The Sunnis versus Bilal Philips
The famous Hanbaliyy scholar, Abul-Faraj ibnul-Jawziyy, (597/1201)was a scholar of Al-Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence), Tafsir (Qur’anic Exegesis), Hadith and the Arabic language. He wrote a book Daf`u Shubahit-Tashbih(which is a book refuting the quasi-Hanbali corporealists/anthropomorphists).
In this book he said: “If someone addresses us by saying “If you deem Allah to be clear of being in any direction, then it is as if you are saying that the existence of Allah is impossible.” [The Wahhabis and other object worshipers reject the true belief in Allah, that is, the belief that Allah exists without being in a direction or place. Since, the Wahhabis think Allah is an object, they believe that Allah requires a place in order to exists. The Muslims say that Allah is not dependent upon any of the creations—including place or direction!]
We reply that if we are talking about something that rationally accepts connection at one time and separation at another time, then we agree with you that if we say about this thing that it is not in any direction then we are denying the existence of this thing itself. But if the thing does not accept either of these opposite attributes, then we say that this thing is clear of both attributes. And this does not lead to a rational impossibility.”
Ibnul-Jawziyy then says:
“If that person tells us “Then you are asking me to admit something which I cannot understand,” we tell him that if you mean by your statement what you try to imagine, then of course this does not apply to Allah ta`aalaa, because only a body that has a certain limit, volume and color accepts to be imagined. The imagination (khayal) is used for what you see. The person does not imagine anything except what is similar to what he had seen before. Because the imagination (wahm) is a direct result of the senses: sight, hearing smell and taste. But if you mean that this is something which the sound mind does not accept, we already mentioned the rational proof of this matter. You have to admit that the sound mind accepts that because the sound mind does not contradict the rational proof.”
Ibnul-Jawziyy continues to say:
“And know that all that you see are either jawhars [particles] or attributes of these jawhars (`ard) which cannot stand by itself [i.e, the properties of bodies, such as size, shape, motion, stillness]. But because of the judgment of the mind, we exalt Allah from being a body, particle, or an attribute of a body (`ard). So then , you have to submit to the rational proof that Allah is not attributed with either movement, or stillness, or occupying a volume, or being in a place.” This is the end of the statement of Ibnul-Jawziyy.
Ibnul-Hajar al-Haytamiyy said: “Exalting Allah from being connected or disconnected goes back to the saying that the Creator is not inside this universe, nor outside it. Based on that Al-Imam Al–Ghazaliyy said ‘For something to be in connection or disconnection, it has to be a body occupying a space, and Allah tabaraka wa ta`aalaa is exalted from such attributes. Hence Allah is exalted from being connected or separated. Occupying a space (tahayyuz) and being a body/spatial entity (jismiyyah) is impossible to be attributes of Allah.’ Hence Allah ta`aalaa is exalted from being attributed with these two opposites matters, connection or separation, and Allah is exalted from being inside this world or outside it. Just as the solid [inanimate] bodies which do not have a soul are not attributed with either knowledge or ignorance [happiness or sadness], because what makes it valid for one to be attributed with knowledge or ignorance is one‘s being alive.”
An-Nawawiyy said in his book Rawdatut-Talibin in the “Chapter of Apostasy”, conveying from Al-Mutawalli, “The one who ascribes Allah that which He is exalted from by ijma` (Scholarly Consensus), like colours, being in connection (at-ittisal) or disconnection (al-infisal), is a blasphemer.”
REFUTING THE SAYING OF BILAL PHILIPS
In his book he erroneously calls, The Fundamentals of Tawhid, Bilal Philips (b. Kingston, Jamaica c. 1952) attempts to produce a so-called “logical proof” that Allah is located above our heads. On page 129 he says:
“Thus, when God created the world, either He created it in Himself or outside Himself. The first possibility is unacceptable because it would mean that Allaah, the infinite Supreme Being, has within Himself finite attributes of deficiency and weakness. Therefore, He must have created the world outside Himself, He either created the world above Himself or below Himself. Since human experience nowhere confirms prayer downwards, and being below creation contradicts God’s majesty and supremacy, God must therefore be above His creation and distinct from it.”
Point 1: Faulty assumption: Bilal Philips assumes that Allah is an object of some sort. Hence, he posits that the universe would either exist inside or outside of Allah. In his mind he is thinking of bodies/objects which may exist inside one body or another body.
Point 2: False dilemma: This is also an example of the fallacy of bifurcation (the black-white fallacy), in which one poses two alternatives, when a third or more alternatives are possible. In this case, there is third option (which is the fact of the matter): Allah is not a spatial entity and being “inside” and “outside” are inapplicable to Allah. This fallacy stems from the faulty assumption of B. Philips that Allah is an object.
Point 3: Semantic fallacy: He misunderstands what Muslims believe about the `Uluww of Allah. By `Uluww (of Allah) Muslims understand a Highness or Exaltation of STATUS and not literal altitude and location. (Just as in English, the British king would be referred to by some of the subjects as the “royal HIGHNESS,” and this “highness” was a matter of social status and not literal direction.)
Point 4: Scriptural contradiction (that is, Verses and Hadiths (that if taken literally) contradict the claim Allah is located above us): There are a multitude of Qur’anic Verses and Hadiths that if taken literally would mean that Allah is located somewhere other than literally above us (59:16 would literally mean Allah is closer to us than our throats. If taken literally, 96:19 would mean Allah is located beneath us. If taken literally, 24:35 means that Allah would be a lamp located in a mine shaft. If taken literally, 2:115 would mean that Allah has a “front part of the head” that exists in every direction which we turn. If taken literally, 57:4 would mean that Allah is literally everywhere. Also, among the sahih Hadiths, that if taken literally, is one that means Allah is located between the person and the direction of the Ka`bah.) To their credit, the Wahhabis don’t take any of the above in their most literal sense. They make “ta’weel” (non-literal interpretation)—nonetheless, they still think Allah is a giant object located above the `Arsh some of the time and below Prophet Jesus some of the time.
Regarding Bilal Philips’s claim that either Allah created the universe above Himself or below Himself, it is enough to mention the Hadith related by Imam Muslim, in which he reported that the Prophet said:
“[O Allah] You are Adh–Dhaahir and there is nothing above You. And You are Al-Baatin, and there is nothing below You.”1
Imam Al-Bayhaqi mentioned in his book, Al-Asmaa’u was–Sifaat that the Sunni scholars said since nothing exists above nor below Allah, then Allah exists without being in a place. Ironically, Bilal Philips, just five pages after trying to fabricate a “logical proof” that Allah is an object located above our heads, quotes from Al-Bayhaqi’s, Al-Asmaa’u was–Sifaat… but for some reason or another, he just happens to leave out mentioning that Al-Bayhaqi produced a proof from the Sunnah of the Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wasallam) to EXPLICITLY demonstrate that Allah exists without being in a place. This is a clear demonstration of the deceptive nature of the Wahhabis. These are a people who have no regard for the True Belief in Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, so be warned of them, and warn others of their mendacious methodology.
Ibnul-Jawziyy should notbe confused with the “corporealist” Ibnul-Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah(d. 751/1350) who was the student of Ahmad Ibn Taymiyyah (728/1328)
1Adh–Dhaahir is a Name of Allah, which means, The One Whose Existence is Evident (that is, the entire stands as proof for the Existence of the Creator). Al-Baatin means: The One Whose Reality cannot be fathomed by the imagination.