ibn Rajab al-Hanbali – The Sifat are from the Mutashabihat

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Imam Zayn al-Din ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (d.795AH) says that the sifat (attributes) of Allah are from the mutashabihat (ambiguous texts):

As for whatever the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) has attributed to his Lord (mighty and majestic is He), and whatever Allah (mighty and majestic is He) has attributed to Himself, then all of these attributes are true and factual. Belief and affirmation of them is legally binding – along with their negation of any similarity/comparison (al-tamthil). Whoever has any difficulty in terms of comprehending any of them and finds them obscure should say the statement said by those whom Allah has praised for being firmly rooted in knowledge about the ambiguous verses (al-mutashabih), namely:

“We believe in it, all of it is from our Lord” [Qur’an, 3:7],

just as the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) has said in regards to the Qur’an:

“Whatever you are ignorant of, then leave it to its knower”. [Narrated by Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Imam al-Nasa’i, and others].

One should not pretend to have knowledge of what they do not know, for destruction is feared upon them for doing so.

[ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, Ikhtiyar al-Ula fi Sharh Hadith Ikhtisam al-Mala’ al-A’la, ed. Maktaba Dar al-Aqsa 2008, pg. 40-41]

NOTE: It is interesting to mention that the “salafi” editor of the above work attempts to refute Imam ibn Rajab al-Hanbali on this point within the footnotes by pasting a long quote from ibn Taymiyya!


وأما وصف النبي – صلى اللّٰه عليه وسلم – لربه – عز وجل – بما وصفه به فكلُّ ما وصف النبي – صلى اللّٰه عليه وسلم – [به] ربه عز وجل – فهو حقٌ وصدقٌ يجب الإيمان والتصديقُ به كما وصف اللّٰه – عز وجل – به نفسه مع نفي التمثيل عنه، ومن أشكل عليه فهمُ شيءٍ من ذلك واشتبه عليه فليقل كما مدح اللّٰه تعالى به الراسخين في العلم وأخبر عنهم أنه يقولون عند المتشابه: “آمنَّا به كُلٌّ من عند ربِّنا” [آل عمران:٧] وكما قال النبي – صلى اللّٰه عليه وسلم – في القرآن: “وما جهلتهم منه فكلوه إلى عالمه”. خرّجه الإمام أحمد والنسائي وغيرهما، ولا يتكلَّف ما لا علم له به فإنه يُخشى عليه من ذلك الهَلَكَةُ.

– إبن رجب الحنبلي في كتابه “اختيار الأولى في شرح حديث إختصام الملأ الأعلى”، مكتبة دار الأقصى ٢٠٠٨، ص. ٤٠-٤١