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


 Bassam Zawadi



Sam Shamoun's article can be located here. 

I don't appreciate Sam Shamoun's distortion of the Salafi perspective regarding Allah's attributes. Salafis do not believe that Allah has a body. 

For example, we believe that Allah has affirmed a hand for himself, but that in no way means that God has a body. 

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. 

Let's move on to Shamoun's argument with that out of the way. 

Shamoun states his argument. 

On a literal level of reading, these references plainly say that everything will perish except Allah's face. The question that comes to mind is, what about the rest of his body? After all, the passages do not say that Allah's hands and shin will remain, but only his face. Does this mean that Allah will eradicate his hands, toes, torso, feet, shins etc.?

Thus, our challenge to the Salafi anthropomorphists is to produce a Quranic text which says that Allah will not wipe out the rest of his body, with the exception of his face, or that his entire body endures forever. 

Shamoun bases his argument mainly on two verses.  

The first one is. 

Surah 55:26-27

All that dwells upon the earth is perishing, yet still abides the Face of thy Lord, majestic, splendid.  

There is nothing to argue back here. The verse says that everything UPON EARTH will perish. We don't believe that Allah is on earth. Therefore, the verse won't apply as an argument.  

The second verse that Shamoun refers to is.  

Surah 28:88

And call not upon another god with God; there is no god but He. All things perish, except His Face. His is the Judgment, and unto Him you shall be returned. 

The Qur'an makes it clear that Allah will not die.  

Surah 25:58 

And rely on the Ever-living Who dies not, and celebrate His praise; and Sufficient is He as being aware of the faults of His servants,  

Qur'anic exegesis, just as Biblical exegesis, calls for harmonizing verses together so that they would not conflict with each other. (of course, the explanation can't be desperate) 

For example, one verse in the Qu'ran says that God created all things (39:62). Does that mean I need to provide evidence where Allah says He didn't create Himself or His attributes? Of course not, since we already know that Allah and His attributes are eternal based on other evidence. 

Similarly, with the verse that Shamoun has posted, we already know that Allah's attributes are eternal, and thus, they don't come under the category of 'all things' since they are a known exception to the rule. 

Also, Surah 27:23 states that someone said that Queen Sheba was given ALL THINGS. Now, obviously, this is not literal. We know that she doesn't own the universe. But this is to emphasize that she had a lot of things in her possession. 

So, at times, we can't take everything literally and have to understand what is trying to be communicated in the verse depending on the context.  

Now, the reply to the above verse is simple. 

Concerning the interpretation that Face refers to His Essence (Dhaat). Then if this means that it refers to His Essence while at the same time affirming a Face for him, then this is acceptable. For Face is an attribute of His Essence and it is not something created or separate from Him. Hence, if everything will perish save His Face, then it is understood from this that His Dhaat will not perish either, it will remain and this is because Face is an Attribute of the Essence, not created and separate from it. (Abu Iyaad, Affirmation of the Attribute of Face for Allaah, p.3, Source)  

Ibn Kathir says. 

Allah used the word "Face'' to refer to Himself, as He says here:

[كُلُّ شَىْءٍ هَالِكٌ إِلاَّ وَجْهَهُ]

(Everything will perish save His Face.) meaning, everything except Him. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Source)  

Indeed, for God to use the word 'face' here would also basically mean that His Self/Essence would not perish since God's Face is not a 'part' of Allah, just as our face is a part of our body. 

Now, someone may argue back that this means that Allah doesn't literally have a face as an attribute. No, because at times, the Prophet (peace be upon him) would differentiate between Allah's face and His Essence.  

"I seek refuge in Allaah the Mighty (al-'Adheem) and in His Noble Face and His Eternal Power for Shaytaan the Accursed" (Sunan Abu Dawood., cited here, the hadith is authentic according to Sheikh Albani in Saheeh Abu Dawud, hadith no. 466)  

So this is proof that God indeed has a Face as a divine attribute. 



Shamoun is at fault for comparing Allah to His creation and assuming that the Qu'ran teaches that God has a face, just as humans do. If that were the case, Shamoun's argument would be correct.

However, Allah's Face is not a part of Allah. Allah's Face, Hands, Shin, etc., are not different parts of Allah. They are not separate from Him. Thus, saying that Allah's Face will not perish is just as good as saying that His Self will not perish either since God's Face is an eternal attribute that is not separate from God.

Shamoun needs to be more open-minded, give the text the benefit of the doubt, and allow for harmonization of the verses.


The debate continues.


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