Posted by: faqir | February 24, 2012

Do The Ash’aris Believe That the Apparent Meanings of the Qur’an are Kufr / Unbelief?

Shaykh Sa’id Abd al-Latif Foudah in his Naqd al-Tadmuriyya states:

When our scholars among the Ash‘arīs said that the apparent meanings of the texts mentioning certain ascriptions—such as hand, eye, face, shin, and so on—are not intended, they only meant the meanings that the anthropomorphists claimed were intended. The anthropomorphists claimed that the apparent meaning of eye is the well known body part, that the apparent meaning of hand is a physical limb, that face is that which is on the head and that contains two eyes, and that the shin is a body part. When the scholars of Ahl al-Sunna saw that the anthropomorphists were claiming that the Qur’ānic texts indicated these meanings and ascribed them to Allah, they refuted them and said: “These apparent meanings are not intended because there are many semantical and circumstantial elements showing that they are not intended.” What this means is that the meanings the anthropomorphists claimed to be the apparent indications of the texts are not the apparent meanings in the first place, because if they were truly the apparent meanings, the Divine texts would not mention semantical and circumstantial elements showing otherwise.

The disagreement is with regard to these meanings that only befit bodies and creation. We do not submit to the anthropomorphists and corperalists that these are the apparent meanings ascribed to Allah when the Qur’ān is read. On the contrary, these meanings only seem apparent to the one whose soul is already deviated away from proper belief in Divine unity and transcendence and is unaware of the rhetorical and linguistic styles of expression found in the [Arabic] language.

Linguistic principles clarify the correct meaning to those who look into the Qur’ān. The false meanings will not come to the mind of he who is aware of these principles and he will not call them ‘apparent’ at all. This is why our scholars said to the anthropomorphists: We know that it is incorrect to ascribe corporeality [ jismīyya ] and its implications such as limits and compositeness to Allah, the Exalted. Since saying that these things are the apparent meaning of the Divine texts is like saying that the apparent meanings of the Divine texts are unbelief—and this is impossible—it follows therefore that these meanings are not the apparent meanings of the texts. For that reason, it is a must that these verses be interpreted in a way that is different from these so called apparent meanings.




  1. imam maalik said that Allah is above the heavens and His knowledge is every where.

  2. As salamu alaykum,

    The chain for the narration of Imam Malik (ra) is discussed here;

  3. Reblogged this on The Fahlito Brigante Blog.

  4. A useful explanation provided by a brother elsewhere:

    “The definition of dhahir as stated by Imam Haramain in his Al-Waraqat:

    “Maa ihtamala amrain ahaduhuma azharu min al-akhar”

    meaning : “That (a text) conceivably contains two meanings (in which) one is more obvious than the other”

    The statement “one is more obvious than the other” is that the one meaning is more obvious than the other in one’s mind due to a determinant agent pointing to the obviousness of one meaning over the other which can be due to its conventional meaning (al-ma’na al-maudhu’ lahu) or its customary meaning (al-urfi bil isti’mal fiihi)

    For example: If one were to say : ” I saw a lion yesterday”. The word “lion” can imply two meanings; a predatory animal (the conventional meaning) or a brave man (its metaphorical meaning). Without any other extra evidence, the default meaning would be taken as the conventional meaning by the principle : “Al-asl fil kalam al-haqiqah” – “the (default) meaning of a text is its conventional meaning”. So the “predatory animal” is the dhahir.

    However, if the there exist a proof (dalil) that the meaning of the word “lion” is in fact “a brave man”, the obvious meaning of the two then is no longer the predatory animal. The “brave man” becomes the dhahir. This, in the language of usul fiqh is called “al-dhahir bi al-dalil” which is explicitly mentioned in the same chapter of Usul Fiqh just proceeding the discussion on “dhahir”.

    To summarize, the “dhahir” or “obvious meaning” of a text is not based on whimsical fancy but based on proofs. The stronger proof determines which of the meaning is the dhahir.

    And it is “obvious” to any straight thinking observer, if one word contains 2 meanings how does someone prefer one meaning over the other without any definite proof ?

    An interesting note : The commentator of Al-Waraqat, Imam Jalal al-Mahalli gives an example of dhahir bi al-dalil the verse : “And the sky that We raised up with hands” i.e. by Our qudrah. Thus the meaning of “qudrah” for the word “hands (aidin)” is the “dhahir bi al-dalil” also called “al-muawwal” by the definite proof “laysa kamithlihi syai’un” – “nothing whatsoever is like Him” negating the customary meaning of “hands”.

    To the question: Were there any grammarian or linguist among the Ash’aris ? I say: Who among the Ash’aris who were not?

    Wallahu Subhanahu wa Ta’ala A’lamu.

    (ref: Ibn Qasim ‘ala Waraqat, Al-Nafahat li al-Minankabawi, Al-Mahalli ‘ala al-Waraqat, etc)”

  5. […] There is a good discussion on this by Shaykh Sa’id Abd al-Latif Foudah in his Naqd al-Tadmuriyya [Arabic download] which I thought relevant to the above and will share [this is from the upcoming translation of the book to be published by sunni publications and was previously posted on the Ash’aris site]: […]


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