Section 2: Allah’s Positive Qualities

1. Allah Is Powerful and Free

38. Concerning His positive qualities (as-sifatu’th-thubutiyya), which are eight. First, the Most High is Powerful (qadir) and Free (mukhtar). For the world is an originated thing (muhdath), for it is a body (jism). And every body is inseparable from originated things, I mean motion and rest, both of which are originated things, for both require consequence (masbuqiyya) in reference to something else.

And that which is inseparable from originated things is of necessity itself an originated thing. Hence there is a mover in it, namely Allah the Most High, the Powerful and Free. For if the cause were mechanical cause (mujib) then of necessity its effect (athar) would not remain behind it. Then that would require either the priority (qidam) of the world or the origin (huduth) of Allah the Most High, both of which are false.1

39. When he finished proving the essence (dhat) he began to prove the qualities (sifat). And he placed first the positive qualities, for they possess existence (wujud), while the negative qualities possess non-existence (‘adamiyya). And existence ranks above non-existence, and that which ranks highest should come first.

40. And he began with His being Powerful, because creation requires power (qudra). And here we will make some introductory remarks which will include the consideration of the elements of this discussion.

41. We say then that the Powerful and Free is He who if He wills to do anything does it, and if He wills to leave it, leaves it; and who acts with purpose (qasd) and will (irada). And a mechanical cause is the opposite. There are several differences between them – that is, between the free agent (mukhtar) and the mechanical cause (mujib).

(1) First, the free agent is able to act or cease from acting, while the mechanical cause is not.
(2) Second, the act of the free agent is consequent upon knowledge and purpose and will, while the mechanical cause is not.
(3) It is possible for the act of the free agent to follow it in time, while the act of a mechanical cause cannot be separated from it, as (for example) the sun’s giving light and fire’s burning.

42. And the world (‘alam) is all that exists besides Allah the Most High. And an originated thing (muhdath) is that which is consequent upon something else or upon non-existence (‘adam). And a prior thing (qadim) is the opposite of this. And body (jism) is that bounded thing (mutahayyiz) which receives division in three directions. And hayyiz and makan are one single thing, namely, an imaginary measure of space (faragh) which bodies occupy by coming into it. And motion is the coming of a body into a place after being in another place. And rest is the second coming into one place.

43. Now that this has been explained, I say, that since the world is a thing originated, there is in it a mover, namely, Allah the Most High, the Powerful and Free. And (I have made) here two claims (1) the first, that the world is an originated thing, and (2) the second, that its Creator must possess free will (ikhtiyar). In explanation of the first claim, (I say that) by world (al-‘alam) the scholastic theologians mean the heavens and the earth and what is in them and what is between them, and that is either bodies (ajsam) or accidents (a’rad), both of which are originated.

(a) As for bodies, they cannot be quit of motion and rest, both of which are originated things, and all that cannot be quit of an originated thing is itself an originated thing. Now a body cannot be quit of motion and rest, because everybody must necessarily have a place (makan). And since this is true, either the body remains in the place, which is rest, or it is removed from it, which is motion – for of necessity there is no middle ground between the two.

But rest and motion are originated things, because they are consequent upon something else. And nothing prior is consequent upon something else. Then no motion or rest is prior. Hence both are originated things, for there is no middle ground between a thing prior and a thing originated. And motion and rest are both consequent upon something else, because motion means the first coming (husul) into the second place, hence of necessity it is consequent upon a first place. And rest means the second coming into the first place, hence of necessity it is consequent upon a first coming.

And all that which cannot be quit of originated things is itself an originated thing, for if it is not an originated thing then it is a prior thing. And in this case either it has with it in priority something that is originated, or it has not. If it has, then priority and origination would have to be united in one thing at the same time, and that cannot be. And if it has not, then that which has been known of necessity, namely, the impossibility of the separation of originated things from it, would have to be false, and that cannot be.

44. (b) And accidents are originated because they need bodies for their existence, and that which needs an originated thing is even more itself an originated thing.

45. (2) And in explanation of the second claim (I say that), an originated thing, when its quiddity (mahiyya) is qualified at one time by non-existence and later by existence, is possible existence. Then it needs a mover. If that (mover) be a free agent, then that was what we sought. And if it be a mechanical cause, then its effect (athar) cannot follow it in time. Hence its effect must be prior. But it had been proved that it is originated. Hence, its mover must also be originated, for they are mutually necessary – and both things are impossible.

For it has been demonstrated that if Allah the Most High be a mechanical cause, there follows of necessity either the priority of the world or the origin of Allah the Most High, both of which are untrue. Hence, it is proved that the Most High is Powerful and Free, which is what we sought.

46. And His power is connected (yata‘allaqu) with all determined things (al-maqdurat). For the cause which makes them need His power is possibility. And the relation of His essence to all things is equal. Hence, His power is universal.

[Determined things are possible existence. The relation of His essence to all possible existence is equal. Therefore, His power extends equally to all determined things – that is, it is universal].

47. When he had proved briefly that the Most High is Powerful, he began to explain the universality of His Power. And the philosophers (hukama) have disputed about it, when they said, that He is One (wahid) and there proceeds from Him nothing but what is one. And the Thanawiyya thought that He did not have power to do evil (ash-sharr). And an-Nazzam held that He did not have power to do what was evil (al-qabih). And al-Balkhi denied His power over things like those which are in our power. And the Jubba‘iyya held it impossible for His power to extend to those very things which are in our power. And reality (al-haqq) is opposed to all of these.2

48. And the proof for our contention is that every hindrance in relation to His essence and in relation to what is determined (maqdur) has been removed. Hence the universal connection (ta‘alluq) of His power is necessary. (That is, neither in Allah nor in the thing determined is there any hindrance – hence His power extends to all.)

49. Now the exposition of the first statement (of the text) is that which necessitates His being Powerful in His essence. And the relationship (nisba) of His essence to all things is equal, because of its uniqueness (tajarrud). Hence, that which is necessitated by it (namely, His Power) is also equally related, which is what we sought.

50. And the second statement is true, because that which necessitates a thing’s being determined (maqdur) is its possibility. And possibility partakes of everything (all creation is one in possessing possibility). Hence, it is sound (sihha) for determination also to become a partaker in possible existences, which is what we sought. And when all hindrance in relation to the Power and in relation to what is determined is removed, then its universal connection is necessary, which is what we sought.

[Allah is Powerful (qadir), and His power extends to all existence provided that neither in the qadir nor in the maqdur is there any hindrance. For instance, Allah is able to create a partner, but in this case, there is a hindrance, for a partner to Allah is incapable of receiving existence.]

And know that the occurrence of everything connected with His Power is not necessary. Although He has power over everything, only some of the things over which He has power actually occur. And the Ash‘arites agree with us in the universality of the connection (of His Power), but they claim that what He has power over always occurs, as will be explained later, if Allah wills.3

2. Allah Is Knowing

51. Second, the Most High is Knowing (‘alim). For He performs actions which are Firm (muhkam) and Perfect (mutqan), and everyone who does that is of necessity Knowing.

52. Among the number of His positive qualities is His being Knowing. And the Knowing One is He to whom all things are clear in such a way that what is present to Him does not become absent.

53. And a firm and perfect act is that which includes matters strange and wonderful and unites many characteristics.

54. And there are two proofs that He is Knowing: (1) First, He is a free agent, and every free agent is knowing. The minor premise (that He is a free agent) was explained above. And as for the major premise, (know that) the act of a free agent follows his purpose, and to purpose a thing without having knowledge of it is impossible. (2) Second, He has performed firm and perfect acts, and everyone who does the like is knowing of necessity.

Now that He performs such acts is manifest to whoever considers His creation: the heavenly bodies, on whose movements the characteristics of the four seasons are arranged, as is explained in the sciences; and the things on the earth, in which there appears the wisdom revealed in the three kingdoms (murak-kabat – mineral, vegetable, and animal), and in the strange things which are embraced by them, and in the wonderful characteristics which they possess.

And if there were nothing else besides the forming of man, certainly the wisdom deposited in his creation and the orderliness of his formation and his senses and the benefits which depend on them would be sufficient (to demonstrate the perfection of Allah’s acts), as is indicated in the word of Allah,

“Have they not considered within themselves that Allah hath not created the Heavens and the Earth and all that is between them...?” (30:8).

And among the wonders deposited in man’s constitution is this, that every one of his members has four powers, that of attraction (jadhiba), retention (masika), digestion (hadima), and excretion (dafi‘a). As for attraction, since the body is constantly undergoing dissolution it needs the power of attraction that it may attract that which will replace what has dissolved from it. And it needs the power of retention, because the food which is taken in is slippery (lazij), and the organ is also slippery.

Hence, it must have the power of retention that digestion may take place. And the power of digestion is needed, because it changes the food into what is fitted to become part of the body of the eater. And excretion is the throwing off of the food which was in excess of what was digested, which was prepared because of another member. And everyone who performs actions which are firm and perfect is knowing, for this is self-evident to one who understands these matters and considers them.

55. And His knowledge is connected with every known thing (ma’lum), because of the equality of the relationship of all known things to Him. For He is living (hayy), and it is proper that every living one should know every known thing. Hence, that is necessary for Him, because of the impossibility of His being in need of another.

56. The Most High Creator knows everything that can properly be known, whether necessary or possible, prior or originated. This is contrary to the philosophers, in that they have denied that He has knowledge of parts (al-juz’iyyat) as parts (He knows them as a whole, not as parts), because change in them would necessitate change in the knowledge which resides in His essence. We reply that what changes is the relative connection, not the essential knowledge.

And the proof of our position is that it is proper for Him to know every known thing – therefore this (knowledge) is necessary for Him. And it is proper for Him to know every known thing because He is Living, and everyone that lives can properly know (a dead thing cannot know, knowledge being a property of life). And the relationship of this propriety (for him to know all things) to all that is apart from Him is an equal relationship (that is, it is equally proper that He know all things).

Hence the relation of all known things to Him is also equal. And the proof, that whenever a thing is proper for the Most High, it is also necessary for Him is this. His qualities belong to His essence (dhatiyya), and when a quality, which belongs to the essence is proper, it is also necessary, otherwise He would have need of something else, in that His essence was qualified by something other than He. Then the Most High Creator, as regards of His knowledge, would be in need of something else, and this is impossible. (In both man and God knowledge is proper (sahih), but while in man it is possible (mumkin), in God it is necessary (wajib), for belonging to His essence it cannot be possible.)

3. Allah Is Living (Hayy)

57. Third, the Most High is Living (hayy), because He is Powerful and Knowing – Hence of necessity He is living.

58. Among His positive qualities is His being Living. And the philosophers and Abu’l-Hassan al-Basri say His life means the propriety (sihha) of His being qualified by power and knowledge. And the Ash‘arites say that Life is a quality in excess (za’id) of His essence, as distinct from this propriety (as held by al-Basri). And the first (the opinion of al-Basri) is reality, for the root of the matter is it’s not being in excess.

And it has been proved that the Most High Creator is Powerful and Knowing, hence of necessity He is Living, which is what we sought. (That is, Life is the essence itself, and so also are Knowledge and Power.4

4. Allah Is A Willer And A Disliker

59. Fourth, the Most High is a Willer (murid) and a disliker (karih), because the specializing (takhsis) of the performance of acts to one time and not to another requires that there be a specializer (mukhassis), and that is will (al-irada), and because the most high commands and prohibits, and these things require of necessity will and dislike.

60. Now, all Muslims are agreed that He has the quality Will, but they differ as to its meaning. Abu’l-Hassan al-Basri said that it meant Allah’s knowing what advantage (maslaha) is in an act, as a motive for its performance (that is, when Allah knows that a certain act is advantageous, then that knowledge is will, and becomes the motive for its performance). And al-Bukhari said that its meaning is that Allah is not overcome (maghlub) and is not forced (mukrah). This meaning here is negative, and the speaker (al-Bukhari) has taken in place of Will that which makes Will necessary.

61. And al-Balkhi said that in Allah’s acts will means His knowledge of them, and in the acts of others it means His commanding them. Now we reply, if he means by will absolute knowledge, then that is not will, as shall appear later. And if he means knowledge which is confined to advantage (that is, the knowledge of those things which Allah sees are advantageous), then that is like what al-Basri said. And His commanding it indeed requires will, but it is not will.

62. And the Ash‘arites and Karramites and a group of Mu‘tazilites say that Will is a quality in excess of the essence, which is separate from Power and Knowledge, and belongs especially to His act. But then they disagreed among themselves – the Ash‘arites say that this being in excess is a prior idea (ma‘na), and the Mu‘tazilites and Karramites say that it is an originated idea. And the Karramites say that it inheres (qa’im) in His essence (as accidents inhere in a substance), and the Mu‘tazilites say it is not in a locus (mahall), (that is, it does not so inhere, for Allah’s essence is not a place in which qualities can inhere). And the fallacy of this doctrine of excess will soon appear. And what al-Basri said is reality, for two reasons5.

63. (1) First, the specializing in the performance of acts at one time and not at another, and in one way and not in another, in spite of the equality of times and states in relation to the Doer and the recipient, necessarily requires a specifier (mukhassis). And this specifier is either (a) the Power which resides in the essence, which is equally related to all things, and therefore cannot properly specialize – and, moreover, its function is moving (ta’thir) and performing (ijad), not preferring (tarjih), (b) or else it is absolute knowledge – but that is consequent upon the appointment of the possible and the decree of its issuing.

Hence, it is not the specializer, otherwise it would certainly precede, and that is not possible. And it is clear that the remaining qualities cannot properly specialize. Hence, the specializer is a special kind of knowledge (namely, knowledge of what is advantageous) which necessitates the appointment of the possible and the necessity of its issuing from Him. That is, it is knowledge that the possible contains an advantage which cannot be acquired except at that time and in that manner. And that specializer is Will.6

64. (2) Second, the Most High commanded in His word, “Establish the worship”; and He prohibited in His word, “Do not draw near to adultery”. And command of a thing requires of necessity the willing of it, and prohibition of a thing requires of necessity the dislike for it. Hence, the Most High Creator is a Willer and a Disliker, which is what we sought.

65. Now, there are here two matters of importance: (1) First, His disliking is His knowledge that an act contains a cause of corruption (mafsada) which deters Him from performing it, just as will is His knowledge that the act contains advantage which is the motive (da‘iya) for its performance. (2) Second, Will is not in excess of that which we mentioned (it is the essence itself, not in excess of the essence), otherwise it would be either a prior idea (ma‘na), as the Ash‘arites say, in which case the plurality of prior things would be necessary; or else an originated thing.

If the latter, then either (a) it would be a quality inhering in His essence, as the Karamites say, and He would be a locus for originated things – and that is false, as shall appear later, if Allah wills, or (b) it would be a quality of something else, and then it would be necessary for His command (hukm) to be referred to someone else, and not to Him. And Will is not in a place, as the Mu‘tazilites say. For there are two errors in this. First, it necessitates an endless chain, because an originated thing is consequent upon the will of the originator. Then in that case Will would be an originated thing. Then if we move the discussion back a step it becomes a chain. Second, the impossibility of a quality’s existing outside of place.

5. Allah Is A Perceiver

66. Fifth, the Most High is a Perceiver (mudrik), because He is Living, and it is therefore proper for Him to perceive. And the Qur’an has come in to prove it for Him, hence, it is incumbent that it be confirmed (ithbat) (by us by reason) to belong to Him.

67. By traditional proofs it has been demonstrated that the Most High has Perception (idrak). And Perception is (something) additional to Knowledge. For we find a difference between our knowledge of black and white and terrifying sound and a pleasant one, and our perception of these things. And this addition is due to the impression (ta’thir) of the senses. However, rational proofs lead us to believe that senses and organs are impossible for the Most High, and therefore this addition is impossible for Him. Hence, in this case, His Perception is His Knowledge of objects of perception (mudrakat).7

68. And the proof that it is proper for Him to have the quality of Perception is the same as that by which we proved that He knows all known things, (namely), by His being Living.8.

6. Allah Is Eternal

69. Sixth, the Most High is Prior (qadim) and from Eternity (azali) and Abiding (baqi) and to Eternity (abadi), because He is the Necessarily Existent. Hence, non-existence, both previous (sabiq) and consequent (lahiq), is for Him impossible.

70. These four qualities are required in order that His existence be necessary (wajib). And prior is that entity the existence of which is not derived from anything else. And from eternity is the being related to (musahib) the “ascertained ages” (the ages after creation – muhaqqaq) and “implied ages” (the ages before creation – muqarrar), as regards the past. And abiding is existence that continues and that is related to all ages. And to eternity is being related to all ages, either ascertained or implied, as regards the future. And Eternal (sarmadi) comprises all ages.

71. And the proof of this is that since it has been proved that He is Necessarily Existent, non-existence is impossible for Him absolutely, whether it be previous, on the supposition (taqdir) that He is not from all eternity, or consequent, on the supposition that He is not to all eternity. And since absolute non-existence is impossible for Him, it is proved that He is Prior and From Eternity and Abiding and To Eternity, which is what we sought.

7. Allah Is A Speaker

72. Seventh, the Most High is a Speaker (mutakallim), by the agreement of all. And by speech (al-kalam) is intended letters and sounds which are audible and orderly. And the meaning of the Most High’s being a Speaker is that He brings speech into existence in some sort of body (jism). And the explanation of the Ash’arites is contrary to reason.

73. Among the qualities of the Most High is His being a Speaker. And in that Muslims have agreed, but after that they differ in four points (maqamat). (1) First, in the way in which they prove this quality. The Ash‘arites say it is reason (‘aql). And the Mu‘tazilites say it is tradition (sam‘), according to the word of the Most High,

“And discoursing did Allah discourse (takallama) with Moses” (4:164).

And this is reality (that is, the Mu‘tazilite position), because there is no rational evidence (dalil), and the evidence which they adduce is not complete.

Now, all the prophets have agreed in this (that Allah speaks). (And if one says that the very fact that there are prophets is a rational proof that Allah speaks – for how could they speak unless He first spoke to them? – We reply) that the proof of their being prophets is not dependent on this (that is, His Speaking), because it is possible to attest (the validity of the mission of) the prophets apart from Speech, for it is rather dependent on miracles, otherwise a circle would have to follow.

(That is, the prophet says that Allah is a Speaker, but the truth of his being a prophet depends on Allah’s being a Speaker). Hence, it is incumbent to prove (ithbat) it for Him. For, it is possible to deduce (istidlal) the truth of prophecy from miracles apart from the Qur’an, or else from the Qur’an considered not as Speech but as a miracle. And undoubtedly there is a disagreement (taghayur) about miracles. Hence, it is necessary to prove (by tradition that Allah is a Speaker).

74. (2) As to the quiddity (mahiyya) of His Speech. The Ash‘arites thought it was a prior idea (ma‘na) inherent in His essence which is expressed in various terms (‘ibarat) and is distinct from Knowledge and Power. Hence, it is neither letters nor sounds nor commands nor prohibitions nor narrative nor interrogation nor any other such form of speech.

75. And the Mu‘tazilites and Karramites and Hanbalites say it is letters and sounds compounded in such a way as to express something. And this is reality, for two reasons.

(a) First, that which takes precedence (al-mutabadir) in the opinion of intelligent people is what we have mentioned (namely, that kalam is speech), because they do not attribute the quality of speech to one who does not possess that quality, such as one who is silent or dumb. (Speech means speaking, not merely having ideas in one’s mind, as the Ash‘arites say).

(b) Second, what they have said cannot be conceived (ghayru mutasawwar). For that which they conceived is either essential power from which proceed letters and sounds, and they have said that Speech is other than that – nor can the other qualities properly be the source of what they have said. And whenever a thing cannot be conceived it cannot be properly proved, for attestation (tasdiq) is consequent upon conception (tasawwur).

76. (3) Third, as to that in which the quality Speech inheres. The Ash‘arites, because of their doctrine that it is an idea (ma‘na), say that it inheres in His essence. And those who say that it is letters and sounds have differed among themselves. The Hanbalites and Karramites say that it inheres in His essence, so according to them He speaks with letters and sounds. And the Mu‘tazilites and Imamites say (and this is reality) that it is inherent in something else, not in His essence – as when He made speech to exists (awjada) in the bush, and Moses heard it. And the meaning of His being a Speaker is that He makes Speech, not that He is One in whom Speech inheres. And the proof of that is that Speech is a possible thing, and God Most High has power over all possible existences9.

77. And what we mentioned (namely, the Ash‘arite doctrine) is to be rejected, for two reasons (sanad). (a) First, if a speaker be that in which speech inheres, then the air in which letters and sounds inhere would be a speaker, and that is not true. For the lexicographers do not call anything a speaker except that which makes speech, not that in which speech inheres, and in this way voice (as-sada) is something other than a speaker. And they say that a jinni speaks through (‘ala) the tongue of an epileptic, because they believe that the maker (fa‘il) of the speech that is heard from the epileptic is the jinni.

78. (b) Second, Speech is either an idea (ma‘na) – and the fallacy of this has been proved, or it is letters and sounds – and it is not possible for them to inhere in His essence, for then He would become the possessor of senses, because the existence of letters and sounds necessarily
depends on the existence of their instruments. Then the Most High Creator would become the possessor of senses, and that is false.

79. (4) Fourth, as to the priority or origin of Speech. Now the Ash‘arites said that the idea was prior. And the Hanbalites said that the letters were prior. And the Mu‘tazilites said that Speech was an originated thing, and that is the reality, for sever reasons: (a) First, if it were prior, then a plurality of prior things would be necessary, and that is false, for the calling anything besides Allah prior is infidelity (kufr) by the agreement of all. Hence, the Christians are guilty of infidelity in affirming the priority of the Persons (al-uqnum)10.

(b) Second, it is compounded of letters and sounds which become non-existent when succeeded by others. And Non-existence is not possible for a prior thing. (c) Third, if it were prior then it would necessarily follow that Allah lies. But that which is necessitated is false (namely, Allah’s lying), hence, that which necessitated it (kalam’s being prior) is false also. And the proof of this necessity (of His being a liar) is that He informed us of His sending Noah from eternity (fi’l-azal), by the word of the Most High,

“We sent Noah to his people” (71:1).

And He did not send him from eternity, since there is nothing previous to eternity. (If the word of Allah was from Eternity, then Noah must have been sent before eternity!). Hence, it would be a lie.

80. (d) Fourth, if it were prior, then His word would be nonsense (‘abath), in the word of the Most High,

“Observe prayer and pay legal impost” (22:78).

Because in eternity there was no mukallaf. Now nonsense is evil (qabih), hence it is impossible for the Most High. (f) Fifth, the word of the Most High,

“Every fresh (muhdath) warning that cometh to them from their Lord they only hear to mock it” (21:2).

And warning (dhikr) is the Qur’an, because of the word of the Most High,

“Verily We have sent down the warning (adh-dhikr), and verily We will be its guardian (15:9).

“For truly to thee and to thy people it is admonition (dhikr)” (43:44).

And He has attributed to it the quality of origin (huduth), hence, it is not prior. And the word of the author and the statement that the Ash‘arites are not to be accepted refer to what we have mentioned in these places.

8. Allah Is Veracious

81. Eighth, the Most High is Veracious (sadiq). For a lie (al-kidhb) is of necessity evil (qabih) and Allah the Most High is far removed from evil, because it is impossible for Him to have any imperfection (naqs).11

82. Among His positive qualities is His being Veracious. And veracity is a report that corresponds to reality, and a lie is a report that does not so correspond. Because if He were not Veracious He would be a liar, and that is false; for a lie is of necessity evil, and it would be necessary for the Most High Creator to be qualified by what is evil, and that is false, because of what shall later appear. And a lie is an imperfection, and the Most High Creator is far removed from imperfection.

  • 1. The Sunnites usually list the positive qualities as follows: Life, Knowledge, Power, Will, Hearing, Seeing, Speaking (creed of al-Ghazali, Macdonald, “Development,” p. 304). The Shi‘ites agree with them as to the first fore qualities, though they place Power first. But in place of Hearing and Seeing they put Perceiving. They retain Speaking, but add two more to the list, namely, Being Eternal and Veracity.
  • 2. An-Nazzam was a prominent Mu‘tazilite. See Macdonald, “Development,” p. 140.
  • 3. By denying that Allah does everything that He has Power to do the Shi‘ites try to guard Him from evil without limiting His Power.
  • 4. The Sifatians held that the divine qualities were eternally inherent in the essence of Allah. The Mu‘tazilites rejected this doctrine, because “if the qualities share in priority they would share in godhood also,” and the multiplicity of eternal existence would have to result, and this they denied. They said that the qualities were not in addition to the essence, but were the essence itself. Thus, Allah is Knowing by His essence, not by His Knowledge, and is Powerful by His essence, not by His Power. (Shahrastani, p 29, Macdonald, “Development,” p. 136, Sell, “The Faith of Islam,” third edition, pp. 194, 195).

    The Ash‘arites held that the qualities were inherent in the essence, and were in addition to the essence. “He has qualities from all eternity existing in His essence.” But they guarded themselves against the objection of the Mu‘tazilites by adding, “They are not He nor are they any other than He” (creed of an-Nasafi, Macdonald, “Development,” p. 309).

    The Shi‘ites adopted the Mu‘tazilite doctrine in full. They teach that the qualities are the essence itself, and that Allah is Powerful by His essence, Knowing by His essence, etc.

  • 5. See Macdonald, “Development,” p. 170, etc.
  • 6. The doctrine of Will’s being a form of Knowledge is also due to Mu‘tazilite influence Abu Hudhayl (d. c. 226 A.H.) “endeavoured – and in this he was followed by most of the Mu‘tazilites – to cut down the number of Allah’s attributes His Will, he said, was a form of His Knowledge, He knew that there was good in an action, and that knowledge was His will” (Macdonald, “Development,” p. 137).
  • 7. This quality of Perception is given in place of the two qualities of Hearing and Sight which are always included in the orthodox list. The Shi‘ites inherited from the Mu‘tazilites a dislike to all expressions which seemed to suggest anthropomorphism, and they here resolve Hearing and Sight into the knowledge of things heard and seen.
  • 8. See paragraph 56 of this book.
  • 9. The orthodox belief is thus stated in the creed of al-Ghazzali (Macdonald, “Development,” pp. 303-304): “And we witness that He speaks, commanding, forbidding, praising, threatening, with a speech for all eternity, prior, subsisting in His essence, not resembling the speech of created things.

    It is not a sound which originates through the slipping out of air, or striking of bodies; nor is it a letter which is separated off by the closing down a lip or moving a tongue… And the Qur’an is repeated by tongues, written in copies, preserved in hearts: yet it, in spite of that, is prior, subsisting in the essence of Allah, not subject to division and separation through being transferred to hearts and leaves. And Musa heard the speech of Allah without a sound and without a letter, just as the pious see the essence of Allah in the other world, without a substance or an attribute.”

  • 10. Al-Ash‘ari had said, “We teach that the Qur’an is Allah’s Word, and that it is uncreated, and that whoever says it is created is an unbeliever (kafir)” (Macdonald, “Development,” p. 295). The Shi‘ite reply is that the calling of anything prior except the divine essence is kufr!
  • 11. Veracity is not given as one of the divine qualities in any of the Sunnite creeds, not have I found any mention of it by the Mu‘tazilites. But its admission by the Shi‘ites to the list of the positive qualities is no doubt due to their emphasis upon Justice in Allah’s character.