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I stumbled upon this description of Allah by 'Ali bin Abi Talib and wanted to know if it is regarded as valid by Sunni Muslims:

Imam 'Ali bin Abi Talib, the great jurist, said the following in response to their questions:

O Assembly of Jews, listen to me. Do not be concerned about asking anyone but me in this affair.
My Lord – Mighty and Majestic – He is the First, without beginning
He is neither intermingled with His Creation
Nor is He in a state in between that
He is not a ghost or spirit that is remote
He is not remote where He does not know His Creation
He did not appear at some point where it could be said He is created
No, Majestic is He that He be decribed in this way when He has given all things their shape
He has always been and does not change through time
He was – when there was no thing – without time or place
And He is now as He ever was!
He is not distracted by different affairs
How can He be decribed as are ghosts and how can He be truly praised by people?
How can this be when He is not within things so as to be called separate?
He is without likeness and how yet He is closer to you than your jugular vein!
He is as far as can be from any likeness with the creation
The slightest thing from His Creation is not hidden from Him
Whether it is the slightest statement off the tongue, the hidden action or the single footstep
In the great shadows of the night, the shining of the moon, the brightness of the sun, nothing is hidden from Him when He is the source of light for all things.
He surrounds all in His Creation, whether it is the sudden onset of night or the sudden brightness of the day without His being encompassed by the creation.
He knows about every place and all of what is and will be
And also the end of all things that are to come
Time and ending is something that has been given to the creation.
Limits are only attributed to created things and not Him.
He did not create the things from the foundations of eternity where they always existed
Nor did He create from existing things already present.
No! Rather He created what He made and established its’ creation from nothing.
He gave shape and good form to everything.
He is One and Unique in His Oneness
There is nothing the creation can do that can harm Him and there is no way the creation can benefit Him
He is quick to answer the supplications of those that call upon Him
Yes, indeed the angels in the skies and earths obey Him.
His knowledge of all that has died or ceased is just as full as His knowledge of all things living and what is in the highest skies.
The same holds true for His knowledge in every thing and all the voices and languages do not confuse or baffle Him.
He hears all the different voices and languages without limbs or organs
Indeed He is the Designer and the All Seeing, The Knower of all affairs, All Living, Self Sufficient
Glorified be He, He spoke to Musa directly without the need of limbs and instruments, lips or throat.
Glorified and Exalted is He from having a similarity like the creations.
Whoever claims that Our God has boundaries, then He does not know the Creator that is worshipped
The same is said of the one who says that the places encompass Him
This claim means that He is mingled with and contained by the creation!
No, He surrounds and encompasses every place.
The one that claims He is surrounded by His Creation when he describes the Most Merciful while He has no revelation or text to prove this, I have this question for him:
Describe for me (angel) Jibril, Mika’il, Israfil! Go ahead! I defy you to do so!
Are you then unable to describe what is a creation like you?
Are you unable to describe just a creation when you describe the Creator with form and organs, this same One who is neither overtaken by sleep nor slumber!
This is the same One who owns all that is in the skies and the earths, what is between them! He is the Lord of the Glorious Throne!

Sourced from: SplendidPearls.org, 2013.

It is contained in a 'book of saints', Hilyat ul- Awliya wa Tabaqat-ul-Asfiya (حلية الأولياء وطبقات الأصفياء) volume 1, pages 72-73, written by Imam Abu Nu`aym Ahmad Asfahani أبو نعيم الأصبهاني who lived in 336AH - 430AH.

Source:

Are there any other recorded instances of this description? How do we know that Ali really said this, and that this was not something later Muslims attributed to him.

  • I don't know how Sunnis view this. But these descriptions fully resonate with descriptions attributed to Ali ibn Abi Talib in Shia sources such as Nahj al-Baligha and Usul al-Kafi. – infatuated Feb 7 '17 at 9:44
  • This needs a Hadith science researcher to verify the authenticity of the sanad (series of narrators) as well as the matn (body) of this narration (unless somebody has already done so). – Tamer Shlash Feb 7 '17 at 13:21
  • @TamerShlash nope it would need somebody who has knowledge in 'ilm al-Kalam or theology ('Aqidah: Ash'arite, Maturidi, Salafi ...)! As OP isn't interested in the authenticity of that statement. – Medi1Saif Feb 7 '17 at 13:27
  • @Medi1Saif I agree, but IMHO the best way to give an answer here is to bring what scholars said about that narration and it's narrators. If it's already a weak narration, why even bother discussing it's validity? – Tamer Shlash Feb 7 '17 at 13:32
  • @TamerShlash that would be among the tasks of the person who finds or gives an answer :) – Medi1Saif Feb 7 '17 at 13:36
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This is not a complete answer, but I thought I could just share what I found about it so far (may update it later if I find out something new). Please take it with a big grain of salt.

First, let's bring the sanad (narrators chain) of this hadith to make things more easier:

حدثنا أبو بكر أحمد بن محمد بن الحارث ، ثنا الفضل بن الحباب الجمحي ، ثنا مسدد ، ثنا عبد الوارث بن سعيد ، عن محمد بن إسحاق ، عن النعمان بن سعد

Narrating Abu-Bakr Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Al-Harith, narrating Al-Fadhl bin Al-Habbab Al-Jumhi, narrating Masdad, narrating Abdul-warith bin Saeed, narrating Muhammad bin Isaac, narrating Al-Nu'man bin Saad

In the same book referenced in the question (Hilyat ul- Awliya wa Tabaqat-ul-Asfiya), the author, Abu Nu`aym Asfahani mentions the following right after the narration:

هذا حديث غريب من حديث النعمان ، كذا رواه ابن إسحاق عنه مرسلا.

This hadith is a gharib hadith in the level or Al-Nu'man (one of the men in the sanad/narrator chain of this hadith). And that's how bin Isaac narrated it from him (Al-Nu'man) as a Mursal hadith.

It is important to note that Mursal hadiths are usually considered as weak (Da'if) hadiths.

Also, in his book العلو للعلي الغفار, Al-Dhahabi mentioned this hadith and this is what he said about it:

هَذَا حَدِيثٌ مُنْكَرٌ ، وَإِسْنَادُهُ غَيْرُ ثَابِتٍ ، لَكِنَّهُ صَالِحٌ صَحَّ إِلَى عَبْدِ الْوَارِثِ

This hadith is Munkar, and it's narrators chain is not stable, though it's correct and valid until Abdul-warith.

Source

So regardless of the matn/content of the hadith itself and whether different schools (Salafi, Ash'ari, Maturidi) agree to it or not, the authenticity of the hadith itself is concerning.

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