compiled by Abu Abdullah from ‘The Ever-Merciful Istawaa Upon the Throne’ by Shaikh Abdullah As-Sabt
Important: I apologize for not mentioning the salaam on the Prophet next to his name. So we give salaam and blessings (sala Allah alehi wasalam) of Allah upon the Messenger and we say that may Allah be pleased with the companions (radi Allah anhum) and may Allah’s mercy be upon the imams and scholars (rahmat Allah alehum).
The Importance of the Issue
3.The Ijma’ of the Sahaba and their sayings
4.The sayings of the Tabiyeen and Tabe-tabiyeen
5.The sayings of the Imams (including Abul Hasan al-Ashari)
Importance of the Topic
The importance of this topic is directly related to the importance of Tawheed (Islamic monotheism) and the perfection of Tawheed in one’s life and actions. As a scholar of old said that whoever does not know where His Creator is does not worship Him.
Another importance reason for this topic is to refute the groups of innovation who have distorted the teachings of Islam and distorted the words and attributes of Allah. Among them, the Sufis for instance, claim that Allah is everywhere. They keep harping on this same tone until they make people believe that what they claim is truth and undisputed truth. However, despite their unfounded contention, the books of hadith and scholars, nay the book of Quran-the actual speech of Allah is itself filled with verse upon verse refuting the heretic concept of Allah, the Omniscient, the Omnipotent being everywhere in His Glorified Essence. Rather this heresy is nothing but disbelief as will be explicitly proven in this short treatise, and this belief amounts to no less than pantheism-the belief that God is everywhere, in everything.
The main sources of Islam will be touched upon, gathering proof after proof to the answer to the question of where Allah is. The last topic of discussion-logical reasoning is the weakest proof in Islam but for those out there, who find it hard to accept the word of Allah, the words of Rasul, the Sahaba, the Imams, then they can not even rely upon their minds to proof their claims of Allah being everywhere. In order, this article will intend to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that Allah is above the Heavens, separate from the creation but among his creation by His Hearing (as-Samiy), His Seeing (al-Baseer) and His Knowledge (al-Aleem).
Evidences from the Qur’an
As mentioned earlier, the Qur’an is full of both explicit and implicit proofs. Among the implicit proofs are the several verses that mention of deeds and Jesus being raised to Allah. Obviously, only what is below is raised or ascends. As Allah says, the meaning of which is:
“And when Allah said: ‘O Jesus! I will take you and raise you to Myself’.”[3:55]
“To Him ascend (all) the goodly words, and the righteous deeds lift them.”[35:10]
“From Allah, the Lord of the Places of Ascent, the angels and the Ruh (Gabriel) ascend to Him in a day the measure whereof is of fifty thousand years.”[70:3-4]
And there are many other verses of similar nature but the above should suffice in making the point. Among the explicit verses, there are several other verses that mention clearly that their Lord is above them
“And He is the Subduer, above His slaves, and He is the All-Wise, Well Acquainted with all things.”[6:18]
And even more clearer:
“Do you feel secure that He, Who is fis-sama (above the heavens), will not cause the earth to sink…Or do you feel secure that He, Who is fis-sama (above the heavens) will not send against you a violent whirlwind?” [67:16-17]
It is important to point out here that the literal translation of ‘fis-sama’ is ‘in’ the heavens. The scholars of tafseer have explained it according to the Arabic language for ‘fi’ in this context to have the meaning of above as it is not possible for Allah to be surrounded by His creation i.e. the heavens. Also, sometimes the word ‘fi’ is used in the meaning of ‘ala’ (on) as mentioned in another verse:
“I will surely crucify you ‘fi’ (on) the trunks of palm-trees.”[20:71]
Now, obviously the ‘fi’ in this verse refers not to ‘in’ but to ‘on’ as one cannot be crucified within a trunk!
The other interpretation is based on the variant meanings of the word ‘Sama’ which in Arabic can refers to that which is elevated-the higher, or uppermost of anything (the Muhkam). It can also refer to the ceiling of a house, to the sky, to the heavens and to elevation and transcendence. The meaning should not be, hence, confused with its predominant acceptation, a word of well-known meaning: the sky-the canopy of the earth (taj al-aroos). Hence, the verse could be translated as the one Who is in transcendence to all creation which in essence, has the same meaning of being above the heavens.
Evidences from the Sunnah (the Way) of the Prophet
The sunnah of the Prophet is the explanation of the Quran. One cannot take the Quran alone without letting the sunnah tag along. Like the Quran, the Prophet made it extremely clear the truth on this matter of where Allah is. Some of the ahadith on this matter are quoted next:
Abu Hurairah narrates that the Messenger said, “Whoever donates the equal of a date from whatever was collected righteously, and only good is ascended to Allah, then, He will accept it (the charity) with His Right and raise it for its giver till it becomes like a mountain.” [Bukhari]
Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Al-As related that the Messenger said, “Allah grants mercy to the merciful. Be merciful to those who are on the earth, (then) He Who is fis-Sama (above the heavens) will be merciful to you.” [Abu Dawood & At-Tirmidhi]
Even more clearer:
Jabir ibn Abdillah said: “The Messenger of Allah said in his speech on the day of Arafah: ‘Did I convey (the Message).’ They said: ‘Yes.’ While raising his finger to the sky and then pointing at them, he said: ‘O my Lord, be a witness.” [Muslim]
And the Muslims of today have the audacity to say that Allah is everywhere when their own Messenger pointed nowhere except to the sky above him in this clear hadith. I ask you, O Muslims, if you were to sit in front of me and I were to refer to you, would not I point directly to you and NOT the ground or to the sky to do so? So, why is it then when the Prophet points to the sky above him to refer to Allah we do not understand from this that Allah was above him, is above you and all his creations? Why do we wonder any more?
Finally, justice cannot be done to this topic without mentioning the hadith about the slave-girl, whose faith was affirmed by just two questions, one being ‘Where is Allah?’:
Muawiyah bin Al-Hakam As-Salmi said:
“I had a slave-girl who used to herd sheep for me. One day I discovered that a wolf had killed one of her sheep, and I’m a man from the children of Adam, I get upset like they get upset, and I slapped her in the face. Then I went to the Prophet who impressed upon me the seriousness of my act. I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, should I not set her free?’ He said, ‘Bring her to me.’ He asked her, ‘Where is Allah’, She said, ‘He is above the heavens.’ He said, ‘Who am I?’ She said, ‘You are the Messenger of Allah.’ He said, ‘Free her, for she is a believer.’ (Muslim and Abu Dawud)
Among the benefits inherent to this hadith (as mentioned by Muhammad bin Jamil Zeno in ‘The Pillars of Islam and Iman’- pub. Maktaba Dar-as-Salaam) are:
The Companions of the Prophet used to refer to him all of their problems, whether minor or major. Hence, all issues for judgment should be referred to Allah and His Messenger, acting upon the Statement of Allah :
“But no, by your Lord, they can have no Faith, until they make you (O Mohammed) a judge in all disputes between them, and find in themselves no resistance against your decisions, and accept (them) with full submission.” (V.4: 65)
The Prophet reproached the Companion for slapping the slave-girl and considered it a serious matter.
Belief is a condition for freeing a slave and since the Prophet allowed her to be free, she had to be judged a believer by the Prophet otherwise she would continue to be a slave.
The necessity of asking about Tawheed (Islamic Monotheism); and part of it is the belief that Allah is above His Throne, knowledge of this being mandatory.
The legitimacy of asking “Where is Allah?”; the fact that asking such is actually Sunnah, since the Prophet himself did not hesitate asking about it.
The obligation of replying that Allah is above the heavens, since the Prophet affirmed the reply of the slave girl and it also goes along with the Statement of Allah in the Quran:
“Do you feel secure that He, Who is over the heaven (Allah), will not cause the earth to sink with you?” (V. 67: 16)
The correctness of Belief includes the testimony that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.
The belief that Allah is above the heaven indicates soundness of one’s Belief, and it is mandatory on every believer to accept this position.
The refutation of the erroneous belief that Allah is in every place by His Essence. The truth is that Allah is with us by His Knowledge not by His Supreme Self.
The fact that the Prophet ordered for the slave-girl to be brought to her to allow him to test her shows that he did not possess the knowledge of the unseen [except of what Allah informed him. This refutes the claim of many Sufis and other Muslims that the Prophet had complete knowledge of the unseen].
The Ijma of the Sahaba and Their Sayings
As Muslims, we have three main sources of our deen. Two have already been mentioned. The third is Ijma’ of the Sahaba because the Sahaba would never agree on falsehood. Let us examine some statements from this generation:
From the first Khalifa:
Abu Bakr As-Sideeq said: “Whoever worshipped Mohammed, Mohammed has died. Whoever worshipped Allah, Allah is Alive fis-Sama (above the heavens), and death does not touch Him.” [Ad-Darimi in Ar-Radd ‘Alal-Jahmiyyah].
Other than stating that Allah is indeed above the Heavens, Abu Bakr made another important refutation here. And that is to refute all those who say that Mohammed is actually alive and we can direct our dua’ to him or that he can become a source of shifa’ (intercession) or wasila (nearness to Allah) in this life. Indeed, the Prophet will be a shifa’ for the Muslims on the Day of Judgment and indeed following the sunnah of Allah and His Rasul will be a source of wasila in this life but asking the Prophet for intercession in this life or seeking his help in nearness to Allah by saying ‘O Mohammed, bring us nearer to Allah’ or ‘O Mohammed, we ask Allah to grant so and so for your sake’ is nothing but falsehood and goes against Tawheed.
From the second Khalifa:
Umar ibn al-Khattab visited Syria riding on his camel. The companions said to him: “O leader of the believers, will you not ride a Birthoun (a jade, horse of mean, non Arab breed) so you may be intercepted by the great and noted people.” Umar replied: “Do I not see you from here? Verily the matter comes from here” (and he pointed with his hand to the sky). [Ibn Qayyim in Ijtima al-Joyush al-Islamiyyah]
The Sayings of the Tabiyeen and the Tabe-Tabiyeen
The second generation after the companions (tabiyeen) continued the firmness in matters of Aqeedah. There are too many to enumerate. A few examples include Marwan, Qatadah, Sulayman, Al-Taymi, Muqatil and so on. [Al-Uluw by At-Thahabee]
And we continue to see the same thinking in the next generation (the tabe-tabiyeen). As narrated by Al-Bayhaqi:
“We used to say, while at-Tabiyeen were still many, that Allah, all praise to Him, is upon His Throne. We believe in what the Sunnah has told us of His Attributes.” [Al-Uluw by At-Thahabee].
And as Muslims we know that the throne of Allah is above the heavens and the earth.
The Sayings of the Imam (including Abul Hasan al-Ashari)
The Imams of the four famous madhabs were not fearful of making the truth known. Nay, they would never be afraid of spreading the true knowledge. We start by the saying of Imam Abu-Haneefa which in itself sums up the importance of this whole treatise:
“Whoever says that he does not know whether His Lord is above the heavens or on earth is a disbeliever (kafir!), because Allah has said (meaning): ‘The Ever-Merciful Istawa (rose) upon His Throne’ [20-5]. And His Throne is above the seven heavens.” Abu Muti al-Balkhi asked him: “What if says that yes Allah is upon His Throne but he does not know whether the throne is above the earth or on earth itself?” To which Abu Haneefa replied, “He is (still) a disbeliever (kafir), because he rejected that Allah is above the heavens , and that the creation make supplications above to their Lord and not downward.” [At-Thahabee in Al-Uluw]
Is there need to say more? But let us continue with Imam Shafi (who mentions about what Imam Malik too believed) who said:
“The sunnah that we follow along with our companions, followers of hadith whom I met and took knowledge from, like Sufiyan, Imam Malik, and others, is that we believe that there is no god except Allah and that Mohammed is His Messenger. And that Allah , the Praised One, is upon His Throne fis-sama (above the heavens). He comes closer to His slaves as He wills. Allah descends to the lower heaven as He wills.” [At-Thahabee in Al-Uluw]
No other Imam has sayings about Istawa than Imam of As-Sunnah Ahmad ibn Hanbal. He wrote his famous book, Ar-Radd ala al-Jahmiyyah. Please refer to this book for countless arguments on this issue.
It is benefit to mention the sayings of Imam Abul Hasan al-Ashari quite prominently as he was unjustly accused of sayings which he later refuted and disowned, while adhering to the belief of the righteous group of ahl-Sunnah wal Jamah. In his book ‘Ibanah’ (the Clarification), al-Ashari clearly refutes many of the sayings of the ‘followers’ of the Imam. What strangeness then, that the leader of the Asha’ris denies himself most of this group’s sayings and beliefs? How even more strange that Imam al-Ashari recanted all his false beliefs while his ‘followers’ wish to still hold fast onto these? Imam Abul Hasan al-Ashari says in ‘Ibanah’:
“If one asks me what I say about al-Istawa (Allah’s rising upon the throne)? We say to him: ‘Allah Istawa ala (rose upon) His Throne. Allah said so meaning of which is: The Ever-Merciful Istawa (rose) upon His Throne’ [20-5]. Some of the Mu’tazilah, al-jahmiyyah and Khawarij said about this verse that it means He captured, overpowered and owned (the Throne), and that Allah is everywhere; they denied the possibility that Allah is upon His Throne as the righteous people affirm Him to be; and they took the ‘Istawa’ (the settling) to symbolize power. If it were as they asserted, then what difference would there be between the Throne and the earth?”
How true are these statements. Yet we continue to find in many of today’s translations of the Quran the same disease of mistranslation and denying the attributes of Allah. How many of us would continue to say confidently that Allah is everywhere making nothing but a statement of pantheism and shirk (polytheism).
And At-Tirmidhi, the great muhaditheen said: “He is above the Throne as He described in His Book. His Knowledge, Power, and Lordship are everywhere.” [Al-fatawa by Ibn Taymeeah]
And behold, think about the following statement from the great scholar Ibn Khuzaymah:
“Whoever does not affirm that Allah is above His heavens, upon His Throne and that He is distinct from His creation; must be forced to repent. If he does not repent, then he must be beheaded and then thrown into a garbage dump, so that the Muslims and the Ahl-Dhimma (the Christians and the Jew) will not suffer from his stinking smell.” [Al-Hakim in Al-Marifah].
Some people who are devoid of the light of faith in their hearts, those who still yearn to follow their aql (intellect) in matters of deen will perhaps understand this concept through their own medicine, i.e., logical reasoning through aql. The following should be enough to close all questions about this topic if one can be so proud to reject the previous proofs. After having exposed this group’s refutation of what the best generations of Islam believed in, we will now expose even the logic of the deniers of truth:
The evidence mentioned in the previous chapter either indicates, or does not indicate that Allah is everywhere .
(a) If it does not indicate that Allah is everywhere, then they can no longer use it for argument.
(b) If it does indicate (that Allah is everywhere), then logical evidence, or discerned evidence (from ayat or ahadeeth) will either emerge to indicate, or not to indicate the conspicuous falseness (of claiming that Allah is everywhere).
(c) If (a) is true, then this is our proof that their claim, that Allah is everywhere, is false.
(d) If(b) is true, then [we tell them]: you are, therefore, obliged to say that Allah is everywhere; and you are further obliged to say that Allah is in garbage dumps, people’s stomachs, and in rest rooms. May Allah be highly exalted above that, and may Allah curse him who has drawn us to have to write this.
(e) If you say that Allah is not in these dirty places because He is praised from such, then we say: “Where is your proof?” If via the discerned evidence it becomes apparent to you that He is every place, and these dirty places are places, then He must be there. And you cannot exclude places without textual proof (discerned evidence), and that is not to be found; therefore, these texts must imply one meaning which is that it is with His knowledge that Allah is with us, wherever we are.
Many a ayat in the Quran are used by the liars and heretics to prove their claim that Allah is everywhere. Among them are the verses pointing to Allah’s closeness to His Creation to the point of being closer than the jugular vein. But how then, if one accepts that this is proof that Allah is everywhere, will one refute all the countless arguments/verses/ahadith that were presented here. Is it then that there is contradiction in the Book of Allah, the Sunnah and that all the Imams and the scholars have preached falsehood? No rather the claim that Allah is everywhere is misinterpretation to the point of being disbelief. These verses merely point to the fact that Allah is everywhere but only by His Knowledge, His Seeing, His Hearing and His Power. Only this explanation will allow one to be in compliance with all the other proofs from the Quran, the Sunnah and the Ijma of the companions.
There are numerous evidences to prove our belief, (that Allah is upon the Throne). We end this discussion with what Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal said to a Jahmi: “On the Day of Resurrection, Won’t there be Paradise, Hell-fire, the Throne, and the Air?” The Jahmi replied: “Yes.” Ahmad said: “Then where will our Lord be?” The Jahmi replied: “He will be everywhere and in everything as He was in this life …” Ahmad said: “Then, according to you: that of Allah which was upon the Throne, will be upon the Throne, and that of Allah which was in Paradise, will be in Paradise, and that of Allah which was in Hell-fire, will be in Hell-fire, and that of Allah which was in the Air, will be in the Air? It was at that point that their lying about Allah, whose praise is exalted became clear.” [Ar-Radd ‘Ala Az-Zanadiqah].