Honored Shaykh, Hamud bin 'Uqla' ash-Shu'aybi, As-Salamu 'Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh, and to proceed:
What is the doctrine of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah regarding the attribute of Allah's highness above the creation, His rising above His throne? And what is the ruling upon one who denies Allah's highness and rising above His throne? Is his leadership in prayer accepted? Answer us, may Allah reward you with good. We hope the response is supported with evidence from the Qur'an and Sunnah.
All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Worlds; and praise and peace be upon the most honored of the Prophets and Messengers, our Prophet Muhammad, and upon all of his family and companions; to proceed:
Indeed Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jama'ah, may Allah's mercy be upon all of them, are upon the doctrine that Allah Himself rose over His throne and is high above all His creation. No one differs with such except one whose sight has been blinded from amongst the Jahmiyyah, Mu'tazilah, and others from the deviant sects who have abandoned the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Prophet, and ruled by their desires and the opinions of their teachers.
Allah's Highness is firmly established in the Qur'an, Sunnah, intellect, and Fitrah:
As for the Book of Allah: Then it is filled with texts proving Allah's highness Himself so He is above all of His creation. The texts indicate such in a number of ways and wordings.
Firstly: Explicit declaration of His rising above His throne, this is mentioned in seven places in the Qur'an.
Secondly: Explicit usage of the words al-'Alee (The High) and al-A'la (The Highest). Allah says,
...وَهُوَ الْعَلِيُّ الْعَظِيمُ
...And He is the High and Mighty. [al-Baqarah 2:255]
And He says,
لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۖ وَهُوَ الْعَلِيُّ الْعَظِيمُ
To Him belongs what is in the heavens and earth, and He is the High and Mighty. [ash-Shura 42:3]
And He says,
سَبِّحِ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ الْأَعْلَى
Glorify the Name of your Lord, the Highest. [al-A'la 87:1]
And He says,
إِلَّا ابْتِغَاءَ وَجْهِ رَبِّهِ الْأَعْلَىٰ
Except seeking his Lord's face, the Highest. [al-Layl 92:20]
Thirdly: Explicit usage of the wording of Fawqiyyah (Aboveness) in a number of places... He says,
وَهُوَ الْقَاهِرُ فَوْقَ عِبَادِهِ...
And He is the Irresistible, above His slaves... [al-An'am 6:18]
And He says,
يَخَافُونَ رَبَّهُم مِّن فَوْقِهِمْ وَيَفْعَلُونَ مَا يُؤْمَرُونَ
They fear their Lord above them, and they do what they are commanded. [an-Nahl 16:50]
Fourthly: Explicit mentioning of things ascending to Him: He says,
...إِلَيْهِ يَصْعَدُ الْكَلِمُ الطَّيِّبُ وَالْعَمَلُ الصَّالِحُ يَرْفَعُهُ...
...To Him ascend (all) the goodly words, and the righteous deeds exalt it... [Fatir 35:10]
And He says,
إِذْ قَالَ اللَّـهُ يَا عِيسَىٰ إِنِّي مُتَوَفِّيكَ وَرَافِعُكَ إِلَيَّ...
And (remember) when Allah said: "O 'Iesa (Jesus)! I will take you and raise you to Myself... [Al-e-Imran 3:55]
And He says,
بَل رَّفَعَهُ اللَّـهُ إِلَيْهِ...
But Allah raised him ['Iesa (Jesus)] up unto Himself... [an-Nisa 4:158]
And He says,
تَعْرُجُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ وَالرُّوحُ إِلَيْهِ...
The angels and the Ruh [Jibrael (Gabriel)] ascend to Him... [al-Ma'arij 70:4]
Fifthly: Explicit mentioning of things descending from Him. He says,
حم ﴿١﴾ تَنزِيلُ الْكِتَابِ مِنَ اللَّـهِ الْعَزِيزِ الْعَلِيمِ ﴿٢﴾
Ha-Mim. The revelation (descension) of the Book (this Quran) is from Allah the All-Mighty, the All-Knower. [Ghafir 40:1-2]
And He says,
حم ﴿١﴾ تَنزِيلٌ مِّنَ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ ﴿٢﴾
Ha-Mim. A revelation (descending) from Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. [Fussilat 41:1-2]
The angle of proof in these types of texts i.e the fourth and fifth point, is that ascension and raising is not understandable except from below to above; and descending and lowering is not understandable except from above to below.
Sixthly: Explicit mentioning of Allah being above the heaven. He says,
أَأَمِنتُم مَّن فِي السَّمَاءِ...
Do you feel secure that He, Who is over the heaven (Allah)... [al-Mulk 67:16]
To where He says,
أَمْ أَمِنتُم مَّن فِي السَّمَاءِ...
Or do you feel secure that He, Who is over the heaven (Allah)... [al-Mulk 67:17]
As for the Sunnah: Then it is replete with narrations proving Allah's Highness above His creation. From amongst them:
Firstly: The Prophet's mentioning that Allah is above the heaven. He said,
... أَلاَ تَأْمَنُونِي وَأَنَا أَمِينُ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاءِ...
...Will you not trust me, though I am the trusted of He who is above the heaven?... [Saheeh al-Bukhari: 4116]
And he said to the slave-girl,
أين الله؟ قالت: في السماء، قال: من أنا؟ قالت: أنت رسول الله، قال: أعتقها فإنها مؤمنة
Where is Allah? She said, 'Above the heaven.' He said, 'Who am I?' She said, 'You are Allah's Messenger.' He said, 'Free her, for she is a believer.' [Sunan Abu Dawud: 2907]
The angle of proof in this narration is that Allah's Messenger testified to her faith when she said that Allah is above the heaven.
Secondly: He said in the Ruqyah (supplication) for the ill,
ربّنا الله الذي في السماء...
Our Lord who is above the heaven... [Sunan Abu Dawud: 3892]
Thirdly: When he spoke in the great gathering of Hajj, he said,
هل بلغت؟ قالوا: نعم، فرفع إصبعه إلى السماء فقال: اللهم اشهد
Have I conveyed? They said, 'Yes.' So he raised his finger to the sky and said, 'O Allah, witness.' [Sunan Abu Dawud: 1905]
As for the intellect: Then it indicates such by probing and optioning, by saying to the denier of Allah's highness: Either Allah exists or does not exist and Allah is exalted from such; in either case the denier of highness is forced to falsify his stance, since there are only two possibilities, that Allah is high above or far below. And stating that He is far below is false because it necessitates that Allah is inside His creation and this is Kufr according to the Ijma' of the Salaf. So only one possibility is left and that is that He is far above, so belief in highness is obligated.
Secondly: According to the method of probing and optioning, by saying that the only possibilities are that Allah is either above, or below, or to the right of, or to the left of, or in front of, or behind the creation. So we probe these possibilities and see which is the noblest direction and see that highness is the noblest, and Allah deserves the noblest, so the fact that He is in the direction of highness is obligated.
As for the Fitrah: Then the intelligent are all natured to turn to the direction of highness when supplicating, seeking refuge, or in a condition of need, which certainly indicates that Allah is high and above. This is supported by the incident between al-Hamadhani and al-Juwayni, when al-Hamadhani came to al-Juwayni and the latter was teaching his students and arguing denial of Allah's highness above His creation. So al-Hamadhani said to al-Juwayni,
O teacher, explain to us the necessity we feel within ourselves? For no human turns to Allah except that he feels a need within himself that Allah is in the direction of highness.
So al-Juwayni got off his chair and hit his own head, saying,
Al-Hamadhani has baffled me! Al-Hamadhani has baffled me!
As for the ruling upon one who denies Allah's highness: Then he disbelieves by such if he is not ignorant of the Shar'i texts that prove the attribute of highness. Many of the scholars have ruled kufr upon the denier of Allah's highness. From amongst them al-Imam Abu Hanifah, when he was asked by Abu Muti' al-Balkhi regarding the one who denies Allah's rising over His thrown and His highness over His creation, he responded, "He is a kafir." Abu Muti' said to him,
What if he says, 'He rose above His thrown, but I don't know if His thrown is above the heaven or on the Earth?'
He is a kafir.
And the Imam of the Imam's Muhammad Ibn Khuzaymah stated, regarding the one who denies Allah's highness above His creation, saying,
He is a kafir and he should be ordered to repent. If he doesn't repent, he is executed and his corpse is thrown in the dump-yard with the corpses of the dead animals.
As for the leadership in prayer for one who denies Allah's highness: Then it is invalid; praying behind him is not valid, nor choosing him for leadership for prayer because of what proceeded from the statements of the scholars establishing takfir of such a person.
This is what was facilitated for mention regarding this dangerous matter, and if we were to expand in falsifying the doctrine of these Jahmiyyah who deny Allah's highness above His creation, and if we were to set out to expose their doubts, we would spend lengthy amounts of time, but what we mentioned is sufficient for he who wants guidance. And from Allah is support and guidance; and peace and blessing upon our Prophet, Muhammad, and all his family and companions.
Professor Hamud Ibn 'Uqla' ash-Shu'aybi
Former Professor at the Islamic University of al-Imam Muhammad Ibn Sa'ud