The Meaning of The Pious Salaf's Statement: ((PASS THEM AS THEY HAVE COME))
السبت 12 / رمضان / 1431 هـ - الموافق 21 / أغسطس / 2010 م

The Meaning of The Salaf's Statement:
"Pass them as they have come"
In regards to Allah's Attributes

Prepared by:
Um Abdullah al-Misawi
for :


Several authentic narrations have been reported from the Righteous Salaf regarding the hadiths of Allah’s Attributes in which they have said « Leave it as it was revealed/ Pass it as it came bila kayfa (without asking how) » and from some of them : « its recitation is its interpretation », so what is the meaning of these statements of theirs?

The answer to that question will be made clear in this article insha’allah.

Some of these Narrations:

- Sufyan bin `Uyaynah (d. 198 H.):
Ahmad ibn Nasr said: I asked Sufyan bin ‘Uyaynah saying “Oh Abu Ahmad I want to ask you something”, he said: «Don’t ask».
I replied: “If I don’t ask you then whom do I ask?” he said: «Ask».
I asked: “What do you say regarding these hadiths that have been narrated such as: The hearts are between two fingers, and that Allah laughs or is amazed by those who mention Him in the marketplaces?” He replied: «Pass them as they have come.» (1) Its chain (isnad) is authentic.

And he said in another narration: «Everything that Allah described Himself with in the Qur’an, its recitation is its interpretation, no kayfa, nor likeness.» (2)
In another wording of this narration: «Everything that Allah described Himself with in His book, then its interpretation is its recitation, and remaining silent about it.» (3)

- Al-Awza`i (d. 157 H.)
- Sufyan Ath-Thawri (d. 161 H.)
- Al-Layth ibn Sa`d (d. 175 H.)
- Imam Malik (ibn Anas) (d. 179 A.H.)
Al-Waleed ibn Muslim said: I asked Al-Awza`i, Sufyan Ath-Thawri, Malik ibn Anas, and Al-Layth ibn Sa`d about these hadiths that mention an attribute, the ru’yah (i.e. seeing of Allah in the afterlife) and the Qur’an, so they said: «Pass them as they have come bila kayfa (4)
And in another narration: “I asked Sufyan Ath-Thawri, Malik ibn Anas, Al-Awza`i and Al-Layth ibn Sa`d about these hadith that mention the attributes and ru’yah (i.e. seeing Allah in the hereafter), so they said: «Pass them upon what they have come, and do not explain them.» (5)

- Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 241 H.)
Abu Bakr Al-Marrudhi said: I asked Abu Abdullah (i.e. Imam Ahmad) about the ahadith that are rejected by the Jahmiyyah regarding the attributes, the ru’yah, the Isra’, and the story of the Throne, so Abu Abdullah authenticated these ahadeeth and said: «The scholars have accepted them, we leave these reports as they came».
So I said to him: "There is a man who protested to these narrations as they have come.” So he replied: «He is to be abandoned», then he said: «What is his objection in this? He must submit to these narrations as they have come» (6)

- And Abdullah bin Ahmad said: "I asked my father (i.e. Imam Ahmad) about a people who say: ‘when Allah talked to Musa, he didn’t speak with sound.' My father said: «Indeed your Lord spoke with sound, these narrations are to be narrated as they have come.»" (13)

- Abu Isa At-Tirmidhi (279 H.)
He said: «Many narrations have been narrated from the Prophet –sallallahu alayhi wa sallam- such as this, ones that mention ru’yah, the people seeing their Lord (in the Hereafter), and the mentioning of the Foot (of Allah), and other similar things. The way of the scholars such as Sufyan Al-Thawri, Malik ibn Anas, Ibn Al-Mubarak, Ibn `Uyaynah, Wakee`, and others regarding this is that they narrated these things, and then said: “These hadiths are to be narrated, we believe in them and it is not to be said: ‘How ?’.” And this is the position that Ahlul Hadeeth have chosen, to narrate these things as they have come, believe in them without explaining them, nor thinking about them, and it is not to be said: ‘How?’ This is the path that the scholars have chosen. And the meaning of the statement in the hadith ”He will make Himself known to them“ (yu`arrifuhum nafsahu) is that He will appear unto them.” (7)

Ibn Abi `Asim (d. 287 H.) said: «The people of knowledge have agreed that the following beliefs are of the sunnah: … Affirming seeing Allah, His awliya will see Him in the afterlife with their eyes, as the reports have come.” (14)

Its Meaning:

When these narrations are analyzed, it becomes clear that the meaning of their statement is that they affirmed the apparent meaning of the texts of the attributes. In several of these reports, the hadiths of ru’yah (i.e. seeing Allah in the hereafter) were mentioned along with the hadiths of attributes, or it is mentioned alone; and the meaning of the hadiths of ru’yah are known, they are very clear. The righteous Salaf believed in them on their apparent meaning which is that the seeing of Allah -the Majestic- will be with our eyes, but without knowledge of how that will be. We have conveyed the authentic narrations regarding this from them in the article titled: “The Belief In Seeing Allah Ta`ala”
Also, Imam Ahmad said that statement in the hadith of sound, where he affirmed it upon its apparent meaning, which is that Allah spoke with sound.

In addition to that, in the another report from Imam Ahmad, Abu Bakr Al-Marrudhi said to him “There is a man who protested to these narrations as they have come”; if the meaning of «Pass them as they have come» only meant affirming the words of the hadiths on Allah's attributes without affirming a meaning to them, then there wouldn’t have been any basis for any objection, but because it conveyed believing in the apparent meaning of the statement that there were ignoramuses who protested, for they thought that the apparent meaning implied tashbih (i.e. likening Allah to creation) and anthropomorphism, while that is not the case at all. Tashbih is to believe or state that Allah’s attributes are like that of creation, as Imam Ishaq bin Rahwaih (d. 238 H.) said:
«Tashbeeh is to say: ‘Hand like a hand” or ‘Similar to a hand’, or ‘Hearing like a hearing’ or ‘Similar to a hearing’, so if one says: ‘Hearing like a hearing or similar to a hearing’, then this is Tashbeeh. But if one says like Allah –The Exalted- said, Yad (Hand), Sam` (Hearing), and Basar (Sight), without saying: how, or saying: like a hearing or similar to a hearing, then this is not tashbeeh.» Narrated by his student At-Tirmidhi in his Sunan.

What is meant by the "apparent meaning" (in Arabic: dhahir ) is the apparent/obvious meaning understood from the context.
For example:
- «When I was in Africa, I was attacked by a lion.»
What is apparent from the context is that the lion is the well-known animal.

- «Khalid was a lion in battle field.»
What is apparent from the context is that "lion" is meant as a metaphor for bravery.

Ibn Qudamah said in "Rawdat An-Nadhir":
«The second type: al-Dhahir (the apparent), and that is the meaning that comes first to the mind when uttered, while other meanings might also be possible. If you wish, you may say: That which has two possible meanings, one of them more obvious/apparent than the other.»
He also said in "Dham At-Ta'wil": «The dhahir (apparent meaning) is what comes first to one's understanding, irrespective of whether it is literal or metaphorical/figurative.»

This was the way of the Pious Predecessors regarding the ayat and hadiths on Allah's Attributes such as the ayah:
{(Allâh) said: "O Iblîs (Satan)! What prevents you from prostrating yourself to one whom I have created with My two Hands} (38:75)
The apparent meaning is that Allah created Adam with His two Hands that are His Attribute, there is nothing in the ayah/context indicating otherwise, the salaf affirmed these texts upon their apparent meaning, without likening the attribute to the attributes of creation, and they left the knowledge of how it is (kayfiyyah/reality) to Allah Azza wa Jal.

What further supports this interpretation of their statement, which is to affirm the apparent meaning of the texts of Attributes without tashbih, is what Sufyan Ibn `Uyaynah (d. 198 H.) -May Allah have mercy on him- said: «Everything that Allah described Himself with in His book…», for he did not exempt any attributes mentioned in the Holy Quran. Hence, his words comprise every attribute mentioned in the Holy Quran. There is no support in the context of his words for differentiating between one attribute and another, and that is why some of the scholars said: “The saying in regards to some attributes is the same as that of the other (attributes)”. There is no room to differentiate between belief in the attribute of Knowledge and the attribute of Allah’s Hand, because this all leads to one belief and that is the affirmation of the apparent meaning and leaving the knowledge of how it is (kayfiyyah) to Allah. The following are some of the attributes mentioned in the Qur’an: Life, Knowledge, Power, Hearing, Will, Seeing, Face, Speech, Mercy, Hands, Anger and many others. There is no doubt that the righteous Salaf affirmed the attributes of Life, Knowledge, Will and others on their apparent meaning without likeness nor describing how it is. In effect, every other attribute mentioned in the Holy Quran should be judged the same according to the statement of Imam Ibn `Uyaynah. Whoever differentiates between one attribute and another in terms of faith then this is clear abuse and following of desires, and there is no evidence for this from the Qur’an, Sunnah or sayings of the pious Predecessors.

With that said, it is now clear that the meaning of their statements: «Pass them as they came» and «its recitation is its interpretation» is that we pass the texts as they came upon their apparent meaning without distortion, nor tashbeeh (i.e likening Allah to creation), nor describing its reality which we have no knowledge of.

What further affirms this interpretation is the following statements of some of the past scholars, including some who were born at the end of the era of the salaf, or very close to their time:

The linguistic scholar Abu Mansur Al-Azhari (282-370 H.), after mentioning the hadith that states that Allah will place His Foot in hell when it becomes full, he said:
“Muhammad ibn Ishaaq Al-Sa`di told me on the authority of Abbas Al-Duri who said that he asked Abu `Ubayd regarding its interpretation and the interpretation of other hadith like the one of Allah’s Descent and the ru’yah (i.e seeing of Allah), so he said: «These hadith have been narrated down to us by those who are trustworthy (thuqaat) from the Prophet -sallallahu alayhi wa sallam-, and we haven’t seen anyone explain them. We believe in them as they have come and we don’t explain them.” (Abu Mansur Al-Azhari said:) ”He meant that it is left upon its apparent meaning (dhahir) as it came (8)

Abu Sulayman Al Khattabi (388 A.H.) said in regards to the hadith on Allah’s Descent:
“As for this hadith and whatever resembles it from the hadith of Allah’s attributes, the madhab of the Salaf in regards to them was to believe in them, and pass them on their apparent meaning and negate the kayfiyyah from it.”
Then he quoted statements from the pious salaf where they said «Pass it as it came.» (9)

Abul Qasim Isma`il Al-Asbahani (535 A.H.) was asked about the attributes of Allah and he said:
“The madhhab of Malik, Ath-Thawri, Al-Awza`i, Al-Shafi`i, Hammad bin Salamah, Hammad bin Zayd, Ahmad (bin Hanbal), Yahya bin Sa`eed Al-Qattan, Abdur-Rahman Ibn Mahdi, and Ishaq bin Rahwaih; is that the attributes of Allah, which He and His Messenger described Himself with, like those of Hearing, Seeing, the Face, the Two Hands and the rest of His attributes, is that it is to be taken upon their apparent meaning that is well-known, without thinking about how it is, and without likening them to creation, or making tawil. Ibn `Uyaynah said: «As for everything that Allah described Himself with, then its recitation is its interpretation.» Then he (i.e. Abul-Qasim) said: “It means: it is upon its dhahir (apparent meaning), it is not permissible to take them metaphorically as a means of interpretation." (10)

Adh-Dhahabi (748 A.H.) said:
“And as Sufyan (Ibn `Uyaynah) and others have said “Its recitation is its interpretation”, meaning that it is clear in the language, one is not try to seek for a tawil (i.e. a non-apparent meaning) or a distorted meaning. This is the madhab of the Salaf along with their consensus that the attributes of Allah don’t resemble those of humans, for The Creator has no like in His Self, nor His attributes.” (11)

The Meaning of Imam Ahmad’s Statement: “no how and no meaning” «bila kayfa wal ma`na»

There is a narration attributed to Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) which shows him saying:
«In the hadiths that are narrated: ”Allah descends to the heaven of this world“ or ”Allah will be seen on the Day of Judgment“, and whatever is similar to these hadith – we believe in them and trust them without how (kayfa) nor meaning, and we do not reject any of it …. etc. »

Assuming that this narration is authentic, the meaning of his words: «and no meaning» means: no meaning except what is apparent in the hadith.
What leads us to this conclusion is that this narration was reported to us with a different wording in Ibn Al-Battah’s book “Al-Ibaanah Al-Kubrah” and Ibn Qudamah’s book “Tahreem Al-Nadhar fi Kutub Al-Kalam”, which show Imam Ahmad saying:
“Without how, nor meaning except what Allah described Himself with”.

What also leads us to this conclusion is the fact that Imam Ahmad mentioned the hadith about seeing Allah in the afterlife (i.e. ru`yah) amongst those hadiths in which he said that; and the hadith of ru`yah are from the hadith that the righteous Salaf affirmed its dhahir meaning and didn’t just merely believe in the words of the hadith without affirming a meaning. Imam Ahmad stated that we must believe in the apparent meaning of hadith of ru’yah saying:

«Belief in seeing Allah on the Day of Judgment just as authentically narrated by the Prophet –sallallahu alayhi wa sallam-, and the Prophet –sallallahu alayhi wa sallam- saw his Lord as is authentically reported about him. Qatadah reported from Ikrimah on the authority of Ibn Abbas and Al-Hukm ibn Abban narrated it from Ikrimah on the authority of Ibn Abbas and Ali ibn Zayd narrated it from Yusuf ibn Mahran on the authority of Ibn Abbas, and the hadith to us is taken upon its apparent meaning as it came from the Prophet–sallallahu alayhi wa sallam-; speculation regarding it is an innovation, but we believe in it just as it has come, upon its apparent meaning, and do not debated anyone about it. »(12)

What further confirms this is that Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him) said the phrase: “Leave it as it has come” in regards to other hadiths other than the attributes, and it is not conceivable to assume that he relegated the meaning of those hadiths too. Some of these narrations are:

- Imam Ahmed was once asked about the statement of the Prophet -–sallallahu alayhi wa sallam- to Ali (may Allah be pleased with him): ”Whoever I was a mawla (i.e. friend, defender) to, then Ali is their mawla.“ He said: «Do not talk about this, leave the hadeeth as it came.» (15)

- Abu Bakr Al-Marrudhi said: I asked Abu Abdullah (Imam Ahmad) about the statement of the Prophet –sallallahu alayhi wa sallam- to Ali –May Allah be pleased with Him-, ”You are to me like Haroon was to Musa“ what is the explanation of this? He said: «Be quiet about this, do not ask about it, the report is as it came (16)

And all Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds

Related Articles:
- Introduction to the Beliefs of the Pious Salaf Regarding Allah's Attributes
- The Meaning of The Pious Salaf's Saying: «Bila Kayf»
- The Belief In Seeing Allah Ta`ala

(1) “Maraseel Abi Dawud”, Chapter: Voluntary Prayer (p. 182) Tahqiq Abdullah Az-Zahrani; “Al-Sifaat” by Al-Darqutni (p. 71); and “Al-‘Uluw lil-`Alee Al-Ghaffar” by Adh-Dhahabi (p. 156); “Siyar A`lam Al-Nubala” (8/467)
(2) “Al-Sifaat” by Al-Daruqtni (p.70); “Sharh Usool ‘Itiqad Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaa’ah” by Al-Lalaka’i (3/431)
(3) “Aqeedat As-Salaf Ashaab Al-Hadeeth” by As-Sabuni (p.68); “Al-Asmaa’ Wal Sifaat” by Al-Bayhaqi (2/158 & 307)
(4) “’Ilal” of Ibn Abi Hatim (5/468) on the authority of his father from Al- Haytham bin Kharijah.
(5) “Mu`jam Ibn Al-Muqri” (p.111); “Aqeedat As-Salaf Ashaab Al-Hadeeth” by Al-Sabuni (p.69).
“Siyar A’lam Al-Nubala” by Adh-Dhahabi (8/162) narrated it through Abu Bakr Al-Khallal; and “Al-Sharee`ah” by Al-Ajurri (3/1146), in the narration of these two books they were asked about the narrations of attributes only.
“Al-Sifaat” by Al-Daruqtni (p.75), and its wording is: “In regards to these hadith on the seeing of Allah and other than that, they said: pass it (as it is) without kayfa (asking how).”
“Sharh Usool ‘Itiqad Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaa’ah” by Al-Lalaka’i (3/503) and its wording is: “In regards to these hadith on the seeing of Allah, they said: Pass them without (asking) how”
(6) “As-Sunnah” by Abi Bakr Al-Khallal (1/247) with an authentic isnad. He said: “Abu Bakr Al-Marrudhi said: …” and mentioned it. “Al-Sharee’ah” by Al-Ajurri (3/1154); “Tabaqat Al-Hanabilah” by Ibn Abi Ya’la (1/138)
(7) “Sunan At-Tirmidhi” (4/318)
(8) “Tahdheeb Al-Lugha” by Abu Mansur Al-Azhari (9/45-46)
(9) “Al-Asmaa’ Wal Sifaat” by Al-Bayhaqi (2/377)
(10) “Al-‘Uluw lil-Alee Al-Ghaffar” by Adh-Dhahabi (p.263), and “Al-`Arsh” also by him (2/359-360)
(11) “Al-‘Uluw lil-Alee Al-Ghaffar” (p.251)
(12) “Sharh Usool ‘Itiqad Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaa’ah” by Al-Lalaka’i (1/157-158)
(13) “Kitab As sunnah” by Abdullah ibn Ahmad (1/280), and “Refuting the one who said the Qur’an is created” by Al-Najjad (p.31) who narrated it from Imam Abdullah ibn Ahmad.
(14) “Kitab As-sunnah” by Ibn Abi `Asim (1/1028)
(15) “As-Sunnah” by Abu Bakr al-Khallal (2/346) with an authentic chain.
(16) “As-Sunnah” by Al-Khallal (2/347) with an authentic chain.


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