Praise be to Allah.
We are obliged to believe that Allaah has risen above His throne in a manner that befits His majesty, not in a manner that resembles human movement, and to believe that Allaah has a Face that is not like the faces of His creation.
So we should not go astray when interpreting verses and we must not distort their meanings; we should follow the views of the righteous salaf concerning that.
With regard to the tafseer (commentary) on this verse, Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said:
If you ask whether every mention of the wajh (face) with reference to Allaah means the Face of Allaah which is one of His attributes, the answer is that this is the basic principle. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And turn not away those who invoke their Lord, morning and afternoon seeking His Face”
“And who has (in mind) no favour from anyone to be paid back,
Except to seek the Countenance of his Lord, the Most High.
He surely, will be pleased (when he will enter Paradise)”
And there are other similar verses.
The basic principle is that what is meant by wajh is the Face of Allaah which is one of His attributes. But there is a verse concerning which the mufassireen differed, which is this verse (interpretation of the meaning):
“And to Allaah belong the east and the west, so wherever you turn (yourselves or your faces) there is the Face of Allaah”
[al-Baqarah 2:115]Some of them said that what is meant by wajh here is direction, because Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“For every nation there is a direction to which they face (in their prayers)”
So what is meant by wajh here is direction, so “there is the wajh of Allaah” means there is the direction of prayer which Allaah accepts.
They said: because when travelling, if a person offers naafil prayers he can pray in whatever direction he is facing.
But the correct view is that what is meant by wajh here is the Face of Allaah. So wherever you turn there is the Face of Allaah, because Allaah encompasses all things, and because it was proven from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) that when the worshipper stands to pray, Allaah in front of him. Hence it is forbidden for the worshipper to spit in front of him, because Allaah is in front of him. So if you pray in a place where you do not know where the qiblah is, but you do your best to figure it out and pray, and the qiblah is in fact behind you, then Allaah is in front of you even in this situation.
This is the correct meaning which is in accordance with the apparent meaning of the verse, and the first meaning does not in fact contradict it.
So the two meanings do not contradict one another.
It should be noted that this mighty Face which is described in terms of majesty and honour cannot be fully encompassed by human descriptions and imagination. Rather everything that you can think of, Allaah is above that and is greater.
“but they will never compass anything of His Knowledge”
[Ta-Ha 20:110 – interpretation of the meaning]
With regard to the verse (interpretation of the meaning):
“Everything will perish save His Face”
What this means is that everything will perish except His Essence of which His Face is one of the attributes.
Sharh al-‘Aqeedah al-Waasitiyyah by Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, 1/243-245.
We should not compare the Creator to His creation and imagine Him in terms of His creation, for Allaah is as He has said of Himself (interpretation of the meaning):
“There is nothing like Him”
So Allaah has risen above His Throne, and He faces the worshipper when he prays, and there is no contradiction between them with regard to Allaah.
Some people were similarly confused about the issue of Allaah descending during the last third of the night to the lowest heaven. They said that the night is not the same throughout the earth, so how can Allaah descend during the night and day at the same time?
Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen said:
Later generations who knew that the earth is round and that the sun revolves around the earth said: how can He descend during the last third of the night, when the last third of the night moves from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and goes to Europe and areas nearby? We say: now you are comparing the attributes of Allaah to the attributes of created beings. If you believe it you do not have to do anything beyond that, so do not ask how.
Rather say: When it is the last third of the night in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, then Allaah descends, and when it is the last third of the night in America, Allaah descends then as well.
So our attitude is that we believe what has reached us via Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), and that Allaah descends to the lowest heaven when there is one third of the night left, and says, “Who will call upon Me, that I may answer him? Who will ask of Me, that I may give him? Who will ask My forgiveness that I may forgive him?”
Sharh al-Waasitiyyah, 2/437.
And Allaah knows best.