Statements of Imaam Al-Bukhari about essential attributes of Allah
Fatwa No: 340393

Question

Do you know of any statement from Imam Al-Bukhaari about the Hands, Face, Eyes, and Legs of Allaah being metaphorical and not literal?

Answer

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

Imam Al-Bukhari  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him is a renowned senior scholar of Hadeeth, and he followed the methodology of Ahlus-Sunnah in affirming the attributes of Allah, The Almighty. This is evident as we go through the book of Tawheed in his work Saheeh Al-Bukhari. There is a chapter therein to affirm the Face for Allah, another chapter to affirm the Eye, and a third one to affirm the Hand. As for the attribute of the Foot or Leg, you find it in the chapter on the words of Allah: {...and He is The Exalted in Might, the Wise.} Therein, he cited the hadeeth reported by Anas ibn Maalik, may Allah be pleased with him, which says that the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, "(The sinners) will continue to be thrown in it (Hell), and it will say, 'Is there any more?' until the Lord of the Worlds puts His foot on it, so its parts will draw close to each other, and it will say, 'Enough! Enough! by Your Might and Your Honor,' and there will still be enough space in Paradise until Allah creates a new creation for it and makes them inhabit that spare place in Paradise." [Al-Bukhari]

Similar to that is what he mentioned regarding the words of Allah: {Surely, the Mercy of Allah is near unto the doers of good.} [Quran 7:56] He also allocated a chapter in the Book of Tafseer (exegesis) in his Saheeh entitled: "Chapter: The Statement of Allah, {And it (Hellfire) will say: Are there some more?} [Quran 50:30] In this chapter, he cited the hadeeth of Anas which related that the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, "Hellfire will receive those thrown into it, and it will keep on saying, 'Is there any more?' Until He (Allah) puts down His Foot, whereupon it will say, 'Enough! Enough!"

In his book Sharh Kitaab At-Tawheed min Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Shaykh Al-Ghunaymaan mentioned the different versions of this hadeeth cited by Al-Bukhari and then said, "The totality of these narrations clearly indicate that the Foot and Leg - and both are one and the same - are a true attribute of Allah as befits His majesty."

The only statement in Saheeh Al-Bukhari that might be used as supportive evidence by those who figuratively interpret the attributes of the Hand, Face, Eye, and Leg with respect to Allah is his statement in the Book of Tafseer about verse 88 of Surat Al-Qasas {Everything will perish except His Face.} [Quran 28:88] He said that it means, "Except His dominion; and it is also said that it means, except what is done seeking His Face (i.e. in sincere worship of Him)."

It was claimed that Al-Bukhari interpreted the Face to mean Dominion! Shaykh Al-Ghunaymaan said in his book mentioned above, "Al-Bukhari  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him mentioned this verse in his book of Tafseer and then said after it, 'except His dominion; and it is also said that it means, except what is done seeking His Face.' He did not say anything else in this regard. It may be claimed that Al-Bukhari used figurative interpretation here, but it is not so." [Sharh Kitaab At-Tawheed min Saheeh Al-Bukhari]

The clear truth is that what Al-Bukhari mentioned in the Book of Tafseer does not mean that he is not affirming the attribute of the Face for Allah, since he allocated a chapter in the Book of Tawheed in his Saheeh for this same verse and cited the hadeeth narrated by Jaabir which affirms the Face for Allah therein, as has been previously mentioned. Hence, his statement in the Book of Tawheed cannot be considered as Ta'weel (figurative interpretation). It is the Book of Tawheed that was allocated specifically to the topic of the affirmation of the attributes of Allah, and not the Book of Tafseer. This is why Shaykh Al-Ghunaymaan commented:

"His statement 'except His Dominion' is a far-fetched interpretation, and it is contrary to his (Al-Bukhari's) methodology in the Book of Tawheed, wherein he cited the verse and then the hadeeth narrated on the authority of Jaabir in which the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, said, 'O Allah! I seek refuge with Your Face...' This clearly indicated that he wanted to affirm the attribute of the Face for Allah. What further refutes that interpretation is that all things belong to the Dominion of Allah; can it be, then, said that everything shall perish except everything? This is different from his other statement, 'except what is done seeking His Face.' This meaning is implied in the verse while the text of the verse affirms the attribute of the Face to Allah."

It can also be said that 'Dominion' in Al-Bukhari's statement does not refer to the creation of Allah; rather, that it means His intrinsic attribute of Dominion, meaning that the destruction of all the creation of Allah does not mean the destruction of His Dominion. Rather, Allah, The Exalted, remains the One True Sovereign after all the sovereigns of the earth perish. Allah, The Exalted, says (what means): {The Day they come forth nothing concerning them will be concealed from Allah. To whom belongs (all) sovereignty this Day? To Allah, the One, the Prevailing.} [Quran 40:16] Allah, The Exalted, also says (what means): {And His is the dominion (on) the Day the Horn is blown.} [Quran 6:73] and: {Blessed is He in Whose hand is dominion, and He is over all things competent.} [Quran 67:1] The Dominion and Sovereignty of Allah shall not perish even if all His creation perished.

In any case, we must make a distinction between the difference of opinion among people about the indication of a specific religious text or verse regarding one of the attributes of Allah and the affirmation of this attribute by means of other decisive evidence. Ibn Taymiyyah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him wrote:

"People often make this mistake when they are caught up between the views of those who negate an attribute and those who affirm it with regard to the way a certain text indicates it. The affirmers wish to make a certain term - in its context - indicative of the attribute, while the negators say that the same term did not indicate the attribute in another text so it does not indicate it here. Some affirmers might say: It indicates the attribute here so it is indicative there; rather, when they saw that some texts indicate the attribute, they made every verse that they imagine to have something attributable to Allah an indication of affirming that it is one of His attributes, such as the verse: {Oh (how great is) my regret over what I neglected in regard to Allah.} [Quran 39:56] (The Arabic phrase translated here as 'in regard to Allah' is 'in the side of Allah'.) This major mistake is committed by both parties (affirmers and negators), as the indication of the text depends on its context and what surrounds it of contextual evidence ... Let us contemplate these two good examples in this regard: first, the Attribute of the Face. Since affirming the Face is the methodology of Ahl Al-Hadeeth and the scholars of ‘Ilm Al-Kalaam (Scholastic theology) such as the Kullabiyyah, Ash‘ariyyah, and Karraamiyyah, whereas negating the Face is the methodology of the Jahmiyyah from the Mu‘tazilah and others and some Ash‘aris, each party started to treat every verse including the word 'Face' as a subject for dispute; the affirmers make it an attribute that is not subject to interpretation, while the negators say that if there is evidence that it is not an attribute, then the same applies to all the other attributes..." [Majmoo‘ Al-Fataawa]

You may refer to the rest of the statement of Ibn Taymiyyah in his book Majmoo‘ Al-Fataawa for more benefit.

In brief, Imaam Al-Bukhari  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him was one of the leading Imaams of Ahlus-Sunnah who affirmed the attributes of Allah, like the Hand, Face, Eye, and Foot (in a manner befitting His Majesty), following the methodology of the righteous predecessors.

Allah knows best.

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