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Twenty-One Principles of Ahl us-Sunnah Regarding Belief in the Attributes (Sifaat) of Allaah
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Tuesday, December 01 2009 - by Abu.Iyaad
Key topics: Sifaat

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This is a summarization of the principles of Ahl us-Sunnah, the Righteous Salaf, the Ahl ul-Hadeeth wal-Athar, regarding belief in the Attributes reported in the revealed texts. References for each of the principles are provided at the end of the article.

And this flawed and corrupt intellectual proof they devised is also the basis for the two approaches of ta'weel (distorting the texts, originating with the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah) and tafweed (which is tajheel, ascribing ignorance to the Salaf, originating out of the Kullaabi, Ash'ari school of thought). To learn more about these subjects please refer to Asharis.Com.

Source: "Sifaatullaah 'Azza wa Jalla al-Waaridah fil-Kitaab was-Sunnah" of Alawee ibn `Abdil-Qaadir as-Saqqaaf (translated by Dawud Burbank).

The First Principle

Affirmation of everything that Allaah affirmed for Himself in His Book, or which His Messenger, sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallaam, affirmed for Him. Without distorting (tahreef), without denial (ta'teel), and without saying how they are (takyeef) and without making any resemblance with the creation (tamtheel).[1]

Since Allaah knows better about Himself than anyone else, and His Messenger, (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallaam), knows better than rest of creation about his Lord.

The Second Principle

To deny for Allaah everything which He has denied for Himself in His Book, or which His Messenger denied for Him, whilst believing its fully perfect opposite is confirmed for Allaah, the Most High.[2]

Since Allaah knows better about Himself than His creation, and His Messenger out of all the people is the one who knows best about His Lord, so denying death for Him includes affirmation of His perfect Life, and denying oppression for Him includes affirmation of His perfect Justice, and denying sleep for Him includes affirmation of His perfect charge and control over everything.

The Third Principle

The attributes of Allaah, the Might and Magnificent, are only to be spoken of in accordance with a text (tawqeefiyyah). So nothing is affirmed for Him except that which Allaah affirmed for Himself (or which) was affirmed for Him by His Messenger, and nothing is denied for Allaah, the Mighty and Magnificent, except that which He denied for Himself, was was denied for Him by His Messenger, (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallaam).[3]

Since there is no one who knows better about Allaah than Allaah, the Most High, (Himself), and there is no one of the creation who knows better about His Creator than Allaah's Messenger, (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallaam).

The Fourth Principle

To halt with regard to vague terms which are not found to be affirmed or denied textually, in wording or meaning, so further explanation is sought. Then if something false is meant by it, then we declare Allaah free of that and reject it, and if something that is true and something that is not to be denied for Allaah, then it is accepted and the correct terminology as found in the text is to be made clear. And one should call for its usage in place of this vague and newly-introduced wording.[4]

An example of this is the term 'direction.' We halt, neither affirming or denying it, and we ask the one who says it, 'What do you mean by direction?' So if he says, 'I mean a place which contains Him.' Then we say, 'This is something false and Allaah is to be declared free from this, and we reject it.' But if he says, 'That He is unrestrictedly above.' Then we say, 'This is true it is not to be denied for Allaah,' and we accept the meaning from him, and we say, 'However, it is more fitting that you say, 'He is above the heavens,' or 'He is above,' as occurs in the authentic texts.' But as for the term 'direction' then it is vague and a novelty, so it is better to leave it.

The Fifth Principle

Every attribute which is established by an authentic report definitely agrees with sound intellect.[5]

The Sixth Principle

To cut off any hope of reaching the reality of 'how.' As He, the Most High, says: "And they will never compass anything of His knowledge." (Taa haa 20:110.) [6]

The Seventh Principle

The attributes of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, are affirmed in detail (specifically), whereas denial is done generally.[7]

So detailed and specific affirmation is, for example, affirming Hearing and Seeing, and the rest of the attributes. As for generalised denial, then like denial of any likeness as in His saying: "There is nothing like unto Him." (Shooraa 42:11)

The Eighth Principle

Every name confirmed for Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, is inclusive of an attribute, but the opposite is not the case.[8]

For example, Allaah's name ar-Rahmaan (the Most Merciful) incorporates the attribute of mercy, al-Kareem (The Munificent) incorporates the attribute of munificence and al-Lateef (the Most Gentle and the All-Perceiving) incorporates the attribute of gentleness and being all-perceiving and so on. However, as for His attributes, (such as) His Will, His Coming, His Ascending-then names are not to be derived from them such as, 'The One who Wills,' 'The Comer,' 'The One who Ascended,' etc.

The Ninth Principle

The attributes of Allaah, the Most High, are perfect, containing no deficiency in any sense at all.[9]

The Tenth Principle

The Attributes of Allaah, the Mighty and Magnificent, are dhaatiyyah - those pertaining to His Self, and fi'liyyah - those pertaining to His actions, and there is no limit or end to His actions. "And Allaah does what He wills." (Ibraaheem 14:27) [10]

The Eleventh Principle

The proof from the Book and Sunnah for the establishment of an attribute is either: (i) by clearly stating it, (ii) or by its being incorporated by the name, (iii) or by clear statement of an action or a description proving it. [11]

Examples of the first are Mercy, Might, Power, His Face, His Hands and His Fingers etc. Examples of the second are al-Baseer (The Seeing) which incorporates the attribute of sight, and as-Samee' (The Hearing) which incorporates the attribute of hearing, and so on. Examples of the third are (His Saying): "Ar-Rahmaan rose over the Throne." (Taa Haa 20:5) Which proves His having ascended, and (another example is His saying): "We shall exact retribution from the Mujrimoon." (as-Sajdah 32:22). Which proves that He exacts retribution, and so on.

The Twelfth Principle

One may seek refuge with Allaah, the Might and Magnificent's, attributes and swear an oath by them. [12]

From this is his, (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallaam's), saying, "I seek refuge of Your Pleasure from Your Wrath, and from Your granting safety from Your punishment ..." reported by Muslim (no. 486), and therefore al-Bukhaaree named a chapter heading in the Book of Oaths and Vows, "Chapter: Swearing an Oath by the Might of Allaah and His Attributes and His Words."

The Thirteenth Principle

Speech concerning the attributes is like speech about His Self.[13]

Since just as His Self is real and does not resemble that of other than Him, then it is characterized by real attributes which also do not resemble the attributes of others, and just as affirming His Self is an affirmation of existence but not of 'how' - then the same is true of the attributes.

The Fourteenth Principle

Speech concerning some of the Attributes is like speech about the rest of them.[14]

So whoever affirms the attributes of Allaah like Hearing, Seeing and Will, must therefore affirms Allaah's Loving, being Pleased, His Anger and His Hating.

Shaikhul-Islaam Ibn Taimiyyah said in Majmoo' Fataawaa (5/212):

And whoever differentiates between one attribute and another, despite their being the same with regard to the reasons for their being haqeeqah (true, real, having a reality) or majaaz (metaphorical, figurative) - then he is contradicting himself, erroneous in his position, resembling those who believed in a part of the Book and disbelieved in other parts.

The Fifteenth Principle

Whatever is attributed to Allaah and is not something separate from Him, then it is an attribute of His and not something created, and everything that is attributed to Him and is something separate from Him, then it is something created. So not everything which is attributed to Allaah is necessarily an attribute of His. [15]

Examples of the first are: Allaah's Hearing, Allaah's Seeing, His being Pleased and His Wrath. Examples of the second are: The House of Allaah, the She-Camel of Allaah.

The Sixteenth Principle

The attributes of Allaah, the Mighty and Magnificent, and all other matters of 'aqeedah are established by that which is established from Allaah's Messenger, (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallaam), even if it is a single hadeeth, even if it is aahaad.[16]

The Seventeeth Principle

The attributes of Allaah, the Mighty and Magnificent, which are established in the Book and the Sunnah, are known and are explained literally - never metaphorically or figuratively. But as for 'how' they are, then that is unknown."[17] [18]

The Eighteenth Principle

Whatever occurs in the Book or the Sunnah, then it is binding upon every Believer to hold as his saying what it entails and to believe in it, even if he does not understand its meaning.[19]

The Nineteenth Principle

The domain of reports (akhbaar) [20] is wider than that of the attributes, and so things related about Him are not necessarily dependent solely upon text, such as 'The Pre-Existing' (qadeem), that He is a 'thing' (shay), that He 'exists.'(mawjood)[21]

The Twentieth Principle

No analogy is made regarding the attributes of Allaah, the Mighty and Magnificent, [with those of the creation]. [22]

So no analogy is made between liberality (sakhaa') and His generosity (jood). Nor between strength (jalad) and His Might (Quwwah). Nor capability (istitaa'ah) and His Power (Qudrah). Nor compassion (riqqah) and His Mercy (rahmah) and (ra'fah). Nor acquaintance (ma'rifah) and His Knowledge (ilm) and so on. Since with regard to the attributes of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, we may not go beyond the principle of halting until a text is found, as has been seen in the third principle.

The Twenty-First Principle

The attributes of Allaah, the Mighty and Magnificent, cannot be enumerated, since every name comprises an attribute as has preceded, and Allaah's names cannot be enumerated since from them are those which Allaah has retained with Himself in the knowledge of the Unseen.


  1. 'Aqeedatus-Salaf Ashaabul-Hadeeth of as-Saaboonee, p. 4, Majmoo'ul-Fataawaa, 3/3, 4/182, 5/26, 6/38 and 515.
  2. Al-'Aqeedat ut-Tadmuriyyah, of Ibn Taymiyyah, p. 55, Al-Jawaab Saheeh Liman Baddala Deenal-Maseeh, by him also, 3/139.
  3. Majmoo'ul-Fataawaa, 5/26.
  4. At-Tadmuriyyah, p. 65, Majmoo'ul-Fataawaa, 5/299, 6/36.
  5. Mukhtasarus-Sawaa'iq al-Mursalah, 1/141 and 253.
  6. Manhaj wa Diraasaat li Aayaatil-Asmaa was-Sifaat, of Muhammad al-Ameen ash-Shanqeetee, p. 26.
  7. Majmoo'ul-Fataawaa, 6/37 and 515.
  8. Badaa'i'ul-Fawaa'id, 1/162 of Ibnul-Qayyim, Al-Qawaa'idul Muthlaa fee Sifaatillaah wa Asmaa'ihil Husnaa, p. 30 of Ibn 'Uthaymain.
  9. Majmoo'ul-Fataawaa, 5/206, Mukhtasarus-Sawaa'iq al-Mursalah, 1/232 and Badaa'i'ul-Fawaa'id, 1/168.
  10. Al-Qawaa'idul Muthlaa, p. 30.
  11. Al-Qawaa'idul-Muthlaa, p. 35.
  12. Majmoo'ul-Fatwaawaa, 6/143 and 229, and see sharhus-sunnah of al-Baghawee (1/185-187) and some of them differentiate between swearing an oath by an attribute pertaining to an action and one pertaining to His Self, and they say, 'It is not permissible to swear by an attribute pertaining to an action.'
  13. Al-Kalaam 'alas-Sifaat of al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadee, p. 20, Al-Hujjah fee Bayaanil-Mahajjah of al-Asbahaanee, 1/173, At-Tadmuriyyah (p. 43) and Majmoo'ul-Fataawaa, 5/330 and 6/355.
  14. At-Tadmuriyyah, p. 31 and Majmoo'ul-Fataawaa, 5/212.
  15. Al-Jawaab as-Saheeh liman-Baddala Deenal-Maseeh,3/145, Majmoo'ul-Fataawaa, 9/290, Majmoo' Fataawaa wa Rasaa'il ibn 'Utahimain, 1/166.
  16. Mukhtasarus-Sawaa'iqul-Mursalah, 2/332, 412 and 43.
  17. For a reply to the doubts and claims of similarity refer to, Ar-Risaalatut-Tadmuriyyah, Munaazaatul-'Aqeedatil-Waasitiyyah, Ar-Risaalatul-Hamawiyyatul-Kubraa and Ar-Risaaltul-Marraakhashiyyah, all of them within Majmoo'ul-Fataawaa, 3/1-128, 1/160-194, 5/5-121 and 5/133-193, and all of them have also been published separately.
  18. At-Tadmuriyyah, pp. 43-44, Majmoo'ul-Fataawaa, 5/36-42, Mukhtasarus-Sawaa'iqul-Mursalah, 1/238 and 2/106 -.
  19. At-Tadmuriyyah, p. 65, Majmoo'ul-Fataawaa, 5/295 and Daqaa'qut-Tafseer, 5/245.
  20. I.e., about Allaah and His actions.
  21. Badaa'i' ul-Fawaa'id if Ibnul-Qayyim, 1/162.
  22. Sha'nud-Du'aa of al-Khattaabee, p. 111.

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