Ibn al-Jawzi explains the actual meaning of Hadith ad-Dahak (whose apparent meaning would be that God would have laughed)

Title page of daf shubah at-Tashbih by Ibn al-JawziPage 41 Daf Shubah at-tashbih by Ibn al-Jawzi explaining hadith addahak

In his book  Daf’ Shubah at-Tashbih against those who claim to be Hanbalis but who have deviated beliefs, Ibn al-Jawzi said, page 41:

‘Know that the term ‘Dahak‘ [literally ‘laugh’ ) has a certain number of meanings which are linked to ‘clarification’ and ‘to expose’. When someone exposes something that was hidden, it is said about him ‘Dahaka‘ [literally it woud mean ‘he laughed’ but obviously here it is in the meaning that he ‘exposed’]. For example, we say :’the Earth dahakat [literally, the Earth ‘laughed’], when vegetation starts to show on it, and it gives flowers. It is the same thing when it is said: ‘The sky cried’.  The poet said: ‘Every day the Earth ‘laughed’ (dahakat) with a new daisy/ From the crying of the sky.

The ‘laughter’ that seizes people is only a reference to the fact that when someone laughs, the teeth, which are usually hidden in the mouth, get exposed, shown. But this is impossible to Allah, may He be exalted. Therefore, it is obligatory to consider this hadith as meaning ‘Allah manifested His generosity and His bounty.

At the end of his explanation on this issue, on the following page (page 42), here is how he comments the judgement of those who went as far as attributing a molar tooth to Allah:

Page 42 Daf Shubah at-tashbih by Ibn al-Jawzi explaining hadith addahak
We are very surprised [i.e. he is]. He has attributed an attribute to Allah on the  basis of a hadith with only one narrator [‘aahaad] and whose wording is not even correct! He confirmed a molar tooth to Allah! This one, he  has nothing to do with Islam!

Points à retenir de cette citation:

  • Imam Ibn al-Jawzi died in 597 after the Hijrah i.e. more than 800 years ago!
  • He wrote this book specifically against those who claim to be Hanbalis but who misunderstood the religious texts. Note that his book is in Arabic and is meant to be read by a public which is fluent in Arabic.
  • Here he explains that ‘laughter’ in Arabic is called dahaka because dahaka has a root meaning of exposing/showing. When one laughs, one exposes one’s teeth. Obviously this is not a suitable meaning for Allah. Therefore he proves that in Arabic dahaka  is also used for other meanings which are closer to its root meaning of exposing, and he concludes by saying that in this hadith it shows that the meaning is that Allah showed mercy to the people mentioned, not that He laughed at them wa l-iyaadhu billaah!
  • A the end of the book he declares that the people he denounces in his book are not Muslim (article available here).

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