Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, to Him belong the endowments and the befitting perfections and commendations. I ask Allah to raise the rank of Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam, and to protect his nation from that which he fears for it.
The saying that Allah, ta^ala, exists without a place is the belief and the creed of the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam, the Companions and those who graciously followed them, and it shall 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:
which means: "There is nothing like Him and He has the attribute of Hearing and Seeing." This ayah absolutely and totally clears Allah of resembling the creation. It comprises that Allah, ta^ala, is different from the creations in the Self, Attributes, and Doings. Hence, it shows that Allah, ta^ala, exists without a place, because the one who exists in a place would, by nature, be composed of atoms, i.e., he would be a body, occupying a space, and Allah, ta^ala, is clear of occupying spaces.
Al-Bukhariyy, al-Bayhaqiyy and Ibn alJarud related that the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu ^alayhi wa sallam, said:
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 Abu Hanifah, who is one of the authorities of as-Salaf, said in his book Al-Fiqh alAbsat: "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."
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 adhDhahir--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, who was born in the year 237 after Hijrah, wrote a book called Al-^Aqidah atTahawiyyah. He mentioned that the content of his book is an elucidation of the creed of Ahl asSunnah wal Jama^ah, which is the creed of Imam AbuHanifah, who died in the year 150 after alHijrah, and his two companions, Imam Abu Yusuf al-Qadi and Imam Muhammad Ibn alHasan ash-Shaybaniyy and others. He said in his book: "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. The six directions are above, below, in front of, 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 first of as-Salaf, who earned the title of as-Sajjad, i.e., the one who prays a lot), that Zayn al-^Abidin said in his treatise asSahifah as-Sajjadiyyah about Allah:
which means: "O Allah, You are clear of all imperfection. You are Allah, the One Who no place contains You." He also said:
which means: "O Allah, You are clear of all imperfection. You are Allah, the One Who is not in boundaries."
In the explanation of 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 bein physical."
The scholar Imam Zayn ad-Din Ibn Nujaym, the Hanafiyy, in his book Al-Bahr arRa'iq, on page 129 said: "Whoever says it is possible that Allah would do a doing in which there is no wisdom commits blasphemy, and also 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 al-Hijrah, said:
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, in his book Hada'iq al-Fusul wa Jawahir al-^Uqul,--also called Al-^Aqidat-as-Salahiyyah because he gave it as a gift to Sultan Salah-ad-Din al-Ayyubiyy who ordered that this book be taught to the children in schools and broadcast from the top of minarets--said:
which means: "Allah existed eternally and there was no place, and the judgment about His existence now is that He is as He was, i.e., without a place."
Imam Ja^far as-Sadiq said: "He who claims that Allah is in something or on something or from something, commits ash-shirk. 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-Nabulsiyy said: "He who believes that Allah fills the heavens and earth or that He is a body sitting above al-^arsh (ceiling of Paradise; throne) is a kafir."
Imam Abul-Qasim ^Aliyy Ibnul-Hasan Ibn Hibatillah 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 in front of or a behind, a whole or a part. It must not be said when was He, where was He, or how was He. He exists without a place."
Imam Abu Sulayman al-Khattabiyy 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 Allah or His Attributes."
Know beyond doubt that the question 'how' does not apply to Allah, because this is a question about shapes, bodies, places, depths and dimensions; Allah is clear of all of that. 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, place, but one is ignorant of the 'how' of it.
Imam al-Ghazaliyy 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."
All of these sayings show that attributing the sensuous physical aboveness and place to Allah is contrary to the Qur'an, the Hadith, the Ijma^, and the intellectual proof. The intellectual proof that Allah exists without a place lies in the fact that the one who is in a place would have an area, and the one who has an area is in need of it, and the one who needs others is not God. Moreover, as the mind determines that Allah existed without a place before creating places, the mind determines that after Allah created the places He still exists without a place.
The scholars like Imam Ahmad arRifa^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 asSalah. 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 theQur'an, the Hadith, the Ijma^, and the criteria of the sound intellect. Be firm and certain that before creating places, Allah Who created everything (places and others), existed without a place, and after creating places, He 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 al-^arsh (the throne) which is the biggest of the creations of Allah 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:
which means: "Allah created al-^arsh as an indication of His Power and did not take it as a place for Himself."
Imam Abu Hanifah said in his book, alWasiyyah,: " ... and He is the Preserver of al^arsh and other than al-^arsh, without needing it, for had He been in need, He would not have the power to create the world and to manage and preserve it. Moreover, had He been in a place needing to sit and restbefore creating al-^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, a creation or a thing; and He is the Creator of everything. He who says 'I do not know if my Lord is in the heavens or on the earth,' is a kafir. Also is a kafir whoever says that 'He is on al-^arsh, and I do not know whether al-^arsh is in the heaven or on the earth'."
Consequently, Imam Ahmad declared a kafir whomever says these last two phrases because they contain attributing a direction, boundary, and place to Allah. Everything which 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 al-^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 al-^arsh where was Allah?", which is clear in negating that Allah has a direction or a place.
In his book, Ihya'u ^Ulum ad-Din, Imam alGhazaliyy said: "... places do not contain Him, 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. "
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." Ayah 93 of Surat Maryam:
means: "All those in the heavens and earth must come to Allah as a slave." In his 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 to Allah, and since it is obligatory that Allah is clear of being a slave, thus He is clear of being in a place or direction, or on al-^arsh or al-kursiyy."
Hence Surat Taha, ayah 5, in the Qur'an:
clearly does not mean that Allah sits on the throne or that Allah is firmly established on the throne. In the Arabic language, the word istawa has fifteen (15) different meanings, among of which are to sit, to subjugate, to protect, to conquer, and to preserve. Based on what we have covered so far it is clear 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 language.
Imam Hafidh Ibn Rajab al-Hanbaliyy explained the meaning of al-istiwa' by al-istila', which means subjugating. That is, Allah attributed Himself with subjugating al-^arsh in al-'azal (the status of existing without a beginning, that is, before creating the creation). Since al-^arsh, the largest creation of Allah, is subjugated to Allah, then everything else which is smaller than al^arsh is under the control of Allah.
It was affirmed about Imam Malik Ibn Anas, may Allah reward his deeds, in what alBayhaqiyy 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 Aba ^Abdillah, (meaning Imam Malik), ar-Rahmanu ^alal-^arsh istawa, how did He istawa?' Malik looked down astonishingly and then 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. Take him out'." Hence, the saying of Imam Malik, 'How does not apply to Him,' means that His istiwa' over His ^arsh is without a how, i.e., it is not with a body, place, shape, or form as 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 al-istiwa' is known and the how of it is unknown. What they mean by that is that al-istiwa' is sitting but the how of that sitting is unknown. This saying of theirs is invalid, because sitting, no matter how it is would be by organs and parts that fold. Moreover, that term that they attribute to Imam Malik was not affirmed about him or others.
Imam al-Lalaka'iyy narrated about Umm Salamah and Rabi^ah Ibn Abi ^Abdar-Rahman:
which means: "The attribute of istiwa' is not unknown, because it is mentioned in the Qur'an. Alkayf, that is, the how of it is inconceivable, because its applicability to Allah is impossible." Hence, the ahadith and the ayat that attribute aboveness to Allah, refer to the aboveness of status and not the aboveness of place, direction, touching or suspending.
In Surat al-An^am ayah 61, Allah said:
which means: "All the slaves are subjugated to Allah." Hence the aboveness used in this ayah is that of subjugation and not that of place or 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:
they say: "The Most Gracious is firmly established on the throne," and in the footnote they explicitly 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:
they attribute the shin to Allah. On page 1015 in interpreting Surat an-Nur, ayah 35:
they say "Allah is the light" and in the footnote they say explicitly: "We can only think of Allah in terms of our phenomenal experience."
Al-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 He is sitting, or how His face is, or how His shin is, or how his light is." All of that does not clear them of blasphemy.
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.