Their Belief Regarding Allah’s subhanahu wa ta ‘ala Names and Attributes – Tajsim (Anthropomorphism)

17. Tijani claims that the differences between the four Imams is symptomatic of contradiction between Qur’an and Hadith
June 9, 2017
Their Denial of the Attributes of Allah
June 13, 2017

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Chapter Three

Their Belief Regarding Allah’s subhanahu wa ta ‘ala Names and Attributes


There are four deviations of the Shia in this regard:

  1. The deviation of Tajsim (anthropomorphism)
  2. The deviation of the Ta‘til (denying) of some of his names and attributes.
  3. The deviation of ascribing the names of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and his attributes to the Imams.
  4. The deviation of Tahrif (distortion) the verses of the Qur’an due to the belief in the denial of the attributes of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala.

I shall endeavour to pause at each of these discussions and mention the doctrine of the Shia with regards to them, Allah willing.

Discussion One

Tajsim (Anthropomorphism)


The deviation of Tajsim (anthropomorphism) was very common among the Jews.[1] However, the first among the Muslims to invent anthropomorphic beliefs regarding Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala were the Rawafid. Therefore al Razi says:


اليهود أكثرهم مشبهة و كان بدء ظهور التشبيه في الإسلام من الرواض مثل هشام بن الحكم و هشام بن سالم الجواليقي و يونس بن عبد الرحمن القمي و أبي جعفر الأحول

Most of the Jews are anthropomorphists. The beginning of anthropomorphism in Islam was with the Rawafid like Hisham ibn al Hakam, Hisham ibn Salim al Jawaliqi, Yunus ibn ‘Abd al Rahman al Qummi and Abu Jafar al Ahwal.[2]


All of the aforementioned are regarded by the Twelvers to be the forerunners among their scholars and authentic transmitters of their creed.[3]

Ibn Taymiyyah has identified the first person who was the proponent of this grave fallacy. He says:


وأول من عرف في الإسلام أنه قال إن الله جسم هو هشام بن الحكم

And the first person who is known to have claimed that Allah has a body is Hisham ibn al Hakam.[4]


And al Ash‘ari who preceded Ibn Taymiyyah asserts that the former Shia were all anthropomorphists. He then goes into the details of their variant views and quotes some of their statements in this regard. However, he says that some of the latter Shia were of the opinion of denying the attributes of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala [known as Ta’til].[5]

This tells us that denying the attributes of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala was something that transpired very early in the history of Shi’ism. The views regarding the stipulation of the era in which this transpired will be presented ahead.[6]

The heresiographers have documented statements of Hisham ibn al Hakam which are drenched in anthropomorphism; such that they leave the believer’s hair standing on end due to their blasphemous nature.

‘Abd al Qahir al Baghdadi says:


زعم هشام بن الحكم أن معبوده جسم ذو حد و نهاية و أنه طويل عريض عميق و أن طوله مثل عرضه

Hisham ibn al Hakam claimed that his lord is a body with boundaries and limits, and that he has height, width, and depth. His height is just like his width.[7]


He also says:


إن هشام بن سالم الجواليقي مفرط في التجسيم و التشبيه لأنه زعم أن معبوده علي صورة الإنسان…و أنه ذو حواس خمس كحواس الإنسان وكذالك ذكر أن يونس بن عبد الرحمن القمي مفرط أيضا في باب التشبيه و ساق بعض أقواله في ذلك

Most certainly Hisham ibn Salim al Jawaliqi was an exaggerator in anthropomorphism and Tashbih (likening Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala to the creation) because he claimed that his lord has a humanly appearance… and that he possesses the five senses that humans possess.[8] He also mentions that Yunus ibn ‘Abd al Rahman al Qummi was likewise an extremist in likening Allah to the creation and he quotes some of his verdicts in this regard.[9]


Ibn Hazm mentions:

قال هشام إن ربه سبعة اشبار بشبر نفسه

Hisham said that the height of his lord is seven hand spans of his own hand.[10]


Al Asfara’ini, after quoting the anthropomorphist views of Hisham ibn al Hakam and Hisham al Jawaliqi, comments:


والعاقل بأول وهلة يعلم أن من كانت هذه مقالتة لم يكن له في الإسلام حظ

An intelligent person at the first instance will recognise that any person bearing such opinions has no share in Islam whatsoever.[11]


The books of Firaq (Heresiography) are filled with the exaggerated anthropomorphist opinions of Hisham al Hakam and his followers.[12] Some of the books of the Mutazilah and the Zaidi Shia also contain some of them. From amongst the Mu’tazilah al Jahiz has documented these beliefs; he says:

وتكلمت هذه الرافضة و جعلت له صورة و جسدا، و كفرت من قال بالرؤية علي غير التجسيم و التصوير، و كذالك ابن الخياط، و القاضي عبد الجبار

These Rawafid have spoken and attributed a form and a body to him. They have thus dubbed as Kafir any person who believes in seeing Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala without a body and form.[13]


Likewise they have dubbed Ibn al Khayyat[14] and al Qadi ‘Abd al Jabbar[15] as Kafir.

From among the Zaidi Shia[16], Ibn al Murtada al Yamani has stated:


بأن جل الروافض علي التجسيم إلا من اختلط منهم بالمعتزلة

Most of the Shia belief in anthropomorphism save those who mixed with the Mu’tazilah.[17]


So, likening Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala to the creation was part of Jewish belief. It then made its way to Shi’ism due to it being the abode of any person who intended to conspire against Islam and its adherents. The first to propound this belief was Hisham ibn al Hakam;[18] others after him, who are identified in the books of heresiography as spear-headers of deviant cults, followed in his footsteps.

However, we find that the scholars of the Twelvers have gone out of their way in trying to defend the position of these devious people, the reports of whose heresy has been largely transmitted and whose evil was immensely widespread. Hence, the Twelvers issue far-fetched interpretations of their statements or try to refute them completely.[19]

Al Majlisi says:

و لعل المخالفين نسبوا إليهما هذين القولين معاندة

It is very possible that the opposition ascribe these views to them out of obstinacy.[20]


I say that it is completely normal for the Shia to deny this. For they are known to refute clear realities and believe in open lies and heresies. As for their defence of these devious people, it is something inherent in their culture which should not be considered strange. For they always try to defend their people. To the extent that some of them have specialised in defending the most uncharacteristic people whose evil is well-known and regarding whose deviance and heresy many traditions are reported. Whereas, astonishingly, they will go out of their way in criticising and dubbing as infidels those who are lauded by Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala and His Rasul salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.

The objection could be raised that all the previous statements of Hisham and his followers were only cited from the books of the opposition, therefore, they cannot serve as evidence against the Shia.

Although it is true that all these citations have been quoted from the books of heresiographers belonging to various schools and leanings who are more truthful than the Rafidah in speech and much more reliable in transmission, and whose books have proven that the Rafidah were the ones who introduced this heresy into Islam. However the statement that these accusations of anthropomorphism only appear in the books of their opposition and do not appear in any of the books of the Shia might convince someone who reads only the refutations of the Shia, whereas in reality the complete opposite is true.

For there are many narrations which feature in the mother-books of the Shia which suggest that the theologians of the Shia, the likes of Hisham ibn al Hakam, Hisham ibn Salim al Jawaliqi, and Yunus ibn ‘Abd al Rahman al Qummi did not merely suffice on establishing the attributes of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala as entailed in the Qur’an and the Sunnah, rather they exceeded that and went down the path of anthropomorphism.

It appears in Usul al Kafi of al Kulayni and al Tawhid of Ibn Babuwayh al Qummi and other books that the Shia were in major consternation in the year 255 A.H. because they engaged in the contention with regards to the form of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. Some opined that he had a form of some type whilst others asserted that he had a body. The narration that Sheikh al Saduq narrates from Sahl reads as follows:


كتبت إلي أبي محمد قد اختلف يا سيدي أصحابنا في التوحيد منهم من يقول هو جسم،و منهم من يقول هو صورة فإن رأيت يا سيدي أن تعلمني من ذلك ما أقف عليه ولا أجوزه فعلت متطولا علي عبدك؟ فوقع بخطه سألت عن التوحيد و هذا عنكم معزو،الله تعالي واحد أحد صمد لم يلد و لم يولد و لم يكن له كفوا أحد.خالق و ليس بمخلوق بخلق تبارك و تعالي ما يشاء من الأجسام و يصور ما يشاء و ليس يمصور،جل ثناؤه و تقدست أسماؤه،و تعالي أن يكون له شبيه هو لا غيره ليس كمثله شيء و هو السميع البصير.

I wrote to Abu Muhammad in the year 255 A.H enquiring, “O my Master, our companions have debated regarding Allah. Some say that he has a body (Jism)[21] whilst others says that he owns a form. Would you deem it appropriate to inform me of something in this regard that I can learn and will not exceed. I shall comply diligently?

Hence he responded saying, “You have asked regarding Allah whereas he is aloof from you. He is one and alone, independent, he did not beget and nor was he begotten. There is no equal to him. He is the creator, not the created; he creates bodies which he intends and fashions forms which he desires, but himself does not possess any form. His praise is exalted and his names are sacred. He is free from an equal. There is nothing like him and he is the All Hearing and the All Seeing.[22]


Hisham ibn al Hakam and Hisham ibn Salim al Jawaliqi played a major role in the anthropomorphist leanings of the Shia as is alluded to in a number of their narrations. In Usul al Kafi there appears a narration on the strength of Muhammad ibn al Faraj al Rakhaji which states:


كتبت إلي أبي الحسن عليه السلام أسأله عما قال هشام بن الحكم في الجسم و هشام بن سالم في الصورة فكتب دع عنك حيرة الحيران واستعذ بالله من الشيطان ليس القول ما قال الهشامان

I wrote to Abu al Hassan asking him about the statement of Hisham ibn al Hakam about the body (of Allah) and that of Hisham ibn Salim about the form (of Allah). He wrote, “Cast aside the confusion of those who are confused and seek the refuge of Allah. What both the Hishams have stated is not the reality.”[23]


The Imams denounced them and their claims. And when a Shia came to the Imam and said:


إني أقول بقول هشام

I affirm the verdict of Hisham.


The Imam said to him:

ما لكم و لقول هشام؟إنه ليس منا من زعم أن الله جسم و نحن منه براء في الدنيا و الأخرة

What do you have to do with the verdict of Hisham? The one who claims that Allah has a body is not from amongst us. We are free from him in this world and in the afterlife.[24]


And some of their narrations reveal what the Imams said with regards to Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala. One of the Shia[25] tells Abu ‘Abdullah al Sadiq about the anthropomorphist beliefs of some of the Shia saying:


إن بعض أصحابنا يزعم أن لله صورة مثل الإنسان، و قال اخر إنه في صورة أمرد جعد قطط! فخر أبو عبد الله عليه السلام ساجدا ثم رفع رأسه فقال: سبحان الذي ليس كمثله شيء، ولا تدركه الابصار ولا يحيط به علم

Some of our friends claim that Allah has a form like that of humans whilst others say that he has the features of a beardless boy with curly hair.

Abu ‘Abdullah fell into prostration. He, thereafter, raised his head and said, “Pure is the One who nothing resembles Him, whom the eyes cannot encompass, and knowledge cannot fully comprehend.”[26]


Likewise Ibn Babuwayh has narrated the following on the authority of Ibrahim ibn Muhammad al Kharraz and Muhammad ibn al Hussain:


دخلنا علي أبي الحسن الرضا عليه السلام فحكينا له ماروي ان محمدا رأي ربه في هيئة الشاب الموفق في سن أبناء ثلاثين سنة، رجلاه في خضره و قلنا:إن هشام بن سالم و صاحب الطاق والميثمي يقولون: أنه أجوف إلي السرة و الباقي صمد، فخر ساجدا ثم قال سبحانك ما عرفوك ولا وحدوك فمن أجل ذلك وصفوك سبحانك لو عرفوك لو صفوك بما وصفت به نفسك.

We went to visit Abu al Hassan al Rida. So we told him about the narration wherein it is reported that Muhammad saw his lord in the form of a handsome man in His thirties wearing green. We said, “Hisham ibn Salim, Sahib al Taq[27], and al Maytham[28] say that he is hallow till the belly and the rest of his body is firm.” He fell into prostration and said, “You are pure; they have not recognised You, and nor have they believed in Your Oneness, hence they have described you [in this manner]. You are pure; if only they recognised You, if only they described You in the manner that you have described Yourself…”[29]


As you can see, their major theologians overstated the attributes of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala which led them to likening Him with the creation and that constitutes disbelief. This is because this goes against the verse:


لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِه شَيءٌ

There is nothing like Allah.[30]


They have denied the attributes of Allah which befit His majesty by describing Him in ways that He did not describe Himself. And their Imam would disapprove this way of theirs and would order them to stick to the manner in which Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala has described Himself. There are multiple narrations in this regard.[31]

So by overstating the attributes of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala they have superseded the correct affirmation of the attributes of Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala which was the creed of the Ahlul Bayt; this led to two conflicting view points in the Shia dogma; i.e. the anthropomorphist view of Hisham and company, and the non-anthropomorphist view of the Ahlul Bayt as is mentioned in the narrations of the Shia and is stated in the books of the scholars.[32]


NEXT⇒ Discussion Two – Their Denial of the Attributes of Allah

[1] In the Qur’an there features proof to establish this. Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala says:

وقالت اليهود عزير ابن الله

And the Jews said, “‘Uzair is the son of Allah.”

In the current Old Testament (Tawrat) there are many examples in this regard. E.g. And Adam and eve heard the sound of God as he was walking in the cool of the day. (Genesis: 3:8), “Then Moses Aron ascended… accompanied by seventy men of the Israelites. They saw the god of Israel and his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli [deep blue metamorphic rock], as bright as blue as the sky. (Exodus: 24:10.). There are many other examples of this nature refer to the following: Genesis: 32: 22; Deuteronomy: 34: 10; Judges: 6: 11; Exodus: 24: 4…

[2] Itiqadat Firaq al Muslimin wa al Mushrikin p. 97.

[3] See: Muhsin al Amin: Ayan al Shia 1/106. In the books of Firaq (heresiography) there is mention of sects that subscribed to views of these people. E.g. al Ash’ari says, “Al Hishamiyyah are the followers of Hisham ibn al Hakam… etc. (Maqalat al Islamiyyin 1/106) And “The Yunusiyyah are the followers of Yunus ibn ‘Abd al Rahman al Qummi (Ibid 1/109). And “The Hishamiyyah are the followers of Hisham ibn Salim al Jawaliqi (Ibid 1/109. The common factor among them all is Shi’ism.

[4] Minhaj al Sunnah 1/20.

[5] Maqalat al Islamiyyin 1/106-109.

[6] In the second discussion.

[7] Al Farq bayn al Firaq p. 65.

[8] Ibid p. 68-69.

[9] Ibid p. 70.

[10] Al Fasl, 5/40.

[11] Al Tabsir fi al Din p. 24.

[12] Refer to: al Malati: al Tanbih wa al Radd p. 24; al Shahrastani: al Milal wa al Nihal 1/184, 187, 188; al Saksaki: al Burhan p. 41; Ibn Hajar: Lisan al Mizan 6/194; Mahmud al Bishbishi: al Firaq al Islamiyyah p. 58; ‘Ali Mustafa al Ghurabi: Tarikh al Firaq al Islamiyyah p. 300.

[13] Risalah al Jahiz fi Bani Umayyah p. 19.

[14] Al Intisar p. 14.

[15] Tathbit Dala’il al Nubuwwah 1/225.

[16] It should be remembered that the Zaidis subscribe to the Mu’tazilite school of thought in theology. Hence al Shahrastani says, “As for theology, they subscribe to the school of the Mu’tazilah completely.”(Al Milal wa al Nihal 11/162; al Muqbili: al Ilm al Shamikh p. 319.

[17] Al Munyah wa al Amal p. 19; Nashwan al Himyari: al Hur al In p. 148-149.

[18] See p 213; 214 of this books for more details (under the discussion of how the belief in the distortion of the Qur’an of which Hisham was a proponent spread like wild fire in the Twelver dogma.)

[19] Bihar al Anwar 3/290-292.

[20] Referring to Hisham ibn al Hakam and Hisham ibn Salim al Jawaliqi.

[21] The word Body (Jism) and others like it are invented words, the refutation or the establishment of which does not feature in the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Therefore, the right path is not to assert these types of words nor to refute them. As for the meanings of these words, if the intended meaning is congruous with the truth it will be accepted and if it is incongruous with the truth it will be rejected. And if it is a hybrid of both, a detailed investigation will be required and the truth will have to be separated from the falsehood. (Al Tadmuriyyah p. 65 (with the research of Muhammad ‘Awdah al Sa’udi); Majmu Fatawa Sheikh al Islam 12/316-318: the meaning of Jism according to the theologians and debaters.

[22] Usul al Kafi 1/103; al Tawhid p. 101-102; Bihar al Anwar 3/261.

[23] Usul al Kafi 1/105; al Tawhid p. 97; Amali al Saduq p. 228; Bihar al Anwar 3/288; al Hurr al ‘Amili: al Fusul al Muhimmah p. 15.

[24] Al Tawhid p. 104; Bihar al Anwar 3/291.

[25] His name is Ya‘qub ibn al Siraj. He is deemed reliable by the Shia (al Tusi: al Fihrist p. 214).

[26] Al Tawhid p. 103-104; Bihar al Anwar 3/304.

[27] Abu Jafar Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn al Nu’man al Ahwal: Since he was known as Shaitan al Taq (the devil of the corner), the Shia however call him Mu’min al Taq (the believer of the corner).

[28] ‘Ali ibn Ismail ibn Shu’ayb ibn Maytham ibn Yahya al Tammar. He was from amongst the leading theologians of the Shia and authored a few books; one of them being al Imamah. (Rijal al Najashi p. 176)

[29] Al Tawhid p. 113-114; Bihar al Anwar 4/40; Usul al Kafi 1/101.

[30] Surah al Shura: 11.

[31] For more details see: al Tawhid, p 97-104: chapter regarding Allah not possessing a body or a form; Usul al Kafi, 1/104-106: chapter regarding the prohibition of ascribing a body or form to Allah; Bihar al Anwar: there are forty eight narrations under the chapter regarding negating a body and a form; there are similar narrations in this regard documented under the biographies of Hisham ibn al Hakam, Hisham ibn Salim, and Yunus ibn ‘Abd al Rahman in Rijal al Kashshi; also refer to the book Majalis al Muwahhidin fi Usul al Din: p 23 of al Tabataba’i.

[32] Minhaj al Sunnah: 20/144.

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