Where is Allah?
Question: Where exactly is Allah?
Answer: Just next to you. I am not joking. You might ask why then you can't see Him.
The answer is that not everything you can't see can be claimed to not be there. It all depends on what is it that you are looking for. The arguments I am presenting to you in answering your question, for instance, cannot be seen as a visible object with your eyes. You only have to understand and imagine them to grasp what is being said. There are numerous other things which even though cannot be seen yet are acknowledged as undeniable facts. Have you ever seen the atoms that all physical things are made up of? You still believe that they are there, because the arguments leading to their existence are very convincing.
Similar is the case with God's existence. He has made us in our present life with such limitations which can't allow us to see Him. However, He has left such traces of the evidence of His existence that unless you have decided not to 'see' Him, you cannot miss Him. That is what the trial of this life is all about. You are required to acknowledge certain realities which are quite obvious but not physical in nature, and if you are inclined to deny them, you can most certainly do it. Another example could be that of the rights of the parents when they grow old. A disobedient son can deny the rights his parents have on him by stating that he doesn't remember what they had done for him. Obviously, it's nothing but his unwillingness to take care of the needs of his parents that inclines him to go for the denial. Otherwise the rights of the parents are undeniable.
The Hereafter would take care of all such unfair decisions, where the All-Knowing, All-Powerful God would make it clear beyond doubt that what some people were presenting as genuine arguments to deny the truth were in reality lame excuses they had devised to allow them to do what they had chosen to.
Is Allah on the 'Throne'?
Question: I have read in the Qur'an that Allah is on the Throne ('Arsh). The Qur'anic verse, repeated 6 or 7 times says: 'The Beneficent is on the Throne'. Several authentic Ahadith have quoted the Prophet Muhammad (sws) to have affirmed that Allah is on the 'Throne'. In one Hadith, he said that during the last one third of the night, Allah descends on His Throne (however His Majesty suits Him) and declares that He will accept the prayers of those who ask from Him. In another Hadith, the Prophet (sws) affirmed the correctness of the faith of a person who pointed to the sky when asked where Allah is. Then there was the Prophet's ascension (Mi'raj). There are numerous other supporting arguments from the Qur'an and Sunnah that all prove that Allah is above us on the 'Throne' and not everywhere. His Hearing, Sight and Knowledge are inescapable and everything is within His reach, but that's not the same as He being everywhere. However, despite this evidence I have heard a few scholars say that Allah is everywhere. I wanted to know what the evidence is to support their stance. Would you please give arguments for your reply from the Qur'an and Sunnah.
Answer: The verses of the Qur'an that talk about the physical aspects of Allah Almighty, like the ones that talk about the physical features of the life Hereafter, fall in the category of Mutashabihat (allegorical) verses. The Qur'an says:
He it is Who has sent down to you the Book: in it are verses Muhkamat (basic, fundamental, of established meaning); they are the foundation of the Book: others are Mutashabihat (allegorical). But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical seeking discord and searching for its true meanings but no one knows its true meanings except Allah; and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: 'We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord'; and none will grasp the message except men of understanding. (3:7)
The Mutashabihat verses talk about those realities which we can neither see nor imagine. The Qur'an has used worldly examples to enable us to have some idea of a few of the important aspects of the unseen world. Given this understanding, it can be appreciated that in case of the Mutashabihat verses whoever is making an attempt at 'searching for its true meanings' should be told that 'no one knows its true meanings except Allah'. Thus, when we are told that Allah Almighty has a throne and He descends on it at some part of the night, we can only make an attempt to understand its metaphorical meanings and not the real ones. The metaphorical meanings in this case could be that God Almighty's rule (which His Throne symbolizes) is firmly established and that during night His Kingly generosity is at its climax for those who get up to worship Him. Otherwise we have no way of knowing the physical location of God Almighty.
The Nature of Hardships we are put through
Question: We are told that we should remain patient at times of hardships. But how can we decide that the hardships are imposed on us as checks or punishments from Allah?
Answer: Even if one is going through a difficulty as a punishment for doing something wrong in the past, it is still a test, and should, therefore, be endured with patience. In other words, a condition of tribulation is always a test from God Almighty. Sometimes, it is meant only to be a test that comes to enable the individual to get higher rewards and reach higher levels of spiritual excellence. On other occasions, it is sent because one had done something wrong in the past and God Almighty wanted the individual to be reminded of it and to enable the individual to go through it and get his sins washed away and also to earn higher rewards.
It is sometimes quite obvious to the individual who is going through testing times that he had done something wrong for which he is being punished. In such a case, he should seek forgiveness from God Almighty. However, if it is not clear whether a difficulty has come to remind and punish or just to test a person, it is always advisable that the individual should keep thinking of the possible wrongs he might have committed in the past which may have been responsible for the trial to have been sent.
Let us also not forget that whether it is prosperity or poverty, both are trials from God Almighty. It is wrong to imagine that we are only tried by God Almighty when we go through difficulties. The Qur'an says:
As for man, whenever his Lord tries him by honouring him and by giving him good things, he says: 'My Lord has honoured me'. But when He tries him by restraining his means, he says: 'My Lord has disgraced me'. No. (89:15-17)
The expression 'No' in the last part of the passage is clarifying that it is a misleading understanding that worldly successes are a source of honour and worldly tribulations are a source of disgrace. No, they both are nothing but manifestations of the trial of this worldly life.
Mundane and Spiritual Activities
Question: I have a question which is really disturbing me nowadays. I wish I could ask this in person but the burden of studies does not let this be done. Actually, I heard a preacher. quoting a Hadithof the Holy Prophet (sws) saying: 'You should strive in the world according to the proportion you have to live here, and strive for the Hereafter according to the proportion you have to live there'. While knowing well the amount of time there, when one day would be equal to thousands of days on this earth one can easily infer that the infinite life over there would be greater than millions of years on the earth. This implies that we should completely forget/ignore this world as it would have infinitesimal value as compared to the Hereafter and pass our whole life only in worrying about the life after death. I personally believe that there should be a balance. I remember an author quoting the daily schedule of the Holy Prophet (sws) that he had divided his day into three portions: one for worship, one for the people/trade and one for his family. But I'm not sure how far are these Ahadith quoted properly. I need your guidance in this regard.
Answer: The statement you have quoted in your question is correct, but the meanings sometimes construed from it are misleading. Indeed we should devote time for the worldly affairs proportionate to its significance and likewise for the Hereafter. However, that doesn't imply that we should say goodbye to the worldly obligations completely. Had that been Islam's ideal, we would have found the Prophet (sws) not participating in any worldly activity at all. The fact that he fully participated in the worldly affairs is enough reason for us to reject this understanding.
The truth of the matter is that we are expected to earn our rewards for the Hereafter from this very life. That would require us to get involved notonly in worship but also in the 'mundane worldly affairs'. However, in the case of the latter activities, we are expected to abide by the rules laid down by Islam. Thus if we carry out our worldly obligations in accordance with the injunctions and the spirit of Islamic Shari'ah, we will be leading a fully Hereafter-oriented life. The Prophet (sws) is reported to have said: 'This world is a cultivating ground for the Hereafter'.
As for the question of how an individual should allocate his time for various possible engagements that would enable him to get the best results (from the point of view of the Hereafter), there can be no one answer for everyone. It depends on many factors: one's circumstances, abilities, and naturalinclinations. However, whatever one does, one should be obsessed with the concerns of the life Hereafter. Allah Almighty, it is hoped, will be kind in forgiving our minor blemishes.
Similitudes of the Qur'an
Question: I was reading the second chapter of the Qur'anlast night and came across this verse:
God does not disdain to coin the similtitude even of a gnat or of aught above it. Those who believe know that it is the truth from their Lord; but those who disbelieve say: What does Allah wish (to teach) by such a similtitude? He misguides many thereby, and He guides many thereby; and He misguides thereby only the transgressors. (2:26)
What does this verse mean?
Answer: The understanding of this passage that I can offer is this: God Almighty, in order to explain to us certain truths sometimes uses analogies in the Qur'an. If there is a need in the analogy to mention words like mosquito or fly, for instance, then a serious-minded reader would readily understand the idea in the right context. However, for someone who is inclined to reject the message without considering it properly, examples like these provide opportunities to make fun of it. Thus God Almighty says that the same message guides some and misguides others. However, the message doesn't misguide anyone but those who are transgressors: those who have spoilt their innate goodness by doing what their nature requires them to stay away from. For example, man's inner nature (given to him by God Almighty) requires him to maintain good relations with relatives and not sever his ties with them. However, those who are ultimately misguided by the Qur'an instead of being guided by it, don't bother to maintain their relations with them.
Let me give you an example of a passage where a fly has been mentioned in an illustration. The Qur'anmentions an example to illustrate the foolishness of those who worshipped statues instead of God Almighty in the following words:
O mankind! A similitude is coined, so pay heed to it: Those on whom you call beside Allah will never be able to create even a fly though they combine together their abilities for the purpose. And if the fly took something from them, they could not rescue it from it. So weak are both the seeker and sought.(22:73)
In this verse, the Qur'anhas effectively used the example of a fly to help the reader understand the weakness of the polytheistic position of worshipping statues. However, those who are to be misguided by this passage might claim that there was no reason why there should be a mention of a creature as mean as a fly in God's message.
Obviously anyone who says that has missed the point completely. However, he has missed the point not because there was anything wrong in the idea of mentioning a fly in the example, but because he didn't want to understand it, and in order to justify his position, he uses the mention of fly in the passage as an excuse. The Qur'anclaims that people who are thus misguided are those who have contaminated the innate goodness of their pristine nature by transgressing against Allah's will (which they clearly knew instinctively).
Some Hajj Rituals
Question: This is regarding verse 196 of Surah Baqarah. I've shaved my head because of dandruff (an ailment). In the verse, it says that due to shaving of the head we must either fast or feed the poor or give a sacrifice. Are we supposed to do one of these things every time we shave our head due to an ailment or not? Also, could you give an explanation of the rest of the verse.
Answer: The mention of shaving of head in the relevant verse is meant to be applicable in the case of those doing Hajj alone. It has nothing to do with shaving of head in the normal routine. The verse is telling the pilgrims that on the 10th of Dhu'l-Hajj they should first get their animals sacrificed and then get their heads shaved. In case a pilgrim wants to get his head shaved before the animal sacrifice, he should either fast for three days or pay Sadaqah or do animal sacrifice in expiation for changing the desired sequence. If you read the relevant portion of the verse along with the part that has been omitted because it was obvious from the context, the full expression would appear somewhat like this (the omitted part is in parentheses):
And whosoever of you is ill or has an ailment in his scalp [necessitating shaving and he therefore shaves it before his animal is sacrificed] he must pay ransom or either fast ... (2:196)
There are two other things mentioned in the verse. The one mentioned before the issue of shaving of head states that ordinarily a person who intends to do Hajj and 'Umrah should complete both. However, if he is prevented from doing it and the intending pilgrim had taken animals along for sacrifice, he should sacrifice them. In other words since Hajj couldn't be done, animal sacrifice should be made wherever it is possible.
The later part of the verse is requiring those pilgrims who avail the privilege of doing Hajj and 'Umrah together to make an animal sacrifice; but if they can't afford to do so, they should keep fasts for ten days, three of them during the Hajj period and the other seven, when they return home. However, the residents of Makkah would fast all ten in Makkah because that is their place of residence.
I hope the verses are slightly more clear than before. May the Almighty enable you and me to do Hajj and experience for ourselves what the practical significance of the contents of this verse are. Amen.
Comment on a Non-Muslim Website
Question: I would appreciate if you could have a look at a particular Non-Muslim website and comment on it. The URL is as follows: http://dialspace.dial.pipex.com/town/park/geq96
Answer: I have gone through the 'background' part of the 'SuraLikeIt-UK' site. I believe that those running the site need to be congratulated on the balanced way they have adopted to approach the issue. I strongly believe that a meaningful dialogue between the people belonging to different faiths is the only correct way of approaching religious differences. Even if in the process some one uses language that is provocative, it should be ignored. Nobody is going to be impressed by it. However, to protest against a decent, academic response from well-meaning Christians is not understandable at all. It can only be construed by an unbiased observer to be a tacit admission of our inability to come up with a good response. I strongly feel that if some Muslims cannot face responses from the non-Muslims on Islamic issues, they should stop preaching their faith to others because that to me amounts to practising double standards. This only means that we want to convert others to Islam but we don't want others to question your faith!?
A last word on the question that initiated the debate. The challenge to the non-believers that if they didn't believe the Qur'anto be the word of God, then they should bring forth a surah like a Qur'anicSurah, was addressed to the immediate addressees of the Prophet Muhammad (sws). They were the ones who knew that the Prophet (sws) was completely unlettered; they were the ones whose religious structure was being seriously threatened by the teachings of the Qur'an; they were the ones who were fully conversant with the classical Arabic in which the Qur'anic verses were revealed. The Qur'an challenged them that if they wanted to halt the threatening advance of Islam, they could simply diffuse the 'magic' of the Qur'an by bringing forth something similar and the effect of the Book would be gone. The Qur'an, however, says that if they are not able to do so, and insists by openly challenging that they will not be able to do so, then the disbelievers should fear the fire of Hell that is going to engulf those who are still insisting on denying its divine origins and on their polytheistic ways.