Is it allowable for one to ask where Allah is? Is Allah (May He be exalted) above His servants?
And is that understanding representative of anthropomorphism?
Also, what is our position towards those who say that such a question is not permissible and that Allah (swt) is above any place or location?
Affirming Allah’s Exalted Status
Indeed, Allah (swt) describes Himself as being The Most High: “Praise the name of your Lord The Most High.” And, “He is The High.” and, “He is the High the All Powerful.” (Based on these verses) it is not allowed for anyone to dispute (the truth) of this attribute, nor is it allowable for any Muslim to differ regarding it.
As for enquiring about the nature (of this attribute/ meaning the kayf (how), then this is not something that you are obliged to deal with, nor is it something sought from you.
There is the hadith of the slave woman who was brought to the Prophet (Peace and blessing of Allah be upon him) with her master so she could be freed and the Prophet (Peace and blessing be upon him) asked her, “Where is Allah?” However, this hadith is ahad1, and, there is no other narration of the Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) where he (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) asks someone this question.
Nor is it related that any of our pious ancestors asked such a question.
Interacting with such texts
It is important to note that questions like this are not sought after nor desired from you. However, when approached with such issues you should do the following:
First, you should read the verse that affirms Allah’s highness.
Second, you should read the verse that negates anything being like Him.
Finally, you should avoid delving into the deeper meaning of the verse (meaning the how related to Allah’s attribute but just simply affirm it and negate its likeness to creation or vice versa).
This is important (to not delve into this/nor make it a bigger issue than it is) because it is not a matter related to actions, and on the Day of Reckoning Allah (May He be exalted) is going to ask you about your actions not His essence.
And this (methodology) is the way of the first 3 generations of saints and scholars of the Muslim nation of which there is no uncertainty. Imam Al-Tufi (May Allah have mercy upon him) said: “The way of Imam Ahmed2 (may Allah have mercy upon him) and the rest of the scholars of the early generations was to affirm these attributes without commenting on them.”
Therefore, when it came to these attributes, they would (affirm them) and say nothing. And this was the way of Abu Nua’yim (may Allah have mercy upon him) the teacher of Al-Bukhari3 (may Allah have mercy upon him).
Ibn Kathir4 (May Allah lighten his grave), in his explanation of the verse, “Then He rose upon the throne” states: “We allow this verse to pass as it is while eliminating any anthropomorphic elements from Allah existence. Exalted is He from what the intellect suggests.”
And these where the words of Abu Nua’yim, the teacher of Al-Bukhari, the teacher of Imam Ahmed and Yahya ibn Ma’in5 (May Allah have mercy upon all of them).
Thus, differing about this issue and arguing about time and place (with respect to the Divine) is not something from the actions of the early generations and is in contrast to what they were upon.
Therefore (when encountering verses like this), you should say nothing and read the verse as it is.
Hence, what is necessary is for you to believe as the early generations believed without adding or deducting (anything). And this is what is required of you so do not dispute (with others) about it.
And Allah knows best.
Sh. Abdullah bin Bayyah (May Allah preserve him)
1 This is a hadith term that means the narration has been transmitted by only one narrator at some point in the chain.
2 Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hanbal Abu `Abd Allah al-Shaybani died 241 AH.
3 Muhammad Ibn Ismail Ibn Ibrahim Ibn al-Mughirah Ibn Bardiziyeh al-Bukhari died 256 AH.
4 Abu Al-Fida, ‘Imad Ad-Din Isma’il bin ‘Umar bin Kathir Al-Qurashi Al-Busrawi died 774 AH.
5 Abu Zakarya Yahya ibn Ma’in died 233 AH.
Source: TheTranslators Blog