The Divine Names and Attributes ( Part No : 1, Page No: 64) About allegorical interpretation of the Ayahs speaking of Divine Attributes
Q 24: We have heard from some scholars that Ahl Al-Sunnah wal-Jam‘ah (those adhering to the Sunnah and the Muslim community) give an allegorical interpretation to some of the Ayahs speaking of the Attributes of Allah. Is this their school of thought or is there a need to do so? Please enlighten us, may Allah enlighten you!
A: The correct scholarly view held by the knowledgeable people of Ahl Al-Sunnah wal-Jama‘ah is that the Ayahs and the Hadiths related to the Names and Attributes of Allah should not be interpreted allegorically. Those who allegorically interpret some Attributes of Allah are Al-Jahmiyyah (an Islamic sect denying some of the Attributes of Allah, claiming they are ascribed to people and cannot be ascribed to Allah), Al-Mu‘tazilah (a deviant Islamic sect claiming that those who commit major sins are in a state between belief and disbelief) and Al-Asha‘irah. As to Ahl Al-Sunnah wal-Jama‘ah, who are known for their pure creed, they do not interpret allegorically; rather they believe in the Ayahs and Hadiths speaking of Divine Attributes as they are mentioned without Tahrif (distorting the meaning of Allah’s Attributes), Ta‘til (denial of Allah’s Attributes), Takyif (questioning specific details about Allah’s Attributes) or Tamthil (likening Allah’s Attributes to those of His creatures). They do not adopt this thinking in interpreting the meaning of Istiwa’ (Allah’s rising over the Throne in a manner befitting His Majesty), the Foot, the Hand, the Fingers, the Laughter, the Contentment or the Anger. They accept them as they are mentioned with entire belief in their truth; that they are Attributes of our Lord (may He be Exalted), which should be confirmed in a manner befitting His Majesty (may He be Exalted) without any distortion of meaning, denial, questioning or likening. Some people allegorically interpret Laughter as consent and Love as the will of recompense and mercy. All these interpretations are unaccepted by Ahl Al-Sunnah wal-Jama‘ah who hold that these Ayahs must be accepted as they were revealed and confirmed as true. He (may He be Exalted) loves in a manner befitting His Majesty, which is not similar to that of His creatures. He (may He be Exalted) also feels contentment, anger and hatred and these are true Attributes belonging to our Lord in a manner befitting Him. ( Part No : 1, Page No: 65) He does not resemble His creatures in these Attributes, as (may He be Exalted) states:Surah Al-Shura, 42: 11 There is nothing like Him; and He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer. (Surah Al-Shura, 25:11).Therefore, our Lord loves, as it is mentioned in the texts, in a manner that befits His Majesty and unlike any of His creatures. Likewise, His Istiwa’ over the Throne is in a way that befits His Majesty and Glory without resembling His creatures in any of His Attributes. What is meant is that allegorical interpretation is not permissible according to Ahl Al-Sunnah wal-Jama‘ah. The Ayahs and Hadiths speaking of Divine Attributes should be accepted as they were received and confirmed as true. We should believe that they are Attributes of Allah that befit His Glory. However, Tafwid (consigning the knowledge of what is meant to Allah alone) is also not permissible. Imam Ahmed said that Al-Mufawidah is worse than Al-Jahmiyyah. Tafwid is claiming that none but Allah Alone knows their meaning. This is not permissible as the meanings of these Attributes are known to the scholars. Imam Malik (may Allah be merciful to him) said, “Istiwa’ is known but the manner is unknown.” The same viewpoint was reported from Imam Rabi‘ah bin Abu Abdul-Rahman and from others among the people of knowledge. The meanings of these Attributes such as Contentment, Anger, Love, Istiwa’, Laughter, etc., are known to Ahl Al-Sunnah wal-Jama‘ah, and they are different from each other. For example, Laughter is different from Contentment, Contentment is different from Anger, Anger is different from Love and Hearing is different from Seeing. All these Attributes are known to belong to Allah (may He be Exalted), but they are unlike any attributes of His creatures. Allah (may He be Exalted) 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). (Surah Al-Nahl, 16:74).He (may He be Glorified) also says (what means):Surah Al-Shura, 42: 11 There is nothing like Him; and He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer. (Surah Al-Shura, 25:11) Moreover, Allah (may He be Exalted) says (what means):Surah Al-Ikhlas, 112: 4 And there is none co-equal or comparable to Him. This is the truth to which Ahl Al-Sunnah hold, from the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and those who righteously follow them. ( Part No : 1, Page No: 66) And whoever allegorically interprets any Divine Attribute contradicts Ahl Al-Sunnah.