Fiqh Corner

Fiqh Station: Can the Kursi of Allah be understood as “Knowledge”?


Tl;DR What does Kursi translate to and can it be interpreted as Knowledge?

I wanted to ask you about the matter of doing ta’wil of Allah’s kursi as ‘knowledge’. There seems to be some discussion that a student of Ibn Abbas (ra), Saeed Ibn Jubayr (ra), did the ta’wil of kursi as ‘ilm. From preliminary research, it seems like narrations that seem to allow that ta’wil run through Jafar Ibn Abu Mugheera who has been considered trustworthy by many hadith scholars.

As a second part of that question: what do you think about translating kursi as ‘seat’ as done in the clear Quran by Dr.Mustafa Khattab. He chose Seat because it gives a flavour of the different shades of meaning:
– the seat (the domain of authority), like when they say the seat of the Khilafah.
– the seat is also related to knowledge, like when you say Al-Azhar is the seat of knowledge.

He also mentioned Ibn Abbas allowed ta’wil of kursi as knowledge but I was not able to find any information on a connected chain of transmission from Ibn Abbas (ra) to ibn Jubayr (ra). The narration in Bukhari seems to be suspended from ibn Jubayr, but nonetheless if Imam Bukhari (rh) is considering the narration from ibn Jubayr as Sahih, though suspended, should that allow ta’wil of kursi as ilm?
Or at the very least, consider this to be a valid difference between those who allow ta’wil in this matter and those who don’t?

Key terms:

  • Ta’wil – Interpretation
  • ‘Ilm – Knowledge
  • Kursi – foot stool (literal translation)
  • Sahih (authentic)
  • Ghaib – Unseen


Assalamu Alaikum brothers and sisters,

I pray to Allah that you are all well in health and spirits. Ameen.

Akhee, in relation to the verses of the Quran, and in specific those that speak of the Ghaib, we have a general guideline that we adhere to; this guideline is not only for the textual references but is one applicable to the Arabic language.

It states: الأصل في الكلام الحقيقة
Meaning: By default, the Arabic language is taken as is – at face value.

In essence, there is no ‘hidden’ meaning or ‘inner dimension’ to a word or verse. What you see, is essentially what you get. We don’t assign metaphorical meanings to the Arabic language unless evidence indicates that what is meant is the metaphorical meaning.

This in mind, looking at Ayatul-Kursi, Allah, the Exalted, says: “وَسِعَ كُرْسِيُّهُ”
Meaning: His kursi extends over the heavens and the earth.

Linguistically put, the kursi is a ‘footstool’. Looking into the books of Tafsir, there is a mention of more than one view regarding the interpretation of the word ‘kursi’. In specific, there are three.
a. Those who keep the word Kursi – in its linguistic form.
b. Those who interpret the meaning as ‘the knowledge of Allah’.
c. Those who state the Kursi is actually the throne of Allah.

Although the views are present in a book of Tafsir, it doesn’t mean that they are all legitimate. As is customary, before we accept a Hadeeth, we verify it. The same stands for narrations found in books of Tafsir.

Keep in mind, the scholars of Tafsir compiled all the views that were said in one issue, in spite of their strength. What I mean is that they didn’t mention an opinion because they necessarily agreed with it. They documented all that had been mentioned during their times and they even documented views that were known to be weak, as their work was encyclopedic.

When we scrutinize the proofs for the second opinion (i.e. the kursi is a reference to ‘knowledge’), the proof is a narration attributed to Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with them both, and a statement of the scholar Imam Sa’eed bin Jubair, may Allah have mercy on him, this narration shows an interpretation of the kursi as ‘the Knowledge of Allah’.

The narration (اثر) that is attributed to Ibn Abbas is weak (ضعيف) [As-Silsiliah As-Saheehah #109].

Furthermore, Imam Al-Azhari, may Allah have mercy on him, said in Tahdeeb al-Lugha (تهذيب اللغة 10/ 54):
والذي رُوِي عن ابن عباس في الكرسي أنه العلم، فليس مما يُثبته أهل المعرفة بالأخبار
Meaning: As for this narration that is attributed to Ibn Abbas regarding the interpretation of the Kursi as knowledge – this is not a narration that scholars well versed in this field (i.e. the field of Hadeeth) would attribute to him.

Imam Ibn Al-Anbari, may Allah have mercy on him, said in (العلو للذهبي 1/ 850):
إنما يُروى هذا بإسناد مطعون فيه
Meaning: This narration is heavily criticized by scholars (in essence, it is weak).

Other scholars indicated that the narration was (شاذ) flawed – as in its chain of narration there is weakness.

Imam Ibn Hajar, may Allah have mercy on him (تقريب التهذيب، رقم (968)) spoke of one of the narrators in the chain ‘Ja’far bin Abil-Mugheerah’, he said of him: “he is a truth-teller but had mistakes (in conveying narrations).” The Arabic here is صدوق يهم – which is a pretty harsh criticism – i.e. the person is truthful (meaning he does not lie) – but he has gaps in his memory!

As for the view that is attributed to Imam Saeed bin Jubair, may Allah have mercy on him, that the kursi is the knowledge of Allah, this narration is taken from the chain of Ja’far (who Imam Ibn Hajar, may Allah have mercy on him, criticized).

Imam Ibn Mandah, may Allah have mercy on him, said of this chain:
لم يُتابَع عليه جعفر وليس هو بالقوي في سعيد بن جبير
Meaning: Ja’far is not very strong in his narrations from Sa’eed bin Jubair. (الرد على الجهمية؛ لابن منده 1/ 21)

In fact, what has been authentically narrated from Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, differs from this weak narration. The authentic narration states that Ibn Abbas, may Allah be pleased with him, said:
“الكرسي موضع القدمين، والعرش لا يقدر أحد قدره.”

Meaning: the kursi is the foot-stool. (Ibn Abbas (The Kursiy (foot stool) is the place of the two feet, and the size of Throne cannot be known.” )
This narration is mentioned by Imam Ibn Khuzaimah in his book ’التوحيد’ and is authentic.

Furthermore, the kursi of Allah is not a metaphor, as we see in the following narration:
ما السَّماوات السّبع في الكُرسيِّ إلَّا كحلقةٍ ملقاةٍ بأرضٍ فلاةٍ ، وفضلُ العرشِ على الكُرسيِّ كفضلِ تلك الفلاةِ على تلك الحلقةِ
Meaning: The seven heavens when compared to the kursi is similar to a ring tossed into a desert land (the ring signifies the seven heavens and the desert land signifies the kursi). The same is of the arsh (throne) when compared to the kursi (i.e. the kursi is like the ring and the arsh is like the desert land). This narration has been authenticated by many scholars.

And Allah knows best.

Sheikh Abdurrahmann Murad

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