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Sunday 26th of June 2022
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The concept of Arsh(The Divine Throne)

In the verses of the Holy Qur’an and narrations and the Prophetic traditions, the word Arsh and Throne are frequently used as indicated in the above eighteen verses. As it is explicitly stated in the Holy Qur’an, Arsh and Throne are two creatures among God’s creatures and they are two truths and facts of God’s facts.

In Khisal, Ma’ani Al-Akbar and Darul Mansur there is a narration in which Abu Zar narrated from the Prophet(s.a.w): The Prophet(s.a.w) said: “Compared with the Lord’s Throne, the seven Heavens are nothing but a ring in the vast area of a desert; and the superiority of Arsh over the Throne is like the superiority of that desert over that ring.

Saduq, in his I’lal and Majalis, narrates from Imam Sadiq(a.s). He was asked why was Ka’aba called Ka’aba? Imam Sadiq(a.s) answered: Because it is a square. He, then, was asked: Why is it of this shape? He answered: Because Baitul Ma’amur is square in shape. He, then, was asked: Why is Baitul Ma’amur of this shape? He answered: Because it is in the front of Arsh that has four angles. He, then, was asked:Why does the Arsh have this shape, why does it have four angles? He answered: It is because our Islam is based on four words:

 سُبْحانَ اللهAll glory is due to Allah

وَالْحَمْدُ للهِ All praise is due to Allah

وَلا إلهَ إلاّ اللهُ There is no god but Allah

واللهُ أكْبَرُ God is Great.

Imam Sadiq(a.s) was once asked to interpret the sacred verse:

الرَّحْمَانُ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ اسْتَوَى  [1]

“The Beneficient God is firm in power;” He answered; all things are equally distanced from Him. Nothing is closer to Him than other things. Sometimes Arsh is interpreted as supreme knowledge. In this meaning, four of the predecessors carried it: These four were Nuh, Ibrahim, Musa and Jesus Christ (a.s); In the latter meaning there were four of the latest who carried it: these four were The Prophet (s.a.w), Imam Ali (a.s), Imam Hasan(a.s) and Imam Husain(a.s).

In accordance with the authentic records from the Infallible Imams (a.s), Arsh and its carriers (bearers) are described in the following manner: The following were the carriers of the Arsh of knowledge: Nuh, Ibrahim, Musa(Moses) and Isa(Jesus Christ). The supreme knowledge then was transferred from these four to Muhammad (s.a.w), Imam Ali(a.s); Imam Hasan(a.s) and Imam Husain(a.s); and then this knowledge was transferred to the Imams after Imam Husain(a.s).

Sheikh Mufid said: “Arsh meant kingdom; Zul-Arsh means the possessor of power, domination and kingdom over all creatures.”

Saduq in Ma’ani Al-Akhbar narrated from Mufazzil Ibn Amr who says: I asked the sixth Imam(a.s) about the nature of Arsh and the throne. He answered: In one sense by Arsh it meant all the creatures and the throne is something that contains them. In another sense, Arsh meant the knowledge that God has bestowed upon his apostles, and the Prophets; and Throne meant God’s special knowledge.

Saduq in his book called Tauhid, reports the sixth Imam’s interpretation of the sacred verse:

وَسِعَ كُرْسِيُّهُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ  [2]

“His knowledge extends over the heavens and the earth.” The sixth Imam (a.s) stated that: The skies and the earth and what is between them are in the Throne and Arsh here meant Knowledge, of which no one knows the extent of its vastness.

It is recorded in Raudatul Waizin: Imam Sadiq(a.s) reports from Imam Baqir(a.s) who reports from his grand father: “There are in Arsh all that God has created on the earth and in the seas. He then said: This is my interpretation of God’s statement:

وَإِنْ مِنْ شَيْءٍ إِلَّا عِنْدَنَا خَزَائِنُهُ  [3]

“And there is not a thing but with Us are the treasures of it.”

And the distance between two columns of the Arsh is one thousand year of the flight of a fast-flying bird.[4] And everyday seventy thousand colors are spread over Arsh of which no creature could ever endure to watch. What ever is compared to Arsh is like a ring in a desert.

God has an angel called Kharqail. It has eighteen thousand wings. The distance between its two wings is five hundred light years.

Then God made its wings twice: as a result, it has thirty six thousand wings. The distance between every two wings was five hundred light years. Now the revelation came upon the angel to fly. It flew for twenty thousand years but could not reach even one of the columns of the Arsh. Now God strengthened this angel’s wings twice, and then it flew for thirty thousand years and could not reach even one column of the Arsh. Now it was revealed unto this angel : “O My angel: Even if you flew upon the time when the Trumpet is blown on the day of resurrection, you would never reach the stem of My Arsh. That angel replied:

سَبِّحْ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ الْأَعْلَى  [5]

“Glorify the name of your Lord, the Most High.”

Then God sent (revealed) this verse to the Prophet(s.a.w), who then ordered the muslims to use it in their adoration at the time of prayer.

The great learned scholar, the distinguished Islamic scientist, Mawla Baqir Majlisi, at the end of his discussions, related to Arsh and the Throne, writes:

You should be aware that the king’s throne in this world is an icon of the king’s power, but the Almighty God does not possess any place or location. He neither has a throne, nor a bed to sit on and these two words, that is, Arsh and Throne are used iconic in the following meanings:

1- As two huge structures over the seven skies: these two constructs were called the Arsh and the Throne since they are the origin of Allah’s commandments. All the heavenly angels, all the favored angels and the sacred spirits of the apostles are gathered here. Anyone of these who God wishes is then taken up and raised. In the same way the origin of issue of the king’s commands is his throne and that is the place around which the favored ones and a selected group gather. Arsh and Throne are two huge constructs, which have unique lights of their own. These two refer to Allah’s power, knowledge and wisdom more than any other constructs. The bearers of these two in the world are the angels and in the Hereafter are either angels or the apostles or the Infallible Ones.

2- These two concepts of (Arsh and the Throne) could mean knowledge and sciences. As we have already seen in many Islamic narrations, the God’s revelation to His servants is knowledge and cognition. These two concepts of Arsh and Throne are iconic used to convey knowledge and cognition. The conveyers of this knowledge are the Prophets(a.s) and the Imams(a.s).

3- The concepts of Arsh and Throne are two realities and facts that encompass all other creatures. This is also confirmed by Sheikh Saduq and some muslim narrators. This is because whatever exists in this world and in the universe is a revelation of God’s Existence and is a sign of His Power. Therefore, all creation is the Arsh of His Magnanimity and Grandeur. This reminds me of a statement by one Imam: وَارْتَفَعَ فَوقَ كُلِّ مَنْظَرٍ

“He is Loftier than any perspective.”

4- Every one of His attributes related to His Grandeur is His Arsh since it is the origin of His Greatness and a means to be revealed onto His servants in accordance with their talents and potentials. As it was mentioned above, Allah has the Arsh of knowledge, the Arsh of Power, the Arsh of Generosity, the Arsh of Monotheism and the Arsh of cleaniness.

5- These two concepts of Arsh and Throne might be taken to mean the hearts of the apostles, Imams and true believers who are the origin of God’s knowledge and Love. We can read in a narration: قَلْبُ الْمُؤْمِنِ عَرْشُ الرَّحْمَنِ

“A believer’s heart is the God’s Arsh.”

The application of the above meanings and interpretations to these two terms (Arsh and Throne) does not pose any serious problem; however, it is preferable to use the first meaning, that is, two huge constructs over the seven skies where God’s commandments originate.

The writer of Al-Mizan, in his interpretation of Arsh and its bearers, has a lengthy discussion. This is shown in his interpretation of the verse 54 of the Surah Aaraf(Qur’an 7:54). “Surely your Lord is Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth in six periods of time, and He is firm in power; He throws the veil of night over the day, which it pursues incessantly; and He created the sun and the moon and the stars, made subservient by His command; surely His is the creation and the command; blessed is Allah, the Lord of the worlds.”

We know that the sentence ثُمَّ اسْتَوَى عَلَى الْعَرْشِ  “He is firm in power,” is a metonymy. But this does not invalidate its truth. God’s strength is like the concept of kingdom, domination, possession, management, supervisory among us. No one would doubt the validity of these concepts however.

Although the meaning and sense of kingdom, domination, supervision and the like in the Almighty God are the same as among us, the references are different, however.

The senses of these terms concerning God are genuine and real and His Highness deserves these attributes. However, the senses of these terms regarding us are arbitrary. For instance, if we call anybody our supervisor, it means we rely on what ever he decides and not that our society is the body and he is the head of that body. And if we call anybody a member of our society, it does not mean that he is in reality the hand of the society or the heart or the kidney of our community; rather, the implication of these words is that he is useful to the community as are our hands, hearts and kidneys for our bodies.

The Almighty Allah in the following verse calls this world nothing but a sport and a play: وَمَا هَذِهِ الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا إِلَّا لَهْوٌ وَلَعِبٌ [6] “And this life of the world is nothing but a sport and a play;” this is because our worldly intentions, our greed to amass wealth and to possess children and leadership are nothing but illusions; they are real only in our imaginations. Our competition to gain them is like the children’s competition in their plays.

So when God says: ثُمَّ اسْتَوَى عَلَى الْعَرْشِ  “The Beneficient God is firm in power,” it shows two things: one is that God has a complete supervision over creatures; the other sense is that there exists such a power that dominates over every thing. The Following verses, too, imply the same sense:

For further information concerning Arsh, see volume 58 of Bihar, PP 5-39.

1. وَهُوَ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ  [7] “And He is the Lord of Mighty Power.”

2. الَّذِينَ يَحْمِلُونَ الْعَرْشَ وَمَنْ حَوْلَهُ [8] “Those who bear the Throne and those around Him”

3. يَحْمِلُ عَرْشَ رَبِّكَ فَوْقَهُمْ يَوْمَئِذٍ ثَمَانِيَةٌ [9] “Eight shall bear on that day your Lord’s Throne”

4. وَتَرَى الْمَلَائِكَةَ حَافِّينَ مِنْ حَوْلِ الْعَرْشِ [10] “And you shall see the angels going round the Throne(glorifying the praise of their Lord).

Even a cursory look at these verses will show that Arsh is just one of the external facts and truths of this universe. What we understood from the word “Arsh” in the verse ثُمَّ اسْتَوَى عَلَى الْعَرْشِ as a position in which all events stem from is evident in the following verse: ثُمَّ اسْتَوَى عَلَى الْعَرْشِ يُدَبِّرُ الْأَمْرَ مَا مِنْ شَفِيعٍ إِلَّا مِنْ بَعْدِ إِذْنِهِ  [11] “And He is firm in power, regulating the affair; there is no intercessor except after His permission.”

Thus, the word Arsh contains two meanings: one is the regulation of the universal affairs by Allah; the other one is knowledge. Thus, Arsh is everlasting: both before the creation of the universe, during the existence of this universe and after the return of all creatures towards Allah. This is clearly evident from the following verse: وَتَرَى الْمَلَائِكَةَ حَافِّينَ مِنْ حَوْلِ الْعَرْشِ [12]

“And you shall see the angels going round about the Throne(glorifying the praise of their Lord).” This verse shows the existence of Arsh even at the Resurrection. And those verses that deal with the creation of the skies and the earth deal, as well, with the existence of Arsh. And the following verse shows the existence of Arsh even before the creation of this world:

وَهُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ وَكَانَ عَرْشُهُ عَلَى الْمَاءِ [13]

“And He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in six periods- and His dominion extends on the water.



[1] Quran 20:5.

[2] Quran 2:255.

[3] Quran 15:21.

[4] It is a bird which flies faster than sound and light.

[5] Quran 87:1.

[6] Quran 29:64.

[7] Quran 9:129.

[8] Quran 40:7.

[9] Quran 69:17.

[10] Quran 39:75.

[11] Quran 10:3.

[12] Quran 39:75.

[13] Quran 11:7.


source : The Book: Diar Aashiqan b prof, Hussain Ansarian
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