Affirmation & Negation In The Names & Attributes Of Allaah
Firstly, regarding ithbaat (affirmation) – Affirming whatever Allaah has affirmed for Himself in His Book, or upon the tinge of the Messenger of Allaah (saw) without making tahreef, ta’weel, takyeef, nor tamtheel.
Secondly, regarding nafee (negation) – Their (Ahlu Sunnah’s) approach is to negate whatever Allaah has negated from Himself in His Book, or upon the tongue of the Messenger of Allaah (saw), while at the same time holding the ‘Aqeedah of affirming the perfection of its opposite to Allaah (1).
The Third category:
Thirdly, in those issues in which no negation nor affirmation has been reported (2), the issues that people have disputed about such as Allaah’s body, or Allaah’s occupying a certain space, or position, etc., Alhu Sunnah withhold from speaking about it. They neither affirm nor negate these issues due to the fact that nothing has come to us regarding them (3).
[Taken from Ibn Uthaymeens explanation of ‘Al-‘Aqeedah Al-Hamawiyyah, Pp. 20-21]
(1) As for the reason why Ahlu Sunnah affirm its opposite, this is because the Names And Attributes of Allaah are for the reason of praising Allaah. These Names and Attributes are given to us so that we may praise Allaah through them.
Now (as Ibn ‘Uthaymeen mentions) “negation alone does not indicate complete perfection unless and until it includes affirming a praiseworthy attribute. Negation alone could be due to a reason such as inability or weakness and therefore be a defect (and Allah is free from such).
The reason for the negation of a certain characteristic coulees possibly be due to lack of capability (of having that characteristic). In that case, it would not be praiseworthy, such as saying: ‘The wall doesn’t provide any shade’.”
[Taken from p. 23 of the aforementioned book]
Likewise it is like saying ‘that wall isn’t ignorant’, this is not a praise of that wall. But to say ‘that man is not ignorant’ is a praise because we know the reason behind this negation (of the attribute of ignorance) is because of the affirmation of the attribute ‘knowledge’.
(2) Imaam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal said:
“Describe Allaah with what He has described Himself with, and negate from Allaah what He has negated from Himself…” [Manaaqibul Imaam Ahmad, by Ibn Al-Jawzee, p. 221]
Imaam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal also said:
“…and in no way is Allaah to be described with anything more than what He – the Mighty and Majestic – has described himself with.” [Kitaabul-Mihnah p. 68]
(3) Over here is to also name Allaah with what He has not names himself with (and this is a type of ilhaad (deviation)). Ibn ‘Uthaymeen mentions, “This is because the Names and Attributes of Allaah are only known through revelation. An example of this type is the naming of Him with ‘Father’ as the Christians do, or ‘Cause and Doer’ as some of the philosophers do.”
[Taken from p. 29 of the aforementioned book]
Furthermore, the ruling with regards to these ‘names’ attributes to Allaah (like ‘Father’ etc.) is to look into their meaning and negate or affirm their meaning, and to stay silent on the actual name itself.