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Praised Station of the Prophet

Salla lahu alayhi wa'ale hi Wasallam
 


The Prophet’s (saw) Seating on the Throne

(Iq‘âd al-Nabî (s) ‘alâ al-‘Arsh) 

Dr. G. F. Haddad

“Muhammad the Messenger of Allah (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) will be seated by His Lord on the Throne next to Him.” 

  Ibn Taymiyya.
 

“Whoever imagines that our Lord sits on the Throne and leaves space at His side for His Prophet to sit, has followed the Christians who hold that ‘Isa was raised to heaven and sat next to his Father – Allah (swt) is clear of the partnership they ascribe to Him!”
 

Al-Kawthari. 

Allah Most High said, as rendered in the translations of His meanings in the
Qur’an -   (Surah Bani Isra’il – Surah 17:79)

And some part of the night awake for it, a largess for thee.It may be that thy Lord will raise thee to a praised estate.

(Pickthall)
 

And pray in the small watches of the morning: (it would be) an additional prayer (or spiritual profit) for thee : soon will thy Lord raise thee to a station of praise and Glory
.

(Yusuf Ali)
 

And stay awake for prayer during part of the night as a supererogatory action for yourself. It may well be that your Lord will raise you to a Praiseworthy Station.


(Aisha Bewley)
 

And keep vigil for a part of the night, as a supererogatory [devotion] for you. It may be that your Lord will raise you to a praiseworthy station.


(Ali Quli Qarai)
 

And during the night, wake up for Salah of tahajjud , an additional prayer for you. It is very likely that your Lord will place you at Praised Station. 

(Muhammad Taqi Usmani)

It is known that the meaning of the Exalted Station (al-maqâm al-mahmûd) mentioned in the above verse is the granting of the Major Intercession (al-shafâ‘a al-kubrâ) to the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) on the Day of Judgment, at which time “people shall surge like the waves of the sea,” each community begging its Prophet for intercession but only the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) shall accept to undertake it, as expressed in al-Busiri’s poetry:

 
yâ akrama al-khalqi mâ lî man alûdhu bihi
siwâka ‘inda hulûli al-hâdithi al-‘amami 

O noblest of creatures! I have none with whom to seek refuge
other than you when the Universal Event befalls.

Furthermore, Ibn ‘Abbas explained that the formula of likelihood ‘asâ – “It may be” – when attributed to Allah (swt), denotes certainty, as related by al-Bayhaqi and reiterated by the commentators.            

However, several narrations are also adduced whereby the Exalted Station is the seating of the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) by Allah (swt) on the Throne.

The school of Imam Ahmad gave precedence to the latter view as the definitive explanation of the verse, despite the overall weakness of the narrations supporting it.
  

"the scholars of hadith agree that none of the narrations that mention the groaning is authentic."


1.   1.    The “Groaning of the Throne”

 Ibn Mas‘ud (r) related that the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) said: “Verily I shall occupy the Exalted Station.” It was asked: “What is the Exalted Station?” He (salla lahu alayhi wa'ale hi Wasallam) said:
“It is on the day you will be brought barefoot, naked, and uncircumcised; the first to be given a garment will be Ibrahim (As), when Allah (swt) says: ‘Cover my Close Friend.’ He will be presented with two soft, fine garments which he shall wear, and he will be seated opposite the Throne. Then I will be given a garment which I shall wear, after which I shall stand at the right of the Throne. Mine will be station which no one else will share. It will be the ardent desire of the first and the last to share it with me. Then a river will be caused to flow from the Kawthar to my Pond.”
            

It is narrated with weak chains by Ahmad in his Musnad, al-Tabari in his Tafsir, al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak, al-Darimi in his Sunan (book of Riqaq), Abu al-Shaykh in al-‘Azama, and Ibn al-Mundhir. Ahmad and al-Hakim’s narrations begin with the words: Ummukuma fi al-nar – “Your mother [speaking to two brothers] is in the Fire” – while al-Darimi’s narration begins with the words: Dhâka yawmun yanzilu Allâhu ta‘âlâ ‘alâ kursiyyihi ya’itu kama ya’itu al-rahlu al-jadîdu min tadâyuqihi bih – “On that day, Allah shall descend on His Throne which shall groan the way a new saddle does, due to the pressure it will feel from Him.
            

Al-Darimi’s narration is highly questionable from another perspective, namely the anthropomorphism of the explicit attribution of the Throne’s groaning to the pressure of Allah (swt) on it. It is known that all the narrations that mention this “groaning of the Throne” are also weak. They are narrated from five Companions:

-         -          Abu Umama; 
-         -          Abu Musa al-Ash‘ari; 
-         -          ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab; 
-         -          Ibn Mas‘ud, as narrated by the hadith masters already mentioned; 
-         -          Jubayr ibn Mut‘am from his father from his grandfather.            

All the above are narrated with weak or highly problematic chains as shown by Ibn al-Jawzi, al-Dhahabi, and the editors of al-Bayhaqi’s and Ibn Abi ‘Asim’s books although Ibn Taymiyya typically tries to defend the authenticity of the narration of ‘Umar which contains an explicit ascription of sitting to the Creator (swt). The hadith master Ibn ‘Asakir wrote an entire monograph entitled Bayan al-Wahm wa al-Takhlit fi Hadith al-Atit (“The Exposition of Error and Confusion in the Narration of the [Throne’s] Groaning”) as indicated by Ibn Kathir.
            

The narration of Abu Umama states that the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) said: “Ask Allah for al-Firdaws for it is the center of Paradise, and in it is heard the groaning of the Throne (atît al-‘arsh).” Al-Hakim did not claim that it was sound (sahîh) and al-Dhahabi further stated that one of its sub-narrators, Ja‘far ibn al-Zubayr, was “destroyed” (hâlik) as a narrator; al-Tabarani’s chain also con­tains him as stated by al-Haythami in Majma‘ al-Zawa’id, who called him “fatally weak”
(matrûk).
            

The narration of Abu Musa al-Ash‘ari states: “The kursî is the footstool and it groans like a new saddle.” Its chain is weak (da‘îf) as stated by the editor of al-Bayhaqi’s al-Asma’ wa al-Sifat. Even if it were sound, is not traced back to the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) but would be a mawqûf narra­tion halted at Abu Musa (ra) furthermore it is cut up (munqati‘), as the Tâbi‘î who relates it, ‘Umara ibn ‘Umayr, did not meet Abu Musa al-Ash‘ari. Finally, the scholars of hadith agree that none of the narrations that mention the groaning is authentic.

The narration of ‘Umar (ra) states that a woman came to the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) and said: “Supplicate to Allah so that He causes me to enter Paradise.” The Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam)) then glorified Allah and said: “Verily, His Seat of Authority (kursî) encompasses the heavens and the earth, and it groans like the sound of the new saddle when one mounts it, due to the weight pressing down on it.”

Al-
Haythami’s claim that its sub-narrators are all trustworthy is incorrect, as the sub-narrator ‘Abd Allah ibn Khalifa is merely “acceptable” (maqbûl) according to Ibn Hajar, and Ma‘ruf and al-Arna’ut consider him majhûl al-hâl, which further weakens the narration. This means that his narration is not retained except for the purpose of confirming an identical narra­tion with a stronger chain. Furthermore, Ibn Kathir stated there is doubt whether he actually nar­rated from ‘Umar and the hadith would then be narrated with a “cut-up” (munqati‘) chain.
            

As for the text of the hadith itself (matn), it is considered by Ibn Kathir in his Tafsir (1:31, 2:14) as a “strange” or one-chained (gharîb) narration. Ibn Kathir also states that Abu Dawud’s narration from Jabir ibn Mut‘am is “stranger yet.”
            

The narration of Abu Dawud from Jubayr ibn Mut‘am, from his father, from his    
            grandfather, states:

An Arab came to the Messenger of Allah (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) and said: “O Messenger of Allah, people are in distress, the children are hungry, the crops are withered, and the animals are perishing, so Ask Allah to grant us rain, for we seek you as our intercessor with Allah, and Allah as our intercessor with you.” The Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) said: “Woe to you! Do you know what you are saying?” Then the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) glorified Allah and he went on until the effect of his speech showed on the faces of his Companions.
He (saw) then said: “Woe to you! Allah is not to be sought as intercessor with anyone. His state is greater than that. Woe to you! Do you know the greatness of Allah? Truly, His Throne (‘arsh) is on His Heavens like this” – and he formed with his fingers something like a dome over him – “and it groans on account of Him like a saddle groans because of its rider.” Ibn Bashshar added in his version: “Allah (swt) is above His Throne, and His Throne is above His Heavens.”
            

The hadith is graded weak by the author of ‘Awn al-Ma‘bud. Al-Dhahabi terms it an “extremely strange” one-chained narration (gharîb jiddan) and says: “Allah knows best if the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) ever said such a thing or not; Allah –
(there is nothing whatsoever like unto Him) (42:11)!”
We have already mentioned Ibn Kathir’s similar opinion of the hadith. As for its chain of narration, it is de­clared weak by the editors of Ibn Abi ‘Asim’s al-Sunna and al-Ajurri’s al-Shari‘a. This is due to the concealment (tadlîs) of the mode of transmission through ‘an‘ana or undecisive transmission terminology by one of its narrators, Muhammad ibn Ishaq ibn Yasar al-Muttalibi while another narrator, Jubayr ibn Muhammad ibn Jubayr ibn Mut‘am, is merely “acceptable” (maqbûl), which makes him unreliable in a narration that is not independently verifiable. There are other problems with the chain and the text, which Ibn ‘Asakir addresses in Bayan al-Wahm. Ibn al-Qayyim alone claimed that the least grading of this narration was hasan.
  

“The import of the hadith 'and it groans... like a saddle' ...consists in a metaphor to give an idea of the greatness of Allah and make understandable to the questioner...”       Abu Sulayman al-Khattabi            

The hadith master Abu Sulayman al-Khattabi (d. 386) states in his commentary on Abu 
Dawud:  If this discourse is taken in its outward sense, then it suggests modality (kayfiyya), which does not apply to Allah and His Attributes. It is therefore understood that the import of the hadith is not to attribute modality to Him or suggest boundaries to Him in this manner. Rather, it consists in a metaphor (kalâm taqrîb) to give an idea of the greatness of Allah and make understandable to the questioner what is beyond his level of understanding, for he was an uneducated Bedouin unversed in the minutiae of language and the subtleties of speech which elude the mind.

In this discourse, we find ellipsis and allusiveness. Thus the meaning of his saying: “Do you know what Allah is?” means: Do you know the greatness of Allah? and his saying: “It groans under him” means that it is unable to carry His Majesty and Greatness. Thus it groans under him for it is known that the reason a camel saddle groans under the rider is because of the weight of what is on it and its inability to carry it. By drawing this kind of similitude he illustrates the meaning of the Greatness and Might of Allah and the height of His Throne in order for it to be known that the holder of lofty rank, mighty status, and exalted name, is not to be made an intercessor with one who is lesser in position and below Him in degree.
   


“The meaning of the groaning of the kursî is its impotence before the majesty and greatness of Allah” Ibn Jawzi
            

A similar mode of interpretation was adopted by later scholars. Ibn al-Athir (d. 630) in his Nihaya fi Gharîb al-Hadith under the entry “a-t-t” said: “There is no actual groaning, it is only a metaphorical expression in order to confirm Divine magnificence” (wa in lam yakun thamma atît wa innamâ huwa kalâmu taqrîb urîda bihi taqrîru ‘azamat Allâh ta‘âlâ). Ibn al-Jawzi (d. 597) stated something identical in his Daf‘ Shubah al-Tashbih:
 
The meaning of the groaning of the kursî is its impotence before the majesty and greatness of Allah, as it is known that the groaning of the camel saddle under its rider is an indication of the power of what sits on top of it, or its impotence to bear it. The Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) drew this kind of simile for Divine greatness and majesty in order to teach the Arab who had sought the intercession of Allah (swt) with the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) that the One whose great­ness is overwhelming is not to be sought as an intercessor with those under His station. As for al-Qadi Abu Ya‘la’s words: “The groaning is because of the pressure of the Essence of Allah on it” – this is overt anthropomorphism.            

Al-Dhahabi eludes the issue by stating that the groaning of the Throne is unrelated to the Divine Names and Attributes but would be similar to the shaking of the Throne at the death of Sa‘d ibn Mu‘adh (as narrated by al-Bukhari and Muslim) and the cleaving of the heaven on the Day of Resurrection
. Al-Suyuti mentioned Abu Musa al-Ash‘ari’s narration in al-Durr al-Manthur and said: “This is a metaphor (hâdha ‘alâ sabîl al-isti‘âra). This [metaphorical] meaning is made clear by Ibn Jarir’s narration from al-Dahhak whereby ‘The kursî is placed below the Throne and is where the angels stand.’” Al-Suyuti’s elucidation is confirmed by what al-Qurtubi quoted from Ibn ‘Atiyya in his Tafsir of the Verse of the Throne whereby the meaning was that the kursî was placed in front of the ‘arsh “just like” the footstool is placed in front of a high chair, indicating that it did not necessitate reference to an actual footstool but referred, for example, to a seat or station. Al-Bayhaqi states the same.

“As for al-Qadi Abu Ya‘la’s words: ‘The groaning is because of the pressure of the Essence of Allah on it’ – this is overt anthropomorphism”

Ibn Jawzi
            

It is evident that the authorities considered the narrations of the groaning of the Throne as weak and their texts as “strange” and one-chained in their transmission. They held that even if such narrations were to be accepted, nevertheless their meaning would be understood as metaphorical in order to preclude anthropomorphism. The meaning of the Throne’s groaning would then be its impotence before Divine Majesty and Greatness or its submission to its Creator.
            

A further problem of some of these narrations, such as those cited in al-‘Ilal al-Mutanahiya by Ibn al-Jawzi from his shaykh Ibn al-Zaghuni, is their mention that Allah (swt) “sits on the kursî so that only four spans of it remain vacant” (ma yafdalu minhu illâ qadaru arba‘i asâbi‘). This is a commonplace of anthropomorphism. The earliest compiler of Ahmad ibn Hanbal’s jurisprudence, al-Khallal, in his book al-Sunna, after stating that Allah (swt) sits on the kursî and there remains only four spans vacant, goes on to narrate over a hundred pages of weak and forged reports to that effect, finally claiming that whoever denies Mujahid’s report is a follower of Jahm ibn Safwan! This is an extremely grave charge in view of the status of Jahmis as apostates in the eyes of Imam Ahmad and his school
.


1.    2.    An Unverified Narration From Ibn ‘Umar


 
Ibn ‘Umar (Ra) related that the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) recited: “It may be that your Lord shall raise you to an Exalted Station” and that [it meant] Allah would seat him on the dais (yujlisuhu ‘alâ al-sarîr).             It is narrated by Ibn Marduyah in his Tafsir as stated by al-Suyuti in his commentary on the verse in al-Durr al-Manthur. The authenticity of this narration is not known and its wording departs from all the other narrations, though not its meaning.  



2.   
3.    Another Unverified Narration From Ibn ‘Umar


 
The same as above is also narrated from Ibn ‘Umar, but with the wording: “Allah shall seat me with Him on the Throne (al-sarîr).”            

Al-Suyuti cited it in al-Durr al-Manthur and said: “Narrated by al-Daylami.” The authenticity of this narration is not known, and Daylami (d. 509) did not give his chain when citing the hadith.

In such cases the rule is to consider the narration weak, as stated by al-Suyuti in his introduction to Jam‘ al-Jawami‘, also known as al-Jami‘ al-Kabir, as quoted by Muttaqi al-Hindi at the opening of Kanz al-‘Ummal:
 Everything that I reference to these four [al-‘Uqayli in al-Du‘afa’, Ibn ‘Adi in al-Kamil fi al-Du‘afa’, al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, and Ibn ‘Asakir], or to al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi in Nawadir al-Usul, or to al-Hakim in his Tarikh, or to al-Daylami in Musnad al-Firdaws: all that is weak (fa huwa da‘îf), and it is therefore unnecessary, when referencing a narration back to one of them, to state explicitly that that narration is weak.  



3.  
4.    A Narration From Ibn ‘Abbas

 
From Ibn ‘Abbas (Ra): “[The meaning of] the verse [of the Exalted Station] is that Allah (swt) shall seat the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) between Him and Gibrîl (as), and he will intercede for his Community. That is the Praiseworthy Station.”            

Al-Suyuti cited it in al-Durr al-Manthur and said: “Narrated by al-Tabarani.” Al-Haythami said in Majma‘ al-Zawa’id (book of Tafsir on Surat al-Isra’): “Al-Tabarani narrated it with a chain containing Ibn Lahi‘a who is weak if no-one else narrated the same hadith at his level of the chain (idhâ lam yutâba‘). As for [one of its sub-narrators, the Tâbi‘î] ‘Ata’ ibn Dinar (d. 126), it is said he did not actually hear narrations from [the next link in the chain, the Tâbi‘î] Sa‘id ibn Jubayr (d. 94).” Ibn Hajar specifies that ‘Ata’s narrations from Sa‘id are from reading rather than hearing. The chain of this hadith would then be weak and cut-up (da‘îf munqati‘) as confirmed by Ma‘ruf and al-Arna’ut’s comments
.
 

“One of the most reprehensible matters that came from Mujahid . . . [is]: ‘He will seat the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) with Him on the Throne’” Al-Dhahabi
 
 


4.   
5.    Mujahid’s Controverted Narration


 
From Mujahid: “The saying of Allah: [It may be that your Lord will raise you to an Exalted Station] (17:79) means: He will seat the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) with Him on His Throne (yujlisuhu ma‘ahu ‘alâ ‘arshihi).”            

Al-Dhahabi cited the above in his notice on Mujahid with dismay: “One of the most reprehensible matters that came from Mujahid in his commentary of the Qur’an is what he said concerning the verse
[It may be that thy Lord will raise you to an Exalted Station] – he said: ‘He will seat the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) with Him on the Throne’ (wa min ankari mâ jâ’a ‘an mujâhidin fî al-tafsîri fî qawlihi ‘asâ an yab‘athaka rabbuka maqâman mahmûdanqâla: yujlisuhu ma‘ahu ‘alâ al-‘arsh!).            

Ibn Abi ‘Asim (d. 287) narrated Mujahid’s hadith in his book al-Sunna, edited by M. Nasir al-Albani who said: “Its chain is weak and severed (maqtû‘).”This chain is as follows: Ibn Abi ‘Asim said: < Abu Bakr ibn Abi Shayba narrated to us: < Ibn Fudayl narrated to us, < From Layth, < From Mujahid.
            

Al-Suyuti also cited Mujahid’s report in al-Durr al-Manthur and said that it was narrated by Ibn Jarir al-Tabari. We cite al-Tabari’s narration and his commentary further below.
 


“This [groaning of the Throne] is a metaphor” Al-Suyuti
 
 



1.   6.    A Narration From ‘A’isha


Ibn al-Jawzi in the thirthy-ninth hadith of his Daf‘ Shubah al-Tashbih mentions that Sayyidina A’isha (Ra) asked the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) about the Exalted Station and he (saw) replied: “My Lord promised to seat me on the Throne.” Ibn al-Jawzi said: “This narration is not authentic from the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam).”  


2.  
7.
    A Narration From ‘Abd Allahbn Salam


 
Ibn Abi ‘Asim said:  
Muhammad ibn Abi Safwan al-Thaqafi narrated to us:
           
Yahya ibn Kathir Abu Ghassan al-‘Anbari narrated to us:
           
Salm ibn Ja‘far narrated to us:
           
From [Abu Mas‘ud] Sa‘id al-Jariri who said:
           
Sayf al-Sadusi narrated to us:
            
From ‘Abd Allah ibn Salam who said: “On the Day of Resurrection your Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) shall be brought and he shall be made to sit in front of Allah the Almighty, on His Throne” (yuq‘adu bayna yaday Allâhi ‘alâ kursiyyihi).

One of the sub-narrators, Salm ibn Ja‘far, said to the one previous to him in the chain of transmission, Abu Mas‘ud al-Jariri: “If he is on His kursî, then, surely, he is with Him [rather than in front of Him]?” (idhâ kâna ‘alâ kursiyyihi fa huwa ma‘ahu?). Abu Mas‘ud replied: “Woe to you all! This is the dearest of all hadiths in my sight.”
 
            

The narration reports Salm ibn Ja‘far’s distinction between the terms “in front of Allah” and “on His Throne” which seems to presuppose that Allah (swt) is on the Throne in the anthropomorphist sense. To Salm, the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) is either “in front of Allah” or “on His Throne,” but he cannot be both at the same time. Abu Mas‘ud’s curt reply shows that Salm was not alone in observing this. However, there is no discrepancy, as the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) can be both on the Throne of Allah (swt) and in front of Him at one and the same time; Salm ibn Ja‘far’s premise is far from necessary, hence Abu Mas‘ud’s displeasure. The apparent confusion is lifted even further if one remembers that kursî in the narrations either means the Throne, or another throne next to it, or the Footstool or Station which is in front of the Throne. An example of the first meaning is al-Darimi’s narration mentioned in Section 1; an example of the second, al-Hakim’s authentic narration in Section 7; an example of the third, the narration of Ibn ‘Abbas: “The kursî is the footstool.” 
  


3.    
8.    Another Narration From ‘Abd Allah ibn Salam


 
From ‘Abd Allahbn Salam, in a long hadith on the Day of Judgment: “A seat (kursî) will be placed for the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) on the right of Allah (swt).” 

 
This narration from the same Companion as the previous one is therefore clearer with respect to meaning and more reliable with respect to transmis­sion. Both this and the previous narration, although stopped at a Com­panion (mawqûf), would normally have the status of narra­tions traced back to the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) (marfû‘) since they give depic­tions of the unseen which are not subject to a Companion’s opinion but necessarily come from him as a transmitted report. Yet the hadith scholars have drawn atten­tion to ‘Abd Allahbn Salam as one of the Companions who frequently report narrations from the People of the Book (isrâ’îliyyât). Because of this, they have refrained from giving his mawqûf reports – and those of ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘As – the status of marfû‘ unless independently confirmed.
Similar caution applies to the Successors Ka‘b al-Ahbar and Wahb ibn Munabbih
.             

These narrations bring to three the reported positions of the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) in the different versions of the hadith of the seating: On the Throne, in front of the Throne, and to the right of the Throne. The first is itself divided into two versions: alone, or “with Allah.” The latter is obviously the most controverted version
.


1.   
9.
    Al-Tabari’s Defense of Mujahid’s Narration

Imam al-Tabari said in his Tafsir: Others said [concerning the verse of the Exalted Station]: “Rather [than meaning Intercession], that Praiseworthy Station to which Allah has promised to raise His Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) is the fact that He shall seat him with Him on His Throne!”            

Following is the mention of those who said this:
           
‘Abbad ibn Ya‘qub al-Asadi  said to us:
  
         
Ibn Fudayl  said to us:
           
From Layth:
           
From Mujahid:
     
       
“Concerning the saying of Allah:
[It may be that you Lord will raise you to an Exalted Station] – He shall make him sit with Him on His Throne (yujlisuhu ma‘ahu ‘alâ ‘arshihi).    
        
But of the two explanations concerning this question the likelier to be correct is that supported by the authentic report from the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) such as the following from Abu Hurayra:
   
         
Abu Kurayb  said to us:
           
Waki‘ said to us:
           
From Dawud ibn Yazid:
           
From his father [Yazid ibn ‘Abd al-Rahman]:
           
From Abu Hurayra:
           

The Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) was asked about the verse:
 “It may be that thy Lord will raise you to an Exalted Station” and he said: “That is intercession” (hiya al-shafâ‘a).            
Al-Tabari then goes on to mention nine more narrations supporting the latter interpretation of the verse. However, far from rejecting Mujahid’s narration, he returns to discuss it and defends its authenticity:
 Even if [the meaning of Intercession] is the sound position (al-sahîh min al-qawl) in the interpretation [of the Exalted Station] due to what we mentioned from the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam), the Companions, and the Successors – nevertheless, what Mujahid said to the effect that Allah (swt) shall seat Sayyidina Muhammad (salla lahu alayhi wa;ale hi wasallam) on His Throne is a position that is by no means unsound whether from the perspective of narration or from that of reason.  For there is no report from the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) nor from any of the Companions nor Successors precluding it. As for the perspective of reason, those who profess (yantahil) Islam differ on its meaning in only three ways:

·      One group said: “Allah (swt) is separate (bâ’in) from His creation. He was before He created things; then He created them without entering into contact with them; and He is exactly as He ever was. However, with regard to the things He created, since He is not in contact (mumâss) with them, it is obligatory that He be separate from them. For there is no effecter (fa‘‘âl) upon things but he is either in contact with them or separate from them.”            

According to that group, since Allah (swt)is the Effecter of things, and since they say that it is impermissible to describe Him as being in contact with them, it is therefore incumbent – so they claim – that He be separate from them. According to their school, it follows that it is the same whether He seats Sayyidina Muhammad (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) on His Throne or on the ground. For it results from their position that His “separateness” (baynûna) from His Throne and “separateness” from the ground are one and the same in meaning: He is equally separate from both, equally in contact with neither.
 

·
     
Another group said: “Allah Almighty was, before He created things, in contact with nothing and separate from nothing. Then He created things and brought them into existence through His power, remaining exactly as He ever was before He created things, in contact with nothing, separate (bâ’in) from nothing.”            

According to that group’s position also, it is equally the same whether He seats Sayyidina Muhammad (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasalam) on His Throne or on His ground. For, according to them, it is the same regarding His Throne or His ground in that He is in contact with neither, and He is separate from neither (la mumâss wa la mubâyin).
 

·
     
A third group said: “Allah Almighty was, before He created things, in contact with nothing and separate from nothing. Then He brought things into being and created them. At that time He created for Himself a Throne over which He established Himself by sitting (istawâ ‘alayhi jâlisan), and He entered into contact with it (sâra lahu mumâssan). This is just as, before He created things, there was nothing to which He granted sustenance and nothing of which He deprived it; then He created things and gave this one sustenance and deprived that one of it, giving to this one and withholding from that one. Similarly He was, before creating things, in contact with nothing and separate from nothing, then He created things and became in contact with the Throne by sitting on it as opposed to the remainder of creation. Therefore, He is in contact with whatever He wishes from His creation, and He is separate from whatever He wishes from His creation.”  

According to the school of that group also, it is the same whether He seats Sayyidina Muhammad (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) on His Throne or on a pulpit of light, for they also say that “the Lord’s sitting on the Throne does not occupy the entirety of the Throne;” and [they say], similarly, that the seating of Sayyidina Muhammad (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) does not necessitate for him the attribute of lordship, nor does it bring him out of that of servanthood; just as the separateness of Sayyidina Muhammad (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) from whatever is separate from him, neither necessitates lordship for him nor brings him out of servanthood on the sole grounds that he is separate from it. 

 
According to that line of thinking, just as Allah (swt) is described as separate from things, similarly, the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) is described as separate from the Throne.  They arrive at the conclusion that since the meaning of “being separate” does not necessarily preclude from the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) the attribute of servanthood nor impose lordship upon him, similarly, his seating on the Throne of the Merciful does not necessitate either of the above for him.
 

In conclusion, it is clear that, as we said before, what Mujahid said is not impossible, according to all those who profess Islam, namely: that Allah (swt) shall seat the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) on His Throne.            

Now if someone should say: “We do not deny the seating of the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) by Allah (swt) on His Throne [since it is related]… from ‘Abd Allah ibn Salam: ‘Verily, on the Day of Resurrection, Sayyidina Muhammad (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) shall be on the Lord’s Throne (kursî al-Rabb), in front of the Lord (bayna yaday al-Rabb).’ All that we deny is that He seat him with Him.” We can reply to him: “Do you allow that He seats him on it but not with Him?” If he allows that, then he also concurs that either he is with Him [on the Throne], or that He seats him while being separate from [the Throne], or not in contact with it, or neither in contact nor separate. Whichever of these alternatives he concedes he will have accepted part of what he previously denied. But if he disallows it then he will be diverging from all the different groups whose positions we mentioned, and that is a divergence from all those that profess Islam; for there is no other position than the three we have cited– none of them considering what Mujahid said to be impossible.
            

Al-Tabari’s view that both interpretations stand is confirmed by Mujahid himself, from whom is also reported the exegesis narrated by Abu Hurayra, as found in Tafsir Mujahid:
            

‘Abd al-Rahman [ibn al-Hasan al-Hamadhani] told us:
           
Ibrahim [ibn al-Husayn al-Hamadhani] narrated to us:
           
Adam [ibn Abi Iyas] narrated to us:
           
Warqa’ [ibn ‘Umar] narrated to us,
           
From [‘Abd Allah] Ibn Abi Najih,
           
From Mujahid:
             [Concerning the verse] “It may be that your Lord shall raise you to an Exalted Station” Mujahid said: “The Exalted Station is the intercession of Sayyidina Muhammad (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam).”

9a.    Another Position Related from al-Tabari            

An incident was related to have taken place between al-Tabari and some Hanbalis in Baghdad over the explanation of the verse of the Exalted Station whereby al-Tabari reportedly recited:
                        

subhana man laysa lahu anisun wa ma lahu fi ‘arshihi jalisu
                       
Glory to Him Who has no comrade
                                     
                     nor companion sitting with Him on His Throne!
            

Hearing this, the account goes, the irate Hanbalis pelted al-Tabari with their inkwells and he sought shelter in his house. The report seems dubious in light of the above-cited defense by al-Tabari, in his Tafsir, of Mujahid’s narration Furthermore, al-Suyuti’s report is not found anywhere else. What is well-established is that the Hanbalis persecuted al-Tabari for failing to mention Imam Ahmad in his book Ikhtilaf al-Fuqaha’. Another reason mentioned by al-Dhahabi, was the antagonism between al-Tabari and the Hanbali Abu Bakr ibn Abi Dawud, who falsely accused him of being a Râfidî.
  

1.   10.           Al-Qurtubi’s Commentary


 
‘As for the term “with Him” used in Mujahid’s [first] report, it is in the same category as the saying of Allah: (Verily, those that are with your Lord) (7:206), or: (O my Lord! Build for me with You a house in Paradise) (66:11) and similar statements.

All of these signify rank, status, pre-eminence, and an exalted station – not a location’ 
                                                

Imam al-Qurtubi
  

Imam al-Qurtubi commented thus on the verse of the Exalted Station in his Tafsir:
 The third explanation of this verse is what al-Tabari reported from a party of scholars – among them Mujahid – whereby “the Exalted Station is the seating by Allah (swt) of the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) with Him on His Throne (kursiyyih).” They narrated a hadith to that effect, and al-Tabari backed up the possibility (jawâz) of such a thing with some extravagant statements (shatatin min al-qawl). However, what he said cannot be inferred [from the verse] except with over-subtlety as to meaning (al-talattuf bi al-ma‘nâ), and it is far-fetched (fîhi bu‘d). This is not to say that there is no such narration; only that [one endowed with] knowledge interprets it figuratively (al-‘ilmu yata’awwaluhu).            

Abu Sa‘id al-Naqqash mentioned from Abu Dawud al-Sijistani: “Whoever denies this hadith, we strongly condemn him. The scholars of knowledge never stopped narrating this hadith. Who among them ever denied its possibility, even as he interpreted it?”
             Abu ‘Umar [Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr] said: “Concerning Mujahid – although he is one of the major scholars, nevertheless he interprets away the Qur’an. There are two sayings of his which the people of knowledge have strongly rejected: one of them is this saying; the other is his interpretation of the verses: (On that day will faces be resplendent, looking towards their Lord) (75:22-23) as meaning: waiting for their reward, not actually looking.” He [Abu ‘Umar] mentioned that in his chapter on Ibn Shihab in the discussion of the hadith of “descent” (nuzûl).            

Also narrated from Mujahid in explanation of the verse [of the Exalted Station] is his saying: “Allah will seat him on the Throne” (yujlisuhu ‘alâ al-‘arsh). This is not an impossible interpretation. For Allah (swt) existed and was Self-Sufficient (qâ’im bi dhâtihi) before He created any object, including the Throne. Then He created objects, not out of need for them, but to show His power and wisdom, and in order that His existence be known as well as His Oneness, absolute might, and all-encompassing knowledge in all the acts He decrees. [Among these objects] He created for Himself a Throne over which He elevated Himself in the way that He wished, without contact with the Throne (min ghayri an sâra lahu mumâssan) and without the Throne becoming a place (makân) for Him. In this respect it is also said: “He is now exactly as He was before He created place and time.”
             On that basis it is the same, with respect to possibility, whether Allah (subhana hu wa ta’ala) seats the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) on the Throne or on the ground. For His elevation over the Throne is not in the sense of displacement (intiqâl), removal (zawâl), nor change of position from standing to sitting, nor any state or condition to which the Throne itself is subject. Rather, He is elevated over the Throne in the way He has stated concerning Himself, without saying how. Nor does His seating of the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) on the Throne impose upon the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) the attribute of Lordship or move him out of that of servanthood. Rather, it consists in an elevation because of his status, and an honor bestowed upon him because of his sublime character. Salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam            

As for the term “with Him” used in Mujahid’s [first] report, it is in the same category as the saying of Allah:
(Verily, those that are with your Lord) (7:206), or: (O my Lord! Build for me with You a house in Paradise) (66:11) and similar statements. All of these signify rank, status, pre-eminence, and an exalted station – not a location.
  

2.   11.           Al-Ash‘ari’s Dismissal


 
Imam Al-Ash‘ari stated the following in the chapter on anthropomorphists (al-Mujassima) in his book Maqalat al-Islamiyyin: “Some of those who profess (yantahil) the science of hadith said: ‘The Throne is not filled by Allah, because He makes His Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) sit with Him on the Throne.’”            

The word “profess” constitutes a tacit dismissal of those who used Mujahid’s narration to support the concept of the physical togetherness (ma‘iyya) of the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) with Allah (swt) on the Throne, particularly those in the Hanbali school, where some scholars have turned this position into a lithmus-test of belief, as shown by al-Khallal’s al-Sunna and in the following sections.
  

3.     12.           Ibn al-Qayyim’s List of Supporters


 
Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya said in his Bada’i‘ al-Fawa’id: Al-Qadi [Ibn Abi Ya‘la] said: “Al-Marwazi compiled a book on the superlative merits of the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) in which he mentioned his seating (iq‘âduhu) on the Throne (al-‘arsh).” Al-Qadi further said: “This is the position of Abu Dawud, Ahmad ibn Asram, Yahya ibn Abi Talib, Abu Bakr ibn Hammad, Abu Ja‘far al-Dimashqi, ‘Abbas al-Duri, Ishaq ibn Rahuyah (or Rahawayh), ‘Abd al-Wahhab al-Warraq, Ibrahim al-Asbahani,  Ibrahim al-Harbi, Harun ibn Ma‘ruf, Muhammad ibn Isma‘il al-Sulami, Muhammad ibn Mus‘ab al-‘Abid, Abu Bakr ibn Sadaqa, Muhammad ibn Bishr ibn Sharik, Abu Qilaba, ‘Ali ibn Sahl, Abu ‘Abd Allahbn ‘Abd al-Nur, Abu ‘Ubayd, al-Husayn ibn Fadl, Harun ibn al-‘Abbas al-Hashimi, Isma‘il ibn Ibrahim al-Hashimi, Muham­mad ibn ‘Imran al-Farisi al-Zahid, Muhammad ibn Yunus al-Basri, ‘Abd Allahbn Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Marwazi, and Bishr al-Hafi.”             I say: It is also the position of Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, and the leader of all the above in this is Mujahid, the imam of Qur’anic commentary. It is also Abu al-Hasan al-Daraqutni’s who said:                        

The hadith of Intercession narrated by Ahmad
                       
Is traced back to the Elect, Ahmad.
                       
Also known to us is the hadith of his seating
                       
On the Throne, therefore do not deny it.
                       
Let the hadith pass exactly as narrated,
                       
And do not enter into false notions.
                       
Neither deny that the Prophet salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam
                        sits on the Throne,                       
Nor deny that Allah makes him sit there!
            

The book of al-Marwazi mentioned by Ibn Abi Ya‘la gave rise to serious confrontations in Baghdad around the question of the Prophet’s (salla lahu alayh wa’ale hi wasallam) seating on the Throne. Ibn al-Athir relates:
 That year, a terrible dissension took place in Baghdad between the followers of the Hanbali Abu Bakr al-Marwazi and others of the common folk, and the police had to intervene in large numbers. The reason was that al-Marwazi’s followers said, in explanation of the verse: “It may be that thy Lord will raise you to an Exalted Station,” that it meant Allah would seat the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) with Him on the Throne. The other group said that it only meant the Intercession. Dissension ensued and they fell upon one another, and there were many dead.            

Ibn al-Qayyim’s report that this was the position of al-Tabari suggests that he and al-Qurtubi’s were looking at a common source and that al-Tabari held two opinions on the question, one in support of Mujahid’s narration, as mentioned by Qurtubi, Ibn al-Qayyim, and Ibn Taymiyya, the other opposing it, as men­tioned by al-Birzali and al-Suyuti.
            

It is evident that Ibn al-Qayyim collects as many Hanbali authorities as he can find in support of the narration of the seating. Yet he omits to mention Abu Muhammad al-Barbahari, Abu Bakr al-Najjad, Ibn Batta – al­though Ibn Abi Ya‘la mentions all three supported it in his Tabaqat – and his own teacher Ibn Taymiyya.
            

Ibn al-Qayyim also avoids the distinction between Mujahid’s version mentioning “sitting with Allah” and other versions mentioning simply “sit­ting.” He merely wishes to show that all these authorities supported the lat­ter, and cautiously sidesteps the thorny issue raised by al-Qurtubi in his discussion of the verse of the Exalted Station.
  


4.    
13.           Al-Barbahari’s Idée Fixe


 
Ibn Abi Ya‘la relates in his Tabaqat that the Hanbali shaykh Abu Muhammad al-Barbahari never sat to teach except he mentioned that the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) sits next to Allah (swt) on the Throne. 


1.   14.           Al-Najjad’s Attack on “Anyone That Contradicts Us”


 
Ibn Abi Ya‘la wrote the following in his chapter on Abu Bakr al-Najjad in Tabaqat al-Hanabila: ‘Ali narrated to me from Ibn Batta:Abu Bakr al-Najjad told us:  

(1) Harun ibn al-‘Abbas told us:
           
Muhammad ibn Bishr told us:
           
‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Sharik told us:
           
My father told me:
           
Abu Yahya al-Qattat told us,
           
From Mujahid:
– Also –           

(2) Mu‘adh ibn al-Muthanna told us:
           
Khallad ibn Aslam said:
           
Muhammad ibn Fadl  told us,
           
From Layth,
           
From Mujahid:

Concerning the verse: “It may be that thy Lord will raise you to an Exalted Station”: “He will seat him with Him on the Throne” (yujlisuhu ma‘ahu ‘alâ al-‘arsh).

Al-Najjad said: “I also asked [about it] Abu Yahya al-Naqid, Ya‘qub al-Mutawwa‘i,  ‘Abd Allah ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal, and a group of our shaykhs, and they narrated to me the hadith of Muham­mad ibn Fudayl from Layth from Mujahid.             “I also asked Abu al-Hasan al-‘Attar about it, and he narrated to me the hadith of Mujahid. Then he said: ‘I heard Muhammad ibn Mus‘ab al-‘Abid say: “[The Prophet’s (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) seating on the Throne will take place] in order for all creation to see his station before his Lord, and his Lord’s generosity towards him. Then the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) shall retire to his apartments and gardens and wives, and alone shall remain Allah in His Lordship (yanfaridu ‘azza wa jalla bi rubûbiyyatihi).”            


“I also looked into the book of Ahmad ibn al-Hajjaj al-Marwazi, who is our Imam and guide and proof in this. In that book I found what he mentioned concerning the rejection of the hadiths of ‘Abd Allah ibn Salam and Mujahid, and he listed the names of the shaykhs who criticized those who rejected these hadiths or objected to them.
            

“Therefore, what we declare and believe before Allah Almighty is what we have just described and made clear concerning the meanings of the hadiths quoted from the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) with an uninterrupted chain (al-ahadith al-musnada ‘an rasul Allah), and what was said by ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abbas and the scholars after him, which was handed down from elder to elder and from age to age until our shaykhs’ time concerning the saying of Allah: [It may be that your Lord will raise you to an Exalted Station]:

the Exalted Station consists in the seating of the Prophet
(salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) with his Lord on the Throne.  

Whoever denies this or contradicts it is only attempting to promote the sayings of the Jahmis. He should be avoided, exposed, and warned against.            

“Similarly, I was told by Abu Bakr the writer, from Abu Dawud al-Sijistani, that the latter said: ‘Whoever rejects the hadith of Mujahid is a Jahmi.’
 
           

“Furthermore, Muhammad ibn Suhayb and a group of our shaykhs narrated to us from Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Malik al-Daqiqi that he said: ‘I first heard this hadith fifty years ago, and I never heard anyone deny it. Only Jahmi heretics reject it.’
 
           

“Abu Isma‘il al-Sulami mentioned to us the case of al-Tirmidhi who rejected the pre-eminence of the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) and belittled him. Of such a man he said: ‘He does not believe in the Day of Judgment.’ I have seen our shaykhs among the friends of Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal give the same verdict. They condemned whoever rejected such pre-eminence. Allah has made this condemnation clear in the words of the scholars as far back as one can see. The people have all met this with approval, and no-one denies this nor disputes it.
            

“Such is also my position. And should one swear a triple divorce by the seating by Allah (swt) of the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) on the Throne with Him, then consult me on the validity of his oath, I would say: Your words are true, your oath binding, and the divorce stands.
  “That is our doctrine, our religion, our belief upon which we were raised and upon which we shall die if Allah wills. We categorically condemn whoever rejects this pre-eminence to which the scholars referred and which they met with acceptance. Whoever rejects it is from the sects that are bound for destruction.”  


1.     15.           Ibn Batta’s Doctrine


 
Ibn Batta stated in his book al-Sharh wa al-Ibana ‘ala Usul al-Sunna wa al-Diyana (“Elaboration of the Principles of Sunni Doctrine”): The Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) shall be seated on the Throne with his Lord (yujlas ma‘a rabbihi ‘alâ al-‘arsh), and this privilege belongs to no-one else. Thus did Nafi‘ narrate it from Ibn ‘Umar from the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) concerning the verse: “It may be that thy Lord will raise you to an Exalted Station” – he said that He shall seat him with Him on the Throne. Thus also did Mujahid explain it, as narrated by Muhammad ibn Fudayl, from al-Layth, from Mujahid.  


2.    
16.           Ibn Taymiyya’s Inheritance


 
Ibn Taymiyya wrote: The scholars recognized by Allah and His accepted Friends have narrated that Sayyidina Muhammad the Messenger of Allah (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) will be seated by His Lord on the Throne next to Him.             Muhammad ibn Fudayl narrated this from Layth from Mujahid in the commentary of the verse: “It may be that your Lord will raise you to an Exalted Station.” This was also mentioned through other chains, some traced back to the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) and some not.            

Ibn Jarir [al-Tabari] said: “This does not contradict the nearly-mass-narrated narrations (ma istafâdat bihi al-ahâdith) whereby the Exalted Station is the Intercession as agreed upon by the Imams of all Muslims.” He does not say that the Prophet’s (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) seating on the Throne is denounced as false; only some Jahmis held it so. Nor is it objectionable to mention it in the context of a commentary on the verse.
            

As we have mentioned before, Ibn Taymiyya’s student al-Dhahabi dismissed the report as “condemned” (munkar). It is also remarkable that Ibn Taymiyya, like his Hanbali predecessors, refuses to acknowledge the inauthenticity of the chains of the narrations he refers to, especially those he says are traced back to the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam).
            

Hajji Khalifa said: “Ibn Taymiyya authored a book entitled al-‘Arsh in which he stated that Allah (swt) sits on the kursî and leaves some space vacant for the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam) to sit next to Him. Abu Hayyan al-Andalusi mentioned it in [his Qur’anic commentary entitled] al-Nahr and said that he read it in Ibn Taymiyya’s own handwriting.”
 

And Allah (azza wal jal) Most High knows best.
 Blessings and greetings of Allah on the Prophet (salla lahu alayhi wa’ale hi wasallam), his Family and Companions.