Allah Exists Without Place or Direction

Fatwa by Shaykh Ali Jumu’ah

Translated by Shaykh Abu Adam al Naruiji

The Question:

“I am a student at the college of Sharī’ah and I have learned and studied in the Science of Belief that Allāh exists without being in a place, and that He is not placed in any direction. So please give me a fatwa on this, because there are some people that attack the belief of Al-Azhar.”

The Answer:

It is one of the established matters of the belief of the Muslims that Allāh (He is clear of and above all flaws) is not contained in a place and not limited by time, because place and time are both creations. Allāh is clear of and above being surrounded by any creation of His. Rather, He is the Creator of everything, and He (has complete knowledge and control of his creation, so in this sense, not the sense of place or direction, it is said in Arabic that He) “surrounds” His creation. This belief is agreed upon among the Muslims, no one denies this among them.

The scholars of the religion have expressed this by saying:

“Allāh existed and there was no place, and He is now as He was before the creation of place; He has not changed from what He was.”

Among the expressions of the Pious Salaf on this topic is the saying of Abū Ja’far Al- Sādiq radiallahu ta’ala anhu:

“Whoever claims that Allāh is in something, or from something, or on something has associated a partner with Allāh[1], because if He was in something, then He would be confined; and if He was on something, then He would be carried; and if He was from something, then He would be something that has a beginning.”

It was said to Yahyā ibn Mu’ādh Al- Rāziy rahmatullahi alayh: “Tell us about Allāh subhanahu wa ta’ala!” He said:

“One god.” Then someone said: “How is He?” He said: “An absolute ruler with absolute power.” Then someone said: “Where is He?” He answered: “Seeing and Hearing[2].” The person who asked said: “I was not asking about that.” He replied: “Other than that would be an attribute of a creation. As for the attribute of Allāh; it is as I told you.”

Dhu-n-Nūn Al-Misriy rahmatullahi alayh was asked about the saying of Allāh: Al-Rahmān ‘alā Al-‘Arsh istawā[3]. He answered: “He affirmed His existence, and denied that He has a place. So He Himself exists independently, while other things exist by His Wisdom as He Wills.”

With regard to what has been narrated to us of texts from the Qur’ān and hadīths that indicate the Highness of Allāh subhanahu wa ta’ala; over His creation; it means highness in the sense of status and prestige; and of dominance and power. This is because He is clear of any resemblance to created things; His attributes are not like their attributes; there is nothing in an attribute of the Creator that is related to the limits of the attributes of created things.

Rather, He is Great and High in Status, He has the attributes of complete perfection and the names that are beautiful. Anything that might enter your mind; Allāh is different from it – He is clear of and above imperfection. The inability to reach understanding is understanding[4], and to search for the complete reality of what Allāh Himself is, is to commit blasphemy and associate partners with Him[5].

The belief of the Honorable Azhar University is the belief of the scholars of the Ash’ariy school, which is the belief of the Sunnis. The Ash’arīy Masters, may Allāh reward and please them, are the majority of the scholars of those who are associated with the call of the Prophet Muhammad subhanahu wa ta’ala. They are the ones that stopped the spreading of doubts done by the blasphemers and other deviants.

They are the ones that clung to Allāh’s book and the teachings and way of our master, the Messenger of Allāh #SWT# throughout history. Whoever said that they are blasphemers or sinners; his religion in in danger. The hadīth master Ibn ‘Asākir rahmatullahi alayh said in his book “Tabyīn Kadhib Al-Muftariy fiy mā nusiba ila-l-Imām Abiy Al-Hasan Al-Ash’ariy“:

“Know – may Allāh grant you and me success by His reward, and make us among those who truly fears Him – that the flesh of the scholars is poisonous, and it is the well known norm of Allāh in His creation to expose those who insult them; the one that slanders them will be afflicted by Allāh before he dies with the death of his heart.”

The Honorable University of Al-Azhar is the lighthouse of knowledge and religion throughout the Islamic history. This lofty castle made the greatest heartland of knowledge that the Islamic nation has known after the first and best centuries. By it, Allāh protected His religion from all the wrong headed and those who spread doubts. The one who is haphazard about his belief is in grave danger. It is feared that he is one among the Khawārijite[6] or Murjite[7] sects.

Allāh said concerning them what may be rendered in meaning as:

“If the hypocrites, and those who have disease in the heart, and the alarmists in al-Madīnah do not cease, then Allāh will put you (O Muhammad) in control of them and let you finish them off, after that you will find very few of them as neighbors to you there”[8]

…. and Allāh knows best.

[1] “Associated a partner with Allāh” is a translation of the Arabic word Shirk – i.e. Blasphemy.

[2] His answer in Arabic was “bi-l-Mirsād“, and it is a Quranic expression which means that Allāh sees and hears all that His creatures do and will hold them accountable. It could also mean “watch post” or “ambush”. In other words, this answer was an eloquent play on words in the sense that it fit the answer for “where?” without giving the meaning of place.

[3] Its pronunciation is: Ar-Rahmān ‘ala-l-‘Arshi-stawā. If someone translated this statement literally, he would say : Al-Rahmān (The Merciful) ‘alā (on) Al-‘Arsh (The Throne) istawā (established Himself); “The Merciful established Himself on the throne”. This is not the meaning of the statement, however, and the Arabic Language is not limited to this meaning. Rather, the verb “istawā” in the Arabic language has some 14 different meanings. Moreover, the word Al-‘Arsh does not necessarily mean “throne”, it could also mean “dominion”, and some of the Salaf said that.

Abu Mansūr Al-Baghdādīy said in his book Usūlu-d-Dīn, in summary: “Our colleagues differed regarding this āyah. Some said that it is among the āyahs that are Mutashābihāt and its meaning is not known by other than Allāh, and this is the saying of Mālik. Others said that istawā is something that Allāh did to the ‘Arsh that He called istawā, and this is the saying of Abu-l-Hasan Al-Ash’arīy. Others again said that istawa means that He is attributed with aboveness over the `Arsh without contact (i.e. in status, not physical aboveness.) The correct saying in our view, is that Al-‘Arsh in this Āyah means the Dominion and istawā is its action, meaning that the Dominion did not settle in equilibrium for anyone but Him.”

In case anyone is wondering who Abū Mansūr is, Al-Dhahabīy described him in his book Sīyar A’lām Al-Nubalā’ as: “the great, outstanding, and encyclopedic scholar…. He used to teach 17 different subjects and his brilliance became the source for proverbs.” Al-Dhahabīy said further that he would have liked to write a separate, more complete article about him, and quoted Abū ‘Uthmān Al-Sābūnīy saying: “Abū Mansūr is by scholarly consensus counted among the heads of the scholars of belief and the methodology of jurisprudence, as well as a front figure of Islām.”

[4] i.e. Realizing that one cannot know Allāh as He knows Himself is to know Allāh.

[5] This is because such a search leads to draw analogies between Allāh and created things, and this is blasphemy.

[6] A sect of many branches that share the love for killing and plundering Muslims on the basis of claiming them idolaters, and for claiming that committing sins is blasphemy, even if one believes that its commitment is sinful.

[7] A sect that claimed that as long as one believes in Islam, then committing sins does not harm.

[8] Al-Ahzāb, 60


12 Responses to Allah Exists Without Place or Direction

  1. Muadh Khan says:

    Asslamo Allaikum Brothers,

    May Allah (SWT) reward for your efforts

    So please five me SHOULD be So please give me (with a “G”)

  2. Ibn Mazhar says:

    as salam `alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu

    Jazakallahi khayrun for pointing it out. Now it’s been corrected, alhamdolillah.

    wa `alaykum salam

  3. sufi786 says:

    Now the Salafi are going to bite the dust

  4. Musa Ali says:

    Salam, this article does not even mention the hadith of Bukhari in which a slave girl was asked by the Messenger of Allah, ‘where is Allah’ – her response being ‘fis-samaa’ (above the heavens). Was wandering why not.

  5. It is a fatwa from Azhar, and they are usually short. I will answer. This hadīth, also called “the hadīth of the slave girl” cannot be taken literally and adopted as a belief for the following reasons:

    First, because this hadīth is singularly transmitted so it does not give certainty and the obligation of believing something about Allah can only be established by proofs that provide certainty.

    Second, this narration is weak according to some scholars, because there are other narrations which use different wording. For example, the authenticated and sound narration in the hadīth collection Musannaf ‘AbdurRazzāq, which reads, “Do you testify that ‘la ilāha ill-Allāh’ (there is none worthy of worship except Allah)?” In addition, although some narrations of this hadīth states that the Prophet called her a “believer”, not all of them state that.

    Third, the apparent meaning that Allah is in a direction with regards to His creation is rejected by thesound intellect as absurd.

    Fourth, the disputed text in the singular hadīth which literally states “Where is Allah?” does not fit with the well-known principles set forth to determine if someone is Muslim. The principle is that one asks them to testify that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is His prophet and Messenger.

    Fifth, it contradicts sound hadīths in the same collection (Muslim) that clearly show that Allah is neither above nor below any created thing, namely, “You are Al-dhāhir so there is nothing above You. And You are Al-Bātin, so there is nothing below you.”

    Sixth, it contradicts the statement in the Qur’ān that means, “Absolutely nothing resembles Him in any way at all, and He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.” This statement is what the Muslims have taken as their basic guide in their belief in absolute terms, and any other statements in hadīth or Qur’ān are understood accordingly.

    Seventh, it contradicts the geographical reality that what is up in Saudi Arabia is down in the Fiji Islands. It also conflicts with the fact that the earth turns, so that what is up at one point in time is another direction at another time.

    For these reasons, the hadīth of the slave girl is given an acceptable figurative interpretation. Such an interpretation is to say that the word “ayna” (where) in Arabic is commonly used as a question about status, not only about place, such as in, “‘Ayna anta wa ‘Uthmān”, literally: “Where are you and ‘Uthmān?” meaning: “Where is your status compared to ‘Uthmān?” Her answer, literally translated as “in the sky,” means “very high”, just as one in English might use the expression “sky high”, without this meaning place, direction or distance. In other words, what she meant to say was that Allāh’s status is very high, unlike those worshiped idols on the ground.

  6. faqir says:

    as-salamu `alaikum shaykh,

    “Second, this narration is weak according to some scholars”

    Could you please document which scholars, references, etc for our benefit?

    JazakumAllahu khayran.

  7. wa^alaykumussalaam,

    Al-Bayhaqiyy mentions that Muslim did not narrate it, and that he thought that this was because of the confusion in the hadith (Iđţiraab). In Talkħiiş al-Ĥabiir Al-ˆasqalaaniyy states that there is a lot of confusion in its text. Al-Kawthariyy states that it is confused in both narrational chain and text in his commentary on As-Subkiyy’s “As-Sayf Aş-Şaqiil”, and refers to Adħ-Dħahabiyy’s “Al-ˆUluww” to discover the amount of confusion (in spite of Adħ-Dħahabiyy’s assertions.) He stresses that it is mentioned in Muslim, and that perhaps it was inserted after Al-Bayhaqiyy, or that he did not have it in his available copies. Even so, it is not mentioned in the chapter on beliefs. Also, Al-Bukħaariyy does not mention it in his Şaĥiiĥ, even though he narrates it elsewhere in his book on Al-Qadar. Al-Kawthariyy mentions that even there, he did not mention the part with “ayn,” though I did find it in my copy. An insertion from the editors perhaps. I do not know. In any case, the ĥadiitħ is too weak for basing beliefs upon.

  8. Abu Zayd says:

    Assalmu Alaykom Sheikh Abu Adam wa Barak Allahu Feek. Thank you for providing this information and reply to the questions of Muslims.
    I would also like to add more proof on the Existence of Allah without a place.

    1. AlBukhariyy, alBayhaqiyy related that the Messenger of Allah Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said: “” Allah existed eternally and there was nothing else “” – This Hadith shows that nothing else existed before Allah created the creation. There was no water, no sky, no light, no Arsh(Throne)

    2. Imam Abu Hanifah (who is one of the authorities of as-Salaf) wrote a book called Al-Fiqh al­Absat. Abu Hanifah said: “” Allah existed eternally and there was no place. He existed before creating the creation. He existed, and there was no place, creation, or thing; and He is the Creator of everything “” – It must be also known that Allah does not change. 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 Allah does not need any of his creations.

    3. Imam Abu Jafar at­Tahawiyy (who is among the heads of as-Salaf, who was born in the year 237 after Hijrah wrote a book called AlAqidah atTahawiyyah. In his book he states the contents of it are the creed of Ahl as­Sunnah wal Jama’ah. Imam Abu Jafar at­Tahawiyy said: “” Allah is supremely clear of all boundaries / extremes / sides / organs / instruments. The six directions do not contain Allah these are attributed to all created things “”

    Imam Abu Jafar at­Tahawiyy also says in his book: “” The one who attributes to Allah a characteristic of mankind is a blasphemer “” – To say Allah has a body, a face, a chin ect is Kuffir because Allah said in AlQuran (Suratush-Shura Ayah 11) : “” Nothing resembles Him (ALLAH) in any way “”

    4. Al-Bukhariyy (in the chapter on Al-Jihad Hafidh Ibn Hajar) 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 “”

    5. Imam Ahmad arRifai AlKabir (lived around the year 600 after al-Hijrah) said: “” The ultimate knowledge about Allah is to be certain that Allah exists without a how or a place “” – The scholars 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 as­Salah.

    6. Imam Muhammad Ibn Hibah AlMakkiyy (in his book Hadaiq alFusul wa Jawahir alUqul) said: “” Allah existed eternally and there was no place, and the judgment about His existence now is that He is as He was “” that is without a place.

    May Allah guide us All. Ameen

    Assalmu Alaykom

  9. oumer kedir says:

    as-slamu alaikum shaik could you docment the page namber where ibn hajer alasqalany says(the fact that the two directions above and below are impossible to allah

    • Abu Zayd says:

      In the same book ‘Fathul Bari’ by Ibn Hajar he also states “the fact that it is impossible for the upward and downward directions to apply to Allah does it mean that He cannot be attributed with “Al-^Uluww” (Aboveness in a metaphorical sense). This is so because attributing Him with “Al-^Uluww” (Aboveness) is from the point of status, …. Hence, it has been related that among the names of Allah are Al-^Ali, Al-^Aliyy, and Al-Muta^ali”.

      Also his student (who was a Hafidh) Muhammad Ibn ^Abdir-Rahman as-Sakhawiyy also confirms Ibn Hajar believed Allah exists without a place in his book ‘Al-Maqasid al-Hasanah’ he said:“Our Shaykh (meaning Ibn Hajar al-^Asqalaniyy) said: “The Knowledge of Allah encompasses all things, and Allah The Exalted is clear of occupying places, for He is eternally existent before places were brought into existence”.

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