A valid question
Some people think that asking the question “Where is Allah?” is wrong. They think that asking this is the same as asking what Allah is like or when did He begin. It is true that we cannot ask about the nature of Allah or when He began, because the human mind is incapable of comprehending the real essence and attributes of Allah and how they are. However, it was in fact the Prophet himself who asked where Allah is:
Mu’awiyah ibn al-Hakam As-Sulmi said: “I had some sheep between (the areas) of Uhud and Al-Juwaniah. A servant of mine was taking care of them (the sheep). One day I checked on her and found that the wolf had eaten a sheep. I, being a human and an offspring of Adam, became angry and slapped her. I went to the Prophet and related to him what had happened. He portrayed my action as being a major thing. I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, should I free her?’ He said: ‘Call her (to me).’ So I called her. He said to her: ‘Where is Allah?’ She said: ‘Fis-sama’ (above the heavens).’ He said: ‘Who am I?’ She said: ‘The Messenger of Allah.’ He said: ‘Free her, for she is a believer.’” [Muslim, Abu Dawood and an-Nasa’i]
The master of all Messengers, the Messenger of the Lord of the worlds, himself, asked where Allah is, and the answer was given to him, and he confirmed that the servant was a believer. This is not only evidence that this question is a valid, permissible question, but it also informs us of the correct answer.
The only correct answer
According to the correct understanding based on the Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sunnah, Allah is above the heavens in a way which suits His Majesty, and He is not in any way contained within His creation, nor is His creation in any way in Him.
Allah is completely separate from His creation; Creation neither surrounds Him nor is above Him in any way; He, Allah is above all things.
This does not deny that Allah’s Attributes operate throughout His Creation, and nothing escapes His Sight, His Knowledge and His Power. Allah Sees, Hears and knows all that happens in the universe without having to be inside of it. It is man who has to be present in the world to see, hear, know and affect what takes place in it; however, Allah’s Knowledge and Power have no limits and nothing is outside of His control.
Allah is not everywhere
It was during the Golden Age of the ‘Abbaasid Empire that the concept of Allah being everywhere and in everything was introduced. This occurred when philosophy books from India, Persia and Greece were translated. The belief that Allah is everywhere is very dangerous because it opens the way for the greatest sin in Allah’s Sight, the worship of His creation. Some have claimed that Allah is more in humans than in animals or plants, and from this it was claimed that Allah was more in some people than in others; a so-called Sufi saint by the name of Ibn ‘Arabee of the 12th century, encouraged his followers to pray to themselves and not to anything outside of themselves, because he believed that God was inside the human being.
This also violates and is Shirk through Tauheed al-Asmaa wa-Sifaat,(the Oneness of Allah’s Names and Attributes), because it claims for Allah an attribute which doesn’t belong to Him: there is no proof for this belief in the Qur’an nor in the Sunnah. In fact, both the Qur’an and the Sunnah confirm the opposite!
Another objection to the idea that Allah exists everywhere and in everything is that it would mean that His essence could be found in filthy and dirty places, and this is unacceptable.
· From the Qur’an:
The Qur’an describes the “exaltedness” or “highness” of Allah in different ways, such as: His being High and Above, by describing how things come down from Him, and go up to Him, and by stating that He is above the heavens. For example:
1. “And He is the Irresistible, above His slaves…” (Al-An’aam 6:18)
2. “They fear their Lord above them, and they do what they are commanded.” (An-Nahl 16:50)
3. “He arranges (every) affair from the heavens to the earth…” (As-Sajdah 32:5)
4. “Verily We: it is We Who have sent down the Dhikr (i.e. the Qur’an)…” (Al-Hijr 15:9)
5. “…To Him ascend (all) the goodly words, and the righteous deeds exalt it…” (Fatir 35:10)
6. “The angels and the Ruh (Jibreel) ascend to Him…” (Al-Ma’arij 70:4)
7. “Do you feel secure that He, Who is over the heaven, will not cause the earth to sink with you…?” (Al-Mulk 67:16)
8. “Indeed your Lord is Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth in six days and then ‘Istawa (ascended) upon the Throne (in a manner befitting His Majesty).” (Al-A’raf 7:54)
9. “A revelation from Him (Allah) Who has created the earth and high heavens. The Ever-Merciful Istawa (rose, or settled) upon the Throne.” (Ta-Ha 20:4-5)
10. "Allah it is He Who has created the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them in six days. Then He ‘Istawa ‘Ala (rose upon ) the Throne (in a manner that suits His Majesty” (As-Sajdah 32:4)
11. “And He is the Subduer, above His slaves, and He is the All-Wise, Well Acquainted with all things.” (Al-An’am 6:18)
12. “All the praises and thanks be to Allah, Who has sent down to His slave the Book and has not placed therein any crookedness.” (Al-Kahf 18:1)
13. “Say (O Muhammad): ‘Ruh ul-Qudus (Jibreel) has brought it (the Qur’an) down from your Lord with truth.’” (An-Nahl 16:102)
Many reports were narrated “Mutawaatir” (with a large number of narrators at every stage of the Isnaad – chain – such that it is impossible for them all to have agreed on a lie) from the Prophet (May Allah's peace and blessings be upon him) , describing his words and deeds and things of which he approved. For example, he used to say “Subhaana Rabbi al-A’laa (Glory be to my Lord Most High)” in Sujood, and in some Ahadith he is reported to have said “By Allah, Who is above the Throne.”
Among his deeds is the gesture of pointing up with his finger, when addressing the people in the greatest gathering, on the Day of ‘Arafaah during his Farewell Pilgrimage. He asked the people three times, “Have I not conveyed the message?” and they said, “Yes!” Each time he said, “O Allah, bear witness!”, pointing up to the sky and then at the people. He also used to raise his hands towards heaven when he made du’a, as reported in many Ahadith.
One such Hadith, the Hadith about the servant has already been mentioned at the beginning of this article.
It must be noted that because Allah is perfect in His Highness and Power, He cannot reside in anything that He has created. So it cannot be that He is in Paradise. On the contrary, He is above the Throne which is the roof of al-Firdaws, and al-Firdaws is the highest part of Paradise. The Prophet said, “When you ask Allah for Paradise, ask Him for al-Firdaws, for it is the middle (best) and the highest part of Paradise. And above it is the Throne of the Most Beneficent, and from it gush forth the rivers of Paradise.” [Al-Bukhari]
There are also many evidences from the Companions of the Prophet, as well as the second generation of Islam (at-Tabi’een) and the righteous Imams and scholars of Islam, may Allah be pleased with them all, which clearly indicate their understanding that Allah is above the seventh heaven and Istawa (rose, or settled) upon His Throne in a manner that suits Him. Imam Malik said, when he was asked about how Allah rose over the Throne: “We know that He rose over it, but we don’t know how. Believing it is obligatory and asking about it is Bid’ah.” [Athar Sahih, Adh-Dhahabi in al-Ulow and Abu Na’iem in al-Hilyah]
Even common sense holds that highness is a quality which is associated in people’s minds with perfection; therefore, it should be attributed to Allah because every absolute perfection should be attributed to Him.