The Question of “Where is Allah” has been around for a while, but still is difficult to answer, we take a look into the question and some of the answers.
Firstly, here is a compilation of Wahabi speakers who have tried to answer this question. This video was made by a Christian group, so some of the editing maybe done in a way to exaggerate the comedy factor. However, the underlying issue is that within some Muslims communities, there is absolute confusion on these issues.
So where is Allah?
How does the Quran and the Imams of Islam answer this question? The first thing to note is that this is a complex discussion, and the use of language must be careful noted and respected. As is so often the case, before any serious question can be answered, we need to break it down and define the terms. Imam Ali (AS) has done this beautifully and exposed the crux of this problem, in his statement H 234, Ch. 6, h 5 in he hadith collection Al Kafi :
It has also been narrated that someone asked Imam Ali (a.s.) this.
“Where was our Lord before the creation of the heavens and the earth?” Imam Ali (a.s.) replied, “Where is a question about space. Allah has been there before there was space.“
So straight away, we can see that there is a problem here. The question is about a location, locations require a position or limit, and God is not limited by anything and certainly not by a created space or concept. What ever we think of for God, he is beyond that. There is nothing like Him, no location can limit Him.
42|11|Originator of the heavens and the earth. He made for you mates from among yourselves, and pairs of animals, by means of which He multiplies you. There is nothing like Him. He is the Hearing, the Seeing.
Imam Ali (AS) Sermon on Tauheed in Nahjul Balagha sermon 1 makes this concept much clearer. He specifically explains that Allah is with everything but not physically not in a way that anything else is :
He is a Being, but not through phenomenon of coming into being. He exists but not from non-existence. He is with everything but not in physical nearness. He is different from everything but not in physical separation. He acts but without connotation of movements and instruments. He sees even when there is none to be looked at from among His creation. He is only One, such that there is none with whom He may keep company or whom He may miss in his absence.
We find in the Quran there is no specific location given for Allah. He is often described in a way that gives Him majesty and command of the creation, such as being at His throne, or “Above”. At the same time, we see Allah being described as “near”.
67|17|Or are you confident that the One in Heaven will not unleash against you a violent storm? Then you will know what My warning is like.
2|186|And when My servants ask you about Me, I Am near; I answer the call of the caller when he calls on Me. So let them answer Me, and have faith in Me, that they may be rightly guided.
Some have just looked at some of these verses and concluded Allah is “Above”, or “in the heavens”, and some have looked at the other verses and concluded “Allah is everywhere”. Neither of these two positions is correct, and neither is justified in the Quran or Sunnah.
Imam Jafar Al Sadiq AS again confirms that this issue is a false one. The question of “where” is not relevant to Allah. In Al Kafi, hadith number H 236, Ch. 6, h 7 :
Ali ibn Muhammad has narrated in a marfu‘ manner from Zurarah who has said that I asked Imam abu Ja‘far (a.s.) this. “Did Allah exist when there was nothing?” The Imam replied, “Certainly, Allah existed when there was nothing.” I further inquired, “Where did Allah exist?” The Imam was leaning, he then sat up and said, “O Zurarah, you spoke of impossible. You ask about space where there is no space.”
In Al Kafi hadith number H 275, Ch. 10, h 12, again the Imams of the Ahl Bayt elaborate that the question is assuming that God is limited into a space or location.
He cannot be described by means of how and where. How can I describe Him by means of any condition? He Himself has created the conditions and how and so it came into being. We came to know conditions because of His designing them for us. How can I describe Him by means of space? It is He, Who spaced the space so it became space. I, thus, came to know space by means of what He has made it into space. How can I describe Him by means of positions when He Himself has given position to positions so it came into position. I, thus, came to know the position by means of what He has made to come into position. Allah, the Holy, the Most High, is in every place but is out of everything.
So to conclude the question of “where” is not applicable to God. It would be like me saying, “how many kilograms is tomorrow?” the wording is meaningless. Allah is with everything, but not in any place,
What about those who say Allah is “Above the Heavens”?
This group are taking things literally and are the same people that say Allah has a hand and is in parts, and this is rejected. This issue is explored more in this article.
6|3|He is God in the heavens and the earth. He knows what you keep secret and what you make public; and He knows what you earn.
2|115|To God belong the East and the West. Whichever way you turn, there is God’s face. God is Omnipresent and Omniscient.
58|7|Do you not realize that God knows everything in the heavens and everything on earth? There is no secret counsel between three, but He is their fourth; nor between five, but He is their sixth; nor less than that, nor more, but He is with them wherever they may be. Then, on the Day of Resurrection, He will inform them of what they did. God has knowledge of everything.
Straight away, if we were to misinterpret these ayat in a literal manner, which is clearly not correct, we would be in all sorts of confusion.