Regarding the hadith that says “God is between you and your qibla” (إِنَّ رَبَّهُ بَيْنَهُ وَبَيْنَ الْقِبْلَةِ)

Ibn Hajar says that in this is a refutation on those who claim that God is upon the throne bi dhatihi (with His Essence)

(فِيهِ الرَّدّ عَلَى مَنْ زَعَمَ أَنَّهُ عَلَى الْعَرْش بِذَاتِهِ).

Link to Arabic Quote


[An excerpt translated by Abdur Rahman Al-Sondalaani from Ahl al-Sunna: The Ash‘arīs – The Testimony of the Scholars and Their Proofs By: Ḥamad al-Sinān & Fawzī al-‘Anjarī]

Since the matter is as we mentioned – as the Scholars have clarified, what is the reason for accusing Abdullah bin Sa’eed bin Kullaab of opposing the way of the Salaf?

Ibn Abdil Barr said in clarification of some of the reason, in his biography of Al Imam Al Karaabeesi (Al Intiqaa p. 165)

There used to be a strong friendship between him – Al Karaabeesi – and Ahmad bin Hanbal. But when he disagreed with him about the Quran, that friendship turned into enmity. They began to criticize each other. And all of this was because Ahmad would say,

“Whoever says the Quran is created is a Jahmi. And whoever says ‘The Quran is the Speech of Allah’ and does not say it is not created or it is created is a waaqifee. And whoever says “my utterance of the Quran is created” is an innovator.”

Yet Al Karaabeesi, Abdullah bin Kullaab, Abu Thawr, Dawood bin ‘Ali, and their generation would declare: the Quran Allah communicated is one of His qualities. It is not rationally possible for it to be created. And the recitation of the reciter and his utterance of the Quran is his kasb and his action and that is created. And it is an expression of the speech of Allah….and the Hanbalis, the companions of Ahmad bin Hanbal, abandoned Husain Al Karaabeesi and labeled him an innovator and criticized him and anyone else who made his statement about that.” Endquote from Ibn Abdil Barr

This is the reason for criticizing and smearing Abdullah bin Kullaab, and describing him as not being on the way of the Salaf. Then, with the added fact that these Imams entered into theology (‘Ilmul Kalaam) to refute the opposition and expose their deviance, the matter becomes even clearer. For Ahmad used to detest this theological approach to clarify the truth. And he would prefer to stop where the Salaf stopped. And this is the truth, no doubt, as long as no need arises.

Taajud Deen As Subki, rahimahUllah said:

“And we say as Ahmad said. We say: the right thing is to not discuss the issue at all, as long as no pressing need to (discuss it) arises.”

At any rate, this statement for which Abdullah bin Kullaab was branded an innovator did not necessitate that he be branded as such, or for it to be said that he was on other than the way of the Salaf. This is especially true since the issue of the creation of the utterance of the Quran is something many high ranking scholars of the Muslim Ummah affirmed, like the ones Ibn Abdil Barr mentioned, and also Al Imam Al Bukhari, Al Imam Muslim, Al Haarith Al Muhaasibi, Muhammad bin Nasr Al Mirwazi, and others.

And the fitnah that occurred between Al Bukhari and his sheikh Adh-Dhuhli was only due to this issue, i.e. the issue of the utterance. And Al Imam Al Bukhari compiled his book “the creation of the actions of the slaves” for this issue, to affirm his opinion about it and respond to whoever disagreed with him.

At Taaj As Subki said:

For indeed the truth in the matter of utterance, is with him (Al Bukhari). Because no one with intellect from the creations would doubt that his utterances are from his temporal actions which were created by Allah the Exalted. But Imam Ahmad, may Allah be pleased with him, only denied it due to its unpleasant sound.”

As for Imam Muslim, he would openly affirm the createdness of the utterance and not conceal it. (see siyar vol12/p453 and v12/p572)

Al Haafidh Ibn Katheer, rahimahUllah said in the biography of Al Karaabeesi

And that Al Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal would speak critically of him because of the issue of the Lafdh. And he would also speak about Ahmad. So people avoided taking from him due to this. (Ibn Katheer) said, I say: what I saw about him is that he said the speech of Allah is uncreated in every way except that my utterance of the Quran is created. And whoever does not say (i.e. believe) that my utterance of the Quran is created is a disbeliever. And this is what has been related from Al Bukhari, and Dawood bin Ali Adh Dhaahiri. And Al Imam Ahmad closed this door to prevent the declaration of the Quran being created.” End quote from Ibn Katheer.

Also included among the scholars who affirmed the createdness of the utterance of the Quran is Al Imam Muhammad bin Jareer At Tabari, may Allah have mercy on him. And this is among the issues that made some of the extreme Hanbalis hostile towards him. Al Haafidh Ibn Katheer, may Allah the Exalted have mercy on him, said:

What happened between him – At Tabari – and the Hanbalis, I believe it was due to the issue of the uttered word. And he was also accused of Shi’ism. And they demanded a debate. So Ibn Jareer arrived for the debate but none of them showed up. And the Hanbalis have exaggerated this issue and gone to the extreme in it. And they believe that affirming it leads to affirming creation of the Quran. But it is not as they claim. For the truth should not be protected with falsehood. And Allah knows best. (Tabaqaat Al Fuqahaa Ash-Shaafi’iyyeen v1 p226)

Precisely! Because the Quran is the speech of Allah the Exalted, it is not created, and it is a quality of His supreme Essence. But it is not correct to protect this truth with the falsehood of denying the temporality and createdness of what exists with a creation, and then besmirching everyone who says otherwise!

At any rate, the truth in this issue was with Al Karaabeesi, Ibn Kullaab, Al Bukhari and Muslim, Abu Thawr, Dawood, Al Muhaasibi, At Tabari, and others who were on their path. As for Imam Ahmad, may Allah be pleased with him, and whoever confirmed his statement; that statement is understood to be a locking of the door of probability – to prevent people from graduating from affirmation of the createdness of the utterance to affirming the createdness of the Quran.

Al Imam Adh Dhahabi said:

And there is no doubt that what Al Karaabeesi innovated and worded in the issue of the “utterance” and that it is created is the truth. However, Al Imam Ahmad disallowed it so that it would not be used as a means to state that the Quran is created. So he shut the door.” (Siyaru A’laam An Nubalaa vol 12 page 82, and also see vol 11 page 510)

Adh Dhahabi also said:

“And he (Al Karaabeesi) would say: “The Quran, the speech of Allah, is uncreated. But my utterance of the Quran is created” Endquote. So if he meant the utterance, then this is fine, for indeed, our actions are created. But if he meant that what is recited and uttered is created, this is what Ahmad and the Salaf denied and considered to be Jahmism.” (Meezaan Al I’tidaal vol 1 page 544)

There is no doubt that Al Karaabeesi, Ibn Kullaab, Al Bukhaari and Muslim, Abu Thawr, Dawood, and whoever agreed with their statement meant the first meaning. And in general, this issue is not significant enough for someone to be labeled and innovator because of it.

He also said, after quoting the statement of Al Haafidh Abu Bakr Al A’yun:

“The Shaikhs of Khuraasaan are three: Qutaybah, Ali bin Hajar, and Muhammad bin Mihraan Ar Raazi. And its men are four: Abdullah bin Abdir Rahman As Samarqandi, and Muhammad bin Ismaa’eel Al Bukhari before what appeared from him appeared…etc.

Adh Dhahabi commented on this statement saying:

“What appeared from Muhammad – meaning Al Bukhari – was a lightweight affair among the issues that the Imams differed about pertaining to the Quran. It is called the issue of the actions of the reciters. The majority of the Imams of the Salaf and Khalaf are upon (the statement) that the Quran is Allah’s revealed speech and is uncreated. And we submit to Allah with this belief.” (see Siyar A’laam An Nubalaa vol 11 page 510)

And it does not follow from the severance of Imam Ahmad of these Imams that they were not upon the way of the Salaf, especially since the truth was with them in what they adopted as Al Imam Adh Dhahabi said.

And he also said:

For this Imam (Imam Ahmad that is) did not allow discussion of this issue of research out of fear of it being used as a means to affirming the Quran being created. And refraining from this issue is best. We believe in Allahu ta’aala, His angels, His books, His Messengers, His Divine decrees, the Resurrection, and being presented to Allah on the Day Judgment. And if this issue was explained and expounded upon with evidences it would come out in five volumes. But it is already available and explained for whoever seeks it. And the Quran contains a cure and mercy for the Believers. And it’s well known that utterance is included in the kasb (earned actions) of the reciter and it is not what is uttered. And the recitation is other than what is being recited. And the reading, along with its beauty and its tajweed, is not the thing being read. The voice of the reciter is from his own action (kasb). He originates the utterance, the voice, the intonation, the articulation, and the pronunciation from his organs of speech, which are created. Yet he did not originate the words of the Quran, its arrangement, its composition, or its meanings.” (see Siyaru A’laam An Nubalaa vol 11 page 290) [Note: By “originates” he means “does”, not origination which is synonymous with creation, as the Mu’tazila say]

Then he (Adh Dhahabi) narrated from Al Haakim, with his isnaad, upto Fawraan the companion of Ahmad that he said:

Al Athram and Abu Abdillah Al Mu’aiti asked me to seek a private counsel with Abu Abdillah (Imam Ahmad), so that I may ask him about our companions who differentiate between utterance and what it being uttered. So I asked him and he said: “The Quran, however it is engaged, in speech and actions is not created. And as for our actions – they are created. Fawraan continues: So I said “Then the ones who affirm the createdness of utterances, O Abu Abdillah, do you consider them to be Jahmis?” He said, “No. The Jahmiyyah are the ones who say: The Quran is created.”

And Al Imam Al Bayhaqi narrates in his book Al Asmaa was Sifaat from Abdullah, the son of Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal:

I heard my father say: “Whoever says “My utterance of the Quran is created”, intending the Quran itself, is a disbeliever.”

Al Haafidh Al Bayhaqi commented on this statement saying:

“I say: his statement “intending the Quran itself” is a limitation that his son Abdullah memorized from him. And others were not attentive to it who related from Imam Ahmad something different than what we have narrated, until they ascribed to him what he cleared himself from as we have mentioned.” (see page 266)

And Al Imam Al Bukhari, may Allahu ta’aala have mercy on him, said:

“As for what the two opposing sides are using to argue in support of the madhhab of Imam Ahmad and to stake a claim to his madhhab for themselves – most of their reports are not sound. And they perhaps did not comprehend the exactitude of his madhhab. What is known from Ahmad and the people of knowledge is that the speech of Allah is uncreated and other than it is created, and that they abhorred investigation and research of deep and unclear matters. They also avoided people of Kalaam and discussion and disagreement except in what knowledge came about, and what was clarified by RasoolUllah, SallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. (see Khalqu Af’aalil ‘Ibaad page 43)

And we are positive that they, may Allahu ta’aala have mercy on them, did not say these statements without there being a need. Definitely not! And far is it from them to speak on something the Sahabah and Tabi’een were silent about. But when they saw that the crowd of people broke down this door and discussed this matter, and interpreted it incorrectly, they were compelled to speak about it to clarify the truth and prevent the people from what they were doing.

Al ‘Allaamah (Muhammad Zaahid) Al Kawthari, may Allahu ta’aala have mercy on him, said:

Imam Ahmad’s criticism of Ibn Kullaab and his companion [Al Haarith Al Muhaasibi] was due to his dislike of discussion of Kalaam (theology) and is abstinence from it. But the truth is that engaging in it is necessary when the need arises, contrary to the opinion of Ahmad.” (See his commentary on Tabyeen Kadhib Al Muftari: footnote #2 on page 406)

In summary, as Al Haafidh Adh Dhahabi described it, this is a lightweight matter. And this is an issue in which the statements of the Imams conflict. But they still all agree that the Quran which is the quality of Ar Rahman and is His speech is not created.

And by this it becomes clear that Al Imam Ibn Kullaab was not alone in this position he adopted; rather the major Imams of the Deen had also adopted it. It is also known by the aforementioned that he did not innovate or oppose the manhaj of the Salaf and the Sunnah. Instead he was a major figure among Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaa’ah who are following the footsteps of the Salaf As Saalih as the aforementioned statements of the scholars concerning him have affirmed.

When this is the case, where did the claim that Al Imam Al Ash’ari abandoned his path and opinions come from!?

“A whole group of them [the Salaf] as well as of the Khalaf scholars [later scholars], said:

“The one who believes in a direction [for Allah] is a blasphemer (kafir), as has been clearly narrated by al-‘Iraqi when he said “This is the saying of Abu Hanifa, Malik, Al-Shafi’i, al-’Ashari and al-Baqillani””

[Mirqat al-Mafatih, Sharh Mishkat al-Masaabih vol.3 p.300]

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.


Posted by: faqir | February 24, 2012

Qadi Ibn Al-‘Arabi al-Maliki on the Mujassima

[The Imām, the Mujtahid, the Muḥaqqiq,1 Ibn Al-ʿArabī Al-Mālikī, may Allah have mercy on him, said in his book Al-ʿAwāṣim min Al-Qawāṣim 2:]
We have made it clear in more than one place that those who conspire against Islam are many and those who are negligent towards it are many, while its friends3 who are preoccupied with it are few.
Those who conspire against it include:
Al-Bāṭiniyya, and we have already explained all of their states.
Those who conspire against it also include Al-Ẓāhiriyya, and they consist of two groups:
The first are those who follow the outward (ẓāhir) in creed and foundations (uṣūl).
The second are those who follow the outward in foundations only.
Both of these groups, in their foundation, are wretched filth (khabītha), and what has branched out from both of them is also wretched filth, for indeed the bastard child is just a toy and a snake can only give birth to a snake.

The group which takes the outward in creed are on the edge of likening Allah to His creation (tashbīh), like the former in denying Allah’s creation (taʿṭīl), and I was tested by them on my travels and they interfered with me greatly, against my wishes. I mostly saw them in Egypt, the Levant (Shām) and Baghdad.

They say: ‘Indeed Allah knows better than us regarding Himself, His Attributes and His creations, and He is our teacher, so when He informs us of a matter we believe in it as He has informed us and we believe in it as He has commanded.’
When they hear: “What are they waiting for but for Allah to come to them in the shadows of the clouds, together with the angels…”4 and “And your Lord arrives with the angels rank upon rank”5 and “…And Allah came at their building from the foundations…”6 and “Our Lord descends to the lowest sky every night…”7 they say that He moves, transfers, and comes and goes from one place to another. When they hear His statement: “The All-Merciful, established firmly upon the Throne”8 they say that He is sitting on it, that He is attached to it and He is bigger than it by four finger-lengths, as it is not valid for Him to be smaller than it, because He is The Most Great (Al-ʿAẓīm). Also, it is not like Him because “There is nothing like unto Him”9, and thus He is bigger than the Throne10 by four finger-lengths.
A group of Sunnis in the city of Salām11 have informed me about what Al-Ustādh Abū Al Qāsim ʿAbdul Karīm Ibn Hawāzin Al-Qushayrī Al-Ṣūfī from Nīsābūr mentioned. He organised a gathering of dhikr and the whole creation was present. Then the reciter read: “The All- Merciful, established firmly upon the Throne.” The most distinguished of them said to me: ‘I saw – i.e. the Ḥanbalīs – standing during the gathering and saying: “Sitting! Sitting!”12 with the loudest and farthest reaching voices. The Sunnis from amongst Al Qushayrī’s companions became furious at them, as well as the others present, and the two groups because enraged at each other. The majority overwhelmed them and forced them into the Niẓāmiyya School and detained them therein. Then they pelted them with various objects and some of  them died. The leader of the group rode off as well as some of their teachers, and thus they silenced their revolution and put out their flame.They say that He speaks with letters and a voice, and they attribute it to Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal.Their falsehood causes them to go as far as saying that the letters are pre-eternal (qadīm)! They say that He possesses a hand, fingers, a forearm, an arm, a hip, a leg and a foot, withwhich He walks wherever He wants. They also say that He laughs, walks and walks quickly.
I have been informed by one my sheikhs whom I trust that Abū Yaʿlā Muḥammad Ibn Al Ḥusayn Al-Farāʾ13 – the head of the Ḥanbalīs in Baghdad – when mentioning Allah the Exalted,as well as these literal interpretations that have been mentioned regarding His Attributes,would say: ‘Impose upon me what you will, for indeed I adhere to it, apart from the beard and nakedness.’! They conclude by saying: ‘If someone wants to know Allah, let him look at himself, for indeed Allah is in His eyes, except that Allah is transcendent above banes, pre-eternal without a beginning and everlasting without end. This is due to the statement of the Prophet, may Allah’s prayers and peace be upon him: “Indeed Allah created Adam in His image (ṣūra)” and in another narration: “In the image of the All Merciful”, which is ṣaḥīḥ.Thus, Allah indeed has a face (wajh), and we do not negate it and we do interpret it any way that would lead to impossibilities that the intellect cannot accept.’
The head of this group in the Levant was Abū Faraj Al-Ḥanbalī in Damascus, Ibn  Al-Rumaylī,the muḥaddith, in Jerusalem, Al-Qatrawānī in the area of Nablus, Al-Fākhūrī in Egypt, and Abū Ḥusayn Ibn Abī Yaʿlā Al-Farāʾ represented them in Baghdād. Each one of them has followers from amongst the laity, a large number, [they are] a band rebelling against the truth and in partisanship against the creation.If they had the ability to understand and they had been endowed with some knowledge of the Dīn of Islam, they would have restrained themselves due to the incoherence of their statements and the general falsehood of what they say, but mental retardation14 has overwhelmed them and thus they don’t have hearts with which to understand, nor eyes with  which to see or ears with which to hear. They are like cattle, but even more astray.15
I have been informed by more than one person that Abū Ḥāmid Aḥmad Ibn Abī Ṭāhir Al Isfarāyīnī went out to meet his companions one day and he was very happy, so they asked him why. He responded: ‘I debated with a layman today and I defeated him.’ It was then said to him: ‘You defeated a widow.16 How can you rejoice at defeating the laity?’ He said: ‘The scholar is held back by his knowledge, his intellect and his Dīn, while the layman is not held back by any understanding or Dīn, and thus I only defeat him rarely and occasionally.’

Al-Qāḍī Abū Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, said: ‘I will tell you something strange. Indeed I have not come across a group without finding something in their positions that I agree with – and Allah has protected me with his tawfīq from looking further into it –  except for the Bāṭiniyya and those who liken Allah to His creation. Indeed they are a horde of whom I am convinced have no knowledge behind them. I discarded their statements as soon as I heard them, whereas with other groups one has to think rationally and legally about the evidence required until the intellect and law guide one to the source of salvation.17

Our companion, Abū Manṣūr Sātkīn Al-Turkī, a resident of a military outpost, and Abū Muḥammad ʿAbdul ʿAzīz, the Qāḍī of Al-Baskara in the east, were once with us, and they had been given the ability to understand and had been endowed with intelligence and nobility. However, the companionship of Ibn Al-Manānī had overwhelmed them and they had chosen the madhhab of the Qadariyya.18 I entered upon him 19 and he was happy to see me. He asked me about my creed and I told him. He said: ‘What has prevented you from adopting the creed of the truth from the madhhab of the people of tawḥīd (meaning himself and his companions from the Qadariyya) and it is a madhhab that goes from Ibn Al-Faraj back to Abū Al-Ḥusayn, to ʿAbdul Jabbār, to Abī Hāshim, to Al-Jubāʾī, to the family of ʿAlī Ibn Abī Ṭālib, may Allah be pleased with him, and then to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s prayers and peace be upon him?’ I thus learned that he had delved into the inward,20 adhered to Ahl Al-Bayt and adopted the madhhab of the Qadariyya as a cloak, and this was in opposition to his father, may Allah be pleased with him, who was called “The Believer of Pharaoh’s Household” by Al-Qāḍī Abū Bakr Ibn Al-Ṭayyib, as he was a Ḥanafī in his branches21 and an Ashʿarī in his foundations.22 Not a single Ḥanafī is  seen in Khurāsān or Iraq except that he is a Muʿtazilī or Karrāmī,23 with the exception of those beyond the river24 in Balkh, for indeed as far as those lands are populated the people are Sunni and are upon a path more faithful to the truth. I stood up and left him, and he was a luminary in fiqh. I heard him speaking in the Masjid of Al-Manṣūr with [Imam] Al-Shāshī regarding the issue of giving a ruling for someone who is absent25 and I saw a man who indeed gave the evidences regarding the matters of rulings and used them according to the Iraqi way.
1 Translated from Al-ʿAwāṣim min Al-Qawāṣim, (Cairo: Dar Al-Turāth) p.208-213
2 (tn): i.e. verifier, investigator
3 (tn): Ar. awliyāʾ
4 (tn): Al-Baqara 2:210
5 (tn): Al-Fajr 89:22
6 (tn): Al-Naḥl 16:26
7 (tn): Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim and other collections.
8 (tn): Ṭaha 20:5
9 (tn): Al-Shūrā 42:11
10 (tn): Ar. Al-ʿArsh
11 (tn): i.e. Baghdad
12 (tn): Ar. qāʿidun
13 (tn): i.e. the Elder
14 (tn): Ar. fidāma
15 (tn): This is a paraphrase of Al-ʿAʿrāf 7:179
16 (tn): i.e. someone who is defenseless
17 (tn): or safety
18 (tn): This group believed that man had absolute free will, independent of Allah’s will.
19 (tn): i.e. Al-Manānī
20 (tn): Ar. tabaṭṭana al-bāṭin, i.e. he had joined the Bāṭiniyya.
21 (tn): Ar. furūʿ, i.e. fiqh
22 (tn): Ar. uṣūl, i.e. creed
23 (tn): Ar. Al-Karrāmiyya: the followers of Abū ʿAbdullah Muḥammad Ibn Karrām (d.255 AH). They affirmed Allah’s attributes but fell into anthropomorphism and likening Allah to His creation. Please see Al-Milal wa Al-Niḥal by Imam Al-Shahrastānī (v.1) for further details.
24 (tn): i.e. the Euphrates
25 (tn): i.e. not present in court and/or missing
Posted by: faqir | September 4, 2011

Imam Al-Karabisi

Imām Al-Karābīsī

by Dr. GF Haddad

Al-H.usayn ibn ‘Alī ibn Yazīd, Abū ‘Alī al-Karābīsī رحمه الله  (d. 245 or 248) the trustworthy h.adīth Master, a scholar of H.anafī then Shāfi‘ī fiqh and kalām, “one of the oceans of the Science” accord­ing to al-Dhahabī, he was one of al-Shāfi‘ī’s major disciples in Iraq whom al-S.ayrafī rec­ommended, together with Abū Thawr, to his stu­dents. He also took h.adīth from ‘Alī ibn al-Madīnī, al-Shādhakūnī, and others.

Al-Karābīsī is related to say: “When a Scholar of h.adīth narrates a report, both outward and inner knowledge of this report become obliga­tory, just as dictated by mass-narrated reports.” At the same time, he held that “The slip of one scho­lar of knowledge demolishes Islām, whereas the slips of a thousand ignoramuses do not.” Accordingly he was strict in his refusal of any ruling at variance with the letter of the Law in patent legal matters, such as the ac­ceptance of the testimony of a single witness provided he swears an oath.[1]

Al-Karābīsī was taken to task severely by Abū Thawr, Muh.ammad ibn ‘Aqīl al-Firyābī, H.ubaysh, and Ah.mad for his book Kitāb al-Mudallisīn in which he unwit­tingly provided arguments for the enemies of the Sunna, such as the disparagement of al-A‘mash.[2] This book was refuted by Imām al-T.ah.āwī in a five-volume work, unfortunately lost.

Al-Karābīsī narrated that al-Shāfi‘ī said: “After the Prophet [sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam] people were in difficulty and did not find anyone under the sky better than Abū Bakr. Thus they used him as the one who carried the responsibil­ity of the people.”

When he heard that Imām Ah.mad had declared as an inno­vation his statement that the pronunciation of the Qur’ān was created, al-Karābīsī said: “Pronunciation means other than the thing pronounced” (talaffuz.uka ya‘nī ghayra al-malfūz.). Then he said of Ah.mad: “What shall we do with this boy? If we say ‘created’ he says bid‘a, and if we say ‘not created’ he says bid‘a!” The H.anbalīs were angered and declared him un­acceptable as a nar­rator. Al-Dhahabī commented: “There is no doubt that what al-Karābīsī in­novated and explained in the question of the pronunciation is the truth. But Imām Ah.mad refused it in order to pre­clude the extension of the ques­tion to the Qur’ān itself, since one cannot distinguish the pro­nun­ciation from the pro­nounced – which is the Speech of Allāh I – except in the mind.”[3] Similarly, Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr stated that al-Karabīsī was only stating the position of most of his generation over the issue of pronunciation, such as Ibn Kullāb, Abū Thawr, and Dāwūd al-Z.āhirī (as well as al-Bukhārī and Muslim).[4]

[1]For example, Mu‘āwiya’s acceptance of Umm Salama’s single testimony on behalf of her cousin, or Zurāra’s of Abū Miljaz’s single testimony, or Shurayh.’s of Abū Qays’s single testimony.

[2]See Ibn Rajab at the very end of his book Sharh. ‘Ilal al-Tirmidhī (2:806-807).

[3]Cf. Siyar (10:81-82 §1988) and T.abaqāt al-Shāfi‘iyya al-Kubrā (2:117-126 §25).

[4]Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, al-Intiqā’ (p. 165).

Posted by: faqir | September 3, 2011

Imam al-Harith al-Muhasibi

Who is Hārith Al-Muhāsibī?

Abdullah ibn Hamid Ali
Lamppost Productions

Imam Al-Hārith ibn Asad Al-Muhāsibī was born in the city of Basrah and lived and died in the city of Baghdad in the year 243 after the Hijrah. He was one of the Pious Predecessors (Salaf) of this Ummah and a contemporary of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal. He was called ‘Al-Muhāsibī’ due to his constant reckoning of himself, taken from the word ‘Muhāsib’ that means ‘One who takes account of something.’

Imam Al-Muhāsibī was most famous for his purity of faith and righteousness. And he is an example of a true Sūfī as understood in its true and original meaning, not as understood by many today as being one who worships dead people, or whirls in circles for hours on.

He was a scholar in all of the traditional Islamic Sciences: Aqīdah, Fiqh, and Tasawwuf (i.e. Iman, Islam, and Ihsān), and he excelled at each one of them. He is believed to have met and studied with Imam Shāfi’ī and followed his madhhab (School of Law).
Imam Al-Muhāsibī – despite enjoying such prestige – wasn’t free of opposition from certain scholars of his time due to the fact that he took an approach that was different from many of the scholars of his age.

The second and third centuries of Islamic History was the era of hadīth documentation and the development of the hadīth sciences. So most of the major scholars of the time were focused on the preservation of hadīth and distinguishing fabricated and weak reports from those that were sound.

Imam Al-Muhāsibī on the other hand, was inspired to focus on the purification of the heart and understanding the human psyche. So he would question his students about their thoughts and inclinations, try to understand them and how to cure those that were mischievous, and then he would write books inspired only by spiritual intuitiveness as opposed to what came in the form of scripture.

For this reason, some of the scholars of his time severely criticized him, and cautioned people against reading his books. For instance, when Abu Zur’ah Al-Rāzī was asked about him and his books, he said:

 “Beware of these books…Innovations and deviances. Be obliged by what is transmitted. For verily, you’ll find in it what will avail you from these books.” It was then said to him, “But there is useful consideration (‘ibrah) in these books.” He replied, “Whoever doesn’t have useful consideration in the Book of Allah, then he has no useful consideration in these (books). Has it reached you that Mālik[1], Thaurī[2], Auzā’ī[3], or any of the Imams wrote books about insidious notions (khatarāt) and mischievous whisperings (wasāwis) and these things? These are people who have gone against the People of Knowledge. They come to us sometimes with Al-Muhāsibī, other times with ‘Abdur-Rahīm Ad-Dayabalī, and other times with Hātim Al-Asamm.” Then he said, “How quick are people to innovations!”[4]

Anyone who is acquainted with the writings of Imam Al-Muhāsibī will quickly realize that these comments made by Imam Abu Zur’ah are unjustified and clearly shows the intolerance of those traditionally termed as Ahlul-Hadīth for anyone who took an approach different from theirs.

If there is any bid’ah (innovation) that Al-Muhāsibī is guilty of it is merely that he didn’t take the same approach as that of those like Abu Zur’ah, while it escaped the Imam (Abu Zur’ah) that his approach was also a bid’ah, since it was something that neither the Prophet nor his companions embarked upon. So not every bid’ah is blameworthy.

As for Imam Ahmad’s contention with Al-Muhāsibī, it isn’t totally clear except that scholars have given a few different reasons. Some say that Imam Ahmad criticized Al-Muhāsibī because of the books that he wrote in refutation of some deviant sects of Islam like the deniers of the divine decree (Qadarīyah). The problem was that in his books he would thoroughly explain or at least mention some of the arguments posed by the deviant groups. So he forbade people to read Al-Muhasibī’s, so they wouldn’t be exposed to the deviant doctrines.

Some say that Imam Ahmad took issue with Al-Muhāsibī’s statement that Allah speaks without words or sound. Ahmad’s view was that such additions shouldn’t be made. Rather, one should limit one’s self to saying that Allah speaks and has the attribute of speech, since the Salaf didn’t go into detail about such matters. Al-Muhāsibī’s position on the other hand was the natural result of his debates with deviant sects who equated Allah’s speech to the speech of his creatures by saying that it is with letters and sound. And Allah says, ((There is nothing like unto Him)). So in defense of orthodox doctrine he indulged in such matters. So it was merely a difference in approach that resulted from the urgency of the situation.

Another version has it that Imam Ahmad merely forbade people from reading Al-Muhāsibī’s books, because he knew that most people could not walk the steep path that he was on as Imam Al-Khatīb Al-Baghdādī reported with a sound chain that Imam Ahmad heard the words of Al-Muhāsibī during a lecture he gave to some of his students, and Ahmad said to one of his companions,

“I’ve never heard about the realities (of things) the like of this man. My opinion is that you shouldn’t accompany them.”

Ibn Hajar says,

“He only forbade him from accompanying them due to his knowledge that he was below their state. For verily, he was in a straitened state that every one cannot pursue. And it is feared that the one who pursues it will not give it its due.”[5]

But whatever the reason Imam Ahmad may have objected to the writings and approach of Al-Muhāsibī, from one Salaf to another, each was entitled to his own opinion, especially since the days of revelation had already passed. Only Allah can settle the dispute between the two of them.

For this reason, Imam Tāj al-Dīn Ibn Al-Subkī says after commenting on what happened between these two great scholars,

“It is proper for you – O ye seeking direction – to travel the path of discipline with the past Imams, and not look at the comments of some of them about others unless he brings clear proof. Then if you are able to give an interpretation and entertain a good opinion, then obligingly do so! Otherwise, ignore what happened between them. For verily, you haven’t been created for this. So be preoccupied with what concerns you, and leave off what does not concern you. And the seeker of knowledge remains noble in my eye until he indulges in what has happened between the Past Predecessors, and he judges in favor of some of them over others.

So beware! Then beware to turn your attention to what unexpectedly happened between Abu Hanīfah and Sufyān Al-Thaurī, between Mālik and Ibn Abī Dhi’b, between Ahmad ibn Sālih and Al-Nasā’ī, between Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Al-Hārith Al-Muhāsibī, etc. until the time of ‘Izz al-Dīn ibn ‘Abd al-Salām and Sheikh Taqī al-Dīn Ibn Al-Salāh! For if you become preoccupied with that, I fear your destruction. The men are distinguished Imams. And there are ways of construing their words. Perhaps, some of them weren’t understood. So we have no right but to be pleased with them and to keep silent about them as is done regarding what happened between the Companions (Sahābah) – may Allah be pleased with them.” [6]


[1] He is Mālik ibn Anas ibn Mālik Abū ‘Āmir ibn ‘Amr Al-Aşbahī Abū ‘Abdillah, the Medinite Jurisprudent, and the Imam of Dār Al-Hijrah, The chief of the specialists. Imām Bukhārī said: “The soundest of all chains is: Mālik from Nāfi’ from Ibn ‘Umar.” He died in the year 179 a.h. And he was born in the year 93 a.h. Al-Wāqidī said: “He attained 90 years.” [Taqrīb al-Tahdhīb: (2/6685)]

[2] He is Sufyān ibn Sa’īd ibn Masrūq Al-Thaurī, one of the distinguished Imams in Islamic history. He died in the year 261 a.h. [Taqrīb al-Tahdhīb: 1/216]

[3] His name is ‘Abd al-Rahmān ibn ‘Amr ibn Abī ‘Amr, the jurist and Imam who died in the year 257.

[4] Abū Zur’ah is ‘Ubaidullah ibn ‘Abd al-Karīm ibn Yazīd ibn Farrūkh Al-Makhzūmī, one of the great Imams and a prolific hadīth retainer (hāfiz). He died in the year 264 a.h. [Tahdhīb Al-Tahdhīb: 5/394]

[5] Tahdhīb al-Tahdhīb: 6/107.

[6] Tabaqāt al-Shāfi’īyah: 2/39.

Imam Ibn Kullab

His name:

He is Abu Muhammad Abdallah b. Sa’id b. Muhammad b. Kullab al-Qattan al-Tamimi al-Basri, known as Abdallah b. Sa’id b. Kullab or simply Ibn Kullab.

His Life:

He was one of the major sunni theologians from the era of the salaf. He belonged to the generation of al-Harith al-Muhasibi, Ahmad b. Hanbal and Ishaq b. Rahawayh. His precise year of birth is unknown, but he lived in the period of al-Ma’mun’s Khilafah. He successfully debated and wrote against the Mu’tazilah, the Jahmiyyah and others.

His Books:

He has a number of works that are documented such as Kitab al-Sifat, Khalq Af’al and al-Radd ‘ala al-Mu’tazilah. These books are lost, however remnants of them can be found in other works such as al-Maqalat of Abu al-Hasan al-Ash’ari and in the works of Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn al-Qayyim. He was also quoted by the early Ash’ari Scholars such as Ibn Furak (d. 406H), and some of his works such as Kitab al-Sifat are mentioned by Ibn an-Nadim (d. 385H) in his ‘Fihrist’ (Catalogue), who referred to him as “From amongst the Hashawi riff raff”. Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani explained this statement in Lisan al-Mizan saying “What he means is that [a Ḥashawī is] whoever is upon the way of the Salaf by abandoning figurative interpretation of the verses and Ḥadīth reports about the Divine attributes; they are also called the people of non-committal [mufawwiḍa]”

The Scholars’ Praise for him:

Imam Al-Taj Al-Subki says in his Tabaqat, “and Ibn Kullab in any case is from Ahl al-Sunna… the father of Imam Razi, Diya al-Din al-Khatib, mentioned Ibn Sa’id (ibn Kullab) in the end of his book Ghayat al-Maram fi ‘Ilm al-Kalam that from the scholastic theologians of Ahl al-Sunna in the days of al-Ma’mun was ‘Abdullah b. Sa’id at-Taymi who destroyed the Mu’tazilites in the gatherings of al-Ma’mun…”

Ibn ‘Asakir in Tibyan writes regarding Ibn Abi Zayd’s epistle to Ibn Isma’il al-Baghdadi al-Mu’tazili, “and you’ve attributed Ibn Kullab to Bida’, and then you didn’t mention anything that would be known as bida’ such that it be called bida’. And what has reached us is that he was a follower of Sunnah and took to refuting the Jahimites and others from the people of bida’h.”

Ibn Qadi Shuhbah writes in his Tabaqat, “He was from the great scholastic theologians and from Ahl al-Sunna, his path and that of Al-Harith al-Muhasibi, Imam Ashari’ followed.”

Jamal al-Din al-Isnawi in Tabaqat al-Shafi’iyah writes, “He was from the great scholastic theologians and from the Ahl al-Sunna…. Al-‘Ibadi mentions him in the Tabaqah (rank in regards to level of students) of Abi Bakr Al-Sayrifi that he said, “He is from our companions the Mutakallimin”.

Imam Dhahabi in Siyar writes, “The man is closest of the scholastics theologians to the Sunnah rather he’s from their Munatharihim”. Shaykh Shu’ayb al-Arnaut writes under Imam Dhahabi’s comments, “He was an Imam of the people of Sunnah in his time and was their source. Imam al-Haramayn described him in al-Irshad as him being from “our companions”.”

‘Allamah Ibn Khuldun writes, “until Shaykh Abu al-Hasan al-Ash’ari came on the scene… he was on the path of ‘Abdillah b. Sa’id b. Kullab and Abi al-‘Abbas al-Qalanisi and al-Harith al-Muhasibi from the followers of Salaf and on the path of Sunnah.”

‘Allamah Bayadi writes, “And Imam Abu Muhammed ‘Abdullah b. Sa’id al-Qattan preceded Imam Ashari in defending the madhab of Ahlus Sunnah.”

Imam Abu Mansur ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Baghdadi mentions that “another of the Kalam scholars in the time of Al Ma`mun is Abdullah ibn Sa`id Al Tamimi, who crushed the Mu`tazilah in the assembly of Al Ma`mun, and scandalized them with his eloquent exposure and clarification of their faults.”

The Accusations Against him:

This is summed up in Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr’s biographical notice on al-Karābisī:

There was a strong friendship between him [al-Karābisī] and Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal, but when the former opposed the latter regarding the Qur’ān, their friendship turned into enmity. Both of them would speak badly about the other. This is because Aḥmad used to say: “Whoever says that the Qur’ān is created is a Jahmī; whoever says that the Qur’ān is the speech of Allah but does not say that it is un-created or created is Wāqifī [hesitant]; and whoever says: ‘My pronunciation of the Qur’ān is created’ is an innovator.” Now, al-Karābisī, ‘Abdullāh b. Kullāb, Abū Thawr, Dāwūd b. ‘Alī, and their rank used to say that the Qur’ān spoken by Allah is an attribute among His attributes and can not be created; the recitation of the reader and his speaking with the Qur’ān is his own acquisition and action: that is created and is a ḥikāya [narration] of Allah’s speech…the Ḥanbalī companions of Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal abandoned al-Karābisī, declared him an innovator, and spoke badly about both him and all who spoke with his belief in that matter.

Al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Kathīr also said in his biographical entry for al-Karābisī:

Aḥmad b. Ḥanbal used to speak negatively about him because of the issue of pronunciation, and he [al-Karābisī] used to speak negatively about Aḥmad as well, and for that reason the people abstained from taking from him [al-Karābisī]. I say: what I have seen from him is that he said: “The speech of Allah is un-created from every angle, except that my pronunciation of the Qur’ān is created. Whoever does not believe that one’s pronunciation of the Qur’ān is created is a disbeliever.” This is also relayed from al-Bukhārī, and Dāwūd b. ‘Alī al-Ẓāhirī. Imām Aḥmad used to shut this door in order to close the discussion regarding the createdness of the Qur’ān.

Imam al-Bukhari said in Khalq Af’al al-Ibad :

‘As for what the two parties from the school of Ahmad have claimed as proof, each for his own position: Much of what they relate is not established as authentic. It is probably they did not comprehend the subteleness of his postion. What is known from Ahmad and the people of knowledge is that Allah’s speech is uncreated and all else besides Him is created. But they hated to discuss and explore obscure matters, avoiding dialectic theologians and their queries and disputations, except in what was a matter of knowledge and which the Prophet [sallallahu alayhi wa sallam] clarified.’

And Imam al-Kawthari has nicely summarised the issue saying:

‘As for Aḥmad’s words against Ibn Kullāb and his companion [al-Muḥāsibī], it was due to his hatred of discussing theological rhetoric and his pious scrupulousness away from it. The truth of the matter is that it is obligatory to discuss it when there is a need – contrary to the view of Aḥmad.’

His Legacy:

Imam al-Shahrastani said in Al-Milal wa al-Nihal

Until the time came upon [the likes of] Abdullah b. Sa’id al-Kullabi [d. 240h], Abu al-Abbas al-Qalanisi [contemporary of al-As’hari], and al-Harith b. Asad al-Muhasibi [d. 243H]. They were from the generality of the Salaf, however, they practised ilm al-kalam (speculative theology), and they aided the beliefs of the Salaf with theological proofs, and rational evidences. Some of them authored [works] and others taught. [Until] there occurred a debate between Abu al-Hasan al-As’hari and his [Mu’tazili] teachers on an issue amongst the issues pertaining to “al-salah wa al-aslah” [an issue pertaining to whether Allaah is obligated or not to do what is best for His servants], so they disputed. And al-Ash’ari united with this camp, so he supported their saying through the methodologies of speculative theological [discourse], and then that became a madhhab for Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama’a, and then the label of “Sifatiyyah (Affimers of the Attributes)” transferred to the Ash’ariyyah.

And, Imam al-Ash’ari was not the only one to take from Ibn Kullab. Great `ulema of Ahl al-Sunna benefited from him. For example, al-Hafidh Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani says in al-Fath al-Bari [volume 1 page 323]:

Although al-Bukhari in all he reports in commentary of rare words, he reports it from specialists of this subject like Abu ‘Ubayd, an-Nadr ibn Shamil, al-Faraa and others. And concerning matters of Fiqh, he takes most of it from ash-Shafi’i, Abu ‘Ubayd and their like. And concerning matters of Kalam, he takes most of it from al-Karabisi, Ibn Kullab and their likes.

His direct students were also major ‘ulema of Ahl al-Sunna in their own right. Imam Abu Mansur ‘Abd al-Qahir al-Baghdadi mentions some of them in Usul al-Din:

Among the students of Abdullah ibn Sa`id is Abdul Aziz Al Makki Al Kattani, who scandalized the Mu`tazilah in Al Ma`mun’s assembly. Yet another Kalam scholar was, his student, Al Husayn ibn Al Fadl Al Bajali, the master of Kalam, methodology, Quranic commentary and interpretation. Later scholars relied upon his notes and pointers in interpreting the Quran. He is the one that Abdul Aziz ibn Tahir, the governor of Khurasan <in North East Iran> brought with him to Khurasan, and as a result people said, “He took with him all the knowledge of Iraq to Khurasan.”

Among the students of Abdullah ibn Sa`id is also Al-Junayd, the Shaykh of the Sufis and the Imam of the monotheists. He has an article that is written according to the requirements of the Kalam scholars, but with Sufi expressions.

His death:

He died in 240, or according to some in 241.

May Allah sanctify his secret.

[Amalgamated, with thanks, from the following sources: Khadim al-Ulema blog, Marifah website forum, the following previously available biographies [1] and [2] and also this article on the ulema of kalam.]

Know that when we say that Allah, Mighty and Majestic, is above what He has created that does not mean that He is above in terms of a physical place, or that He has risen above physical places by a certain distance and He supervises these places by applying Himself to something from them. Rather, our saying that He is above them carries two senses:

What is Meant When We Say Allah is Above What He Created
Imam Ibn Furak al-Shafi’i

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