It was said:
“Allah is gloriously clear of having boundaries, extremities, sides, organs, appendages, and instruments. None of the six directions contain Allah, as is the case with all originated beings.”
—Abu Ja`far At-Tahawi in his `Aqidah (Creed)
The term “tanzeeh” refers to Allah’s absolute Transcendence (Freedom-of-Need) and Incomparability. Allah is the Eternal Creator. The universe could not have brought itself into being. It requires a Creator to have originated it and to sustain it. The Creator was before any of the creations were. Before there was space and time, there was a God. Allah was and there was nothing else in existence—no earth, no sun, no outer space, no Paradise, no light, no darkness, no distance, no direction, nor any other creation.
At-Tahawi says that Allah is clear of “having boundaries, extremities, sides….” This does not mean that Allah is a giant boundless body stretching off for infinity in all directions. What is meant by At-Tahawi’s statement is that Allah is not a “jism”—that is, Allah is not a body or an object, and by body/object we do not mean merely those bodies that are composed of dense or solid material, but a “jism” also refers to subtle and ethereal bodies, like light, the angels, and the souls. In other words, a “jism” refers to any sort of spatial entity. Allah does not have a size, or a volume, or a form. Allah does not require space in order to exist, for Allah created space, and after Allah created space, Allah did not start to become in need of space. Since Allah is not a spatial entity, then the properties of spatial entities, such as, “boundaries, extremities, sides” (as well as, dimensions, motion, stillness, etc.) are all inapplicable to Allah.
At-Tahawi also mentions that Allah is clear of “a`daa’i” and “adawaat,” which means that Allah is not composed of organs, limbs, appendages, or instruments. Again, Allah is not a spatial entity; hence, Allah does not have a torso or limbs or other body parts. Allah is One—Allah has no similars, partners, or parts. In another section of At-Tahawi’s `Aqidah, he says:
“Whosoever ascribes to Allah a human characteristic blasphemes.”
It is a misconception of some—because they misconstrue Qur’anic Verses and Hadiths of the Prophet—that Allah is a giant unidentified extraterrestrial bipedal object with one shin, a smiling face, and fingers. They come to this conclusion because of their literalist reading of the Qur’an and Hadiths. Their method of interpretation contradicts other Verses and Hadiths that tell us explicitly that Allah absolutely does not need or resemble the creations in any way whatsoever.
At-Tahawi goes on to say that Allah is clear of existing in any of the six directions (the six directions being above, below, right, left, in front, and behind). “Direction” is the comparison of the position of one object in relation to the position of another object. We can not speak of the direction of a single object—unless we compare it to the position of another object. Likewise, we can not speak of the direction of two things that are not objects. It would be absurd, for example, to say, in what direction is “exhaustion” in relation to “freedom,” because neither “exhaustion” nor “freedom” are objects. Allah is not in a position (place), for Allah was before place existed, and after Allah created place, Allah did not transform and materialize in a place. And as we have demonstrated, Allah is not an object—hence, since Allah is neither an object nor in a location, then it is known that Allah is not in a direction.
REFUTING A DELUSION
In the book (wrongly) entitled “The Muslim Creed,” written by the notorious quasi-Salafi/Wahhabi Ibn Baz and translated by Suhaib Hasan Abdul-Ghaffar, the author and translator give their own version of the “Creed of At-Tahawi.” Of our initial quote from the book mentioned above, they say on page, 12:
“Allah Almighty is above all limits and anthropomorphic [human-like] descriptions. Unlike other things He [Allah] is not bound by the six directions.”
The authors were careful not to mention in the main body of their distortion of At-Tahawi’s Creed that Allah is clear of various body parts. Also, it should be noted that in this part of the At-Tahawi’s text, he says nothing about Allah being clear of anthropomorphic descriptions (although, at-Tahawi does say this earlier in his invaluable treatise). Now, what the authors do is attempt to explain away what At-Tahawi said. In the footnotes on page 12, they say:
“This phrase [‘Allah is clear of all boundaries, extremities, sides… the six directions do not contain Allah….’] can be exploited at face value by those who are obsessed with twisting the meaning and who go out of their way to interpret the names and attributes of Allah.”
Does this literalist author mean, “exploited at ‘front of the head from the hairline to the chin and ear to ear’ value?” Somehow, the author thinks that At-Tahawi had a hard time expressing the belief of the Muslims. At-Tahawi said Allah is not ascribed with limits and other bodily properties. The Wahhabis don’t like for Muslims to say that because the Wahhabis are object worshipers. Hence, the authors felt compelled to “twist the meaning” and “go out of their way to interpret” and distort the statement that was so pellucidly expressed by At-Tahawi.
The authors go on to say:
“By ‘hudood’ (limits) the author [At-Tahawi] means such as known by humans since no one except Allah Almighty knows His limits.”
Here, the Wahhabis, who are today among the primary proponents of a literalistic doctrine regarding Allah, expose their underlying ill-conviction about what they worship. The Wahhabis do, indeed, worship some sort of (imaginary) giant object. As we said earlier, and as At-Tahawi made abundantly clear, limits, size, boundaries, etc. are inapplicable to Allah because Allah is not an object. The Wahhabis believe Allah is an object, and that is why they claim Allah has extremities and limits.
Furthermore, what exposes their conviction that they believe Allah is an object is that when the Muslims say: “Allah exists without being in a place,” the Wahhabis claim that the Muslims are denying Allah’s Existence. Now if someone were to say that an object (allegedly) exists without being in a place, then they are denying the existence of that object, for an object is either going to exist in one place or another. If the object is not in a place, then that object does not exist in reality. Allah, on the other hand, is not an object and being inside of something (or outside of something) is inapplicable to Allah.
In the footnote on the following page the authors say:
“Allah has the attributes of face, hand, foot, etc.”
That is strange… very strange, for At-Tahawi said EXPLICITLY that Allah is clear of all organs, limbs, and appendages. Again, the Wahhabis don’t like what the Muslims believe, so they lie, distort, and alter the texts of the traditional Muslim scholars in order to confuse and mislead the people.
There is still more double-talk and deception. In the same footnote, the authors say:
“The six directions do not surround Him [Allah] like all other innovations [originated beings].”
Yet the authors have to try—once again—to explain away At-Tahawi’s statement by saying:
“He [At-Tahawi] does not mean the negation of Allah being ABOVE His creation and established ON His throne [`Arsh] because His position is not covered by the six CREATED directions, as He [allegedly, Allah] is ABOVE this universe and SURROUNDING it.”
Where do we begin? For one, there are creations ABOVE the `Arsh, such as, the Tablet that mentions that Allah’s Mercy is greater than His Wrath—yet, according to the quasi-Salafis, Allah is ON the `Arsh. Hence, according to their logic, there are some creations that are more elevated than (alleged) parts of Allah. (Incidentally, in a video that shows the image and voice of Yusuf Estes, it says that Allah has placed His (alleged) feet on the Kursiyy. The Kursiyy is located BELOW the `Arsh). Secondly, as we can see, the Wahhabis openly believe that Allah is inside a position. Position (place) is a creation; hence, the Wahhabis believe Allah is inside a creation—even if they don’t realize it.
Thirdly, “above” is one of the six directions. “Above” is not a “non-direction.” “Above” is the opposite of the direction “below.”
Fourthly, the authors claim Allah is in an UNCREATED direction. Muslims, on the other hand, believe that everything other than Allah is originated by Allah—and that includes, light, darkness, time, place, distance, and direction. It was the blasphemous belief of the Greek philosophers to claim that there is something other than God that is beginningless.
Lastly, the author says:
“He [allegedly, Allah] is ABOVE this universe and SURROUNDING it.”
Glory be to Allah, what a travesty it is if a person refuses to use his (or her) mind. If Allah is allegedly restricted to the (supposedly, uncreated) direction of above, then that would mean Allah is not “surrounding the universe,” for “surrounding” entails encompassing an object from ALL DIRECTIONS—which would include not only from above but also below. The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wasallam) made it explicitly clear that Allah is not in a direction when he said:
“O Allah, You are Adh-Dhaahir [The One Whose Existence is Evident] and there is nothing above You. And You are Al-Baatin [The One Who cannot be fathomed by the mind] and there is nothing below You.” (Imam Muslim related)
The Sunni scholars said that this Hadith demonstrates that Allah is not in a location. And we repeat: Allah is not in a location or a direction, because Allah is not an object or spatial entity. Allah is the Creator of all objects, and Allah is the Creator of space.
In conclusion, the Sunni Muslims follow their great and honorable scholars, such as, Abu Ja`far At-Tahawi. We use our minds in the study of the Qur’an and Sunnah, while being confident that the true belief in the Creator does not entail contradictions or absurdities. May Allah guide us and you, and enable us to die with the proper conviction in our Lord and the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu `alayhi wasallam) .