Wahhabism in light of creed of Ahlus Sunnah

Imam al-Bayhaqi (d. 458H) on the hadith of Nuzul


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Notable Points:

  • Imam al Bayhaqi was born 277 years prior to birth of Ibn Taymiyya.
  • His usage of the term “companions of hadith”, showing that Ashari school to which he belonged was a continuation of the Ahl al Hadith and not a separate sect as claimed by the neo-Salafis today.
  • His classification of two modes of interpretation i.e. tafwid and tawil.
  • His interpretation of Istiwa, Nuzul, Yad, Wajh, etc by detailed negation of any similarity with creation.

Salafi creed: God has a literal left and right

The late Salafi leader Ibn Baz in one of his fatwa explains two authentic narrations one of which mention the “yad”(lit. hand) of Allah as being a left and a right, and the other which apparently seem to contradict that by mentioning both as right.

Ibn Baz said:

“The Ayahs (Qur’anic verses) and Hadiths are intended to emphasize that Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) has a Right Hand and a Left Hand in view of the literal designation, but both of them are blessedly Right Hands in merit, without imperfection in any manner.”


According to this “Salafi” creed, left and right are literally attributed to Allah. That is, the Salafiyya not only confine Allah with a direction of above (or below) but also with directions of left and right. Noting also that this is another example of Salafi figurative interpretation when it suits them, in this case explaining figuratively the part of the hadith that says “both His Hands are Right”.

Compare this creed to how renowned authoritative commentators of the Quran have explained the following verse of the Quran that relates to the same theme and subject in these hadiths:

{ They have not appraised Allah with true appraisal, while the earth entirely will be [within] His grip on the Day of Resurrection, and the heavens will be folded in His right hand. Exalted is He and high above what they associate with Him.} [ Quran 39:67]

Imam Ibn Jarir al Tabari in his commentary to this verse initially mentions several narrations that are related to this verse and later says


وقال بعض أهل العربية من أهل البصرة { والأرْضُ جَمِيعاً قَبْضَتُهُ يَوْمَ القيامَةِ والسَّمَوَاتُ مَطْوِيَّاتٌ بِيَمِينِهِ } يقول في قدرته نحو قوله:
وَما مَلَكَتْ أيمَانُكُمْ }
أي وما كانت لكم عليه قدرة وليس الملك لليمين دون سائر الجسد، قال: وقوله { قَبْضَتُهُ } نحو قولك للرجل: هذا في يدك وفي قبضتك.

والأخبار التي ذكرناها عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وعن أصحابه وغيرهم، تشهد على بطول هذا القول.

Rough translation:

“Some of the Arabs from Basrah (in Iraq) has said (about the verse) {while the earth entirely will be [within] His grip on the Day of Resurrection, and the heavens will be folded in His right hand} in His Power like His Word {those whom your right hands possess}[Q 4:36] that is, what you have in your power, and not (meaning) just in possession by only the right hand without the rest of the body. And His Word {His grip} is similar to a person saying: This is in your hands and in your grip.

And all the reports that we have mentioned from the Prophet salatonmassenger and His companions and others, attest to the strength of this saying.”

As we see here, Imam al-Tabari rather than indulging in affirming a literal left and right, instead explains the verse {heavens will be folded in His right hand} using the verse {those whom your right hands possess} that it means ability/power.

And this explanation was common among many mufassirs, for example

Imam Abu Layth al-Samarqandi (d. 375H) in his tafsir says:

ثم قال { وَٱلأَرْضُ جَمِيعـاً قَبْضَـتُهُ يَوْمَ ٱلْقِيَـٰمَةِ } أي في قدرته وملكه وسلطانه، لا سلطان لأحد عليها، وهذا كقوله
{ مَـٰلِكِ يَوْمِ ٱلدِّينِ }
[الفاتحة: 4] وقال القتبي: في قبضـته: أي في ملكه نحو قولك للرجل: هذا في يدكَ وقبضتك، أي في ملكك { وَٱلسَّمَـٰوٰتُ مَطْوِيَّـٰتٌ بِيَمِينِهِ } أي بقدرته، ويقال في الآية تقديم معناه، والسموات مطويات بيمينه يوم القيامة أي في يوم القيامة، ويقال بيمينه، يعني عن يمين العرش، وقال القتبي: بيمينه أي بقدرته، نحو قوله:
{ وَمَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَـٰنُهُمْ }
[الأحزاب: 50] يعني: ما كانت لهم عليه قدرة، وليس الملك لليمين دون الشمال، ويقال اليمين هاهنا: الحلف، لأنه حلف بعزته وجلاله ليطوين السموات والأرض،


“Then He said {the earth entirely will be [within] His grip on the Day of Resurrection} that is, in his Power and His Possession and His Authority, …..Ibn Qutaybah (d. 276H) said: In His Grip: that is in His Possession like the saying of the person: This is in his hands and his grip, meaning to say, in his possession, {and the heavens will be folded in His right hand} that is His Power, …….. Ibn Qutaybah said: His right hands meaning: His Power, like His Word {those whom your right hands possess} meaning: that which is in your power, and does not mean possessed by the right hand without the left hand…..”

Imam Abu Ishaq al Thalabi (d. 427H) in his tafsir said:

وقيل: هو معنى القوة، كقول الشاعر:
تلقاها عرابة باليمين


“It is said: It means Power….”

Imam Abul Hassan al Mawardi (d. 450H) in his tafsir says:

{ والسموات مطويات بيمينه } فيه وجهان:أحدهما: بقوته لأن اليمين القوة.

الثاني: في ملكه كقوله
وماملكت أيمانكم }
[النساء: 36].


“{the heavens are rolled in His right hand} has two views:

One of them: His Strength because the right (signifies) strength

Second: In His Possession (like) His Word {those whom your right hands possess} [4:36]”

In tafsir of Al-Khazin (d. 741H), Imam Abu Sulayman al Khattabi (d. 386H) is quoted as saying:

قال أبو سليمان الخطابي ليس فيما يضاف إلى الله عز وجل من صفة اليدين شمال لأن الشمال محمل النقص والضعف وقد روى كلتا يديه يمين وليس عندنا معنى اليد الجارحة إنما هي صفة جاء بها التوقيف فنحن نطلقها على ما جاءت ولا نكيفها وننتهي إلى حيث انتهى الكتاب والأخبار المأثورة الصحيحة وهذا مذهب أهل السنة والجماعة وقال سفيان بن عيينة كل ما وصف الله به نفسه في كتابه فتفسيره تلاوته والسكوت عليه.


“Abu Sulayman al Khattabi said, Allah has not been attributed with left hand because left hand implies deficiency and weakness, it was narrated “both his hands are right” it does not mean al yad (lit. hands) is a limb, (rather) it is an attribute that has come and and we say as it has come without likening and we end where ends the Book and Sahih narrations. This is the madhab of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamah. Sufyan bin Uyanah said: “All that which Allah attributed to His Self in His Book, its interpretation is its recitation (tilawat) and be silent about it (beyond that)””

In the tafsir of Sultan al Ulema Izz ad-Din Ibn Abd as-Salam (d. 660H),

{ قَبْضَتُهُ } أي هي في مقدروه كالذي يقبض القابض عليه في قبضته { بِيَمِينِهِ } بقوته لأن اليمين القوة، أو في ملكه لقوله
{ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ }
[النساء: 3].


“{in His grip} that is in His Power like the one caught clutched in His Grip {in His right hand} in His Strength because the right (signifies) strength, or in His Possession like His Word {or those whom your right hands possess}[Q 4:3]”

Imam al-Qurtubi (d. 671H), in his tafsir,

واليمين في كلام العرب قد تكون بمعنى القدرة والملك؛ ومنه قوله تعالى:
{ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُكُمْ }
[النساء: 3] يريد به الملك؛ وقال
{ لأَخَذْنَا مِنْهُ بِٱلْيَمِينِ }
[الحاقة: 45] أي بالقوّة والقدرة أي لأخذنا قوته وقدرته.


“And right hand in the Arabic language could be in the meaning of Power and Possession, (like) in the saying of Most High {or those whom your right hands possess} [Q 4:3] intending in his possession, and (Allah Most High) said {We would have seized him by the right hand} [Q 69:45] that is to say, with strength and power, that is (the meaning of the verse is ) We would have seized with strength and power. “

Similarly in Tafsir al Jalalayn:

{ قَبْضَتُهُ } أي مقبوضة له: أي في ملكه وتصرفه { يَوْمَ ٱلْقِيَٰمَةِ وَٱلسَّمَٰوٰتُ مَطْوِيَّٰتٌ } مجموعات { بِيَمِينِهِ } بقدرته


“{in His grasp} in other words it shall be grasped by Him: meaning that it will be in His possession and at His disposal {on the Day of Resurrection and the heavens will be rolled up} brought together {in His right hand} by His power.”