Allah is free from space/place; however, it is claimed based on some verses that Allah is in the heavens. How will you explain it?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Some people who do not know symbolic idioms, which is a characteristic of Arabic and Hebrew, try to attribute space/place to Allah acting upon some verses of the Quran. Let us have a look at the verses of the Quran that they present as evidence for their claims:

"Do ye feel secure that He Who is in heaven will not cause you to be swallowed up by the earth when it shakes (as in an earthquake)? Or do ye feel secure that He Who is in Heaven will not send against you a violent tornado (with showers of stones), so that ye shall know how (terrible) was My warning?" (al-Mulk, 67/16 and 17)

Tafsir scholars interpret the phrase "man fissamai (in heaven/the sky)" differently. Fakhruddin Razi explains it as follows:

Razi explains the verse by giving Allah’s destroying many nations through misfortunes coming from the sky as an example along with sending water as a manifestation of His mercy as follows:

“Or do you feel secure that Allah will not cause you to be swallowed up by the earth with a penalty form the sky?

Razi attracts attention to the fact that the same phrase can also be interpreted as “the Exalted and the Sublime One”; he interprets the verse accordingly as follows:

“Or do you feel secure that Allah, who is the Exalted and the Sublime One, will not cause you to be swallowed up by the earth?” 

In another interpretation, according to the view that the angel of penalty, Jibril, who is in the sky, can be meant by the phrase, Razi interprets is as follows:  “Or do you feel secure that Jibril, who is the angel of penalty in the sky, will not cause you to be swallowed up by the earth?” (1)

"Will they wait until Allah comes to them in canopies of clouds, with angels (in His train) and the question is (thus) settled? but to Allah do all questions go back (for decision)." (al-Baqara, 2/210)

The phrase "Allah comes" in the verse above means "Allah’s penalty comes" according to all Islamic thinkers.

This meaning is clearly seen in the following two verses of the chapter of an-Nahl:

"Those before them did also plot (against Allah´s Way): but Allah took their structures from their foundations, and the roof fell down on them from above; and the Wrath seized them from directions they did not perceive." (an-Nahl, 16/26)

"Do they (the ungodly) wait until the angels come to them, or there comes the Command of thy Lord (for their doom)?..." (an-Nahl, 16/33)

As it is seen, it does not comply with the verses of the Quran to attribute space/place to Allah, who is free from space/place.

(1) Fakhruddin ar-Razi, Tafsir Kabir Mafatihul-Ghayb, Akçağ Yayınları: 22/21-22: see Imam Qurtubi, al-Jamiu li-Ahkamil-Qur’an, Buruç Yayınları: 17/513-515.

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