Ibn ‘Uthaymeen's view on Allaah having a 'body', 'limit' and 'direction'
Fatwa No: 275167

  • Fatwa Date:18-4-2015 - Jumaadaa Al-Aakhir 29, 1436
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Question

Is it true that Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen attributed a jism (body) to Allaah in his commentary of ‘Aqeedah al-Waasitiyyah? Does Allaah have a hadd (limit) and directions (namely the six directions), and did Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn al-Qayyim attribute that to Allaah? May Allaah bless you.

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His slave and Messenger. 

First of all, it should be noted that the terms "jism" (body or mass), "hadd" (limit or boundary) and "jihah" (direction) were neither affirmed nor negated in the Quran or Sunnah in relation to Allaah, The Exalted. The basic principle is that these terms should not be used without restriction in relation to Allaah and the specific meaning intended by the sayer should be investigated. If one means by it a correct meaning, we agree with him on that meaning, but we do not agree with him on the use of the language. Furthermore, we express the correct meaning in the Islamic terms. Some scholars may use these terms in the course of explaining and refuting religious innovations and violations.

Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him who was one of the eminent scholars of Sunnah in this age, adopted this investigation-based approach regarding such ambiguous terms. This is evident in his discussions with those who adopt opposing beliefs to those held by the early Muslims in relation to affirming the divine attributes of Allaah. For example, he affirmed the divine attribute ‘Uluww (Highness or Aboveness). Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said,

"The viewpoint of Ahl As-Sunnah Wa-l-Jamaa‘ah is that Allaah, The Exalted, is High above His creation in His being; His ‘Uluww above His creation is one of His intrinsic eternal divine attributes. Two groups held an opposing view to that of Ahl As-Sunnah in this regard; one group were of the view that Allaah, The Exalted, exists everywhere. Others held that Allaah is not above the world, not below it, not in it, not to the right, not to the left, not separate from the world and not attached to it.... Those who argued that Allaah is not described as being in a certain direction say: describing Allaah as such entails that He consists in a body/mass (jism), and this necessitates assimilating Him to His creation, and therefore, we reject the proposition that Allaah exists in any of the six physical directions. However, we answer the two groups in two steps; first, we invalidate their argument, and second, we prove the opposite of their statement with decisive proof…. You say: affirming the existence of Allaah within the six physical directions entails Tajseem (corporealism, or that He is a jism)! Let us investigate the term "jism" first; what exactly is this jism in your view that causes you to negate the divine attributes because of it? Do you intend by "jism" a physical body that is composed of parts in need of each other, and the jism does not function except with these parts put together? If this is your intended meaning, then we reject it and we say: Allaah is not a jism in this sense, and whoever says: affirming the attribute of ‘Uluww to Allaah entails attributing a jism to Him, then his words are a mere claim and it is sufficient for us to say: not acceptable. However, if you mean by "jism" a being that exists on its own, one that is qualified with what befits it, we also affirm that. And we say that Allaah, exalted is He, has a being, and He is existing on His own, qualified with the attributes of perfection. And this is what every person knows.” [Sharh Al-‘Aqeedah Al-Waasitiyyah]

He  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said in response to those who negate the divine attribute of Istiwaa’ (mounting the Throne) under the pretext that this would entail holding that Allaah is bound by Hudood (limits): "What do you mean exactly by "Hudood"? If you mean that Allaah is distinct and separate from His creation, then this is true and implies no deficiency nor does it contradict or reduce the divine perfection in any aspect. But if you mean by Hudood that the Throne encompasses Him, then this is false and is not entailed by affirming the "mounting" (Istiwaa’) of Allaah. Verily, Allaah, The Exalted, mounted His Throne while He is greater and mightier than the Throne and all other created beings and things. This does not entail that the Throne encompasses Him nor is that possible; Allaah is greater than all that is created. The universe, from its highest to its lowest, is extremely small in relation to the Creator. The whole earth will be in His grasp on the Day of Resurrection, and the Heavens will be rolled up in His right hand.

Ibn Taymiyyah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said in his Dar' Ta‘aarudh An-Naql wa-l-‘Aql (Reconciling Reason and Revelation): "The discourse on Tamtheel (assimilationism, i.e. claiming total equality between the Creator and the created in all attributes) and Tashbeeh (resemblance, i.e. claiming equality between the Creator and the created in most attributes) and rejecting both in relation to the divine attributes of Allaah is one thing and the discourse on Tajseem (anthropomorphism, i.e. likening Allaah to a body) and rejecting it is something else. As to the first, it was negated by the Quran, Sunnah, and consensus of the Salaf (righteous predecessors) and all scholars. There are lengthy reports about their rejection of the claims of the proponents of Tashbeeh, who say that Allaah has a hand like mine, eyesight like mine and feet like mine. The discourse on whether Allaah is a jism or jawhar (substance) either to negate or affirm it, is a bid‘ah (religious innovation) that has no basis in the Quran and Sunnah and none of the early Muslims and early scholars addressed this issue, neither with negation nor with affirmation. The debate among those who affirm it and those who negate it is partially linguistic and partially signification-related; they are both erroneous in some way. If the debate is with someone who says: He is a "body" or "substance", if such a person says: (but) not like the bodies and substances, the problem lies only in the language. If someone says: He is like the bodies and substances, the discourse with such a person will be according to whatever meaning he explains. If the intended meaning is to assimilate Allaah with His creation, then it is rejected if it entails affirming the attribution of the attributes of created beings to Allaah; this is false. If the intended meaning is that Allaah is a body but not like bodies, and that He is exalted above resemblance to His creation, then the argument with them is about the affirmation or negation of this meaning."

To summarize the issue of hadd (limit) in relation to Allaah, Ibn Taymiyyah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him underlined in his books Dar' At-Ta‘aarudh and Bayaan Talbees Al-Jahmiyyah that Allaah is beyond the limits that we know but has a limit that only He knows.

Some scholars negated the attribution of "limit" to Allaah because affirming it may create the misconception that this means that Allaah is contained and confined to space or location; therefore, they negated it so as to reject the idea that anything comprehends Allaah in knowledge or conception and that Allaah exists beyond the limits of created space and location.

As for attributing the six physical directions to Allaah, it is false. The scholars of Ahl As-Sunnah wa-l-Jamaa‘ah affirm only one direction to Allaah, and that is the direction of highness. They believe that Allaah, The Exalted, is High above His creation. Nothing is opposite to it in reality except for one direction - lowness.

Ibn Taymiyyah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him  said: "It is unanimously known that the orbits are spherical in shape and that the upper direction is the circumference and the lower direction is the center. Orbits have only two directions, above and below, and the other directions are all irrelative. The six physical directions are for animals only; for the animal has six sides: up, down, left, right, front and behind. These six directions are not considered attributes in and of themselves; they are rather relative. What lies to the right of something lies to the left of something else, what lies in front of something lies behind something else; what lies above something lies below something else, and so on. However, the up and down directions of orbits do not change; the circumference is always above and the center is always below." [Ar-Risaalah Al-‘Arshiyyah]

Ibn ‘Uthaymeen  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him was asked about the ‘Uluww (aboveness) of Allaah and those who hold that Allaah does not exist in the six physical directions but rather only in the believer's heart. He replied, "Affirming the sound creed of the Salaf, that Allaah is above His creation. He provided evidence supporting his view then said: "As for their saying that Allaah does not exist in the six physical directions, this statement is generally false because it entails negating what Allaah has affirmed in relation to Himself and what He has affirmed (on the tongue of) His best creation, who exalts and knows Him best; His Messenger Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said that He is in the heaven which is above the creation. In fact, negating that "direction" in relation to Allaah necessitates the belief that He is non-existent because any existent being has to be in one of the six physical directions: up, down, right, left, back, and front. This is commonly known by reason. Even if the mind may assume the existence of a being beyond the six physical directions, this is still inside the mind and non-existent outside of it. We hold that it is incumbent on whoever believes in Allaah to believe in His Highness above His creation as indicated in the Quran, Sunnah, consensus of the Salaf, reason, and innate natural instinct, as we stated earlier. Nevertheless, we still believe that Allaah, The Exalted, comprehends all the creation; none of His creation comprehends Him. He does not need any of His creations; rather He is their Creator and Sustainer."

This was also asserted by Ibn Al-Qayyim  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him in his books Ijtimaa‘ Al-Juyoosh Al-Islaamiyyah and As-Sawaa‘iq Al-Mursalah.

Allaah Knows best.

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