The Attestation of Imaam Juwaynee for the Aqeedah of the Salaf

Imaam al-Juwaynee [1] (d. 438H) said: "Know, that for a brief period of time, I was confused about three matters:

[a] the issue of as-Sifaat (Allaah’s Attributes)
[b] the issue of al-Fawqiyyah (Allaah being above His creation)
[c] the issue of al-Harf (the Word) and as-Sawt (the Voice) about the Glorious Qur’aan.

I used to be confused about the different sayings - which are found in the contemporary books with respect to these matters - whether ta’weel (manipulative distortion) and tahreef should be made of the Attributes. Whether to take them as they are and halt at their meanings, or whether to affirm them without ta’weel, ta’teel, tashbeeh or tamtheel. But I found in the texts of the Book of Allaah - Most Hight - and the Sunnah of His Messenger , a great clarity about the reality of these Attributes, and likewise with respect to affirming al-uluww (the highness of Allaah) al-Fawqiyyah, al-Harf and as-Sawt.

Then I found in the books of the later Scholars - from the mutakallimoon (the People of theological rhetoric and innovated speech) their making of ta’weel (of Allaah’s Attribute) of al-Istiwaa (Allaah ascending above the creation) by saying that it meant qahr (His dominance) and isteelaa (His conquering); ta’weel of (Allaah’s Attribute) of an-Nuzool by saying that it meant His command descends; ta’weel of (the Attribute of) al-Yadain (the Hands of Allaah) to mean His Power or His Favour; and ta’weel of al-Qadam (the Foot of Allaah) to mean the fine reward with their Lord; and the likes of this. Along with this, I found that they claimed that the Speech of Allaah - the Most High - meant a speech existent in His Self (qaa’im bidh-dhaat) with word, but not with Voice. They claimed that these words are a mode of expression from the meaning existing with Himself!

From those who held to these sayings were a group of people, who had high status in my heart, such as a group of Ash’aree Shaafi’ee Scholars - and I am upon the madhhab of ash-Shaafi’ee - may Allaah be pleased with him - knowing the obligation of my Religion and its rulings. So I found the likes of these great Shaikhs adhering to the likes of such statements - and they were my teachers - and I had complete faith in them, their nobility and their knowledge. However, despite all this, I found my heart having a hatred for such ta’weel such that I could not find any tranquility and peace with it. It caused my chest to feel constricted, rather than causing it to expand…

And I used to fear affirming the Attributes of al-uluww, al-Istiwaa and an-Nuzool, fearing that it would imply hasr (limiting and encompassing Allaah by His creation) and tashbeeh (resembling Allaah to His creation i.e. anthropomorphism). However, despite this, when I studied the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of His Messenger , I fond in them texts pointing to the reality of these meanings. I found that the Messenger clarified that which came from his Lord, as well as describing Him with them. And know - without any doubt at all - that he used to have present in his noble gatherings the Scholar and the ignorant person, the one with sharp intelligence and the not so sharply intelligent, the Arab and the non-Arab. However, I did not find anything by which he followed up such texts with which he used to describe his Lord - neither with another text, nor with anything that would cause the meanings to removed from their haqeeqah (real meaning) or cause ta’weel to be made of them; such as the ta’weel of my Shaikhs and Scholars from the mutakallimeen (the People of theological rhetoric and innovated speech) - such as their ta’weel of al-Istiwaa to isteelaa, and their ta’weel of an-Nuzool (Allaah’s descending) to mean that His Command descends; and other such things. And I did not find that he used to warn the people from having faith in what was apparent in his speech describing His Lord, whether it was concerning al-Fawqiyyah (Allaah being above His creation), or al-Yadain (the Hands of Allaah), or other than them. And there is nothing recorded from him which proves that these Attributes have another inner meaning, other than what is apparent from their meaning…"

Then Imaam al-Juwaynee - may Allaah have mercy upon him - mentions some aayaat and ahaadeeth concerning al-Fawqiyyah and al-Istiwaa, then he continues:

"So when we came to know this, and came to hold this as our aqeedah (belief), we were then preserved from the doubts of ta’weel, the blindness of ta’teel (divesting Allaah totally or partially of His Attributes) and the foolishness of tashbeeh and tamtheel (likening Allaah to His creation). We then affirmed for Allaah the Uluww (highness) of our Lord - the Most Perfect - and His Fawqiyyah and that He ascended (istawaa) over His Arsh (Throne) in a manner that befits His Majesty and Greatness. So the truth is very clear in this and the chest will readily accept this, for indeed tahreef (distortion of the text) is rejected by the correct and sound intellect, such as tahreef of Istiwaa to Isteelaa (conquering) and other than this. Likewise wuqoof (affirming the wording of the Attributes, but halting at their meanings) is also blindness and ignorance, since we know that our Lord described Himself with these Attributes that we may come to know Him by them. So - in our knowing Him - we do not halt at affirming the wordings of the Attributes, whilst negating what is intended from their meanings. Since He did not describe Himself to us by these Attributes, except that we may affirm what He has described Himself with, not that we halt at them. Likewise tashbeeh and tamtheel are also foolishness and ignorance. . Thus, the one whom Allaah - Most High - causes to agree upon the affirmation (of His Attributes) - without tahreef, takyeef and wuqoof - then he has indeed agreed upon what is intended for them, if He - the Most High - wishes."

Then he - may Allaah have mercy upon him - explains the reason why Ahl ul-Kalaam (the People of Theological Rhetoric and Innovated Speech) felt that they were forced to make ta’weel of Istiwaa to Isteelaa, so he said:

"And Allaah expanded my chest about the state of those Shaikhs who made ta’weel of al-Istiwaa to isteelaa … and it is my belief that they do not understand the Attributes of the Lord - the Most High - except with what befits the creation. Thus they do not understand al-Istiwaa of Allaah as it truly befits Him … so this is why they distort the words from its proper context and deny what Allaah has described Himself with. And we shall mention the explanation of that if Allaah wills.

And there is no doubt that us and them (i.e. Ash’ariyyah) agree upon affirming the Attributes of al-Hayaat (Life), as-Sam’a (Hearing), al-Basr (Seeing), al-Ilm (Knowledge), al-Qudrah (Power), al-Iraadah (Will) and al-Kalaam (Speech) of Allaah. And we certainly do not understand the Attribute of Life of Allaah to mean with the likes of such organs that are established in our bodies. Likewise, we do not understand the Hearing and the Seeing of Allaah to imply that there are limbs. So, just as they say: His Life is not like ours, nor is His Knowledge and Seeing, rather they are Attributes in a way that is befitting to Him, not befitting us. Then we - likewise - say: His Attribute of Life is known but its kaifiyyah (the nature of how it is) is unknown. His Knowledge is known but its kaifiyyah is not. Likewise, His Seeing and Hearing are known and there is no implication of there being organs and bodily-parts in any of this - rather all these Attributes are in a way that befit Him.

Likewise is the case for His ‘Ayn (Eye), Fawqiyyah, Istiwaa and Nuzool. His Fawqiyyah is known - it is established just like the reality of His Hearing and the reality of His Seeing are also established. They are known but their kaifiyyah is not. Then, similarly, His Fawqiyyah is known and established in a way that befits Him, but the kaifiyyah is not. Likewise, His Istiwaa (Ascending) over the Arsh (Throne) is known, but the kaifiyyah is not explained by implying movements or transmission which befit the creation - rather His Istiwaa is in a manner that befits His Greatness. Thus His Attributes are known from the direction of sentence and affirmation, but are unknown from the perspective of how they are and setting limits. So the Believer is clear about the Attributes from one perspective and blind from the other. The Believer is clear from the perspective of affirmation and existence [of the Attributes] but blind from the perspective of their kaifiyyah and limits. And this is the way by affirming what Allaah - the Most High - has described Himself with, and by negating tahreef, tashbeeh and wuqoof. This is what the Lord - Most High - intends for us concerning His Attributes… that we recognise them, have eemaan in them being haqeeqah (real) and negate any tashbeeh to them, nor to deny for Allaah His real Attributes by tahreef and ta’weel. Indeed, there is no difference between Allaah’s Attribute of al-Istiwaa and as-Sama’ and between His Attribute of an-Nuzool and al-Basr - since each occurs by a text.

So if they say to us about al-Istiwaa: You have made tashbeeh! Then we reply to them about as-Sam’: You have made tashbeeh and have described your Lord with organs! So if they say: No organs and bodily parts, rather it is in a manner that befits Him. Then we reply about al-Istiwaa and al-Fawqiyyah: There is no confinement nor limitation, rather it is in a manner that befits Him. So whatever is necessary concerning the Attributes of Life, Hearing, Seeing and Knowledge and not making any tashbeeh to them, then such is also necessitated regarding Allaah’s Attributes of Ascending, Descending, al-Yad (Hand), al-Wajh (Face), al-Qadm (Foot), ad-Dahak (Laughing) and Ta’ajjub (Amazament). So just as they do not imply for Him any organs we do not imply for Him any limbs nor anything that befits the creation. And it is not from justice and fairness that they understand the Attributes of Ascending, Descending, Face and Hand to imply resemblance to the creation, and therefore they think that they must resort to ta’weel and tahreef - (yet they do not do so for the other Attributes such as Life, Hearing and Seeing.)

So those possessing justice and fairness will understand what we have said, have aqeedah in it, accept our sincere advice and will take as the Deen of Allaah the affirmation of all His Attributes, negating from them any tashbeeh, ta’teel, ta’weel or wuqoof. This is what Allaah intended from us concerning this. Since all these Attributes (that they affirm), all the others (that they make ta’weel of) come from a single place - and that is the Qur’aan and the Sunnah. Thus, when we affirm one set of Attributes without ta’weel, but make ta’weel and tahreef for the others, then we are like those who believed in on part of the Book, but disbelieved in another part. And this is sufficient and clear - if Allaah - the Most High - wills." [2]


1. He is Abu Muhammad al-Juwaynee father of the famous Imaam ul-Haramayn Abu Ma’aalee al-Juwaynee. Abu Muhammad was a Shaafi’ee faqeeh and initially followed the Asha’riyy madhhab in aqeedah. However he retracted from this and returned to the madhhab of the Salaf - as is attested to by his book Risaalah Ithbaatul-Istiwaa wal-Fawqiyyah.

2. Taken from: Risaalah Ithbaatul-Istiwaa wal-Fawqiyyah (p.176-183), abridged - which is part of Majmoo’atur-Rasaa’il il-Muneeriyyah.