It is befitting that I start this work with this from The Holy Quran,
“… And those firmly grounded in knowledge say: We believe in it; all of it is from our Lord As for those in whose hearts there is deviation, they follow what is unclear of it, desiring turmoil and misinterpretation.”
(3: 29 – 30)
“Surely, your Lord is Allah Who created the heavens and the earth in six Days and then settled over (Istawa) the Throne (really in a manner that suits His Majesty), ……….”
“The Most Beneficent (Allah) settled over (Istawa) the (Mighty) Throne (in a manner that suits His Majesty).” Whatever is in the heavens, on earth, whatever is between them and under the earth belongs to Him. If you speak openly [or not], He knows what is secret and what is more hidden.”
“………….. Then He settled over (Istawa) the Throne (in a manner that suits His Majesty). ……….”
“ ……………….. then He settled over (Istawa) the Throne (really in a manner that suits His Majesty).………”
“He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in six Days and He settled over (Istawa) the Throne (in a manner that suits His Majesty). …………..”
“…………….. Then He settled over (Istawa) the Throne (in a manner that suits His Majesty). The Most Beneficent (Allah)! Ask Him (O Prophet Muhammad SAW), (concerning His Qualities, His rising over His Throne, His creations, etc.), as He is Al-Khabir (The All-Knower of everything i.e. Allah).”
Allah further informs us about his attributes in the Quran,
“Are you secure from the One above the heavens?”
“There is nothing similar to Him and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing.”
“Indeed I am with both of you, hearing and seeing.”
“And Allah sees whatever you do.”
“Indeed Allah is altogether independent of His creatures.”
“O people! You are in need of Allah and Allah is free from all wants, Most Praised.”
“He is with you wherever you may be,”
“Indeed your God is only Allah besides whom there is nothing worthy of worship. He encompasses everything with His knowledge.”
“He knows what is in front of them and what is behind them, and their knowledge cannot encompass Him.”
Some of the hadiths in this context are as follows;
Narrated by Abu Hurairah, Prophet pbuh said,
“If you ask Allah, ask Him for Firdaws as it is the middle and highest point of paradise from which the rivers of Paradise spring forth and above it is the throne of the Most Merciful. ”
(Sahih Al Bukhari, vol. 4, pp. 39-40, no. 48)
Narrated by Maalik ibn Anas, Muslim and other leading scholars. The complete text of the hadeeth in Saheeh Muslim is as follows:
Mu‘aawiyah ibn al-Hakam as-Sulamee said: ………… I then said: I had a slave girl who tendedgoats in the direction of Mount Uhud and Jawwaaniyyah [to the north of Madeenah]. 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 of the descendents of Adam, feeling sorry as they do, but I slapped her. When I came to the Messenger of Allah (r) feeling that what I did was grievous, I asked him: O Messenger of Allah, should I grant her freedom. He replied, “Bring her to me.” When I brought her to him, he asked her, “Where is Allah?” She replied: He is above the heaven. He asked, “And who am I?” She replied: You are the Messenger of Allah. He then said, “Free her for indeed she is a believing woman.”
(Sahih Muslim, vol. 1, pp.271-2, no. 1094, Sunan Abu Dawud, vol. 1, pp. 236, no. 930, and Saheeh Sunan an-Nasaa’ee, vol. 1, pp. 261-2, no. 1160)
Al-‘Abbaas ibn ‘Abdil-Muttalib said:
While I was sitting in a group in al-Bat’haa [a stony valley in Makkah] with the Messenger of Allah (r), a cloud passed over us. The Prophet (r) looked at it and said, “What do you call this? ” We replied: Sahaab. He added: “And Muzn?” We replied: And muzn. He added: “And ‘Anaan?” We replied: And ‘Anaan. [Abu Dawood inserted: I am not so confident of the word ‘anaan.] He then asked: “Do you know the distance between the heaven and the earth? ” We replied: We don’t know. He said: “The distance between them is seventy-one, seventy-two, or seventy-three years. The heaven which is above it is at a similar distance – going on until he counted seven heavens. Above the seventh heaven there is a sea, the distance between its surface and bottom is like that between one heaven and the next. Above that there are eight mountain goats, the distance between their hooves and their knees is like the distance between one heaven and the next. Then Allah, the Blessed and Exalted, is above that.”
(Sunan Abu Dawud, vol. 3, pp. 1322-3, no. 4705 and Sunan Ibn-i-Majah, vol. 1, pp. 108-9, no. 193)
Statement of the scholars,
Noted author and Scholar Ibn Qudaamah clarifies that it is Allah’s knowledge which is everywhere and not His person, as claimed by some philosophical thoughts. At one place he described it as being everywhere. Here he describes it as surrounding everything. On one hand, nothing escapes it, for it contains everything, and on the other hand, nothing exceeds it. The knowledge of Allah’s creatures cannot encompass Him. Human knowledge cannot fathom its depth.
In his book ‘EXPLANATION OF A SUMMARY AL-AQEEDATUL-HAMAWIYYAH’ OF IBN TAYMIYYAH’, the author Imam Muhammad Ibn Saalih Al-Uthaymeen says about the meaning of Istawa that it is “Allah’s rising and settling upon it in a way that befits his Greatness and Majesty”. He also adds that It is one of the attributes of action that is proven by the Quran, the Sunnah and the consensus of the scholars.
Tawheed, which is the fundamental belief in Islam means maintaining the unity of Allah in all of man’s action which directly or indirectly relate to Allah. It is also a part of this belief, in Tawheed Al-Asma Was-Sifat that the Allah is one without similitude in his essence and attributes. In this aspect of Tawheed, it is clear that attributes of Allah must be referred to how Allah himself and his Prophet pbuh has described him, without giving them meaning other than their obvious meanings. Here, the attribute of action of Allah is within the aspect of Tawheed Al-Asma Was-Sifat and any denial of this aspect of his rising and settling over the throne tantamount to disbelief.
An example quoted from the book ‘AL AQIDAH AT-TAHAWIYAH’ in the book ‘THE FUNDAMENTALS OF TAWHEED’ by Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, it is quoted from Imam Abu Haneefah who said that a person has disbelieved if he has denied that Allah is above the throne which is above the heavens or on earth.
Sheikh Abu Muhammad Asim Al-Maqdisi in his book, ‘THIS IS OUR AQEEDAH’, explains following about Istawa;
“We do not interpret istiwa as conquering, not we liken the rising / settling to any of his creation but we say as Imam Malik said : “Istawa is known, Iman in it is obligatory. The ‘how’ is unknown and asking about it is an innovation.”
And it is in this manner we pass on the rest of his attributes and actions and attributes that He, the glorified has informed us of in his book or what has been affirmed in the authentic Sunnah. And we believe that along with his Istawa over the throne and his highness above the heavens, the glorified the most high we believe that he is close to his slaves.”
This straight and strong clarification on Istiwaa also clarifies concerning Nuzool.
It is stated from a hadith,
Narrated by Abu Huraira.
Allah’s Apostle said, “When it is the last third of the night, our Lord, the Blessed, the Superior, descends every night to the heaven of the world and says, ‘Is there anyone who invokes Me (demand anything from Me), that I may respond to his invocation; Is there anyone who asks Me for something that I may give (it to) him; Is there anyone who asks My forgiveness that I may forgive him?’
In his fatwa no 12290, Sheikh Muhammad Salih Al-Munajjid in clarification and quoting from other scholar’s Fatwa ( http://islamqa.com/en/ref/12290/Istawaa),
Majmoo’ Fatwa Shaykh Muhammad al-‘Uthaymeen, 1/204-205,
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said concerning this matter:
“The correct view is that He descends and that He does not vacate the Throne. A person’s soul remains attached to his body night and day until he dies, but when he is asleep it ascends… It was said, night varies, and the last third of the night comes sooner in the east than in the west, so the descent of Allah to the lowest heaven, of which His Messenger spoke, happens in the east first and then in the west…”
Majmoo’ Fatwa Ibn Taymiyah, 5/132
Rising over (Istawa’) and descending are two of the practical attributes which have to do with the will of Allah. Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa’ahbelieve in that, but in this belief they avoid likening Allah to any of His creation or discussing how He is. It cannot occur to them that Allah’s descending is like the descending of any of His creatures or that His rising over the Throne is like the rising over of any of His creatures, because they believe that there is nothing like unto Allah and He is the All-Hearer, All-Seer. They know on rational grounds that there is a great difference between the Creator and His creatures, in their essence, attributes and actions. It cannot occur to them to ask how He descends, or how He rose over His Throne. The point is that they do not ask how His attributes are; they believe that there is a ‘how’, but it is unknown, so we can never imagine how it is.
Fatwa Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, 3/237-238
Imagining that there is a conflict between Allah’s descending to the lowest heaven and His having risen over the Throne and His being high above the heavens stems from making a comparison between the Creator and the created being. For man cannot imagine the unseen things of His creation, such as the delights of Paradise, so how can he imagine the Creator, may He be glorified and exalted, the Knower of the Unseen. So we believe in what has been narrated of His rising over (the Throne), His descending and His being High and Exalted. We affirm that (and state that it is) in a manner that befits His Majesty and Might.”
Further in his book, ‘EXPLANATION OF A SUMMARY AL-AQEEDATUL-HAMAWIYYAH’, the author Imam Muhammad Ibn Saalih Al-Uthaymeen (page 46) says that if Jahmee asks you about anyone of Allah’s Attributes, How is it?, then reply, How is Allah, Himself? For it is not possible to seek to understand how Allah is. So tell him that if Takyeef is not possible regarding His Self, then likewise it is not possible regarding His Attributes, because attributes are part of the one described! His descending to the heaven of the Dunyaa is one of His Attributes of action that occur according to His will and wisdom. It is an actual descending that befits His Majesty and Greatness. And it is not permissible to make Tahreef (distortion) of it to mean the descending of His command or the descending of His mercy or the descending of one of His angels or any other misinterpreted meaning. The author further adds that The descending of His command or mercy is not specific only to this part of the night. Rather, His command and mercy are constantly descending all the time. The Uluww of Allah is one of His Personal Attributes which cannot be separated from Him. Nevertheless, it does not contradict what the texts have also come with of His descending to the heaven of the Dunyaa. Nothing is similar to Allah or any of His Attributes.
Consequently, His descending is nothing like the descending of the creation for it to be said that it contradicts His being high above His creation, and Allaah knows best.
Now that the clarification on the Allah’s throne, his settling over and his descent is given, I present the refutation of the Dr. Bilal Philips in his book ‘THE FUNDAMENTALS OF TAWHEED’ to the deviation concept, “ALLAH IS EVERYWHERE” –
- NATURAL PROOF – By implying that Allah is everywhere, will mean that Allah is in filthy place also, which is not acceptable.
- PRAYER PROOF – Prayer is not directed towards self, or any creation of Allah. If Allah is manifested in any of his creation than, prayer would be directed towards them.
- MIRAJ PROOF – Prophet Muhammed pbuh was taken on a miraculous night journey to be in the direct presence of Allah, above the seventh heaven. If we go by the logic of Allah is Everywhere, then there would have been no need to there to meet Allah.
- QURANIC PROOF (refer above)
- HADITH’S PROOF (refer above)
- LOGICAL PROOF – Allah created the world and there is a distinction between the creator and the creation. The distinction is of the existence, deficiency and weakness. It cannot be the case that Allah made this creation within himself, as is clear from the Quranic Proof, “Indeed Allah is altogether independent of his creatures.”
- CONSENSUS OF EARLY SCHOLARS including Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik, Ibn Qudamah, Imam Ahmad, etc.