Al Dhahabi and Anthropomorphic beliefs of Ibn Taymiyya

Did Al Dhahabi had the same Mujassima beliefs as Ibn Taymiyya?- An Analysis of Al Dhahabi’s Creed.

There is a long standing debate between the Mujassima and the Ahlus Sunnah on, Was Al Dhahabi influenced by the anthropomorphic teachings of Ibn Taymiyya?
The scholars of Ahlus Sunnah have greatly relied upon him (Al Dhahabi) on the subject of Jarah’o Tadeel, but at the same time criticize him for he had mujassima believes. One of the main reason for this is his Work, Al-`Uluw li al-`Ali al-Ghaffar (“The Exaltation of the All-High and Most Forgiving”) which he wrote under the influence of Ibn Taymiyya. He was 25yrs old at that time. In this book, he misinterpreted many Hadith’s from Bukhari and Muslim trying to prove his anthropomorphic believes. This work has been extensively used recently by the growing Jahamiyya aka Salafi groups for the very same reason.
Little do the people know that Al Dhahabi has himself disavowed his work later in his life. The Famous hadith master Ibn Nasir al-Din al-Dimashqi (d.842H), the copyist of Al ‘Uluw has narrated the following statement of Al Dhahabi,

“This book contains narrations against the unreliability of which I am cautioning the reader, and the statements of a number of people who spoke in outlandish terms. Neither do I subscribe to their terms, nor do I imitate them. May Allah forgive them! Nor will I ever consider myself bound by such terms. This is my belief, and I know that Allah – “There is nothing whatsoever like unto Him” (42:11)!”

This is present in the Original Manuscript  and was also photographically reproduced in Shaykh Hasan Ali Saqqaf edition of Al ‘Uluw[1].
Photographically reproduced statement of Al Dhahabi from the book of Shaykh Hasan Ali Saqqaf (Pg 3-4).

Moreover, Al Dhahabi in his later life has clearly mentioned his beliefs on mushabi’at. To quote, some of them are, 

⇛He mentioned in his work, Siyar Al Alam, Vol 5, Pg 449,[2]

➡Ibn Qasim said “Allah created Adam in his own image”. The Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم heard that and strongly refused it and forbade him to speak [on that matter. This is not only narrated from Ibn Ajlan and Abu Zanad but also from Shoaib bin Abi Hamza from Abi Zanad. It is also narrated from Qatadah from Abi Ayub Al Marghi from Abu Huraira. Also narrated from Ibn lahiyah from Al Aa’raj from Abi Yunus from Abu Hurayrah. Also narrated from Mua’mar from Hammam from Abi Hurayrah. The narration is Sahih on the conditions of Bukhari and Muslim. (Hadith narrated in Musnad Imam Ahmad, Vol 2, Pg 244, Imam Bayhaqi, Al Asma wal  Sifaat, pg 341)

 ➡Al Dhahabi commented, “We believe it, authorize and recognize it, not fighting over which does not concern us, we know that Allah is  nothing like Him (Adam عليه سلام). He is the all seer”.

He again writes under the biography of Layth ibn Sa’d, (giving his own view on how we should approach the attributes of Allah), He writes, “Abu Ubayd in his book of strange ahadith has written many hadith on divine attributes. He further says, “There is no right to interpret those ahadith pertaining to attributes of Allah” (Siyar Al Alam, Vol 8, Pg 162)[3]

➡Imam Dhahabi writes elsewhere in his Siyar, “Many attributes of Allah like His speech cant be interpretated which is the most important part of the religionWe  believe what was revealed to us and accept it silently without any interpretation and also accepting that only Allah knows its realities. The attributes of Allah cant  resemble the attributes of created beings and the creator himself does not resemble the animate creatures”. (Siyar Al Alam, Vol 10, Pg 506).[4]

➡Imam Al-Dhahabi then mentions the quote of Ibn Khuzaimah: “Whoever doesn’t acknowledge hat Allah is above His throne, and has done Istiwa over His seven heavens, then he is a Kafir whose blood is permissible, and his wealth is booty”. After this quote of  Ibn Khuzaimah, Imam Al-Dhahabi explains the text by saying that whoever has Iman in Istiwa, and does TAFWEEDH (does not Interpret) of it’s meaning to Allah and His Prophet ﷺ, then he is a true believing Muslim. (Siyar Al Alam, Vol 14, Pg 373).[5]

➡Iman Dhahabi again says, “Ibn al Zaughuni in his poem said “….and Allah on his High Throne Himself…”. Al Dhahabi comments, “The word “self” does not have to be written as it creates confusion among the people and leave their [interpretation] first and Allah knows best. (Siyar Al Alam, Vol 19, Pg 607)[6]



Some scans from Siyar Al Alam An Nubala. (The Scans are in order to the Paragraphs above) 

Siyar Al Alam An Nubala was his last work which he wrote when he was around 68-69 years old. This unarguably proves that He had given up the anthropomorphic believes and returned to the righteous Ashari creed. 
⇨ Al Dhahabi also wrote a small epistle namely, “Al-Nasi’hat Al-Dhahabiyya li-Ibn Taymiyya” when he was around fifty-five years of age and addressed to Ibn Taymiyya near the end of his life. In this brief but scathing epistle, the author distances himself from his contemporary and admonishes him without naming him, calling him ”an eloquent polemicist who neither rests nor sleeps.”
The Nasiha contains the following prediction of Taymiyya followers in our time: 
“Oh! The disappointment of him who follows you! For he is exposed to corruption in basic beliefs and to dissolution, particularly if he is short of learning and religion, a self-indulgent idler who does well for you by fighting on your behalf with his hand and tongue, while he is actually your enemy in his being and heart. What are your followers but dogmatic do-nothings of little intelligence, common liars with dull minds, silent outlanders strong in guile, or dryly righteous without understanding? If you do not believe it, just look at them and honestly assess them! [7]

                                                     Some Scans from the Risala of Al Dhahabi (pg 33-34).
Recently a “Salafi” Scholar (Muhammad Al Shaybani) cast doubt on the authenticity of Al Dhahabi’s authorship of this epistle, also claiming that, even if al-Dhahabi wrote it, then it is directed to someone other than lbn Taymiyya!
However, Al-Sakhawi does not doubt the authenticity of its attribution to Al-Dhahabi and calls it “A glorious statement of doctrine?“ [8] And the two major experts on Al-Dhahabi’s works, Salah Al-Din Al-Munajjid and Bashshar Awwad Mari’if, declared there was no doubt Al-Dhahabi wrote it in his mature years and addressed it to lbn Taymiyya.”[9]
Among the proofs of its authenticity is that the hadith Master Abu Sa‘id Al-‘Ala’i said he copied it himself from Al-Dhahabi’s autograph manuscript. The Mufassir Qadi Burhan Al-Din Ibn lama‘a, Abt’i Ishaq Ibrahim ibn ‘Abd al-Rahim ibn Muhammad Al-Misri Thumma Al-Maqdisi Al-Dimashqi (725H-790H) then copied it himself from Al-Ala’i’s autograph manuscript, then Taqi Al-Din Abu Bakr Ibn Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Qadi Shuhba (d. 779H) copied it himself from the autograph manuscript of Ibn Iami‘a. Al Kawthari published its facsimile edition as written by lbn Qadi Shuhba. 
👉It is also known that Shaykh Al Islam Al Subki has criticized and refuted Al ‘Uluw. But this is sometimes misunderstood as “Refutation of Al Dhahabi”. It has been clearly proved that Al Dhahabi gave up those wrong beliefs. Infact Imam Subki has praised Al Dhahabi saying

“Our time was graced with four hadith masters: Al-Mizzi, Al-Birzali, Al-Dhahabi, and my father the Shaykh and Imam [Taqi al-Din al-Subki]”. [10]

[1] Al ‘Uluw li Al Ali ‘Al Ghaffar, Ed by Shaykh Hasan Ali Saqqaf, Pg 3-4.
[2] Siyar Al Alam  An Nubala, Vol 5, Pg 449.
[3] Siyar Al Alam  An Nubala, Vol 8, Pg 162.
[4] Siyar Al Alam  An Nubala, Vol 10, Pg 506.
[5] Siyar Al Alam  An Nubala, Vol 14, Pg 373.
[6] Siyar Al Alam  An Nubala, Vol 19, Pg 607.
[7] Al Nasi’hat Al Dhahabiyya li Ibn Taymiyya, Pg 33-34.
[8] Al Sakhawi (d.920H), Al Ilan Wal Tawbikh, Pg 77 and Pg 136
[9] Bashshar Awwad Ma’ruf Al Dhahabi Wa Manhajuhu (pg 146). Two extant manuscripts of the Nasiha are kept. One in Cairo at the Dar Al Kutub Al Misriyya (#B18823) copied by Ibn Qadi Shuhba and one in Damascus at the Zahiriyya Library (#1347).
[10] Al Sakhawi (d.920H), Al Ilan Wal Tawbikh, Pg 75.



Ibn Jahbal, a celebrated Shafa’i jurist, who wrote a spectacular refution of Ibn Taymiyya’s Hamawiyya titled Al Raddu ala Man Qala bil Jiha was recently translated by one of the most influential scholar of Sunni Islam in 20th century, Shaykh Dr.Gibril Haddad. The following passages are taken from this book, which contains the explaination of one of the highly quoted verse by the anthropomorphists to establish their falsehood:

Ibn Taymiyya quotes the saying of Allah : {Have you taken security from Him Who is in the heaven that He will not cause the earth to swallow you} (67:16), restricting the meaning of “him” to Allah alone[1]. Perhaps he does not allow that its meaning is the Angels of Allah. Perhaps he denies that the angels do such things, and that Gibril عليه سلام caused the earth to swallow the people of Sodom. Consequently he used this verse for his proof, and it may be the “explicit text” he was referring to[2]. Then he followed up with the saying of Allah: {The angels and the Spirit ascend (ta‘ruju) unto Him} (70:4). Ascension (‘uraj) and ascent (su‘ud) are one and the same meaning. There is no proof in this verse that the ascension is to a heaven or to a throne or to any of the things which he has claimed whatsoever. For the literal meaning of “ascension” used in the language of the Arabs refers to the displacement appropriate to material bodies (al-ajsam). The Arabs do not know any other meaning of the word. Would that he had openly declared the material sense and relieved himself from the trouble of covering it up! 

↠The Verse of Istiwa and its interpretation:

The Arabs also understand istiwa as the straightness of the arrow-shaft and the antonym of crookedness. The Hashwiyya invoke this meaning to exonerate themselves of the charge of attributing a body to Allah. At the same time, they close the door to any explanation other than “sitting.” Yet they do not close the door when it comes to the saying of Allah: {And He is with you wheresoever you may be} (57:4) and {We are nearer to him than his jugular vein} (50:16). So you Hashwiyya should not say that Allah is with us “with His knowledge.” If you say that, then why do you allow this [interpretive method] one time and you forbid it the next? And how do you know that istiwa is not one of His acts in connection with the Throne? If they say: “This is not in the language of the Arabs,” then we reply: Neither is the meaning of istawa which you yourselves forward unless we apply it to a body[4].

[1] Hamawiyya (p. 216-217) Majma Al-Fatawa (5:12-13). 
[2] Fakhr Al-Din Al-Razi, Tafsir (3:69): “It is the anthropomorphists who used this verse to claim that Allah Himself is in the sky.” Abu Hayyan Al-Andalusi said the some thing in his Bahr Al-Muhit (8:302) and Nahr Al-Mādd (2:1131-1132). Al-Nawawi in his commentary on Sahih Muslim agreed with Al Qadi Iyad that the words “in the heaven’ are interpreted metaphorically. Al-Zamakhshari: “From Him Whose sovereignty is in the Heaven.‘ When “Whose sovereignty” is omitted the pronoun “Him” remains instead. There are many instances of this turn of speech in the Quran: “And ask the town.” that is: “And ask the people of the town’, “And your Lord come.” that is: “And your Lord’s order came” interpreting Allah’s Words ‘He Who is in the Heaven” in Islamic Belief: and Doctrine According to Ahl Al-Sunna (p. 144-148).  
[3] Hamawiyya (p. 217), Majma Al Fatawa (5:13). 
[4]Ibn Al Jawzi in Daf Shubah Al Tashbih (1998 Al Kawthari repr.p.23): “Whoever interprets (and He is with you) (57:4) as meaning “He is with you in knowledge,” permits his opponent to interpret Istiwa as subduing (Al Qahr) or sovereignty.