Compiled, Translated and Annotated
Abū Ḥibbān & Abū Khuzaimah Anṣārī
AYĀT FROM THE QURĀN ON THE CREED OF THE SALAF.
- Indeed your Lord is Allāh, Who created the heavens and the earth in Six Days, and then He rose over (Istawa) the Throne (really in a manner that suits His Majesty).[Al-Arāf:54]
- Surely, your Lord is Allāh Who created the heavens and the earth in six Days and then rose over (Istawa) the Throne (really in a manner that suits His Majesty), disposing the affair of all things. [Yūnas:2]
- Allāh is He Who raised the heavens without any pillars that you can see. Then, He rose above (Istawa) the Throne (really in a manner that suits His Majesty). [Ar-Rʿad:2]
- The Most Gracious (Allāh) rose over (Istawa) the (Mighty) Throne (in a manner that suits His Majesty) [Taha:5]
- Who created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them in six Days. Then He rose over (Istawa) the Throne (in a manner that suits His Majesty). The Most Gracious (Allāh)! Ask Him as He is Al-Khabîr (The All-Knower of everything i.e. Allāh). [Al-Furqān 59]
- Allāh it is He Who has created the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them in six Days. Then He rose over (Istawa) the Throne (in a manner that suits His Majesty). You (mankind) have none, besides Him, as a Walî (protector or helper) or an intercessor. Will you not then remember (or receive admonition)? [As-Sajdah:4]
- He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in six Days and then rose over (Istawa) the Throne (in a manner that suits His Majesty). He knows what goes into the earth and what comes forth from it, and what descends from the heaven and what ascends thereto. And He is with you (by His Knowledge) wheresoever you may be. And Allāh is the All-Seer of what you do. [Al-Hadīd:4]
ISTIWĀ’ WITH THE MEANING OF ‘IRTIFĀ’ TO BE HIGH AND ABOVE.
It is recorded in the Sahīh of Al-Bukhārī in the book of Tawhīd, chapter of ‘His Throne Was Above The Water’ from Abū Ālīyah that, “His saying “He rose above the heavens” meaning ‘Irtifā’ [he rose].” Mujāhid said it means “He rose high/above’ his Throne”
Ibn Ḥajr says “Abū ʿĀlīyahs report has been cited by Ibn Jarīr in mawsūl via the route of ʿAbdullāh bin Jʿafar’s from his father from Abū ʿĀlīyah and Mujāhids report has been transmitted by al-Faryābī in his Tafsīr in mawsūl via the route of Warqā from Ibn Abī Najīh from Mujāhid.” [Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī [22/427] and Fath al-Bārī of Ibn Ḥajr [17/176]
Furthermore, Imām Ishāq Ibn Rahawaihah states that he he heard from numerous specialist explainers of the Qurān that the meaning of “The Most Gracious (Allāh) rose over (Istawā) the (Mighty) Throne (in a manner that suits His Majesty)” “is that ‘Irtifā’ he rose/above.” [Jalāl ud-Dīn al-Qāsmī, Tafsīr Maḥāsin ut-Tā’wīl [7/2703]
TO SAY ‘ISTAWĀ’ [HE ROSE ABOVE] MEANS ‘ISTĪLĀ’ [HE CONQUERED] IS TOTALLY INCORRECT.
Abū Ismāʿīl al-Harawī narrates in his book ‘al-Fārūq’ with a chain of transmission from Dawūd bin Khalf that he was with Muḥammad bin Ziyād al-Lughawī when a man asked him about the ayah “The Most Gracious (Allāh) rose over (Istawā) the (Mighty) Throne (in a manner that suits His Majesty) [Ta-ḥa 4].” He replied, “We accept it as he has informed us. The man said it means “he overcame and conquered [Istawlā].” al-Harawī replied, “Istawlā would only be correct if head any competitor or challenger to overcome so this cannot be correct.”
Muḥammad bin Aḥmad bin Naḍr al-Azdī transmits that he heard from Muḥammad bin Ziyād Al-Lughawī who said that “Aḥmad Bin Dawūd enquired of me whether I could investigate whether the word “Istawā’ [he rose] has ever been recorded in the Arabic language as “Istawlā [He conquered]? I replied, “I swear by Allāh that I searched for this and could not find it in any place.” [Fath al-Bārī of Ibn Ḥajr [17/177]
Also, the Hāfiẓ Ibn Qayyīm has recorded in his monumental work ‘As-Sawāʿiq al-Mursalah’ over 42 replies to rebut the fact that ‘Istiwā’ in this verse does not mean ‘He conquered or overcame’. From amongst these are:
“The third response is that al-Khattābī mentions in his book ‘Shiʿār ud-Dīn’ that, “Some have considered that Istiwā here means he overpowered basing this on some lines of poetry and these are not such that they can be used an evidential basis. If it meant as they say that he overpowered/conquered then this would render the verse confusing as Allāh’s knowledge and power is all encompassing then why would he need to ‘conquer’ his Throne whilst this is the case? The word ‘istawlā’ he overpowered would only be used for one who was stopped from something and then through struggle he achieved success by overpowering. So what is it that they say was ‘stopping or restricting’ Allāh? So these are the words of Al-Khattābī who was from amongst those who were known as a linguist.”
“The fifth response is that to say as they say falls under the forbidden action of explain the Qurān based on one’s own intellect. No Companion OF Muhammad, a successor of theirs or any scholar of the Muslims [mufassirs] have explained as they have. Let them know that Muhammad the prophet said that ‘let him take a seat in the fire of hell who explains the Qurān with his own opinion.”
“The tenth response is that the words ‘istawā’ and ‘istīlā’ have not been considered interchangeable in use by the scholars of the Arabic language and this is due to the reason that they both have distinct and separate features and meanings. Those who claim other than this are lying. Research the Qurān, Sunnah and Arabic language and syntax and you will never find that the word ‘istawā’ has come in the meaning of or interchangeable with ‘istīlā”
“The fifteenth response is that Imam Abūl Ḥasan al-Ashʿarī has recorded a consensus that to take ‘istawā’ with the meaning of ‘istīlā’ is wholly incorrect.”
“The twenty seventh response is that the one amongst the creation who knows most about his lord is prophet Muhammad who has described in numerous traditions that Allāh is high and above and these traditions are an evidence of the explanation of such ayat” [Mukhtaṣar as-Sawāʿiq al-Mursalah, Muhammad al-Mawṣalī [2/321-326]
Some have figuratively attempted to explain (Tāwīl) the fourth ayah and said that ʿAla is the action (Fʿil) and ar-Rahman is the one who does the act (Faʿil) and the Faʿil of Istawa is the ʿArsh.
Zarkashī refutes this (Tāwīl) and says, “This is refuted from two angles the first is that the mu’awil (the one who did the tāwīl) made the attribute into an action and all of the scripts of the Qurān in Shām, ʿIrāq and Ḥijāz have ʿAla as a harf and if this was Fʿil (ie action) it would have been written with a Lām and ālif like for example at another instance it says, “Walʿalā Baḍuhum ʿala Bʿaḍ. The second reasons is the mu’awil rendered ʿArsh as marfū whereas none of the reciters ie Qura recite it like this.” [Zarkashī, al-Burhān Fī ʿUlūm al-Qurān [2/81]
And the third reason is that it will contradict the other ayahs.
THOSE AYAT WHICH MENTION ALLĀH BEING ‘ISTAWĀ’ ABOVE THE HEAVENS.
 He it is Who created for you all that is on earth. Then He rose over (Istawa) towards the heaven and made them seven heavens and He is the All-Knower of everything. [Al-Baqarah:29]
 Then He rose over (Istawa) towards the heaven when it was smoke, and said to it and to the earth: “Come both of you willingly or unwillingly.” They both said: “We come, willingly.” [Fuṣilat:11]
We have already recorded the narration from Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī from Abu ʿĀlīyah that ‘istawā means he rose high above.’ In fact Ibn Qayyīm quotes an Ijmāʿ consensus that “The meaning here is he rose high above.” [Mukhtaṣar as-Sawāʿiq al-Mursalah [2/320]
Imām Baghawī explains the above ayat in his ‘Tafsīr Muʿālim ut-Tanzīl’ notes on Khāzin’ states, “Many explainers of the Qurān from the Salaf and Ibn ʿAbbās explain this ayat to mean he rose above.” [Tafsīr Muʿālim ut-Tanzīl [1/37]
Imām Ibn Jarīr whilst explaining the above ayāt in his Tafsīr states in his Tafsīr ‘Jāmʿe ul-Bayān’ that, ‘The true meaning of the verse ‘He it is Who created for you all that is on earth. Then He rose over (Istawa) towards the heaven and made them seven heavens and He is the All-Knower of everything [Al-Baqarah 29]’ is that he went high and rose above. Allāh showed his wisdom in creating the heavens and the earths. It is very strange that those who oppose this go against what is understood by the language of the Arabs, that is, he rose and was high. They prefer such meanings as they themselves give thinking that they will escape giving the verse a meaning which is not befitting to Allāh according to their own intellects. In fact, if he were to consider carefully his own explanation then in it he will find that which he was trying to avoid, for example, if he says istawā means he ‘turned towards/observed’ the heavens then we reply, was he ‘not observing/turned away’ from the heavens that you say he had to then ‘turn towards’ them? And if he replies, yes to this then we ask what is it that you base this on? In reality, his explanation causes more conflict and confusion and this is the very thing that he aimed to avoid in the first place. Praise be to Allāh I this way we reply to all those who oppose the truth and deviate from the true understanding of the Qurān. Abū Jʿafar said, that if someone were to ask us whether Allāh’s istiwā towards the heavens was before the heavens were created or after? Then we reply, it was after the heavens were created but Allāh said before he created the seven heavens that ‘Then He rose over (Istawa) towards the heaven when it was smoke, and said to it and to the earth: “Come both of you willingly or unwillingly.” They both said: “We come, willingly.’ [Fussilāt 11]. So the istiwā was after the creation of the smoke but before the formation of them into seven heavens. In regards to the word in the verse ‘Fasawwahunna’ i.e., [he made them] then this means that he created and originated them. He made them as he willed with perfection and suitability. In Arabic ‘taswiyah’ means to make something correct and suitable, as it is said in the language ‘so and so made such a thing suitable’. So Allāh created the heavens in a most suitable way as he willed and planned and when they close he opens them as per his will.” [Tafsīr at-Ṭabarī [1/192]
THE MENTION OF THE ‘GREAT THRONE’ OF ALLĀH.
 But if they turn away, say (O Muhammad): “Allāh is sufficient for me. Lâ ilâha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), in Him I put my trust and He is the Lord of the Mighty Throne. [At-Tawbah:129]
 And He it is Who has created the heavens and the earth in six Days and His Throne was on the water, that He might try you, which of you is the best in deeds. [Hūd:7]
 Had there been therein (in the heavens and the earth) âlihah (gods) besides Allāh, then verily both would have been ruined. Glorified is Allāh, the Lord of the Throne, (High is He) above all that they attribute to Him! [Al-Anbiyā:21]
 Say: “Who is (the) Lord of the seven heavens, and (the) Lord of the Great Throne?” (86) They will say: “Allāh.” Say: “Will you not then fear Allāh (believe in His Oneness, obey Him, believe in the Resurrection and Recompense for every good or bad deed)?” [Al-Muminūn:86-87]
 So Exalted is Allāh, the True King, Lâ ilâha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), the Lord of the Supreme Throne! [Al-Muminūn:116]
 Allāh, Lâ ilâha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), the Lord of the Supreme Throne! [An-Naml:26]
 (He is Allāh) Owner of High Ranks and Degrees, the Owner of the Throne. [Al-Ghāfir:15]
 Glorified is the Lord of the heavens and the earth, the Lord of the Throne! Exalted is He from all that they ascribe (to Him). [Az-Zukhruf:82]
 Owner of the Throne, the Glorious. [AL-Burūj:16]
THE MEANING OF ARSH [THRONE].
In the meaning itself of Throne is the indication of Allāh being high and above as is found in the verses and narrations. Then it should be known that Allāh being above his Throne shows he is above it and ‘bāin ʿanil Khalq’ separate and distinct from his creation.
Imām Abū Bakr al-Ājurī said in his book ‘ash-Sharīʿah’ that, “It is the madhab of the scholars that Allāh is above his Throne above the heavens. His knowledge encompasses all. He knows that which is in the heavens, earth and that which is beneath it. He knows that which is open and hidden. He knows that which is concealed in the chests and the deceitful eyes. He knows the affairs of the hearts and every beat it takes before it occurs. There is not a particle in the heavens or earth except that he is aware of it. He is above his Throne. He raises the deeds of the people up towards himself and he is aware of their deeds even more so than those angels whose duty it is to record such deeds.” [Imām Abū Bakr al-Ājurī, ash-Sharīʿah [pg.288]
Imām Ibn Kathīr said in his explanation under the first ayah above, “It shows he is the originator and owner and this is why he is the owner of the great Throne. His Throne is a ceiling for all of creation including all of the heavens, earth and all that is what is between them. His knowledge is encompassing everything. His decree is upon everything and he is the creator of all.” [Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr [2/404]
In Tafsīr ‘Madārik ut-Tanzīl’ of Nasafī’ considers the ayah “The Lord of the mighty Throne’ that the greatest of the creation was his Throne, which is a place of where duʿā is directed by those in the heavens.” [Tafsīr Nasafī [2/152]
Imām Ibn Kathīr said in his explanation under the second ayah above, “Ibn Abbās (RaḍiAllāhu ʿAnhuma) said that the Throne was given this title as it is something which is high/above. Ismāʿīl bin Abī Khālid said he heard Sʿād Ṭā’ī say that the Throne is red/ruby in colour. Muḥammad bin Ishāq said concerning the verse ‘And He it is Who has created the heavens and the earth in six Days and His Throne was on the water, that He might try you, which of you is the best in deeds’, that, it is as he has described. There is nothing but water, upon this is the great Throne and above this is Allāh, the owner of all majesty and great, the wisest, the ablest and the one who is most merciful, wise all bountiful. He does as he wills and wishes.” [Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr [2/437]
Tafsīr Nasafī states concerning the second verse, “Meaning that his Throne was above the water, that is, before the creation of the heavens and the earth there was nothing but water beneath his Throne.” [Tafsīr Nasafī [2/13]
It is stated in ‘Tafsīr al-Futūhat al-Ilāhīyah lil Jamal’ that, “He was where he is now, that is, above the seven heavens and the water was where it is now, that is, below his Throne.” [Tafsīr al-Futūhat al-Ilāhīyah lil Jamal [2/382]
Imām Ibn Kathīr said in his explanation under the fourth ayah above, “He is the lord of the mighty Throne which is a ceiling for his creation. It is mentioned in the narration transmitted by Abū Dawūd that the prophet said ‘Your Lords status is the greatest and his Throne is above the heavens’. [after recording a few more narrations] Ḍihāk narrates from Ibn Abbās (RaḍiAllāhu ʿAnhu) that ‘it is called ʿArsh [Throne] due to it being lofty/high’. Aʿmash narrates from Kʿab al-Ahbār that the heavens and earth in relation to the Throne are as if a small lamp is lit hanging in between the heaven and the earth. Mujāhid states that ‘the heavens and earth in relation to the Throne are like a small ring which are left in a vast plain.” [Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr [3/253]
Imām Ibn Kathīr said in his explanation under the fifth ayah above, “The Throne is a ceiling for the entire creation. It is called ‘ʿArshul Karīm’ [supreme Throne] as it is the most beautiful to look at greatest presence. As Allāh has said ‘And We send down water (rain) from the sky, and We cause (plants) of every goodly kind to grow therein.’ [Luqmān:9]” [Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr [3/259]
Tafsīr Nasafī states, “It is called supreme Throne as all mercy from Allāh descends from there or that the closest most supreme angels surround it.” [Tafsīr Nasafī [3/130]
Tafsīr Khāzin records that, “Karīm, that is beautiful. Others have said it means high. It is recorded as such by Baghawī in his footnotes on Khāzin.” [Tafsīr al-Khāzin [5/38]
Shawkāni states in his ‘Tafsīr Fath al-Qadīr’ that, “It is called the supreme Throne because Allāh descends his mercy to his creation from it or it is supreme due to the fact that the one who is above it [the Throne] is the most supreme as it is said by the Arabs ‘the noble house’, meaning that the one who resides in it is noble.” [Fath al-Qadīr [3/485]
Imām Ibn Kathīr said in his explanation under the ninth ayah above, “Glorious Throne, that is, he is the owner of the great Throne which is above all of creation.” [Tafsīr Ibn Kathīr [4/496]
Nasafī states, “Glorious, that is, the creator of the Throne is the most glorious and greatest. Glorious here also refers to his Throne as well as himself. Meaning, that the one who is the owner of the Throne is even more Glorious than it.” [Nasafī [4/346]
And in Jalālayn it says, “Glorious, that is, the owner and creator of the Throne is the most glorious. Glorious, meaning that the one who is completely deserving of the attribute of being highest and it is like this in ‘Jamal’ and ‘Maḥāsin at-Tā’wīl.” [Jalalayn [12/422], Jamal [4/515] and Maḥāsin at-Tā’wīl [18/6118]