THE CREED OF IMAAM ABOO HANEEFAH
Mullah 'Alee al-Qaaree al-Hanafee (d.1014H) writes, clarifying the creed of Imaam Aboo Haneefah, after mentioning the famous narration of Imaam Maalik ‘Istawaa is known, but how is unknown’:
"Likewise, our great Imaam (Aboo Haneefah) has the same stance as this position (of Imaam Maalik), and the same is the case with every verse and hadeeth from the Mutashaabihaat such as Hand, Eye, Face and other than these from the Attributes. So the meanings of the Attributes are known, as far as the 'howness' is concerned this is not known. Because the understanding of 'how' is branched onto the knowledge of the 'howness' of the Dhaat (of Allaah) and its reality. Therefore, if this (knowledge of the 'howness' of the Dhaat of Allaah) is unknown, how can the 'howness' of the Attributes be understood. The safe and beneficial conclusion in this regard is that Allaah be described with what He has described Himself and with what His Messenger has described Him without tahreef (distortion), ta'teel (divesting Allaah of the Attribute), without takyeef (asking 'how') and tamtheel (resemblance). Rather, the Names and Attributes are established for Him, and resemblance to the creation is negated. So your establishment would be free from resemblance (tashbeeh), whilst your negation would be free from divesture (ta'teel). Whoever negates the reality of Istawaa has thereby divested (Allaah of an Attribute), and whoever makes a resemblance for Him to the istawaa of the creation is a Mushabbih. But whoever says: Istawaa, without any likeness for Him, he is upon Tawheed and free from any blame."
(Mirqaat al-Mafaateeh Sharh Mishqaat al-Masaabeeh 8/251 of 'Alee al-Qaaree)
So this is the creed of Aboo Haneefah, free from any blame, and it is, in many ways, a clarification of the creed of the Salaf as opposed to the mishmash presented by Kabbani.
EXPLANATION OF THE SAYING OF MULLAH 'ALEE AL-QAAREE AL-HANAFEE
(i) Mullah 'Alee al-Qaaree al-Hanafee says: "So the meanings of the Attributes are known, as far as the 'howness' is concerned this is not known."
This is what is known as tafweedh: affirming the wording and meaning of the Attribute whilst consigning the ‘howness’ to Allaah. This is exemplified in the famous statement of Imaam Maalik when he was asked how Allaah had ascended the Throne: "Istawaa is known, but the ‘howness’ is unknown." Kabbani also gives this narration of Imaam Maalik in his book (pp.38, 136, 179).
We see that Imaam Maalik affirmed that the meaning of Istawaa is understood but the how of it is not. Therefore it is for us to affirm that which we are able, i.e. the meaning of Istawaa, but not to question about that which we have not been granted knowledge, i.e. the ‘howness’ of the Attribute. And upon this way of Imaam Maalik are the Salafis.
Ibn al-Qayyim wrote: "This is why Maalik and Rabee’ah said: ‘Istawaa is known and how is unknown,’ and likewise ibn al-Maajishoon and Imaam Ahmad and others amongst the Salaf have said: ‘We do not know the ‘howness’ of what Allaah has informed about Himself even if we know its explanation and its meaning.’"
(Mukhtasar as-Sawaa’iq al-Mursalah 1/165)
Shaykh ibn al-Uthaymeen also explains:
"And in any case, there is no doubt that those who say: ‘The madhab of Ahl as-Sunnah is tafweedh (of the meaning),’ they have erred because the madhab of Ahl as-Sunnah is to affirm the meaning but to do tafweedh of its ‘howness’. And let it be known that speaking with tafweedh (of the meaning), as Shaykh al-Islaam ibn Taymiyyah has said, is amongst the most evil of the sayings of the people of innovation and ilhaad. When a person hears about tafweedh, he says: ‘This is good, I will be safe from these (people) and those (people). I will not speak with the madhab of the Salaf and nor will I speak with the madhab of those performing ta’weel. I will take the middle path and will be saved from all of this. And I will say: Allaah knows best, we do not know what its meaning is.’ However, Shaykh al-Islaam says: ‘This is amongst the most evil of the sayings of the people of innovation and ilhaad.’"
(Sharh al-‘Aqeedah al-Waasitiyyah 1/p.93 of ibn al-Uthaymeen)
KABBANI’S MISUNDERSTANDING OF TAFWEEDH
As for Kabbani, he thinks that the tafweedh of the Salaf is to consign both the meaning of the Attribute as well as its ‘howness’ to Allaah. Indeed, he defines tafweedh as: "committing the meaning to Allaah." (Glossary, p.ix) and goes on to say: "Thus we see that the way of the Salaf was mere acceptance of expressions on faith without saying how they are meant…" (p.108)
There are a number of reasons why this understanding of tafweedh is incompatible with the creed of the Salaf: