Imam Malik said ‘Istiwa is not unknown and the how is not conceivable’ (narrated by Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani)

Title page of Kitab al Jami by Ibn Abi Zayd al QayrawaniPage 123 of Kitab al Jami

Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani said in his book Kitab al-Jami fi s-sunan wa al-adab wa l-maghazi wa t-tarikh, p.123:

“A man asked Malik: « O Abu Abd Allah [he recited the verse:] ‘al-Rahman ‘ala ‘arshi stawa’: how ‘istawa’  ?”. Imam Malik answered:’Istiwa s not unknown, and its how [manner] is not conceivable al-istiwa ghayr majhul wa l-kayf ghayr ma’qul). To ask the question about this topic is an innovation, and to believe in it is an obligation; and I believe you are among the [bad] innovators” and he had him taken out”.

Points to remember:

  • Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani is a great Maliki scholar who passed away in 386 after the Hijrah i.e. more than 1000 years ago.
  • This version is the correct version of what Imam Malik said on the topic of Istiwa. 
  • To say that the istiwa of ALLAAH is without a how is therefore the correct way to follow Imam Malik as he said ‘The how is inconceivable’. It is not the same as saying ‘ we do not know how‘ . Imam Malik never said that.
  • There are several narrations of this event. However the one presented here is the most reliable one, as it is narrated from different people in the SAME way, and in different books. This version is authentic. Imam Malik never said al-istiwa ma’lum wa l-kayf majhul . He never said ‘the istiwa is known and its manner/how  is unknown’. Those who claim that he did say that do not have the beginning of a chain of narration for it. Rather he said ‘the how is not conceivable’, i.e. : there is no ‘how’, no manner to it.

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