“Everyone upon the earth will perish but The face of your Lord will remain, possessor of majesty and honor.”(Qur’an 55:27)
“Everything will perish except His face.” (Qur’an 28:88)
Ibn Taymiyya (r) related that Ja’far al-Sadiq’s interpretation of Allah’s “face” as meaning the Religion of Islam, and al-Dahhak’s interpretation of the face in the same verse as meaning: “Allah’s essence, Paradise, the Fire, and the Throne.”
You can imagine the kind of struggle those who say we do not apply ta’wil had when coming to the verses above. If taken at their apparent meaning it indicates that the face is the only attribute of Allah (swt) that would remain while the other attributes would perish.
You cannot have a divine being that is both annihilated and existing forever at the same time. So what does Ibn Taymiyya do in this situation? What any other rational human being would do. Using the rules of grammar he applied ta’wil!
As for Ibn Taymiyya himself, he interprets ‘his face’ as meaning direction (jiha), so that the meaning would be for him: “Everything will perish save that by which Allah’s direction is sought.” He then adds, “This is what the vast majority of the Salaf have said.”
Source: (Ibn Taymiyya, Majmu’at al-fatawa 2:428)
“This is what the vast majority of the Salaf have said.” -which if we are to believe Ibn Taymiyya it means the vast majority of the salaaf applied ta’wil.
Now only one of two scenarios are possible according to Ibn Taymiyya’s statement.
- The vast majority of the salaaf applied ta’wil.
- The salaaf didn’t apply ta’wil because they knew the Arabic language better than we do and understood that ‘wajh’ meant essence or direction.
Now proponents of inconsistency will exclaim “This is no ta’wil at all!” “The face is not necessarily an attribute.” Yet Ibn Taymiyya in Al-Aqidah al-Wasitiyyah has clearly stated that the face is an attribute of Allah (swt).
However, the response is that whatever made the “wajh” not necessarily refer to one of the attributes is precisely the type of ta’wil that Ibn Taymiyya has allowed for others to open the door!