Question 1: Where is Allah?
Question 2: What is the meaning of the 5th Aayah of Surah Taa-Haa: ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنُ عَلَى ٱلۡعَرۡشِ ٱسۡتَوَىٰ
Ar-Rahman (Allah, the All-Merciful), elevated over (Istawâ) the Throne (in a manner that suits His Majesty). (Surah Taa-Haa 20, Verse 5)
The Islamic Theologians are of the consensus that Almighty Allah is not confined or restricted to a direction or space in any shape or form. Allah is unique and there is nothing that resembles Him or is similar to Him. Hence to attempt to understand Allah Ta’ala based on our personal intellect is in essence failing to understand Him. Allah Ta’ala says:
ليس كمثله شيء
“There is nothing like Him (Allah Ta’ala)” (Surah ash-Shura, 11)
If someone describes Allah Ta’ala as being similar to His creation, then that would constitute Kufr (disbelief).
Imam Tahawi Rahimahullah has stated: وَمَنْ وَصَفَ اللَّهَ تَعَالَى بـِمَعْنَىً مِنْ مَعَانِي البَشَرِ فَقَدْ كَفَرَ
“Anyone who describes Allah as being in any way the same as a human being has committed Kufr (disbelief)” (Aqeedah Al-Tahawi)
It is for this reason, Imam Malik ibn Anas Rahimahullah replied angrily when asked about the nature of Istiwaa, Allah’s elevation over His throne:
الاستواء معلوم، والكيف مجهول، والإيمانُ به واجِب، والسؤالُ عنه بدعة
“His Istiwaa (elevation) is known, the nature is inconceivable, believing in it is obligatory and asking about it is a Bid’ah (sinful innovation).” He then said to the questioner, “I fear you are a deviant.” He then instructed his companions to escort the individual out. [AlDurr AlManthoor p.170 vol. 3, Jalaluddeen Al Sayuti, Dar AlKutub Al Ilmiyah, Beirut]
Imaam Jaaluddin As-Suyyuti also comments in his famous Tafseer on the verse: ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنُ عَلَى ٱلۡعَرۡشِ ٱسۡتَوَى
“His Istawaa (being above) is according to whatever is appropriate for Allah.” (Tafseer Jalaalayn vol. 2 p. 260).
It is an established belief of the Muslims that Allah Ta’ala is not contained by place or time.
Imam Abu Hanifa Rahimahullah has stated: لا حدّ له
“He (Allah) does not have limits” (Al-Fiqh al-Akbar)
Allah Ta’ala is the creator of time and space. If we limit Allah Ta’ala to time or space, then this would imply that we are equating Him to His creation, because that which exists in a place, by nature, will have a body; thus, attributing a body to Allah Ta’ala.
Imam Tahawi Rahimahullah states:
وتعالى عن الحدود والغايات والأركان والأعضاء والأدوات لا تحويه الجهات الست كسائر المبتدعات
“He (Allah) is beyond having limits placed on Him, or being restricted, or having parts or limbs. Nor is He contained by the six directions like all created things are.”
مُحيطٌ بـِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَبـِما فَوْقَهُ، قَدْ أَعْجَزَ عَنِ الإِحاطَةِ خَلْقَهُ
“He encompasses all things and that which is above it, and what He has created is incapable of encompassing Him”
Allah Ta’ala is not a body, nor is He a matter that has a mass and occupies space. Allah Ta’ala is The Creator of mass, matter, bodies and physics. Attributing Allah Ta’ala with a body or similar to a body or limb is Kufr.
Likewise, to say that Allah is on the earth, sky, heavens, throne, etc. is also wrong, as all these things are limited; and to limit Allah Ta’ala to any created thing is Kufr. Imam Tahawi states:
وَهُوَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ مُسْتَغْنٍ عَنِ العَرْشِ وَما دونَهُ،
He is independent of the Throne and that which is with it.
Rasoolullah (Sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) said: كان الله ولم يكن شيء غيرُه
“Allah Ta’ala eternally existed and there was nothing else” (Bukhari, #3019)
This Hadith proves that Allah Ta’ala was alone, before creating any of the creation. There was nothing with Him: no place, no space, no sky, no light, and no darkness. Hence, it is impossible that after having been existing without a place, He would later be confined to space, like the throne. Therefore, Allah Ta’ala cannot be confined to His throne.
So, we believe in what Allah Ta’ala intended by the word Istiwaa, however we don’t take it on its literal meaning i.e. sitting like we sit. This is because the person sitting on something becomes dependent on that thing and similarly by saying that Allah Ta’ala is sitting on His throne like we sit, it implies that Allah Ta’ala is confined to a place, which is impossible. Allah Ta’ala exists without place and time.
Imam Bayhaqi Rahimahullah, the great Hadith scholar and theologian, stated:
“The Beginningless Eternal One (al-Qadim) is elevated over his throne but neither sitting, nor standing, not in contact with, not separate from the throne… For ‘contact’ and its opposite: ’separation’, ’standing’ and its opposite: ’sitting’, are characteristics of created bodies.” [Kitab al-Asma’ was- Sifat]
Imam Ibn Hajar `Asqalani Rahimahullah similarly cites Ibn Battal, stating that the belief that Allah sits on the throne is a position held by the anthropomorphists. [Fath al-Bari]
This is because “sitting” entails contact between two objects and “contact” only arises between objects that possess limits and extents, which in turn is indicative of these objects being created. Thus, we find Imam Tahawi stating clearly, “He is beyond having limits placed on Him.” [`Aqida al-Tahawiyya]
In finishing, we assert that Allah Ta’ala is elevated over His throne above His creation, in a manner that befits His sublime and transcendent Essence.
Lastly, ponder over the following Hadith in Sahih Muslim:
Abu Huraira (RadhiAllahuAnhu) narrates that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “People will continue to question one another until this is asked, ‘Allah created all things but who created Allah’? Whoever He finds himself confronted with such a situation [doubts] should say, ‘I affirm my belief in Allah’. And in another narration: ‘He should seek refuge in Allah and keep away (from such idle thoughts)’. (Sahih Muslim)
Note: One should avoid mixing with such people who promote these types of questions and doubts, as they continuously confuse the general masses.
And Allah Ta’āla Knows Best
Mufti Khaleel Ali
Darul Iftaa, Jaamia Madinatul Uloom (Trinidad)