The Meaning of "Istiwaa"
Understanding Islam
Bayaan at-Talbees Ahlul-Takfeer
Ahlu-Sunnah Versus the Ashari/Sufi Movement
The Senior Scholars Warn Against Extremism and Exageration in Religion
Muslim Authorities
Countering Islamaphobia
To Non Muslims
Salafi Conferences With Scholars
Here are the statements of the Imaams that Istiwaa means "rose over" and not "istawla" or conquering
Imaam al-Laali'ka'ee says in his sharh al-usool al-itiqaad

Point no.662: Bashr bin Umar said, 'I heard more then one of the Mufassir say about the verse, "The Most Merciful istawaa upon the Throne" - istiwaa means rose above.' (pg.397)
again he narrates
Maqaatil bin Huyaan said about His saying, "and there is no secret discourse of 3 people except He is the fourth, or of 5 people and He is the sixth" - 'He is above His Throne, and nothing is hidden from His knowledge.' (pg.400)

Dawood bin Alee said, ‘we were with ibn al-A’raabee when a man came to him and said, “O Abu Abdullaah what is the meaning of His saying, ‘ar-Rahmaan made Istawaa upon the Throne?’ (Taa Haa:5)?” He said, “He is Over His Throne as He informed”. So he said, “O Abu Abdullaah the meaning is istawlaa.” So he said, “be silent! You do not say istawlaa upon something unless it has an opponent that may be overcome as was said by an-Naabigha: except for the likes of you or one who preceded you the preceding of the horse when it conquered (istawlaa) al-Amad” [Reported by al- Khateeb al-Baghdaadee in ‘Taareekh Baghdaad’ (5/284), and al-Laalikaa’ee (3/393), al-Bayhaqee in ‘Asmaa was Sifaat’ (pg.523) with a saheeh sanad.]

Ibn Hajr goes on to say, “but it is possible to refute some of these meanings for others as has preceded from ibn Battaal, and it is reported (saying of ibn al-'a'raabe (imaam of the language) and the Reviver of the Sunnah, al-Baghawee quoted in his tafseer from ibn Abbaas and the majority of the commentators that it’s meaning was to Rise Above, similar statements were said by Abu Ubaid and al-Faraa’…and al-Bayhaqi reported with a hasan sanad that al-Awzaa’ee said, ‘we used to say, while the taabi’een were many, that indeed Allaah is over His Throne, and we believe in that which occurs in the sunnah concerning His Attributes’…”.

Wahb bin Jareer said, ‘The Jahmiyyah are heretics, they think that He has not risen over His Throne.’

Ibn al-Mubaarak said, ‘we do not say as the Jahmiyyah say that Allaah is on the earth, rather He has risen over His Throne.’ And it was said to him, ‘how should we know our Lord?’ He said, ‘above the Heavens, over/upon (‘alaa) His Throne’

Muhammad bin Yusuf said (one of the teachers of Bukhaaree), ‘the one who says that Allaah is not over (‘alaa) His Throne is a kaafir. And the one who thinks that Allaah did not speak to Moses is a kaafir.’

Ibn Mas’ud (radiallahi anhu) said about His saying, “then He rose over His Throne”, - ‘the Throne is over the water, and Allaah is above (fawqa) the Throne, and He knows what you are upon.’

Abdullaah bin Abbaas (radiallahi anhu) said, ‘Verily Allaah was above His Throne before He created anything, then He created the creation and decreed what was to exist until the Day of Judgement.’
Sharh Usul I'tiqaad Ahlus Sunnah’ of al-Laalikaaee (d.414, pp396+ - tahqeeq Ahmad Hamdaan)

Maqaatil bin Huyaan said about His saying, “and there is no secret discourse of 3 people except He is the fourth, or of 5 people and He is the sixth” - ‘He is above His Throne, and nothing is hidden from His knowledge.’

Imaam Abdullaah bin Ahmad quotes Abdullaah ibn Mubaarak as saying, “....I bear witness that You are above Your Throne above the seven heavens. And this is not as the enemies of Allaah say, the heretics.” [‘as-Sunnah’ of Imaam Abdullaah ibn Ahmad with tahqeeq of al-Qahtaanee]

He also quoted him as saying, “we know that our Lord is above the seven heavens over the Throne, and we do not say as the Jahmiyyah say that he is here,” pointing with his hand to the earth.

Imaam Maalik said, “Allaah is Above the heaven, and His knowledge is in every place, nothing is hidden from Him.” [Al-Albaanee said in his notes to ‘Mukhtasar’ (no. 130), “reported by Abdullaah in ‘as-Sunnah’ (pg. 5), and likewise Abu Dawood in ‘Masaa’il’ (pg. 263)…and it’s sanad is saheeh” and he includes a refutation of the lies that Kawtharee employs to try and discredit this isnaad.]

Abu Haneefah (rahimullah) said, when asked of his opinion of the one who says, ‘I do not know whether Allaah is above the heavens or on the earth.’ - “He has disbelieved, because Allaah says, “The Most Merciful rose above the Throne.” , and His Throne is above His seven heavens.’ He was then asked , ‘what if he said that Allaah is above His Throne but he does not know whether the Throne is in the heavens or on the earth?’ He said, ‘He has disbelieved, because He has denied that He is above the heavens, And whosoever denied that He is above the heavens has disbelieved.” [‘al-Uluww’ of adh- Dhahabee, also ‘Sharh Aqueedah at-Tahaawiyyah’ of ibn Abee al-Izz al-Hanafee]

Ibn al-A’raabee, an Imaam in the language, said, ‘ibn Abee Dawood wished that I seek out some of the phrases of the Arabs and their meanings. (So he said) ‘the Most Merciful Istawaa upon the Throne’ (Taa Haa:5) Istawaa meaning Istawlaa?” I said to him, ‘by Allaah this does not mean this and I have never seen this.”’ [Reported by Khateeb al-Baghdaadee in ‘Taareekh Baghdaad’ (5/283), al-Laalikaa’ee in ‘Sharh Usul I’tiqaad’ (3/399) with a saheeh sanad]

There's also the statement of Abu'l-Hasan b. al-Mahdi, in Dhahabi's al-'Uluww. Ibn al-Mahdi is a direct student of Imam al-Ash'ari, and the Hafidh quotes from his Mushkil al-Ayat, and it exists, from the chapter: Bab Qawl al-Rahman 'ala'l-'Arsh Istawa', in which he says:
Know that Allah is fi'l-sama, above everything, upon His Throne with the meaning that He's rosen over it.." etc. without giving any metaphorical interpretation or eliminating Allah's Istiwa'on the Throne - rather taking Istiwa' according to its apparent meaning (see al-'Uluww p.294)

In p.290 till 297 of the book, in which al-Ash'ari puts together the different beliefs and opinions of Muslims and those pseudo-Muslims, he draws his own confession - the confession of the People of the Sunnah and Community, saying in it:
"Allah is upon His Throne, as He said, {The Merciful rose over the Throne}. He has Two Hands, without how, as He has said, {I have created with My Two Hands}, and as He has said, {Nay, outstretched are both His Hands}. [b]And He has Two Eyes, without how (wa-lahu 'aynayn bila kayfa), as He has said, {Under Our Eyes it floated on}. And He has a Face, as He has said, {And the Face of your Lord shall abide forever with Majesty and Glory}"
And the quote of al-Ibanah has been confirmed by many scholars, among them Ibn 'Asakir, Ibn Taymiyyah and al-Saffarini al-Hanbali.


The Salaf agree that the meaning of Istiwaa is explained by the following four words:
1. 'alaa (to rise above)
2. irtafa'a (to ascend)
3. sa'uda (to ascend) and
4. istaqarra (to be settled or established)

Imaam Bukhaaree (raheemahullah) said in his saheeh, "Mujaahid said, 'istawaa ala'l-Arsh (meaning) 'alaa (i.e. ascended),'"

Ishaaq ibn Raahawayah said, "I heard more than one of the Mufassireen saying, 'Ar-Rahmaan ala'l-Arsh istawaa (meaning) irtafa'a (i.e. ascended),'

Muhammad ibn Jareer said about the verse 'Ar-Rahmaan ala'l-Arsh means 'alaa and irtafa'a.'"

Ibn Qayyim summarised these four explanations in his Nooniyyah saying, "And they (Ahl us-Sunnah) have four explanations for it (istiwaa)..." and then he mentioned, "and they are istaqarra, 'alaa, irtafa'a about which there is no dispute, and likewise sa'uda is the fourth. Aboo 'Ubaydah of Shaybaan has chosen this in his explanation. [Foundations of the Sunnah; SP: 1417/1997]


Extracted from the shuruh of Ibn Uthaymeen and al-Harras from Qaasidah an-Nuniyyah

And below is a detailed analysis by Haafidh al-Imaam Ibn Abdul-Barr
 'He arranges every affair from the heavens to the earth, then it (affair) will go up to him.' (32:5)
• 'O Jesus! I will take you and raise you to Myself' (3:55)
• 'Rather, Allaah raised him to Himself.' (4:158)
• 'From Allaah, the Lord of the ways of ascent. The Angels and the Spirit ascend to Him.' (70:2-3)
As for His saying, 'do you feel secure that he who is "fee" the heaven', then the meaning is 'who is over ('alaa) the Heaven' i.e. over the Throne. And the word fee is being used with the meaning 'alaa. Do you not see His saying, 'so travel freely fee the land' (9:2) meaning 'upon ('alaa) the land', and His saying, 'and I will surely crucify you on (fee) the trunks of the palm trees' (20:71) and all of this (i.e. interpretation of fee) is supported by His saying, 'the angels and the spirit ascend to Him'
And what we have recited and the like of it from the verses to do with this topic are clear in their denial of the saying of the Mu'tazila (i.e. Allaah is everywhere).

And as for their taking istawaa metaphorically, and in ta'wil to mean istawlaa (conquering) then this is not a meaning of it because it is not clear (ghayru dhaahir) in the language. And the meaning of istawlaa in the language is conquering/overcoming, and Allaah the Exalted does not (need to) overcome or overwhelm anyone. And He is the One, the Eternal.
And from the right of the Words (of Allaah ) is that they be taken upon their literal meanings ('alaa haqeeqatihi), until the ummah is agreed that what is meant is the metaphorical meaning, when there is no way to follow what is revealed to us from our Lord except in that way. And the speech of Allaah is directed towards it's most famous and obvious meanings if that (i.e taking it upon its most famous meanings) is not stopped by something we have to submit to. And if all the claims of metaphors were allowed for every claimant then nothing would be established from the actions of worship. And it befits Allaah that he speaks only with that which the Arab understands according to the constraints of the speech (ie everyday language) from what is the correctly understood by the listener. And istawaa is known in the language and understood to be: Highness (uluww) and rising above something and establishing (at-tamkinu) and settling in it (istiqraar feehee).
Abu Ubaid said about His saying, 'the Most Merciful Istawaa upon the Throne' - 'Above ('alaa)...'
And others said, Istawaa meaning istaqarra (settling) and they seek support in His saying, 'and when he attained his full strength and was perfect (istawaa)' (28:14) i.e. completed his youth and grew settled and there was not any increase in his youth.
Ibn Abdul Barr said, and istawaa is istiqraar in highness (uluww) [i.e. He has settled in being high], and this is what Allaah informs us, 'In order that you may mount firmly (tastu) on their backs, and then may remember the favours of your Lord when you mount (istawaytum) thereon...' (43:13), and Allaah said, 'and it rested (wastawat) on Mount Judi' (11:44), and He the Exalted said, 'so when you embark (istawayta) and those with you on the ship' (23:28). [i.e. all the examples show itiwaa to mean coming to rest in an elevated position]
....and as for their using as proof the narration of Ibn Abbaas about the saying of Allaah, 'The Most Merciful istawaa upon the Throne' -'He conquered/overcame (istawlaa) all His opponents and He is everywhere.'
Then the answer is that this hadeeth is munkar to Ibn Abbaas (RA) and is transmitted by unknown and weak narrators and they (i.e Mu'tazila who narrated this hadeeth) do not accept the individually narrated tradition so how can they permit depending upon the likes of this hadeeth, if they had sense and were just? As for what they hear Allaah say, 'And Pharoah said, "O Haman! Build me a tower that I may arrive at the ways - the ways of the heavens, and I may look upon the God of Moses but verily I think him to be a liar."' (40:36-37) then this lends evidence to the fact that Moses (AS) used to say that verily my God is above the Heaven and Pharoah thought he was a liar.
And also from the proofs that Allaah is over the Throne , above the seven heavens is that the Believers in Tawheed (muwahhideen), all of them, arabs and non-arabs, when a matter concerns them, or a difficulty befalls them, they raise their faces to the heaven, and direct their raised hands to the heaven, seeking succour from Allaah, their Lord. And this is common amongst the general masses as well as the elite (khaasa)....And the Prophet (SAW) said to the slave girl whose master wished to free her if she was a believer, so the Messenger (SAW) tested her asking her, 'where is Allaah?' So she pointed to the heaven. Then he asked, 'who am I?' So she said, 'you are the Messenger of Allaah'. So he said, 'set her free for she is a believer.' So it sufficed the Messenger of Allaah (SAW) from her, her raising her face to the heaven and was content with that, not requiring anything else.
And as for their seeking support in the saying of Allaah, 'their is no secret discourse of three except that he is the fourth' then this is not a proof for them according to the literal sense of this verse. Because the scholars from the companions and taabi'een from whom the explanation of the Qur'aan is taken from, said in explanation of this verse: He is over the Throne, and His Knowledge is in every place, and no one from amongst them, whose saying is depended on, differed on this. Ad-Dahhaak said about His saying, 'their is no secret discourse of three except that He is the fourth...' - 'He is over His Throne, and His Knowledge is with them, wheresoever they may be.' And it has reached me that Sufyaan ath-Thauri said something similar. Ibn Mas'ud (RA) said, 'Allaah is over the Throne, and nothing is hidden from Him of your actions'"
(Tahdheeb 7:103-105)