The Mushabbiha sect and their position on the mutashâbihât

Question: Could you give some information about the Mushabbihasect?
It is a heretical sect that believes Allahu ta’âlâ to be an object and attributes anthropomorphic organs to Him. Giving wrong meanings tomutashâbih verses, this sect claims that Allah has such body parts as hands and face.

[mutashâbih: (pl. mutashâbihât) an âyat or a hadîth with inexplicit, hidden meaning.]

The people who first propounded the ideas tashbîh [likening Allahu ta’âlâ to His creation] and tajsîm [considering Allahu ta’âlâ to be materialized] were ‘Abdullah ibn Saba’, who was a Jew, and Hisham bin Salim al-Jawâlikî and Hisham bin al-Hakam, who lived toward the end of the first hijrî century and around the turn of the second hijrî century.

There were heretics who promoted these credos during the second hijrî century. Hadrat Imâm-i Mâlik, who gave answers to those heretics, once said to the advocates of likening Allah to His creation,“I forbid you from bid’ats and bid’at holders.” When he was asked who the bid’at holders were, he answered, “Bid’at holders are such people that they talk about Allahu ta’âlâ’s Names, Attributes, Speech, Knowledge, and Power. They do not keep silent on the subjects that the Sahâba and the followers of them in goodness kept silent.”

Ahl as-Sunnat savants, such as Imâm-i Zuhrî and Imâm-i Sawrî, too, gave the necessary answers to the holders of these false beliefs and protected Muslims against their deceit. However, these doctrines continued to exist throughout the third hijrî century. Ahl as-Sunnat savants, e.g., Imâm-i Ahmad bin Hanbal, Yahyâ bin Mâin, and Ishaq bin Rahawayh, refuted the teachings of Mujassima and Mushabbiha sects and struggled against them.

Today we see that those who call themselves Salafîs follow in their footsteps. Hadrat Imâm-i Ghazâlî declared:
The sects of ignorance and aberration ascribe to Allahu ta’âlâ imperfections about His Person and Attributes, which He is clear of, free from. Calling this heresy of theirs “Salaf’s path,” they slander the Salaf-i Sâlihîn [that is, the Ashâb-i Kirâm and the Tâbi’în]. Now I will set forth the belief and creed of the Salaf: You must not consider the word yad in the phrase yadullah as the hands. For instance, if it is said, “Such and such a city is in such and such a governor’s hands,” it is understood that that city is not in the palms of his hands, but rather he is in control of it. In this respect, you should understand the meaning of yadullah as “Allah’s power.” (Iljâm-ul-awâm)

Such kinds of statements, as it was stated by Hadrat Imâm-i Ghazâlî, must be explained in this way. For example, it would be wrong to say “Allah’s shadow” for the phrase “Zillullah.” Therefore, when explaining the meaning of the pertinent hadîth-i sharîf, we must say, “Allahu ta’âlâ takes seven classes of people under His protection on a day when there is no protector other than He.” Otherwise, we must not say, “He shades them under His shade,” because there may be some people who will draw such a meaning out of it that Allahu ta’âlâ is a material being. Just as we do not construe the phrase “Baitullah (which means Allah’s house)” as the house where Allah indwells (never!), so we must not construe the words “Yadullah” or “Zillullah” that appear in hadîth-i sharîfs according to their outward (zâhir) meanings. Instead, we must make ta’wîl of them. In order to forestall the Salafiyya movement, which is a heretical and deviant sect, Islamic savants made ta’wîl of the âyats and hadîths with inexplicit meanings. However, those who went to extremes in ta’wîl and who provided interpretations that were not in accord with what Islamic savants provided went astray, too. All religious books that are not in accord with what Islamic savants communicated are not dependable or authentic.

[Ta’wîl: From among different senses of a word, ta’wîl is to choose the one that is in accord with Islam.]

In his book Aqidat-us-sahîha, the Wahhâbî writer Abdulazîz bin Bâz declares Sunnî Muslims to be polytheists, that is, to be disbelievers, and he wants all Muslims to become Najdîs, that is, Wahhâbîs.

Interpreting such words with inexplicit meanings as istiwâ, yad, andwajh as sitting, hand, and face respectively, he describes Allahu ta’âlâ as an object (never!). He believes in Him the way the Mushabbiha sect does. He says, “Our master Ibn Taymiyya affirmed so.” Thus, he does not hide the fact that Ibn Taymiyya, too, was a follower of the Mushabbiha sect.

Again, ‘Abdulaziz bin Bâz writes in his book that the master of Hadrat Imâm-i Mâlik said, “The ‘how’ (kayf) of Allah’s istiwâ on the ‘Arsh is inconceivable.” And this is the truth of the matter. However, he writes a few lines later: “Allah sits on the ‘Arsh, which is above the heavens.” How can a person write so definitely concerning a matter the “how” of which is inconceivable? Ancient scholars called Salaf-i Sâlihîn did not deem it necessary to make ta’wîl of such words as istiwâ and yadbecause the meanings they carry used to be known by people. For example, when we said, “Such and such a city is in such and such a governor’s hands,” it did not need an explanation, for in the past everybody used to know that the word hands in this statement was not in its literal sense. Similarly, they used to understand the purport of “Allah made istiwâ on the ‘Arsh” as “Allah is dominant over the ‘Arsh.” But when this corrupt sect called the Mushabbiha gave them wrong meanings, such as “Allah has hands like our hands. He sits on the ‘Arsh,” the subsequent savants were obliged to elucidate these words.

In the Qur’ân al-karîm there are many âyats that need ta’wîl. If they are taken in their literal senses, they give rise to bizarre denotations. For instance, the Holy Qur’an declares: “Ask the village,” which means “the people in the village.” Also, the Holy Qur’an declares that the disbelievers are deaf, dumb, and blind. (Sûrat-ul-Baqara, 18)

However, disbelievers are not deaf, dumb, and blind in reality. As they do not hear the fact, they are characterized as being deaf; as they do not say the truth, they are characterized as being dumb; as they do not see the true path and the facts, they are characterized as being blind. Explication is not necessary for those who grasp the meaning out of it. In the same way, in the past the meanings of istiwâ, yad,wajh, and the like used to be known without a need to provide ta’wîl. Afterwards, when the Mushabbiha sect and the Najdîs take them in their literal senses, they ascribed a place to Allah. They considered Him to be a material being. Similarly, Abdulaziz bin Bâz, who is a Najdî, commits blasphemy by saying, “Allah sits on the ‘Arsh in heaven” (pp. 8-10).