Imam Abul Mu’in al Nasafi (d. 508 AH) on the attributes of Allah

The famous Hanafi scholar known as Imam Abul Mu’in Maymun al-Nasafi (d. 508 AH) said in his Tabsirat al-Adilla fi Usul al-Din:

“Our Shaykhs, may Allah have mercy upon them, have differed [regarding the non-explicit texts]. Some of them took the view that the obligation  regarding  those verses and hadith was to believe in them as they came, with faith and submission, to believe in their soundness, and not to preoccupy ourselves about  their modality or the search for this modality,  with a firm belief that Allah, may He be exalted, is not a body, does not resemble  the  creations  (…).This  has  been  narrated  from  Muhammad  ibn  al-Hasan: indeed Nusayr ibn Yahya al-Balkhi   narrates from ‘Umar ibn Isma’il ibn Hammad ibn Abu Hanifah  from  Muhammad  ibn   al-Hasan  that  he  was asked  about  those  verses  and narrations  mentioning  the  attributes  of  Allah,  and   the  apparent  meaning  of which would lead to anthropomorphism, and he said: “we go through them as they came,  we believe  in  them  and  we  do  not  say  “how”  and  “when””.  And this view was also adopted by Malik ibn Anas, the Imam of the people of al-Madinah, and by Abd Allah ibn al-Mubarak and Abu Mu’adh Khalid ibn Sulayman  the companion  of Sufyan al- Thawri, and by a group of scholars from the people of hadith like Ahmad ibn Hanbal and  Ishaq  ibn  Ibrahim  and  Muhammad  ibn Isma’il  al-Bukhari,  and Abu  Dawud  al- Sijistani.  It has been narrated  from Malik ibn Anas may Allah have mercy upon  him that he was asked about His saying, may He be exalted: “al-Rahman ‘ ala l-‘arsh istawa” [literally:  the Merciful  is established  over  the Throne]  and he said  “the Istawa  is not unknown and the kayf is not conceivable and the question about it is an innovation” [i.e. the definition of the word istawa is not unknown, but he did not precisely mention which one he intended, and there is no “how” (kayf) to this act of istawa, as it is not conceivable that God had a “how”]. None of them busied himself interpreting anything from these verses and narrations.

And some of them [i.e. a second group of scholars from “Our shaykhs”] preoccupied themselves with extracting the meaning of these verses  and  narrations  according  to what they contain  as meanings  which do not contradict  the proofs of the Oneness  of God and the explicit verses . Thereafter, in those cases where the word would only bear (apart from the explicit meaning) one meaning which complies with the proofs, they will decree that this is what is meant by God. And for those expressions which would carry more than one suitable meaning they did not decide in favour of any in particular as being what was meant, because of the absence of a decisive proof which would lead to choose only one of them. They would prevent themselves from confirming this for Allah without a proof forcing them to do so and they would say: “Yes, the meaning of some of these expressions is not the apparent one”. (Quoted by Dr. N. Nahouza in Contemporary Wahhabism rebranded as Salafism : the issue of interpreting the Qur’anic verses and hadith on the Attributes of God and its significance, p. 47)

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