“Our Lord was in a heavy cloud”

“Our Lord was in a heavy cloud”

… reading your translation of the excerpts of the book “Allah’s Names and Attributes” by Imam Bayhaqi(RA) and i came across this part:

“If the original text has ‘ama’ it means a kind of mist or thin cloud. By the words “in a mist” he means “over the cloud, disposing of it at will and self-exalted over it, just as He said :(Have you taken security from Him Who is in the Heaven)(67:16) meaning Him Who is above the heaven and (I shall crucify you “in” (fi) the trunks of palm-trees)(20:71) meaning on their trunks. His saying “above which there was air” means “there was air above the cloud”; likewise “below which there was air” means “there was air under the cloud”.”

I find this “over” or “above” to imply literally in this quote and i’m rather perplexed and was told by one student of knowledge that this quote was quoted by Imam Bayhaqi from a mujassim(i.e. a friend of Imam Ibn Khuzayma) and Imam Zahid al-Kawthari denied this quote as being correct.

Can you please shed light on that quote from the book as if its allowed to say above, isn’t it the same as what the wahabis say also?


You’re referring to the the hadith of Abu Razeen al-`Uqayli.

The latter narrated that the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, disliked to be asked [too many] questions, but “when he, Abu Razeen, asked him a question it pleased him.

He said:

I said: “Messenger of Allah, where was our Lord before He created the heavens and the earth?”

He replied: “He was in a heavy cloud (kana fi `amaa’) above which there was air (maa fawqahu hawaa’) and below which there was air (wa-maa tahtahu hawaa’). Then He created the Throne upon the water.” (This is in the Sunan and Musnad as well).

First of all, as a rule, prepositions cannot be used literally to imply place or direction for Allah Most High:

1. Ibn al-`Arabi in `Aridat al-Ahwadhi states that
the word “where” in Abu Razeen’s question refers to rank, not place (al-makaana dun al-makaan), as cited by al-Kawthari in al-Asma’ wal-Sifat (p. 376 n. 2).

2. Imam al-Suyuti said in Misbah al-Zujaja:

 “The qadi Nasir al-Din ibn al-Munayyar said:

‘The problem of this hadith resides in circumstantiality (al-zarfiyya), aboveness (al-fawqiyya), and belowness (al-tahtiyya).

The answer is that ‘in’ (fi) means ‘over’ (`ala), and ‘over’ means ‘establishing dominion’ (istila’). That is: He was in control over (mustawli `ala) this cloud out of which He created all created things… above and under which there was air.

It was also narrated with the wording: `ima in shortened form, which means the non-existence (`adam) of everything other than Him, as if he were saying: ‘He was and nothing existed together with Him, rather, everything was non-existent, a blind void, neither existent nor seen.’

The ‘air’ is also the vacuum of non-existence (al-faragh al-`adam), as if he were saying:

‘He was and there was nothing with Him, no above, and no below.'”

Secondly, al-Tirmidhi relates that Yazid ibn Harun, one of the narrators from the great early Imams, said, “The mist means there was nothing with Him.” 

So here the Salaf and the Khalaf both agree on this interpretation, which is far from what the Wahhabis promote.

Wahhabis promote

The rest of translation of al-Bayhaqi’s text confirms the preceding explanation.

Al-Bayhaqi went on to say:

It was also said that the actual word is `imaa – blind void – which means “nothing determined” (la shay’un thaabit), as it is part of what creatures are blind to, because it is other-than-something, just as he said (upon him blessings and peace) in the hadith of `Imran ibn Husayn [in the Sahihayn].

Then he said:

“Neither was there air above it, nor below it (maa fawqahu wa-la tahtahu hawaa’).”

[This is the wording cited by Ibn al-Jawzi in Daf` Shubah al-Tashbih (1998 al-Kawthari repr. p. 48).]

That is, there was not, above the blind void which is nothing existent, any air, nor was there below it any air. For if this is other-than-something, then it cannot possibly be attributed air in any way whatsoever, and Allah knows best. 

Abu `Ubayd [al-Qasim ibn Sallam] al-Harawi, the author of the two _Gharibs_ said:

 “Some of the people of knowledge said that it means ‘Where was the Throne of our Lord?’ phrased elliptically by way of abridgment,

as in His saying:

{And ask the township} (12:82)

to mean the people of the township.

This is indicated by his saying: ‘His Throne stood upon the water.'”

 This is not found in the published edition of Ibn Sallam’s Gharib al-Hadith (1:213) which only has:

 “We only interpreted this hadith according to the words of the Arabs, which are based on reason. However, we do not know how that mist was nor its extent, and Allah knows best.”

The latter sentence is quoted by Ibn al-Athir in al-Nihaya.

The gloss of “our Lord” as “the Throne of our Lord” is the explanation favored by Ibn al-Athir in al-Nihaya and the Mu`tazili al-Zamakhshari in his book al-Fa’iq fi Gharib al-Hadith (2:186).

 Ibn al-Athir also quotes al-Azhari’s saying: “We believe in the hadith without qualifying it with any description.”

Ibn al-`Arabi in his commentary on the hadith in `Aridat al-Ahwadhi also states that by the Throne all of creation is meant, similar to al-Baydawi’s tafsir of the Kursi.

Thirdly, the report was considered inauthentic by Ibn Qutayba and the contemporaries (Kawthari, Arna’ut, Albani, Hashidi) consider it weak.

However, since al-Tirmidhi declared it hasan in his Sunan, and his opinion is preferable, and since Ibn Hibban included it in his Sahih, then it would be quite enough to say the language is figurative and not literal.

Finally, it is incorrect to question the transmission of this report through Imam al-Bayhaqi (beyond stating that some contemporaries weakened its chain) and it is also incorrect to suggest that Imam al-Kawthari rejected it wholesale.

Al-Kawthari actually read the passage to mean “above which there was no air (maa fawqahu hawaa’) and below which there was no air (wa-maa tahtahu hawaa’),”

“This is an explicit proof-text that what is meant by the cloud (al-sahaab) is not the known cloud which has air above and below it, but a symbolic cloud (al-sahab al-ma`nawi) and the veil which screens [Him] from cognition, as Ibn al-`Arabi [al-Maliki in his commentary on al-Tirmidhi entitled `Aridat al-Ahwadhi] said.” Al-Asma’ wal-Sifat (Kawthari ed. p. 377 n. 1).

This divergent reading shows that some read “maa” as a pronoun and others as a negative particle.

Al-Bayhaqi addresses both explanations as possible readings, depending on the meaning not of “maa” but of `amaa’/`imaa.

Shaykh G. F. Haddad

“It was reported by Ahmad ibn Hanbal in his Musnad
(vol. 4: 11):
عن أبي رزين قال قلت يا رسول الله أين كان ربنا عز وجل قبل أن يخلق خلقه ؟
 قال : كان في عماء . ما تحته هواء وما فوقه هواء . ثم خلق عرشه على الماء
[Reported] From Abī Razīn, `I enquired, `O Messenger of God [=Muhammad], where was our Lord (exalted and glorified) before He created His creation?’. He [Muhammad] replied, `He was in  the Cloud (al- `amā’), no Air beneath Him and no Air above Him. Then He created His Throne upon the [primordial] Water(s) (trans. Lambden).”

Qadi [Abu Ya ‘la] related that ‘Umar ibn Abd al- Aziz said, “When God, Exalted be He, has finished with the People of Paradise and the People of the Fire, he will proceed to walk in canopies of clouds and angels.
“Then He will do this with the inhabitants of every level until He reaches His sitting place.”
This is a hadith concocted against ‘Umar, and furthermore, how can he affirm an attribute for God, Exalted be He, by the statement of ‘Umar?
Qadi [Abu Ya ‘la] said, “His saying, Exalted be He: God comes to them in the canopies of the clouds (Quran 2:210) testifies for the hadith of Umar.”

(see:Ibn al-Jawzi, Daf  Shubah al-Tashbih bi-Akaff al-Tanzih,page:101)

 هَلْ يَنظُرُونَ إِلاَّ أَن يَأْتِيَهُمُ ٱللَّهُ فِي ظُلَلٍ مِّنَ ٱلْغَمَامِ وَٱلْمَلاۤئِكَةُ وَقُضِيَ ٱلأَمْرُ وَإِلَى ٱللَّهِ تُرْجَعُ ٱلأُمُورُ

What do they, those that fail to enter into it [sc. Islam] completely, wait for, await, that God shall come to them, that is, His Command;

this is similar to where God says, or that God’s command should come to pass [Q. 16:33],

meaning His chastisement, in the shadows (zulal, plural of zulla) of clouds, and the angels? The matter is determined, the matter of their destruction has been completed, and to God all matters are returned, in the Hereafter, where He will requite each according to his deeds (read passive [turja‘u al-umūr, ‘matters are returned’] or active [tarji‘u al-umūr, ‘matters return’]).
[Tafsir al-Jalalayn]

(Wait they) the people of Mecca (for nothing else than that Allah should come unto them) on the Day of Judgement, but this coming is without any modality (bila-kayfa) (in the shadows of the clouds with the angels? Then the case would be already judged) the people of Paradise would already be in Paradise and the people of hell in hell.

(All cases go back to Allah) the consequences of all things go back to Allah in the Hereafter.

[ Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs]

(Edited by ADHM)

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