Rebuttal to Sam Shamoun's Article "Allah As An Exalted Shakhs"

 

By

Bassam Zawadi

 

Shamoun's article could be located over here. One should read it first before proceeding on to read this article.

Shamoun said:

The statements of Muhammad and his followers that there is no shakhs or person that is more jealous than Allah presupposes that the Muslim deity is a shakhs himself; otherwise, it would make absolutely no sense to say that Allah is more jealous or has more honor than any othershakhs if he weren't one.

Actually and strictly from a grammatical point of view this is not true. The hadith could very easily mean "There is no person (i.e. human being) more jealous than Allah (i.e. who is not a human being nor a person)".

One could say "there is no Christian more pious than Buddha" without implying at all that Buddha is a Christian.

This is why Al-Qaadi Abu Ya'la said that there is a difference of opinion amongst our scholars as to whether the term shakhs actually applies to Allah:

 وأما لفظ الشخص فرأيت بعض أصحاب الحديث يذهب إلى جواز إطلاقه

And as for the expression al shakhs I have seen some of the people of the hadeeth permitting its utterance.

He goes on to say:

ويحتمل أن يمنع من إطلاق ذلك على الله، لأن لفظ الخبر ليس بصريح فيه، لأن معناه: لا أحد أغير من الله، لأنه قد روي ذلك في لفظ آخر، فاستعمل لفظ الشخص في موضع أحد، ويكون ذلك استثناء من غير جنسه ونوعه، كقوله تعالى: مَا لَهُم بِهِ مِنْ عِلْمٍ إِلاَّ اتِّبَاعَ الظَّنِّ. وليس الظن من نوع العلم.

And it's possible that this term is not to be expressed in terms of applying to Allah because the expression doesn't clearly show that. This is because it means: No one is more jealous than Allah. This is due to it being narrated that way in another narration (i.e. other versions of the hadith don't use the expression "no person", but "no one"), hence the term al shakhs was used in another instance and that excludes (Allah) from that different essence and genus just like in Allah's saying "they have no certain knowledge thereof, but only pursue a conjecture", and conjecture is not a kind of knowledge.

Shamoun said:

As Dr. Wesley Williams, a scholar of Islamic studies, states,

Al-Bukhari and Muslim report a hadith from the Prophet on the authority of the Companion of Al-Mughira b. Shu?ba: "No shakhs is more jealous than Allah; no shakhs is more pleased to grant pardon than He; no shakhs loves praiseworthy conduct more than He."68 Allah is thus a shakhs. The term shakhs is usually translated as ?corporeal person.' It connotes "the bodily or corporeal form or figure or substance (suwad) of a man," or "something possessing height (irtifa?) and visibility (zuhur),"69 Ibn Manzur informs us in his Lisan al-?Arab (7, 45, 4-11). Ibn al-Jawzi, in his Kitab Akhbar al-Sifat 53-54, admits as well that the term shakhs implies existence of a body (jism) composed of parts, for one terms something a shakhs because it possesses corporeality (shukhus) and height (irtifa)." God, we are thus informed, is a person with a physical body.

And he said in his footnotes:

It is rather unfortunate for Zawadi that he didn't realize that by using this particular hadith to show that Allah is a single person, or more precisely a shakhs, he pretty much ended up proving that his god is an imperfect, limited, fallible human being!

Perhaps before lecturing me, Shamoun should be lecturing his Arab Christian brethren for also using the term shakhs in reference to God! If Shamoun really wants to insist that the term shakhs could literally only be used for someone who is corporeal in the Arabic language, then why doesn't he go ahead and rebuke Arabic Christians for constantly referring to God as a shakhs? Perhaps it's because Shamoun is inconsistent? Yeah that's it.

The truth of the matter is that:

1) Context determines everything:

2) There are always exceptions to the general rule

3) Differences of opinion exist

Context determines everything:

People like Shamoun know that Muslims explicitly deny that Allah is a body (regardless of whether he thinks that our beliefs necessitate that Allah has a body) so why doesn't he bother trying to understand what we mean in context when we say that Allah is a shakhs?

There are always exceptions to the general rule:

Yes the word shakhs typically refers to one who has a body. Why? It's because us human beings usually use it in reference to other human beings. This is something that we are used to; however there are always exceptions to the general rule. The term shakhs when applied to Allah does not have to imply that He has a body.

Shaykh ibn Taymiyyah said that according to the logicians shakhs is in accordance with the nature that it is being in reference to. So shakhs when in reference to human beings (which is almost usually the case, hence why many grammarians say that it implies a body) implies a human essence (i.e. a physical body) and when in reference to Allah it takes into account Allah's nature and essence. (see Ibn Taymiyyah, Bayyaan Talbees Al-Jahmiyyah fi Ta'sees Bid'ihim Al-Kallaamiyah, pages 348-349) Shamoun cites Dr. Wesley Williams who cites Ibn Manzur as saying that shakhs connotes something possessing height (irtifa') and visibility (zuhur),", however Ibn Manzur also goes on to say:

و (عِنْد الفلاسفة) الذَّات الواعية لكيانها المستقلة فِي إرادتها

 

And according to the philosophers it is the conscious essence that is independent in its will.

 

If we go with this meaning of the word, then it makes perfect sense to refer it to Allah.

Let's give another example. Let's look at the word "anger". Many Muslims from the Ashari school of thought believe that Allah doesn't literally get angry. One scholar - Imam Ar-Raazi - states:

The fourth beneficial note is that al-għađab (anger/wrath) is a change that happens when the blood is excited in the heart due to the desire for revenge. You should know that this is impossible for Aļļaah to be attributed with.

Notice how Imam Ar-Raazi denies that Allah gets angry, because Imam Ar-Raazi believes that anger "is a change that happens when the blood is excited in the heart due to the desire for revenge" and since Allah does not have blood circulating within Him Allah does not get angry according to Imam Ar-Raazi. However, in Lissaan Al-Arab we read:

قال ابن عرفة الغَضَبُ من المخلوقين شيءٌ يُداخِل قُلُوبَهم

Ibn 'Arafah said: Anger from creatures has something to do with what is inside their hearts.

Here it is clarified that this is only the meaning when APPLIED to creatures only. Hence, this way we could still say that Allah gets angry without committing the crime of anthropomorphism. (Read more here).

This all takes me to my third point.

Differences of opinion exist:

As we have seen, scholars differ with each other. I am not bound by any opinion that Jamal Badawi or anyone else gives unless the evidence is as clear as daylight and irrefutable. However, in this case we even see the experts differing with each other. This means that each person has his own valid perspective and a non-Arabic speaking neophyte like Shamoun should be the last person to start lecturing us on such sophisticated topics, which are way out of his league.

 

 

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