Understanding the Ayaat al-Sifaat: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

In his tafsir of surah al-‘Aaraaf, Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee brings the following clarification on how to properly understand the ayaat al-sifaat – or the verses of the Qur’an which discuss the attributes and descriptions of Allah. Imam al-Shinqitee begins his explanation of this important matter of ‘aqeedah (creed) by writing:

قوله تعالى : ثم استوى على العرش يغشي الليل النهار الآية . ـ

Allah’s statement:

ثُمَّ اسْتَوَىٰ عَلَى الْعَرْ‌شِ يُغْشِي اللَّيْلَ النَّهَارَ‌

and He then established Himself above the Throne. He covers the night with the day… [7:54]

هذه الآية الكريمة وأمثالها من آيات الصفات كقوله : يد الله فوق أيديهم [ 48 \ 10 ] ونحو ذلك ; أشكلت على كثير من الناس إشكالا ضل بسببه خلق لا يحصى كثرة ، فصار قوم إلى التعطيل وقوم إلى التشبيه ، سبحانه وتعالى علوا كبيرا عن ذلك كله والله جل وعلا أوضح هذا غاية الإيضاح ، ولم يترك فيه أي لبس ولا إشكال ، وحاصل تحرير ذلك أنه جل وعلا بين أن الحق في آيات الصفات متركب من أمرين : ـ

This noble ayah and those like it from among the ayaat of attributes (sifaat), such as His statement:

يَدُ اللَّـهِ فَوْقَ أَيْدِيهِمْ

The hand of Allah is over their hands [48:10]

and the likes of that – these are a difficult ambiguity for many people, thereby misguiding so many of the creation that their great numbers cannot be enumerated. So some people therefore went to committing al-Ta’teel [rejection of Allah’s attributes] and some people went to committing al-Tashbeeh [likening Allah with His creation] – exalted and elevated is He by a great height above all of that. But Allah clarified this with the utmost clarification, and He did not leave any confusion or ambiguity. And the attainment of being freed from that (ambiguity) is that He has clarified that the truth regarding the ayaat of attributes is composed to two issues:

أحدهما : تنزيه الله جل وعلا عن مشابهة الحوادث في صفاتهم سبحانه وتعالى عن ذلك علوا كبيرا . ـ

One: Declaring Allah free from resemblance to the created beings in regards to their attributes – exalted and elevated is He above that by a great height.

والثاني : الإيمان بكل ما وصف الله به نفسه في كتابه ، أو وصفه به رسوله صلى الله عليه وسلم ; لأنه لا يصف الله أعلم بالله من الله : أأنتم أعلم أم الله [ 2 \ 140 ] ، ولا يصف الله بعد الله أعلم بالله من رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ، الذي قال فيه : وما ينطق عن الهوى إن هو إلا وحي يوحى [ 53 \ 3 ، 4 ] فمن نفى عن الله وصفا أثبته لنفسه في كتابه العزيز ، أو أثبته له رسوله صلى الله عليه وسلم زاعما أن ذلك الوصف يلزمه ما لا يليق بالله جل وعلا ، فقد جعل نفسه أعلم من الله ورسوله بما يليق بالله جل وعلا . سبحانك هذا بهتان عظيم . ـ

Two: Having eemaan in everything that Allah described Himself with in His Book, or that His messenger (ﷺ) described Him with, for there is no one describing Allah who is more knowledge concerning Allah than Allah.

أَأَنتُمْ أَعْلَمُ أَمِ اللَّـهُ

Are you more knowing or is Allah? [2:140]

And there is no one describing Allah after Allah who is more knowledgeable concerning Allah than the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). And Allah said regarding Him:

وَمَا يَنطِقُ عَنِ الْهَوَىٰ * إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا وَحْيٌ يُوحَىٰ

Nor does he speak from [his own] inclination. * It is not but a revelation revealed [53:3-4]

So whoever denies an attribute of Allah which He has affirmed for Himself in His Mighty Book, or which His messenger (ﷺ) has affirmed for Him – whoever does this claiming that that attribute necessitates something which is not befitting of Allah, then he has considered himself as being more knowledgeable than Allah and His messenger concerning what befits Allah. Exalted are You [O Allah], this is a grievous slander!

ومن اعتقد أن وصف الله يشابه صفات الخلق ، فهو مشبه ملحد ضال ، ومن أثبت لله ما أثبته لنفسه أو أثبته له رسوله صلى الله عليه وسلم مع تنزيهه جل وعلا عن مشابهة الخلق ، فهو مؤمن جامع بين الإيمان بصفات الكمال والجلال ، والتنزيه عن مشابهة الخلق ، سالم من ورطة التشبيه والتعطيل ، والآية التي أوضح الله بها هذا . هي قوله تعالى : ليس كمثله شيء وهو السميع البصير [ 42 \ 11 ] فنفى عن نفسه جل وعلا مماثلة الحوادث بقوله : ليس كمثله شيء وأثبت لنفسه صفات الكمال والجلال بقوله : وهو السميع البصير فصرح في هذه الآية الكريمة بنفي المماثلة مع الإتصاف بصفات الكمال والجلال . ـ

And whoever believes that an attribute of Allah resembles an attribute of a created being, then he is a misguided anthropomorphic heretic. And whoever affirms for Allah that which Allah affirmed of Himself or that which His messenger (ﷺ) affirmed for Him, while declaring Him free of resembling the creation, then he is a believer who combines between having al-eemaan in the perfect and magnificent attributes of Allah while declaring Him from from resembling the creation. He is safe from the dilemma of al-tashbeeh and al-ta’teel, and there is an ayah in which Allah clarified this position. It is His statement:

لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ ۖ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ‌

There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the Hearing, the Seeing. [42:11]

So He negates any similarity between Himself and the created beings with His statement:

لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ

There is nothing like unto Him [42:11]

And He affirms the perfect and magnificent attributes for Himself with His statement:

وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ

and He is the Hearing, the Seeing. [42:11]

So in this noble ayah He clarified a denial of similarity along with attribution of the perfect and magnificent attributes.

والظاهر أن السر في تعبيره بقوله : وهو السميع البصير دون أن يقول مثلا : [ ص: 19 ] وهو العلي العظيم أو نحو ذلك من الصفات الجامعة ; أن السمع والبصر يتصف بهما جميع الحيوانات ، فبين أن الله متصف بهما ، ولكن وصفه بهما على أساس نفي المماثلة بين وصفه تعالى ، وبين صفات خلقه ، ولذا جاء بقوله : وهو السميع البصير بعد قوله : ليس كمثله شيء ففي هذه الآية الكريمة إيضاح للحق في آيات الصفات لا لبس معه ولا شبهة البتة ، وسنوضح إن شاء الله هذه المسألة إيضاحا تاما بحسب طاقتنا ، وبالله جل وعلا التوفيق . ـ

And what is apparent is that the underlying reason for His expression of “and He is the Hearing, the Seeing” rather than saying – for example -, “and He is the High, the Great” or the likes of that from His comprehensive names is that all moving creatures are characterized by the qualities of hearing and seeing. So it is clear that Allah is characterized with both of these things, however His being described with both of these things is based on the foundation of negating resemblance between His attributes and the attributes of His creation. And it for this reason that His statement, “and He is the Hearing, the Seeing” comes after His statement, “there is nothing like unto Him“. So in this noble ayah there is a clarification of the truth regarding the ayaat of attributes; there is no confusion with this and there is absolutely no resemblance. And we will (continue) to clarify this issue – in shaa Allaah – with a complete clarification to the best of our abilities, and success is with Allah.

[Adhwaa’ al-Bayaan 2/19-20]

See also: The two types of ‘with-ness’ of Allah: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: The Three Categories of Tawheed according to the Qur’an: Imam al-Shinqitee

See also: Does the Qur’an use metaphorical language? – Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: “Taking the Qur’an according to its apparent meanings”: Ibn Taymiyah

See also: A Comprehensive Statement regarding Bid’ah: Imam al-Sa’di

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9 thoughts on “Understanding the Ayaat al-Sifaat: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

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