Where is Allah?

In the Islamic tradition, the case for God’s existence is solid in terms of its rational foundations as well as the purpose, meaning, comfort, and guidance that it gives to our lives. The Quran inspires conviction by appealing to the aspects of the inner life of human beings, namely, to the heart and the mind. Intuition and experience work in tandem with logic and reason to arrive at a state of certainty in faith. The belief that Allah is above heaven indicates the soundness of one’s belief, and it is mandatory for every believer to accept this position. Allah says:

فَإِذَا رَكِبُوا فِي الْفُلْكِ دَعَوُا اللَّهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ فَلَمَّا نَجَّاهُمْ إِلَى الْبَرِّ إِذَا هُمْ يُشْرِكُونَ

And when they embark [in] the ship, they call Allah (being) sincere to Him (in) the religion. But when He delivers them to the land, behold, they associate partners (with Him).” (Surah Al-Ankabut 29:65)

Who is Allah?

Allah is the proper name applied to the true God who exists necessarily by Himself comprising all the excellent Divine names and attributes of perfection. Allah is One and Unique. He has no son, no partner, nor equal. He is the sole Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Allah says:

خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ بِالْحَقِّ يُكَوِّرُ اللَّيْلَ عَلَى النَّهَارِ وَيُكَوِّرُ النَّهَارَ عَلَى اللَّيْلِ وَسَخَّرَ الشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ كُلٌّ يَجْرِي لِأَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى أَلَا هُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفَّارُ

“He created the heavens and the earth in [the] truth. He wraps the night over the day and wraps the day over the night. And He subjected the sun and the moon, each running for a term specified. Unquestionably, He (is) the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving.” (Surah Az-Zumar 39:5)

Every creature bears witness to His Oneness, Divinity, and Rububiyyah [inf. of Rabb] and to the uniqueness of His Attributes and Names. His essence does not resemble the essence. He does not inhere in anything, nor does anything inhere in Him. Allah says:

وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ وَنَعْلَمُ مَا تُوَسْوِسُ بِهِ نَفْسُهُ وَنَحْنُ أَقْرَبُ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ حَبْلِ الْوَرِيدِ

“And certainly We created man and We know what whispers to him his soul, and We (are) nearer to him than (his) jugular vein.” (Surah Qaf 50:16)

His knowledge comprehends perfectly all things, hidden or manifest. He is greater than can be encompassed by the knowledge of His creatures. He knows everything, and He is aware of all that takes place in the earth and the heavens. Allah says:

وَتَرَى الْجِبَالَ تَحْسَبُهَا جَامِدَةً وَهِيَ تَمُرُّ مَرَّ السَّحَابِ صُنْعَ اللَّهِ الَّذِي أَتْقَنَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ إِنَّهُ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَفْعَلُونَ

“You see the mountains and think they are firmly fixed. But they pass away just as the clouds pass away. Such is the artistry of Allah, Who disposes of all things in perfect order.” (Surah An-Naml 27:88)

Allah, the Supreme, is the Rabb of everything and has a free hand in the disposal of all affairs. His mercy encompasses everything. He is far removed from injustice or tyranny. He is wise in all His actions, just in all His decrees. His justice ensures order in the universe in which nothing is out of order.

Where is Allah?

Allah, the Exalted, has described Himself in His Book, and by the tongue of His Messenger Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wa Sallam as Sublime, Supreme, and Lofty. The Qur’an is full of proofs relevant to the Loftiness of Allah. Allah does whatever He wills and rules according to His wishes. Glory be to Him. The essential divine attributes of Allah constitute an integral part of His essence and are not superadded to it.

Evidence from the Qur’an

As mentioned earlier, the Qur’an is full of both explicit and implicit proofs. Among the implicit proofs are the several verses that mention deeds and Jesus being raised to Allah. Only what is below is raised or ascends. As Allah says, the meaning of which is:

  • “The Compassionate has risen over the ‘Arsh.” (Quran 20:2)
  • “And when Allah said: ‘O Jesus! I will take you and raise you to Myself.” (Quran 3:55)
  • “To Him ascend (all) the goodly words, and the righteous deeds lift them.” (Quran 35:10)
  • “From Allah, the Lord of the Places of Ascent, the angels and the Ruh (Gabriel) ascend to Him in a day the measure whereof is of fifty thousand years.” (Quran 70:3-4)
  • “And when you differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day.” (Quran 4:59)
  • “Do you feel secure that He, Who is this-same (above the heavens), will not cause the earth to sink…Or do you feel secure that He, Who is this-same (above the heavens) will not send against you a violent whirlwind?” (Quran 67:16-17)
  • “Declare your Rabb, the Supreme, to be far removed from every imperfection or impurity.”(Al-Qur’an 87:1)
  • “And verily, your Rabb is Allah Who created the heaven and earth in six days, and then rose over the ‘Arsh.” (Quran 7:54)
  • “Are you sure that He Who is Above the heaven will not cleave the earth beneath you? Or are you sure that He Who is above the heaven will not send against you a stone-charged hurricane.” (Quran 67:17-18)
  • “And He is the Subduer, above His slaves, and He is the All-Wise, Well-Acquainted with all things.”(Quran 6:18)

It is important to point out here that the literal translation of ‘fis-same’ is ‘in’ the heavens. The scholars of Tafseer have explained it according to the Arabic language for ‘fi’ in this context to have the meaning of above as it is not possible for Allah to be surrounded by His creation i.e. the heavens. Also, sometimes the word ‘fi’ is used in the meaning of ‘ala’ (on) as mentioned in another verse: Allah says:

قَالَ آمَنتُمْ لَهُ قَبْلَ أَنْ آذَنَ لَكُمْ إِنَّهُ لَكَبِيرُكُمُ الَّذِي عَلَّمَكُمُ السِّحْرَ فَلَأُقَطِّعَنَّ أَيْدِيَكُمْ وَأَرْجُلَكُم مِّنْ خِلَافٍ وَلَأُصَلِّبَنَّكُمْ فِي جُذُوعِ النَّخْلِ وَلَتَعْلَمُنَّ أَيُّنَا أَشَدُّ عَذَابًا وَأَبْقَىٰ

He said, “You believe [to] him before [that] I permitted you. Indeed, he (is) your chief, the one who taught you the magic. So surely I will cut off your hands and your feet of opposite sides, and surely I will crucify you on (the) trunks (of) date palms and surely you will know which of us (is) more severe (in) punishment and more lasting.” (Surah Ta-Ha 20:71)

Now, the ‘fi’ in this verse refers not to ‘in’ but to ‘on’ as one cannot be crucified within a trunk! The other interpretation is based on the variant meanings of the word ‘Sama’ which in Arabic can refer to that which is elevated-the higher, or uppermost of anything (the Muhkam). It can also refer to the ceiling of a house, to the sky, to the heavens and elevation and transcendence. Allah says:

ثُمَّ سَوَّاهُ وَنَفَخَ فِيهِ مِن رُّوحِهِ وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ قَلِيلًا مَّا تَشْكُرُونَ

“But He fashioned him in due proportion and breathed into him of His spirit. And He gave you hearing, and sight, and understanding.” (Surah As-Sajdah 32:9)

The meaning should not be, hence, confused with its predominant acceptance, a word of well-known meaning: the sky-the canopy of the earth (taj al-across). Hence, the verse could be translated as the one Who is in transcendence to all creation which in essence, has the same meaning of being above the heavens. Allah says:

قَدْ سَمِعَ اللَّهُ قَوْلَ الَّتِي تُجَادِلُكَ فِي زَوْجِهَا وَتَشْتَكِي إِلَى اللَّهِ وَاللَّهُ يَسْمَعُ تَحَاوُرَكُمَا إِنَّ اللَّهَ سَمِيعٌ بَصِيرٌ

“Indeed, Allah has heard (the) speech (of one) who disputes with you concerning her husband and she directs her complaint to Allah. And Allah hears (the) dialogue of both of you. Indeed, Allah (is) All-Hearer, All-Seer.” (Surah Al Mujaadilah 58: 1)

This is one of the seven Quranic verses in which Allah, the Exalted, refers to His istiwa’ on His ‘ArshAhlus-Sunnah is certain that the great ‘Arsh of Allah is above the seven heavens. They also believe that Allah, having created the earth and apportioned its provisions, ascended above His great ‘Arsh. Only those who believe otherwise hold these verses to be allegorical. Allah says:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَآمِنُوا بِرَسُولِهِ يُؤْتِكُمْ كِفْلَيْنِ مِن رَّحْمَتِهِ وَيَجْعَل لَّكُمْ نُورًا تَمْشُونَ بِهِ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ

“Believers, be mindful of God and have faith in His Messenger: He will give you a double share of His mercy; He will provide light to help you walk; He will forgive you— God is most forgiving, most merciful.” (Surah Al-Ḥadid 57:28)

Allah, they say, “is everywhere”, denying that He is above the ‘Arsh. Exalted is Allah, and far is He removed from their ascription. Finally, it may be worthwhile to say that even the enemy of Allah, Fir’awn (Pharoah), who flagrantly claimed to be a god of his people, knew where Allah is more than the followers of Jahm today. Allah says:  Allah says:

وَقَالَ فِرْعَوْنُ يَا هَامَانُ ابْنِ لِي صَرْحًا لَّعَلِّي أَبْلُغُ الْأَسْبَابَ

“And said Firaun, “O Haman! Construct for me a tower that I may reach the ways.” (Surah Ghafir 40:36)

Now consider the words of Fir’awn who wanted Haman to build a tower for him that he might climb to the heavens to see the Rabb of Musa, for Musa already told him that Allah to Whom he is inviting him is above the heavens, and compare this with the groundless argument of the Jahmite off-shoots of today. Allah says:

وَلَئِن سَأَلْتَهُم مَّنْ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ لَيَقُولُنَّ اللَّهُ قُلِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

“If you asked them who created the heavens and earth, they are sure to say, ‘God.’ Say, ‘Praise belongs to God,’ but most of them do not understand.” (Surat Luqmān 31:25)

A Muslim wonders how could those who believe that Allah is Omnipresent rationalize such assertion knowing that Allah, the Omnipotent, will collect the earth in His hand and fold the heavens in His right hand, as evidenced by the following divine stern warning: Allah says:

وَمَا قَدَرُوا اللَّهَ حَقَّ قَدْرِهِ وَالْأَرْضُ جَمِيعًا قَبْضَتُهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَالسَّمَاوَاتُ مَطْوِيَّاتٌ بِيَمِينِهِ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَىٰ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ

“And not they appraised Allah (with) true appraisal, while the earth entirely (will be) in His Grip (on the) Day (of) the Resurrection, and the heavens (will be) folded in His Right Hand. Glory be to Him! And High is He above what they associate (with Him).” (Surah Az-Zumar 39:67)

Allah has such complete Knowledge as to be able to know all things past, present and future in all places at the same time. The same can be said for His absolute Hearing and Seeing. In this way, His Knowledge, His Hearing, His Sight is everywhere simultaneously. Allah says:

إِلَّا تَنصُرُوهُ فَقَدْ نَصَرَهُ اللَّهُ إِذْ أَخْرَجَهُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا ثَانِيَ اثْنَيْنِ إِذْ هُمَا فِي الْغَارِ إِذْ يَقُولُ لِصَاحِبِهِ لَا تَحْزَنْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ مَعَنَا فَأَنزَلَ اللَّهُ سَكِينَتَهُ عَلَيْهِ وَأَيَّدَهُ بِجُنُودٍ لَّمْ تَرَوْهَا وَجَعَلَ كَلِمَةَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا السُّفْلَىٰ وَكَلِمَةُ اللَّهِ هِيَ الْعُلْيَا وَاللَّهُ عَزِيزٌ حَكِيمٌ

“When he (Prophet (s.a.w.a.)) said to his companion (Abu Bakr): Grieve not, surely Allah is with us. So Allah sent down His tranquillity upon him and strengthened him with hosts which you did not see, and made lowest the word of those who disbelieved; and the word of Allah, that is the highest; and Allah is Mighty Wise.” (Surah Taubah 9: 40)

The Believer must believe that there is none like unto Allah, the Exalted, in His essence, attributes, nor His actions. He must also believe that Allah needs none of His creatures. Neither a thing nor a place encompasses Him. He is above His ‘Arsh, above the seventh heaven, and above all His creature essentially and realistically not allegorically. Allah says:

اللَّهُ يَتَوَفَّى الْأَنفُسَ حِينَ مَوْتِهَا وَالَّتِي لَمْ تَمُتْ فِي مَنَامِهَا فَيُمْسِكُ الَّتِي قَضَىٰ عَلَيْهَا الْمَوْتَ وَيُرْسِلُ الْأُخْرَىٰ إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

Allah takes the souls at the time of their death, and those that die not during their sleep; then He withholds those on whom He has passed the decree of death and sends the others back till an appointed term; most surely there are signs in this for a people who reflect.” (Surah Zumar 39: 42)

There are none of His creatures that touches Him. Based on this it is not permissible to say that Allah is everywhere, or He inheres in any of His creatures, for Allah was when there was nothing. He who asserts that Allah is not outside the universe, not only denies the existence of Allah, but he worships a non-existent god. Allah says:

وَسَخَّرَ لَكُمُ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ وَالشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ وَالنُّجُومُ مُسَخَّرَاتٌ بِأَمْرِهِ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُونَ

“By His command, He has made the night and day, the sun, moon, and stars all of benefit to you. There truly are signs in this for those who use their reason.” (Surah An-Nahl 16:12)

We ask Allah to keep us on the straight path of His Messenger Sallallahu ‘Alayhi Wa Sallam and his Companions and to make us join their company on the Day when neither wealth nor offspring would avail. Waltham lillahi Rabbil-Alamin.