Commentary on the Verse of Istiwā’ On the ‘Arsh
By Hakīm al-Ummah Mawlānā Ashraf ‘Ali Thānawi
Translated by Mawlānā Hamood Aleem
“He (Allah Most High) then firmly established (istawā) Himself over the Throne” (Qur’an 7:54) means He firmly established Himself over the Kingly Throne and began decreeing orders (ahkāms) in the heavens and the earth. In the tafsīr (exegesis) of [the verse] “He then firmly established Himself over the Throne”, it is safer to adopt silence in agreement with the methodology of the salaf (pious predecessors) and that is also my view although the muta’akhirīn (scholars of the later generations) have opened the doors for ta’wīl (interpretation).
The ta’wīl which has been done in this place is extremely latīf (delicate), the gist of which is that [the act of] being seated on the throne is figuratively used to express the decreeing of orders and the administrating of affairs. Hence, it is said that following a certain king, such a person sat on the throne. This is even if he still has not had the opportunity to sit on the [physical] throne. The meaning of this statement is that after the king this person became ruler and took the administration of the kingdom in his hands. This same usage has been used in the Qur’an, where the intended meaning is that Allah Most High, having brought the heavens and the earth etc. into existence, began decreeing orders and administrating over affairs.
In another verse, istawā ‘alā al-’arsh is followed by [the words] yudabbir al-amr [he administers the affairs] , which can be considered the exegesis of istawā ‘alā al-’arsh which in turn corroborates this ta’wīl. Furthermore, in this verse, istawā ‘alā al-’arsh is followed by the verse: “He covers the day with the night that pursues it swiftly. (He created) the sun and the moon and the stars, subjugated to His command. Lo! To Him alone belong the creation and the command. Glorious is Allah, the Lord of all the worlds.” (Qur’an, 7:54). This expresses [the meaning of] administrating over affairs, after which no objection remains because Allah Most High is free from being seated on a throne.
The response to the doubt that arises from this verse is that istawā ‘alā al-’arsh has been used figuratively such that the intended meaning is of administrating over affairs because this is the meaning of being seated on a throne that is commonly understood. Consequently, where the muta’akhirīn have introduced other ta’wīls they have also given consideration to this [above mentioned] ta’wīl. Insha’Allah (Allah willing), this is the most latīf ta’wīl.
Excerpt from Tashīl Tafsīr Bayān al-Qur’ān (Sura Al-A’rāf, Verse 54)
 Translation: Firmly established (istawā) Himself over (‘alā) the Throne (al-’arsh)
 Tashīl and talkhīs by Mawlana Zafar Ahmad ‘Usmani