Allah Exists Without a Place
Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. To Allah belong the endowments, befitting perfection, and commendations. We ask Allah to raise the rank of Prophet Muhammad , and to protect his nation from what he fears for it. Thereafter:
The belief that Allah, ta^ala, exists without a place is the creed of the Messenger of Allah, the Companions, and those who graciously followed them, and it shall so be until the Day of Judgment. The proof of this precious statement is what Allah said in the Qur’an, in Surat ash-Shura, ayah 11:
قال الله تعالى: لَيْسَ كمثلهِ شىءٌ وهوَ السَّميعُ البصير ُ سورة الشورى
which means: <<There is absolutely nothing like Allah whatsoever, and He has the attributes of Hearing and Seeing.>> This ayah absolutely clears Allah of resembling the creations. It comprises that Allah, ta^ala, is absolutely different from the creations in the Self, Attributes, and Actions. Hence, it shows that Allah, ta^ala, exists without a place, because whatever exists in a place is, by nature, i.e., composed of particles, i.e., it is a body, occupying a space. Allah, ta^ala, is clear of occupying spaces.
Al-Bukhariyy, al-Bayhaqiyy and Ibnul-Jarud related that the Messenger of Allah, said:
روى البخارىُّ والبيهقىُّ وابنُ الجارود أن رسولَ الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال:
“كان الله ولم يَكُنْ شَىءٌ غَيْرُهُ”.
which means: << Allah existed eternally and nothing else existed.>> This hadith proves that only Allah existed without a beginning, i.e., before creating any of the creation. There was nothing with Allah: no place, no space, no sky, no Earth, no light, and no darkness. It is determined in the rules of the Religion and the judgments of the sound mind that Allah, the Exalted, does not change. Hence, it is impossible that after having been existing without a place, Allah will change and dwell in a place, because this is a development. The development is a sign of needing others, and the one who needs others is not God.
Imam Abu Mansur al-Baghdadiyy related in his book, Al-Farqu Baynal-Firaq, that Imam ^Aliyy, the fourth of the caliphs, may Allah reward his deeds, said:
نقل الإمامُ أبو منصور البغدادىُّ في كتابه “الفَرْقُ بينَ الفِرَقِ” أن الإمامَ علىَّ بنَ أبِى طالب رضى الله عنه قال: “كان الله ولا مكان، وهو الآن على ما عليه كان”.
which means: << Allah existed eternally and there was no place, and He now is as He was. >>
Imam Abu Hanifah, who is one of the authorities of Salaf, said in his book Al-Fiqh al-Absat: << Allah existed eternally and there was no place. He existed before creating the creation. He existed, and there was no place, creation, or thing. He is the Creator of everything.>>
Imam Hafidh al-Bayhaqiyy said in his book, Al-Asma’u was-Sifat, on page 400: <<…What was mentioned towards the end of the hadith is an evidence for negating that Allah has a place and negating that the slave is alike to Allah . Allah, the Exalted, is adh-Dhahir (الظاهر) . Hence, it is valid to know about Him by proofs. Allah is al-Batin (الباطن). Hence, it is invalid that He dwells in a place.>> Al-Bayhaqiyy also said: <<Some of our companions used, as a proof to refute attributing the place to Allah, the saying of the Prophet, r: <<You are adh-Dhahir (الظاهر) and there is nothing above You, and You are al-Batin (الباطن) and there is nothing underneath You.” Therefore, if there is nothing above Him and nothing underneath Him, He is not in a place.”
Imam Ahmad Ibn Salamah, Abu Ja^far at-Tahawiyy, who was born in the year 237 after Hijrah, wrote a very famous book called al-^Aqidah at-Tahawiyyah. He mentioned that the content of his book is an explantion of the creed of Ahlus-Sunnah wal Jama^ah, which is the creed of Imam Abu Hanifah, who died in the year 150 after Hijrah, and his two companions, Imam Abu Yusuf al-Qadi and Imam Muhammad Ibn al-Hasan ash-Shaybaniyy and others. He said in his book:
قال الإمامُ أَبو جَعْفَرِ الطَّحَاوِىُّ السَّلَفىُّ: “تَعَالى عن الحُدُودِ والغَاياتِ والأَركانِ والأَعضَاء والأَدَوَاتِ. لا تَحوِيهِ الجِهَاتُ السّتُّ كَسَائِرِ المُبْتَدَعَاتِ”.
which means: << Allah is supremely clear of all boundaries, extremes, sides, organs, and instruments. The six directions do not contain Him, for these are attributed to all created things.>> Such is the saying of Imam Abu Ja^far who is among the heads of Salaf. Abu Ja^far explicitly stated that Allah is clear of being contained by the six directions. The six directions are above, below, ahead, behind, right, and left.
The linguist and scholar of Hadith, Imam Muhammad Murtada az-Zabidiyy, narrated by a continuous chain from himself back to Imam Zayn al-^Abidin ^Aliyy Ibn al-Husayn Ibn ^Aliyy Ibn Abi Talib, (who was among the best of Salaf, who earned the title of as-Sajjad, i.e., the one who prays a lot), that Zayn al-^Abidin, in his treatise as-Sahifah as-Sajjadiyyah, said about Allah:
روى المحدثُ اللغوىُّ الإمامُ محمد مرتضَى الزَّبيدىُّ بالإسناد المتصل منه إلى الإمام زين العابدين رضى الله عنه وهو من رءوس السَّلف والمعروف بالسَّجَّاد، قال في رسالته المشهورة بالصَّحيفة السَّجَّاديَّة: “سبحانك أنتَ الله الذى لا يحويك مكان”.
which means: <<O Allah, You are clear of all imperfection. You are Allah, the One Who no place contains You.>> He also said:
قال الإمام زينُ العابدين علىُّ بنُ الحسين: “سبحانك أنتَ الله الذى لستَ بمحدود”
which means: <<O Allah, You are clear of all imperfection. You are Allah, the One Who is not within boundaries.>>
In the explanation of Al-Bukhariyy in the chapter on Al-Jihad, Hafidh Ibn Hajar al-^Asqalaniyy said: “The fact that the two directions above and below are impossible to be attributes of Allah, does not necessitate that Allah would not be attributed with aboveness, because attributing aboveness to Allah is a matter of status and the impossibility lies in it being physical.>>
The Hanafiyy scholar Zaynud-Din Ibn Nujaym, in his book Al-Bahrur-Ra’iq, on page 129 said: <<Whoever says it is possible for Allah to do a doing which has no wisdom commits blasphemy. Moreover, he commits blasphemy by affirming a place to Allah, the Exalted.>>
Imam Ahmad ar-Rifa^iyy al-Kabir, who lived around the year 600 after Hijrah, said:
قال الإمامُ أحمدُ الرفاعىُّ الكبير: “غايةُ المعرفةِ بالله الإيقانُ بوجوده تعالى بِلا كيفٍ ولا مكانٍ”
which means: <<The ultimate knowledge about Allah is to be certain that Allah exists without a how or a place. Imam Muhammad Ibn Hibah al-Makkiyy, wrote a book called Hada’iqul-Fusul wa Jawahirul-^Uqul. It came to be known as Al-^Aqidatus-Salahiyyah, after he gave it as a gift to Sultan Salahud- Din al-Ayyubiyy, who ordered that this book be taught to the children in schools and broadcast from the top of minarets. In his book he said:
قال الإمامُ محمدُ بنُ هِبَةَ المكّىُّ فى قصيدته “حدائقُ الفُصُولِ وجواهرُ العُقُول”
المعروفةِ أيضًا باسم “العقيدة الصَّلاحية”:
“قد كان موجودا ولا مكانا
وحكمُه الآن على ما كانَا”
Which means: << Allah existed eternally and there was no place, and the judgment about His existence now is that He is as He was >>.
Imam Ja^far as-Sadiq said: <<He who claims that Allah is in something or on something or from something commits shirk (blasphemy). Because, if He was in something, He would be contained, and if He was on something, He would be carried, and if He was from something, He would be a creature.
Shaykh ^Abdul-Ghaniyy an-Nabulusiyy said: <<He who believes that Allah fills the heavens and Earth or that He is a body sitting above the ^Arsh (ceiling of Paradise; throne) is a kafir.>>
Imam Fakhrud-Din Ibn ^Asakir said in his ^Aqidah: Allah existed before the creation. He does not have a before or an after, an above or a below, a right or a left, an ahead or a behind, a whole or a part. It must not be said: When was He, Where was He, or how was He? Allah exists without a place. He created the universe and willed for the existence of time. He is not bound by time or designated with place.>>
Imam Abu Sulayman al-Khattabiyy said: <<What is obigatory upon us and upon every Muslim to know is that our Lord has no shape or form, because the shape has a <<how>>, and <<how>> does not apply to Allah or His Attributes.>>
Know beyond doubt that the question <<how>> (kayf:كيف:) does not apply to Allah. <<How?>> is a question related to shapes, bodies, places, depths, and dimensions. Allah is clear of all such attributes. Also be firm that it is invalid to say about Allah <<… but we do not know how>>, because in essence, it falsely indicates that Allah has a color, shape, dimensions, body and place, but one is simply ignorant of its <<how>>.
Imam al-Ghazaliyy said: << Allah, the Exalted, existed eternally and there was no place. He is not a body, jawhar (minute indivisible particle), or bodily property, and He is not on a place or in a place.>>
All of these sayings show that attributing the physical aboveness and the place to Allah is contrary to the Qur’an, Hadith, Ijma^, and intellectual proof. The intellectual proof that Allah exists without a place lies in the fact that God has the attributes of perfection. Needing others is not an attribute of perfection. The one who occupies place needs that place. The one who needs others (whether it is a place or any other creation) is not God. Moreover, as the mind determines that Allah existed without a place before creating places. The mind also determines that after Allah created the places, He still exists without a place.
The scholars, like Imam Ahmad ar-Rifa^iyy, determined that lifting the hands and the faces towards the sky when performing du^a’ (supplication) is because the heavens are the qiblah of du^a’ just as the Ka^bah is the Qiblah of Salah. From the heavens, the mercies and blessings of Allah descend.
Hence, it is clear for the one who seeks the truth that the saying that Allah exists without a place is what complies with the Qur’an, Hadith, Ijma^, and criteria of the sound intellect. Be firm and certain that before creating places, Allah, Who created everything (places and everything else), existed without a place, and after creating places, Allah still exists without a place.
Since we have determined that the creed of the Muslims is that Allah exists without a place and that the question “how” does not apply to Allah, it is clear to us that the ^Arsh (Throne), which is the largest of all the creations and the ceiling of Paradise, is not a place for Allah, the Exalted.
Imam Abu Mansur al-Baghdadiyy related that Imam ^Aliyy Ibn Abi Talib, the fourth caliph, said:
نَقَلَ الإمامُ أبو مَنْصورِ البغدادىُّ أنَّ الإمام علىّ بنَ أبى طالب رضى الله عنه قال: “إنَّ الله تَعَالى خَلَقَ العَرْشَ إظْهَارًا لِقُدْرَتِهِ وَلم يَتَّخِذُهُ مَكانًا لِذَاتِهِ”
which means: <<Allah created the ^Arsh as an indication of His Power and did not take it as a place for Himself.>>
Imam Abu Hanifah said in his book, al-Wasiyyah,: <<…and He is the Preserver of the ^Arsh and everything else, without needing them, for had He been in need, He would not have the power to create, manage, and preserve the world. Moreover, had He been in a place needing to sit and rest, before creating the ^Arsh, where was Allah?>> That is, the question <<where was Allah >> would have applied to Him, which is impossible.
Also, in his book, Al-Fiqh al-Absat, Imam Abu Hanifah said: <<Allah existed eternally and there was no place; He existed before creating the creation. He existed and there was not a place, creation, or thing; and He is the Creator of everything. He who says ‘I do not know if my Lord is in the heavens or on Earth’, is a kafir. Also is a kafir whoever says that `He is on the ^Arsh, and I do not know whether the ^Arsh is in the heaven or on Earth.’>>
Consequently, Imam Ahmad declared whoever says these last two phrases that is a kafir, because they contain attributing a direction, boundary, and place to Allah. Everything that has a direction and boundary is by necessity in need of a Creator. Thus, it is not the intention of Imam Abu Hanifah to prove that the heaven and ^Arsh are places for Allah, as those who liken Allah to the creation claim. This is by virtue of the aforementioned saying of the Imam: <<Had He been in a place needing to sit and rest, then before creating the ^Arsh where was Allah?>>, which is clear in negating that Allah has a direction or a place.
In his book, Ihya’u ^Ulumid-Din, Imam al-Ghazaliyy said: <<…places do not contain Him , nor do the directions, Earth, or heavens. He is attributed with an istiwa’ (استواء) over the ^Arsh as He said in the Qur’an, with the meaning that He willed and not as what people may delude. It is an isti’wa’ (استواء) which is clear of touching, resting, holding, moving, and containment. The ^Arsh does not carry Him, but rather the ^Arsh and those who carry it are all carried by Allah’s Power, and they are subjugated to Him. He is above the ^Arsh, the heavens, and everything in status, with an aboveness that does not give Him proximity to the ^Arsh or the heavens as it does not give Him farness from Earth. He is higher in status than everything: higher in status than the ^Arsh and the heavens, as He is higher in status than Earth and the rest of the creation.>>
Shaykh ^Abdul-Ghaniyy an-Nabulusiyy said: <<He who believes that Allah filled the heavens and Earth or that He is a body sitting above the ^Arsh, is a kafir.>> Ayah 93 of Surat Maryam:
قال الله تعالى: إن كلُّ مَن فى السمواتِ والأرضِ إلا ءاتِى الرحمنِ عبدًا – سورة مريم
means: <<All those in the heavens and Earth must come to Allah as slaves.>> In this Tafsir (book of explaining the Qur’an), Imam ar-Raziyy said: <<and since it is affirmed by this ayah that everything that existed in the heavens and Earth is a slave of Allah (i.e., owned by and subjugating to Allah) and since it is obligatory that Allah is clear of being owned, thus He is clear of being in a place or direction, or on the ^Arsh or Kursiyy.>>
Hence, ayah 5 of Surat Taha, in the Qur’an:
قال الله تعالى: الرَّحمنُ على العرشِ استوى – سورة طه
clearly does not mean that Allah sits on the ^Arsh or that Allah is firmly established on the ^Arsh. In the Arabic language, the word istawa (استوى) has fifteen (15) different meanings, among which are to sit, subjugate, protect, conquer, and preserve. Based on what we have covered so far, it is obvious that it is blasphemous to apply the meaning <<to sit>> to Allah. However, the terms to preserve and to subjugate are in compliance with the Religion and the Arabic language.
Imam Hafidh Ibn Rajab al-Hambaliyy explained the meaning of istiwa’ (استواء) as istila’ (استيلاء), which means subjugating. That is, Allah attributed Himself with subjugating the ^Arsh in eternity (the status of existing without a beginning, that is, before creating the creation). Since the ^Arsh, the largest creation of Allah, is subjugated to Allah, then everything else which is smaller than the ^Arsh is under the control of Allah.
It was affirmed about Imam Malik Ibn Anas, may Allah reward his deeds, in what al-Bayhaqiyy related with a sound chain from the route of ^Abdullah Ibn Wahb, that <<We were at Malik’s when a man entered and said, <<O Abu ^Abdillah, (meaning Imam Malik), ar-Rahmanu ^alal-^Arsh istawa, how did He istawa?>> Malik looked down dismayed and he lifted his head and said <<^alal ^Arsh istawa as He attributed to Himself. It is invalid to say how, and `how’ does not apply to Him. I see that you are an innovator. Order him out.>> Hence, the saying of Imam Malik, <<`How’ does not apply to Him,>> means that His istiwa’ over the ^Arsh is without a how, i.e., it is not with a body, place, shape, or form like sitting, touching, suspending above, and the like.
Hence, there is no basis for the saying of those who liken Allah to the creation, which they falsely attribute to Imam Malik, that istiwa’ is known and the how of it is unknown. This saying of theirs is invalid, because sitting, no matter how it is, will be by organs and body parts that fold. Moreover, the statement claiming that Imam Malik attributed a <<how>> to Allah is a fabrication.
Imam al-Lalika’iyy narrated about Umm Salamah and Rabi^ah Ibn Abi ^Abdir-Rahman:
رَوَى اللالِكائىُّ عن أم سَلَمَة ورَبيعةَ بن أبِى عبد الرحمن: “الاستواءُ غيرُ مجهول والكيف غيرُ معقولٍ”
which means: <<The attribute of istiwa’ (استواء) is not unknown, because it is mentioned in the Qur’an. The kayf (كيف), that is, its how is inconceivable, because its applicability to Allah is impossible.>> Hence, the hadiths and the ayahs that attribute aboveness to Allah, refer to the aboveness of status and not the aboveness of place, distance, direction, touching, or suspending.
In Surat al-An^am ayah 61, Allah said:
قال الله تعالى: وهو القاهرُ فوقَ عبادهُ – سورة الأنعام
which means: <<He is the One Who subjugates His slaves>>. Hence the term fawq used in this ayah refers to subjugation and not to a place or a direction.
Beware of what appeared in the so-called Translation of the Qur’an by Yusuf Ali and the so-called revised version issued and printed by King Fahd Holy Qur’an Printing Complex in al-Madinah al-Munawwarah, where on page 879, in interpreting ayah 5 in Surat Taha:
قال الله تعالى: الرحمن على العرش استوى – سورة طه
they say: <<The Most Gracious is firmly established on the throne,>> and in the footnote they explicitey say: <<Who encompasses all creation and sits on the throne.>>
Similarly, be aware of all the other parts of this book which liken Allah to His creation, like on page 1799 where in ayah 42 of Surat al-Qalam:
قال الله تعالى: يومَ يُكشفُ عن ساق – سورة القلم
They attribute a shin to Allah, while the term <<saq>> (ساق) in this verse means <<hardship>>. Hence the ayah means <<The Judgment Day will be a day of anguish and hardship for the blasphemers>>. On page 1015 in interpreting Surat an-Nur, ayah 35:
قال الله تعالى: الله نور السمواتِ والأرض – سورة النور
They say <<Allah is the light>> and in the footnote they say explicitey: <<We can only think of Allah in terms of our phenomenal experience.>> Allah cannot be imagined. This verse means that Allah is the Creator of the light of guidance for the inhabitants of the heavens and the believing inhabitants of Earth, as was explained by ^Abdullah Ibn ^Abbas.
Another translation of the Qur’an was published also by King Fahd Printing Complex under the name of <<The Noble Qur’an >>. The two translators followed the methodology of the mushabbihah in translating the meanings of the mutashabih verses. They attribute to Allah different bodily parts (see page 81, footnote V3:73).
The mushabbihah are those who liken Allah to the creation; they believe Allah resembles the creation. They attribute to Allah places, directions, shapes, and bodies, and they try to camouflage it by saying: <<However, we do not know how His place is, or how His sitting is, or how His face is, or how His shin is, or how His light is.>> All of that does not clear them of blasphemy, because Allah is not composed of body parts and does not resemble the creation in any way whatsoever.
Praise be to Allah the Lord of the worlds, the One Who is clear of resembling the creation, all nonbefitting attributes, and all that which the blasphemers unrightfully say about Him.
Allah Knows Best