Ibnul-Qudamah Contravening Tafwid: Pointing to Allah’s Direction as a Matter of a Hanbali Fiqh Ruling


One of thee greatest refutations against the idea that Imam Ibn Qudamah was a Mufawwid (of m’ana) is the following issue. The original argument was asserted by Ismail Ibrahim originally on IA forums back in 2008 for which I will revamp here. It is so grand, that this issue attacks 6 contentions developed by the people of heterodox ideologies in a single blow. This single issue proves the following

  1. That Imam ibnul-Qudamah was a muthbit (affirmer) and dispelling the myth of his being a mufawwid
  2. It repels the attrocious Ash’ari machinations that the hadith of Allah’s whereabouts in the hadith of the slave women cannot be used and that we are all guilty of kufr of anthropomorphism for believing in the hadith as it came.
  3. It is interlinked to wasting madhabistic taqlid. Hanbali scholars are apparently endorsing what Ash’aris consider a kufr in the matter of tajsim in the fiqh of the madhab, thus posing a religious dissonence between either following madhabistic taqlid shakhsi or to follow kalam doctrine opposing madhabistic taqlid.
  4. This issue is not just the stance of Imam Ahmad, but it is the stance of ijma according to ibn Mundhir among ahlul-ilm whom he cites examples like Layth, Shafi’i, Ishaq, Abu Thawr, and Sh’abi.
  5. This matter proves that Imam Ahmad believed in Allah’s literal ‘Uluw (aboveness) and accepted that He can be pointed towards in a direction. And if he was a mufawwid in the m’ana as heterodox schools like Ash’aris would have us believe, he would have never opted to this opinion AT ALL.

Imam ibnul-Qudamah brings a fiqh mas’ala in the madhab for the mujtahid who comes across a deaf hanbali butcher who cannot perform the tasmiya for the slaughter of the meat. Basically. It asserts that such an individual must point towards the sky denoting that he intends to slaughter in the name of the One who is Above the heavens.
مسألة ; قال : ( فإن كان أخرس ، أومأ إلى السماء ) قال ابن المنذر : أجمع كل من نحفظ عنه من أهل العلم ، على إباحة ذبيحة الأخرس ; منهم الليث ، والشافع ، وإسحاق ، وأبو ثور . وهو قول الشعبي ، وقتادة ، والحسن بن صالح .
إذا ثبت هذا فإنه يشير إلى السماء ; لأن إشارته تقوم مقام نطق الناطق ، وإشارته إلى السماء تدل على قصده تسمية الذي في السماء .
ونحو هذا قال الشعبي . وقد دل على هذا حديث أبي هريرة { أن رجلا أتى النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم بجارية أعجمية ، فقال : يا رسول الله ، إن علي رقبة مؤمنة ، أفأعتق هذه ؟ فقال لها رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : أين الله ؟ . فأشارت إلى السماء ، فقال : من أنا ؟ . فأشارت بإصبعها إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وإلى السماء ، أي أنت رسول الله . فقال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : أعتقها ، فإنها مؤمنة } . رواه الإمام أحمد ، والقاضي البرتي ، في ” مسنديهما ” .
فحكم رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم بإيمانها بإشارتها إلى السماء ، تريد أن الله سبحانه فيها ، فأولى أن يكتفى بذلك علما على التسمية . ولو أنه أشار إشارة تدل على التسمية ، وعلم ذلك ، كان كافيا .

A basic summary of the above statement is as follows

“Issue: what is said regarding the state of the mute in pointing towards the sky. Ibnul-Mundhir calls an ijma among the people of knowldge on this matter on the permissibility of the mute butcher citing authorities like Layth, Shafi’i, Abu Thawr, Qatadah and others.
That is, one could confirm the matter by simply pointing towards the sky. Such would be his indication in pronouncing to the people of his statement (tasmiyyah). It is his signaling towards the heavens that indicates his intention to perform the tasmiyyah for the One who is Above the sky

Ibn Qudama then cites the argument of Sh’abi in citing the hadith of Abu Hurayrah regarding the master’s issue with the slave girl and using the question “where is Allah” as a testimony to one’s faith, PROVING that such a question is a VALID question in the shariah and the answer that the slave women gave, which was pointing her finger towards the heavens, was a befitting answer that suits the Majesty of Allah.

Finally, the underlined portion is the part of Ibnul-Qudamah’s words that need to be stressed here. He basically asserts here that this ruling the Messenger of Allah ﷺ confirms eman merely based off pointing towards the sky, intending the Most Glorified Allah Who is above the heavens...”
Before continuing further, in order to dispel any Ash’ari contention with an unfounded argument that Imam Ibn-Qudama is acting on his own without precedent from Imam Ahmad, let us cite Imam Ahmad himself who is the source of this mas’ala thus proving that Imam Ahmad was also NOT a mufawwid in ma’ana, rather he approves of pointing towards Allah’s whereabouts. From the Masa’il of Salih

مسائل الإمام أحمد رواية ابنه أبي الفضل صالح – (2 / 413)
الأخرس يشير إلى السماء عند الذبح
1095 حدثنا صالح قال حدثني أبي قال حدثنا حسين قال حدثنا خارجة بن مصعب عن خالد الحذاء قال سئل عكرمة كيف يذبح الأخرس قال يشير بيده إلى السماء

Basically, without narrating the men, what the underlined portion says is
Whats been said of how the mute butcher indicates [his intent to slaughter with the tasmiyyah] by pointing with his hands towards the sky

And from the Masa’il of Kawsaj

مسائل الإمام أحمد بن حنبل وإسحاق بن راهويه – (8 / 3977)
قلت: ذبيحة الأخرس؟ 1
قال: يشير إلى السماء. 2
قال إسحاق: كما قال.

The same in this narration. It asserts
What was said about the slaughter of the mute: he said: he points towards the sky. Ishaq said: the issue is like this.

Similarly, there is no hanbali disputation within the madhab that contests this issue as being directly from Imam Ahmad. It is not like issues developed in other madhahib that was developed “later on”, this comes directly from Imam Ahmad himself رحمه الله.

Now, before we move on, it is important to completely seal this matter leaving no room for the innovators to manuever as a means to obfuscate reality for the unaware. This is what al-Mardawi says in al-Insaf:

الإنصاف – (16 / 192)
قَوْلُهُ ( إلَّا الْأَخْرَسَ .
فَإِنَّهُ يُومِئُ إلَى السَّمَاءِ ) .
تُبَاحُ ذَبِيحَةُ الْأَخْرَسِ إجْمَاعًا .
وَقَالَ الْأَصْحَابُ : يُشِيرُ عِنْدَ الذَّبْحِ إلَى السَّمَاءِ .
وَهُوَ مِنْ مُفْرَدَاتِ الْمَذْهَبِ .
تَنْبِيهٌ : ظَاهِرُ كَلَامِ الْمُصَنِّفِ ، وَغَيْرِهِ : أَنَّهُ لَا بُدَّ مِنْ الْإِشَارَةِ إلَى السَّمَاءِ ؛ لِأَنَّهَا عَلَمٌ عَلَى قَصْدِهِ التَّسْمِيَةَ .
وَقَالَ الْمُصَنِّفُ فِي الْمُغْنِي : وَلَوْ أَشَارَ إشَارَةً تَدُلُّ عَلَى التَّسْمِيَةِ ، وَعُلِمَ ذَلِكَ : كَانَ كَافِيًا .
قُلْت : وَهُوَ الصَّوَابُ .

He gives no indication of there being another opinion known in the madhab. In other words, there is NO contention, no opposition, no altering of this issue even by those whom the Ash’aris insideously identify as the “fudhala al-hanabilah” the “beneficial hanbalis, a precedent ahlul-kalam developed in order to divide the hanbalis that they liked who opposed Imam Ahmad in creed at any stage of their career from the hanabilah that they despised, those who retained Imam Ahmad’s creed.

Issue 1: Taqlid or Not to Taqlid Conundrum

According to the scenario laid out in the above section, we walk into a conundrum. A conundrum means a confusing and difficult problem. There really is not a problem for ahlu-sunnah wal-jama’ah. The only ones in which this conundrum affects are ahlul-bid’a wal-ahwa. This group consist of blind (muqalid) followers in taqlid shakhsi, the belief that one and only one madhab must be followed to the exclusion of all else in order to avoid a phobia that they themselves developed out of this taqlid shakhsi cult, the issue of talfiq. While being muqalids of a madhab, they do not follow the sunni school of creed, they follow the two schools of kalam, Ash’ari or Maturidi. This very issue posed by Imam Ahmad himself puts this heterodox group in jeopardy by sacrificing the allegiance to one for the sake of the other, hence the conundrum.

As mathabistic taqlid would suggest, the muqalid must advise him to point to the sky before the slaughter to legalise the meat according to the Hanbali tradition of law as unanimously agreed by the authorities of the Hanbali madhab pointed out above.
However as kalam directives outlined by Ash’aris and Maturidis would suggest, the very same Ash’ari or Maturidi, who happens to believe in the doctrine of taqlid shakhsi, must advise him not to point to the sky before slaughter, as doing so is tantamount to tajsim and therefore kufr. We could even add the element that the One whom the dumb hanbali butcher intends to slaughter SIGNALING the One Above the Heavens according to the Ash’ari heretic, is signaling something OTHER than Allah, and hence an action of shirk for which the meat would become haram to consume.
The Hanabilah who devised this mas’alah had only one thing in mind – that by pointing, it is meant Allah being up above the heaven is meant, as Ibn Qudamah said in al-Mughni. This is the tafsir of the Hanabilah of their own Hanbali Fiqh.
The point is: should the bandwagon Ash’ari or Maturidi sacrifice his mathabistic taqlid and advise the dumb butcher NOT to point? Or should he sacrifice his Maturidism/Ash’arism and advise the dumb butcher to follow his madhab by pointing?

This conundrum was attempted to be answered by bandwagon Ash’aris and Maturidis who have poorly and utterly failed quite miserably. Even the laymen can see how they were unable to reconcile this conundrum on their heretic forums. Let us review some highlights of these counter arguments as a matter of review how absurd their arguments were.

One pseudo Ash’ari posits the argument

The wajib is to refer to the people of knowledge in practical matters of religion, not following a madhab per se. Since the Fiqh of the Salaf has been preserved in the 4 madhabs, and since “talfiq” is frowned upon in the Sharia and negates taqwa, one must follow the rulings of a particular madhab.

In the beginning part of the statement, this individual says its not necessary to follow a madhab per se and that the wajib is merely refering to the people of knowledge in general. That is the stance that we, as ahlu-sunnah, salafis actually adopt. And then he ends the statement by contradicting this stance that one must follow the rulings of a particular madhab. Yet, he failed to answer the conundrum. Should the dumb handball butcher sacrifice his madhab in order to preserve Kalam dogma that asserts pointing to the sky intending Allah is countering the shariah and a sign of tajsim and thus oppose his own Imam Ahmad, or should he sacrifice the ridiculous sentiments of Kalam heretics who think Allah is nowhere and remain loyal to his own madhab’s UNOPPOSED ijma from within the madhab that directs him to point towards the sky INDICATING the whereabouts of Allah Azawajal as a sign of He whom he intends to sacrifice for?

Another poor attempt by a pseudo Ash’ari was to cite Imams like al-Buhuti, al-Hajawi, ibn Badru-Deen ad-Dimashqi, with the argument that these Imams did not cite this issue in their works and he cites introductory manuals like Rawd al-Murb’i, al-Iqna’a and Akhsar al-Mukhtasirat. These are beginners manuals that will obviously not reflect a highly specific use case. This mas’ala comes deep within the archives of Hanbali jurisprudents (fuqaha) in order to direct the JURIST, NOT the muqalid, in addressing such a specific matter. That is why it is in Ibnul-Qudamah’s “al-Mughni”, and not in primer works of his, or any of these Imams cited in order to try to subvert this matter.

Another absurdity was issued by another pseudo kalamist. His response regarding this fiqh mas’ala laid by the hanbalis was “this should be interpreted in light of what Imam an-Nawawi has said”. Wow. This one really blew my mind away. Since when was it the art of internal madhabi fiqh that a scholar outside the madhab like an-Nawawi is deemed a proprietor of fiqh in an entirely different school?

Issue 2: Kalam Contentions Try to Prohibit Inquiry About Allah’s Whereabouts

Ash’aris have extreme contempt at the Muslim practice of asking this question which the hadith was used and proven to be a benchmark in judging the authenticity/orthodoxy of a person’s faith. Ash’aris managed to hoodwink a portion of the Muslim public into frowning upon this question. Likewise every attempt in explaining this hadith in their part was aimed at nullifying the reasons in asking the question and nullifying the status of this question as a benchmark of faith.

As it relates to this issue of the dumb hanbali butcher, if Imam Ahmad believed as they believed, in declaring Allah is nowhere and “has no place”, then Imam Ahmad would have never opted to allowing for nodding the head towards the sky or pointing towards the sky as an indication of Allah’s whereabouts through the intent of the butcher’s action (of pointing) to slaughter in the Name of He Who is above the heavens.

Issue 3: Imam Ahmad’s and Ibnul-Qudamah’s anti-Mufawwid Doctrine

Ahlu-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah operate and believe in on doctrine in tafwid. We relegate (tafwid) the actuality of Allah’s Attributes to Allah. In other words, we dont delve into the nature of the Attributes. We dont discuss how or delve into the definition (tahdid) of the Attributes of God because this coincides with delving into the kayfiya (actuality of how the Attribute is). Thus we make tafwid bil-kayfiya. That is, we relegate how the Attributes ARE, exist, or how they are acted upon, to Allah.

When our salaf Imams have stated that they make tafwid to Allah, they have always said we affirm the Attributes “bila kayf” i.e. without how! Later on in the later part of the third century, remnance of the Jahmi cult developed a forgery of tafwid in a new development they’ve concocted identified as “tafwid al-m’ana”. It did not gain populairity among Ash’aris until much later as even the early Ash’aris were anti mufawwids of this asinine doctrine.

What the method of tafwid bil-m’ana asserts in a general fashion, without getting into deep semantics which validate some sunni views if understood in a particular context or heterodox in another, is that we relegate the very meanings of the Names and Attributes themselves to God. In other words, it is claimed that we don’t know the meanings. The claused that is used to justify this notion primarily is that the Attributes are from the ayat that are mutashabihat. And sense none knows its meanings except Allah (in one reading in qira’a) then we ourselves cannot know the meanings as they are impossible for us to know. Of course, they never cite the OTHER readings (qira’at) which signal that it includes and the people of knowledge. Thus they like to omit half of the revealed law in order to support Islamist premises.

Ahlul-kalam try to use a passage from Imam ibnul-Qudamah’s Rawdatu-Nadhr which is a book of fiqh. In the rawda, ibnul-Qudama adopts the position of the qira’a that stops at Allah, thus implying the meaning that only Allah knows the meanings. They also cite a handful of other examples that imply a methodology of conforming to tafwid in the m’ana. These citations are easily juxtaposed by other clear passages of Imam ibnul-Qudama where he expounds on the meanings and where he contextualizes this tafwid that Ash’aris construe as ma’ana when in reality, he was referring to the kayfiya, despite using the term “m’ana” linguistically.

We are not going to delve into all the citations and textual evidences where ibnul-Qudamah contradicts the claim of his enemies among the Ash’aris as that would be too long. Rather, what suffices is to limit this matter within the context of the initial subject matter above. That is, the dumb hanbali butcher.

If Imam Ahmad or Imam Ibnul-Qudamah was a mufawwid in the ma’ana, they would have never ever in life ever thought of, much less permitted, that nodding one’s head towards the sky or pointing towards the sky to slaughter the animal by the mute butcher be a viable option for expressing one’s intent in directing the slaughter to, specifically as ibnul-Qudamah states “for He Who is above the heavens”. Ash’aris tried to divorce the intended belief behind the ruling from the action itself. One of the arguments raised by kalamist was that “everyone points towards the sky for Allah” as something meaningless and that it should not have the intent of Allah actually being above the heavens. Yet Imam ibnul-Qudamah stipulates the purpose of the action in this fiqh mas’ala is to do so with the express intended belief of slaughtering for He Who is above the heavens. It doesn’t get any simpler than this.

If “pointing or nodding” towards the sky was seen by them, and the rest of the hanbalis, to be the proper meanings understood from “ar-Rahman alal-Arsh Istawa” then they cannot be viewed as mufawwida. If they were mufawwida, they would have never opted to this as a proper meaning or understanding of the ayat of Allah indicating His aboveness over creation.

If the Attributes of Allah were expressions with meanings prohibited to us from knowing as they are allegedly “mutashabihat”, then there would be no fault among us as believers to substitute the Attributes of Anger and Wrath with Mercy and Love. Obviously, this would be absurd that even an ignorant would be able to determine the absurdity of. Nevertheless this is what the concept of tafwid in m’anawiya necessitates inescapably. Furthermore, if tafwid in the m’ana was something correct, it would be impermissible for believers to refer to Allah in the masdar (verbal noun) and to describe with it as in suratu-Dhariyat 51:58

إنّ اللهَ هو الرزّاقُ ذو القّوةِ المتين

Verily, Allah is the All-Provider, Owner of Power, the Most Strong.

If it was not established that Allah Himself is not the source of provision, He would not be called “ar-Razzaq”.

To Allah belongs all might and glory. Therefore, the Almighty (al-Aziz) is the One who has might and glory.

Allah is above, lofty, elevated, hence why He is called al-Ali. Had tafwid bil-ma’ana been an orthodox concept, nobody in Islamic history would have fought for the fact that Allah was actually above the throne and Imam Ahmad or Ibnul-Qudamah would have never opted to nodding or pointing in the upward direction as an acceptable implementation of believing in the attribute of ‘Uluw for which He is called al-Ali.

Likewise, without us knowing the meaning as the mufawwida would have us believe, there would be no crime in conflating al-Ali with al-Alim.