By Jamia Maseehiyyah Ashrafiyyah
The issue of Istiwa alal Arsh is mentioned in seven Surahs, viz. Surah A’raaf, Surah Yunus, Ra’d, Taha, Furqaan, Sajdah and Hadeed.
The following Tafseer of Istiwa alal Arsh appears in Tafseer Mukammal Bayaanul Qur’aan under the Aayat in Surah A’raaf:
“Then He established (and manifested) Himself on the Arsh (which resembles the Throne of a King, in a manner befitting His Sublime Self).”
This is precisely the view of the Jumhoor Salaf [Overwhelming majority of the Former Ulama], i.e.:
• Istiwa is in its literal sense.
The nature of the literal meaning is entrusted to Allah Ta’ala. Delving in the reality of it is prohibited.
This prohibition is only logical because our mental perception is incapable of comprehending it [the reality of Allah Ta’ala’s Istiwa]. This is like a person who is born blind will be advised not to delve into the nature of colour, for the same reason [i.e. he is incapable of comprehending the nature of colour].
And beware of comparing His [Allah Ta’ala’s] Istiwa to your Istiwa, for indeed the nature of an attribute differs in relation to the holder of the attribute. Zaid ‘settling’ somewhere is not like the mind settling on an issue. Similarly, the length of a stick is not the same, i.e. it does not share the same reality, as the length of night, not withstanding the fact that both ‘settling’ and ‘length’ are in their literal sense (in the two examples mentioned).
When the Mustawi [that is, the Being Who has established and manifested Himself on the Arsh] is unfathomable in His Essence, His Istiwa will undoubtedly be unfathomable in reality. Thus, there is no way to judge One Whose reality is unfathomable with an entity whose reality is fathomable. Your Istiwa is inconceivable for Allah Ta’ala.
The safest course is not to discuss this issue and leave the nature of it to Allah Ta’ala.
The approach of the illustrious Salaf [i.e. Predecessors, Former Ulama] was that the Nusoos [Quraanic Texts and Ahadeeth—here reference is to the allegorical texts] are in their literal senses. However, the nature and essence of it is not known.
Istiwa and Uluw [Loftiness] do not necessitate direction. If direction is declared [for Allah Ta’ala as the deviate Salafis fallaciously claim, that Allah Ta’ala is above on His Throne] then the nature of Istiwa is specified which is in violation to the belief of the illustrious Salaf as they unequivocally state that the reality [of Istiwa] is not known.
To summarize, there are two dimensions to Istiwa and Uluw:
Declaring direction [for Allah Ta’ala].
Without declaring direction, in fact, declaring no direction.
The first is the doctrine of the Mujassimah [a deviant sect who subscribe to anthropomorphism] and the second is the doctrine of the Ahlus Sunnah in which the Muhadditheen and Soofiyah both are included.
Direction [for Allah Ta’ala] is negated traditionally and rationally. In tradition, on the basis of the Aayat: “There is none like unto Him.”
Rationally, for this reason that direction is created and non-eternal, whereas Allah Ta’ala is pure from the attribute of non-eternity, as the location of non-eternity is also non-eternal.
And, how beautifully did Imam Maalik put it when he was asked about this [i.e. Istiwa alal Arsh]: “Istiwa is known, the manner is unknown, delving into it is bid’at and belief in it is incumbent.”— Marginal Notes of Nibraas with reference to Sharhul Fiqhil Akbar by Mulla Ali Qaari.
The bid’at and dhalaalat (innovation and deviation) of the modernist Salafis is thus manifest from Imam Maalik’s statement. They have raised and dabbled into this issue without fear for the delicate nature of the subject, thus exposing their Imaan and the Imaan of innocent Muslims to kufr. May Allah Ta’ala protect us from transgressing the limits.
This brings us to the question: Where is Allah Ta’ala? This question too, like the previous mas’alah is delicate and delving into it is unwise. In fact, for us who lack expertise in Shar’i Uloom to discuss the issue is fraught with perils for our Imaan. And, even if we possessed deep knowledge of the Shariah and Islamic Sciences, then too words lack the scope to describe this as well as all the Infinite Attributes of Allah Azza wa A’laa.
The minimum requirement is that we believe in the following:
Allah Ta’ala declares:
“East and west belongs to Him. Thus, wherever you turn, the Face of Allah is there.”
Thus, the Face of Allah Ta’ala is everywhere. In what way and in which manner is not for our concern. In fact, it is kufr to probe the details.
Allah Ta’ala declares:
“Be aware that indeed He encompasses everything.”
Thus, everything is surrounded and encompassed by Him. Nothing escapes Him and nothing is beyond Him. This much we believe and it is part of our categorical Faith. How He encompasses everything is beyond the limit of our finite minds.
Allah Ta’ala declares:
“And He is with you wherever you are.”
The above Aayat also asserts the Presence of Allah Ta’ala to be everywhere. We do not know the kaif or manner and nature of His presence. This is the belief of the illustrious Soofiyah whom the Salafiyyah (Salafis) target with slander. The scope of this treatise does not permit a detailed rebuttal of the Salafi slander levelled against the honourable Soofiyah and Mashaaikh of Tasawwuf. Our purpose here is simply to provide the essential dalaail and basis for the Mathhab and Maslak of the Hanafiyyah, Soofiyah and Jumhoor Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah.
Shaikh Shamsud Deen Ramli Shaafi’i (Rahmatullahi alaih) in his Fataawa cites an incident of a person who offensively questioned a Soofi [Saint, Buzrug]: “Where is Allah?” The anti-Mathhab Madinah University students rudely pose the same question to Musallis in Masjid-e-Nabawi. The Buzrug gave the following apt reply: “Be gone! Are you searching with your eyes where? Allah Ta’ala declares: ‘And He is with you wherever you are.”
Rasoolullah (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said: “If you send a rope down to the bottom-most earth, it will come to Allah.”
The Hadeeth clearly rebuts the Salafi view of Allah Ta’ala being confined to the skies. As stated earlier, Allah Ta’ala is free from time, place, direction and limit.
Hazrat Ali (Karramallahu wajhahu) sums up the Aqeedah [Tenet of Faith] of the Ahlus Sunnah as follows: “I recognise my Rabb with that which He Himself has made me recognise Him. He cannot be perceived with the senses and He cannot be judged according to humans. He is near in His absence, yet far in His presence. He is above everything, yet nothing will be said to be below Him. He is in front of everything, yet nothing will be said to be in front of Him. He is in everything unlike one thing in another. Thus, Glory to that Being Who is such whilst nothing else is like that.”
A poet said it very beautifully:
“We can think about You, but we cannot fully comprehend You.”
Salafis question Allah Ta’ala’s Omnipresence by disgorging the following profanity: “Is He in the toilet when you are in the toilet?” Allah Ta’ala instructs us to respond to the drivel of the ignoramuses in the following manner:
(Salaam to you! We do not quarrel with the juhalaa.) (Insha Allah we will refute this drivel soon)
In short, Allah Ta’ala’s Presence is everywhere, i.e. He is Omnipresent, in a manner He knows best.