The Difference Between the Sunni and Quasi-Salafi (Wahhabi) Doctrines
I want to, in-sha’ Allah, shed a little more clarity on the controversy between the Sunni `aqidah and that of the quasi-salafis (Wahhabis). Sadly, many of those who profess to follow traditional Sunni scholarship and `aqidah have only exacerbated the confusion, for they (these pseudo-traditionalists) have now tried to “close the door” on discussing matters of kufr (disbelief) and riddah (apostasy).
Every (genuine) Muslim believes that Allah is One and that there is only correct belief in Allah. If the person does not have the correct belief in Allah, then he is not a Muslim. Plain and simple. Consequently, you cannot have two people who self-identify as Muslims, yet they have two opposing and contradictory beliefs in Allah—for they would be praying to two different beings. They may both be, but one must necessarily be, wrong. This requires us to establish what the correct belief in Allah is, and as a result, we will know what the wrong belief(s) in Allah are.
Allah is One; Allah is Incomparable; Allah is Free-of-Need; Allah is Omnipotent; Allah is Omniscient; Allah is the One and Only Creator. Nothing is to be except what Allah wills. The quasi-salafis would not apparently disagree with those statements mentioned above (although they do, in reality disagree with their implications). It should be obvious that the Creed that is rationally consistent and consonant with the Qur’an and Hadith is superior to the creed that contradicts the Qur’an and Sunnah and is riddled with logical absurdities. The Sunnis say that there is nothing in our belief in Allah that contradicts the judgment of reason. We can start from two premises (that the quasi-salafi is forced to agree with, at least on the surface) to demonstrate the inconsistencies of the Wahhabi doctrine. The Sunnis say:
1. Allah ABSOLUTELY does not resemble the creations (112:4, 16:74; 42:11).
2. Allah ABSOLUTELY does not need the creations (112:2; 29:6; 3:97)
These are two premises derived not from “falasafee,” but, as we can see, from the Qur’an itself. The Sunni scholars derived from the above Verses the principles that (1) Allah is not an object (or spatial entity) and (2) that Allah exists without being in a location (not in one particular place, nor in all places). If Allah had been an object or a spatial entity, then Allah would share in common qualities that are shared in common with the creations Simply look at the things around you: they are objects that exist in space. Allah ABSOLUTELY does not resemble the creations; hence, Allah is not an object and Allah is not in space.
Furthermore, Allah absolutely does not need the creations. Allah is not a location (or direction). Location (place/direction) is something other than Allah. And since everything that exists other than Allah is a creation, and Allah does not need the creations, then it should be evident to all that Allah exists without being in a location or direction. Furthermore, the thing that is in a location requires a specified amount of space to exist. Allah does not require any of the creations for His Existence (including, space or place), for Allah is Incomparable and Free-of-Need.
LOST IN SEMANTICS
Why do the Wahhabis believe Allah is a giant bipedal shadow-casting spatial entity located above their heads? The Wahhabis (quasi-salafis) believe such because they insisted on a (selectively) literalist doctrine. They innovated a rule that says that all the Verses (and Hadith) referring to Allah have to be taken at “face value”—that is, they (claim to) reject the idiomatic nature of the Arabic language. However, even with this premise, they are inconsistent. They do not take Verses that (if taken literally would) mean: Allah is closer to us than our jugular veins (50:16); or that Allah forgets (45:34); or that Allah is everywhere (57:4); or that Allah is below us (96:19); or that Allah is a giant illumination that fills up the Heavens and Earth (24:35); etc. in their literal sense. The same can be said about numerous Hadiths for which the quasi-salafis reject literal interpretations.
What the Wahhabis did is read the Verses that refer to Allah as being “above” or “high” in their literal sense (while ignoring those Verses that if taken literally would say otherwise). The Wahhabis took this position because of their erroneous assumptions about Allah (that is, they assumed Allah to be an object of some sort, and that Allah requires space for His Existence) and their general weakness in the Arabic language (or English language, for that matter). When the Sunnis say Allah is Al-`Aliyy (“The Most High”) they are referring to the Glory, Perfection, Holiness, and STATUS of Allah—they do not mean a literal location or direction. Just as in the olden days when the English subjects of the crown referred to the king as “their royal HIGHNESS,” they did not mean that the king occupied the highest location in the kingdom, but that he had the highest social STATUS (at least according to them).
Another semantic problem of the Wahhabis is the absurd of claiming to take the Verses “literally” and then in the same breath reject the literal meaning. The Arabic language is vast. A single word may contain a dozen or more meanings. The Wahhabis claim that Allah has a literal “Face,” “Eyes,” “Fingers,” “two right Hands,” one “Shinbone” and a “pair of Feet” (on the comparatively small Kursiyy). Now all of us who know English know that, for instance, a “face” (in its literal—non-figurative sense) is the “front part of the head” and that hands are the “organs of grasping beginning at our wrists.” Imam Al-Qushayri (a genuine Sufi and Sunni scholar of `Aqidah) said that it is absurd to claim that Allah has a literal shin (saaq) and then turn around and say that this alleged literal shin is not a bone in the lower leg. Similarly one can’t say Allah has a literal front part of the head, but it’s not a front part of the head. Either one means that Allah has literal limbs, organs, and appendages that is, one believes Allah is an object (which is tashbeeh and disbelief)—OR—one does not mean that Allah literally has a face, fingers, eyes, shin, etc. And if they do not mean that Allah has a literal face, fingers, eyes, shin, then the quasi-salafis shouldn’t (mis)translate Verses and Hadiths and say that Allah does.
Furthermore, we see the Wahhabis get lost in translation. If one opens even an Arabic-English dictionary, such as, Hans Wehr or Al-Mawrid (which are by NO MEANS comprehensive Arabic dictionaries), we see that the term “Wajh” (what the Wahhabis claim is a “face when attributed to Allah) has about TWENTY-FIVE meanings listed in Al-Mawrid. The term “saaq,” (from Al-Qalam, 42), which the Wahhabis attempt to use to “prove” that “Allah will show off the front part of His (alleged) lower leg” (that is, a shin), actually means “the matter became difficult,” (page 443, Hans Wehr—the idiom of “showing the shin,” kashaf `an saaq is sort of like the English phrase “roll up your sleeves”).
Contrary to the claims of the quasi-salafis, the Sunnis do not “deny the Attributes of Allah.” We confirm what Allah ascribed to Himself IN THE ARABIC LANGUAGE. Allah is attributed with “Yad,” “Wajh,” “`Ayn,” etc.—FULL STOP—while being absolutely certain that none these Attributes refer to something with bodily or spatial characteristics. Or, we can follow the method of many of the Sunni scholars, including the Salaf, such as, `Abdullah ibn `Abbas, At-Tabari, and Mujahid: we can apply an ACCEPTABLE specific meaning (or translation) for these Attributes that conforms with the Arabic language AND conforms with two of the basic premises of the `Aqidah: (1) Allah ABSOLUTELY does not resemble the creations (2) Allah ABSOLUTELY does not need the creations; hence, any meaning that would lead to ascribing to Allah the attributes of objects and bodies or implying that Allah is in space or a location is categorically rejected.
In conclusion, Allah is One—that is, Allah is Unique, Allah has no partners, Allah is not a body or object composed of parts.
The True Creed is one and the same among the Muslims: Our Lord is too Great and Glorious to be ascribed with the deficiencies of being in a place or direction, for Allah is the Creator of all places and directions and Allah does not need the things He created. Again, this matter is not complicated to understand. Sadly, however, there are pseudo-traditionalists out on the circuit who seem bent on making the most elementary matters of Imaan and kufr as obscure as possible. And on the other hand, we have those who have fallen for the corporealist and anthropomorphic Najdi doctrine from the Saudi Arabia kingdom. May Allah make us among people of the moderate way—those who make a just distinction between Imaan and kufr, who enjoin good and forbid evil, and do so with sincerity and wisdom and without transgression.
With Allah is the success.