Doctrine of Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal-Jama`ah

Q 1: I am confused about the issue of Allah's Names and Attributes in the Islamic `Aqidah (creed) due to the arguments I read in the "Al-Mujtama`" magazine between Shaykh Al-Fawzan and Shaykh Al-Sabuny, and from their responses to each other. May Allah reward you well! I would like to know Allah's Names and Attributes, what the disagreements on this issue are, and the opinion of Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal-Jama`ah (adherents to the Sunnah and the Muslim mainstream).

A: Firstly: We recommend that you read the books that the Salaf (righteous predecessors) wrote about Tawhid-ul-Asma' wal-Sifat (Oneness of Allah's Names and Attributes) to learn Allah's Names and Attributes and all that should be believed about Tawhid (belief in the Oneness of Allah/ monotheism). For example, you can read Mukhtasar Al-Sawa`iq Al-Mursalah `Ala Al-Jahmiyyah Al-Mu`attilah and Ijtima` Al-Juyush Al-Islamiyyah, which are both written by Ibn Al-Qayyim, also Al-`Aqidah Al-Wasitiyyah and Al-Sunnah by `Abdullah, the son of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal. This is because the Salaf were more knowledgeable about the Din (religion) than the later generations; they had stronger evidences and were more rightly guided. They also expressed themselves clearly and did not distort words from their proper usages. May Allah guide you to discern the Truth and the Straight Path, and to be sincere (Part No. 3; Page No. 242) in your words and deeds, and obedience to Allah and His Messenger. If you combine this with your studying and learning, this will be the strongest reason for you reaching the truth and to be confident of it; this will help to remove your confusion and refute the falsehood. Also, increase your recitation of the Qur'an, as it is the foundation and the Sunnah is its illustration. Secondly: The differences in opinion between the Salaf and their followers concerning Allah's Names and Attributes and those who came after them, was that the Salaf and their followers did not interpret the texts of the Qur'an and the Sunnah that gave Allah's Names. They did not deviate from their actual meaning, which suited Allah's Majesty (Praised and Exalted be He). They attested to the actuality of them without Takyif (descriptive designation of Allah's Attributes), Tashbih (comparing Allah to any of His Creation), Ta'wil (allegorical interpretation), or Ta`til (denial of Allah's Attributes). However, the later generations have interpreted the texts of the Qur'an and the Sunnah that are related to Allah's Names and Attributes allegorically, or some of them. For example, Allah (Exalted be He) says: The Most Gracious (Allâh) rose over (Istawâ) the (Mighty) Throne (in a manner that suits His Majesty). The Salaf said that the Tafsir (explanation) of this Ayah (Qur'anic verse) is that Allah (Exalted be He) rose by Himself and He is over the Throne in a manner that suits His Majesty. They did not look into how Allah rose Himself over the Throne. The later generations, on the other hand, interpreted the Ayah by saying that Allah has taken over the Throne and what goes along with it, and acquired supremacy as a result. They deny the fact that Allah rose over the Throne in reality. According to their view, Allah (Exalted be He) is not above or below the world or in any part of it; in fact they claim that He is everywhere. Highly Exalted is Allah above their claims! Another example is the following Ayah, in which Allah (Exalted be He) says: (Part No. 3; Page No. 243)  Nay, both His Hands are widely outstretched. The Salaf said that this Ayah means that Allah has real Hands, but in a manner that befits Him and they said that as they were "outstretched" this attested to His Absolute Generosity. The later generations claim that the meaning of the "Hand" is generosity, liberality, and giving, and that Allah has no hands. The correct opinion is without doubt that of the Salaf and their followers, who confirmed the real meanings of the texts, without Takyif, Tamthil (likening Allah's Attributes to those of His Creation), Ta'wil, or Ta`til. This is because the basic ruling is the exact meaning should be taken and, as there is no evidence to the contrary, the opinion of the Salaf is the correct one.May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.