Tafweed in simple terms means to consign the knowledge of the Mutashaabihaat ayaat that refer to Allah’s Divine Attributes back to Allah. We find the basis of tafweed in the Qur’an in more than one ayah! And it is this understanding which the first three generations are upon, and the many revivers that have since came after them.
One such ayah is, as mentioned before, Surat ul-Imran ayah 7 which speaks specifically about the mukhamaat and the mutashaabihaat:
The Arabic says
Wa ma ya’lamu taweelahu illa Allah, wa ar-Rasikhun fi al-ilm yaquloona aamanaa bihi kullum- min ‘Indi Rabbinaa i.e. “None knows their meaning except Allah, and those firmly grounded in the knowledge [fi al-ilm] say:’We believe in it [i.e. the knowledge] yet all of it is WITH our Lord”
What can can clearly see from this ayah when analized gramttically that the personal pronoun in “bihi – i.e. in it” has its place of return [irja’] which returns to the last subject, which in this case is the knowledge. So in effect, the people who say “we believe in it”, they are refering to the knowledge of the Mutashaabihaat. Secondly when we read the word kull, this emcompasses all, i.e. every, just as it does in the hadeeth kulla bid’atin dalaalah – Every innovation is misguidance” so all of the knowledge is …..with? – with Allah!
But let us notice the word with, which is ‘Inda [in the gentive state due to the prepostion “min”. There are two words that are reguraly used for “with” in the Arabic language. Ma’a and ‘Inda. The difference between them is that ma’a denotes a withness that can be anywhere in any place.
For example somebody is telling me I want to set up a business over the phone and he wants me to partake I would reply in Arabic Ana ma’a ka, i.e I am with you [in purpose]. With ‘Inda, however, this denotes a phsical withness as in ‘Indy qalam, i.e. I have a pen with me. So when we say that all of the knowledge is WITH Allah, then by Allah that is what we mean.
This is what we call tafweed, tafweed ul ma’na – consining the knowledge of the meaning back to Allah, and tafweed ul kayfa, consigning the knowledge of the modality back to Allah.
We find that the Salafi cult commonly tries to refute the tafweed and the people who strictly adhere to this principle. For example, Muhammad ibn Saalih ibn ‘Uthaymeen in attempt to refute tafweed:
“This statement, if taken unconditionally, contains a point of scrutiny. The wording, “their apparent meanings” is somewhat vague and needs clarification.If what is intended by “their apparent meanings” is what evident from the texts of attributes befitting Allaah without making Tashbeeh , then this is exactly what is intended. Whoever says that this is not the intended meaning then he is misguided if he actually believes that, and he is a liar or mistaken if he attributes this to the salaf.If what is intended by “their apparent meanings” is what is evident to some of people in that the apparent meaning is to make Tashbeeh of Allaah with his creation is something impossible. And, the apparent meaning of the Qur’aan and Sunnah would never be something impossible. Whoever thinks this is what is meant by “their apparent meanings”, then his mistake is to be clarified to him. It is to be clarified that the apparent meaning as well as the detailed meaning is to affirm the Attributes in a manner that befits Allaah and is specific to him.
In this way, we would be giving the texts their rights in wording and meaning, and Allaah knows best.” [Said to be from Sharh al-Aqeedat ul-Wastiyah, however their reference does not pan out]
The statement of Shaykh Uthaymeen demonstrates that the Salafiyyah are in confusion about the principle and defintion of the Zaahir when it comes to Hanbali ‘Aqeedah, and the Salafiyyah are often mistaken in thinking that fiqh terminology “Zaahir” holds the same defintion when it comes to ‘Aqeedah. This is not the case.
As with many other defintions, the meaning of the word changes due to its respective science. In ‘Aqeedah matters, Zaahir does not refer to the literal transparrent meaning, but it refers to what is seen by the visable eye when reading a text. Thus when it is said “we pass the text by on its Zaahir”, the priciple happening here is that the visable wording is being affirmed, even though the meaning is not known. It is simply passed by without meaning and without modality.
Thus Shaykh Uthaymeen is in deep error when he says: “If what is intended by “their apparent meanings” is what evident from the texts of attributes befitting Allaah without making Tashbeeh”
The reason for this is that we do not say this is the apparent meaning, this is to claim to know the meanings! We say we affirm the meaning without knowing it, seeing the visable wording [Zaahir] of the text and passing it by, and none knows its taweel except Allah, we believe in this knowledge, we do not know what it means or how it is, this knowledge is with Allah, hence we consign it back to him! This is tafweed!
This is the Creed of Imaam Ahmad b. Hanbal as he understood it and wrote it down in his Kitaab al-I’tiqaad [being translated at present by Saladin Publishing], it is the creed of Imaam Muwaffaq ud-Deen Ibn Qudaamah al-Maqdasi how he repeated it in his Lum’at ul-I’tiqaad [already available from Saladin Publishing] and this is the creed of Imaam Abdur Rahmaan Ibn al-Jawzi upon how he defended it from the Neo Hanaabilah in his Daf ush-Shubah wal-Tashbeeh.
Imaam Muwaafaq ud-Deen Ibn Qudaamah al-Maqadasi in his poetic treatise and mukhtasar of Imaam Ahmad’s Kitaab al-I’tiqaad gives us the Hanbali creed in it’s truth in many places. Ibn Qudaamah al-Maqdasi makes his creed abundantly clear, especially when read in ‘Arabic. He says:
لَا تُمَثِّلُهُ اَلْعُقُولُ بِالتَّفْكِيرِ, وَلَا تَتَوَهَّمُهُ اَلْقُلُوبُ بِالتَّصْوِيرِ
which means He cannot be represented by the use of the intellectual mind through reflection, nor can He be imagined with the use of any self thought illustration. p. 21, Lum’at ul-I’tiqaad
Our mind has no choice but to do tafweed!
Ibn Qudaamah al-Maqdasi further says:
مَوْصُوفٌ بِمَا وَصَفَ بِهِ نَفْسَهُ فِي كِتَابِهِ اَلْعَظِيمِ, وَعَلَى لِسَانِ نَبِيِّهِ اَلْكَرِيمِ
وَكُلُّ مَا جَاءَ فِي اَلْقُرْآنِ, أَوْ صَحَّ عَنْ اَلْمُصْطَفَى -عَلَيْهِ اَلسَّلَامُ- مِنْ صِفَاتِ اَلرَّحْمَنِ وَجَبَ اَلْإِيمَانُ بِهِ, وَتَلَقِّيهِ بِالتَّسْلِيمِ وَالْقَبُولِ, وَتَرْكُ اَلتَّعَرُّضِ لَهُ بِالرَّدِّ وَالتَّأْوِيلِ, وَالتَّشْبِيهِ وَالتَّمْثِيلِ
وَمَا أَشْكَلَ مِنْ ذَلِكَ وَجَبَ إِثْبَاتُهُ لَفْظًا, وَتَرْكُ اَلتَّعَرُّضِ لِمَعْنَاهُ, وَنَرُدُّ عِلْمَهُ إِلَى قَائِلِهِ, وَنَجْعَلُ عُهْدَتَهُ عَلَى نَاقِلِهِ, اِتِّبَاعًا لِطَرِيقِ اَلرَّاسِخِينَ فِي اَلْعِلْمِ, اَلَّذِينَ أَثْنَى اَللَّهُ عَلَيْهِمْ فِي كِتَابِهِ اَلْمُبِينِ
Allah has described Himself with the descriptions contained within the Qur’an, and by what has been spoken upon the tongue of His Noble Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wasallam. It is incumbent [waajib] to believe in the Attributes of the All Merciful that are mentioned in the Qur’an and the authentic traditions of the chosen Prophet Muhammad al-Mustafaa sal Allahu alayhi wasallam.
These [Attributes] are to be accepted whole heartedly with full submission, abandoning the acts of opposing them by rejection [rad], interpretation [ta’weel], deducing similarities [tashbeeh], or claiming that Allah is identical to His creation [tamtheel]. As for what appears to be ambiguous, we are obliged [being waajib] to make affirmation [of such Attributes of Allah leaving off any rejection to their meaning. We are to consign its knowledge to its narrator, committing its authority to the transmitter, thereby following the path of those who are firmly grounded in knowledge. Lum’at ul-I’tiqaad, p. 25-26
Notice that he said
“We are to consign its knowledge to its narrator, committing its authority to the transmitter, thereby following the path of those who are firmly grounded in knowledge.”
This is tafweed
To concrete this understanding further, Imaam Ibn Qudaamah al-Maqdasi quoted from Imaam Ahmad b. Hanbal as saying:
وَ مَا أَشْبَهَ هَذِهِ اَلْأَحَادِيثِ نُؤْمِنُ بِهَا, وَنُصَدِّقُ بِهَا, لَا كَيْفَ, وَلَا مَعْنَى
“Whatever is similar from the Ahaadeeth, we are to believe in them and to give confirmation of them, without giving modality [saying how], and without giving a meaning to them Lum’at ul-I’tiqaad, pgs 28-29
This is Imaam Ahmad b. Hanbal doing tafweed al kayfiyyah and tafweed ul-ma’niyyah
Ibn Quddamah quotes from another scholar firmly grounded in knowledge, Imaam Ash-Shaafi’ who says
آمَنْتُ بِاَللَّهِ وَبِمَا جَاءَ عَنْ اَللَّهِ عَلَى مُرَادِ اَللَّهُ, وَآمَنْتُ بِرَسُولِ اَللَّهِ, وَبِمَا جَاءَ عَنْ رَسُولِ اَللَّهِ, عَلَى مُرَادِ رَسُولِ اَللَّهِ
“I believe in Allah and what has come to us from Allah on the import Allah intends them, and I believe in the Messenger of Allah sal Allahu alayhi wasallam, and what has come to us from the Messenger of Allah sal Allahu alayhi wasallam on the import the Messenger of Allah intended them” Lum’at ul-I’tiqaad, p. 30
Imaam ash-Shaafi’ is doing tafweed!
Please note how all Imaam’s here did not claim to know the meaning, but rather they affirmed and consigned the meaning without knowing the intended meaning. This is indeed performing both Tafweed ul-Kayf wa Tafweed al-Ma’ana.
To drive the nail further, Imaam Barbahaaree, who is said by the Salafis to be one of the earliest Hanbali authorities says this in his creedal treatise Sharh us-Sunnah:
“The saying ‘Allah created Adam in His image’ and the saying “I saw my Rabb in the most beautiful form” and the likes of such ahaadeeth, then we accept them, affirm them and perform tafweed [of their meaning]. We do not explain any of them by desire and to have imaan in them is waajib. Anybody who explains them according to his personal opinion or denies them is a Jahmi” Sharh us-Sunnah, pgs 116-117, Makatabah al-Furqaani print, 1429ah.
Now lets see what the Salafiyyah have to say about the tafweed that Imaam Ibn Qudaamah al-Maqdasi has laid down as a priciple for the creed. Shaykh Uthaymeen rivals against the Hanbali madh-hab in Aqeedah, and we can clearly see this when he said:
“As for what is stated here in al-Lum’ah, then it is in conformity with the views of tafweed and that is from the most evil and vilest of views”. P. 29
We see clearly from this statement that he is disagreeing with Imaam Muwaffaq ud-Deen on his act of assigning the true knowledge back to Allah regarding His Mutashaabihah Attributes.Not only this, but this also demonstrates that the Wahhabis are not upon the creed of Imaam Muwaffaq ud-Deen who is classified in consensus to be one of the greatest scholars and representatives of the Hanbali madh-hab. Thus the Wahhabis are not Hanbalis is creed like they would like you to think.
The complete opposite to not doing tafweed, is using you imagination to picture Allah. The Wahhabiyyah have much anthropomorphism happening in their creed, whereas we Hanbalis are safeguarded. Here are just a few examples:
In the commentary of Lum’at ul-I’tiqaad by Muhammad Bin Saleh al-Uthaimeen, we find the commentator saying:
“with regards to the texts of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, it is obligatory (concerning Allah’s Names and Attributes) to leave their proofs and implications upon their literal meanings without changing them. This is because Allah revealed the Qur’an in a plain ‘Arabic language and the Prophet (salAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam) used to speak with the ‘Arabic language. Therefore it is obligatory to leave the implications of the words of Allah and the Messenger as they are in that language.” P. 16
This is problematic due to the fact that the real meaning of hand is a literal hand and this is the implication that the Salafi creed teaches. They are placing physical descriptions into the minds of people when they imply that Allah has real physical hands, and this is more of an innovation than delving into the howness and modality of Allah’s hand.
It shall be echoed again and again through that the traditional Hanbali madh-hab teaches to accept the wording of the text and pass it by, even if we do not know the meaning! We are to accept the meaning even if we do not know the meaning in the sense that Allah intended it, without knowing how.
The Salafi creed teaches that they know the real meaning of Allah’s Attributes and do not enquire into the modality whereas Muslim orthodoxy teaches that we may know the linguistic meanings of the Attributes that Allah has mentioned for Himself, however, we cannot reach the knowledge of what Allah means by His Hand, His Face, etc. to apply the linguistic meanings to Allah’s Attributes would be to expose the how, the modality etc. again such knowledge is impossible to know in this lifetime.
Never once have any of the Salaf [the first three generations] ever said that the Attributes of Allah should be understood in the haqeeqah [literal] sense. In fact they have said again and again that the wording of the text kept upon it’s prima facie [Zaahir] and passed by without seeking it’s meaning.
To say that Zaahir [prima facie] means haqeeqah and haqeeqah means Zaahir only exposes their folly in misunderstanding what Zaahir means.
When discussing Surah 5 ayah 64, al-Uthaimeen wrote:
“Indeed, what is literally apparent from this ayah is that Allah has two actual hands…” p. 17
One can clearly see the cogs of the Salafi thinker at work. It is obvious he is using his mind for what should not be imagined! This is none the less anthropomorphism. Did he even understand the very first page of Lum’at ul-I’tiqaad when Imaam Muwaffaq ud-Deen mentioned the word tasweer?
Commenting on the Istiwaa, al-Uthaimeen manages to contradict the whole teaching of Imaam Muwaffaq ud-Deen’s Lum’at ul-I’tiqaad by saying in point 10:
“The rising of Allah over His throne, which means His elevating and settling over it in a manner that is befitting for Him”.
What al-Uthaimeen has done here is that he has made ta’weel by attempting to explain the meaning and modality in which is his very own interpretation of the Istiwaa. One who reads the text Lum’at ul-I’tiqaad with an orthodox understanding will notice that there is a great difference between the creed and principles of author and the creed and principles of the commentator.
The Istiwaa could have only been known by Imaam Maalik in the linguistic sense, for to know the true intended meaning of the Istiwaa would be to know the modality, and this is not what Imaam Maalik meant.
One Wahhabi book actually got it right when it was written:
“Maalik said: the Istiwaa is known – in the linguistic sense – but how it happened is unknown, and asking about it is bid’ah [innovation], as Umm Salmah has said. And this is sufficient”.
This passage may have been translated from Imaam al-Qurtubi’s tafseer, 2/219. However, it is also found in p. 269 of the Islamic Creed Series, vol . 1 by ‘Umar S. Al-Ashqar’s Belief in Allah.
Take note however, to how it has been translated on p. 29 of the Explanation of the Sufficiency in Creed, where it is clearly written“The rising is well known… “ this type of translation is ta’weel within itself!
This translation is problematic for two reasons:
a. The translator has delved into literal interpretation [ta’weel al-haqeeqah – describing the reality] by expressing a definite action and a meaning to al-Istiwaa
b. He has grammatically erred in his translation. What has been translated as well known should in fact be translated as “not unknown” [ghayr majhul].
Such Wahhabi deliberate tampering and mistranslation of terms demonstrate their agenda. This also demonstrates the author to lack command in the ‘Arabic language and it’s related grammar rules. The translator seems to make his own Ism Mubaalaghah [noun of exaggeration] in his translated sentence where as in the original ‘Arabic there is no noun of exaggeration.
He places his own words “well known” which either demonstrates he is highly mistaken and has an agenda to boost and twist the intended meaning and context of Imaam Maalik’s statement. The translator took his statement from Muhammad Ibn Ibraheem book Fatawaa wa Rasaa’il
There are said to be 15 different linguistic meanings for the ‘Arabic word al-Istiwaa. They are as follows:
1. Istaqraa – meaning to settle. We can see this from the passage in Surah , ayah 4, in which the Ark of Noah came to rest [Istaqraa] upon mount Judi
2. Irfafaa’ meaning to rise or to ascend. This is the meaning according to Ibn Abbas [? Is it? See Tanweer ul-Miqbaas on the passages of al-Istiwaa]
3. ‘Alaa – meaning above, over or upon, to rise above or tower upon. See Tafseer Mujaahid, and see the statement of Mujaahid found within Saheeh al-Bukhaari, 20:5
4. Istiqama – to be steadfast or to be firm, this can be seen from Surah , ayah 29
5. To attain maturity as in Surah  ayah 14
6. Qahara, Istiwala – meaning to subdue, or conquer, prevail or overcome. The Mu’tazilah say this in regards to Surah 20, ayah 5
7. To mount [Saida] as found in Surah 23, ayah 38 and Surah 43, ayah 13
One of the forerunners of the Ash’ariyah in this day of age is Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kayybani who said regarding the meaning of al-Istiwaa:
“The best explanation of any ayah is its recitation; leaving it as it was revealed and unexplained. This was the way of Malik, al-Shafi’, al-Awzai, Ahmad, and the rest of the Salaf with regard to this ayah. However, due to the influence of those who have continued to impose physical limitations on the Creator since the time of the Salaf, it has been, and is still an obligation of the Muslims to clarify the ambiguities that may otherwise be used to lead believers astray”. P. 99-100, Islamic Doctrine, vol. 1, Beliefs.
To say that Allah is sitting [bi-adh-Dhaat] in person, or in the most literal sense [haqeeqah] would be to say that we know how the Istiwaa was done, which is impossible for such a human to possess such knowledge. The consensus of the Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah regarding this position is that they do not know the modality, the howness. They only know the linguistic meanings according to the limited understandings of what is found in the Lexicons and Dictionaries. The fact of the matter is, words can limit Allah, yet Allah is indeed unlimited.
One of the descendants of Muhammad Ibn ‘Abdul Wahhab, Muhammad Ibn Ibraheem Aali ash-Shaykh, commented upon Lum’at ul-I’tiqaad saying:
“And we must believe that these Names and Attributes are in their actual literal sense… and that they bear actual meanings that are befitting to Allah’s honor and grandness. The meaning of these Names and Attributes are clear and well known from the Qur’an, just like anything else. There is no obscurity, vagueness, or mystery in them…. p 29, Lum’ah
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