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Question:

Assalamalaykum,

I know that English is not as rich as Arabic, but I read some translations for some of the books and they quote that Allah is above his creations or above everything. And reading from your site that Allah exists without a beginning, that means He existed before the places and directions, so did any of the salaf scholars Say that "Allah is above the Throne"? And how would you explain the "Aboveness" when it's said about Allah?

Answer:

Bismillah, praise be to Allah the creator of everything, and the one who is Eternal and exists without a place, we ask Allah to increase the rank of Prophet Muhammad and his kind Aal and Companions,

The belief of all the Muslims from the Salaf and Khalaf is that Allah exists without being in a place or direction, because He (the exalted and most high in status) existed before all the creations and is clear from change.

The Aboveness and Highness when attributed to Allah always refers to highness in status and cannot be taken literally as high in a place or position or direction, because Allah existed eternally before time and place and directions. And that's the meaning of "Allah Ta^ala Jalla Wa ^ala"; that is Allah the one who is most high in status and is clear from all imperfections.

وقالَ أهلُ الحقّ: ليس الشأنُ في عُلوّ الجهةِ بل الشأنُ في علوّ القدرِ، والفوقية في لغةِ العربِ تأتي على معنيينِ فوقية المكانِ والجهةِ وفوقية القدرِ قال الله تعالى إخبارًا عن فرعون: {وإنا فوقهم قاهرون} أي نحنُ فوقَهُم بالقوةِ والسيطرةِ لأنه لا يصحُّ أن يقالَ إن فرعونَ أرادَ بهذا أنه فوقَ رقابِ بني إسرائيلَ إلى جهةِ العلوّ إنما أرادَ أنهُم مقهورونَ لَهُ مغلوبونَ.

فقول الله تعالى اخباراً عن فرعون الكافر {أنا ربكم الأعلى} معناه علو القدر. وكذا قوله {وإنا فوقهم قاهرون} أي فوقية القوة والسيطرة وليس فوقية المكان. فلهذا نص العلماء أن الفوقية والعلو أذا أطلق على الله فالمراد منه علو قدر وفوقية قهر سبحانه وتعالى وليس علو مكان وجهة لأن الله كان قبل الخلق والمكان والجهات بلا مكان كما أجمع كل علماء أهل السنة على ذلك ونص على ذلك ابن حجر العسقلاني في شرحه على صحيح البخاري.

It's clear linguistically in al-Qur'an that "al-^uloo" and "al-Fawqiyah" (Highness and Aboveness) has two meanings: Above in place, and above in Status. And the proof that "Highness" and "Aboveness" means above in status what was mentioned in al-Qur'an about Pharaoh the blasphemer who said:  "أنا ربكم الأعلى"Which means Pharoah said to his people [I'm your Lord the most High] and that clearly means highness of status. Also Allah said about Pharaoh: {وإنا فوقهم قاهرون} which means that Pharaoh said {And we are Above them Subduing them}. The Above here cannot mean that Pharaoh is literally above the necks of the children of Israel nor in the upper direction!! Rather it's clear that what's meant is that they are under his subjugation and control.

 

Scholarly Sayings Clearing Allah from Being in a Direction

Allah is the most high in status, He is attributed with all attributes of perfection and He is clear from any imperfection. He existed eternally before time and place as Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him said "كان الله ولم يكن شىء غيره" Which means: "Allah existed eternally and there was nothing else." This hadith proves that Allah was alone in al-'azal, (the status of existence without a beginning,) i.e., before creating any of the creation. There was nothing with Him: no place, no space, no sky, 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, He would become in a place, because this is a development, and 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 Bayn al­Firaq, that Imam ^Aliyy, the fourth of the caliphs, may Allah reward his deeds, said which means: "Allah existed eternally and there was no place, and He now is as He was", i.e., without a place.

Imam al-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 indication of denying Allah has a place and denying the slave is alike to Allah, wherever he was in proximity or remoteness. Allah, the Exalted, is adh­-Dhahir--hence, it is valid to know about Him by proofs. Allah is al-Batin--hence, it is invalid that He would be in a place."He also said: "Some of our companions used as a proof to refute the place to Allah the saying of the Prophet, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam : 'You are adh-Dhahir and there is nothing above You, and You are al-Batin 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 at­Tahawiyy said in his book at-Tahawiyah: "Allah is supremely clear of all boundaries, extremes, sides, organs and instruments. The six directions do NOT contain Him--these are attributed to all created things."

Such is the saying of Imam Abu Ja^far who is among the heads of as-Salaf. He explicitly stated that Allah is clear of being contained by the six directions, that is he is confirming that Allah exists without a place. The six directions are above, below, in front of, behind, right, and left. So this is clear evidence that the Salaf cleared Allah from organs, bodily parts, place, direction, limits and al-Kayf (manners of beings). Imam at-Tahawiy also said: "And whoever attributes to Allah any of the manners of beings is considered a blasphemer". This is the creed of the true Salafis and not the wahhabis.

In his book, Ihya'u ^Ulum ad-Din, Imam al-Ghazaliyy said: "... places do not contain Allah, nor do the directions, earth, or heavens. He is attributed with an "istiwa'" over al-^arsh as He said in the Qur'an--with the meaning that He willed--and not as what people may delude. It is an istiwa' which is clear of touching, resting, holding, moving and containment. Al-^arsh does not carry Him, but rather al-^arsh and those that carry al-^arsh are all carried by Allah with His Power and are subjugated to Him. He is above al-^arsh and above the heavens and above everything--in status-- an aboveness that does not give Him proximity to al-^arsh or the heavens as it does not give Him farness from earth. He is higher in status than everything: higher in status than al-^arsh and the heavens, as He is higher in status than earth and the rest of the creation." Imam al-Ghazaliyy also said: " Allah, the Exalted, existed eternally and there was no place. He is not a body, jawhar (atom), or property, and He is not on a place or in a place."


Shaykh ^Abdul-Ghaniyy an-Nabulsiyy said: "He who believes that Allah filled the heavens and earth or that He is a body sitting above al-^arsh, is a kafir."

And Imam Ibn Hajar al-^Asqalaniy (who is also an Ash^ari hafidh) said in his explanation of Sahih al-Bukhary (Fath al-Bari):

"Attributing aboveness (Fawqiyah) to Allah is a matter of status, and the impossibility lies in it being physical." This means Allah exists without a place and is clear from being in a direction or place. And the "Fawqiyah" or aboveness when attributed to Allah it refers to abovness of status and greatness of Allah, the exalted. He is the creator Subhanahu Wa Ta^ala that does not need any of the creations in any way.

Ibn Hajar also said that this is the creed of Ahlus-Sunnah, the Salaf, Khalaf, Ash^aris and Maturidis, which is the creed of the majority of the Muslim nation that Allah exists without being in a place or a direction.

 

Allah knows best.