The Theological Consequences of the Wahhabis Relinquishing Reason

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following is extracted from Imam Jamil Swiddiqi ibn Muhammad Faydhi az-Zahawi al-Kurdi’s (r.a.), al-Fajr asw-Swadiq fi ar-Radd ‘ala Munkiri at-Tawaswswul wa al-Khawariq, “The True Dawn: A Refutation of Those Denying Miracles & Intercession in Islam.”

Since clear reason and sound theory clash in every way with what the Wahhabis believe, they are forced to cast reason aside.  Thus, by their taking the text of Qur’an and sunnah only in their apparent, zhahir, meaning, absurdity results.  Indeed, this is the well-spring of their error and misguidance.  For by attending only to the apparent meaning of the Qur’anic text, they believe that Allah (s.w.t.) being fixed on His ‘Arsh and being high above His throne is literally true and that He literally has a face, two hands and that His coming down and His going up is a literal going down and coming up and that He may be pointed to in the sky with the fingers in a sensible manner and so forth.  According to this interpretation, Allah (s.w.t.) is made into nothing less than a body. These very Wahhabis, who call visiting graves idol-worship, then, become themselves idol-worshippers by fashioning the object they worship into a body, like an animal who sits on its seat and literally comes down and goes up and literally has a hand and a foot and fingers.  But the true object of worship, Allah the Exalted, Transcends what they worship.

Still, if one refutes them by rational proofs and establishes that their beliefs contradict the Nature of Divinity by criteria recognised by reason, they answer that there is no arena for humble human minds in matters like this whose level is beyond the level of mere reason.  In this respect, they are exactly like Christians in their claim about the Trinity.  For ask a Christian, “How is three one and one three?” they will answer, “Knowledge of the Trinity is above reason; it is impermissible to apply reasoning in this area.”

There is no doubt that when reason and the transmitted text contradict each other, the transmitted text is interpreted by reason.  For often it is impossible for a single judgment to affirm what each of them requires because of what is entailed by the simultaneous holding together of two contradictory propositions.  Taking one side or the other, in other words, does not relieve the conflict.  On the contrary, one must choose either priority of the transmitted text over reason or reason over the transmitted text.  Now, the first of these two alternatives has to be invalid simply because it represents the invalidation of the root by the branch.

Clearly, one can affirm the transmitted text only by virtue of reason.  That is because affirmation of the Creator, knowledge of prophecy and the rest of the conditions of a transmitted text’s soundness are only fulfilled by aid of reason.  Thus reason is the principle behind the transmitted text on which its soundness depends.  So, if the transmitted text is given precedence over reason and its legal implication established by itself aside from the exercise of reason, then the root would be invalidated by the branch.  And from that the invalidation of the branch would follow as well.  For the soundness of the transmitted text is derived from the judgment of reason, whose corruption is made possible when reason is invalidated.

Reason, then, is not cut off by the soundness of the transmitted text.  Hence, it follows that declaring the transmitted text sound by making it prior to reason constitutes nothing less than the voiding of its soundness.  But, if making something sound accomplishes its corruption, we face a contradiction: the transmitted text, then, is invalid.  Therefore, if the priority of the transmitted text over reason does not exist on the basis of the preceding argument, then we have determined that reason has priority over the transmitted text.  And that is what we set out to prove.

Once one realises this, one also realises without question the necessity of interpreting the Qur’anic verses where the apparent sense contradicts reason when the said verses are obscure and do not refer to things that are known with certainty.  On the one hand, there is general interpretation where the detailed clarification is left to Allah (s.w.t.), tafwid tafswilih.  This is the school of the majority of the pious predecessors of our faith, the true Salaf.  On the other hand, we have interpretation which sets out the text’s meaning in a more perspicuous fashion.  The majority of later scholars, al-khalaf, follow the latter.

We consider this verse:

(Allah) Most Gracious is firmly established on the Throne (of authority). (Surah ThaHa:5)

In their view, the term “is firmly established” means, “He took possession of it,” ‘istawla’.  This is supported by the words of the poet who said, “‘Amr took possession of Iraq without bloodshed or sword,” ‘qad istawla’.

And we consider Allah’s (s.w.t.) Saying:

And thy Lord Cometh, and His angels rank upon rank, (Surah al-Fajr:22)

It means His Comes with Power, or His Reward, as Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (r.a.) interpreted it.  This is mentioned in Imam al-Bayhaqi’s (r.a.) report in Hafizh ibn Katsir’s al-Bidayah wa an-Nihayah, and Imam ibn al-Jawzi’s (r.a.) Daf’u Shuba at-Tashbih.

And we consider Allah’s (s.w.t.) Saying:

... To Him mount up (all) words of purity ... (Surah Fathir:10)

It means good words please Him for the word is an accident for which, by itself, locomotion is impossible.  Or it refers to His Acceptance, as interpreted by Imam Abu Hayyan (r.a.) in Tafsir al-Bahr al-Muhith and Imam al-Bayhaqi (r.a.) as quoted in Imam ibn Hajr’s (r.a.) Fath al-Bari.

And we consider Allah’s (s.w.t.) Saying:

Will they wait until Allah Comes to them in canopies of clouds, with angels (in His train)... (Surah al-Baqarah:210)

Our scholars say it means that His Punishment should come unto them.  Or, His Power and His Order, as interpreted by Imam Ahmad (r.a.).  Again, this is also mentioned in Imam al-Bayhaqi’s (r.a.) report in Hafizh ibn Katsir’s al-Bidayah wa an-Nihayah, and Imam ibn al-Jawzi’s (r.a.) Daf’u Shuba at-Tashbih.

And we consider Allah’s (s.w.t.) Saying:

Then he approached and came closer, and was at a distance of but two bow-lengths or (even) nearer; (Surah an-Najm:8-9)

Here, it means that the Prophet (s.a.w.) came near Him by virtue of his submission and negation of his self.  The length of two bow-lengths is a pictorial representation in sensible fashion of what the mind understands.

In the Prophet’s (s.a.w.), as recorded in Swahih al-Bukhari and Swahih Muslim, “Allah Comes Down to the lowest Heaven and says, ‘Who repents, that I Turn to him, and who seeks Forgiveness, that I Forgive him,” the Coming Down signifies Allah’s (s.w.t.) Mercy.  This hadits qudsi is reported also from Imam Malik (r.a.), Imam ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (r.a.) in his at-Tamhid, and Imam adz-Dzahabi (r.a.) in Siyar A‘alam an-Nubala’.  He Specifies the night because it is the time of seclusion and various kinds of acts of humility and worship as found in many verses of the Qur’an and narrations of the Prophet (s.a.w.).


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