Ibn Taymiyya applies Ta’wil of Allah’s attributes.

“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.

  1. The vast majority of the salaaf applied ta’wil.
  2. 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!


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11 responses to “Ibn Taymiyya applies Ta’wil of Allah’s attributes.

  1. Abdullah

    Salaam akhi,

    Agreed! I myself used to be a Salafi until I started using my brains (not applicable to most Salafi’s). I just don’t understand when they say: “you must take the apparent (Dhahir) meaning of His Attributes”. And when you ask them what is the Dhahir meaning, they say: “What comes to the mind first!”. I’m like, what?? Am I supposed to imagine that our Creator is a huge Man-like creature with 2 hands, 2 feet, 2 eyes, literally ascending/descending, etc??

    I almost lost my Islam because of these people! As you mentioned in the article, even their great Sheikh Ibn Taymiya made Ta’wil. Allah (SWT) also uses the Masculine Pronoun (He, Him, His) when referring to Himself so surely, it does NOT mean that He is a man or a male is any form! He also uses the Royal Plural (We, Us) so that also does NOT mean He is more than one! SubhanAllah!

    Then again, I don’t bother with them anymore coz I’m really over it. People can believe whatever they want to believe and Allah will judge us.

    Take care brother,

    Salaam 🙂

  2. Toby

    Dear Sir.

    Recently I was having a debate with a salafi gentleman, who stated the following:
    ” Mainstream Sunni thoughts, records, texts, sayings of the scholars, especially if we look at those considered by Ahl as Sunnah as the first 3 generations of Muslim pious predecessors, we can extract a very consistent theology. Philosophy and Kalaam came into Islam quiet late. In light of this, I would argue, main stream Islam is very much a small set of fundamental Theology.
    You may be referring to the many factions that drifted away into smaller cults & so on, in such a case most of their thoughts go back to their founder & not the Prophet ﷺ. This is why Muslim argue Islam is very well preserved where the theology and belief system is based on the preserved saying of the Prophet ﷺ, his companions & early 3 generations. One can always find the orthodoxy quiet easily”

    What is you opinion of such a statement ? I would be very interested to hear an Ibadi point of view.

    God Love you.

    • Peace be unto you,

      I believe the first order of business would be to ask him to provide you with concrete evidence that the Blessed Messenger (saw) ever said the phrase “Ahl Sunnah Wal Jammah” in his entire life. 2nd these people will try and put into the minds of Muslims that all the companions of the Blessed Messenger (saw) were a monolith, a hive mind maybe even like the “Borg” from the Star Trek sci-fi series. Nothing could be further from the truth. They were individuals, they all had different capacities for learning. We can see this in the fact that some went to others for advice and knowledge. They even had open conflict and war with each other. As regards “Orthodoxy” this is coming from the mouths of people who believe:


      “We believe that He “created the Heavens and the Earth in six days, then He settled Himself on the throne; He manages everything” (10:3). His “settling on the throne” means that He is SITTING IN PERSON on His throne in a way that is becoming to His majesty and greatness. Nobody except He knows exactly how He is sitting.”

      That Allah (swt) is “SITTING” and “IN-PERSON” on the Throne are a blasphemous statement that I challenge any of these people to bring forth from the blessed lips of the Noble Prophet (saw). I’d love to see them bring such statements from any of the companions.

      Or their claim that either the Prophet (saw) or any companion said Allah (swt) has “two eyes”, or that the Blessed Messenger (saw) taught two tahweeds (tahweed al uluyiha and tawheed al rubiyah).

      What they put into the minds of the layman among the Muslims is such things like the following:

      Let us say, that the Qur’an stated: “Oh believers do not rattle my cage”. Their claim is that these companions would read this expression and pass over it without giving it any interpretation, but this begs the question on rather or not they understood it as metaphor or expression, to begin with! Surely these people know the Arabic language, and surely they knew better than we do today, the various uses of metaphor, rhetorical devices, and so forth.

      May Allah (swt) Love you as well.

  3. Toby

    Dear Sir

    Thank you very much for your informative reply. If I may a ask a slightly different question, every encounter I have had with persons of the Islamic faith, I am informed that Muslims believe completely in the second coming of Christ.
    Indeed those who deny such a concept are, to paraphrase, apparently beyond the pale of islamic orthodoxy. If you would be so kind to enlighten me, since I am rather stupid, why do you, as an Ibadi, deny the second coming of Christ and believe that he is genuinely dead. If this is indeed your belief, do you have any early Islamic sources to support it ? Please forgive my ignorance, but I am very curious.

    God Love You


  4. You said this article is offline, can you link it for me here as I was doing some research and found your article helpful and was wanting to follow up on some of its issues, thanks.

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