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25 July 2017 CE | 02 Dhul-Qadah 1438 AH
Explanation below

Hadith Explanation


Allah is Above the Heavens


“Muawiyyah bin al-Hakam related that he once had a young slave girl who tended his sheep, and upon finding that she had allowed some of them to be lost, he slapped her on the face. Immediately he realized that he had sinned, for the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) had forbidden striking any person or animal on the face. So he went to the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) and asked whether he could free her as a means of atonement. The Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) told him to bring the girl. When she arrived, the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) asked her where Allah was, and she replied, ‘Above the heavens.’ Then he asked her who he was, and she replied, ‘You are the Messenger of Allah.’ He then turned to Muawiyyah (radi Allahu anhu) and told him, ‘Free her, for she is a believer.’” [Muslim]

This hadith clarifies two important points in Islam. The first point involves the Muslim’s notion of Allah. Through his questioning of the girl, the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) wanted to ascertain that she understood the pure Islamic concept of the presence of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala). If Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) were everywhere, as pantheists would have us believe, the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) would have corrected her. Yet he not only accepted her statement that Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) is above the heavens, but he used it as the basis for declaring her a true believer.

Concerning the presence of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala), people sometimes misconstrue the following Quranic ayat, “Verily, We created man and know what (evil) his soul whispers to him, for We are closer to him than (his) jugular vein.” [Surah Qaf: 16]

This ayat in no way indicates that Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) is within man, or any of His creation for that matter. He (subhana wa ta’ala) is present by His boundless knowledge and power, not His physical presence. His knowledge encompasses everything.

When a Muslim prostrates in prayer, he says, “Praise be to my Lord, the Most High.” Indeed, the statement of “Most High” indicates that Allah is high above the heavens.

And finally, the Miraj itself is sufficient proof of the fact that Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) is above His creation. Indeed, “If Allah were everywhere, the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) would have been in His direct presence while staying in his room in Makkah.” [Tafseer Surah al-Hujuraat]

The second point in this hadith involves the Muslim’s behaviour and interaction with others. It is clear from this story that a Muslim is not allowed to slap anyone or anything – even an animal – on the face. Had this act been an allowable one, not only would have Muawiyyah (radi Allahu anhu) not have sought the Prophet’s advice concerning such a sin, but the Prophet (sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam) would never have instructed him to free the slave as a means of atonement. For atonement is only necessary when an error in action has occurred.

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