Sunday, 11 December 2016

The Ash'ari Methodology Evolved to Prevent Anthropomorphism

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Unlike the early Ash’ari scholars, the later Ash’ari theologians took a slightly different route of exegesis, one of interpretation.  These scholars held it better to establish a meaning, even from an obscure word or theme, rather than fall into anthropomorphism.  Both the early and late Sunni theologians are in agreement that the best approach is to pass over these passages without describing and interpreting them as well as not believing in the literal meaning that leads to anthropomorphism.  The later theologians, however, added that one only understands from these Attributes what is appropriate to Allah (s.w.t.).  This is as if to say to the opponents, if one must understand these Attributes then do so only in a way that does not underestimate the Greatness of Allah (s.w.t.) or leads to anthropomorphism.  Therefore, the Eye of Allah (s.w.t.) is interpreted as His Care for His Creation as Allah (s.w.t.) Says in the Qur’an:


“Throw (the child) into the chest and throw (the chest) into the river: the river will cast him up on the bank and he will be taken up by one who is an enemy to Me and an enemy to him': but I Cast (the garment of) Love over thee from Me: and (this) in order that thou mayest be reared under Mine Eye.” (Surah ThaHa:39)

Therefore, one can say that the early theologians’ method was one of belief and the later theologians’ method was one of debate.  This is the methodology of Sunni theology in dealing with these obscure words, which, if taken literally, will lead to anthropomorphism.  This is why Imam al-‘Iraqi (r.a.) stated concerning the Face or Countenance of Allah (s.w.t.) which occurs so often in the Qur’an and sunnah, “In understanding this there are two opinions: the first is to pass over it as it is without asking how.  So one believes in it fully and resigns its meaning to the ones who possess this meaning with firm conviction that there is none like unto Allah.  The second is to interpret it in a way that is becoming of Allah’s Essence so the meaning of the Face or Countenance of Allah is His Existence.”


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