Imâm Ahmad's `Aqîda
and Pseudo-H. anbali `Aqîda

by Sh. G. F. Haddad Sha`bân 1423

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The Shâfií faqîh, Shaykh al-Islâm al-Haytamî was asked:
"Was the belief of Imâm Ahmad ibn Hanbal the same as [certain] present-day Hanbalîs claim?" - He replied:

Concerning the doctrine of the Imâm of Ahl al-Sunna, Ahmad ibn Hanbal  raDiy-Allahu-anhu.gif  - may Allâh (swt) grant him the loftiest of gardens as his resting-place and destination, bestow upon us and him His bounties, and grant him a dwelling in the loftiest firdaws: his doctrine was in absolute conformity with the belief of Ahl al-Sunna, and completely concordant. It included the belief that Allâh (swt) is exalted beyond those matters that the oppressors and dissenters attribute to Him. That is, Allâh (swt) is exalted from possessing direction, parts, corporeality, and so forth among the various Attributes of imperfection.

The truth of the matter is that Allâh is free from all the Attributes that are not characterized by absolute perfection; and all those things that are being circulated and publicized among the ignoramuses as being said by this great mujtahid Imâm are a slander. It is an outright lie that this Imâm ever claimed direction or the like in describing the Attributes of Allâh (swt). May Allâh lead to perdition those who attribute such positions to the Imâm who is entirely exonerated of having said such things.

All these matters have been explained by the hadîth Master, Imâm Ab al-Faraj Ibn al-Jawzî, who belongs to his [Imâm Ahmad's] school. He has cleared the Imâm's name of such foul slanders and has provided explicit proofs exposing the lies of the slanderers.

And beware of what Ibn Taymiyya, his student Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya and others wrote; he [Ibn Taymiyya] is a man who took his lusts for his Lord, for which Allâh led him astray despite his learning, sealed upon his hearing and heart, and put a veil upon his sight; and who can guide him after Allâh let him be misguided? Why should He not, when these heretics have gone past the boundaries set by the Sharî`a and trampled them? Yet they imagine that they are the guided ones, that they are guided by their Lord Almighty when the truth is that they are not. Rather, they are on the wrong path, the most heinous, misleading way and most abominable traits. They are afflicted by vices and have incurred a great loss. May Allâh humble their followers and wipe the earth clean from their likes! [fn1]

A contemporary example of this difference

A contemporary example of the disparity between Hanbal `Aqîda and puristic Taymiyyan views is the recent edition of the Hanbal Shaykh al-Islâm, the Imâm and Musnid Shams al-Dîn Muhammad ibn Badr al-Dîn ibn Balbân al-Dimashqî al-Sâlihî's ( 1006- 1083) compendium of fiqh, adab and `Aqîda titled Mukhtas.ar al-Ifâdât fî Rub` al-îbâdât wal-âdâb wal-Ziyâdât by a "Salafî" student and his teacher Muhammad Sulaymân al-Ashqar who injected into the work the following aberrations: [fn2]


Comparison:

Ibn Balbân's text ... ..."Salafî" injections ... footnote and rebuttal
Conclusion: On knowledge of Allâh (swt) and what pertains thereto and what the legally qualified person must believe [p. 485] The author was not blessed with success - Allâh forgive him! - in reporting the `Aqîda of the Salaf that Imâm Ahmad ibn Hanbal and the expert authorities of the Madhhab held. Ibn Balbân - Allâh reward him! - shows mastery of the `Aqîda of the Sunni Salaf including Abû Hanîfa, Ahmad, and al- Ash`arî with a view to confront innovations current in his time in and outside his own School, including tajsîm and i`tizâl.
It is obligatory to categorically affirm (al- jazm) that He (swt) is one, indivisible and not made of parts, single not in the sense of number... [p. 487] Shaykh al-Islâm [Ahmad] Ibn Taymiyya warned against such newfangled terms and cites the very same terms used by the author as examples of what not to say. Ibn Balbân echoes Ash`arî (Ibn Khafîf) and Mâturîdî (Fiqh al-Akbar) `aqîda while Ibn Taymiyya innovated triple-tawhîd terminology never used by Imâm Ahmad and claims that Ahmad believed Allâh has a limit whereas it is established he held the opposite.
It is obligatory to categorically affirm that He (swt) is neither a substance (jawhar) nor a body (jism) nor an atom (`arad. ). Shaykh al-Islâm IT said...: "the terms jism, jawhar and the like are neither in the Book of Allâh nor the Sunna of His Prophet, nor the words of any of the Companions and their pious Successors to the Day of Judgment [sic] and the rest of the Imâms of the Muslims, whether to affirm or deny." Al-Ash`arî uses the very same terms in his Risâla ilâ Ahl al-Thughar. Further, the term "uncreated" (ghayr makhlûq) is not found in the Qur'ân, the Sunna or the language of the Companions and Successors yet Ahmad used it against those who affirmed the createdness of the Qur'ân.
Contingencies never indwell Him (lâ tah.ulluhu al-h.awâdith) nor does He indwell any of them, nor can any of them encompass Him. Our shaykh Muh.ammad [Sulaymân] al-Ashqar said: "This is innovated speech that misses the mark, which no legal proof affirms nor denies therefore it can neither be confirmed nor denied. And even if it were confirmed it could suggest what is untrue, as it would if it were denied." This pedantic naysaying aims to justify the heresy of "pre-existent contingencies indwelling the Deity (swt)" (h.awâdith lâ awwala lahâ h.âlla fî dhât Allâh) for which al-Ikhmaymî (d.764) suspected Ibn Taymiyya of Aristotelian freethinking (dahriyya) as does al-Bûtî in al-Salafiyya (p. 164- 175).
So whoever believes or says that Allâh is, in His essence (bi-dhâtihî), in every place or in a place, is a kâfir. It is obligatory to categorically affirm that He (swt) is separate (bâ'in) from His creation. Allâh (swt) was when there was no place then He created place and He is now as He was before He created place. [p. 489] The denial of place is an imprecise term (lafz. mujmal) [!] and innovated speech while Allâh (swt) has said that He is established (mustawin) over His Throne above His heavens in absolute height (fîl-`uluw al-mut.laq). So the words of the author - Allâh forgive him! - are novel in meaning as they are novel in wording. The commentator defends kufr by crying bid`a while Ibn Balbân's words are reiterated verbatim by Sulaymân ibn `Abd Allâh ibn Muhammad ibn `Abd al-Wahhâb in his epistle on `Aqîda titled al-Tawdîh. `an Tawhîd al-Khallâq fî Jawâb Ahl al-`Irâq ( 1319/1901, p. 34, and Riyadh: Dâr Taybah, 1984).
Whoever likens Him to anything in His creation has definitely committed kufr, for example, he who says "He is a body" or says "He is a body unlike bodies" (jismun lâ kal-ajsâm). "This is innovated speech that misses the mark, which no legal proof affirms nor denies therefore it can neither be confirmed nor denied. And even if it were confirmed it could suggest what is untrue, as it would if it were denied." No comment is needed.
In any case, whatever occurs in the mind and dawns upon the imagination, such is other than the Owner of Generosity and Majesty. [p. 490] "The author did not broach the tawhîd of Godhead which is the root of the Religion but instead comes up with those newfangled expressions that are not found in the Book nor in the Sunna and are unknown by the Salaf." Ibn Balbân defined the creed of Oneness of Godhead at length in the very passage rejected by the commentator as unspeakable. The statement "whatever occurs in the mind" is established from Dhû l-Nûn (ra). Al-Shâfi`î said something similar.
The authentically transmitted Divine Names and Attributes must be accepted, believed, and conveyed just as they came even if the meaning cannot be conceived (wa 'in lam yu`qal ma`nâh). [p. 49] "No, the meaning is known!" Mâlik said of istiwâ` "its 'how' is inconceivable" while al-Shâfi`î said, "I believe in what came from Allâh in the meaning meant (murâd) by Allâh and I believe in what came from the Messenger of Allâh in the meaning meant by the Messenger of Allâh (swt)."
My ailment left me through the blessing of seeing [Imâm Ahmad] in dream, Allâh be well-pleased with him! [p.493] It only left him through the Divine decree! First, the Jumhûr said one may attribute effects to other than the Causator meta- phorically. Second, the denial of causes and effects in the world of causes and effects is the doctrine of the fatalists (Jabriyya).
We ask Him (swt) to make us firm upon Sunni `Aqîda with the baraka of our Prophet , the Leader of creation. [p. 493] This is part of the forbidden and illicit tawassul as was assessed by IT. Imâm Ahmad assessed that Tawassul through the Prophet MHMD be part of every Muslim's du`â as admitted by IT himself.
The Madhhab of Ahl al-Sunna is the affirmation (ithbât) of the Names and Attributes together with the negation of likeness (tashbîh) and organs (adawât). [p. 494] "If he means by organs, such as Allâh (swt) has affirmed for Himself of the two hands, the eye, and others of His lofty Attributes, then his words are incorrect because they contradict the text of the Qur'ân." Al-T.ah.âwî said in his `Aqîda (§38): "He is beyond having limits placed on Him, or being bounded, or having parts or limbs or organs (ta`âlâ `anil-h.udûdi wal-ghâyâti wal-arkâni wal-a`d.â`i wal-adawât)." LINK
Know that everything other than Allâh and His Attributes is contingent and that He has created it, brought it into being, and originated it from nothing, by no prior cause (`illa) nor driving purpose (gharad.) “This cannot be correct, Allâh (swt) does what He wishes to whom He wishes, the noble Qur'ân is full of the causality (ta`lîl) of His acts as in His saying, {For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel} (5:32), {for that He did create them} (11:119); Al-Ashqar is unaware that Ahl al-Sunna never attribute cause to the Divine decrees and acts but wisdom (h.ikma) while the Mu`tazila cite the Qur'ân claiming that Allâh is driven by cause and that His acts are motivated by good.
nor motive (dâ`in) nor need (h.âja) nor necessity (mûjib), nor is consideration of any of the above incumbent upon Him whatsoever in His acts, yet He does nothing in vain. [p. 496] and this talk is incoherent, his because the last of it ('in vain') contradicts the statement 'by no prior cause nor driving purpose.'" Al-Mâturîdî in al-Tawh.îd (p. 215-216) ranks the attribution of `illa to the Divine acts among the aberrations of the Mu`tazila who pretexted that, otherwise, Allâh would be acting in vain. Ibn Khafîf: "He brings near Him whomever He will without [need for] cause and removes far from Him whomever He will without [need for] cause."
He (swt) is free to torture and punish creatures without prior offense nor subsequent recompense nor fitting regard. He can do what He likes and decree freely over them in any terms He wishes, yet all this is excellent (h.asan) on His part because they are His dominion and He owns them and cannot be taken to account. Rather, they are taken to account. [p. 497] "He (swt) said: { Your Lord wrongs no one} ( 8:49) and injustice is evil and prohibited. How then could He possibly punish them without prior offense, yet this be h.asan?" Al-Ashqar's objection is the Mu`tazilî doctrine in a nutshell as phrased by al- Jubbâ'î to al-Ash`arî after which the latter left them. Ibn Khafîf said: "Allâh is doer of what He will [{ Know you not that unto Allâh belongs the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth? He punishes whom He will, and forgives whom He will. Allâh is Able to do all things} (5:40)]: continued:[below: Injustice is not ...]
Injustice is not attributed to Him, He rules over His dominion just as He will, without [anyone's entitlement to] objection whatsoever [Say : Who then can do aught against Allâh, if He had willed to destroy the Messiah son of Mary, and his mother and everyone on earth? To Allâh belongs the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them. He creates what He will. And Allâh is Able to do all things} (5: 7); The sentence that comes from Me cannot be changed, and I am in no wise a tyrant unto the slaves} (50:29)]. At the same time it is obligatorily known that Allâh does not take back His promise to reward those who believe and do good and punish evil-doers: But as for those who believe and do good works We shall bring them into gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide for ever. It is a promise from Allâh in truth; and who can be more truthful than Allâh in utterance?} (4: 22). The scholars have described the former evidence as "based on reason" (dalîl `aqlî) and the latter as is based on laws (dalîl shar`î ), noting that it is the latter which takes precedence over the former. Cf. al-Bûtî, Kubrâ al-Yaqînât (p. 149).

And Allâh (swt) knows best.

fn1 Al-Haytamî, Fatâwâ H.adîthiyya (p. 203).
fn2 Ibn Balbân, Mukhtas.ar al-Ifâdât, ed. Muh.ammad Nâs.ir al-`Ajmî
(Beirut: Dâr al-Bashâ'ir al-Islâmiyya, 1998).

 

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