Where is Allah?
“Allāh is everywhere” is a common term amongst many sects in Islam, especially deobandis. But it is a belief that can take person out of Islam.
The attribute of transcendence of Allāh (i.e, Allāh is above his throne) has special significance in Islam. It was Islam that clarified to man who Allāh is and His Names and Attributes. Otherwise man had strayed far astray from the correct belief. Jews said Allāh descended to earth and lost wrestling match with Prophet Ya’qoob 1 and christians claimed that Allāh came to earth and become flesh and blood in form of man, Prophet Eesa .
The idea of “God is everywhere” actually came from Hindu who say “Brahman is everywhere” – this belief was taken by Christianity and eventually adopted by Muslims several generations after Prophet ﷺ. 2
Danger of Immanence Concept
On the basis of the false attribute of divine immanence (i.e. the belief that “God is everywhere”) some claimed that God was more in humans than in animals, vegetation etc. 3 The concept of Hulool (indwelling of Allāh in man) or Ittihaad (complete unification of the human soul with Allāh’s “soul”) is not foreign.
Among people of ninth century, a deranged mystic and so-called saint, Mansoor al-Hallaaj (858-992 CE), openly declared that he and Allāh were one. 4 ── he was executed because of this claim. Similarly Nusayrites claimed that ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib was manifestation of Allāh 5. Similar concepts are found in Druze (another Shi’ite breakaway) and many others.
The idea is, all these beliefs came in to existence when immanence concept was honoured.
It may be concluded that the belief that “Allāh is everywhere” is extremely dangerous. It ultimately leads to shirk (by worshipping creation of Allāh) which is greatest sin in the Sight of Allāh. This claim is clear shirk in Tawhid al-Asmaa’ was-Sifaat 6 because it gives an attribute to Allāh that does not belong to Him. Neither in the Qur’ān nor in hadīth can such a description of Allāh be found. In-fact it is very much opposite in both Qur’ān and Sunnah.
Allāh is Above His Throne
There are many proofs used by orthodox Muslim scholars to establish the fact that Allāh is totally separate from His creation and is above His Great Throne.
The Qur’ānic Proof
The number of verses in the Qur’ān that state that Allāh is above His creation are too many. Many ayaas prof this point directly, others refer to this concept indirectly.
تَعْرُجُ ٱلْمَلَٰٓئِكَةُ وَٱلرُّوحُ إِلَيْهِ فِى يَوْمٍ كَانَ مِقْدَارُهُۥ خَمْسِينَ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ
The angels and the Spirit will ascend to Him during a Day the extent of which is fifty thousand years. – Surah al-Ma’arij 9
And in case of the prayer and Dhikr, Allāh said:
إِلَيْهِ يَصْعَدُ ٱلْكَلِمُ ٱلطَّيِّبُ
…To Him ascends good speech… – Surah Faatir 10
In other ayaah, Allāh said:
وَقَالَ فِرْعَوْنُ يَٰهَٰمَٰنُ ٱبْنِ لِى صَرْحًا لَّعَلِّىٓ أَبْلُغُ ٱلْأَسْبَٰبَ. أَسْبَٰبَ ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ فَأَطَّلِعَ إِلَىٰٓ إِلَٰهِ مُوسَىٰ وَإِنِّى لَأَظُنُّهُۥ كَٰذِبًا
And Pharaoh said, “O Haman, construct for me a tower that I might reach the ways. The ways into the heavens – so that I may look at the deity of Moses; but indeed, I think he is a liar.” – Surah Ghaafir 11
We need to ask ourselves a question, how did Pharaoh know that in order to reach to Allāh , he would have to build tower / stairs towards heaven? Clearly this was teachings of Musa .
Another example of Allāh being above the creation can be found in the following ayah:
قُلْ نَزَّلَهُۥ رُوحُ ٱلْقُدُسِ مِن رَّبِّكَ بِٱلْحَقِّ
Say, [O Muhammad], “The Pure Spirit has brought it down from your Lord in truth…” – Surah an-Nahl 12
These are only few indirect references of Allāh’s transcendency in Qur’ān.
Direct references can be found in both the divine names of Allāh as well as in His explicit statements. For example, Allāh calls Himself by the names “al-‘Ali” 13 and “al-A’laa” 14 both of which mean the highest, above which there is nothing.
Following are few explicit statements where Allāh referred Himself above (His creation and Throne):
وَهُوَ ٱلْقَاهِرُ فَوْقَ عِبَادِهِ
ٱلرَّحْمَٰنُ عَلَى ٱلْعَرْشِ ٱسْتَوَىٰ
The Most Merciful [who is] above the Throne established. – Surah Ta-Ha 17
هُوَ ٱلَّذِى خَلَقَ ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضَ فِى سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ ثُمَّ ٱسْتَوَىٰ عَلَى ٱلْعَرْشِ
It is He who created the heavens and earth in six days and then established Himself above the Throne… – Surah al-Hadeed 18
And it is a established fact that throne of Allāh is above the heavens;
Imam Abu Haneefah was asked “What if he said that He is above the throne but he does not know whether the throne is in the heavens or on earth?”, he (Abu Haneefah) replied, “He has disbelieved because he has denied that He (Allāh) is above the heavens and whoever denies that He is above the heavens has disbelieved” 19
And He also described His worshippers as,
يَخَافُونَ رَبَّهُم مِّن فَوْقِهِمْ
They fear their Lord above them… – Surah an-Nahl 20
Therefore, the Qur’ān itself clearly points out for those who contemplate it’s meaning, that Allāh is high above His creation and not within it or surrounded by it in any way. 21.
We also find many evidences in ahaadith that clearly states that Allāh is not on the earth or within His creation.
Among the indirect or implied references are those which refer to the angels ascending up to Allāh as in the hadīth of Abu Hurayrah in which he narrated that Allāh’s messenger ﷺ said,
Angels keep on descending from and ascending to the Heaven in turn, some at night and some by daytime, and all of them assemble together at the time of the Fajr and ‘Asr prayers. Then those who have stayed with you over-night, ascent unto Allāh Who asks them, and He knows the answer better than they … – al-Bukhari 22
Other reports found that refer to Allāh being above His throne are also found
When Allāh created the creation as He was upon the Throne, He put down in His Book: Verily, My mercy predominates My wrath. – Muslim 23
In another narration, Prophet ﷺ mentioned the descending of Allāh
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allāh’s Apostle ﷺ said, “Our Lord, the Blessed, the Superior, comes every night down on the nearest Heaven to us when the last third of the night remains, saying: “Is there anyone to invoke Me, so that I may respond to invocation? Is there anyone to ask Me, so that I may grant him his request? Is there anyone seeking My forgiveness, so that I may forgive him?” – al-Bukhari 24 25 & Muslim 26 27
If Allāh was everywhere how come Prophet ﷺ said “comes every night down on the nearest Heaven to us“?
An example of a direct reference is the narration about the Prophet’s wife Zaynab bint Jahsh who used to boast to the other wives of the Prophet ﷺ that their families gave them away in marriage to the Prophet ﷺ while Allāh from above the seven heavens gave her away in marriage 28
Another clear proof; and notice the criteria used by Prophet ﷺ to identify a believer
Mu’awiya b. al-Hakam said: … One day I happened to pass that way and found that a wolf had carried a goat from her flock. I am after all a man from the posterity of Adam. I felt sorry as they (human beings) feel sorry. So I slapped her. I came to the Messenger of Allāh (Peace be upon him) and felt (this act of mine) as something grievous I said: Messenger of Allāh, should I not grant her freedom? He (the Holy Prophet) said: Bring her to me. So I brought her to him. He said to her: Where is Allāh? She said: He is in the heaven. He said: Who am I? She said: Thou art the Messenger of Allāh. He said: Grant her freedom, she is a believing woman. – Muslim 29
The Mi’raaj Proof
Two years prior to his migaration to Madeenah, the Prophet ﷺ made a miraculous night journey (Isra’) from Makkah to Jerusalem where ﷺ took the Mi’raaj up through the seven skies to the pinnacle of creation. The miraculous journey was bestowed on him in order that he be the direct presence of Allāh. It was there above the seventh heaven, that Salaah was made compulsory five times per day, Allāh spoke directly to the Prophet ﷺ and Allāh revealed to him the last verses of Surah al-Baqarah.
If Allāh were everywhere there would have been no need for the Prophet ﷺ to go anywhere. He could have been in direct presence to Allāh on the earth in his own house. Therefore, the incident of the miraculous ascension of the Prophet ﷺ up through the heavens contains within it a subtle implication that Allāh is above His creation and not a part of it. 30
What About Ayahs like “Allāh is with you”?
Saying that Allāh is with us does not mean that He is mixed with (or dwells in) His creation; rather He is with His slaves by His knowledge. He is above His Throne and nothing is hidden from Him of what they do.
With regard to the ayah (interpretation of the meaning):
وَنَحْنُ أَقْرَبُ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ حَبْلِ ٱلْوَرِيدِ
And We are nearer to him than his jugular vein (by Our Knowledge). – Surah Qaf 31
Most of the mufassireen (exegesists) said that what is meant is that He is near by means of His angels whose task it is to record people’s deeds. And those who said that it means that He is near explained it as meaning that He is near by His knowledge, as is said concerning how He is with us.
وَهُوَ مَعَكُمْ أَيْنَ مَا كُنتُمْ
… and He is with you wherever you are … – Surah al-Hadeed 32
Ibn Katheer, in his tafseer said concerning this ayah:
… He is watching over you and witnessing your deeds wherever you may be, on land or at sea, during the night or the day, at home or in open areas or deserts. All of that is the same before His knowledge and all of it is under His sight and hearing. He hears your speech and sees where you are. He knows your secrets and your public statements … – Tafseer Ibn Katheer 33
Allāh is above His Great Throne however befits His majesty. We hear and we believe in it. We stop where Allāh , Prophet ﷺ and companions stopped.
Therefore it is clearly established that belief in transcendence of Allāh is one of the most important aspect of faith. Islam closes all the doors leading towards sin, including shirk which is greatest of all sin.
- John R. Hinnells, Dictionary of Religions, (England: Penguin Books, 1984, p. 67-68) ↩
- Dr. Bilal Philips, The Fundamentals of Tawhid, IIPH Riyaadh, 2006, p. 135 ↩
- Ibid. p.137 ↩
- A.J. Arberry, Muslim Saints and Mystics, (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1976, p.266-271) ↩
- Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam, p.454-455 ↩
- Dr. Bilal Philips, The Fundamentals of Tawhid, IIPH Riyaadh, 2006, p. 138 ↩
- Surah al-Ikhlaas 112:2 ↩
- Dr. Bilal Philips, The Fundamentals of Tawhid, IIPH Riyaadh, 2006, p. 142 ↩
- Surah al-Ma’arij 70:4 ↩
- Surah Faatir 35:10 ↩
- Surah Ghaafir 40:36-37 ↩
- Surah an-Nahl 16:102 ↩
- Surah al-Baqarah 2:225 ↩
- Surah al-A’laa 87:1 ↩
- Surah al-An’am 6:18 ↩
- Surah al-An’am 6:61 ↩
- Surah Ta-Ha 20:5 ↩
- Surah al-Hadeed 57:4 ↩
- Narrated by Abu Ismaa’eel al-Ansaari in his book al-Faarooq and quoted in al-Aqeedah at-Tahawiyah p. 288 ↩
- Surah an-Nahl 16:50 ↩
- Al-‘Aqeedah at-Tahawiyah, p. 285-286 ↩
- Sahih al-Bukhari Vol. 4, Book 54, Hadīth 446 ↩
- Sahih Muslim Vol. 6, Book 37, Hadīth 6626 ↩
- Sahih al-Bukhari Vol. 2, Book 21, Hadīth 246 ↩
- Sahih al-Bukhari Vol. 8, Book 75, Hadīth 333 ↩
- Sahih Muslim Vol. 2, Book 4, Hadīth 1656 ↩
- Sahih Muslim Vol. 2, Book 4, Hadīth 1657 ↩
- Dr. Bilal Philips, The Fundamentals of Tawhid, IIPH Riyaadh, 2006, p. 145 ↩
- Sahih Muslim Vol. 1, Book 4, Hadīth 1094 ↩
- Dr. Bilal Philips, The Fundamentals of Tawhid, IIPH Riyaadh, 2006, p. 142 ↩
- Surah Qaf 50:16 ↩
- Surah Al-Hadeed 57:4 ↩
- Tafseer Ibn Katheer (Arabic), Surah al-Hadeed 57:4 ↩