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Is Allah Above His Creation, literally?

A brother presented the ‘Where is Allah?’ Hadith to prove that Allah was above His creation literally. And I responded as follows:

This hadith cannot be used to support any point of aqida, although it is authentic, there are two other authentic narrations of the same situation with slightly different wording, which means this hadith cannot be used as a proof to establish certainty. We don’t know exactly what the Prophet, said during this interaction.

Hadith 1) Muawiya ibn al-Hakam came to the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and told him, “I am very newly from the Jahiliyya, and now Allah has brought Islam,” and he proceeded to ask about various Jahiliyya practices, until at last he said that he had slapped his slave girl, and asked if he should free her, as was obligatory if she was a believer. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) requested that she be brought, and then asked her, “Where is Allah?” and she said, “In the sky (Fi al-sama)”; whereupon he asked her, “Who am I?” and she said, “You are the Messenger of Allah”; at which he said, Free her, “for she is a believer” (Sahih Muslim, 5 vols. Cairo 1376/1956. Reprint. Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 1403/1983, 1.382: 538).

Hadith 2) Ibn Hibban in his Sahih with a well-authenticated (hasan) chain of transmission, in which the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) asked the slave girl, “‘Who is your Lord?’ and she said, ‘Allah’; whereupon he asked her, ‘Who am I?’ and she said, ‘You are the Messenger of Allah’; at which he said, ‘Free her, for she is a believer'” (al-Ihsan fi taqrib Sahih Ibn Hibban, 18 vols. Beirut: Muassasa al-Risala, 1408/1988, 1.419: 189).

Hadith 3) In another version, related by Abd al-Razzaq with a rigorously authenticated (sahih) chain of transmission, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said to her, “Do you testify that there is no god but Allah?” and she said yes. He said, “Do you testify that I am the Messenger of Allah?” and she said yes. He said, “Do you believe in resurrection after death?” and she said yes. He said, “Free her” (al-Musannaf, 11 vols. Beirut: al-Majlis al-Ilmi, 1390/1970, 9.175: 16814).

Imam Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani has said of the various versions of this hadith, “There is great contradiction in the wording” (Talkhis al-habir, 4 vols. in 2. Cairo: Maktaba al-Kulliyat al-Azhariyya, 1399/1979, 3.250)

When a hadith has numerous conflicting versions, there is a strong possibility that it has been related merely in terms of what one or more narrators understood (riwaya bi al-ma’na), and hence one of the versions is not adequate to establish a point of `aqida.  What is clear concerning the hadith is that the Prophet question a slave girl, and her faith was confirmed and she was freed. What isn’t clear concerning the hadith is what did the Prophet really asked, and how did the slave girl respond.

After this, another brother presented the following verses and hadiths to prove Allah was literally above us:
“And to Allah prostrates whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth of creatures, and the angels [as well], and they are not arrogant.They fear their Lord above them, and they do what they are commanded. (Quran 16:49-50).

Do you feel secure that He, Who is over the heaven (Allah), will not cause the earth to sink with you, then behold it shakes (as in an earthquake)? Or do you feel secure that He, Who is over the heaven (Allah), will not send against you a violent whirlwind? Then you shall know how (terrible) has been My Warning? (Quran 67:16-17).

As scholar says among his deeds is the gesture of pointing up with his finger, when addressing the people prophet () in the greatest gathering, on the Day of ‘Arafaah during his Farewell Pilgrimage. He asked the people, “Have I not conveyed the message?” and they said, “Yes!” He asked again, “Have I not conveyed the message?” and they said, “yes!”. He asked a third time, have I not conveyed the message?” and they said “Yes!” Each time, he said: “O Allaah, bear witness!” – pointing up to the sky and then at the people.”

And I responded:

1) Abu Dawud-may Allah have mercy upon him-said in his chapter regarding the Sunnah found in his Sunan (6452) Its chain of transmission being conveyed by Saleem bin Jubair who said: I heard Aboo Hurayrah reciting this verse: “Allah has ordered you all to render back the trusts to those to whom they are due…” to the end of the verse “All-Hearer All-Seer.” (Quran 4:58) He then said: I saw the messenger of Allah place his thumb to his ear then he pointed to his eye.

Yet no one from Ahlus Sunnah believes Allah has one eye and one ear, nor do we believe that Allah has eyes and ears like we do nor do we believe Allah sees and hears like we do.

2) The belief that Allah is literal above us, is refuted when the Messenger of Allah said in a dua, “O Allāh, You are the first: there is nothing before You; and You are the last: there is nothing after You. You are the Manifest (al-Zāhir): there is nothing above You. You are the Hidden (al-Bātin): there is nothing below You. [Sahih Muslim]

There is nothing below Allah. So Allah being above us cannot be understood literally.

3) Believing Allah is literally above us is against the creed of Ahlus Sunnah and the understanding of the Salaf, Imam Tahawi said, “The six directions do not contain Him as they do created things.” (Aqidah Tahawi)

And Allah knows best.

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