Faith Essentials | Risalah Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani | Part 3

ما تنطق به الألسنة وتعتقده الأفئدة من واجب أمور الديانات

That which is pronounced by the Tongues and firmly Believed in the Hearts, concerning the obligatory matters of the Deen

من ذلك الإيمان بالقلب والنطق باللسان أن الله إله واحد لا إله غيره، ولا شبيه له، ولا نظير له، ولا ولد له، ولا والد له، ولا صاحبة له، ولا شريكله

Among these obligatory duties is to believe with your heart, and to express or proclaim with your tongue that Allah is the only One (deity) that deserves to be worshipped. There is nothing that resembles Him, there is nothing like or equal to Him, and He has no father or child, He has no companion or spouse. He has no partner.

– It is as if the author is telling us that this is the beginning, and he will explain all of this in a detailed manner in the pages to come. The Imam started with that which every person must believe and must say with their tongue. All of this is inclusive of the actions that a Muslim must do. Actions includes the actions of the heart as well as the action of the limbs.

– This beginning is just as we are taught in the Quran and the Sunnah. How?
Allah says in the Quran:

فَاعْلَمْ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَاسْتَغْفِرْ لِذَنبِكَ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ مُتَقَلَّبَكُمْ وَمَثْوَاكُمْ

So know, [O Muhammad], that there is no deity except Allah and ask forgiveness for your sin and for the believing men and believing women. And Allah knows of your movement and your resting place. [Surah Muhammad, 19]

Ibn Abbas reported: When the Messenger of Allah ﷺ sent Mu’adh to Yemen, he said to him:

إِنَّكَ تَأْتِي قَوْمًا مِنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ فَادْعُهُمْ إِلَى شَهَادَةِ أَنْ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَأَنِّي رَسُولُ اللَّهِ فَإِنْ هُمْ أَطَاعُوا لِذَلِكَ فَأَعْلِمْهُمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ افْتَرَضَ عَلَيْهِمْ خَمْسَ صَلَوَاتٍ فِي كُلِّ يَوْمٍ وَلَيْلَةٍ فَإِنْ هُمْ أَطَاعُوا لِذَلِكَ فَأَعْلِمْهُمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ افْتَرَضَ عَلَيْهِمْ صَدَقَةً تُؤْخَذُ مِنْ أَغْنِيَائِهِمْ فَتُرَدُّ فِي فُقَرَائِهِمْ فَإِنْ هُمْ أَطَاعُوا لِذَلِكَ فَإِيَّاكَ وَكَرَائِمَ أَمْوَالِهِمْ وَاتَّقِ دَعْوَةَ الْمَظْلُومِ فَإِنَّهُ لَيْسَ بَيْنَهَا وَبَيْنَ اللَّهِ حِجَابٌ

Verily, you are coming to a people among the people of the Book, so call them to testify there is no God but Allah and I am the Messenger of Allah. If they accept that, then teach them that Allah has obligated five prayers in each day and night. If they accept that, then teach them that Allah as obligated charity to be taken from the rich and given to the poor. If they accept that, beware not to take from the best of their wealth. Be on guard from the supplication of the oppressed, for there is no barrier between it and Allah. [Muslim]

In both the places we see that the initiation has been done with an invitation towards tawheed and the teaching of Aqeedah. We need to understand from this, that any knowledge that is not built upon the correct Aqeedah will be deficient, or corrupt, or bound to fail.

– This emphasizes that the first thing that is obligated upon a Muslim is tawheed which is in contradiction to the understanding of many deviant groups. Look at Surah Hud and Surah A’raf and other Surahs in the Quran. The Prophet of Allah began their dawah by calling the people to believe and worship Allah alone.

– The author explains that Allah is above any imperfection. He has no partner and there is nothing even similar to Him. Allah says in the Quran:

لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ

There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the Hearing, the Seeing. [Surah ash-Shura, 11]

وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ

Nor is there to Him any equivalent. [Surah Ikhlas, 4]
This statement of Allah in Surah Ikhlas is actually emphasizing the first part of the Surah which signifies that Allah is one. He is without a partner, alone in His Right to be worshipped, His Names and is completely unique.


ليس لأوليته ابتداء ولا لآخريته انقضاء، ولا يبلغ كنه صفته الواصفون ولا يحيط بأمره المتفكرون 

He is the First and has no beginning, and He is the Last, and there is no end. Neither his Essence, nor His Attributes can be described, and human minds cannot encompass Him.

– Allah is Eternal and Infinite. Allah says in the Quran,

هُوَ الْأَوَّلُ وَالْآخِرُ وَالظَّاهِرُ وَالْبَاطِنُ وَهُوَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ

He is the First and the Last, the Ascendant and the Intimate, and He is, of all things, Knowing. [Surah al-Hadid, 3]

Suhail reported that Abu Salih used to command us (in these words):

اللَّهُمَّ رَبَّ السَّمَوَاتِ وَرَبَّ الأَرْضِ وَرَبَّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ رَبَّنَا وَرَبَّ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ فَالِقَ الْحَبِّ وَالنَّوَى وَمُنْزِلَ التَّوْرَاةِ وَالإِنْجِيلِ وَالْفُرْقَانِ أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرِّ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ أَنْتَ آخِذٌ بِنَاصِيَتِهِ اللَّهُمَّ أَنْتَ الأَوَّلُ فَلَيْسَ قَبْلَكَ شَىْءٌ وَأَنْتَ الآخِرُ فَلَيْسَ بَعْدَكَ شَىْءٌ وَأَنْتَ الظَّاهِرُ فَلَيْسَ فَوْقَكَ شَىْءٌ وَأَنْتَ الْبَاطِنُ فَلَيْسَ دُونَكَ شَىْءٌ اقْضِ عَنَّا الدَّيْنَ وَأَغْنِنَا مِنَ الْفَقْرِ

When any one of you intends to go to sleep, he should lie on the bed on his right side and then say:” O Allah. the Lord of the Heavens and the Lord of the Earth and Lord of the Magnificent Throne, our Lord, and the Lord of everything, the Splitter of the grain of corn and the date-stone (or fruit kernel), the Revealer of Torah and Injil (Bible) and Criterion (the Holy Qur’an), I seek refuge in You from the evil of everything that You are holding by the forelock, You are the First, for there is nothing above You, and You are the Last, for there is nothing after you. And you are az-Zahir, for there is nothing above you. And you are Al-Batin, for there is nothing below You. Relieve me from debt, and enrich me from poverty.” Abu Salih used to narrate it from Abu Huraira who narrated it from Allah’s Apostle (ﷺ).

The highlighted part signifies what the statement of Imam Ibn Abi Zayd is based on. Also, here the Prophet of Allah ﷺ himself is teaching us the meaning of az-Zahir and that Allah is above His creation.

– The Imam explains regarding the Attributes of Allah, that no one knows their ‘How?’. No mater how much a person tries, they will not be able to grasp or encompass the understanding of Allah in their mind or imagination in this regard. Allah tells and describes certain things about Himself to us. He gives us a definition or tells us about the Attributes He has. But, Allah did not tell us how these particular Attributes are. There is no one who can describe Allah better than that which Allah has described Himself with.
We believe and submit in all that Allah has described Himself with. However, we leave or limit ourselves instead of asking ‘How’ regarding an Attribute of Allah.

Allah says in the Qur’an,

اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْحَيُّ الْقَيُّومُ لَا تَأْخُذُهُ سِنَةٌ وَلَا نَوْمٌ لَّهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ مَن ذَا الَّذِي يَشْفَعُ عِندَهُ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِهِ يَعْلَمُ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمَا خَلْفَهُمْ وَلَا يُحِيطُونَ بِشَيْءٍ مِّنْ عِلْمِهِ إِلَّا بِمَا شَاءَ وَسِعَ كُرْسِيُّهُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَلَا يَئُودُهُ حِفْظُهُمَا وَهُوَ الْعَلِيُّ الْعَظِيمُ

Allah – there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of [all] existence. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is [presently] before them and what will be after them, and they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills. His Kursi extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Most Great. [Surah al-Baqarah, Ayah 255]

We can only say or attribute to Allah only that which Allah has revealed and what His Messenger has said explicitly about him. One’s understanding cannot comprehend how it occurs. From the practice of the Salaf is to establish all the Names and Attributes of Allah without questioning their working mechanism.

A man asked Imam Malik (d. 179): “How did Allah make Istiwa’ on the throne?” Imam Malik inclined his head and was silent until the sweat of fever covered his brow, then he looked up and said:

الاستواء معلوم، والكيف مجهول، والإيمانُ به واجِب، والسؤالُ عنه بدعة
‘The establishment (Istiwa) (on the throne) is known, the mode (‘How’) is unknown, asking about it is an innovation, and belief in it is compulsory’.
[Tafseer Al Qurtubi]

This is a refutation for those who speak regarding the Attributes of Allah. Rather it is the middle path where we neither negate nor explain the Names and Attributes of Allah.


يعتبر المتفكرون بآياته ولا يتفكرون في مائية ذاته
(ولا يحيطون بشيء من علمه إلا بما شاء وسع كرسيه السموات والأرض ولا يؤوده حفظهما وهو العلي العظيم)

العالم، الخبير، المدبر، القدير السميع، البصير، العلي، الكبير، وأنه فوق عرشه المجيد بذاته، وهو في كل مكان بعلمه

The thoughtful will only reflect upon His signs, while abstaining from delving into, or attempting to investigate the reality of His Essence. [Allah said], “And they encompass not a thing of His Knowledge except for what He Wills. His Throne extends over the Heavens and the Earth and He can easily preserve them. He is the Most High, the Most Great [Surah al-Baqarah, 255]

He is the All Knowing, the All Aware, the Controller, the All Powerful, the All Hearing, the All Seeing, the Most High, the Most Great. He is above His Majestic Throne by His Divine Being. He is everywhere by His Knowledge.

– Those who truly reflect and sincere to learn, focus on the Ayat of Allah. These ayat or signs are for the creation to ponder over for these signs are a proof of His Existence and His Great Names and Attributes. Allah tells us in one of the many such places in the Quran,

وَسَخَّرَ لَكُمُ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ وَالشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ وَالنُّجُومُ مُسَخَّرَاتٌ بِأَمْرِهِ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُونَ

And He has subjected for you the night and day and the sun and moon, and the stars are subjected by His command. Indeed in that are signs for a people who reason. [Surah an-Nahl, 12]

هُوَ الَّذِي جَعَلَ الشَّمْسَ ضِيَاءً وَالْقَمَرَ نُورًا وَقَدَّرَهُ مَنَازِلَ لِتَعْلَمُوا عَدَدَ السِّنِينَ وَالْحِسَابَ مَا خَلَقَ اللَّهُ ذَٰلِكَ إِلَّا بِالْحَقِّ يُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْلَمُونَ

It is He who made the sun a shining light and the moon a derived light and determined for it phases – that you may know the number of years and account [of time]. Allah has not created this except in truth. He details the signs for a people who know. [Surah Yunus, 5]

اللَّهُ الَّذِي رَفَعَ السَّمَاوَاتِ بِغَيْرِ عَمَدٍ تَرَوْنَهَا ثُمَّ اسْتَوَىٰ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ وَسَخَّرَ الشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ كُلٌّ يَجْرِي لِأَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى يُدَبِّرُ الْأَمْرَ يُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لَعَلَّكُم بِلِقَاءِ رَبِّكُمْ تُوقِنُونَ

It is Allah who erected the heavens without pillars that you [can] see; then He established Himself above the Throne and made subject the sun and the moon, each running [its course] for a specified term. He arranges [each] matter; He details the signs that you may, of the meeting with your Lord, be certain. [Surah ar-Ra’d, 2]

– Our own intellects have a limit where they stop at. Allah is beyond that. Determining the meaning of Allah’s Attributes is not open for anyone’s ijtihad.

– By mentioning the part of Ayatul Kursi, the Imam is trying to show us that we cannot fully grasp or understand the Attributes of Allah. Why? Because the Attributes of Allah are from the Absolute Knowledge of Allah. Allah knows what happened in the past, what is happening in the present, what will happen in the future, and that which would happen, if it happened, even though it didn’t happen. Allah Knows Everything, there is nothing hidden from Him. His Knowledge encompasses anything and everything. In Ayatul Kursi, “And they encompass not a thing of His Knowledge except for what He Wills” refers to that which has been given to the Prophets and Messengers of Allah from the knowledge of the Unseen.

The knowledge of the Unseen is also of 2 types:

  • Absolute: Only with Allah
  • Relative: This is given to the Prophets and Messengers via Divine Revelation.

– The Imam is mentioning these Names and Attributes of Allah to emphasize on that which he has explained till now. Awareness is more specific as compared to Knowledge. Allah is Aware from everything, be it hidden or apparent. Allah is the Best Planner and Disposer of the affairs of His creation. He is the Most Perfect Administrator. Nothing prevents Allah from doing that which He wants, if He wishes. He says, “Be” and it happens. Allah Hears everything without anything getting mixed up or causing confusion. From the smallest atom that moves to the cosmos engulfing the skies, Allah Hears and Sees all.

– Allah is Above His creation in everything. This is meant both literally and metaphorically. Allah is above His creation in His Existence (physically) as well as above them in terms of His Lofty Status. There are more than a 1000 proofs for this in the Quran and the Sunnah. Despite this many deviant sects have gone astray in this regard of Allah being above His creation. These sects generally fall under 2 categories. Those that negate the entire concept, and those that use a false interpretation in explaining this Attribute of Allah. As soon as one leaves of the primary sources of evidences, you will see that people will fall into differing. Why? Because such people have become confused by not following and stopping at what Allah and His Messenger ﷺ have informed us.

– Allah is above the Throne with His Essence. He rose in a manner that is befitting Him. His Throne is the roof or the highest most point of His creation. It is one of the greatest creations of Allah.

Narrated Abu Huraira: I heard Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) saying,

لَمَّا قَضَى اللَّهُ الْخَلْقَ كَتَبَ كِتَابًا عِنْدَهُ غَلَبَتْ ـ أَوْ قَالَ سَبَقَتْ ـ رَحْمَتِي غَضَبِي‏.‏ فَهْوَ عِنْدَهُ فَوْقَ الْعَرْشِ

“Before Allah created the creations, He wrote a Book (wherein He has written): My Mercy has preceded my Anger.” and that (Book) is written with Him over the Throne.” [Bukhari]

Allah is above the throne and His Knowledge is everywhere. The Imam brings this point to refute the false understanding which states that Allah is present everywhere and in everything. Ahlus Sunnah believes that there is nothing hidden from Allah and that Allah is above His Arsh.


DISCLAIMERThe following is based on the explanation by  Sheikh Dr. Saalih Ibn Sa’d As-Suhaimi who is a former Professor from the Islamic University of Madinah and currently a teacher in the Prophet’s Masjid (at the time of writing) and Supervisor of the Da’wah Centers in Madinah.


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Mohammad Zahid


Born Najdi, Bred Hijazi, Brought Up Nawabi. Founder - Currently pursuing a Bachelors Degree in Islamic Studies as well as a Masters Degree in Information Technology at International Islamic University Malaysia. Studying Islamic Sciences under the guidance of Sheikh Ibrahim Nuhu. An ardent interest in Islamic History especially the Seerah of our Beloved Prophet. Aims to rekindle the spark to read amongst the Muslim Youth through various projects and activities. An ever expanding appetite for books - Bibliophile. Life is just a transit and we pass away as strangers, a legacy left behind is all that matters.

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