Imam al-Qurthubi (r.a.) on Allah’s (s.w.t.) Transcendence

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is taken from “Imam al-Qurthubi (r.a.) on Allah’s (s.w.t.) Transcendence”, by Ustadz Andrew Sanders.

Your Guardian Lord is Allah, Who Created the heavens and the earth in six Days, then He Established Himself on the Throne (of authority): He Draweth the night as a veil over the day, each seeking the other in rapid succession: He Created the sun, the moon, and the stars, (all) governed by laws under His Command.  Is it not His to Create and to Govern?  Blessed be Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds! (Surah al-A’araf:54)

Imam al-Qurthubi (r.a.) wrote, in Tafsir al-Qurthubi, on this ayat, “This is regarding the issue of the istiwa’ and the speech and action of the scholars.  Indeed, we have expounded from the many statements of the scholars in the book, al-Kitab al-Ansa fi Sharh Asma Allah al-Husna wa Swifatihi al-‘Ula.  And we mentioned in that book fourteen sayings from the majority from the mu’ataqadimin and the muta’akkhirin that it is wajib to free and purify al-Bari from having direction and occupying a space and it is necessary to do so.”  The “mu’ataqadimin” refer to the Salaf, the first three generations; and the “muta’akkhirin” refer to the Muslims who came after.

Imam al-Qurthubi (r.a.) continued, “This demonstrates the need that was upon the generality of the early scholars and those who came after them to free Allah Ta’ala from having directions.  They did not attribute the direction of physical above-ness, because this would imply that He moves and exists in a place and spatial measurement and it is necessary to declare Him above being attributed with place, spatial measurement, movement, being motionless by occupying a space, changing states.  This is the statement of the theologians.

The first generations would not speak by negation of direction nor would they talk about that.  However, all of them spoke with affirmation according to what was spoken in His Book and the narrations from His messengers.  Nobody from amongst the righteous Salaf ever denied that the istiwa’ above His Throne is a reality, and the Throne was given special relevance, because it represents the paramount highest point of His Creation, only the modality of the istiwa is unknown, and indeed its reality is unknown.  Imam Malik (r.a.) said, ‘The linguistic definition of istiwa’ is known, meaning: according to the language, yet its reality remains unknown, and to ask about this is bid’ah.  Likewise, the wife of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.), Umm Salamah said, ‘This affair should be one of sufficiency, and whomsoever wishes to study this position further should refer to the books of the scholars.’’”


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