How should we understand the mutashabih (ambiguous) verses in the Quran?

The Details of the Question

“He has a hand, a face and a nafs (soul). The face, hand, and nafs that Allah mentions in His book are among His unknown attributes. It cannot be said that what is meant by His hand is His power and blessing because in that case, canceling Allah’s attributes will be in question, which is the view of Mutazila and Qadariyya.” (al- Fiqhu’l-Akbar, p. 302)

“Anyone who says, ‘I do not know if my Lord is in the sky or on the earth’ becomes an unbeliever. Likewise, the same thing is valid for a person who says, ‘Allah is on the Throne, I do not know whether the Throne is in the sky or on the earth.’” (al-Fiqhul-Absat, p. 46)

- Will you explain it?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The question you have asked has been discussed and debated by Islamic scholars for centuries. Since Abu Hanifa was one of the scholars of mutaqaddimun, this view of his was more respected in his own time. However, the scholars of mutaakhkhirun preferred not that idea, but the logical tashabuh.

Salafi scholars did not comment on the mutashabih verses of the Quran. When misunderstandings about those verses emerged in the course of time, mutashabih verses were explained. The view of Ahl as-Sunnah scholars is that Allah is free from time and space.

The following is stated in verse 10 of the chapter of al-Fath:  

“The Hand of Allah is over their hands.”

The mind judges that Allah, the creator of all material and spiritual realms, is free from having a hand. However, the word hand is mentioned in the revelation. The mind (reason) and the revelation contradict at this point. In that case, the mind is accepted as basis and the revelation is interpreted.

Tafsir scholars of are divided into two groups regarding the interpretation of such mutashabih verses: The previous tafsir scholars, called mutaqaddimun, did not interpret mutashabih verses, and said, “It is Allah who knows best what is meant by it.” they preferred to remain silent.

On the other hand, the scholars of the mutaakhkhirun (those who came later) interpreted such verses acting upon the rule, “when reason and revelation contradict, reason is accepted as basis and the revelation is interpreted” and stated that what was meant by the “hand” was “power”. It is an interpretation and the scholars of tafsir are authorized to make such an interpretation.

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