Original Research: Historical Thought and Source Interpretation

Al-Bantānī and the Interpretation of Ṣifāt verses in Marāḥ Labīd

Umar Muhammad Noor, Abur Hamdi Usman
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 79, No 2 | a7661 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v79i2.7661 | © 2023 Umar Muhammad Noor, Abur Hamdi Usman | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 20 April 2022 | Published: 06 February 2023

About the author(s)

Umar Muhammad Noor, School of Humanities, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Abur Hamdi Usman, Faculty of Islamic Civilization Studies, Kolej Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Selangor, Kajang, Malaysia


This article examines the stance held by a Meccan-Indonesian exegete in the 13 AH or 19 AD century, Muḥammad Nawawī al-Bantānī (d. 1230–1314 H/1813–1897 AD), in dealing with Ṣifāt verses in his exegetical work, Marāḥ Labīd li Kashf Ma’nā al-Qur’ān al-Majīd. As an established term, Ṣifāt verses refer to Quranic expressions that ostensibly ascribe anthropomorphic dimensions to God. Interpretation of such ambiguous verses has been bitterly contended since the 2/8th century and remains one of the most debated topics in the pre- and postmodern era. This study applies literature and document analysis focused on many of al-Bantānī’s works. The results show that al-Bantānī actively applied ta’wīl [figurative interpretation] in dealing with Ṣifāt verses without totally discarding amodality position [tafwīḍ].

Contribution: Although al-Bantānī never mentioned Wahhabism in any of his works, his interpretation of Ṣifat verses alludes to his indirect response to the Wahhabi’s literalism and anti-ta’wīl approach. In addition, by accepting both of ta’wīl and tafwīḍ solutions, al-Bantānī underpinned the wasaṭī [moderate] stand, which later became the most distinctive tradition in Malay–Islamic discourse.


Wahhabism; ta’wīl; Ṣifāt verses; Ash‘arī; al-Bantānī.


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