By Abdul Wahab Saleem
Are Ḥanābilah anthropomorphists (mujassimah) because they establish what appears to be attributes of Allah?
Firstly, allow me to be very clear that I am not ḥanbalī. However, there is a growing sentiment among certain subsections of Muslims around the world that many ḥanābilah are actually anthropomorphists, especially those in our times, and hence they are either non-Muslims or at least extremely misguided. Based on this view, at least two entire countries in the Muslim world are either full of non-Muslims or extremely deviant human beings, in addition to their official or unofficial emissaries and followers around the world.
Whilst it doesn’t escape me that there have been some ḥanbalīs who actually were anthropomorphists over the centuries, the general majority of ḥanābilah throughout the centuries and even today are not anthropomorphists! The confusions lie in our failiure to communicate with each other based on the terms of our counterparts.
To illustrate this, allow me to share just one example: Ibn al-Fā’ūs al-Ḥanbalī established the tradition which says ❝the Blackstone is Allah’s right hand❞. For this, he was severely criticized and even entitled as al-Ḥajarī by Ibn al-Khāḍibah for establishing that a ḥajar (stone) is Allah’s right hand. Subḥānahū Wa Ta‘ālā! Now obviously, any sane person wouldn’t establish such a tradition on its apparent meaning, and any sane person would recognize that this is some form of metaphor! This is why al-Ghazzālī considered it insanity to establish this tradition on the apparent meaning in Faiṣal al-Tafriqah!
However, commenting on this specific example, Ibn Rajab al-Ḥanbalī said something that changes our entire view of the word ḍhāhir (apparent) or ḥaqīqah (reality) which is often used in the Ḥanbalī circles, for which they are often accused of anthropomorphism. Ibn Rajab said, ❝…If one were to say that this is metaphorical, some will understand that it has no meaning, and reality to it, so they (i.e. his ḥanbalīs) deny *that* and distance themselves from it. And those who denied the existence of metaphors forbid the usage of this term so the aforementioned fallacy doesn’t occur, and so it doesn’t become a means to deny meanings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah.❞
He further explained that even if it is majāz (metaphorical) based on the terminology of most scholars, the ḥanbalī terminology (or at least that of some ḥanbalīs) is to use the word ḥaqīqah instead as ḥaqīqah to them is divided into two categories: 1) a meaning which the word itself renders, and 2) a meaning which is rendered by the context. The second meaning of the word ḥaqīqah based on this nomenclature is the same as that of other scholars who use the word majāz instead, and that is what they mean in this context! And whats important in relation to belief is the meaning and not the word choice!
If this is understood by a sincere and *fair* person on both sides of the equation, then much of the ṣifāt wars for which endless hours are wasted will be put to better use. And if this is read by an insincere and unfair person, then he will neither understand nor try to understand. Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr Al-Qurṭubī said, ❝From the blessings of [true] knowledge is fairness, and whosoever is unfair will not understand, nor will he try to understand.❞
I ask Allah to make us of those who understand each other even if we disagree. I ask Allah to make us of those who call for beneficial knowledge, understanding, unity, love, and fairness.