The issue of the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) being seated on the Throne was and still is a cause of debate and argument. Before discussing whether these words are sound or not, we should point out a number of things:
With regard to affirmation of the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) being seated on the Throne, there is no acceptable hadeeth with a sound isnaad from the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him). The foundation on which the belief of Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa‘ah is based is that whatever matters of the unseen the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said nothing about remain matters belonging to the unseen and it is not permissible to indulge in discussion of them by way of certainty and faith.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
The hadeeth about the Messenger (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) sitting on the Throne was narrated by a number of people via many marfoo‘ isnaads (i.e., attributed to the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him)), but all of them are mawdoo‘ (fabricated).
End quote from Dar’ Ta‘aarud al-‘Aql wa’n-Naql, 3/19
Adh-Dhahabi (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
No text concerning the issue of our Prophet sitting on the Throne is proven; there is a waahin (worthless) report concerning this matter.
End quote from al-‘Uluw, 2/1081, no. 422
Interpreting the Holy Qur’an on the basis of what is narrated in the saheeh Sunnah is more appropriate than adopting the interpretation of any of the Taabi‘een – even if he was as knowledgeable as Mujaahid (may Allah have mercy on him) – especially when we know that there is a report from Mujaahid himself that explains this verse in a manner that is in accordance with the saheeh hadeeths and texts, as we shall see below.
It was narrated from Ka‘b ibn Maalik that the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “The people will be resurrected on the Day of Resurrection, and my ummah and I will be on a hill. My Lord, may He be blessed and exalted, will give me a green suit to wear, then permission will be given to me and I shall say whatever Allah wills I should say, and that is the station of praise and glory (al-maqaam al-mahmood).” Narrated by Ahmad in al-Musnad, 25/60, Mu’sasat ar-Risaalah edn.
The editors of this edition (of Musnad Ahmad) said: Its isnaad is saheeh according to the conditions of Muslim; its men are thiqaat (trustworthy), the men of the two shaykhs (al-Bukhaari and Muslim), apart from Yazeed ibn ‘Abd Rabbihi – who is az-Zubaydi al-Homsi – who was one of the men of Muslim; and ‘Abd ar-Rahmaan ibn ‘Abdullah ibn Ka‘b ibn Maalik – they differed as to whether he heard from his grandfather, but the correct view is that he did hear from him. End quote.
Another of the saheeh mawqoof reports is that narrated from Ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him): “On the Day of Resurrection, the people will be divided into groups. Each group will follow their Prophet, saying: O So and so, intercede (for us), until the matter of intercession will come to the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him). That is the day on which Allah will raise him to the station of praise and glory (al-maqaam al-mahmood). Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 4718. He included it in a chapter entitled “It may be that your Lord will raise you to Maqaman Mahmooda (a station of praise and glory)” [al-Isra’ 17:79]. Al-Bukhaari favoured this interpretation of the verse. The interpretation of this verse as referring to the greater intercession is the only view referred to by al-Haafiz Ibn Katheer in Tafseer al-Qur’an al-‘Azeem, 5/103. He narrated it from many of the Sahaabah and Taabi‘een. Ibn Jareer at-Tabari said concerning that: It is the view of most of the commentators.
This is the most appropriate interpretation of this verse.
The fact that some of the scholars quoted Mujaahid’s words without objection does not mean that they are of the same view; rather that comes under the heading of being too lenient when quoting reports that speak of the virtues (of the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him)).
Abu Muhammad narrated from Bashshaar, that ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad said, concerning his father:
He would be asked about a particular hadeeth and he would say: This was narrated by So and so – a man whom he would name. But if he was asked about a da‘eef hadeeth, he would say: Cross it out. He was asked about the hadeeth of Mujaahid and he classed it as da‘eef. He said: O my father, Should I cross it out? He said: No; this is a hadeeth that speaks of some virtue (of the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him)), so take it as it is, and do not cross it out. End quote.
Narrated in Ibtaal at-Ta’weelaat, p. 489
This report indicates the reason why the report of Mujaahid became well-known, which is that some of the leading scholars of hadeeth, such as Imam Ahmad, did not say anything about this report. So some of the scholars thought that this meant that they accepted its content and believed it. So it was said that it is one of the reports that were accepted.
In fact that is not the case. Many of the scholars clearly stated that these words that were spoken by Mujaahid were not sound.
Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
This is the view of the people of knowledge regarding the interpretation of the verse in which Allah, may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning): “It may be that your Lord will raise you to Maqaman Mahmooda (a station of praise and glory)” [al-Isra’ 17:79] as referring to intercession.
It was narrated from Mujaahid that the station of praise and glory (al-maqaam al-mahmood) means that He will seat him with Him on the Throne on the Day of Resurrection; in their view this is a wrong interpretation of this verse.
The view of the majority of scholars among the Sahaabah, Taabi‘een and those who came after them is that the station of praise and glory is the station at which he will intercede for his ummah. There is a report from Mujaahid that says something similar to the view of the majority, so it becomes consensus on the interpretation of this verse among those who have knowledge of the Qur’an and Sunnah.
Ibn Abi Shaybah narrated from Warqa’, from Ibn Abi Nujayh, from Mujaahid, that he said concerning the verse, “It may be that your Lord will raise you to Maqaman Mahmooda (a station of praise and glory)” [al-Isra’ 17:79]: (This refers to) the intercession of Muhammad (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him).
End quote from at-Tamheed, 19/63-64
Imam adh-Dhahabi (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
One of the oddest and most objectionable ideas is that which was narrated from Mujaahid concerning the interpretation of the verse in which Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): “It may be that your Lord will raise you to Maqaman Mahmooda (a station of praise and glory)” [al-Isra’ 17:79], that he said: He will seat him with Him on the Throne. End quote from Mizaan al-I‘tidaal, 3/439
He also said (may Allah have mercy on him):
The interpretation that Mujaahid gave of this verse, as we have quoted above, was rejected by some of the scholars. Al-Mirwadhi put a great deal of effort into supporting this view (of Mujaahid), and he compiled a book concerning the matter, and he narrated the view of Mujaahid via Layth ibn Abi Sulaym, ‘Ata ibn as-Saa’ib, Abu Yahya Qattaat and Jaabir ibn Yazeed. … So see, may Allah protect you from following whims and desires, how this scholar of hadeeth went to extremes in his support for Mujaahid, which caused him to accept this odd and objectionable report.
End quote from al-‘Uluw, 2/1081-1090, no. 422-426
Shaykh al-Albaani (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
One of the things that indicate that is the fact that it is proven in as-Sihaah that the station of praise and glory is intercession that will be granted only to our Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him).
It is astounding that some of the earlier scholars supported this report from Mujaahid, as was narrated by adh-Dhahabi from more than one of them. Indeed, one of the hadeeth scholars went to extremes and said: If someone swore an oath of threefold divorce to say that Allah will seat Muhammad (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) on the Throne, and he were to consult me, I would say to him: You are right and have spoken the truth!
It is such extreme views (on the part of those who affirmed the divine attributes) that led those who deny the divine attributes to persist in their way and to cast aspersions upon Ahl as-Sunnah who affirm the divine attributes, and accuse them of likening Allah to His creation and describing Him in physical terms. But in fact, the path of truth lay between these two extremes.
May Allah have mercy on a man who believed what was narrated in saheeh reports from the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) concerning the divine attributes and other matters in a true sense and in a manner that is befitting to Allah, may He be exalted, and they did not accept concerning that matter anything that was not narrated from him (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) in a saheeh report, such as this hadeeth [i.e., the hadeeth, “… and He will seat me on the Throne…”], let alone any report such as this one.
End quote from as-Silsilah ad-Da‘eefah, 865
Shaykh al-Albaani (may Allah have mercy on him) also said:
The narration of da‘eef hadeeths from some hadeeth scholars is something for which their opponents criticise them, even though they (their opponents) may say things even worse than that, as was explained by Shaykh al-Islam.
One of the most famous of those who criticised them (Ahl as-Sunnah) for that in the modern era, and took it as proof of their (alleged) foolishness and misguidance, is Shaykh al-Kawthari who is known for his extreme hostility towards Ahl as-Sunnah and the scholars of hadeeth, and for his accusing them of likening Allah to His creation and thinking of Him in physical terms. By doing that he has wronged them and fabricated lies against them.
But – as a matter of fact – he sometimes found in some of the hadeeths and reports that they narrated material on which he could base his false accusations, such as the hadeeth that is narrated in the commentaries on the verse in which Allah, may He be exalted, “It may be that your Lord will raise you to Maqaman Mahmooda (a station of praise and glory)” [al-Isra’ 17:79], according to which he said “… and He will seat me on the Throne…”
In fact the true interpretation of the station of praise and glory, beyond any shadow of a doubt, is intercession. This is what was classed as saheeh by Imam Ibn Jareer in his Tafseer, then by al-Qurtubi; this is the only view mentioned by al-Haafiz Ibn Katheer who did not mention any other view, and he quoted hadeeths to support that.
In fact this is what is proven from Mujaahid himself via two isnaads from him, as quoted by Ibn Jareer.
That report from him does not have any reliable isnaad. Adh-Dhahabi stated that it was narrated from Layth ibn Abi Sulaym, ‘Ata’ ibn as-Saa’ib, Abu Yahya al-Qattaat and Jaabir ibn Yazeed. The first two were confused and the last two were da‘eef; in fact the last one (Jaabir ibn Yazeed) is matrook (i.e., his hadeeths are not accepted) and he was accused (of dishonesty). … To sum up, these words of Mujaahid, even if they are narrated soundly from him, cannot be adopted as part of our religion and belief, so long as there is no corroborating evidence for it from the Qur’an and Sunnah.
End quote from Mukhtasar al-‘Uluw, 14-20
Thus it is clear that the correct interpretation of the station of praise and glory is that it is the station of intercession, and it is not as mentioned in this report from Mujaahid (may Allah have mercy on him).
And Allah knows best.