By Dr. Ergün Çapan
In the previous article, we started analyzing Prof Mehmet Gormez’s statements on not declaring a person infidel by selectively quoting his/her words and the report that Prof Gormez had his team wrote about Fethullah Gülen. In this article, we will continue from where we stopped.
- There are many metaphorical expressions in the Qur’an and the Sunnah. For example, when talking about how Allah saved Prophet Moses from the Pharaoh the following metaphor is used: “…And I spread My love over you in order that you might be reared in My sight.” (20:39). A certain metaphor and a literary style have been used in the verse in order to refer to protection. Because he/she who is protected is kept in one’s sight and is bestowed upon with gifts and benevolence.
The Mufassirs (scholars of Qur’anic interpretation) pointed out that the expression in the verse “that you might be reared in My sight” is a metaphor referring to “knowledge, protection and safekeeping” hence to the special care and observance given to Moses. (Râzî, Fahreddin, (1999) Mefâtihu’l-gayb, Dâru ihyâi’t-turâsi’l-arabî, Beyrut, 22/48; el-Maverdî, Ali b. Muhammed, en-Nüket ve’l-uyûn, Dâru’l-kütübi’l-ilmiyye, Beyrut, Lübnan, 3/402; Nesefi, Ebu’l-Berekât, (1998) Medâriku’t-tenzîl ve hakâiku’t-tevîl, Dâru’l-kelimi’t-tayyib, Beyrut, 2/464)
Allah SWT’s expression ‘you are in our sight’ has not been taken literally by the scholars who interpreted it to mean ‘you are in our protection, care and safety’. (Zemahşerî, Mahmud b. Ömer, (1998) el-Keşşâf an hakâik-i gavâmizi’t-tenzîl ve uyûni’l-ekâvîl fi vücûhi’t-te’vîl, Mektebetü ubeykan, Riyad, 4/81-82; Râzî, Mefâtîhu’l-gayb, 14/386; el-Maverdî, en-Nüket ve’l-uyûn, 5/387; Elmalılı, Hamdi Yazır, Hak Dini Kur’an Dili, Eser Yay. Yayınları, s.4566; İbn-i Âşur Tahir, (1984) et-Tahrîr ve’t-Tenvîr, Dâru’t-Tunûsiyye, Tunus, 16/219)
Similarly, where the Qur’an says “Wherever you are, Allah is with you” in verses such as Hadîd, (57:4) and Tawbah (9:40) does not refer to being physically together. This is a metaphorical way of expressing that wherever a person is, his/her condition is always known to Allah at all times. It also refers to that Allah’s knowledge encompasses everything and that no one is outside of such divine knowing by Allah SWT. . (Ebu’s-Suud, Muhammed b. Muhammed, İrşâdu akli’s-selîm ilâ mezâyâ’l-Kur’ani’l-Kerîm, Dâru ihyâi’t-turâsi’l-arabî, Beyrut, 8/204)
If we were to apply the methodology adopted in the report to the first example above, the following conclusion would have to be drawn: Allah forbid! Allah is likened to a person who lived in Pharaoh’s palace since He sees Moses all the time. As a result, physical location is attributed to Allah SWT. Therefore, one would have to conclude that, since Allah SWT cannot be likened to anything and no physical location can be attributed to Him SWT, these verses would pose a challenge from an Islamic perspective and they would have to be rejected.
In Hadeeths too, Allah’s protection and benevolence are explained through metaphors. For example, Prophet Muhammad said to Ibn Abbas “ Oh son, you protect Allah SWT so that He protects you. If you protect Allah SWT, you will find him before you”. (Tirmizî, Kıyame, 59; İmam Ahmed, Musnad 1, 307).”
This hadith is regarded as one of the best, concise and eloquent examples of metaphor. Since Allah SWT is free from time, space and direction, the metaphorical expression in the hadeeth mean the following: If you observe Allah’s commands, refrain from what He forbids, you fulfil and do not neglect His rights, in return He will keep you safe and take you in His protection both in this life and in the hereafter. As a result wherever you are, you will have His shelter and protection with you. . (Suyûtî Celaleddin, (2003) Kûtu’l-Muğtezî alâ câmii’t-Tirmizî, Câmiatü ümmi’l-kurâ, Mekke, 2/604; Aliyyü’l-Kâri, (2002) Mirkâtü’l-mefâtih şerhu mişkâti’l-mesâbih, Dâru’l-fikr, Beyrut, 8/3323)
Once again, if the methodology adopted in the report was to be applied to this hadeeth, they would have to say the following: (Allah forbid) the Prophet SAW is speaking about Allah SWT as if He is a weak man in need of shelter and protection and asks Abdullah Ibn Abbas to protect Him. They would then quote verses from the Qur’an, which point out that Allah SWT is all-powerful and He can make things happen by just saying “be”. Hence they would rule (Allah forbid) that the expressions in the hadeeth are clear deviations and heresy. Consequently, they would have to claim that Prophet SAW is infusing his hadeeth with beliefs about Allah SWT that are inconceivable and unacceptable.
- Taking literal meanings of metaphors and allegorical expressions and building interpretations upon them have been a cause for deviation and heresy. The scholars of Qalam, who studied the articles of Islamic faith pointed out that metaphorical and allegorical expressions in the Qur’an and Sunnah have been included in order to assist people in understanding the higher truths and caution them against taking their literal meanings as it may lead to heresy. (Taftazani, Sadeddin, (1981) Şerhu’l-Makâsıd, Dâru’l-meârifi’n-Numaniye, Pakistan, 2/110; al-Îcî, Abdurrahman, (1997), el-Mevâkıf, Dâru’l-cîyl, Lübnan, 3/153; el-Fûde Saîd Abdullatîf, eş-Şerhu’l-kebîr ala akîdeti’t-Tahaviyye, Dâru’z-zehâir, Lübnan, 1/345)
In the publications of Diyanet, the importance of metaphorical expressions have been emphasized. More specifically, during Gormez’s presidency at Diyanet, a council of scholars headed by him personally produced a publication titled “Islam through Hadiths”. In this book, they emphasized the importance of having a certain level of command of the language in order to properly comprehend the Hadeeth and it is also stated that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) also utilized metaphorical expressions. Here are their exact words: “When calling people to Islam, Prophet (SAW) used all linguistic characteristics of the Arabic language. While utilizing certain more direct and literal expressions in spreading basic truths of Islam.
He also made use of literary styles of metaphors, smile, the figure of speech and allegories. Sometimes he relayed the fundamentals of belief through living examples and sometimes He used stories and parables as it is done in all languages and traditions in order to instil them in people’s minds. In addition, it is a fact that concretization is used in all languages in order to transmit abstract phenomena. Concretization is a transfer of idiom in order to strengthen the power of an expression. It is about expressing abstract phenomena, thoughts and feelings that are hard to express through concrete concepts. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) made use of such methods when explaining certain truths that are beyond people’s imagination and comprehension. (Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı, (2014) Hadislerle İslam, Dini Yayınlar, Ankara, 2014, 1/105)
Therefore, they studied the relevant hadeeth with this perspective. We can cite an example: “Allah (SWT) said: ‘whosoever shows enmity to a wali (friend) of Mine, then I have declared war against him. And my servant does not draw near to Me with anything more loved to Me than the religious duties I have obligated upon him. And My servant continues to draw near to Me with nawafil (supererogatory) deeds until I Love him. When I Love him, I am his ear with which he hears, and his sight with which he sees, and his hand with which he strikes, and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask [something] of Me, I would surely give it to him; and were he to seek refuge with Me, I would surely grant him refuge.” (Hadeeth 38, 40 Hadeeth an-Nawawi).
This hadeeth describes to what heights a believer can reach when he deepens his relationship with His Rabb. At such a level, it is as if the curtains separating the servant and his Rabb are removed. The servant whom Allah SWT refers to as His Wali (friend) and gives His divine love, approaches all things and the universe from the perspective of maqasid (divine intentions). In addition, when Allah SWT says “When I Love him, I am his ear with which he hears, and his sight with which he sees, and his hand with which he strikes, and his foot with which he walks”, He figuratively means that he becomes close to His servant who is bestowed His love. (Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı, Hadislerle İslam, 1/461-462). As it is expressed in the underlined section, Diyanet admitted that it is a figurative and metaphorical expression and the hadeeth has been interpreted accordingly.
Furthermore, in the Diyanet’s Encyclopedia of Islam’s entry on anthropomorphism, it is emphasized that it is deviation and disbelief to interpret the metaphorical and allegorical expressions in the Qur’an and Hadeeth literally without recognizing the relationship between the metaphors and truth they refer to.
In conclusion, while many scholars, as well as the Diyanet’s own publications, admit that many metaphors and allegories are used in the Qur’an and the Sunnah because such methods are characteristics and richness of many languages, to conceal what Gülen means in similar expressions and draw heresy out of them is a perception engineering and a double standard which is an offence in Islamic standards.