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Allah's Descent - Notes

Version Imprimable

By Dr. G. F. Haddad


1 Narrated from Abu Hurayra by Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud,

al-Tirmidhi, Ahmad, Malik, and al-Darimi. It is narrated from twenty-three

Companions, as stated by al-Kattani in Nazm al-Mutanathir.

2 Ibn `Asakir, Tabyin Kadhib al-Muftari (p. 151).

3 As quoted by al-Bayhaqi in al-Asma' wa al-Sifat (Hashidi ed. 2:371).

4 Ibn al-Juwayni, al-Nizamiyya (p. 20).

5 Narrated from Abu Sa`id al-Khudri and Abu Hurayra by al-Nasa'i

in al-Sunan al-Kubra (6:124 #10316) and `Amal al-Yawm wa al-Layla (ed. Faruq

Hammada p. 340 #482). Al-Qari declared it sound in Mirqat al-Mafatih (1994 ed.


6 Narrated by al-Bazzar, Kashf al-Asrar (4:44); al-Tabarani,

(9:51). Al-Haythami declared it sound in Majma` al-Zawa'id (10:209).

Also narrated - with a weak chain - by Ahmad in his Musnad.

7 Narrated from Habib ibn Abi Habib by al-Dhahabi in Siyar A`lam

(8:418), but al-Dhahabi himself reported in Mizan al-I`tidal (1:452)

that all of Ibn Abi Habib's narrations are forged. This is an extreme statement

in light of Ibn `Abd al-Barr's mention of Habib in al-Tamhid (24:177) as merely

weak, and he adds: "His reports from Malik are full of mistakes and

condemned matters." However, Ibn `Abd al-Barr in al-Tamhid (7:143) also

narrates this report from Habib, then goes on to narrate it from Mutarrif with

a sound chain, adding: "It is possible that the matter be as Malik said,

and Allah knows best." The "Salafis" reject the report because

of Habib's weakness, but Mutarrif's chain does not contain him.

8 As mentioned by al-Tirmidhi in his Sunan (Book of zakat, hadith

"Verily, Allah accepts the zakat and takes it with His right

Hand..."), Ibn al-Jawzi in his Daf` Shubah al-Tashbih (p. 195-196),

al-Dhahabi in Siyar A`lam al-Nubala' (al-Arna'ut ed. 8:105), Ibn Abi Zayd

al-Qayrawani, al-Jami` (p. 124), and others.

9 Al-Bayhaqi, al-Asma' wa al-Sifat (Kawthari ed. p. 456, Hashidi ed. 2:380).

10 Ibn al-Jawzi, Daf` Shubah al-Tashbih (p. 196).

11 Ibid. (p. 192).

12 Narrated from Abu Hurayra by Bukhari and Muslim: "I am as

My servant thinks of Me, and I am with him when he remembers Me. If he mentions

Me in Himself I mention him in Myself. If he mentions Me in a gathering, I

mention him in a better gathering. If he comes near Me one hand-span (shibran)

I come near him one cubit (dhira`an). If he comes near Me one cubit I come near

him an arm's length (ba`an). If he comes to Me walking, I come to him


13 Al-Baji, al-Muntaqa (1:357).

14 See the al-Baji's explanation of this hadith in the post "Abu al-Walid al-Baji."

15 Ibn `Abd al-Salam, al-Ishara ila al-Ijaz (p. 106).

16 `Abd al-`Aziz bin Baz inserted the following footnote at this

point: "What he means by `the vast majority of the scholars' is the vast

majority of the scholars of kalam. As for Ahl al-Sunna - and these are the

Companions and those who followed them in excellence - they assert a direction

for Allah, and that is the direction of height, believing that the Exalted is

above the Throne without giving an example and without entering into modality.

The proofs from the Qur'an and the Sunna for this are innumerable, so take heed

and beware. And Allah knows best."

17 Ibn Hajar elsewhere reports Ibn Daqiq al-`Id's words in full:

"We say concerning the various attributes that they are real and true

according to the meaning Allah wills for them. As for those who interpret them,

we look at their interpretation: if it is close to the rules of language in use

among the Arabs we do not reject it, and if it is far from them we relinquish

it and return to believing while declaring transcendence." In Fath al-Bari

(1959 ed. 13:383).

18 Again Bin Baz here interjects: "This is an obvious

mistake which goes against the plain import of the texts that have come to us

concerning the descent, and likewise what is cited of Baydawi later is null and

void. The correct position is that of the Pious Salaf who believed in the

descent and let the texts pass as they came to them, affirming Allah's descent

in the sense that befits Him, without asking how nor giving an example, just as

the rest of His attributes. That is the safest, straightest, most

knowledgeable, and wisest way. Therefore hold on to it, cling to it stubbornly,

and beware what contravenes it so that you may reach safety. And Allah knows

best." The gist of these remarks is that Bin Baz refuses to preclude

displacement from Allah.

19 See above, n. 5

20 See above, n. 6.

21 Narrated from Rifa`a ibn `Araba al-Juhani as part of a longer

hadith by al-Darimi in his Musnad, Ahmad in his, al-Nasa'i in `Amal al-Yawm wa

, Ibn Majah in his Sunan, al-Tabarani in al-Kabir (5:49-51 #4556-4558),

Ibn Hibban with a sound chain in his Sahih according to al-Arna'ut (1:444

#212), al-Tayalisi in his Musnad (p. 182 #1292), al-Bazzar in his. Al-Haythami

in Majma` al-Zawa'id (10:408) said that some of al-Tabarani's and al-Bazzar's

chains are sound.

22 Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari (1989 ed. 3:37-38; 1959 ed. 3:32-33 #1094).

23 Narrated by al-Dhahabi who identifies the scholar as Ibrahim ibn [Hisham] Abi Salih in Mukhtasar al-`Uluw (p. 191 #234).

24 See n. 40.

25 In al-Asma' wa al-Sifat (2:375-376 #951),

26 Quoted in al-Dhahabi, Siyar (8:213).

27 Al-Dhahabi in Mizan al-I`tidal (3:479) said of Ibn Mandah:

"He became confused towards the end of his life... and attributed to a

number of scholars sayings pertaining to doctrine which they were not known to


28 In Majmu` Fatawa Ibn Taymiyya (5:376-380).

29 Jubayr ibn Mut`im, Abu Bakr, `Ali, Ibn Mas`ud, `Ubada ibn

al-Samit, Rufa`a ibn `Uraba, Jabir, `Uthman ibn Abi al`As, Abu al-Darda', Anas,

`Amr ibn `Abasa, Ibn `Abbas, Umm Salama, Abu Musa al-Ash`ari, and others, see

al-Daraqutni's monograph which compiles all their narrations.

30 As quoted by al-Bayhaqi in al-Asma' wa al-Sifat (2:378-379 #956).

31 Al-Khattabi, Ma`alim al-Sunan (Hims ed. 5:101).

32 Quoted in Abu Hanifa, Kitab al-Fiqh al-Akbar bi Sharh al-Qari

(Cairo: Dar al-Kutub al-`Arabiyya al-Kubra, 1327/1909) p. 16; cf. al-Maturidi,

Sharh al-Fiqh al-Akbar
in Majmu`a Rasa'il (Hyderabad: Matba`at Majlis Da'irat

al- Ma`arif al-Nizamiyya, 1903).

33 In al-Fisal fi al-Milal (2:125).

34 As cited in al-Kawthari's marginalia on Daf` Shubah al-Tashbih

(1998 repr. p. 50). Note that `Uthman ibn Sa`id al-Darimi stated: "We do

not concede that all actions are created.... The descent, the walking, the

running (al-harwala), and the establishment on the Throne and to the heaven are

eternal without beginning (qadim)." In his Naqd al-Jahmiyya (Cairo,

1361/1942 p. 121) as quoted in al-Kawthari's Maqalat (p. 314). Ibn Hazm

rejected this position in al-Fisal (2:124): "If the establishment on the

Throne is eternal without beginning, then the Throne is eternal without

beginning, and this is disbelief."

35 In al-Tawdih `an Tawhid al-Khallaq Fi Jawab Ahl al-`Iraq

(1319/1901) p. 34. New ed.: al-Riyad: Dar Tibah, 1984.

36 Note that in our time Muhammad Nasir al-Din al-Albani revived

the claim that Allah is in a place above the Throne which he called al-makan

("the inexistential place") in his introduction to

al-Dhahabi's Mukhtasar al-`Uluw. He was refuted by Shaykh Hasan `Ali al-Saqqaf

in his book Talqih al-Fuhum al-`Aliya ("The Inculcation of Lofty


37 Ibn `Abd al-Barr, al-Tamhid (7:128-131). See also al-Haytami's

fatwa "Is it permissible to say that `Allah is in the heaven'?" and

Nuh Keller's article "Is it permissible for a Muslim to believe that

`Allah is in the sky' in a literal sense?" as well as the discussion on istiwa' in the forthcoming post, "Istiwa' is a Divine Act".

38 Umayya ibn Abi al-Salt recited a funeral eulogy for the

disbelievers who died at Badr and died during the siege of al-Ta'if. Ibn Hajar

said in al-Isaba (1:133 #549): "There is no contest among the authorities

in history that Umayya ibn Abi Salt died an unbeliever."

39 This wording is not established as authentic: See the relevant

discussion in our biographical notice on Imam Malik - Allah be well-pleased

with him.

40 Also related from Ishaq ibn Rahuyah as narrated by al-Bayhaqi

in al-Asma' wa al-Sifat (2:375-376 #951) and al-Dhahabi in Mukhtasar al-`Uluw

(p. 191 #234) and the Siyar (9:558 #1877); Fudayl ibn `Iyad as related from

al-Athram by Bukhari in Khalq Af`al al-`Ibad (p. 14); Yahya ibn Ma`in as cited

by Lalika'i in Sharh Usul I`tiqad Ahl al-Sunna. The latter two are cited by Ibn

Taymiyya in Majmu`a al-Fatawa (5:377).

41 Narrated from Abu Hurayra by Muslim and Ahmad.

42 The scholars also often quote al-Shafi`i's saying that when he

first arrived in Egypt they did not understand him, whereupon "I

descended, and descended, and descended until they understood me."

43 Imam Malik said: "It is our Lord's command which

descends." Narrated by Ibn `Abd al-Barr himself in al-Tamhid (7:143) from

Mutarrif with a sound chain. He then admits: "It is possible that the

matter be as Malik said, and Allah knows best."

44 Ibn al-`Arabi, Arida al-Ahwadhi (2:234-237).

45 In Tarh al-Tathrib (2:382).

46 Imam Abu al-Walid al-Baji, Sulayman ibn Khalaf al-Maliki al-Qurtubi.

47 Perhaps a reference to his commentary on Ibn Abi Zayd's Risala (Dibaj p. 262).

48 In Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra (9:78).

49 In Fath al-Bari (1959 ed. 3:32 #1094), as quoted above.

50 See n. 7.

51 See n. 5.

52 Attributed to Hammad ibn Zayd by al-Bayhaqi

(al-Asma' wa al-Sifat, al-Kawthari ed. p. 456, al-Hashidi ed. 2:380) as stated.

53 Note the strong affirmation of both the reality of the

Attributes and Allah's transcendence which is the mark of the accomplished

scholars of Ahl al-Sunna in doctrine.

54 Al-Nawawi, Sharh Sahih Muslim, Book of Salat al-Musafirin wa Qasruha.

55 See al-Buti's excellent discussion of these two types in

al-Salafiyya (p. 132-144), translated in Shaykh Hisham Kabbani's Islamic

Beliefs and Doctrine According to Ahl al-Sunna
(p. 117-134) and his

Encyclopedia of Islamic Knowledge

56 "The understanding of istiwa' as Allah's turning to a

particular command concerning the Throne is not far-fetched, and this is the

of Imam Sufyan al-Thawri, who took as corroborating evidence for it the

verse: "Then turned He to the heaven when it was smoke" (41:11), meaning:

"He proceeded to it" (qasada ilayha)." In al-Yafi`i, Marham

(p. 245) and Abu al-Ma`ali Ibn al-Juwayni, al-Irshad (p. 59-60).

57 Narrated from `Abd Allah ibn `Amr by Muslim, from Anas by

al-Tirmidhi (hasan sahih), and from al-Nawwas ibn Sam`an by Ahmad, al-Nasa'i,

Ibn Majah, Ibn Hibban in his Sahih, al-Hakim, and others, all with sound

chains. Al-Hakim declared the hadith sound and al-Dhahabi concurred. The

continuation of the hadith states that the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him

-- used to say: "O Transformer of hearts! Make firm our hearts in Your

Religion," and that he also said: "And the balance is in the

Merciful's hand, He elevates a people while he abases others, and so until the

Day of Resurrection."

58 Narrated from Ibn `Abbas, Jabir, Anas, and others by Ibn Abi

`Umar al-Ma`dani in his Musnad, al-Tabarani, al-Suyuti in his Jami` al-saghir

(1:516 #3804-3805), Ibn `Asakir in Tarikh Dimashq (15:90- 92), al-Khatib in

Tarikh Baghdad
(6:328), and others. It is considered forged by Ibn al-Jawzi and

Ibn `Adi (al-Kamil 1:342). Cf. al-Ahdab, Zawa'id Tarikh Baghdad (5:321-323

#949). However, al-`Ajluni stated that it is sahih as a halted report from Ibn

`Abbas as narrated by al-Quda`i in the wording: "The Corner [of the Black

Stone] (al-rukn) is Allah's Right Hand on earth...," and declared it hasan

as a hadith of the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him --. Ibn Qutayba in Ta'wil

Mukhtalif al-Hadith
(1972 ed. p. 215; 1995 ed. p. 198, 262) said that it was a

saying of Ibn `Abbas and relates a saying of `A'isha that the Black Stone is

the depository of the covenant of human souls with Allah on the Day of Promise (alastu bi

). Its mention in the Reliance of the Traveller (p. 853b) as

"narrated by al-Hakim, who declared it sahih, from `Abd Allah ibn

`Amr," is incorrect.

59 On the various positions on this question, see Ibn Kathir's

for this verse, Zakariyya al-Ansari's al-Muqsid li Talkhis Ma fi

(p. 45) and especially al-Dani's (d. 444) al-Muktafa fi al-Waqf wa


60 As al-Qari goes on to say the majority stop at Allah's name,

but both readings are possible, as stated by al-Suyuti in al-Itqan (1:264),

al-Raghib in Mufradat Alfaz al-Qur'an, Zakariyya al-Ansari in al-Muqsid li

Talkhis Ma fi al-Murshid
(p. 45), al-Dani in al-Muktafa (p. 195-197), and

others. The Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- defined "those who are

firmly grounded in knowledge
" (3:7) as "Those whose oaths are kept, whose

tongues are truthful, whose hearts are upright, and whose stomachs and genitals

are abstinent. They are among "those who are firmly grounded in

." Narrated from Abu al-Darda', Abu Umama, Wathila, and Anas by

al-Tabarani in al-Kabir (8:152 #7658), and from Ibn `Abbas by al-Hakim (`Ata'

ed. 8:152 #7658) with a sound chain as confirmed by al-Dhahabi.

61 Among the Salaf, Ibn Qutayba in his

Ta'wil Mukhtalif al-Hadith

took the position chosen by al-`Iraqi. This is also the position of Dr. al-Buti

in his book Min Rawa'i` al-Qur'an.

62 Cf. Fakhr al-Islam al-Pazdawi's remarks: "For us

[Maturidis], "those who are firmly grounded in knowledge" (3:7) have no share

in the knowledge of the ambiguous content of Qur'an (al-mutashabih) other than

to pure acquiescence (al-taslim), believing in the real nature of the meaning

(haqqiyya al-murad) in Allah's presence and that the pause at His saying:


knows its explanation save Allah"
(3:7) is required (waqf wajib). The People of

Belief belong to one of two levels in knowledge: some over-zealously demand

that it be read without pause - those are tested with a form of ignorance - and

some demand the pause - those are honored with a form of knowledge.... An

example of the ambiguous verses are the individual letters that open certain

suras. Another example is the affirmation of Allah's vision with the sight of

the eyes in reality in the hereafter, according to the explicit text of the

Qur'an: "On that day will faces be resplendent, looking towards their


(75:22-23). For He exists with the attribute of perfection, and the fact that

He can be seen both by Himself and others, is among the characteristics of

perfection; moreover, the believer is apt to receive such bestowal of Allah's

gift. However, the affirmation of direction is precluded (ithbat al-jiha

). It follows that the description of the vision is among the

ambiguities, and so it is obligatory to acquiesce to it while believing in its

reality. Similarly, the affirmation of the Hand and the Face are real (ithbat

al-yad wa al-wajh haqq
) in our school, known through its principle but

ambiguous through its description (ma'lumun bi aslihi mutashabihun bi wasfihi).

It will not be permitted to invalidate the principle on the grounds that one is

unable to comprehend the description. The Mu'tazila went astray only in this

respect, for they rejected the principles because of their ignorance of the

Attributes - and they became nullifiers-of-Allah's-attributes (mu'attila)."

In 'Ala' al-Din al-Bukhari's (d. 730) commentary on al-Pazdawi's Usul entitled

Kashf al-Asra
r (1:55-60). 'Ala' al-Din al-Bukhari comments: (1:60) "By

saying: 'For us,' the Shaykh shunned the position of those who say: 'Allah is

not to be described as possessing a face and hands, rather, what is meant by

the face is contentment (al-rida) or the Essence (al-dhat) and the like; and

what is meant by the hand is power or favor and the like.' The Shaykh therefore

said: Rather, Allah is described with the attribute of Face and that of Hand,

together with the upholding of His transcendence (tanzih) above having a form

(sura) and a limb (jariha).... Similarly with the affirmation of modality

(ithbat al-kayfiyya): its description is ambiguous, therefore it is obligatory

to acquiesce to it, firmly believing in its reality without busying oneself

with interpretation."

63 Narrated from Abu al-Khattab by al-Tabarani in al-Kabir (22:370 #927) with a weak chain as indicated by al-Haythami in Majma`


64 Al-Qari, Mirqat al-Mafatih (1892 ed. 2:136-137, 1994 ed. 3:298-301).

Allah's blessings and peace on the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions.

::  Dr. Gabriel F. Haddad  ::

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