“Is it true that Imam Ahmad made ta’wil [engaged in speculative theology] of the following verses of Qur’an?
”or your Lord should come” 7/158
“And thy Lord shall come ” 89/22
The claim that Imam Ahmad [may Allah be pleased with him] made ta’wil [engaged in speculative theology] of these verses is a claim that demands scrutiny for the following reasons:
1. The enormity of reports, which have reached us through chains that are mutawatirah , that clearly illustrate his absolute rejection of ta’wil regarding the Divine [May He be exalted]. For that reason Imam al-Zaquni and others stated that the mashur and acted upon opinion, according to the Hanbalis, is rejection of ta’wil [speculative theology] .
2. His [may Allah have mercy upon him] position of rejecting ta’wil is not only found in the reports of his students, but in his own writings. [see for example al-Rad ’ala al-Zanadiq wa al-Jamhiyah fema shakat min mutashabihat al-Quran wa ta’walihi ’ala ghayr ta’wilihi].
3. This is a single narration whose source is traced back to one person: Hanbal who narrated it in his book discussing the trial of Imam Ahmad. However, the scholars of the school found this narration suspect as it went against what was mentioned above and:
1. Other companions of Ahmad [may Allah have mercy upon him], such as Salhi and ‘Abdullah, who were present at the ‘trial’ did not narrate this. In fact, what they narrated shows Ahmad’s objection of ta’wil in relation to the Divine.
2. Since he was the only one to narrate this Hanbal was chastised by the scholars of the school for this narration. It was known that, on more than on occasion, he was mistaken in his narrations. Abu Ishaq states, “This [this narration] is one of Hanbal’s errors. There is know doubt about it.”
What About The Narration of Imam Malik?
The narration that Imam Malik [may Allah have mercy upon him] contradicted his well known position, of slience in the face of such issues, and made t’awil of the hadith of nuzol demands further examination. This narration was mentioned by the Hafidh of al-Maghrib the Muhaqiq and Maliki Ibn Abdul Barr in his monumental work al-Tamhid. However, research shows this narration to suffer from the following:
1. It was narrated by Habib who is considered a liar by the consensus of the scholars
2. There is another narration which expresses the same contention, however, its chain is unknown and cannot be used for proof. Especially in the light of the narrations of Malik that clearly rejected speculative theology regarding the Divine.
The Way Forward:
Hujjat al-Islam Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali [may Allah have mercy upon him] stated, “The way of the salaf [the Companions, their students and their students as defined by al-Ghazzali] is they way of truth, in our estimation, and whoever opposes it is an innovator” and, regarding such issues, “One should not ask about them nor delve deep into them…….he should know that asking about them is innovation.”