Tafsir of the Ayah: 'The Hand of Allâh is over their hands.'
We attended a Tafsir (exegesis of the meanings of the Qur’an) seminar held in a Masjid (mosque) called Abu Al-Haytham ibn Al-Tayhan and located in Salibiayh district in Kuwait. The Shaykh interpreted the Saying of Allah (whose meanings are translated as): “The Hand of Allâh is over their hands.” [Al-Fath: 10] He said that this Ayah has more than one meaning. It can be Allah’s Help given to them, Allah’s Power with them, or Allah’s Knowledge of their conditions and intentions. After the seminar finished, one brother told the Shaykh that his interpretation of this Ayah goes against ‘Aqidah (creed) of Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah (adherents to the Sunnah and the Muslim mainstream) and complies with the views of Al-Asha’irah (a Muslim group that bases its creedal issues on logic). The Shaykh was annoyed and replied that Al-Mawardy and Ibn Kathir mentioned this interpretation in their books. The man corrected him saying that Ibn Kathir did not state that, but it is Al-Mawardy who advocated Asha’irah.
The debate heated and people behaved aggressively labeling the man a Christian and Buddhist and they were about to beat him but some protected him. Allah knows that this man wanted to explain the truth out of his jealousy for the Muslim ‘Aqidah and the impermissibility of delaying the correction of an error beyond the proper time. The man suggested that the issue should be referred to you and they agreed. Would you please enlighten us. May Allah reward you the best. Waiting for your reply.
Please be informed that our ‘Aqidah is to affirm Allah’s Attribute of having a Hand and the other attributes stated by Him in His Noble Book or by His Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the purified Sunnah. However, this Hand is such as befits Allah’s Majesty without Takyif (descriptive designation of Allah’s Attributes) or Tamthil (likening Allah’s Attributes to those of His Creation) or Tahrif (distortion of the meaning) or Ta’til (denial of Allah’s Attributes). We believe that there is nothing like Him, and He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer. We do not deny any of His Attributes with which He described Himself. We do not remove the words from their correct places. We do not discuss the nature of His Attributes or liken His Attributes to those of His creation, because there is nothing that can be compared to Him, and He has no peer, equal or rival. Just as He (Glorified be He) has a true “Being” which is not similar to that of His creatures, He does not resemble any of His creatures in any of His Attributes. Confirming the Attributes of the Creator does not entail comparing them to those of the created. This is the doctrine of the Salaf (righteous predecessors) including the Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet), the Tabi’un (Followers, the generation after the Companions of the Prophet) and their followers from the best three generations of Islam and their successors to this day.
The Shaykh of Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allah be merciful to him) stated: More than one scholar reported that the Salaf unanimously agreed that the literal meanings of the Attributes of the Creator (Glorified and Exalted be He) should be accepted according to their apparent implications without any Takyif or Tashbih to the creatures. Discussing the Attributes comes under the heading of discussing the Divine Being. Whatever is said about the Divine Being can, in all respects, be said about the Divine Attributes. If the Divine Being is affirmed to exist without descriptive designation, the same applies to the Divine Attributes. We affirm the existence of every Attribute without describing its manner. We say that Allah (Exalted be He) has a Hand and Eyes, but we do not say that His Hand implies Power and His Hearing implies having knowledge.
Then the Shaykh (may Allah be merciful to him) quoted the following Ayah as evidence affirming Allah’s Attribute of having a Hand: “The Jews say: “Allâh’s Hand is tied up (i.e. He does not give and spend of His Bounty).” Be their hands tied up and be they accursed for what they uttered. Nay, both His Hands are widely outstretched. He spends (of His Bounty) as He wills.” [Al-Maidah: 64]
Allah (Exalted be He) also has said to Iblis (Satan): “What prevents you from prostrating yourself to one whom I have created with Both My Hands.” [Al-sad: 75]
He (Glorified be He) also says: “They made not a just estimate of Allâh such as is due to Him. And on the Day of Resurrection the whole of the earth will be grasped by His Hand and the heavens will be rolled up in His Right Hand.” [Al-Zumar: 67]
Allah (Glorified be He) also says: “Blessed be He in Whose Hand is the dominion” [Al-Mulk: 1]
Allah (Glorified be He) also says: “In Your Hand is the good. Verily, You are Able to do all things.” [Aal Imran: 26]
Then in commentary on these Ayahs, Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allah be merciful to him) said:
These Ayahs mean that Allah (Exalted be He) has two Hands in a manner which suits His Majesty and that He created Adam with them unlike the angels and Iblis. Also, Allah (Exalted be He) will grasp the earth and fold the heavens in His Right Hand and that His both Hands are widely outstretched. The word outstretched implies generosity and free giving, for acts of generosity are usually performed with the hand stretched out, whereas when one refrains from giving the hands are clasped close to the neck, as Allah (Exalted be He) says: “And let not your hand be tied (like a miser) to your neck, nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach (like a spendthrift), so that you become blameworthy and in severe poverty.” [Al-Isra: 29]
Conventionally, when someone is described as having widely outstretched hands, it is understood that the person has hands in a true literal sense. Ibn Taymiyyah (may Allah be merciful to him) stated that the plural form of hand, i.e. hands is used to imply neither bounty nor power. Using the singular form to express numerous things or the plural form to express one thing is baseless in the Arabic language in which the Qur’an was revealed. Thus, Hands in His Saying: “…to one whom I have created with Both My Hands.” cannot mean power because the latter is one attribute. It is incorrect to use the plural form (hands) to express one thing (power). Nor do they imply bounty because we cannot use two hands to denote Allah’s Bounties which are countless.
Then he (may Allah be merciful to him) quoted evidence from the Sunnah that affirms Allah’s Attribute of having a Hand. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The just will be with Allah on pulpits of light on the right Hand of the Most Merciful (Glorified and Exalted be He), and both His Hands are right - those who are just in their judgment and are fair with their families and those of whom they are in charge.” (Related by Muslim)
He (peace be upon him) also said: “Allah’s Hand is full; never diminishes no matter how much is given, generously and unceasingly spending, night and day. Do you see what He has spent since He created the Heavens and the Earth? Yet all that has not decreased what is in His Hand. His Throne was over the water; and in His Other Hand there is the Balance; He raises and lowers (whom He wills).” (Related by Muslim)
It is also reported in the Sahih (Authentic Hadith Book) on the authority of Abu Sa’id Al-Khudry (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The earth will be one single bread on the Day of Resurrection which the Almighty will turn in His Hand as one of you turns a loaf while on a journey.”
It is also reported in the Sahih on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with them) that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “‘The Lord (Glorified and Exalted be He) will take in His Hand His heavens and earth and say, ‘I am Allah - the Prophet (peace be upon him) clenched and opened his fingers (and continued narrating) - I am the King,’ so much so that I looked at the Minbar (pulpit) and saw it moving underneath the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and thought that it would cause him (peace be upon him) to fall.”
According to another narration: “While on the Minbar (pulpit), the Prophet (peace be upon him) recited the Ayah: “They made not a just estimate of Allâh such as is due to Him. And on the Day of Resurrection the whole of the earth will be grasped by His Hand and the heavens will be rolled up in His Right Hand.Glorified be He, and High be He above all that they associate as partners with Him!” [Al-Zumar: 67] He (peace be upon him) said, ‘Allah - glorifying Himself - will say: I am the Almighty.’”
It is also reported in the Sahih on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Allah will hold the earth and fold the Heaven in His Right Hand, and say, ‘I am the King! Where are the kings of the earth?’”
Another authentic Hadith says: “(When Allah created Adam) Allah, keeping His Two Hands closed, said to him (Adam), ‘Choose whichever you will.’ Adam said, ‘I choose the Right Hand of My Lord and both Hands of my Lord are blessed.’ Then Allah spread out His Hand, and there were Adam and his offspring.”
It is reported in the Sahih: “When Allah created the creation He wrote with His Hand on Himself: Verily, My Mercy overcomes My Wrath.”
It is also reported in the Sahih: “There was an argument between Adam and Moses, in which Adam said to Moses, ‘You are Moses! Allah chose you (above mankind) by His speaking to you and wrote with His own Hand the Torah for you.’ Moses said, ‘You are Adam! Allah has created you with His Hand and breathed into you the soul He created for you.’”
It is reported that Allah (Exalted be He) says: “By My Majesty and Glory, I will not make the righteous offspring of those whom I created with My Hands like those (other creatures) to whom I said, ‘Be’ and they were.”
It is reported in the Sunan (Hadith compilations classified by jurisprudential themes): “Allah created Adam and wiped his back with His Right Hand, and brought forth from it an offspring, saying, ‘I have created these for Paradise and the deeds of the people of Paradise they will be doing.’ He then wiped his back and brought forth from it an offspring, saying, ‘I have created these for Hellfire, and the deeds of the people of Hellfire they will be doing.’”
The Shaykh of Islam stated that these Hadiths and others stand as decisive texts closed to Ta’wil (allegorical interpretation). They were accepted and authenticated by the Muslim Ummah (nation). The Qur’an and Sunnah many times mention Allah’s Attribute of having a Hand including that He (Exalted be He) created with His Hand, His Hands are widely outstretched and the dominion is in His Hand. Also, the Sunnah is replete with mention of this attribute. It is impossible that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and the Imams omitted to explain to people that these texts do not imply the apparent meaning or should not be interpreted in the literal sense. That this continued until Jahm ibn Safwan came a long time after the era of Sahabah to explain to people what was revealed to their Prophet (peace be upon him)! Then Bishr ibn Ghiyath followed his path and other people accused of hypocrisy imitated him.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) taught us everything, even how to perform Istinja’ (cleansing the private parts with water after urination or defecation). He (peace be upon said) said: “I have left nothing which can lead you to Paradise except that I explained it to you. I have left you on white (clear) proof; its night is like its day. None shall deviate from it after me except that he is destroyed.” It is illogical that after that the Prophet (peace be upon him) would ignore the claim that apparent meanings of the texts contained in the Book and Sunnah imply Tajsim (anthropomorphism) and Tashbih and that whoever believe in the apparent meanings is misguided without explaining or manifesting the truth. It is also impossible that the Salaf would say that we should accept these texts as they were revealed while they intended the metaphorical meaning. If they had metaphorically implied certain attributes, the Arabs would have realized this. Persians and Romans cannot be more knowledgeable of Arabic language than the sons of Al-Muhajirun (Emigrants from Makkah to Madinah) and Al-Ansar (Helpers, inhabitants of Madinah who supported the Prophet). End of quote. Brief summary from Majmu’ Al-Fatawa by Shaykh-ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah, vol. 6, pp. 351-373.
In the light of what is mentioned, it is clear for everyone that what this young man said is the truth. We ask Allah to guide us all to do the right thing in deeds and words for He is All-Hearer and Responsive.