What does “House of Allah” actually mean?

Question: What do respected Islamic scholars and Muftis say about the following issue? To believe that Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ lives in a place is Kufr [i.e. disbelief]. So, why are Masajid and the Holy Ka’bah called the Houses of Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ? Isn’t it disbelief?

Questioner: Muhammad Mansoor Attari (Chakwal Punjab)

بِسْمِ اللّٰہِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِیْمِ

اَلْجَوَابُ بِعَوْنِ الْمَلِکِ الْوَھَّابِ اَللّٰھُمَّ  ھِدَایَۃَ الْحَقِّ وَالصَّوَابِ

Answer: No doubt, the Holy Ka’bah and Masajid are called the Houses of Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ but actually it does not mean at all that Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ lives there, مَعَاذَ اللّٰە. You have a misconception which has resulted in you asking the question. According to the Islamic belief, Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ is free from body, place, time, etc. and all those things that did not use to exist but were created later on. He عَزَّوَجَلَّ has always existed and will continue to exist forever. Therefore, one who believes that Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ lives in a certain place is certainly a disbeliever.

Let me now remove your ambiguity. Why are Masajid and the Holy Ka’bah called the Houses of Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ? Here is an answer to this question. In fact, this is known as Idaafah Tashrifiyyah in Islamic terminology, which means one word is annexed to another more honourable word to give the first word honour and sanctity. In other words, the Holy Ka’bah and Masajid are particularly linked with the blessed name of Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ, showing the sanctity and dignity of these places. This is absolutely permissible. The Holy Quran and Ahadees contain many similar examples. For instance, by the blessing of the Dua of Sayyiduna Saleh عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام, a she-camel emerged. In the Holy Quran, Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ called it ‘ناقة اللّٰە’ i.e., Allah’s she-camel. Similarly, Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ declared Sayyiduna Jibra`eel عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام to be ‘روحنا’ i.e., Our Spiritual One, and He عَزَّوَجَلَّ called the Holy Ka’bah ‘بیتی’ i.e., My house. Likewise, in blessed Ahadees too, all Masajid have been called ‘بیوت اللّٰە’, i.e. the Houses of Allah. All of these are examples of Idaafah Tashrifiyyah, i.e. these things have been linked with the name of Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ to show their sacredness and greatness. Therefore, for the purpose of showing respect and reverence, it is permissible to say that the Holy Kabah and Masajid are the Houses of Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ. There is no harm in it.

A famous and fine book on beliefs, ‘Sharh ‘Aqaaid Nasafiyyah’ states:

(ولایتمکن فی مکان) واذا لم یکن فی مکان لم یکن فی جھة لاعلو ولاسفل ولاغیرھما۔ ملخصا

And Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ is not in any place. And when He عَزَّوَجَلَّ is not in any place, then He عَزَّوَجَلَّ is also not in any direction[1], neither in an upward direction, nor in a downward direction, nor in any other direction. (Sharh ‘Aqaaid Nasafiyyah, pp. 54, 55)

In ‘Bahar-e-Shari’at’, it is stated in the chapter of beliefs: ‘Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ is free from a direction, place, time, movement, stillness, form, image, and all those things which did not use to exist but came into existence later on.’ (Bahar-e-Shari’at, vol. 1, pp. 19)

Regarding Idaafah Tashrifiyyah, ‘Allamah Badruddin ‘Ayni Hanafi رَحْمَةُ اللّٰەِ عَلَيْه stated in the commentary of the words ‘فی ظلە’ mentioned in a Hadees:

قلت: اضافة الظل الیہ اضافة تشریف لیحصل امتیاز ھذا عن غیرہ

کما یقال للکعبة بیت اللّٰہ مع ان المساجد کلھا ملکہ و اما الظل الحقیقی فاللّٰہ تعالی منزہ عنہ لانہ من خواص الاجسام

I say that the word “shadow” being linked to Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ here is actually Idaafah Tashrifiyyah. This is to give it a distinct speciality when compared to other things, just as the Holy Kabah is called the House of Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ despite the fact that all Masajid are in His Ownership. As far as the literal meaning of the word “shadow” is concerned, Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ is free from it because it is from among the attributes of bodies. (‘Umda-tul-Qari, vol. 5, pp. 259-260)

وَاللہُ اَعْلَمُ   عَزَّوَجَلَّ وَ رَسُوْلُہٗ اَعْلَم صَلَّی اللّٰہُ عَلَیْہِ واٰلِہٖ وَسَلَّم



[1] The word “direction” here means the general line which somebody or something is moving or pointing in.

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