A Muslim should learn the fundamentals of his creed from credible sources that follow the Qur’an and Sunnah with the understanding of the pious predecessors. Secondly, regarding the question you posed the scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jama`ah believe that Allah the Almighty is above His Throne, in a manner that suits His Majesty.
Shedding more light on this issue, we would like to cite here the words of the prominent Muslim scholar, Dr. `Umar S. al-Ashqar, professor of Shari`ah at theUniversity of Jordan: The evidence in the Qur’an and Sunnah which shows that Allah the Almighty is in the heavens, above His slaves, is very clear and abundant. To quote all of it would take too long. However, we can arrange it in the following categories:
1.Evidence that states clearly that He is in the heavens.
Allah the Almighty has told us that He is in the heavens: [Have ye taken security from Him Who is in the heaven that He will not cause the earth to swallow you when lo! it is convulsed? Or have ye taken security from Him Who is in the heaven that He will not let loose on you a hurricane? But ye shall know the manner of My warning.] (Al-Mulk 67: 16-17).
Additionally, the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) told us that a slave girl was a believer when she told him that Allah the Almighty was in heaven. It is narrated that Mu`aawiyah ibn al-Hakam al-Sulami beat a slave girl belonging to him for being careless in minding his sheep. Then he regretted it, and came to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) to express his regret and ask for his permission to set her free. The Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) sent someone to call the girl and asked her: “Where is Allah?” She said: “In heaven.” He asked, “Who am I?” She said: “You are the Messenger of Allah.” He said: “Set her free, for she is a believer.” (Muslim).
The phrase “Allah is in heaven” does not mean that He is contained by its physical dimensions—Glorified and Exalted be He far above that. What is meant by ‘heaven’ is highness and being ‘above’. Allah the Almighty has described Himself as being the Most High: [Glorify the Name of your Lord, the Most High.](Al-‘A`la 87:1) The Muslim cannot understand his `aqidah (creed) properly if, when he thinks that Allah is in the heavens, he thinks that the heavens contain Him and that He is limited by the physical dimensions of the heavens, Glorified be He far above such a thing. How can that be, when the heavens are nothing in relation to Him? Allah the Almighty Says: […And the heavens are rolled in His right hand. Glorified is He and High Exalted from all that they ascribe as partner (unto Him)] (Az-Zumar 39: 67) and He said: [The Day when We shall roll up the heavens as a recorder rolls up a written scroll.](Al-Anbiyaa’ 21: 104)
2.Evidence that states that He rose above the Throne (Istiwaa’). Allah the Almighty Says: [Indeed, your Lord is Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth in Six Days, and then He rose over the Throne [in a manner that suits His Majesty]. He brings the night as a cover over the day, seeking it rapidly, and the sun, the moon, the stars subjected to His command. Surely, His is the creation and commandment. Glorified is Allah,Blessed be Allah, the Lord of the Worlds!] (Al-A`raf 7: 54) He Almighty also Says: [Ta-Ha. We have not sent down the Qur’an unto you to cause you distress. But only as a reminder to those who fear [Allah]. A revelation from Him Who has created the earth and high heavens. The Most Gracious rose over the Throne [in a manner that suits His Majesty].] (Ta-Ha 20: 1-5).
We do not know how Allah the Almighty rose over the Throne, because we do not know how He is, but we know the meaning of istiwaa’ in the Arabic language. When the Arabs follow the word “istiwaa’” with the preposition `ala, it brings about four meanings: settling, going over, rising above and ascending, as was affirmed by Ibn al-Qayyim.
Imam al-Qurtubi (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “The first generation—may Allah be pleased with them—did not deny direction (with regard to Allah the Almighty), and they did not say anything to that effect. They affirmed direction in accordance with what Allah the Almighty said in His book and what His Messenger had told them. None of the pious predecessors denied that He rose over His throne in a real sense, however, they did not know how He rose over it, because no one knows the true nature of this. Imam Malik said: Istiwaa’ is known—meaning, in the linguistic sense—but how it happened is unknown, and asking about it is bid`ah, as Umm Salamah (may Allah be pleased with her) said.”
3. Evidence that proves that He is High, and that He is above His slaves. Allah the Almighty Says: [He is the Omnipotent over His slaves, and He is the Wise, the Knower](Al-An`am 6: 18) and He the Almighty also Says: [They fear their Lord above them, and they do what they are commanded.](An-Nahl :50)
4. Texts that state that some things are raised or ascend to Him. Such as the ayat (verses) that clearly state `Isa ibn Maryam (Jesus) (peace be upon him) was raised up to Him: [But Allah took him up unto Himself. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise] (An-Nisa’ 4: 158). There are also texts stating that good deeds ascend to Him: [..To Him ascend the goodly words, and the righteous deeds exalt it.](Fatir 35: 10).
Moreover, there are texts which state that the souls of the believers ascend to Him: [Lo! they who deny Our revelations and scorn them, for them the gates of heaven will nor be opened not will they enter the Garden…] (Al-A`raf 7: 40)
5. The raising of one’s hands and eyes to Him. There are many hadiths in which it is stated that the Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) raised his hands when making du`aa’, and everyone who is stricken with distress raises his hands when calling upon Him the Almighty. In addition, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) pointed upwards with his finger. This was mentioned in the hadith describing his farewell pilgrimage, when they said, “We bear witness that you have conveyed the message and fulfilled (your mission) and advised us sincerely.” Then, he (peace and blessings be upon him) pointed his forefinger towards the heavens and then towards the people, and said: “O Allah! Bear Witness! O Allah! Bear Witness!” (Abu Dawud). Similarly, the gaze is also lifted, and this is narrated in the reports of the du`aa’ (supplication) after wudu’ (ablution). His being All-High does not contradict His being close.
Allah the Almighty is close and answers the call of the one who calls upon Him. He knows their secret ideas and their secret counsels. He is closer to the one who calls upon Him than the neck of his riding-beast. He knows what the hearts whisper to themselves, and He is closer to His slaves than their jugular veins. He knows the secret and that which is yet more hidden. He knows what sinks into the earth and what emerges therefrom, what comes down from the heavens and what ascends thereto. He is with His creation by His knowledge and power. Nothing whatsoever of them is hidden from Him. And nothing is hidden from your Lord (as much as) the weight of an atom (or small ant) on the earth or in heaven. Not anything that is less than that or anything that is greater than that. He is close although He is Most High, and He is Most High although He is close. He is the First (nothing is before Him) and the Last (nothing is after Him), the Most High (nothing is above Him) and the Most Near (nothing is nearer than Him).