Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Metaphors in the Qur'an and the Story of the Pen

Written April 9, 2010

After salaat al-Jumu’ah, I went to the house of the imam of the mosque, which is attached to the mosque, for the usual tea and coffee. Among the people sitting with us today was the Grand Mufti of Iraq, shaykh Raafi’ Taha at-Tayf al-’Aani.
I didn’t know who he was until he left, as he was a most humble man, but I was really impressed by his ‘ilm, from the two times he spoke. He mostly kept quiet and let other people do the talking.
After he left the people in the room began praising him. They said that he was a great great scholar. They quoted him as saying: “I have many degrees, like the PhD, but they’re not important. The only thing that matters to me is the ijaza from my shaykh.”
He also has a great diwan of written poetry (You can see on his official website a most beautiful poem on the mawlid of Rasool Allah, salla Allahu alayhi wa Alihi wa sallam here: It shows a true mastery of the Arabic language and of the art of poetry, and seems to me to be of equal greatness to some of the works of the medieval poets.
He also has a book on the Fiqh of the Seera, and they quoted him as saying, “The Fiqh as-Seera of shaykh Al-Buti is not a fiqh al-seera.. It’s just a Seera. A true fiqh as-seera would have comments and legal rulings based on every single line of the seera.” And apparently, his Fiqh as-Seera is 3 volumes long. When someone asked if it can be found in bookshops, someone else replied that he never has time to publish any of his books. He writes, but has no time to publish.
It was also mentioned that his situation is quite difficult, in regards to returning to Iraq, as there are groups trying to assassinate him. May Allah protect him and bless him and make the entire world benefit from him. As in the past, when Iraq produced a great scholar, the entire world would look toward them. And this man is a great Iraqi scholar.
Someone said to me: “He has been the grand mufti of Iraq since the time of Saddam. And when I asked how that is possible, and why he wasn’t removed by the new government after Saddam, I was told that the Mufti of Iraq is elected by the other great scholars of the nation, not by the government, and they wanted him to remain, because of their trust in him.”
Here are two things that he said today, for the benefit of the reader:
1) Someone mentioned a funny story that happened to Ibn Baz. The Mufti told us that it happened in 1978, and that the man in the story was a simple man from Falluja, in Iraq, who sold sweets. After closing shop every day, he would go and sit at the hands of a shaykh, a wali of Allah, by the name of Abdul Aziz (if I remember correctly).
This man went to Hajj or Umra, and sat in a circle around Ibn Baz. Ibn Baz was repeating the position of Ibn Taymiyyah that there is no use of majaz (metaphor) in the Qur’an [and this was quite a silly proposition that Ibn Taymiyyah was forced to make, in order to say that there is no ta'wil in the Qur'an and that everything must be understood literally. Sultan al-Ulamaa Izz ad-Din ibn Abdessalam, on the other hand, compiled a giant two-volume book about all the uses of metaphor in the Qur'an].
Anyway, the simple Iraqi man said to him: There is no majaz in the Qur’an?
Ibn Baz said: No!
So the man said to him: Then listen, oh shaykh, for I have a bushra for you! You are one of the people of the Fire! For Allah Most High said: “He who is blind in this world will be even more blind and more astray in the Aakhira.”
So the blind shaykh retracted his position and shouted: There is majaz in the Qur’an!
2) The other discussion was about some salafi students at a Jordanian university who told the teacher, also based on the proposition that there is no majaz, that the “descent” of the Qur’an is a literal, gradual, physical descent through the air, not a metaphorical expression as the great commentators on the Qur’an said. And they said, “If Allah descends, then why can’t the Qur’an?”
So their teacher said to them: Then how do you explain the Hadith Qudsi where Allah ta’alasays: “And if (My servant) comes to Me walking, I will go to him running.”
Does Allah ta’ala physically and literally run to them?
They said:  we cannot deny the word “harwala” (running), or say that it is a metaphor, but we don’t understand how this running happens, as we cannot imagine it!
At this point the Mufti added his observation. He said:
“How could they accept the first part, ‘If he comes to me walking’ in its metaphorical sense, and not as a literal walking toward Allah, and then deny it in the next part, about Allah’s running?”
I thought that was a brilliant answer. May Allah guide us all to correcting our beliefs about Him,subhanahu wa ta’ala.
Just for fun, I will add another story that someone else mentioned today, because it is quite funny.
He said that a Saudi man came into the Masjid Nabawi, in front of the Noble Chamber of the Prophet, salla Allah alayhi wa Alihi wa sallam, and shouted at the people:
“Why are you making requests to the Prophet? Do you think he can help you? Watch this!” Then he took out a pen, and put it on the floor, and began saying: “Ya Muhammad! Give me the pen! Ya Muhammad! I need the pen, can you give it to me?!” Then he said to the people: “See!! Muhammad didn’t give me the pen. That means he can neither harm or benefit anyone!”
At this point a Sudanese man said to him: “Give me the pen”, and put it on the floor, and said:
“Ya Allah! Give me the pen! Ya Allah, please hand me the pen! SubhanAllah, I guess Allah can’t harm or benefit anyone either!”
I end with this aya, for the baraka:
“If only they would be content with what Allah and His Messenger have given them, and say: ‘Allah is enough for us- He will give us some of His bounty and so will His Messenger- to Allah we turn in hope.’” (9:59)
والحمد لله رب العالمين على نعمه كلها
اللهم صل وسلم وبارك على سيدنا ومولانا محمد خير البرية
وعلى آله في كل لمحة ونفس عدد ما وسعه علم الله

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