Allah Exists Without a Place. God does not resemble His Creation
بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيم
Praise be to Allâh, the Lord of the worlds. To Allâh belong the endowments, befitting perfection, and commendations. We ask Allâh to raise the rank of Prophet Muḥammad, and to protect his nation from what he fears for it. Thereafter:
Allâh created the universe, He exists before the space and the time. God exists without place and does not depend on time. we do not say "where" or "when" or "how" about Allâh.
The belief that Allâh, ta`âlâ, exists without a place is the creed of the Messenger of Allâh Muḥammad, 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 Allâh said in the Qur’ân, in Surat Ash-Shura, Ayah 11:
لَيْسَ كمثلهِ شىءٌ وهوَ السَّميعُ البصيرُ
which means: « There is absolutely nothing like Allâh whatsoever, and He has the attributes of Hearing and Seeing. » This ayah absolutely clears Allâh of resembling the creations. It comprises that Allâh, ta`âlâ, is absolutely different from the creations in the Self, Attributes, and Actions. Hence, it shows that Allâh, ta`âlâ, 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. Allâh, ta`âlâ, is clear of occupying spaces.
Al-Bukhariyy, al-Bayhaqiyy and Ibnu l-Jarud related that the Messenger of Allâh Muḥammad said:
« كان الله ولم يَكُنْ شَىءٌ غَيْرُهُ »
which means: « Allâh existed eternally and nothing else existed. » This Hadîth proves that only Allâh existed without a beginning, i.e., before creating any of the creation. There was nothing with Allâh: 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 Allâh, the Exalted, does not change. Hence, it is impossible that after having been existing without a place, Allâh 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 Allâh reward his deeds, said:
« كان الله ولا مكان، وهو الآن على ما عليه كان »
which means: « Allâh existed eternally and there was no place, and He now is as He was [without a place]. »
Imam Abu Ḥanifah, who is one of the authorities of Salaf, said in his book Al-Fiqh al-Absaṭ: « Allâh 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 ḥāfiḍh al-Bayhaqiyy said in his book, Al-Asmâ'u wa ṣ-Ṣifāt, on page 400: «…What was mentioned towards the end of the Hadîth is an evidence for negating that Allâh has a place and negating that the slave is alike to Allâh. Allâh, the Exalted, is aḍh-Ḍhāhir (الظاهر). Hence, it is valid to know about Him by proofs. Allâh is al-Bâṭin (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 Allâh, the saying of the Prophet Muḥammad صلى الله عليه وسلّم: « You are adh-Dhâhir (الظاهر) and there is nothing above You, and You are al-Bāṭin (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 Aḥmad Ibn Salâmah, Abu Ja`far aṭ-Ṭaḥâwiyy, who was born in the year 237 after Hijrah, wrote a very famous book called al-`Aqîdah at-TaHâwiyyah. He mentioned that the content of his book is an explanation of the creed of Ahlus-Sunnah wal Jamâ`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-Qâḍî and Imam Muḥammad Ibn al-Hasan ash-Shaybaniyy and others. He said in his book:
تَعَالى عن الحُدُودِ والغَاياتِ والأَركانِ والأَعضَاء والأَدَوَاتِ لا تَحوِيهِ الجِهَاتُ السّتُّ كَسَائِرِ المُبْتَدَعَاتِ
which means: « Allâh 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 Allâh 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 ḥadīth, Imam Muḥammad Murtaḍâ az-Zabîdiyy, narrated by a continuous chain from himself back to Imam Zayn al-`Abidin `Aliyy Ibn al-Ḥusayn Ibn `Aliyy Ibn Abi Ṭālib, (who was among the best of Salaf, who earned the title of as-Sajjād, i.e., the one who prays a lot), that Zayn al-`Abidin, in his treatise as-Saḥîfah as-Sajjadiyyah, said about Allâh:
سبحانك أنتَ الله الذى لا يحويك مكان
which means: « O Allâh, You are clear of all imperfection. You are Allâh, 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 Allâh, You are clear of all imperfection. You are Allâh, the One Who is not within boundaries. »
The Hanafiyy scholar Zaynu d-din Ibn Nujaym, in his book Al-Baḥru r-Rā'iq, on page 129 said: « Whoever says it is possible for Allâh to do a doing which has no wisdom commits blasphemy. Moreover, he commits blasphemy by affirming a place to Allâh, the Exalted. »
Imam Ahmad ar-Rifa`iyy al-Kabir, who lived around the year 600 after Hijrah, said:
غايةُ المعرفةِ بالله الإيقانُ بوجوده تعالى بِلا كيفٍ ولا مكانٍ
which means: « The ultimate knowledge about Allâh is to be certain that Allâh exists without a how or a place. »
Imam Muḥammad Ibn Hibah al-Makkiyy, wrote a book called Hadâ’iqu l-FuSûl wa Jawâhiru l-`Uqûl. It came to be known as Al-`Aqidatu s-SalâHiyyah, after he gave it as a gift to Sultan SalaHu d-dîn 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:
قد كان موجودا ولا مكانا وحكمُه الآن على ما كان
Which means: « Allâh existed eternally and there was no place, and the judgment about His existence now is that He is as He was [without a place]. »
Imam Ja`far as-Sâdiq said: « He who claims that Allâh 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 `Abdu l-Ghaniyy an-Nabulusiyy said: « He who believes that Allâh fills the heavens and Earth or that He is a body sitting above the Throne is a kafir. »
Imam Fakhru d-dîn Ibn `Asâkir (620 H) said in his `Aqidah: « Allâh 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? Allâh 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-Khaṭṭābiyy said: « What is obligatory 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 Allâh or His Attributes. »
Know beyond doubt that the question "how" (kayf: كيف) does not apply to Allâh. "How?" is a question related to shapes, bodies, places, depths, and dimensions. Allâh is clear of all such attributes. Also be firm that it is invalid to say about Allâh «… but we do not know how », because in essence, it falsely indicates that Allâh has a color, shape, dimensions, body and place, but one is simply ignorant of its "how".
Imam al-Ghazaliyy said: « Allâh, 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 direction and the place to Allâh is contrary to the Qur’ân, ḥadīth, Ijmâ` unanimity of scholars, and intellectual proof. The intellectual proof that Allâh 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 Allâh existed without a place before creating places. The mind also determines that after Allâh created the places, He still exists without a place.
The scholars, like Imam Aḥmad ar-Rifâ`iyy, determined that lifting the hands and the faces towards the sky when performing du`â’ (supplication) is because the heavens are the qiblah of du`â’ just as the Ka`bah is the Qiblah of Ṣalah. From the heavens, the mercies and blessings of Allâh descend.
Hence, it is clear for the one who seeks the truth that the saying that Allâh exists without a place is what complies with the Qur’an, ḥadīth,Ijmâ` unanimity of scholars, and criteria of the sound intellect. Be firm and certain that before creating places, Allâh, Who created everything (places and everything else), existed without a place, and after creating places, Allâh still exists without a place.
Since we have determined that the creed of the Muslims is that Allâh exists without a place and that the question "how" does not apply to Allâh, it is clear to us that the Throne (`Arsh), which is the largest of all the creations and the ceiling of Paradise, is not a place for Allâh, the Exalted.
Imam Abu ManSûr al-Baghdâdiyy related that Imam `Aliyy Ibn Abi Talib, the fourth caliph, said:
إنَّ الله تَعَالى خَلَقَ العَرْشَ إظْهَارًا لِقُدْرَتِهِ وَلم يَتَّخِذُهُ مَكانًا لِذَاتِهِ
which means: « Allâh created the Throne (`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-Waṣiyyah: «…and He is the Preserver of the Throne (`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 Throne (`Arsh), where was Allâh? »
Also, in his book, Al-Fiqh al-Absat, Imam Abu Hanifah said: « Allâh 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 whoeve says that He is on the Throne (`Arsh), and I do not know whether the Throne (`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 Allâh. Everything that has a direction and boundary is by necessity in need of a Creator.
In his book, IHyâ’u `Ulûmid-dîn, Imam al-Ghazâliyy said: «…places do not contain Him [Allâh], nor do the directions, Earth, or heavens. He is attributed with an istiwâ’ over the Throne (`Arsh) as He said in the Qur’ân, with the meaning that He willed and not as what people may delude. It is an istiwâ’ which is clear of touching, resting, holding, moving, and containment. The Throne (`Arsh) does not carry Him, but rather the Throne (`Arsh) and those who carry it are all carried by Allâh’s Power, and they are subjugated to Him. He is above the Throne (`Arsh), the heavens, and everything in status, with an aboveness that does not give Him proximity to the Throne (`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 Throne (`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 Allâh filled the heavens and Earth or that He is a body sitting above the Throne (`Arsh), is a kafir. »
Ayah 93 of Surat Maryam:
إن كلُّ مَن فى السمواتِ والأرضِ إلا ءاتِى الرحمنِ عبدًا
means: « All those in the heavens and Earth must come to Allâh as slaves. » In this Tafsir (book of explaining the Qur’ân), Imam ar-Râziyy said: « and since it is affirmed by this ayah that everything that existed in the heavens and Earth is a slave of Allâh (i.e., owned by and subjugating to Allâh) and since it is obligatory that Allâh 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:
الرَّحمنُ على العرشِ استوى
clearly does not mean that Allâh sits on the `Arsh or that Allâh is firmly established on the `Arsh. In the Arabic language, the word istawâ (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 Allâh. However, the terms to preserve and to subjugate are in compliance with the Religion and the Arabic language.
Imam Hafidh Ibn Rajab al-Ḥambaliyy explained the meaning of istiwâ’ (استواء) as istilâ’ (استيلاء), which means subjugating. That is, Allâh attributed Himself with subjugating the Throne (`Arsh) in eternity (the status of existing without a beginning, that is, before creating the creation). Since the Throne (`Arsh), the largest creation of Allâh, is subjugated to Allâh, then everything else which is smaller than the Throne (`Arsh) is under the control of Allâh.
It was affirmed about Imam Malik Ibn Anas, may Allâh reward his deeds, in what al-Bayhaqiyy related with a sound chain from the route of `Abdullâh Ibn Wahb, that We were at Malik’s when a man entered and said « O Abu `Abdillāh, (meaning Imam Malik), ar-Raḥmanu `ala l-`Arsh istawa, how did He istawa ? » Malik looked down dismayed and he lifted his head and said « `ala l-`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 istiwâ’ over the hrone (`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 Allâh to the creation, which they falsely attribute to Imam Malik, that istiwâ’ 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 Allâh is a fabrication.
Imam al-Lâlikâ’iyy narrated about Umm salamah and Rabî`ah Ibn Abi `Abdi r-Raḥmân:
رَوَى اللالِكائىُّ عن أم سَلَمَة ورَبيعةَ بن أبِى عبد الرحمن الاستواءُ غيرُ مجهول والكيف غيرُ معقولٍ
which means: « The attribute of istiwâ’ (استواء) is not unknown, because it is mentioned in the Qur’ân. The kayf (كيف), that is, its how is inconceivable, because its applicability to Allâh is impossible. » Hence, the Hadîths and the ayahs that attribute aboveness to Allâh, refer to the aboveness of status and not the aboveness of place, distance, direction, touching, or suspending.
In Surat Al-An`âm Ayah 61, Allâh said:
وهو القاهرُ فوقَ عبادهُ
which means: « He [i.e., Allâh] 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.
The mushabbihah are those who liken Allâh to the creation ; they believe Allâh resembles the creation. They attribute to Allâh 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 Allâh is not composed of body parts and does not resemble the creation in any way whatsoever.
Praise be to Allâh the Lord of the worlds, the One Who is clear of resembling the creation, all non befitting attributes, and all that which the blasphemers unrightfully say about Him.
الحمد لله رب العالمين
Praise be to Allâh, the Creator of the world.