How should we understand the statement, "Allah is not anywhere and He is everywhere"? They say, "Allah is very close to us and we are far away from Him." How is it possible?

Details of the Question

- Is Allah inside or outside the art He creates? Space definitely has a boundary; what exists after this boundary: non-existence or Allah? Is Allah close to us in person or with His deeds, names and attributes?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

We know that Allah is free of space/place. On the other hand, He is closer to man than his jugular vein. He is everywhere but at the same time, He is not anywhere? How is it possible?

Let us try to explain this issue with an example: The sun exists in all of the bright things in the world with its light, heat and seven colors; it is seen and it exists everywhere with its light, heat and seven colors, which are its attributes.   However, the sun does not exist in any bright thing that it shines on and brightens with its mass and being. Thus, the sun exists in all of the bright things in the world with its attributes. However, it is not in anything in the world with its mass and being. The attributes and nature of Allah, who gives this quality to the sun, are definitely perfect; our minds cannot understand them.

Allah has encompassed all places with His attributes, that is, with His power, knowledge and will but He is not in anything with His being. So, He is everywhere in terms of His attributes. He is not anywhere in terms of His being because He is the Creator of space/place and He does not need it.

Since Allah is closer to us than our jugular veins, how should we understand approaching Him?

The words “close” and “approaching” mentioned in the question has nothing to do with distance and place. Allah’s being close to His slave means He meets all of his slave’s needs Himself, He does all kinds of activities in all of his cells with His power and knowledge and He is more merciful toward him than his own soul. The slave’s approaching Allah is related to the steps he takes in the valley of being a slave that Allah will be pleased with. His development in his belief, advancement in his knowledge and sincerity in his deeds are means that will enable him to approach Allah.

Concepts like distant, near, past, future are related to time and place. Beings that are material and that take up space in a place are close to or far away from one another. Allah, who is free of matter and place, is closer to all of His creatures everywhere than their own souls. Similarly, Allah, who is free of time, is closer to every being, which He makes flow in the river of time, than their own souls.

Allah’s closeness to His creatures and the creatures’ remoteness from Him cannot be explained by the criteria of time and place. An example:

You are closer to the book you are reading than the book itself; it does not know what is written in it but you know. And the book is far away from you, that is, it is far away from you to understand, to know and to watch you. A word in the first page of the book is closer to a word in the second page but farther away from a word in the tenth page. However, the author who wrote them and who knows them is close to them at the same level, degree and phase. They are all together in his knowledge.

A sacred hadith that teaches us another aspect of closeness and remoteness:

“... My slave approaches Me with supererogatory (nafilah) deeds.” (Bukhari, Riqaq 38)

That sacred hadith teaches us that approaching is spiritual cordial, and immaterial. Supererogatory deeds are worshipping, meditation, taking refuge in and thanking Allah that a person does, after fulfilling fard and wajib deeds, in order to approach his Lord, to open his heart to lofty feelings more and to spend his life more efficiently in the way of attaining Allah’s consent.

Such a slave covers more distances day by day to approach his Lord more. Both the distances he covers and his approaching his Lord are spiritual.

Think of a great scholar. All of his students are in the same place and learn from him in turns. When a student who has just begun to learn sits down in front of him and takes his lessons, he is far away from the scholar despite being close. For, that young man is too far away from that genius in terms of understanding him. As his knowledge progresses, he will come closer to his master and his honor, appreciation and amazement toward him will increase gradually.

In every stage of his education, his teacher will be close to him, train and educate him. The distance here is not for the teacher but for the student. The same is valid for a person who has become a disciple of a perfect saint. As he progresses spiritually, he will benefit more from his spiritual world and realm of heart. That great saint will always be close to him as he observes him in every step of his spiritual progression. The distance is for the disciple, not for the saint.

Let us move on to the reality from examples: Allah is closer to a person than his own soul as He always educates the material and spiritual realm of His slave. The slave who can do only certain things with his incomplete attributes is far away from understanding Allah, all of whose attributes are infinite, truly.

Since Allah is ready everywhere and always observes us, what does to return (ruju’) to Allah mean?

The lexical meaning of ruju’ means to return. The verses related to ruju’ end as follows: “Us shall ye be brought back” or “and again to Him will ye return”. How shall we understand returning since a single moment in which man, who does everything with the power and might and other possibilities that Allah gives him, can do anything without the permission of his Lord cannot even be imagined?

The meaning that is dwelled on the most is that people who are tested in this world since they have been given partial freewill will be reckoned in the presence of Allah for what they did in the worldly life.

In the realm of pre-eternity, our spirits were addressed as follows: “Am I not your Lord?” We answered that question by saying, “Yes, You are our Lord.”

When we were sent to the testing place of the world, we encountered the realm of causes. It became bright whenever the sun rose, and plants blossomed whenever spring came. We always obtained wheat and vegetables from the ground and fruits from trees. This made some people heedless and caused others to thank Allah.

After the realm of testing ends, the phase of the grave will start; after people go to the Gathering Place, those two groups of people will be returned to their Lord. They will gather in His presence again. This gathering is a ruju’. This ruju’ will take place outside our will. The phrase “being returned” teaches us this lesson. Another verse that teaches us ruju’ is as follows:

“How can ye reject the faith in Allah?- seeing that ye were without life, and He gave you life; then will He cause you to die, and will again bring you to life; and again to Him will ye return.” (al-Baqara, 2/28)

When man is dead, that is, when his matter is in the realm of elements, he is revived and transformed into a human being. Then, he dies again and the body returns to its original form; it is transformed into elements wholly. This phase is followed by resurrection and going to the Gathering Place. Two deaths, two resurrections and two different ruju’s: One is ruju’ from death to death and the other is ruju’ from life to life.

Another verse related to ruju’ is as follows:

“Who say, when afflicted with calamity: "To Allah We belong, and to Him is our return.” (al-Baqara, 2/156)

Both those who obey and those who disobey will gather in His presence in the other realm and return to Him. The return of a slave who lived as His slave and who left this realm of testing as a believer will be a feast day. Those who lived on the land of Allah without knowing Him and without obeying His orders will return to their Lord as unbelievers and disobeyers. Then, the Gathering Place should come to our imagination when the word ruju’ is uttered. 

We should show both scenes to our souls imaginarily so that they will not leave the line of Allah’s consent, will not be deceived by the ephemeral pleasures of the world and will keep away from harams.

“For the command, that Day, will be (wholly) with Allah.” (al-Infitar, 82/19)

Our souls should take lessons from the verse above, should be subordinated to Him before that day and accept His decree. Thus, they will obey the order “Die before you die” of the Prophet and return to the straight path shown by our Lord. Thus, their ruju’ in the hereafter will end in happiness.

Allah, who is free from time and place, settled us, His slaves, in place and distributed us in time.

Therefore, no matter where man dies, he will return to his Lord, who is free from place. Similarly, no matter when he dies, he will return to his Lord, who is free from time.

Space has an end; what is outside the universe?

WUJUD: “Existence” “To exist” “To be”.

VAJIB: “Whose existence is from Himself and whose non-existence is impossible.”

MUMKIN: “Whose existence and non-existence are equal; both of them are possible”.

MUMTANI: “Whose existence is impossible”, “whose existence is not possible”.

We are surrounded by so many beings with different natures. They are basically divided into three but each of them has endless degrees.

More than one million species of animals and about the same amount of species of plants live in this world. The realm of living beings is vast. All of those beings are called by different names since they are manifestations of divine names and attributes:

They are called creatures in terms of the name the Creator. They are sustained in terms of the name the Sustainer (ar-Razzaq). They are hadith (new) in terms of the name Qadim (Pre-existent); they are fani (ephemeral) in terms of the name al-Baqi (the Everlasting One). According to the name al-Musawwir (the Shaper of Beauty), they are shapes and the name al-Muzayyin (the Adorner), they are adornments, jewels. According to the name al-Muhyi (the Giver of Life), they are alive. Those who dies as a result of the manifestation of the name al-Mumit (the Taker of Life) are called dead.

In relation to Allah’s existence being wajib, the names of the creature become mumkinat.

“Mumkin” means possible to exist or non-exist. The following explanation is given for “imkan” in Nur Collection:

“Contingency is equal in regard to existence and non-existence. That is, if there is nothing to cause their existence, things which are not necessary but contingent are equal in regard to existence and non-existence; there is no difference.” (Şualar)

“Wujub”, “imkan” and “imtina” are levels of existence. Those who have those levels are “wajib” “mumkin” and “mumtani”.

We watch two separate entities in a book that we hold. The eye sees one of them and the mind sees the other. What the eye sees are the pages of the book and the writings in the book. The mind knows that those writings come from knowledge. It decrees that there is a different entity that writes the book and that all of the knowledge comes from it. It also realizes that this entity has no relation with the book, that it will not resemble any letter, word or sentence, and that this entity cannot be known based on those criteria. Consequently, he will say, “This book has an author and he is not of the same kind as the writing. This book introduces us his knowledge and describes it but it does not tell us anything about its entity.

Acting upon the fact that this realm of existence is called “the book of the universe”, we will try to say something about the levels of existence:

All of the letters, words and sentences of a book and the whole book itself are included in the class of “mumkin” in terms of existence. It is said that “Imkan is equal in terms of both sides”. One of those sides is non-existence and the other is existence. When man holds a pen, he might decide to write or not to write. In that case, if a word is written, its meaning is as follows:

The author preferred the existence of that word to its non-existence. The opposite is valid for a word that is not written.

We did not exist yesterday; different people were written on the page of the world. Today, we exist. It means our existence and non-existence are equal; both of them are possible. It was like that yesterday and it is different today. Since we exist now, our existence was preferred to our non-existence.

Everything has a beginning and an end in this realm of existence. In that case, it is necessary for the being that creates it to be pre-eternal and post-eternal; the opposite cannot be imagined. For, “to have a beginning” and “to have an end” are the attributes of creatures. To claim that a creature creates another creature is like saying that one word wrote another word in the example of the book.

The word was in the knowledge of the writer and it was written on the paper with his will. It is necessary for a word to know its entity beforehand in order to be able to write another word; only then can it write that word and express it based on that knowledge.

The Being that wrote us in this book of the universe and page of the world knew us with His pre-eternal knowledge before we were on earth. Then, He wanted to create us; He saved us from non-existence and made us existent with His power.

In short, only a being whose existence is obligatory did and can create this realm of creatures, which we call mumkinat. This reality is expressed as Wajibul-Wujud (Necessarily Existent); that is, the owner of a being that is obligatory to exist and impossible to non-exist.

“The universe’s Glorious Maker is Necessarily Existent. That is, His existence is essential, it is pre-eternal and post-eternal, its non-existence is impossible, its cessation is impossible.” (Mektubat)

In this statement, which we quoted from Nur Collection, some of the attributes of Wajibul-Wujud are indicated. When it is done, the attributes of mumkin beings are also shown.

One of the attributes of wajib is “to be personal”. That is, not to exist due to the creation of somebody else, to exist on his own. None of the creatures included in the class of mumkin exists on their own.

The wajib being is pre-eternal and post-eternal. Mumkin was created later and its existence has an end. It is impossible for wajib to non-exist. It is possible for mumkin to exist and to non-exist.

Wajib has absolute and endless perfection; mumkin proceeds to a point of perfection at first; after reaching that point, it tends to go down. Attention is attracted to the following thing in the sentence that comes:  “In relation to Allah’s existence, the other levels of existence are like extremely pale shadows”.

In “Şualar” of Nur Collection, the following descriptions are used for wajib: “wujud (existence) is the most powerful degree”, “free of materiality”, “totally different to all other natures”.

I would like to dwell on the last phrase. The nature of wajib is totally different to all other natures. This determination is really important. Let us go back to the example of book:

The nature of the writer is different from the nature of all of the words and sentences in the book. For, their nature is to become a word, a sentence and a writing. The nature of the writer is completely different from them.

We express a reality when we say, “God Almighty does not resemble any of His creatures.” However, the word “opposite” implies other meanings in addition to the phrase “does not resemble”.

Everything that we see, hear, smell, taste and imagine by thinking is a creature. Allah is the Creator. They are all mumkin but Allah is wajib. They are all created and ephemeral but Allah is pre-eternal and post eternal.

In all of those three examples, being opposite is in question rather than not resembling. They are all about their nature. Allah has no partners and similar beings or opposites in terms of His being.

Some people know very well that they and everything they encounter are “mumkin” but they assume misgivings that they can know Wajibul-Wujud truly using them as criteria.

The existence of a wajib being that creates mumkin beings can be known by observing and meditating the realm of mumkins and the existence of His attributes can be understood. However, the nature of Allah’s essence and attributes cannot be understood by using them as criteria.

The following is stated in Nur Collection while expressing that the sacred nature of God Almighty does not resemble the nature of any being: “He has no like, equal, peer, or partner in either His essence, or His attributes, or His actions”.

Since Allah’s essence is wajib, it does not resemble mumkin essences. His attributes are wajib attributes; they do not resemble the attributes of mumkin beings. Once, I wrote the following with the intention of explaining this meaning to a certain extent:

“If you want to draw a picture of a person, you probably start from the skull and show a general profile of the whole body. Then, you place the eyebrows, eyes and mouth.

However, Allah does not create a human being like that. First, He collects all of the rough and fine points of the human body and all properties. Then, He opens that point. In doing this, He does not start from the head or from the feet. He writes and draws all of the body with its inside and outside together.

Another example:

We probably bought the things in our houses from different stores. For, each of them is a product of a separate industry: armchair, chandelier, computer, refrigerator ... They are produced in different factories and ateliers. However, the activities in the universe are not like that at all. The universe is a single factory. Every being, from man to millions of species animals and plants, is produced in this factory.

In the creation of the flowers, the sun was also given a share as a cause. It is like the patterns of the carpet appearing under the light of the chandelier. Another example:

The sun is one million three hundred thousand times bigger than our world. It means that our lamp is a million times larger than our room. And the rooms are rotating around the lamp. ”

Let us think as follows now:

Since Allah’s deeds are so distant from and even opposite to the deeds of mumkin beings, His wajib existence will not resemble the nature of mumkin beings and will be opposite to them.

Let us dwell on “mumtani” a bit:

Mumtani means “whose existence is impossible”. Partners are given as examples to it. That is, it is impossible for Allah to have partners and the existence of partners is included in the class of mumtani.

Everything, every event, deed, attribute and state that are impossible to happen or to exist are included in the class of “mumtani”.

There are two options for a being that is not mumkin: to be wajib or to be mumtani. Accordingly, those that are not wajib and mumkin are mumtani. I will give you only one example about it:

Let us consider the judgment “A letter cannot be without a writer”. It is not possible for a letter to be written without a writer. That is, a writing without a writer does not exist in the realm of imkan. Since it cannot be said that it is wajib for a letter to be written without a writer, only one option is left: to be mumtani.

ARSH: “High place. Ceiling. Roof. Pergola” “King’s throne. Kingdom. Sultanate.” “A high position that encompasses all realms.”

The name Arsh (Throne) is related to the greatest name; it is surrounded by angels. According to the statement of Fakhruddin Razi, it is the realm where the angels, who are the first addressees of the divine orders, are. So to speak, it is the lofty station where the angels are assigned the decrees related to the administration and arrangement of the whole realm of beings.

All Islamic scholars agree unanimously that its nature cannot be known. All of the material realms are within the Chair (Kursiyy); the Throne (Arsh) is over the Chair.

When material realms are inside the Chair, the Throne encompassing the Chair and being over it is definitely not material. It is impossible for us to understand what kind of superiority and encompassing it is.

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) states that the seven layers of the sky in the Chair are like seven coins thrown in a shield; thus, he teaches us that it is impossible for us to understand the Chair and the Throne.

Badiuzzaman Said Nursi says, “The heart is also a throne but it cannot say I am like the Throne.” Thus, he teaches man to know his place and indicates that it is necessary to look for some secrets of the Throne in man’s heart. Doubtlessly, those secrets cannot be related to the nature of the Throne, but to its existence. For, the obscurity of the nature of the Throne is read from the heart. How can man, who cannot know the nature of his heart and spirit, dare to understand the Throne?

Our heart is an indicator of the Throne. Our spirit is a representative from the realm of spirits. Our body is an essence filtered from the material realms in the Chair.

Life, which is an attribute of the spirit, exists in every point of the body. That is, the spirit has encompassed the body with this attribute.

Another attribute of it is knowledge. The spirit is aware of both the hair and the toe. It knows the duty of both the lungs and white blood cells. That is, the spirit has encompassed the body with the attribute of knowledge. Since the spirit has encompassed the body like that, the spirit and heart are superior to the body. However, this encompassing of the spirit does not resemble our coat encompassing our body; its superiority to the body is not the superiority of the head to the torso.

The Chair’s encompassing the material world might be likened to the air’s encompassing our bodies. However, the Throne’s encompassing the Chair and to be over it cannot be expressed by any material examples. A partial example of it is the spirit’s encompassing the body; this encompassing is beyond human understanding like that encompassing, and it is beyond human expressions.

The sprit that dominates the body is under the command of divine will. It can remain in that land to the extent that He allows. It can watch this ream through the windows He opens. It is bound to make the body walk with feet, taste with the tongue and smell with the nose. That is, divine power, knowledge and will are superior to the spirit and dominate it. Divine attributes’ being superior to the spirit and encompassing it is too high and lofty to compare it to the spirit’s encompassing the body.

We can view the fine and deep meaning in the verse “(Allah) Most Gracious is firmly established on the throne (of authority)” from this window to a certain extent.

Divine names and attributes are over the Throne. It is clear that this superiority cannot be material. Many names of Allah like al-Muzayyin (the Shaper of Beauty), and al-Musawwir (the Adorner) are visible on a flower that blossoms on earth. Since those names are visible on that flower, they are superior to it and dominate it. The Throne is superior to it since the greatest name is in it; the circle of names are over it and divine attributes are over those names.

Let us read together the following diamond-like realities about the Throne from Nur Collection:

“The way to the Sublime Throne, on which the greatest name is visible, is through seventy thousand veils.”

“Although the eight levels of Paradise are one above the other, the roof of all of them is the Sublime Throne.” (Sözler)

“The Throne is an alloy of the names az-Zahir (the Manifest One), al-Batin (the Hidden One), al-Awwal (the First) and al-Akhir (the Last).” (Mesnevi-i Nuriye)

When the fine meaning in the last sentence is viewed through the following statement of Elmalılı Hamdi Yazır

“He (Allah) is Zahir and is perceived through anything; He is Batin and cannot be known by anything”,

It is understood that the existence of the Throne, on which the greatest name is visible, is more obvious than all beings and that it is more secret to know its nature than the nature of the spirit.

The Throne is before all creatures. All realms and systems operate, brighten, fade, are born and die under it. It existed before them and will exist after them.

Islamic scholars state that the names the Throne and the Chair have metaphorical aspects but they attract attention to the fact that those realms exist. That is, it is not possible to imagine the Throne, which means ceiling, as the material ceiling of the universe and the Chair, which means something to sit on, as the material chair a king sits on or as a chair from which a scholar teaches his students but it is not appropriate to regard them as metaphorical only. They warn us regarding the issue by giving the following example:

"It is metaphorical to call the Kaaba baytullah (house of Allah) but the existence of the Kaaba is a fact. Similarly, it is necessary to regard the Throne and the Chair like that and to know that their natures are not understandable."

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