judge between His servants, His Rising over the Throne, and His Descent in the last third of the night every night, are all in a manner befitting His Majesty, Glory be to Him, and none of His creation resembles Him.

Just like it is impossible to compare Allah’s Rising over the Throne, His descent in the last third of the night, or His Coming on the Day of Judegment in any way with His creatures, so is His drawing close to His devout servants who worship Him and hasten to obey His Commands.

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His drawing close to them is unlike their drawing close to Him. His being close to them is unlike their being close to Him. His walking is unlike their walking, and His running is unlike their running. Allah’s Attributes are something that befits Him alone. Allah, Exalted be He, is unlike His creation in any of His Attributes; and He, Glory be to Him, knows best the Attributes and their nature.

The Salaf unanimously agreed that we should accept the Attributes and Names of Allah as they were revealed; we should believe in their meanings and their truth, but such as becomes Allah, Exalted be He. They also believed that no one knows the true nature of Allah’s Attributes or His Essence except He. Therefore, Allah’s Attributes must be regarded the same as His Essence; just as we attest that Allah has an Essence and that He is All-Perfect, we must attest to the truth of Divine Attributes, believing that they are supreme in perfection and grandeur, transcending all attributes of His creation. Allah, Glory be to Him, says in Surah Al-Ikhlas (what means):Surah Al-Ikhlas, 112: 1 Say (O Muhammad): “He is Allah, (the) One. Surah Al-Ikhlas, 112: 2 Allah-us-Samad [Allah – The Self-Sufficient Master, Whom all creatures need, (He neither eats nor drinks)]. Surah Al-Ikhlas, 112: 3 He begets not, nor was He begotten. Surah Al-Ikhlas, 112: 4 And there is none co-equal or comparable to Him.”

Allah also says (what means):Surah Al-Nahl, 16: 74 So put not forward similitudes for Allah (as there is nothing similar to Him, nor He resembles anything). Truly! Allah knows and you know not. (Surah Al-Nahl, 16:74);andSurah Al-Shura, 42: 11 There is nothing like Him; and He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer. (Surah Al-Shura, 42:11).Allah thus refutes the views of Mushabihah (anthropomorphists: those who liken Allah’s Attributes to those of His creation) in the Ayahs (saying what means):Surah Al-Shura, 42: 11 There is nothing like Him andSurah Al-Nahl, 16: 74 So put not forward similitudes for Allah (as there is nothing similar to Him, nor He resembles anything). Allah also refutes the views of Mu‘atilah (the Negators: those who deny the Attributes of Allah) in the Ayahs (saying what means):Surah Al-Shura, 42: 11 and He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer. ;Surah Al-Ikhlas, 112: 1 Say (O Muhammad): “He is Allah, (the) One. Surah Al-Ikhlas, 112: 2 Allah-us-Samad [Allah – The Self-Sufficient Master, Whom all creatures need, (He neither eats nor drinks)].” ;Surah Al-Baqarah, 2: 220 Allah is All-Mighty, All-Wise. ;Surah Al-Hajj, 22: 75 Verily, Allah is All-Hearer, All-Seer. ;Surah Al-Baqarah, 2: 173 Truly, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. ; andSurah Al-Baqarah, 2: 20 Allah is Able to do all things?

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As well as other Ayahs.

So Muslims, both scholars and lay people, should affirm what Allah has attributed to Himself without Tamthil (likening Allah’s Attributes to those of His creation; anthropomorphism); they should negate what Allah has negated about Himself and exalt Allah above all attributes of His creation, without Ta‘til (denial of Allah’s Attributes). This is the scholarly view of Ahl Al-Sunnah wal-Jama‘ah (those adhering to the Sunnah and the Muslim community) from the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and those who followed them of the Salaf; among them the seven jurists, also Malik ibn Anas, Al-Awza‘i, Al-Thawri, Al-Shafi‘i, Ahmad, Abu Hanifah and other Muslim Imams. All of them accept Allah’s Attributes as they were revealed and affirm them as they were mentioned without Tahrif (distortion of the meaning), Ta‘til (denial of Allah’s Attributes), Takyif (questioning Allah’s Attributes) or Tamthil (likening Allah’s Attributes to those of His creation).

As for what the two commentators, ‘Ulwy and Mahmoud, said in this regard, their statement is not correct or true. The Hadith connotes that Allah, Exalted be He, is quicker to bestow goodness upon His servants, and quicker to reward them bountifully, than they are to Him. But this is not the meaning; the meaning differs from that of the connotation, which indicates here that Allah is quicker to bestow goodness upon His servants than they are to Him. Rather the meaning entails affirming Allah’s “drawing closer,” “walking” and “running”, but in a manner befitting His Majesty without likening Him to any of His creation. They should be affirmed as Allah wants, without distortion of the meaning, denial, questioning or likening.

Furthermore, the commentators’ statement that the “Hadith metaphorically likens a concept to something physical for the sake of clarifying it” is wrong. This is the same view of the people of Bida‘h (rejected innovation in religion) on many issues in which they employ Ta’wil (allegorical interpretation) while the basic principle entails not to use Ta’wil, or Takyif, or Tamthil or Tahrif. Ayahs and Hadiths speaking of Divine Attributes should be accepted as revealed without allegorical interpretation, or distortion of the meaning or denial of Allah’s Attributes.

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We must affirm their meanings as Allah has ascribed them to Himself and addressed us with, but in a manner befitting His Majesty. We must not liken Allah to any of His creation with regard to Attributes of wrath, having a hand, a face or fingers, expressing hatred, descending or rising over the Throne, etc. All Allah’s Attributes must be viewed employing this one consistent principle. 

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