Translated by Ahmed Abu Turaab
Let us stop here for a short while to remind ourselves of one of the principles of correct tafsir which, if a Muslim holds on to, will place him upon guidance from his Lord, and which, if he deviates from, will cause him to go far astray.
Tafsir of the Quraan must be done with the Quraan, this is the first principle: the Quraan is explained by the Quraan, and by the sayings of the Prophet عليه السلام then with the authentic narrations reported from our righteous predecessors.
One must stick to this method when explaining the noble Quraan, especially in those things in it which are connected to the most unseen of the Unseen, i.e., Allaah the Blessed and Most High, connected to worshipping Him or [connected to] any of His Attributes.
So these aayahs have to be explained upon this methodology: the Quraan is explained with the Quraan, then the Sunnah then the authentic narrations reported from the righteous predecessors.
I had mentioned to you before in previous sittings that for a Muslim today to be upon guidance from his Lord and to be an upright traveller on the Straight Path it is not enough to [just] say, ‘I take from the Book and the Sunnah.’
One has to do this [of course] but on its own this is not enough. There has to be the Book, the Sunnah and a third thing: [following] what the righteous predecessors were upon.
I will establish for you through some texts … and I don’t want to repeat the topic but will just remind you of His Saying, the Blessed and Most High, ‘And whoever opposes the Messenger after guidance has become clear to him and follows other than the way of the Believers We shall keep him in the path he has chosen and burn him in Hell–and evil it is as a destination.’ [Nisaa 4:115] it would have been enough to say in this noble aayah, ‘And whoever opposes the Messenger after guidance has become clear to him, We shall keep him in the path he has chosen …’ but Allaah the Mighty and Majestic added another sentence to the one just mentioned, saying, ‘…and follows other than the way of the Believers …’
This is a very important sentence, because it means that there is no way of understanding the Book and understanding the Sunnah except through our righteous predecessors.
Now, and as I said I don’t want to repeat what was said before for fear of repetition and boredom, the saying of some of the people of today following on from that of some of the people of theological rhetoric or scholars of theological rhetoric that Allaah is everywhere–do we find these words, this sentence, this belief in the words of the pious predecessors?
The statements of the pious predecessors only contain that which complies and is in agreement with the aayahs and hadiths which affirm Allaah’s attribute of ascendancy over all of the creation.
‘… and then He rose over the Throne …’ [Al-A’raaf 7:54] ‘To Him ascend (all) the goodly words, and the righteous deeds exalt it (the goodly words i.e. the goodly words are not accepted by Allaah unless and until they are followed by good deeds),’ [Faatir 35:10] ‘The angels and the Spirit [Jibreel] ascend to Him …’ [Al-Ma’aarij 70:4]
‘Have mercy on those on earth and the One above the Heavens will have mercy on you,’ ‘Do you feel secure that He, Who is over the heaven …’ [Al-Mulk 67:16]
Many aayahs and hadiths, let alone the sayings of the Salaf as-Saalih, which all come together in renouncing this misguidance that Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, is everywhere, and which affirm that Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, does not have a ‘place’ [makaan] but rather that He is as He said, ‘The Most Gracious rose over the [Mighty] Throne [in a manner that suits His Majesty],’ [Taa Haa 20:5] And they explained, ‘rose over, [istawaa]’ to mean, ista’laa [ascended/rose over].
As for those people who say that Allaah is everywhere, then they have misinterpreted the aayah and dispensed with it in opposition to the [correct] methodology to be employed when explaining the Quraan which I mentioned to you just now, because they said that, ‘rose over, [istawaa],’ means, ‘conquered [istawlaa].’
Along with the fact that this is a khalafi explanation [i.e., not an explanation from the Salaf but rather from those who came later and opposed them] not having a basis in any word from the statements of the pious predecessors … then along with that it also opposes the tafsir of the Salaf as-Saalih.
This aayah, ‘The Most Gracious rose over the [Mighty] Throne [in a manner that suits His Majesty],’ [Taa Haa 20:5] was explained by the Salaf to mean ista’laa [he ascended/rose over].
And the statement of Imaam Maalik, the Imaam of the place of migration [of the Prophet], may Allaah have mercy on him [is well-known]–when that questioner came to him and said, ‘O Maalik, ‘The Most Gracious rose over the [Mighty] Throne,’ how did He rise over?’
Imaam Maalik replied, ‘The istiwaa [rising over] is known …’ i.e., it is highness and ascension, ‘… and the ‘how’ …’ i.e., that which that person was asking about, ‘… is unknown, and asking about it is an innovation. Remove this man for he is an innovator.’