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Istiwa’, Is it Istiqrar?

Posted by muhammedm on June 22, 2009

There are many places in the Quran where this word has been used. Scholars agree that this is from the Divine Acts, as Imam al-Qurtubi stated. Thus it’s necessary for us to be cautious in how we explain it. Scholars have differed over istiwa’ (usually translated as established), such that ‘Allama Mari’ al-Hanbali has given over ten different opinions. It’s interesting to note that the Majority of the Salaf didn’t give the interpretation for this; we have the statement of Imam Malik wherein he states “‘Istiwa is known, the ‘how’ is inconceivable,” though we don’t have any narration of him explaining the meaning of Istiwa’… ‘Allama al-Qurtubi Maliki says that “it’s known” means we know it linguistically, meaning lexically (the various meanings found in the dictionary), or as ‘Allama Mari’ says after saying he’s not pleased with ‘Allama Qurtubi’s interpretation, that what ‘known’ means is that “(Him) describing (Himself) Exalted is He, that He’s ‘ala al-‘Arsh (over the throne), (it’s) known through the fully established path with tawatur (many transmissions) (i.e. In the Quran as Shaykh Ghawiji pg.49), understanding of it’s reality is a matter which returns to it’s howness…(Page 122).

It should also be kept in mind that when words such as Istiwa’ is translated, it shouldn’t have any resemblance to creation. As the Quranic ayah states ‘there is nothing like Him’ and so every attribute of His has no resemblance to creation. And so when someone translates words from the Quran or Sunnah, they should keep this in mind. The following paragraphs concern one interpretations of istiwa’. Some Muslims today deem every single dictionary meaning as correct such as sitting (Julus or Qu’ud), while others say it’s a divine act befitting Him. Most of the interpretation will be taken from ‘Allama Mari’s Aqawil at-Thiqat, and Hafidh’s Fath.

The first interpretation that ‘Allama Mari’ al-Hanbali gives for Istiwa’ is what “Muqatil1 and Kalbi2 narrated on the authority of Sayyidina ‘Ibn ‘Abbas that Istawa’ means ‘Istaqarra’ (which means to settle), and this, if it’s authenticated3, necessitates interpretation, for Istiqrar (Settleness) is known through corporeality (tajsim).”

Hafidh Ibn Hajar4 says, “Ibn Battal said the people differed regarding Istiwa’… The Jismiyya (Anthropomorphists) said it means al-Istiqrar…. As for the interpretation of the Jismiyya, it’s wrong as well, because Istiqrar is from the descriptions of corporeal bodies, and it necessitates indwelling (Hulul) and limitation (tanahi), and this is impossible for Allah ta’ala, and it’s appropriate for creation…”

Hafidh5 says, “Abul Walid bin Rush said in Sharh al-‘Utbiyyah, Imam Malik said… “The ‘Arsh is not the Allah ta’ala’s place of settleness, Blessed and Exalted is He from resembling His creation”

Imam Abu Hanifa said in his Wasiyya, “We affirm that Allah ta’ala did istiwa’ (rose) over the ‘Arsh without having need of it or settling (istiqrar) upon it, He is the Protector of the ‘Arsh and what is other than the ‘Arsh. Were He to be in need (of it) when He decreed the existence of the world and it’s governance such as the creation, and were He to become in need of sitting and establishing (al-Qarar) before creating the ‘Arsh, (then) where was He before creating the ‘Arsh? Thus He is Exalted from it, a high exaltedness.”

‘Allama Ibn Qudamah in his Lum’atul I’tiqad says concerning the attributes, “Whatever comes to the mind or imagination, then Allah ta’ala is other than it. From those (Sifat) is the saying of Allah ta’ala, “The Rahman did istiwa’ upon the ‘Arsh”.

InshAllahu ta’ala it’s clear that to deem it to be istiqrar is incorrect according the Ulema.

1.“Abul Hasan Muqatil bin Sulayman al-Balkhi, Ibn al-Mubarak said, “His tafsir would be great if only he was trustworthy”. Waki’ said, “He was a liar”. Imam Abi Hanifa said, “Two evil opinions have come from the East: Jahm the Mu’attil (stripping the attributes from Him) and Muqatil the Mushabbih (one who makes semblance of God with creation).” He died around 150 Hijri. Imam Bukhari said, “Muqatil is nothing, at all”. I (Imam Dhahabi) say, “they (the scholars) agreed that he’s rejected.” (Siyar pg. 1158).
2.“al-‘Allama al-Akhbari Abu An-Nadr Muhammed bin as-Saib bin Bishr al-Kalbi al-Mufassir. He was also a master in lineaology except that he was a Shi’I, whose Ahadith are rejected… Ath-Thawri wouldn’t mention his name when narrating from him. He died in 146 Hijri.”
3.Shaykh Ghawaji in his book on Kitab al-Ibanah (pg.78-79) writes, “Istaqarra, which is attributed to Sayyidina Ibn ‘Abbas regarding Istiwa’ is completely false, because it’s tajsim (corpreiality). Rather what is correct is that it be said, “Istiwa’ is known because it’s mentioned in the Quran, and the Kayf is inconceivable, and this is narrated from Sayyidah Umm Salamah, Rabi’ah ar-Ray, and others, and Allah ta’ala knows best. And it’s said, we affirm for Allah ta’ala what He affirmed for Himself while freeing Him of resemblance (to creation).”
Shaykh Shu’ayb al-Arnaout in his notes on ‘Allama Mari’s work says, “It’s not authenticated from him (Sayyidina Ibn ‘Abbas).” Page 123.
4.In the Kitab at-Tawhid, under the ayah “and His ‘Arsh was on the water.”
5.Kitab Manaqib al-Ansar, under the title The Manaqib (Merits) of Sa’d bin Mu’adh.


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