Rebuttal To Sam Shamoun's Article "Where is Allah Exactly?

By

 

Bassam Zawadi

 

 

Sam Shamoun's article could be found here.

 

 

Sam Shamoun said:

The Quran presents a rather incoherent and contradictory portrait of Allah and his attributes. The Quran, in two places, says that nothing resembles Allah (cf. Surah 42:11; 112:4), and yet scores of passages speak of Allah in highly anthropomorphic terms, i.e. Allah ascends and descends, has eyes, hands, shin etc. These statements have caused many prominent Muslim scholars to disagree on whether Allah does indeed have a face, eyes, hands, and whether he moves from one place to another, even though in a manner unlike anything in creation, or whether these statements should be understood metaphorically. For instance, the Salafi Muslim website, www.Islamqa.com, comments on specific hadiths which say that Allah created Adam in his image (meaning in Allah's image) and claims that:

From these ahaadeeth we learn that it is proven that Allaah has an image (soorah in Arabic), in a manner that befits Him, may He be glorified and exalted. His image is one of His attributes which cannot be likened to the attributes of created beings, just as His essence cannot be likened to their essence.

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said: "The word soorah (image) in this hadeeth is like all the other names and attributes narrated (in the texts) where the words used may also be applied to created beings, in a limited manner. When these words are applied to Allaah, they carry a unique meaning, such as al-'Aleem (All Knowing), al-Qadeer (All-Powerful), al-Raheem (Most Merciful), al-Samee' (All Hearing), al-Baseer (All-Seeing), and such as His creating with His hands, rising above the Throne, etc." Naqd al-Ta'sees, 3/396

Everything that exists must inevitably have a form or image. Shaykh al-Islam said: "Just as everything that exists must have attributes that, so too everything that exists by itself must have a form or image. It is impossible for something that exists by itself not to have a form or image."

And he said: "There was no dispute among the salaf of the first three generations that the pronoun in the hadeeth refers to Allaah, and it is narrated through many isnaads from many of the Sahaabah. The contexts of the ahaadeeth all indicate that. but when al-Jahamiyyah became widespread in the third century AH, a group began to say that the pronoun refers to something other than Allaah, and this was transmitted from a group of scholars who are known to have knowledge and to follow the Sunnah in most of their affairs, such as Abu Thawr, Ibn Khuzaymah, Abu'l-Shaykh al-Asfahaani and others. Hence they were denounced by the imams of Islam and other Sunni scholars."

. The Prophet's words, "Adam was created in His image" means that Allaah created Adam in His image, for He HAS A FACE, AN EYE, A HAND, AND A FOOT, and Adam had a face, an eye, a hand, and a foot. but that does not mean that these things are exactly the same. There is some similarity, but it is not exactly the same. Similarly the first group to enter Paradise are likened to the moon, but they are not exactly the same. This confirms the view of Ahl al-Sunnah wa'l-Jamaa'ah, who say that none of the attributes of Allaah can be likened to the attributes of created beings, without distorting or misinterpreting, or discussing how or likening Him to His creation. (Question #20652: Commentary on the hadeeth, "Allaah created Adam in His image"; online source; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

 

 

My Response:

 

Just because Allah says that He has a hand or face that does not mean He is similar to His creation.

 

Al Imam al-Dhahabi says:

 

"Why do you say?: A hand in reality is this bodily limb'? Rather, a 'hand' is homonym, and it is in accordance with, and of the same category of what it is attributed to. Therefore, if the thing described therewith is an animal then the hand would be a bodily limb. If it were was statue made of brass and stone, the hand would also be of brass and stone. If it were an image drawn on the wall, the hand would be a drawing. If it were that of which neither there is a like, nor it is a body, the hand would also be that of which neither there is a like, nor it is a body"

 

He also says:

 

"If it is said: In its conventional usage, a hand only refers to the limb that we all know of' We would say in reply: Similarly, in conventional usage, knowledge, hearing and seeing are only accidents that subsist in bodies. Where, then, is the difference?" (Ithbat al-Yad lilLahi subhanah p. 42-44 by al-Imam al-Dhahabi, cited here)

 

 

Indeed, the same logic applies to the face and shin and the rest of Allah's attributes.

 

We say that Allah has knowledge. However, humans also have knowledge. So are we making Allah similar to His creation? Of course not. How come you might ask? The answer is because God's knowledge is not like ours (His is infinite and He doesn't need to acquire it). Therefore, why don't we remain consistent and say the rest regarding all of Allah's attributes such as His Hand and Face?

 

To know more about the inconsistency of those that take some of God's attributes metaphorically please refer to the following articles.

 

http://www.spubs.com/sps/sp.cfm?subsecID=AQD12&articleID=AQD120010&articlePages=1

 

http://www.spubs.com/sps/sp.cfm?subsecID=AQD12&articleID=AQD120009&articlePages=1

 

http://www.spubs.com/sps/sp.cfm?subsecID=AQD12&articleID=AQD120008&articlePages=1

 

 

 

Sam Shamoun said:

More importantly, such differences in theology greatly affect how certain passages of the Quran which speak of Allah's acts and attributes are rendered. Here is a case in point:

Surah al-Baqarah (2:115)

Pickthall

Yusuf Ali

Hilali-Khan

Shakir

Sher Ali

Unto Allah belong the East and the West, and whithersoever ye turn, there is Allah's Countenance (wajhu Allahi).

To God belong the east and the West: Whithersoever ye turn, there is the presence of God.

And to Allah belong the east and the west, so wherever you turn yourselves or your faces there is the Face of Allah (and He is High above, over His Throne).

And Allah's is the East and the West, therefore, whither you turn, thither is Allah's purpose; .

To ALLAH belongs the East and the West; so whithersoever you turn, there will be the face of ALLAH .

Surah al-Qasas (28:88)

Pickthall

Yusuf Ali

Hilali-Khan

Shakir

Sher Ali

And cry not unto any other god along with Allah. There is no God save Him. Everything will perish save His countenance (wajhahu lahu).

. Everything (that exists) will perish except His own Face.

. Everything will perish save His Face.

. every thing is perishable but He.

. Everything will perish but HE.

And:

Surah al-Layl (92:20)

Pickthall

Yusuf Ali

Hilali-Khan

Shakir

Sher Ali

Except as seeking (to fulfil) the purpose of his Lord (wajhi rabbihi) Most High.

But only the desire to seek for the Countenance of THEIR Lord Most High;

Except only the desire to seek the Countenance of his Lord, the Most High;

Except the seeking of the pleasure of his Lord, the Most High.

But solely to seek the pleasure of his Lord, the Most High.

More accurate than all these Muslim translations of S. 92:20 is the rendering by Arberry: "only seeking the Face of his Lord the Most High". The Arabic word, wajh, literally means face and, depending on one's theology, can either suggest that Allah actually has a face or that this is to be understood metaphorically as a reference to Allah's immaterial and invisible presence. However, even if taken metaphorically as presence, then it should be translated as "presence" and not as "purpose" or "pleasure." The "face" of Allah is clearly a problematic expression for many Muslim translators.

My Response:

Ibn al-Qayyim explains regarding the verse "Wherever you may turn, you will find the Face/Countenance of Allaah", then some of the Salaf have interpreted it to Face to mean the 'qiblah' of Allaah. Then this is something that is acceptable for this particular verse. But then is it correct for this meaning to be applied to other verses in which Face is mentioned? So of what benefit would this explanation be regarding the saying of Allaah, "[but] shall remain the Face of your Lord, Full of Majesty and Honour" [55:27] and "Except only the desire to seek the Face of His Lord, the Most High" [92:20] and "We feed you only for the Face of Allaah" [76:9]?

And what is correct regarding the saying of Allaah "Wherever you may turn, you will find the Face/Countenance of Allaah" is that it is just like the statements of Allaah in all the other verses in which Face is mentioned. In all the places in the Book and the Sunnah that Face has been mentioned, it has been attributed to Allaah in the same way, with the same meaning. It does not have two meanings that are opposed to each other. However there is an exception with respect to that which comes in Surah al-Baqarah. In this verse, the explanation that it refers to qiblah (direction) is not singled out [as the only understanding]. Rather it can also be applied to the Face of Allaah literally (haqeeqatan). And this is because this verse was revealed with respect to traveling. So when a person prays and he errs in finding the right direction, then wherever He turns he will be facing Allaah. And the Messenger (sallallaahu alaihi wasallaam) said that "When a person stands for prayer, then Allaah is in front of him" [Bukharee and Muslim]. This is because He is high above His creation, ascended upon His Throne and He encompasses the whole of creation. So wherever a servant turns Allaah is in front of him. The Messenger (sallallaahu alaihi wasallaam) said, "Indeed Allaah has commanded you with prayer, so when you pray do not turn [to the left or to the right] for Allaah directs His Face to the face of His servant in his prayer so long as he does not turn away" [Ahmad and Tirmidhee, Hasan-Saheeh]. And also his (sallallaahu alaihi wasallaam) saying, "When the servant performs ablution well and stands to perform the prayer, Allaah turns to Him with His Face." [Ibn Maajah, all of its narrators are thiqah]".

So from the above, it is clear that the verse of Surah Baqarah is just like the other verses, even if from one aspect, the meaning can be understood to be qiblah (direction). (Abu Iyaad, Affirmation of the Attribute of Face for Allaah, p. 2, Source)

 

 

 

The Arabic word 'wajh' in Arabic could linguistically mean 'face' or 'direction'.

 

Sheikh Abu Ammar Yasir Al Qadhi said...

 

Wajh could mean face, as it could also mean a direction. (Sheikh Abu Ammar Yasir Al Qadhi, The 'Shin' and 'Face' of Allah(swt), Source)

 

Also, if one were to look at Arabic dictionaries such as Al Qaamoos Al-Muheet or Taj Al-A'roos one would see that the Arabic word 'wajh' could also refer to 'direction'. So to interpret the word 'wajh' to mean qiblah or direction in a certain context such as 2:115 is not taking the word metaphorically.

 

Also as Ibn Al Qayyim rightly pointed out, the word could also be taken literally as 'face' in the above verses.

 

For instance, one could interpret Surah 92:20 as meaning that those want to seek to see the Face of Allah, for it would be one of the rewards of the believers in the next life as Allah states in Surah 75:22-23. (See also Tafsir Ibn Kathir) So the translators basically interpreted the meaning of the statement "to seek Allah's Face", not took it metaphorically.

 

The issue of Surah 28:88 has been dealt with here...

 

Refutation To Sam Shamoun's Article "The Annihilation of Allah: A Question and Challenge to Salafi Anthropomorphists"

 

 

 

Sam Shamoun said:

The "location" of Allah is another problematic issue and provides examples of differences between translations:

Surah al-Mulk (67:16)

Pickthall

Yusuf Ali

Hilali-Khan

Shakir

Arberry

Have ye taken security from Him Who is IN the heaven .

Do ye feel secure that He Who is IN heaven .

Do you feel secure that He, Who is OVER the heaven (Allah), .

Are you secure of THOSE IN the heaven .

Do you feel secure that He who is IN heaven .

And:

Surah al-Mulk (67:17)

Pickthall

Yusuf Ali

Hilali-Khan

Shakir

Sher Ali

Or have ye taken security from Him Who is IN the heaven .

Or do ye feel secure that He Who is IN Heaven .

Or do you feel secure that He, Who is OVER the heaven (Allah), .

Or are you secure of THOSE in the heaven .

Do you feel secure that He who is IN heaven .

Three of these five versions translate these verses in line with what the Arabic literally says, i.e. that Allah is in heaven, whereas Shakir's version implies that the texts are actually speaking about all those who reside in heaven (presumably the angels). The Hilali and Khan duo, since they are Salafi Muslims and therefore of those who believe that Allah actually has a form, clearly had a problem with Allah being IN heaven since their theology demands that he is literally OVER or ABOVE it. As the Salafi scholars at www.Islamqa.com write:

One of the things concerning which there is no doubt is that the Throne is above the seventh heaven; indeed it is the highest of all created things. It is affirmed by all the Muslims that Paradise is above the seventh heaven, so if the Throne is above Paradise, then the Throne must also be above the seventh heaven. (Question #47048: Is the Throne above the seventh heaven?; online source)

There is actually support for this view from the so-called sound hadiths:

Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, "Whoever believes in Allah and His Apostle, offer prayer perfectly and fasts the month of Ramadan, will rightfully be granted Paradise by Allah, no matter whether he fights in Allah's Cause or remains in the land where he is born." The people said, "O Allah's Apostle! Shall we acquaint the people with the is good news?" He said, "Paradise has one-hundred grades which Allah has reserved for the Mujahidin who fight in His Cause, and the distance between each of two grades is like the distance between the Heaven and the Earth. So, when you ask Allah (for something), ask for Al-Firdaus which is the best and highest part of Paradise." (i.e. The sub-narrator added, "I think the Prophet also said, ?ABOVE IT (i.e. Al-Firdaus) is the Throne of Beneficent (i.e. Allah), and from it originate the rivers of Paradise.") (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52,
Number 48)

Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, "Whoever believes in Allah and His Apostle offers prayers perfectly and fasts (the month of) Ramadan then it is incumbent upon Allah to admit him into Paradise, whether he emigrates for Allah's cause or stays in the land where he was born." They (the companions of the Prophet) said, "O Allah's Apostle! Should we not inform the people of that?" He said, "There are one-hundred degrees in Paradise which Allah has prepared for those who carry on Jihad in His Cause. The distance between every two degrees is like the distance between the sky and the Earth, so if you ask Allah for anything, ask Him for the Firdaus, for it is the last part of Paradise and the highest part of Paradise, and AT ITS TOP there is the Throne of Beneficent, and from it gush forth the rivers of Paradise." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93,
Number 519)

And here is what renowned Sunni commentator Ibn Kathir wrote regarding Surah 36:38:

There are two views over the meaning of the phrase ...

(The first view) is that it refers to its fixed course of location, which is beneath the Throne, BEYOND the earth in that direction. Wherever it goes, it is beneath the Throne, it and all of creation, because the Throne is the ROOF of creation and it is not a sphere as many astronomers claim. Rather it is A DOME SUPPORTED BY LEGS OR PILLARS, CARRIED BY THE ANGELS, and it is ABOVE the universe, ABOVE the heads of people. When the sun is at its zenith at noon, it is in its closest position to the Throne, and when it runs in its fourth orbit at the opposite point to its zenith, at midnight, it is in its furthest position from the Throne. At that point it prostrates and asks permission to rise, as mentioned in the Hadiths.

 

My Response:

 

Shamoun's reliance on English translations and his ignorance of the Arabic language would naturally result in him making such arguments.

 

The Arabic word 'fi', which usually means 'in' could also mean 'upon' or 'over' in certain contexts.

 

For example in...

 

 

 

Surah 9:2

 

Pickthall

Travel freely in the land four months, and know that ye cannot escape Allah and that Allah will confound the disbelievers (in His Guidance).

Yusuf Ali

Go ye, then, for four months, backwards and forwards, (as ye will), throughout the land, but know ye that ye cannot frustrate God (by your falsehood) but that God will cover with shame those who reject Him.

Hilali-Khan

So travel freely (O Mushrikun - see V.2:105) for four months (as you will) throughout the land, but know that you cannot escape (from the Punishment of) Allah, and Allah will disgrace the disbelievers.

Shakir

So go about in the land for four months and know that you cannot weaken Allah and that Allah will bring disgrace to the unbelievers.

Sher Ali

So go about in the land for four months, and know that you cannot frustrate the plan of ALLAH and that ALLAH will humiliate the disbelievers.

Khalifa

Therefore, roam the earth freely for four months, and know that you cannot escape from GOD, and that GOD humiliates the disbelievers.

Arberry

'Journey freely in the land for four months; and know that you cannot frustrate the will of God, and that God degrades the unbelievers.'

Palmer

Roam ye at large in the land for four months, but know that ye cannot make God helpless, and that God disgraces the misbelievers.

Rodwell

Go ye, therefore, at large in the land four months: but know that God ye shall not weaken; and that those who believe not, God will put to shame -

Sale

Go to and fro in the earth [securely] four months; and know that ye shall not weaken God, and that God will disgrace the unbelievers.

 

 

Its true that most translators translated the phrase fee al ard as 'in the land', however it does not literally mean INSIDE the earth. It means to walk 'upon' the earth.

 

 

A clearer example could be found in...

 

 

 

Surah 20:71

 

Pickthall

(Pharaoh) said: Ye put faith in him before I give you leave. Lo! he is your chief who taught you magic. Now surely I shall cut off your hands and your feet alternately, and I shall crucify you on the trunks of palm trees, and ye shall know for certain which of us hath sterner and more lasting punishment.

Yusuf Ali

(Pharaoh) said: "Believe ye in Him before I give you permission? Surely this must be your leader, who has taught you magic! be sure I will cut off your hands and feet on opposite sides, and I will have you crucified on trunks of palm-trees: so shall ye know for certain, which of us can give the more severe and the more lasting punishment!"

Hilali-Khan

[Fir'aun (Pharaoh)] said: "Believe you in him [Musa (Moses)] before I give you permission? Verily! He is your chief who taught you magic. So I will surely cut off your hands and feet on opposite sides, and I will surely crucify you on the trunks of date-palms, and you shall surely know which of us [I (Fir'aun Pharaoh) or the Lord of Musa (Moses) (Allah)] can give the severe and more lasting torment."

Shakir

(Firon) said: You believe in him before I give you leave; most surely he is the chief of you who taught you enchantment, therefore I will certainly cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides, and I will certainly crucify you on the trunks of the palm trees, and certainly you will come to know which of us is the more severe and the more abiding in chastising.

Sher Ali

Pharaoh said, `Do you believe in him before I give you leave? He must be your chief who has taught you magic. I will, therefore, surely cut off your hands and your feet on alternate sides, and I will surely crucify you on the trunks of palm trees; and you shall know which of us can impose severer and more abiding punishment.'

Khalifa

He said, "Did you believe in him without my permission? He must be your chief; the one who taught you magic. I will surely sever your hands and feet on alternate sides. I will crucify you on the palm trunks. You will find out which of us can inflict the worst retribution, and who outlasts whom."

Arberry

Pharaoh said, 'Have you believed him before I gave you leave? Why, he is the chief of you, the same that taught you sorcery; I shall assuredly cut off alternately your hands and feet, then I shall crucify you upon the trunks of palm-trees; you shall know of a certainty which of us is more terrible in chastisement, and more abiding.'

Palmer

Said he, 'Do ye believe in Him before I give you leave? Verily, he is your master who taught you magic! Therefore will I surely cut off your hands and feet on alternate sides, and I will surely crucify you on the trunks of palm trees; and ye shall surely know which of us is keenest at torment and more lasting.'

Rodwell

Said Pharaoh, "Believe ye on him ere I give you leave? He, in sooth, is your Master who hath taught you magic. I will therefore cut off your hands and your feet on opposite sides, and I will crucify you on trunks of the palm, and assuredly shall ye learn which of us is severest in punishing, and who is the more abiding."

Sale

[Pharaoh] said [unto them], do ye believe in him before I give you persission? Verily this is your master, who hath taught you magic. But I will surely cut off your hands and your feet on the opposite sides; and I will crucify you on trunks of palm-trees: And ye shall know which of us is more severe in punishing, and can longer protract [your pains].

 

 

Notice how all the translators translated the phrase fee juthooAAi as 'on trunks' or 'on the trunks' or 'upon the trunks'. So here we see that the word fee more appropriately means 'upon' or 'on'.

 

Sometimes the Arabic word min (which means 'from') could mean 'in' in certain contexts.

 

 

Imam Al Qurtubi said...

 

 

 

: " " [ : 40 ]                                        

 

 

Just like Allah's statement: 'show me what they have created from the earth" (Surah 35:40), actually means 'in the earth.' (Abu 'Abdullah Al-Qurtubi, Tasfir al Jami' li-ahkam al-Qur'an, Commentary on Surah 62:9, Source)  

 

 

 

So as we can see, words can mean different things in different contexts and this just shows the depth of the Arabic language.

 

 

Therefore, the scholars have said the same thing regarding the word fee used in those verses talking about Allah being above the heaven. They have argued that the word fee here means 'upon' or 'above' since this at the same time is not only linguistically correct but also theologically correct since it corroborates the other verses speaking about Allah being above the heavens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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