Tajseem (Anthropomorphism) in Ibn Taymiyah’s Teachings

The views of the forefather of the Salafi school of thought, Ibn Taymiyah, have long been beautified. Blurring out many historical aspects of his life makes it easy to present him as a reformer and many laymen Sunnis have fallen for this propaganda in recent history. The propaganda has been backed up by the Petro-Dollars of the Aal-e-Saud and has spread like wild-fire in the last hundred years or so. What often gets undermined is that the Salafi/Wahabis who throw accusations of Shirk on others, rely on someone who himself had disturbing views.

Below are some excerpts I came across while reading Explanation of a Summary of al‐‘Aqeedatul Hamawiyyah of ibn Taymiyyah, by Ibn Uthaymeen. They are filled with anthropomorphism (attributing human-like characteristics to God) and it is thus absurd for the Salafis to accuse others of Shirk when their own forefather resorted to such nonsense.

  • . . .the Salaf have always acknowledged that the texts of Attributes contained actual correct meanings that befit Allaah. This proof is from two angles:

1. They said, ʺAccept them as they have come…ʺ Its meaning is to leave the texts as they have come upon the intended meanings they indicate. Undoubtedly, they have come confirming actual meanings that befit Allaah. Otherwise, if they (the Salaf) did not believe the texts confirmed actual meanings, then they would have said, ʺAccept their wordings and do not acknowledge and look into their meanings,ʺ or something similar.

2. They said, ʺ…without asking ʹHow?ʹʺ It is obvious that there is an affirmation of meanings to the texts because if they did not believe in affirming them, then they would not have needed to forbid asking ʹHow?ʹ they are. In that case, the forbidding of seeking ʹHow?ʹ would be futile. It may then be asked: Then what is the response to the statement of Imaam Ahmad pertaining to the Hadeeth of Allaahʹs descending when he said, ʺWe believe in it and affirm it without seeking ʹHowʹ it is or its meaning?ʺ We say: The response to that is that the meaning that Imaam Ahmad was negating in his statement is the misinterpreted meaning that the Mua’ttilah from the Jahmiyyah and others had committed. They distorted the apparent meanings of the texts of the Qurʹaan and the Sunnah to mean something contradictory.

Another said that if a Jahmee asks you about anyone of Allaahʹs Attributes, ʺHow is it?ʺ then reply, ʺHow is Allaah, Himself?ʺ For it is not possible to seek to understand how Allaah is. So tell him that if Takyeef is not possible regarding His Self, then likewise it is not possible regarding His Attributes, because attributes are part of the one described! If someone says, ʺIf the Istiwaa of Allaah over His Throne means to rise over it, then that means He is either bigger than the Throne, smaller, or equal in size. This, therefore, suggests that He must have a body, yet that is impossible!?ʺ

As for saying that it is impossible for Allaah to have a body, then it must be known that speaking about a body and associating it with Allaah, either by negating it or affirming it, is an innovation that has not been reported in the Qurʹaan, the Sunnah, or from the statements of the Salaf. It is a broad statement, which requires more details. If what is meant by a body is something that is composed, each part needing and supporting the other, then this is rejected from Allaah, the Ever‐Living, the Self‐Sustainer and Sustainer of all that exists.

If what is meant by a body is that which He has to be Self‐sufficient and is described with what befits Him, then this is not denied from Allaah, for Allaah isSelf‐sufficient and is described with attributes of perfection which befit Him. However, since the word ʺbodyʺ can include a true meaning as well as a false one as it relates to Allaah, associating it to Allaah, either by absolutely negating it or affirming it, is not permissible.

  • The methodology of Ahlus‐Sunnah wal‐Jamaaʹah is that Allaah has an actual face that befits Him and it is described with majesty and honor.

. . .The Face of Allaah is one of His Personal Attributes affirmed to Himself and actual in meaning in a manner that befits Him. It’s not correct to distort and misinterpret it to mean ʺ(His) rewardʺ for many reasons. Some of them are as follows:
Firstly: It is different from the apparent meaning of the text and any interpreted meaning that is different from the apparent meaning requires a proof, and there is no proof to indicate this.

Secondly: This Face has been reported in the texts and attributed directly to Allaah. Anything attributed to Allaah is either something completely separate in and of itself or not separate. If it is something separate, then it is a created thing and not one of His Attributes such as saying, ʺthe house of Allaahʺ or ʺthe camel of Allaahʺ. It is attributed to Him in this way as a form of honoring (the created thing) or as a form of associating the property or creation to its Owner or Creator. However, if it is not something separate, then it is from the Attributes of Allaah and not created, like the Knowledge of Allaah, His Power, His Honor, His Speech, His Hand, His Eye, etc. And the Face is definitely of this (second) type. Therefore, its association with Allaah is one of associating an attribute or characteristic to the One being described.

Thirdly: The ʺrewardʺ would be something created and separate from Allaah and the Face is an Attribute of Allaah, neither created nor separate from Him, so how can it be explained to mean that?

Fourthly: The Face has been described in the texts with majesty and honor, and that it is light from which refuge is sought, if He were to reveal it, the splendor of His Face would consume His creation as far as His sight reaches (everything).

All of these descriptions prevent the meaning from being the ʺrewardʺ, and Allaah knows best.

  • The methodology of Ahlus‐Sunnah wal‐Jamaaʹah is that Allaah has Two Hands, both wide‐spreading in giving and blessings. They are from His Personal Attributes and are to be taken upon their actual, real meaning in a manner that befits Him.

. . .Ahlus‐Sunnah are unanimously agreed upon the belief that they are Two actual Hands, which in no way, resemble the hands of created beings. It is not correct to distort and misinterpret them to mean ʺstrengthʺ or ʺblessingsʺ for many reasons.

The methodology of Ahlus‐Sunnah wal‐Jamaaʹah is that Allaah has Two Eyes with which He sees, and they are real and actual in a manner that befits Him. They are from His Personal Attributes affirmed by the Qurʹaan and Sunnah.

. . .Thus, they are Two actual Eyes, which in no way resemble the eyes of created beings. So, it is incorrect to misinterpret them to mean ʺknowledgeʺ or ʺsightʺ


To refute this nonsense, we refer to the vicegerant of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Imam Ali (as), who in a sermon speaks about the concept of Tawheed in this beautiful manner:

The foremost in religion is the acknowledgement of Him, the perfection of acknowledging Him is to testify Him, the perfection of testifying Him is to believe in His Oneness, the perfection of believing in His Oneness is to regard Him Pure, and the perfection of His purity is to deny Him attributes, because every attribute is a proof that it is different from that to which it is attributed and everything to which something is attributed is different from the attribute. Thus whoever attaches attributes to Allah recognises His like, and who recognises His like regards Him two; and who regards Him two recognises parts for Him; and who recognises parts for Him mistook Him; and who mistook Him pointed at Him; and who pointed at Him admitted limitations for Him; and who admitted limitations for Him numbered Him.

Whoever said in what is He, held that He is contained; and whoever said on what is He held He is not on something else. He is a Being but not through phenomenon of coming into being. He exists but not from non-existence. He is with everything but not in physical nearness. He is different from everything but not in physical separation. He acts but without connotation of movements and instruments. He sees even when there is none to be looked at from among His creation. He is only One, such that there is none with whom He may keep company or whom He may miss in his absence. [Source – Nahj al-Balagha, Sermon #1]

One thought on “Tajseem (Anthropomorphism) in Ibn Taymiyah’s Teachings

  • The strategy of the Ibn Taymiah et al is to affirm the words but deny their apparent meaning. This effectively renders language meaningless, what value are words and sentences if you disregard their values?Then they have the audacity to accuse shia tafseer of making taweel with no daleel.

    As a side issue, never try to give salafis a “hand” trying to understand anything….

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