Ta’weel of the Attributes of Allah

Question: We learned at school that the doctrine of Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal-Jamaa`ah (adherents to the Sunnah and the Muslim mainstream) concerning the Names and Attributes of Allaah is to believe in them without Tahreef (distortion of the meaning), Ta‘teel (denial of Allaah’s Attributes), Takyeef (descriptive designation of the Attribute), or Tamthil (likening Allaah’s Attributes to those of His creatures). We knew that we must not allegorically interpret the texts that contain these Attributes. But we have come to meet some people who told us that there are two schools of thought in the creed of Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal-Jamaa`ah. 

The first school is that of Ibn Taymiyyah and his students (may Allaah be merciful to them). The second school is that of Al-Ashaa`irah. What we learned at school was the views held by Ibn Taymiyyah and his students.

The rest of Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal-Jamaa`ah; Al-Ashaa`irah, Al-Matrudiyyah and others had no objection as to giving Ta’weel (allegorical interpretation) to the Names and Attributes of Allaah as long as this will not lead to contradiction with decisive Shar‘ee (Islaamic legal) texts. They based their argument on some views attributed to Ibn Al-Jawzee (may Allaah be merciful to him) and some other scholars in this regard.

Even Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the Imaam of Ahl-ul-Sunnah (adherents to the Sunnah), had allegorically interpreted some Attributes of Allaah such as those mentioned in sayings attributed to the Prophet (peace be upon him) such as: The hearts of the children of Aadam are between two Fingers of The Most Merciful… And: The Black Stone is Allaah’s Right Hand on earth. And those Attributes are mentioned by Allaah (Exalted be He) in His saying: And He is with you (by His Knowledge) wheresoever you may be. And so on.

The question that arises here is: Is it Islaamically correct to divide Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal-Jamaa‘ah into two schools in such a way, Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal-Jamaa`ah into two sects this way?What is your opinion concerning the Ta’weel of the Attributes of Allaah when there is no contradiction with decisive Shar‘y texts? What would be the position of the scholars who allegorically interpreted the Attributes, like Ibn Hajar, Al-Nawawee Ibn Al-Jawzee and others?

Should we still consider them to be from among the A’immah of Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal-Jamaa`ah? Or should we regard that they were mistaken in their interpretation, or they deliberately deviated?

It is well-known that Al-Ashaa`irah allegorically interpreted all the Attributes of Allaah except the seven Attributes of Al-Ma`aanee (meanings). But, if one of the scholars allegorically interprets two or three of these Attributes, should we consider him to belong to Al-Ash‘aariah?

Answer: Firstly, The claim that Imaam Ahmad had allegorically interpreted some of the Attributes of Allaah as those mentioned in the Hadeeth: The hearts of the Servants (of Allah) are between two Fingers of The Most Merciful… And the Hadeeth: The Black Stone is Allaah’s Right Hand on earth etc., is not true. Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah said: “What is transmitted through Aboo Haamid Al-Ghazalee from a Hanbalee scholar who stated that Ahmad made Ta’weel only in three texts… read more here.

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