What does Islam say about Anthromophic philosophy and Transcendent view of Allah (swt)?


What is the proper view in the school of the Ahlul Bayt when it comes to the concepts of Anthromorphic philosophy regarding Allah (swt), and Transcendent view of Allah?


Anthropomorphism is an ancient Greek philosophy-though not endorsed by some of their famous philosophers such as Plato- that depicts God and other objects in a human image, with human bodily form and emotions. They claim that it is impossible to think of God without attributing to Him some human traits. This philosophy has application in art too by depiction of animals and plants as talking like humans. Remember some animal cartoons like in Ice Age.

The anthropomorphic concept of God is part of Christian theology as they insist that Jesus is God’s incarnation while he is a fully human person. In Islam the anthropomorphic concept of God is fully rejected and equals blasphemy. Many Ayat in the Quran clearly reject this notion, Such as:

لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ

There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer (42:11).

لَا تُدْرِكُهُ الْأَبْصَارُ وَهُوَ يُدْرِكُ الْأَبْصَارَ

No vision can grasp Him, but His Grasp is over all vision (6:103).

Also, on the issue of divine attributes we -according to the teachings of Ahlul-Bayt (a.s)- believe that the only similarity between our characteristics of say: hearing, seeing etc. and that of Allah is the words and that is because human language is limited to worldly and material matters.  For example, the meaning of the Wrath of Allah is His punishment and the meaning of being loved by Allah means receiving His rewards. God doesn’t need eyes or ears for seeing and hearing. Imam Ali says:

الْحَمْدُ لله الَّذِي لاَ تُدْرِكُهُ الشَّوَاهِدُ، وَلاَ تَحْوِيهِ الْمَشَاهِدُ، وَلاَ تَرَاهُ النَّوَاظِرُ

“Praise be to Allah. He is such that senses cannot perceive Him, place cannot contain Him, eyes cannot see Him” (Nahjul Balagha: Sermon 185)

He also says in the next sermon:

مَا وَحَّدَهُ مَنْ كَيَّفَهُ، وَلاَ حَقِيقَتَهُ أَصَابَ مَنْ مَثَّلَهُ، وَلاَ إِيَّاهُ عَنَى مَنْ شَبَّهَهُ

“He who assigns to Him (different) conditions does not believe in His oneness, nor does he who likens Him grasp His reality. He who illustrates Him does not signify Him” (Nahjul Balagha: Sermon 186).

There is however a narration in the Sunni books of Hadith such as Sahih Bukhari that quotes from the Prophet (P) to have said:

خلق الله آدم علی صورته

“God created Adam according to his image”.

Based on this they claim that God has created Adam according to His image. In the same book many physical and human traits are attributed to God, glory to Him! The above Hadith has been an issue of debate between Shi’a and Sunni and hence the Imams of Ahlul-Bayt have been often asked about its authenticity and its meaning.

For example, Sh. Sadooq in his books al-Tawhid and al-Oyoun narrated in his Esnad from Hossein IbnKhaled:

I asked Imam Redha (a.s): People (meaning Sunnis) narrate from the Prophet (P) to have said: Allah has created Adam according to His image! The Imam said: May God kill them; they have deleted the beginning of the Hadith. The Messenger of Allah passed by two men who were swearing at each other. He heard one of them saying to the other: May God make your face and whoever looks like you ugly. The Prophet said: O slave of God! Don’t say this to your brother for Allah the Almightyhas created Adam according to his image (meaning Adam looks like the one you are swearing at)  [Behar vol.4 p.11].

In conclusion, according to the teachings of Ahlul-Bayt (a.s) we believe in the transcendental view of God in the sense that He is beyond our imagination and by no means is similar to anything. He is Allah the Unique, although we can all experience Him, and within our limits understand His existence and relate to His attributes.

Answered by: Sheikh Mansour Leghaei