Source: The Creed of Ahl-us-Sunnah wal-Jama’ah in regards to Allah’s (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) Names and Attributes, by Shaikh Bin ‘Uthaimeen.
A valid question
Some think that asking “Where is Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) ?” is wrong. They think that asking this is the same as asking what Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) is like or when did He begin. It is true that we cannot ask about the nature of Allah or when He began, because the human mind is incapable of comprehending the real essence and attributes of Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) and how they are. However, it was in fact the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu alaihi wa sallam) himself who asked where Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) is:
Mu’awiyah ibn al-Hakam As-Sulmi said: “I had some sheep between (the areas) of Uhud and Al-Juwaniah. A servant of mine was taking care of them (the sheep). One day I checked on her and found that the wolf had eaten a sheep. I, being a human and an offspring of Adam, became angry and slapped her. I went to the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu alaihi wa sallam) and related to him what had happened. He portrayed my action as being a major thing. I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, should I free her?’ He said: ‘Call her (to me).’ So I called her. He said to her: ‘Where is Allah?’ She said: ‘Fis-sama’ (above the heavens).’ He said: ‘Who am I?’ She said: ‘The Messenger of Allah.’ He said: ‘Free her, for she is a believer.’” [Muslim, Abu Dawood and an-Nasa’i]
The master of all Messengers, the Messenger of the Lord of the worlds, himself, asked where Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) is, and the answer was given to him, and he confirmed that the servant was a believer. This is not only evidence that this question is a valid, permissible question, but it also informs us of the correct answer.
The only correct answer
According to the correct understanding based on the Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah, Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) is above the heavens in a way which suits His Majesty, and He is not in any way contained within His creation, nor is His creation in any way in Him.
- Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) is completely separate from His creation;
- Creation neither surrounds Him nor is above Him in any way;
- He, Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) is above all things.
This does not deny that Allah’s (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) Attributes operate throughout His Creation, and nothing escapes His Sight, His Knowledge and His Power. Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) Sees, Hears and knows all that happens in the universe without having to be inside of it. It is man who has to be present in the world to see, hear, know and affect what takes place in it; however, Allah’s (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) Knowledge and Power have no limits and nothing is outside of His control.
Allah is not everywhere
It was during the Golden Age of the ‘Abbaasid Empire that the concept of Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) being everywhere and in everything was introduced. This occurred when philosophy books from India, Persia and Greece were translated. The belief that Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) is everywhere is very dangerous because it opens the way for the greatest sin in Allah’s (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) Sight, the worship of His creation. Some have claimed that Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) is more in humans than in animals or plants, and from this it was claimed that Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) was more in some people than in others; a so-called Sufi saint by the name of Ibn ‘Arabee of the 12th century, encouraged his followers to pray to themselves and not to anything outside of themselves, because he believed that God was inside the human being.
This also violates and is Shirk through Tauheed al-Asmaa wa-Sifaat, (the Oneness of Allah’s (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala Names and Attributes), because it claims for Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) an attribute which doesn’t belong to Him: there is no proof for this belief in the Qur’an nor in the Sunnah. In fact, both the Qur’an and the Sunnah confirm the opposite!
Another objection to the idea that Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) exists everywhere and in everything is that it would mean that His essence could be found in filthy and dirty places, and this is unacceptable.
- · From the Qur’an:
The Qur’an describes the “Exaltedness” or “Highness” of Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) in different ways, such as: His being High and Above, by describing how things come down from Him, and go up to Him, and by stating that He is above the heavens.
1. “And He is the Irresistible, above His slaves…” [Al-An’aam 6:18]
2. “They fear their Lord above them, and they do what they are commanded.” [An-Nahl 16:50]
3. “He arranges (every) affair from the heavens to the earth…” [As-Sajdah 32:5]
4. “Verily We: it is We Who have sent down the Dhikr (i.e. the Qur’an)…” [Al-Hijr 15:9]
5. “…To Him ascend (all) the goodly words, and the righteous deeds exalt it…” [Fatir 35:10]
6. “The angels and the Ruh (Jibreel) ascend to Him…” [Al-Ma’arij 70:4]
7. “Do you feel secure that He, Who is over the heaven, will not cause the earth to sink with you…?” [Al-Mulk 67:16]
8. “Indeed your Lord is Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth in six days and then ‘Istawa (ascended) upon the Throne (in a manner befitting His Majesty).” [Al-A’raf 7:54]
9. “A revelation from Him (Allah) Who has created the earth and high heavens. The Ever-Merciful Istawa (rose, or settled) upon the Throne.” [Ta-Ha 20:4-5]
10. “Allah it is He Who has created the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them in six days. Then He ‘Istawa ‘Ala (rose upon) the Throne.” [As-Sajdah 32:4]
11. “And He is the Subduer, above His slaves, and He is the All-Wise, Well Acquainted with all things.” [Al-An’am 6:18]
12. “All the praises and thanks be to Allah, Who has sent down to His slave the Book and has not placed therein any crookedness.” [Al-Kahf 18:1]
13. “Say (O Muhammad): ‘Ruh ul-Qudus (Jibreel) has brought it (the Qur’an) down from your Lord with truth.’” [An-Nahl 16:102]
- · From the Sunnah:
Many reports were narrated “Mutawaatir” (with a large number of narrators at every stage of the Isnaad – chain – such that it is impossible for them all to have agreed on a lie) from the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu alaihi wa sallam), describing his words and deeds and things of which he approved. For example, he used to say “Subhaana Rabbi al-A’laa (Glory be to my Lord Most High)” in Sujood, and in some Ahadith he is reported to have said “By Allah, Who is above the Throne.”
Among his deeds is the gesture of pointing up with his finger, when addressing the people in the greatest gathering, on the Day of ‘Arafaah during his Farewell Pilgrimage. He asked the people three times, “Have I not conveyed the message?” and they said, “Yes!” Each time he said, “O Allah, bear witness!”, pointing up to the sky and then at the people.
He also used to raise his hands towards heaven when he made du’a, as reported in many Ahadith.
One such Hadith, the Hadith about the servant has already been mentioned at the beginning of this article.
It must be noted that because Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) is perfect in His Highness and Power, He cannot reside in anything that He has created. So it cannot be that He (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) is in Paradise. On the contrary, He is above the Throne which is the roof of al-Firdaws, and al-Firdaws is the highest part of Paradise. The Prophet (Salla-Allaahu alaihi wa sallam) said, “When you ask Allah for Paradise, ask Him for al-Firdaws, for it is the middle (best) and the highest part of Paradise. And above it is the Throne of the Most Beneficent, and from it gush forth the rivers of Paradise.” [Al-Bukhari]
There are also many evidences from the Companions of the Prophet (Salla-Allaahu alaihi wa sallam), as well as the second generation of Islam (at-Tabi’een) and the righteous Imams and scholars of Islam, may Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) be pleased with them all, which clearly indicate their understanding that Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) is above the seventh heaven and Istawa (rose, or settled) upon His Throne in a manner that suits Him. Imam Malik said, when he was asked about how Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) rose over the Throne: “We know that He rose over it, but we don’t know how. Believing it is obligatory and asking about it is Bid’ah.” [Athar Sahih, Adh-Dhahabi in al-Ulow and Abu Na’iem in al-Hilyah]
Even common sense holds that highness is a quality which is associated in people’s minds with perfection; therefore, it should be attributed to Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) because every absolute perfection should be attributed to Him.
Allah is with us by His Knowledge
The fact that Allah Istawa (rose over) the Throne, which has been mentioned in the Qur’an seven times, does not negate His having companionship and closeness with His creation. This is because companionship does not mean intimacy and apparent closeness. That Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) is with us (by His knowledge), does not mean that He is part of His creation. Allah, the Exalted, is keeping a watch on His creatures from His Throne and He knows everything people do, as He says in the verse:
“He knows what goes into the earth and what comes forth from it, what descends from the heaven and what ascends thereto. And He is with you (by His Knowledge) wheresoever you may be. And Allah is the All-Seer of what you do.”
A similitude of this is the moon. It is in the heaven, but it stays with the one who is traveling and the one who is not traveling, because of its light and its appearance, no matter where they are. So if such a thing could be true for the moon, which is a small creation of Allah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala), then why will it not be true for that High and Most Informed One Who is encompassing through His Knowledge and Power over all His slaves; He is All-Aware of them; He Hears them; Sees them, and He Knows their secrets and whispers. In fact, the whole universe, all the heavens and the earth, and everything from the earth to the Mighty Throne is before Him in the same way as a small round fruit in our hand. He Knows all about the grains, seeds, waters, insects and minerals that lie on the earth. It cannot be proper to say about Him, Who has such a Grace, that He is with His creation despite being high above it? He is Exalted and Perfect, and is transcendent, separate from His imperfect creation.
The Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah do not allow any straying from what the Messengers preached, as that is the Straight Path. Included in this very important principle are all the statements from the Qur’an and the Sunnah detailing Allah’s (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) Names, Attributes, Actions and what should be negated of Him. Included among this is the belief in Allah’s (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala) settling Himself over the Throne in a manner that suits His Majesty, His descending to the lowest heaven, and that the believers will see Him in the Hereafter – as the confirmed, continuous reports have stated. Also included under this principle is that Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aala) is close and responds to supplications. What is mentioned in the Qur’an and Sunnah concerning His closeness and “being with” the believers does not contradict what is stated concerning His transcendence (His existing apart from His creation) and His being above the Creation. For, Glory be to Him, there is nothing at all similar to Him with respect to any of His Names and Attributes.
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- As-Samee’ (The All-Hearer)
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- Dhul-Ma'aarij (The Owner of the Ways of Ascent)
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