Are there any Ahl as-Sunnah scholars who say that Allah descends to the first floor of the sky with His Essence (in person)?

The Details of the Question

- Is it true?

Explanation: “The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) states that Allah descends from the heavens to the sky of the world after a part of the night passes, and the scholars of Ahl as-Sunnah say that this descent is with His Essence (in person).” (see Ibn Rajab, Fathul-Bari li Sharhi Sahihil Bukhari)

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

While describing the statement that “Allah is with His servants” in verse 7 of the chapter of al-Mujadala in his book entitled “Fathul-Bari”, Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali states the following to explain the issue:

“The closeness here is the same as the hadith narrations expressing that Allah will descend to the sky of the world. That is, the closeness of Allah is never like the closeness of humans / creatures to one another. His closeness / descent is the kind of closeness He shows towards the prayers, requests, repentance and forgiveness of His servants as the Lord. As a matter of fact, Hammad b. Zayd states the following in his answer to a question regarding the issue: ‘Allah approaches His servants as He wishes.’”  

Ibn Rajab explains this statement of Hammad as follows: “That is, the descent of Allah does not mean the descent from one place to another like the descent of creatures.”

In the same place, it is stated that some scholars such as Abu Abdillah (Ahmad b. Hanbal) said the following regarding the issue:

“It is necessary to keep quiet about it. As it is stated in the verse ‘Invent not similitudes for Allah’ (an-Nahl, 16/74), it is necessary to accept whatever is expressed in the hadith narration as it is, without drawing any limits. Allah descends (to the sky of the world) in the way as He wishes; He descends with His knowledge, power and grandeur. He encompasses everything with His knowledge. No one who qualifies Him can properly describe His greatness. No escape can keep the escaper away from Him.”

Ibn Rajab summarized the statement above as follows:

“That is, Allah’s descent to the sky of the world is not like the descent of creatures. On the contrary, His descent occurs in a way that fits His might and majesty and all-encompassing knowledge. However, the knowledge of creatures is limited and cannot encompass everything. Their knowledge about Allah is only up to the point that Allah attributes His own personality or His messenger attributes it to Him. Therefore, salaf as-salihin agreed that it was necessary to accept such verses / narrations as they were, and to refer the issues that the mind and understanding could not comprehend to those who knew them. (Ibn Rajab, 3/117-118)

- As it can be seen, the statement of Ibn Rajab is very clear: We will accept the sound narration and we will refer the things that our minds do not understand to Allah. This view is a reality that is expressed by many salaf scholars, especially Imam Malik and Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal.

As a matter of fact, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani clearly states the following (related to the hadith of descent):

“The belief of salaf and khalaf scholars of Ahl as-Sunna is that Allah is free from movement, transportation, and initiation into something. There is nothing like Him.” (Ibn Hajar, Fathul-Bari, 7/124).

Based on the statements above, we can definitely say that, according to Ahl as-Sunnah, Allah does not descend to the sky of the world with His Essence (in person), but descends with His knowledge and power.

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