Chapter 5: Names and Attributes of God in the Qur'an
In the process of cognizing every objective reality, man acquires more or less an explicit and distinct mental impression or conception, in the light of which, he can distinguish it from other facts. Sometimes, man assumes something in this world, and at the same time, knows that such a thing is not real but is merely an imaginary thing.
Take for instance, an architect's design which he has prepared for constructing a building that has not come into existence yet now. He just conceives a building that may be constructed in accordance with it. In this case, also, man should have distinct and clear idea of the imaginary thing in his mind so that it may be distinguished from other imaginary or real things with which he has been acquainted.
Such conceptions or impressions of things, imaginary or real, may be expressed by their natural or inherent names. It is to be noted that these 'names' are not words or terms but are only images and pictures, clear or vague, of the things that man's mind has formed mentally to identify the things he has formed mentally in order to identify them. These names or images play the same role which is played by words and terms to make things intelligible.
When man communicates with himself only and refrains from exchanging views with others, he can use his private and unconventional names and mental images. But when he encounters others and exchanges his views with them, he is bound to use common names or sign for his mental constructions of factual or imaginary things to let others understand what he has in his mind. These are the words and terms which mankind gradually invented in the light of which they have got their denotation. The extent of the connotation of such accepted words depends on their convention. These symbols1, that is, words are in fact commonly accepted names denoting real or hypothetical matters.
In a broad sense, all words including noun, adjective, adverb, conjunction, preposition sound etc. are names (ism)2. Name in its broad sense means symbol. The usage of the word noun as distinguished from verb, article, adjective etc. is mostly related to later classifications of words in the course the development of grammar, and from there it become current in other fields such as mysticism, Theology (kalam), etc.
Thereafter it influenced the idiom of conversational language. In this classification, every word which was used to refer to a thing, a person, an act or a state was called "noun". And every word which was used for describing a particular quality of an existent was called "adjective". Accordingly, Farai-dun is a "noun", for this word is used to draw the attention of a listener towards an actual and objective being without taking into consideration of its specific quality. But the word "stout" is and adjective, for it indicates a particular quality, that is, stoutness, of a person (or a thing).
We come across various Name and Attributes of God in theological discussions. But, before going in details of this issue it would be better, first to deal with another issue that pertains to suspension and anthropomorphism.
The theme of this discussion is whether our knowledge of God is to the extent that on its basis we can ascribe to Him certain name or names and an attribute or attributes or our knowledge of God is up to this extent that we can just say that "He is" and that is all.
A group of thinkers emphasized the point that man in his efforts for knowing the origin of being can achieve this much knowledge only to say that there is an origin of the world, and a source for existence, without having a definite knowledge of such origin and source of being3. In different languages different names have been given to this "unknown reality", but all these words are names of a being and "proper nouns", that is these are merely indicators of some conception of His reality, that is, the origin of being.
The origin which we know His being only. We are aware that "He" is and He is not an imaginary being. But we do not have the least knowledge of His nature. All these names denote merely His being, nothing more. That is why the best expression or name for the origin of being is the term "He" and its equivalent expressions in other languages such as He (هو), (او) and so on, which not only denotes His Being, but also implies His "unknowability". Anyhow, it should be kept in mind that even known terms such as Khuda, Allah, God, Brahma, AhuraMazda, etc., are not more explicit than the term "He" and its equivalent terms.
According to these thinkers, any name or attribute that are made to refer to the origin of existence, with a view to describe Him better, not only will be alien to Him but will also result in misleading notions about the origin of beings. According to this view, the highest stage of the knowledge of the origin is to confess that "He is and He is superior to and beyond all conception that man conform".
"Oh, thou ist beyond the reach of all imagination analogy and fancy; And superior to all that has been said, and what has been heard that written about thee."
According to this view, "the knowledge of the origin", after affirming faith in the existence of the origin, extends in one direction, only that is sublimity and purity of God in its to be superior to and beyond all notions which are fabricated by human mind. Philosophers and theologians (Mutakallimun) called this doctrine "the doctrine of suspension", (Ta'til) for it holds that human understanding and intellect is incapable of attaining the least knowledge of Him, therefore suspended.
But the term suspension (Ta’til) in Shii tradition is used in another sense. In their tradition they consider suspension as the belief that the world is devoid of an intelligent creator and the term "God" is devoid of having any attributes at all.
Al-Kulayni in his book Al-Kafi, narrates from Hassan ibn Saeed:
"Abu Jaffar the second i.e. (the tenth Imam (a)) he was asked: Is it possible to say that God is "a thing". He replied, Yes. For this conception (of God) place Him beyond the two extremes: The extreme of suspension and the extreme of anthropomorphism4."
In other traditions the following words are narrated from Imam al-Sadiq (A):
"...Since the negation (of all attributes) leads to the same absurdity, that is negation of the actual existence of God; and the second direction leads to anthropomorphism5."
Shaykh al-Saduq in his book Asrar al-Tawhid, quotes the following tradition:
"'Abd al-Rahim al-Qasir said that I sent a set of questions to Abu 'Abd Allah (Imam A'ayan of which is the following:"
..."Regarding the existence of glorified Lord kindly enlighten me whether He possesses a particular form and features? God makes my thy... ransom, would you please write your view about the true faith regarding Tawhid. Then, he (Imam al-Sadiq (a)) replied, my letter through 'Abd al-Malik ibn A'ayan as follows":
"May God bless you. You have asked about the true faith regarding Tawhid and the faith of earlier religions to god. Nothing like Him and He is hearing and seeing. He is superior to all that is said about Him by the followers of the doctrine of anthropomorphism. They make Him like His creatures and attribute falsity to Allah."
May God bless you. Know that the true faith regarding Tawhid is the same that is elaborated in the Qur’an while describing the Attributes of God. Therefore, keep away from believing in absurdity and futility and anthropomorphism as well. There is neither negation nor comparison. He is eternally Existent God. God is superior to what people say about Him. Do not go beyond the Qur’an, because despite having light in your possession, you are likely to go astray6.
In a way it may be said that suspension in its first sense naturally and logically leads to the second sense as well. When existence except that, "He is". Now the question will arise automatically: who and what is the referent of the pronoun "He". We may use the pronoun "he" to indicate some person or something we know already and can be distinguished from other beings. Therefore. if we say we do not know anything about the origin except that "He is", we are using a pronoun that has no referent or in case it has referent that is imaginary hypothetical.
This type of criticism is made by many contemporary materialist thinkers on theology. Hence, if really, God exist, at least, we should have some idea about His reality in order to distinguish Him from other realities which we know that we should not confuse Him with other beings.
The basic criticism of this doctrine is as follows:
If inability of mankind regarding the knowledge of God is to this extent that he cannot know anything about God, and only can remember Him by the word "He', which means "absolute ambiguity" concerning God.
Now the question is: how can one believe His reality. It means that those great thinkers who have accepted the doctrine of suspension have fallen prey to a kind of misinterpretation. They have confused the knowledge of the essence (Marifat be Kunh) and the knowledge of the signs (Marifat be Vajh) or aspects. A thing may possess many specific signs or through which we can distinguish it from other things. In this case, if we become familiar with any of the particular signs or aspects of a thing we will be in a position to recognize it in the midst of other things without waiting to be acquainted with all its aspects that distinguish it from other being. Not only this is true about God, but also for other being as well.
For instance, you have two children and you can easily distinguish them from each other. But are you in a position to claim that you are acquainted with all of their physical and psychological features?
Hence, as for the possibility of all embracing comprehensive knowledge about God, it may be confessed that man's ability to acquire such a knowledge is not possible and his mind has to give up all efforts to know God comprehensively. As a poet says:
"Intellect can know the Essence of His;
If a straw reaches the bottom of an ocean"
But as far as the comprehension of God's sign is concerns in some way or other, that is, that kind of knowledge which distinguishes His Being with other than Him. One should have this kind of knowledge of God. As a matter of principle without the least knowledge of this kind it would be absurd to talk about God.
Therefore, impossibility of a comprehensive knowledge of the Essence of God does not necessarily mean that we are unable to gain any kind of knowledge of God. But, there is a middle position between the absolute comprehensive knowledge of God and absolute incomprehensibility of such a knowledge. There are rather many such middle positions ranging from relative knowledge up to knowledge of one or more dimensions of the Absolute Being.
If we probe deeper into problem of knowing God, its value and limitations, it leads us to the realization that even man's knowledge of this very corporeal world also is not absolute, that is, we cannot know the essence of an object. Contemporary scientific knowledge also is concerned with phenomena only and not the essences and substance of an object.
So far as the knowledge of the origin of things is concerned, we find the same limitations of knowledge, with the difference that we realize that every object of nature possesses essence which is the bearer and receptacle of the appearances. But our knowledge of God and His reflection with phenomena leads us to this conclusion that He is Doer of all and the Creator of all objects and is not the bearer or receptacle of them.
Therefore, an intelligent man while contemplating over the Essence of God, may confess his inability sincerely by saying:
I do not know what are Thou; whatsoever is Thine Being.
But, when the same man looks at the mirror (of nature) that reflects the images and signs of God, and becomes aware of certain distinctive signs of God, naturally he will be in a position to have some kind of knowledge of God. Anyhow, this kind of knowledge is far better than absolute ignorance about God. This possibility enables him to talk with certainty about His being.
Hence, it should be concluded that whoever believes in the existence of God, automatically apprehends Him through at least, one of His Attributes in accordance with the way through which he pursues God. This knowledge of God will be associated with qualities of God as, the Origin, Creator, Sustainer, Controller, and the Necessary Being etc.
Anthropomorphism is an approach exactly opposed to the doctrine of suspension. In this theory God is made to be like other being in term of their shapes and forms, and difference of God with other beings is regarded as being of the type at the level of which one being has with any other being.
In different religious texts we come across various interpretations which indicate their anthropomorphistic approaches7.
The most fundamental criticism of anthropomorphism is that it is deceptive, for, in this approach such attributes are spoken with regard to God which are incompatible with His Being source (of all beings) and a Necessary Being, for example, it is said8:
"He is a great spirit in the body of this world."
if "He" is a spirit in the body of this world, how is He the source of the existence of this world which is His body?
Was this soul body or had some other body before it created this body (world)?
If this soul was bodyless, then it should not have needed any body. In this case, the world which He has brought into existence should be His creation and not His body or form. If he was in some other form, then whether He was the source of that from or not, and so on.
Generally, if the source of this world is the same Infinite existence, then it is wrong to consider for Him, shape form, etc., for, these things are indications of limits and finitudes, whereas the infinite cannot have limitations or finitude.
The correct position, we may state thus: neither suspension, nor anthropomorphism. Man does not have comprehensive and all-embracing knowledge of the source of being; but through His peculiar signs which man comes across in His creations, he may gain some valuable, though, relative knowledge of God. However, any instance of such knowledge will not be a full or absolute knowledge.
He (of course) possesses all positive aspects which are reflected in such cases of awareness. But, at the same time, He is free from all those limiting negative aspects of relative awareness which accompany the positive aspects.
Accordingly, the best names and attributes are inadequate to express the infinite character of His being. So, we can use the best names and attribute only with the condition that we have already purified it from their negative and limiting aspects. Otherwise, it will give us an incorrect and finite picture from God which may not be in conformity with "His reality." It is from this stand point that we say:
God is higher than any name or attribute. He cannot be described and the highest degree of knowledge of Him is to consider Him higher than any knowledge.
...the perfection of believing in His oneness is to regard Him pure, and the perfection of His purity is to deny Him attributes...9
Therefore, according to this motto "His are the most beautiful names." So, we should beware not to be a deviate
وَلِلَّهِ الأَسماءُ الحُسنىٰ فَادعوهُ بِها ۖ وَذَرُوا الَّذينَ يُلحِدونَ في أَسمائِهِ ۚ سَيُجزَونَ ما كانوا يَعمَلونَ
“To Allah belong the Best Names, so supplicate Him by them, and abandon those who commit sacrilege in His names. Soon they shall be requited for what they used to do.” (7: 180)
Here, it is the matter of best names; this name or that name. So, it is meaningless to debate over it
قُلِ ادعُوا اللَّهَ أَوِ ادعُوا الرَّحمٰنَ ۖ أَيًّا ما تَدعوا فَلَهُ الأَسماءُ الحُسنىٰ
“Say: call upon Allah or call upon the beneficent God; whichever you call upon, He has the best names...” (17: 110)
Accordingly, the main point is to avoid any name or attribute to God which has a negative impression. And it should also not be inconsistent with His absolute and infinite perfection. For this reason, one should be careful in using words while describing His acts, and attributes. Lest His greatness is affected any sort of ambiguity and clouds His absoluteness and infinitude.
When we say God is seeing and He sees our acts, indeed we use the word 'seeing' with its very same meaning but with a broad sense than what we mean in ordinary usage.
When you say: Ahmed saw your act, you mean he cast a glance on your action. That is, a picture of your action is sketched in his eyes. This picture was transferred to the center of the faculty of vision via nerves, and Ahmed in this way acquired the picture of your act and got awareness.
Now, suppose Ahmed to be blind. Immediately you may ask: if Ahmed is blind, how did he see your act? Here you may change your words and say: I am wrong. But if medical efforts bear fruit and forge electrical eyes for blinds to enable them to receive visional waves and transfer them to the center of the factuality of vision without passing from the eyes. In that case, could there remain any doubt about the answer of the following question'!
"Ahmed is blind. How did he see your act?"
Will you give up your claim and say that I was in mistake? Never, for, you may reply to the objector that your objection is true but before the invention of the electrical eyes, and not now. For, "seeing" is not confined only to the natural eyes. So, even, if someone is blind, in principle he is not blind for, he can see by means of electrical eyes.
Accordingly, with the invention of the electrical eyes one of our limitations which is about "seeing" was removed. That is, the limitation of having only the natural eyes. By the invention of those electrical eyes one who has no eyes or shuts his eyes can still be able to see around.
If this analytic outlook is broadened, we will come to see that many of such limitations which appear in our mind with the word "seeing", either they do not interfere in the mechanism of "seeing", or in case they interfere, they do not concern the basic issue of seeing which we emphasized on.
The basic point regarding the notion of "seeing" is that it may provide us reliable and direct awareness which cannot be achieved through other channels. That is why sometimes the word "seeing" and its derivations are used in the sense of awareness for example, we say:
"What a young man sees in a mirror.
An old man can see the same in a mud brick."
A young man can see in the mirror by the help of his eyes. But by what means the old man can see in a mud brick? The reply is that, he can see by the deep vision of wisdom and experience not by means of eyes. This is applicable in the case of "listening", "smelling", "touching". The main point in all these cases is that we achieve "clear awareness". But can I see the voice of lion in the forest? The reply is negative. Here I have to say I hear the voice of lion. Why? for, the acquisition of the voice is possible only through the sense of hearing and not the sense of seeing. Accordingly, the senses of hearing and seeing are related to the notion of acquisition. Acquisition by means of seeing or hearing.
It becomes clear that there is a wider principle for the notion of "seeing". Firstly, we presented various terms for the notion of "acquisition" in order to find out that their varieties are related to the variety of physical organs that is, different senses. Later on, we extended it in order to find out artificial substitutes and we applied the same words. But this extension brought in its wake further extension that is:
The certain, clear and direct knowledge of facts through the eyes is called "seeing" and the certain, clear, and factual awareness through the ears is called "hearing". These are called so independently of the fact whether they are gained by means of the related organs or by other means.
In the light of such meanings we say: God sees, God is seeing, God hears, God is hearing and so on.
Therefore, God is seeing means that He is aware of what we perceive through the sense of seeing. God is hearing means, He is aware of what we acquire through the sense of hearing.
As in the following sentences;
God is kind, God loves, God does not love, God gets angry, God desires, God does not like etc. words are to be used in their proper sense but ignoring those limitations which usually come in our minds while using them. That is why "neither suspension, nor anthropomorphism" is accepted in theology from Islamic and Qur'anic point of view.
. هُوَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۖ عَالِمُ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ ۖ هُوَ الرَّحْمَٰنُ الرَّحِيمُ هُوَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْمَلِكُ الْقُدُّوسُ السَّلَامُ الْمُؤْمِنُ الْمُهَيْمِنُ الْعَزِيزُ الْجَبَّارُ الْمُتَكَبِّرُ ۚ سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ هُوَ اللَّهُ الْخَالِقُ الْبَارِئُ الْمُصَوِّرُ ۖ لَهُ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ ۚ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ
“He is Allah besides whom there is no god; the Knower of the unseen and the seen; He is the beneficent, the Merciful. He is Allah, besides whom there is no god; the King, the Holy, the Giver of peace, the Granter of security, Guardian over all, the Mighty, the Supreme, the Possessor of every greatness; Glory be to Allah from what they set up (with Him), He is Allah the Creator, the Maker; the Fashioner, His are the most excellent names; whatever is in the heavens and the earth declares His glory: and He is the Mighty, the Wise.” (59: 22-24)
The main names and the Attributes of God in the Qur'an are the same which have come in this verse ( لَهُ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ ) “His are the most excellent names”. Therefore, if you contemplate over any goodness and perfect manifestation, the highest degree of them is for God.
Take for instance: Powerfulness and efficiency are perfections and God is efficient and powerful who possesses the highest power.
إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
“Surely Allah has power over all things.” (29: 20)
Knowledge is also perfection, and God is the knower at the highest level. He knows the unseen and the seen and He knows all things.
إِنَّ اللَّهَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ
"...Surely Allah knows all things." (9: 115)
عَالِمُ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ الْكَبِيرُ الْمُتَعَالِ
"The knower or the unseen and the seen..." (13 :9)
Wisdom is also perfection, God is the all wise.
وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ
"... and Allah is Knowing, Wise." (60: 10)
Kindness to others is also perfection, God is the Beneficent, the Merciful at the highest level.
“…He is the most Merciful of the merciful ones." (12: 64)
So, you are free to call upon God with any excellent name.
قُلِ ادْعُوا اللَّهَ أَوِ ادْعُوا الرَّحْمَٰنَ ۖ أَيًّا مَا تَدْعُوا فَلَهُ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ
'Say: call upon Alliin or call upon, the beneficent God; whichever you call upon, He has the best names; ..." (17: 110)
وَلِلَّهِ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ فَادْعُوهُ بِهَا ۖ وَذَرُوا الَّذِينَ يُلْحِدُونَ فِي أَسْمَائِهِ ۚ سَيُجْزَوْنَ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
“And Allah's are the best names, therefore, Call on Him thereby, and leave alone those who violate the sanctity of His names; they shall be recompensed for what they did.” (7: 180)
God possesses every perfection at highest level, therefore, He is free from any kind of shortcoming impoverishments or needs. Some verses of the Qur'an which came in praise of Allah emphasized His purity and perfection.
The Qur’an considers God free from impoverishments and neediness, and emphasized on His un-needingness as an important principle in theology, in the light of which one can recognize certain intellectual and ideological deviations concerning the notion of God.
قَالُوا اتَّخَذَ اللَّهُ وَلَدًا ۗ سُبْحَانَهُ ۖ هُوَ الْغَنِيُّ ۖ لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ إِنْ عِنْدَكُمْ مِنْ سُلْطَانٍ بِهَٰذَا ۚ أَتَقُولُونَ عَلَى اللَّهِ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
“They say: Allah has taken a son (to Himself)! Glory be to Him; He is the self-sufficient; His is what is in the heavens and what is in the earth; you have no authority for this; do you say against Allah what you do not know.” (10 :68)
Followers of many of the religions such as: Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Hindus, Polytheists, etc., and say Him to have child or children. The Qur’an brings up this matter in two forms and refutes both cases. The first from is natural son and the second is adopted son.
بَدِيعُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ أَنَّىٰ يَكُونُ لَهُ وَلَدٌ وَلَمْ تَكُنْ لَهُ صَاحِبَةٌ ۖ وَخَلَقَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ ۖ وَهُوَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ ذَٰلِكُمُ اللَّهُ رَبُّكُمْ ۖ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۖ خَالِقُ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ فَاعْبُدُوهُ ۚ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَكِيلٌ
“And the make the jinn and associates with Allah, while He created them, and they falsely attribute to Him sons and daughters without knowledge; glory be to Him, and highly exalted is He above what they ascribe (for Him). Wonderful originator of the heavens and the earth! How could He have a son when He has no consort, and lie (Himself) created everything, and He is the knower of all things.” (6: 101,102)
These verses and some other verses of the Qur’an negate such father-son relationship in its ordinary sense; that is, the relation of a really born son with God is inconsistent with the exalted position of God who says that the emergence of all beings from God is to be considered as having the relation of a creator and creature not in the form of begetting.
In certain ancient religious beliefs, the emergence of the world from the origins of being was considered to be in the nature of birth or detachment from the body of creator. The author of the book "The Hindu conception of the Deity" says:
"It seems that the oldest theological theory about God stemmed from the efforts to find answer to the following question:
Where from has emerged this world?
That is why the Upanishads are full of theories about the creation such that each of them believed that the first cause is creator of this world and then attempted to prove why and how it occurred:
There is an old theory in the Brihadaranyaka which says that: "The world in the beginning was only a self (At man) in the form of a person (purusha); when he looked at his around, there was nothing except himself ... he wished to have a mate. Actually, he was as large as a man and woman who are in their embracement. He divided himself into two parts: one, the husband (pati) and the other, wife (patni). These two gave birth to a man."
Such rough analogy in which God has considered to be like man and creation in the form of birth, that is. similar to the reproduction of the animate beings, is seemingly one of the oldest doctrines about the creation which has been left for us by the Upanishad.10
Catholic Christianity considers the notion of birth as being higher than the notion of "creation" and they curse those people who believe that the son of God is created:
"...We have faith in one father God. Omnipotent creator of all the seen and the unseen. And in the one God, Jesus, the son of God, born from a father, the unique son who was begotten from the essence of father, God from God. Light from light, the real God from the real God, who is born, not created, from the essence identical with father's, by Him all come to existence i.e. whatsoever is in the heaven and in the earth. He descended and manifested for to save we human beings. He became man, he suffered and on the third day got up and ascended to the heaven. He will come to judge the alive and the dead, and we believe in Holy spirit and catholic churches, and curse to those people who say once upon a time Jesus did not exist, or believe that He was nothing before He come into existence, or that he came into existence from nothing, and curse to those who hold that He is from other essence, or the son of God was created so He, is changeable ...
(A part of the official latter of Christianity which was approved in the second Nicaean council, June, 325 AD)11.
In Hindu religion, not only "the birth of world from God" was brought up, but the "birth of God himself has been mentioned. "God encounters all diameters of the heaven, He is born from eternity, He is inside the womb, He has been born and will be born"...12.
Such interpretation can be justified on the philosophical grounds and Hindu world outlook, which sometime stretch up to the monism. But the acceptance of such interpretations and justifications, in the case of being true, are not at the level of the common people. that is, these are beyond the intellectual capacity of not only masses but also of higher ranking people. Therefore, when theology in general calls upon the people towards Him, the Qur’an calls upon in a comprehensive and general form as follows:
قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ اللَّهُ الصَّمَدُ لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ
“Say: lie, Allah, is one. Allah is lie on whom all depend. lie begets not, nor is He begotten. And none is like Him.” (112)
With reference to what we related from the Upanishad, one can easily understand why in this verse, the Qur'an talks about the "begets not" and "nor was begotten" of God.
The Qur'an considers all these ideas as unfounded and unfair and says that: those people who consider the servants of God who are His creature as a part of God separated from Him, are openly following the path of blasphemy.
وَجَعَلُوا لَهُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ جُزْءًا ۚ إِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ لَكَفُورٌ مُبِينٌ
“And they assign to Him a part of His servants; man, to be sure, is clearly ungrateful.” (43: 15)
وَقَالَمُوسَىٰ إِنْ تَكْفُرُوا أَنْتُمْ وَمَنْ فِي الْأَرْضِ جَمِيعًا فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ لَغَنِيٌّ حَمِيدٌ
“And Musa said: if you are ungrateful, you and those on the earth all together, most surely Allah is self-sufficient, praised;” (14: 8)
Man, regarding the principle of God's un-neediness should know that He needs neither our faith, or worship or obedience. If He seeks our faith, worship and obedience in fact it is for our own sake not for His.
If the whole universe turns infidel and non-believing, His glory cannot be stained.
Since the time the Islamic movement reached a stage of its completion it has become necessary for the Muslims to contribute from their own lives and properties to safeguard Islam. And whenever if becomes inevitable, they ought to spend their saving, and sacrifice their lives in the cause of Allah. In this regard, the infidels and 'hypocrites' began murmuring that it means Mohammad's God is poor and needs our financial support. Otherwise, He could have supplied His Prophet (s) directly:
لَقَدْ سَمِعَ اللَّهُ قَوْلَ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ فَقِيرٌ وَنَحْنُ أَغْنِيَاءُ ۘ سَنَكْتُبُ مَا قَالُوا وَقَتْلَهُمُ الْأَنْبِيَاءَ بِغَيْرِ حَقٍّ وَنَقُولُ ذُوقُوا عَذَابَ الْحَرِيقِ
“Allah has certainly heard the remark of those who said, ‘Allah is poor and we are rich.’ We will record what they have said, and their killing of the prophets unjustly,1 and We shall say, ‘Taste the punishment of the burning.” (3: 181)
This verse clearly states that this said remark belongs to the Jews because, their great crime of murdering the Prophets has been referred to in other verses of the Qur'an also which reminiscent their past as well.
In the following verse also, this point has been raised in the context of Jews:
وَقَالَتِ الْيَهُودُ يَدُ اللَّهِ مَغْلُولَةٌ ۚ غُلَّتْ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَلُعِنُوا بِمَا قَالُوا ۘ بَلْ يَدَاهُ مَبْسُوطَتَانِ يُنْفِقُ كَيْفَ يَشَاءُ
“And Jews say: the hand of Allah is tied up! their hands shall be shackled and they shall be cursed for what they say. Nat, both His hands are spread out, He expends as He pleases،...” (5: 64)
Through such poisoning, they attempted to shake the financial support of the people to the Islamic movement, and thereby, to slow down the amazingly fast speed of the expansion of Islam. The Qur'an reminded the Muslims that the God they worshipped needs none of wealth. If He asks you to spend your wealth in the path of Truth, it is for your honour, and for stalling any danger of your humiliation and annihilation.
وَأَنْفِقُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَلَا تُلْقُوا بِأَيْدِيكُمْ إِلَى التَّهْلُكَةِ ۛ وَأَحْسِنُوا ۛ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
“And spend in the way of Allah and cast not yourselves to perdition with your own hands, and do good (to others); surely Allah loves the doers of good.” (2: 195)
If one refuses to obey divine demands and refrains from spending in the path of God, one simply betrays one's own self, as God needs no part of anyone's wealth.
هَا أَنْتُمْ هَٰؤُلَاءِ تُدْعَوْنَ لِتُنْفِقُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ فَمِنْكُمْ مَنْ يَبْخَلُ ۖ وَمَنْ يَبْخَلْ فَإِنَّمَا يَبْخَلُ عَنْ نَفْسِهِ ۚ وَاللَّهُ الْغَنِيُّ وَأَنْتُمُ الْفُقَرَاءُ ۚ وَإِنْ تَتَوَلَّوْا يَسْتَبْدِلْ قَوْمًا غَيْرَكُمْ ثُمَّ لَا يَكُونُوا أَمْثَالَكُمْ
“Behold! you are those who are called upon to spend in Allah’s way, but among you are those who are niggardly, and whoever is niggardly against his own soul; and Allah is self-sufficient and you have need (of Him), and if you turn back He will bring in your place another people, then they will not be like you.” (47: 38)
The general view of the idolaters in matters of sacrifice pertained to their offering of the most delicious victuals to the gods, and thereby to win their pleasure and favour. Sometimes with the same aim they sacrificed animals and handed over their carcasses to the temple-Keepers, hoping that they would feed them to the gods. But the Qur'an calls upon the people to worship a God who is unending and is above the (usual) need of dress or food. So, what for is sacrifice in Islam? The Qur'an answers to this question thus:
وَالْبُدْنَ جَعَلْنَاهَا لَكُمْ مِنْ شَعَائِرِ اللَّهِ لَكُمْ فِيهَا خَيْرٌ ۖ فَاذْكُرُوا اسْمَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهَا صَوَافَّ ۖ فَإِذَا وَجَبَتْ جُنُوبُهَا فَكُلُوا مِنْهَا وَأَطْعِمُوا الْقَانِعَ وَالْمُعْتَرَّ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ سَخَّرْنَاهَا لَكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ لَنْ يَنَالَ اللَّهَ لُحُومُهَا وَلَا دِمَاؤُهَا وَلَٰكِنْ يَنَالُهُ التَّقْوَىٰ مِنْكُمْ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ سَخَّرَهَا لَكُمْ لِتُكَبِّرُوا اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَاكُمْ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
We have appointed for you the [sacrificial] camels as one of Allah’s sacraments. There is good for you in them. So, mention the Name of Allah over them as they stand. And when they have fallen on their flanks, eat from them, and feed the self-contained needy and the mendicant. Thus, have We disposed them for your benefit so that you may give thanks.
It is not their flesh or their blood that reaches Allah. Rather it is your God wariness that reaches Him. Thus, has He disposed them for your benefit so that you may magnify Allah for His guiding you. And give good news to the virtuous. (22: 36, 37)
The command for fighting holy wars and sacrificing of lives is not because God is in need of our support or cannot dispense Truth and Justice without our fighting.
Nay, He is Omnipotent and is free from any kind of weakness, inability and need. If He asked us to wage holy war against oppression, wickedness and whatever is bad, it is because in the process of such a struggle we may improve ourselves and achieve the highest human perfections.
وَمَنْ جَاهَدَ فَإِنَّمَا يُجَاهِدُ لِنَفْسِهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَغَنِيٌّ عَنِ الْعَالَمِينَ
"And whoever strives hard, he strives only for his own soul; most surely Allah is self-sufficient, above (need of) the world." (29: 6)
In brief, it is you who need God, and He is above any need of us.
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ أَنْتُمُ الْفُقَرَاءُ إِلَى اللَّهِ ۖ وَاللَّهُ هُوَ الْغَنِيُّ الْحَمِيدُ
'O men! you are they who stand in need or Allah, and Allah is He who is the self-sufficient, the praised one." (35: 15)
Being free from "poverty and need", God must be beyond Time and Space, that is, He is neither contained in Time nor Place. He is but beyond Time of Place. For, whatever is contained in place stands in need of it, and whatever is contained in time, should consider to be a being which not only contained in a special condition in particular time, otherwise, if could have not been contained in that particular time but, it could exist for ever in this case, if could have not been a chronological being to be contained within the framework of time and its being to be depended to a particular condition of time.
When we say God is beyond being contained in Time and Place, it implies that Place---Earth, Heaven or the Empyrean region---has no sense for Him. He was there before the creation of all things, therefore, how is it possible to call these creations to be His space, and quarters? Despite all this, in view of most of the people there is a special relationship between God and heaven. They seek God in heaven. At the time of prayer and supplication, they fix their eyes and raise their hands towards the heaven, as if God were in the Heaven. Even non-believers consider His place in the heaven.
The Qur'an narrates the story of Pharaoh who challenged the prophet Musa (s) and says.
وَقَالَ فِرْعَوْنُ يَا أَيُّهَا الْمَلَأُ مَا عَلِمْتُ لَكُمْ مِنْ إِلَٰهٍ غَيْرِي فَأَوْقِدْ لِي يَا هَامَانُ عَلَى الطِّينِ فَاجْعَلْ لِي صَرْحًا لَعَلِّي أَطَّلِعُ إِلَىٰ إِلَٰهِ مُوسَىٰ وَإِنِّي لَأَظُنُّهُ مِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَ
"And Pharaoh said: O Chief! I do not know of any god for you besides myself; Therefore, kindle a fire for me, O Haman, for brick, then prepare for me a lofty building so that I may obtain knowledge of Musa's God, and most surely I think him to be of the liars." (28: 38)
Pharaoh thought, God is in the heaven, so to confirm whether the Prophet Musa's preaching was true or false and also to confirm if the same God whose messenger, Musa, claimed to be existed there or not, he should try to reach the heaven. But how to go up to the heaven? The only way out that Pharaoh's imagination hit upon was to order the construction of a very high palace so that from the roof top of that he could look at the skies. He hoped to make inroads into the heaven from a palace taller than the pyramids and the sun temples of Egypt.
وَقَالَ فِرْعَوْنُ يَا هَامَانُ ابْنِ لِي صَرْحًا لَعَلِّي أَبْلُغُ الْأَسْبَابَ أَسْبَابَ السَّمَاوَاتِ فَأَطَّلِعَ إِلَىٰ إِلَٰهِ مُوسَىٰ وَإِنِّي لَأَظُنُّهُ كَاذِبًا
'And Pharaoh said: O Hamman! build for me a tower that I may attain the means of access, the means or access to the heavens, then reach the God of Musa, and I surely think him to be a liar…" (40: 36, 37)
The basic teachings of Hinduism are based upon pantheism, according to which heaven, and the earth, high and low, men and the world, all indicate (unity in multiplicity and multiplicity in unity). Hinduism does not conceive the world separate from God in the form of the Creator and the creature. Despite this, we come across in the Upanishads, which form a part of the revealed scripture of Hinduism, certain passages which describe the heaven as the world of Brahma the golden apartment of divinity etc., and it is said that the human soul after being purified from all impurities and attain perfection reaches the heaven and unites with Brahma or rather becomes Brahma.
3 - "Verily the seat of the self is the heart... verily who gradually comes to this realization ascends to the celestial world."
4 - "Now this luminous and calm self that leaves the body hurriedly and attains sublime life; thus, it appears its real form. This is what is called the self, it is eternal fearless. It is Brahma."
5 - "Verily there are three Sat-ti-yam. Syllables Sat" stands for being, that is eternal; "ti" means mortal; "yam" combines and reconciles both of them, that is why it is called yam day by day, verily one who realizes this, reaches the celestial world13
2 - "...All vices are turned away from there, for the world of Brahma is free from all evil14
3 - "But only those persons will have access to the world of Brahma who have lived the pious life of a seeker of religious sciences; only those will reach the world of Brahma. Those will enjoy in all the worlds infinite freedom (will enjoy absolute liberation)15."
"...Verily there are two livers in the world of Brahma on the third heaven and those are Aya, Nya, there is a lake named Airamad'ya from where bless and ecstasy gushes out; it is here that there is a fig tree named Samasavana which bears figs; it is here that there is a fort named Aparjitah; and there is the Golden apartment of divinity."
"But only those who lived the pious life of a seeker of religious science can find these two rivers (Aya, Nya). Only these can possess the world of Brahma. They enjoy infinite freedom in all the world16."
In the Avesta also there are frequent references to the celestial world (Jahan-e-Minawi). We find certain characteristics of celestial world in the Avesta which are described by the phrases such as the celestial world is the rest house of God and his chosen angels.
"O, Ahura I ask thee, tell me:
“Whether I who purifies virtuous people from sin and guide them to the right path, would be able with the permission of the lord of celestial world to give the people the good tidings that they would be admitted to the rest house where being like thee, O' Mazda, with Urdibehish and Bahman is in deep slumber17?”
The celestial world is a world opposed to the corporeal world.
“O’ Mazda Ahura! bestow upon me with the blessing of Urdibehish that liberates virtuous and good people, welfare in the two worlds, corporeal and celestial; I that with good character is approaching thine18.”
The celestial world is the world of Ahura Mazda that is made to reward those who are virtuous.
“O' Mazda at the time when the sinners and the worshipers of evil would be punished, ask Bahman that he opens the doors of the eternal celestial world for those who have striven to eradicate falsehood and evil and sought for the victory of truth and good19.”
The celestial world is the same world that is named in Persian after Asman20, the supervising spirit of the celestial world.
“I praise the bright Asman (heaven), a place better suited for virtuous (Behisht), the place that showers felicity; I praise that Asman21."
The decrees of AhuraMazda are heavenly, that is they are issued from Asman;
“If O' Izad (God), thou do not abstain from helping and giving refuge to us, and with the help of Urdibehish, we are benefited by the governance and power of the celestial sphere, I can stand up along with all of my followers that listen to that celestial command and can fight against all those who are unbelievers and humiliate thine law, and can make effort to eliminate them22.”
The heaven sustains the earth:
"O' Ahura! I asked thee, tell me who is that sustaines the heavens at their place that day do not fall down." (23,24)
This sustenance is through the assistance of Farvahrs, the mighty and the victorious.
“AhuraMazda addressing septiman Zardusht, says:
O’ Septiman! verily, I make you aware of the splendor and power and assistance and support of the powerful victorious and virtuous Farvahrs, and tell thee how the victorious and virtuous Foroheres rush to assistance and support me."
"O'! Zardusht It is because of their power and splendor that I sustain the heavens high so that from their height they do fall down and engulf the earth and all that surrender it. The heavens that is hoisted by the celestial spirits and which is stable and spread from horizon to horizon, is like bright and Malden metal that visible at the third sphere over the earth. The heaven that like a fabric woven with stars contains in it Mazda, Mehr, Shan and Sepandarmedh. The heaven whose beginning and end is not perishable23."
In Old Testament (the Torah) also we come across the similar interpretations of heavens being the seat of God as such:
"Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace. the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.
The Lord descended to the top of mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain, So, Moses went up and the Lord said to him, "Go down and warn the people so, they do not force their way through to see the Lord and many of them perish. Even the priests, who approach the Lord must consecrate themselves, or the Lord will break out against them.
Moses said to the Lord, "the people cannot come up Mount Sinai, because you yourself warned us, put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy."
The Lord replied, "Go down and bring Aaron up with you. But the priests and the people must not force their way through to come up to the Lord, or he will break out against them24."
"Then he said to Moses, "come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab and Abilu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. You are to worship at a distance, but Moses alone is to approach the Lord; the others must not come near. And the people may not come up with him25."
"Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abilu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the shy itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.
The Lord said to Moses, "come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the Law and Commands I have written for their instruction26."
It is said in many occasions that whenever God had some work, He used to come down and then ascend.
"Then the Lord said, "the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me, if not, I will know.
The men turned away and went towards Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord then Abraham approached him and said: "will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked27."
Then after doing that work He went up.
"When he had finished speaking with Abraham God went up from him28."
"Then God went up from him (Jacob) at the place where he had talked with him29."
because His seat is in the heavens:
Then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act; deal with each man awarding to all he does, since you know his heart (for you alone know the hearts of all men)30.
"Go up to the high heaven? The only way out that Firon's imagination hit upon was to order the construction of a very high palace so that from the roof top of that he could look at the skies. He hoped to make inroads into the heaven from a palace taller than the pyramids and the sun temples of Egypt."
"And Pharaoh said: O Hamman! build for me a tower that I may attain the means of access, the means of access to the heavens, then reach the God of Musa, and I surely think him to be a liar...31"
God in the Bible is repeatedly called "your father who is in the heaven."
"You have heard that it was said, 'love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven ... Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect32."
"Be careful not to do your "acts of righteousness" before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven ... This, then, is how you should pray: ... our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts...33
In the Bible too "heaven" is the kingdom of God and the place to which good people shall finally go.
"Blessed are those who are presented because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven34."
In the Qur’an God has been addressed as "One who is in the heaven".
أَأَمِنْتُمْ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاءِ أَنْ يَخْسِفَ بِكُمُ الْأَرْضَ فَإِذَا هِيَ تَمُورُ أَمْ أَمِنْتُمْ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاءِ أَنْ يُرْسِلَ عَلَيْكُمْ حَاصِبًا ۖ فَسَتَعْلَمُونَ كَيْفَ نَذِيرِ
Are you secure that He who is in the sky will not make the earth swallow you while it quakes? Are you secure that He who is in the sky will not unleash upon you a rain of stones? Soon you will know how My warning has been! (67: 16, 17)
We come across in the Qur’an some other issues that have a close relationship with this issue.
The Qur'an says that God "sends the Message below" (from heaven). So, the Wahi (divine Message) came down from above:
…هُوَ الَّذِي أَنْزَلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَاب
"It is He who has send the Book down to you" (3: 7)
Where from does the Message come down? From the heaven. That is why the devils hide themselves in the heaven in order to eaves drop something from the Message.
وَأَنَّا لَمَسْنَا السَّمَاءَ فَوَجَدْنَاهَا مُلِئَتْ حَرَسًا شَدِيدًا وَشُهُبًا وَأَنَّا كُنَّا نَقْعُدُ مِنْهَا مَقَاعِدَ لِلسَّمْعِ ۖ فَمَنْ يَسْتَمِعِ الْآنَ يَجِدْ لَهُ شِهَابًا رَصَدًا
“Indeed, We made for the heaven and found it full of mighty sentries and flames. We used to sit in its positions to eavesdrop, but anyone listening now finds a flame waiting for him.” (72: 8, 9)
إِنَّا زَيَّنَّا السَّمَاءَ الدُّنْيَا بِزِينَةٍ الْكَوَاكِبِ وَحِفْظًا مِنْ كُلِّ شَيْطَانٍ مَارِدٍ لَا يَسَّمَّعُونَ إِلَى الْمَلَإِ الْأَعْلَىٰ وَيُقْذَفُونَ مِنْ كُلِّ جَانِبٍ دُحُورًا ۖ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ وَاصِبٌ إِلَّا مَنْ خَطِفَ الْخَطْفَةَ فَأَتْبَعَهُ شِهَابٌ ثَاقِبٌ
"Surely, we have adorned the nearest heaven with an adornment, the stars35, and (there is) a safeguard against every riotous Shaitan. They cannot listen to the exalted assembly and they are thrown at from every side, being driven off, and for them is a perpetual chastisement, except him who snatches off but once, them there followers him a brightly shining flame." (37: 6-10)
Angels and the prophets 'ascend' to God:
سَأَلَ سَائِلٌ بِعَذَابٍ وَاقِعٍ لِلْكَافِرِينَ لَيْسَ لَهُ دَافِعٌ مِنَ اللَّهِ ذِي الْمَعَارِجِ تَعْرُجُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ وَالرُّوحُ إِلَيْهِ فِي يَوْمٍ كَانَ مِقْدَارُهُ خَمْسِينَ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ
“One demanding, demanded the chastisement which must be fall, the unbelievers there is none to avert it. From Allah, the Lord of the ways of Ascent. To Him, ascend the angles and the spirit in a day the measure of which is fifty thousand years.” (70: 1-4)
مَا كَذَبَ الْفُؤَادُ مَا رَأَىٰ أَفَتُمَارُونَهُ عَلَىٰ مَا يَرَىٰ وَلَقَدْ رَآهُ نَزْلَةً أُخْرَىٰ عِنْدَ سِدْرَةِ الْمُنْتَهَىٰ عِنْدَهَا جَنَّةُ الْمَأْوَىٰ إِذْ يَغْشَى السِّدْرَةَ مَا يَغْشَىٰ مَا زَاغَ الْبَصَرُ وَمَا طَغَىٰ لَقَدْ رَأَىٰ مِنْ آيَاتِ رَبِّهِ الْكُبْرَىٰ
“The heart was not untrue in (making him see) what he saw. What! do you then dispute with him as to what he saw? And certainly, he saw Him in another descend, At the farthest36 Lote tree; near which is the garden, covered the Lote-tree; the eye did not turn aside, nor did it exceed the limit. Certainly, he saw of the greatest sign of his Lord.” (53: 11-18)
According to the traditions the Ascension of the Prophet is mostly termed as a kind of heaven-walk.
The Qur'an repeatedly reminds us of the God's throne:
وَهُوَ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ
'...He is Lord of the tremendous throne.' (9: 129)
قُلْ مَنْ رَبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ السَّبْعِ وَرَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ
“Say: who is Lord of the seven Heavens, and Lord of the tremendous throne?” (23: 86)
آیتِ سجده اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ ۩
“Allah, there is no God except Him, the Lord of the tremendous throne.” (27: 26)
لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْكَرِيمِ
“... There is no God except Him, the Lord of the throne of Grace.” (23: 116)
…وَهُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ وَكَانَ عَرْشُهُ عَلَى الْمَاءِ
“And He it is who created the heavens and the earth in six days-and His throne was upon the water...” (11 :7)
إِنَّ رَبَّكُمُ اللَّهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ ثُمَّ اسْتَوَىٰ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ
“Lo! your Lord is Allah who created the heavens and the earth in six days, then He established Himself upon the throne...” (10: 3)
The verses No. 7:45, 13:20, 25:29, 20:5, 32:4, 57:4 are in this regard.
الَّذِينَ يَحْمِلُونَ الْعَرْشَ وَمَنْ حَوْلَهُ يُسَبِّحُونَ بِحَمْدِ رَبِّهِمْ
“those who bear the throne, and all who are round about it hymn the praises of their Lord ...” (40: 7)
وَالمَلَكُ عَلىٰ أَرجائِها ۚ وَيَحمِلُ عَرشَ رَبِّكَ فَوقَهُم يَومَئِذٍ ثَمانِيَةٌ
“and the angels will be all over it, and the Throne of your Lord will be borne that day by eight [angels]” (69: 17)
وَتَرَى المَلائِكَةَ حافّينَ مِن حَولِ العَرشِ
“And you (O Muhammad) will see the angels surrounding the Throne…” (39 :75)
Apart from the above verses regarding the throne of God, the term "throne" has been used in other verses also:
وَرَفَعَ أَبَوَيْهِ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ وَخَرُّوا لَهُ سُجَّدًا
“And he placed his parents on the throne and they fell down before him prostrate …” (12: 100)
إِنِّي وَجَدْتُ امْرَأَةً تَمْلِكُهُمْ وَأُوتِيَتْ مِنْ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَلَهَا عَرْشٌ عَظِيمٌ
“Lo! I found a woman ruling over them, and she hath been given (abundance) of all thing, and there is a mighty throne.” (27: 23)
In this and other similar verses as 27:28, 38, 41, 42 the term throne is used in its ordinary sense, e.g. a throne which rulers sit on and give orders to their agents who throng round, or below the throne, to act in this way to that.
Do the verses about the throne of God imply that God sits on it like the earthly monarchs, and issues orders from there, with the sole difference that His throne is very big in keeping with His greatness and importance?
In the Bible Cod's "throne" has been referred to thus: "But I tell you, do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool37.”
If we attempt a mental picture of God from the aforementioned phrase in the Bible, we see Him in the form of a very huge giant whose feet, when he sits in the heaven, rest on earth. But the question is, if a reader of the Bible reading the above quoted verses (from Mathew: 5), really thinks so, or takes metaphor or simile implying that the authority and power of God encompasses all the heavens and earth, as has been done by the Qur’an:
وَسِعَ كُرْسِيُّهُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ
“...His Throne extends over the heavens and the earth...” (2: 255)
"Kursi" (the Throne) which is another form of the same "Arsh" (the throne).
If by 'Kursi' is meant "Arsh' and by 'Kursi' the 'chair' that is placed on the throne for the ruler to sit on, with his ministers and clerks sitting or standing at its bottom and the attendants bowing near it, (the God shall look like an awesome temporal despot). Not so, this verse simply means that the entire universe is under God's rule.
Therefore, the term "Arsh' stands as a metaphor for the Absolute Sovereignty and rule of God38. The Qur’an says in 7:11,
“God's throne was on water before the creation of heavens and earth”. A throne or chair do not stand on water unless it is in the form of a boat or raft. This verse, therefore, means that earth and sky had not yet been formed and the universe was all water, and God ruled over nothing but water39. But after the creation of heavens and earth, the center of God's command shifted to the heavens from where He carries on His rule over heavens and earth.
In most of the verses of the Qur’an, about God's "Arsh' we should, for our convenience, accept this meaning of the term. But in the case of the two verses: 47: 7 and 69: 17 this sense is not directly admissible, for, we can interpret two verses as follows:
The throne of God exists in a visible state and is transportable, for on the Day of Rising it shall be drawn over the heads of the Risen.
So, some Muslims consider the “Arsh” of God as a costly throne set at the highest center point of heaven. This throne is made of the most precious matters and jewels40, and on each of its legs some text is inscribed.
There is no doubt that Muslim scholars from the very beginning have believed that such vulgar conception is inconsistent with the elevated position of god who is introduced in the Qur’an as a Being free of all needs. But, however, according to the two concerned verses, throne (Arsh) is only a symbol expressive of the infinite. So, this question still remains at its place (unanswered): What is the Arsh of God and where is it?
A certain and clear answer to the question as "What is the throne of God and where is it, is not an easy task. The clearest and the most definite answer to this question should be sought from the very 'revelation', but as we have said that we cannot acquire anything beyond this point that:
"The throne of God is a visible fact from where God rules over the world, and that it is borne by a group (of angels)."41
To expect a clear and definite answer to such questions from any source other than the 'revelations' shall be out of place. Any awareness on this matter: "What is the throne (Arsh) and where is it" is neither in the realm of empirical science, nor in the domain of speculative philosophy. Now, the empirical philosophy from many points in the realm of nature asks us to apprehend things imaginatively as the Qur’an proffers us clues to the visualization of Arsh.
Inside an atom, proton is assigned the commanding role at the center. In the solar system the sun is the center of command and the source of light, heat, gases and various waves which enable other beings/elements inside this system to fulfil their needs and so on.
If there exists such a central system in all solar systems that contain the galaxies and clouds, then the entire cosmos automatically comes under one supreme central command where all other commands eventually terminate42. For example, the brain is the supreme center of command in man, and all the secondary and tertiary commands that issue forth from the spinal cord or the heart etc. Originally emanate from brain.
This supreme center of command, assumed for the entire nature, is a concrete fact which is in the heaven as well as is transportable, having a special relation between itself and God, and that all divine command to nature flow from that center without the need to presume any space for God. Just as some people hold that soul is separate from body and is still related with body.
If we take the cosmos to be much bigger than the physical world, an argument for one supreme centre becomes automatically relevant. The great centre governing the physical world should be itself subordinate to that supreme centre. And, without attributing any metaphorical meaning to Arsh as denoting his omnipotence of degrading it to mean a rich jeweled throne on which God is sitting, we can discover in that supreme centre all the attributes of Arsh as indicated in the Qur'an.
In the Islamic mystical tradition also, we come across some interpretations of "Arsh" as being a solid fact. Qaisari in the introduction to the Sharh-he Fusus-e Qaisari says that:
Islamic traditions also m general consider "Arsh" as a concrete heavenly fact.
With respect to the earlier assumed picture of 'Arsh raising hands towards the sky while praying, or looking up while meditating on God, became easily understandable. For, the Heaven is certainly a spectacle of beauty, full of God's grace, and signs of His glory, power, wisdom and knowledge.
لَقَدْ رَأَىٰ مِنْ آيَاتِ رَبِّهِ الْكُبْرَىٰ
“Certainly he (the Prophet in Ascension) saw, of the greatest signs of his Lord.” (53: 18)
It is a place where from various divine benedictions such as water, air, useful gases, heat, light and hundreds of other useful matters descend on the earth and its inhabitants.
وَفِي السَّمَاءِ رِزْقُكُمْ وَمَا تُوعَدُونَ
“And in the heaven, is your sustenance and what you are threatened with.” (51: 22)
Therefore, concentrating on it (the heaven) and raising 1ands in prayer towards it, even without believing that God's pace lies there is helpful in its acceptance (by God).
Ascension of angles or the prophets is in the form of Ascending to the heaven towards the supreme center of command of God, not for seeing Him or meeting Him face to face, but it is actually to see His great signs that reflect His God hood.
لَقَدْ رَأَىٰ مِنْ آيَاتِ رَبِّهِ الْكُبْرَىٰ
“Certainly he (the Prophet in Ascension) saw, of the greatest signs of his Lord.” (53: 18)
Tabarsi in the interpretation of verse No. 12 of chapter No. 53 (The Star) writes as follows:
"...And Abi Al-Aliyah records: The Prophet (s) of God was asked whether he had seen god in the night of Ascension.
He replied: "I saw a brook then a curtain at its back, and behind that curtain was a refulgence. I saw nothing more. "Abathar and Abi Sa'id Khidri also say: The Prophet (s) was asked in respect of the divine words... The Heart was ... saw"…, and he answered: "I (just) saw a light."
But Shabi refers to 'Abd Allah ibn al-Haris and Ibn 'Abbas, as having said, "Muhammad (s) did see his God". Then he refers to Masruq who had narrated to him his conversation with Ayesha. He (Masruq) had asked Ayesha directly regarding this matter, Ayesha told him that his question made her hair stand on end (in terror). Masruq asked her to wait a little and recited والنجم Ayesha then said to him to pause for a while, and not to allow his thought to wander.
The Prophet (s) saw Gabriel with his real face, but whoever said that the Prophet (s) had seen God, is a liar. God the exalted says that eyes cannot encompass Him, but He may enter the eyes...45
Verily, Divine message (Wahi) may descend from the heaven to the earth, for the recipient of the message is the Prophet(s). He, after all. is an earthly being who is placed on the earth. Accordingly, whether he listens to this divine message as a voice, or sees and reads it in the form of a written text, receives the message in his heart as a spontaneous phenomenon. So, the message in this from can be lowered down from the heaven (descension), and devils to tap it clandestinely may hide themselves in the heaven.
In this way the verses of the Qur’an regarding this part can be easily understood and accepted without interpreting the notions of "descension", "heaven" and the story of the devils ambushing in heaven. So much is the interpretation of the heavenly books which are used as the divine books of revelation can be approved without requiring their interpretation.
From some verses in the Qur'an and religious debates, we draw such concepts as God is nowhere but everywhere.
وَهُوَ مَعَكُمْ أَيْنَ مَا كُنْتُمْ
“...He is with you wherever you are...” (57: 4)
A group of people relate this verse to the following impression as:
"God is everywhere." But a deeper awareness of the Qur’an will show that it is not so. There are certain phrases in the Qur’an showing that God is with the virtuous, God is with those who tolerate, and so on.
But in each one of these phrases "being God with..." is used for expression of particular meanings. In the verses 5:12, 8:13, 20:46, 47:35, 192, 16:128, 9:36, 40, 133, 194 are for expression of meaning that God is assistant of Good people, pious men, patient, and believers.
The verses 4:108, 58:7 are for the expression of this matter that God knows everything and nothing is covered for Him.
يَسْتَخْفُونَ مِنَ النَّاسِ وَلَا يَسْتَخْفُونَ مِنَ اللَّهِ وَهُوَ مَعَهُمْ إِذْ يُبَيِّتُونَ مَا لَا يَرْضَىٰ مِنَ الْقَوْلِ ۚ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ بِمَا يَعْمَلُونَ مُحِيطًا
“They hid themselves from men and do not hid themselves from Allah, and He is with them when they meditate by night words which please Him not, and Allah encompasses what they do.” (4: 108)
A deep concentration into the verse (57: 4) indicates that there are such meaning in this verse as well.
يَنْزِلُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ وَمَا يَعْرُجُ فِيهَا ۖ وَهُوَ مَعَكُمْ أَيْنَ مَا كُنْتُمْ ۚ وَاللَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ
“He it is who created the heaven and the earth in six Periods, and lie is firm in power He knows that which goes deep down into the earth and that which comes forth out of it, and that which comes down from the heaven and that which goes up into it, and lie is with you wherever you are; and Allah sees what you do.” (57 :4)
But in the history of Muslim thought we come across certain people or groups who relate these verses to other things46. The Pantheistic tradition of mysticism seeks to justify its view by citing the following verses:
وَهُوَ مَعَكُمْ أَيْنَ مَا كُنْتُمْ
“...He is with you wherever you are...” (57: 4)
وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ يَحُولُ بَيْنَ الْمَرْءِ وَقَلْبِهِ
“…And know that Allah intervenes between man and his heart.” (8: 24)
وَنَحْنُ أَقْرَبُ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ حَبْلِ الْوَرِيدِ
“...And we are nearer to him than his life-vein.” (50: 16)
فَأَيْنَمَا تُوَلُّوا فَثَمَّ وَجْهُ اللَّهِ
“...so whichever way you turn, there is the face of Allah...” (2: 115)
They claim that Qur'an too endorses their belief in the Immanence of God, and, in this way God is the sum total of all in this world, and that every object is a part of Him47. But a deeper insight into these verses, and those Preceding and following ones, reveals that not even one of these verses even remotely refers to Immanence.
In fact, the verse 57:4 aims at ensuring to the Muslims a fuller measure of God's help by saying that: "He is with you wherever you are."
The verses 8:24 and 50:16 seek to impress on man that God knows all that is overt or covert, open or secret. The verse 2:115 clarifies to Muslims the fact that the God of "Masjid ul-Aqsa" is the same as the God of Masjid ul-Haram, and if the 'Qiblah' of Muslims was shifted from Masjid ul-Aqsa to Masjid ul-Haram, it was to assert the full independence of Islam, the Prophet (s) and his heavenly scripture and to silence those who say that the Prophet (s) is offering only a re-hash of Judaism, so none of these verses endorses pantheism.
Anyhow, what the preceding discussion about God leads to is that He is higher than all that is bound to place and time, Therefore, "He" is neither in the heaven nor on the earth nor everywhere.
The verse 6:103 in this context says:
لَا تُدْرِكُهُ الْأَبْصَارُ وَهُوَ يُدْرِكُ الْأَبْصَارَ ۖ وَهُوَ اللَّطِيفُ الْخَبِيرُ
“Vision comprehends Him not, and He comprehends (all) vision; and lie is the knower of subtilties, the Aware.” (6: 103)
Allamah 'Hilli in his book Kashf al-Murad says:
"The Must-ness of God's being also implies a denial of His ever being visible."48
'Allamah further argues:
"Know that almost all the philosophers are of the view that God cannot be seen. But those who attribute God a body, believe God can be seen. Nevertheless, had these people not considered God as body, and had considered him as a Being abstract from matter, they too would not have counted his Visibleness as Possible."
"But Asharites hold views contrary to those of all philosophers about the seeability of God. They claim that though God is not a body and is abstract from matter. He can still be seen.49
Ash'ari (P.330) in his book "Maqalat" says:
"Certain schools have expressed their faith in the seeability of God in this world itself. May be, God shows himself as one among those we come across in the street. Some of them believe in the Possibility of God entering various matter.
Often, they see a virtuous handsome man and guess that God had entered his frame.
Most people who claim that one may have the vision of God right here in the world, say that even shaking hands with God, touching Him or seeing Him frequently is possible50. They further say that a person who is true of heart can meet with God in this world as also the other world. This belief has been referred to some of the followers of Misr and Kahmas.
It is also referred to the followers of Abdul Wahid bin Zaid that the seeability of God is in the same measure as one's goodness. Therefore, the better a man acts the more of God he can see.
Some other people believe that we can see God in this world in dream but not while awake.
Raqabah b.Musqala has said, "I saw God in dream declaring that he would award an exalted place to Sulayman Tihl as he had been offering his morning prayer with the same ablution (wudu) that he performed for his late evening ('Isha) prayer, for about 40 years. That is to say, he kept sleepless nights and continued prayers till morning."
There are many people who disbelieve the claim that, God can be seen in this world and assert:
"God can be seen only in the hereafter."51
Ash'ari has in the last part of the first volume of this book, summed up the ideas of "followers of traditions and sunnah" thus:
The Traditionists and Sunnis say that God can be seen on the judgement day as refulgent as the full moon (of the fourteenth), but by believers alone, and not by infidels for there shall hang a veil between God and infidels. God The great says:
كَلّا إِنَّهُم عَن رَبِّهِم يَومَئِذٍ لَمَحجوبونَ
“No indeed! They will be alienated from their Lord on that day.” (83: 15)
Musa (a) urged on God that He be seen by him right in this world. But God revealed His glory on the mountain and pulverized it to show that He cannot be seen in this world, but can be seen only in the hereafter.
This is the view that Ash'ari subscribed to. But 'Allamah Hilli wondered when God has no body according to Ash'ari himself, however, He can be seen either here or in the hereafter.
A survey of the options and beliefs of these people and their comparison with those of the non-Islamic sects, indicate that they had been more under the influence of the non-Islamic belief and thoughts than the teaching of Islam and the Qur'an. This explains the cause of their staying away from the right path.
Nevertheless, Abu al-Hassan Ash'ari's own view regarding the God's vision is not influenced by that of others because he and his followers always emphasized this Principle referring to the 'scripture' and sunnah in all Islamic sciences so that they succeed to prevent the deviated intellectual influence of outsiders.
Now the question arises: What caused them to believe in God's vision in the hereafter? It can be easily gathered from their own writings that what brought them to such a belief are certain parts of verses from the Qur'an itself.
The Qur'an repeatedly terms the Day of Judgement as a day of meeting God:
هُوَ الَّذِي يُصَلِّي عَلَيْكُمْ وَمَلَائِكَتُهُ لِيُخْرِجَكُمْ مِنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ ۚ وَكَانَ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَحِيمًا تَحِيَّتُهُمْ يَوْمَ يَلْقَوْنَهُ سَلَامٌ ۚ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ أَجْرًا كَرِيمًا
“He it is who sends His blessings on you, and (to do) His angels, that He may bring you forth out of utter darkness into the light; and He is merciful to the believers. Their salvation on the day that they meet Him shall be, peace, and He has prepared for them an honorable reward.” (33: 43,44)
There are many verses in the Qur'an that tell of the meeting of man with God on the Day of Judgement as 2: 46, 223, 249, 6: 31, 154<:9: 77, 10: 7, 11, 45, 11: 29, 13: 2, 18: 105, 110, 25: 21, 29: 5, 23, 30: 8, 32: 10, 23, 84: 6. It is the way of interpreting these verses that makes the mess. However, they do speak of meeting God. For instance, in the verse 6 of chapter 84 the Qur’an says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الْإِنْسَانُ إِنَّكَ كَادِحٌ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكَ كَدْحًا فَمُلَاقِيهِ
“O man! surely you must strive (to attain) to your Lord, a hard striving until you meet Him.” (48: 6)
Ash'ari and his group are of the v1ew that by the term "meeting" means face to face confrontation, in other words "seeing". Accordingly, Day of Judgement is the day of seeing God. Particularly, dilating on the following verses they are certain that by 'meeting' is meant, the real vision:
وُجُوهٌ يَوْمَئِذٍ نَاضِرَةٌ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهَا نَاظِرَةٌ
“(Some) faces on that day shall be bright, Looking to their Lord.” (75: 22, 23)
There is no denying the fact that if we too concentrate just on these verses, we would also think that the believers will sec God face to face on the Day of Judgement. But the Qur'an contains other verses too on the issue on 'direct vision of God', suggesting its improbability in a clear and unmistakable way52.
It is evident that to learn the Qur’anic teaching regarding this issue, in the first place these verses should be taken into consideration. In this verse such vulgar demand as "we want to see God" is put forwarded and refuted decisively.
In view of the fact that apprehension of non-empirical facts and faith in their existence always was difficult for skeptics and bad-believed people, some of the opponents of the prophets had been demanding to see God face to face to remove any doubt and disbelief (about God).
For instance, the Israelites thus urged upon Musa:
وَإِذْ قُلْتُمْ يَا مُوسَىٰ لَنْ نُؤْمِنَ لَكَ حَتَّىٰ نَرَى اللَّهَ جَهْرَةً فَأَخَذَتْكُمُ الصَّاعِقَةُ وَأَنْتُمْ تَنْظُرُونَ
“And when you said: O Musa! we will not believe in you until we see Allah manifestly so the punishment over look you while you look on.”53 (2; 55)
The Israelites were so adamant in their insistence that prophet Musa had on alternative but to take the issue to God54
وَلَمَّا جَاءَ مُوسَىٰ لِمِيقَاتِنَا وَكَلَّمَهُ رَبُّهُ قَالَ رَبِّ أَرِنِي أَنْظُرْ إِلَيْكَ ۚ قَالَ لَنْ تَرَانِي وَلَٰكِنِ انْظُرْ إِلَى الْجَبَلِ فَإِنِ اسْتَقَرَّ مَكَانَهُ فَسَوْفَ تَرَانِي ۚ فَلَمَّا تَجَلَّىٰ رَبُّهُ لِلْجَبَلِ جَعَلَهُ دَكًّا وَخَرَّ مُوسَىٰ صَعِقًا ۚ فَلَمَّا أَفَاقَ قَالَ سُبْحَانَكَ تُبْتُ إِلَيْكَ وَأَنَا أَوَّلُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ
“When Moses arrived at Our tryst and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord, show [Yourself] to me, that I may look at You!’ He said, ‘You shall not see Me. But look at the mountain: if it abides in its place, then you will see Me.’ So, when his Lord disclosed Himself to the mountain, He levelled it, and Moses1 fell down swooning. And when he recovered, he said, ‘Immaculate are You! I turn to You in penitence, and I am the first of the faithful.” (7: 143)
The Arabs also had put the same demand to the Prophet(s) of Islam so that they could believe in God.
وَقَالُوا لَنْ نُؤْمِنَ لَكَ حَتَّىٰ تَفْجُرَ لَنَا مِنَ الْأَرْضِ يَنْبُوعًا أَوْ تَكُونَ لَكَ جَنَّةٌ مِنْ نَخِيلٍ وَعِنَبٍ فَتُفَجِّرَ الْأَنْهَارَ خِلَالَهَا تَفْجِيرًا أَوْ تُسْقِطَ السَّمَاءَ كَمَا زَعَمْتَ عَلَيْنَا كِسَفًا أَوْ تَأْتِيَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةِ قَبِيلًا
“They say, ‘We will not believe you until you make a spring gush forth for us from the ground. Or until you have a garden of date palms and vines and you make streams gush through it. Or until you cause the sky to fall in fragments upon us, just as you would aver. Or until you bring Allah and the angels [right] in front of us.” (17 :90-92)
وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ لَا يَرْجُونَ لِقَاءَنَا لَوْلَا أُنْزِلَ عَلَيْنَا الْمَلَائِكَةُ أَوْ نَرَىٰ رَبَّنَا ۗ لَقَدِ اسْتَكْبَرُوا فِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ وَعَتَوْا عُتُوًّا كَبِيرًا يَوْمَ يَرَوْنَ الْمَلَائِكَةَ لَا بُشْرَىٰ يَوْمَئِذٍ لِلْمُجْرِمِينَ وَيَقُولُونَ حِجْرًا مَحْجُورًا
“Those who do not expect to encounter Us say, ‘Why have angels not been sent down to us, or why do we not see our Lord?’ Certainly, they are full of arrogance within their souls and have become terribly defiant. The day when they see the angels, there will be no good news for the guilty that day, and they1 will say, ‘Keep off [from paradise]!” (25: 21, 22)
Berating the demand of those people who, in the time of the Prophet(s), wanted to see God. These verses consider it as indicative of their pride and recalcitrance. And as they were desirous of seeing the angels too, the Qur'an adds:
“Yes, they shall see the angels on the Date of Judgement. But that shall do them no good. These very angels shall be there deputed to belabour them for their sins. And those who clamour today to see them shall be crying them to keep away from them.”
The verse 6:103 says exhorts with finality.
لَا تُدْرِكُهُ الْأَبْصَارُ
"Eyes can encompass Him not."
Do the above quoted verses not lead our minds to believe that God cannot be seen with the eyes in this world or the other?
Now, what is meant by meeting with God on the Day of judgement? Probably it means that, on that day, not an iota of doubt shall remain in anybody's mind about the existence of God. And, it shall be as good as seeing Him face to face.
God knows all things, for we human beings, the entire world is divided into two parts: The invisible (ghayab) and the visible (shahadat). But God is the knower of the invisible as of the visible. Actually, there is nothing hidden for God. The world as a whole is visible for Him.
عَالِمُ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ الْكَبِيرُ الْمُتَعَالِ
“The knower of the unseen and the seen, the Great, the most High.” (13: 9)
إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَخْفَىٰ عَلَيْهِ شَيْءٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِي السَّمَاءِ
“Allah-surely nothing is hidden from Him in the earth or in the heaven.” (3: 5)
God is aware of even the smallest things of the world, including each act that we do:
وَمَا تَفْعَلُوا مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ بِهِ عَلِيمٌ
“...And whatever good you do, Allah surely knows it.” (2: 215)
And God's knowledge is the knowledge of presence, as of something being just face-to-face. It is the knowledge of a witness who sees an incident with his own eyes to depose about it as a witness.
أَوَلَمْ يَكْفِ بِرَبِّكَ أَنَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ
“...Is it not sufficient that your Lord is witness to all things?” (41: 53)
For ages the Philosophers and exponents of Islam had been thinking that the God's knowledge of particulars was inconsistent with the Essence of God. And this controversial issue i.e., "Divine Providence" (Inayat) had been Preoccupying their minds. According to them God's knowledge of particular is justified only through His knowledge of the universals.
This approach is inconsistent with what the Qur'an says about the God's knowledge. At last, Mullah Sadra as he used his philosophy to explain the notions of necessity, contingency, unity, and multiplicity, applied the same approach to describe that God's comprehensive knowledge of particulars is the knowledge by Presence (immediate knowledge) which is in proportional with His Essence and in this way, he resolved the problem of "Providence" (Inayat).
Anyhow, the Qur'an emphasizes the God's knowledge by presence (immediate knowledge) on all matters in the world and considers god as "The Knower" 6: 73..., "The Knowing” 2: 32 and "The Great Knower" 5: 109 and Allah is Aware, 4: 35, Allah is Wise 2: 32, He runs the world in the best way.
God has power over all things, all acts:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
“... Surely Allah has power over all things.” (2: 20)
He has power and is 'able' 2: 20, 6: 37. He is the Strong, the Mighty 11: 66. He is the Supreme, 6: 61, 12: 39. He has power and is strong. A He desires anything to come into being or any work to be done, it is enough for Him to command: "Be" and at once it is.
إِنَّمَا أَمْرُهُ إِذَا أَرَادَ شَيْئًا أَنْ يَقُولَ لَهُ كُنْ فَيَكُونُ
“All His command, when He wills something, is to say to it ‘Be,’ and it is.” (36: 82)
Usually those beings which enjoy "Knowledge", and "Power" are able to materialize what they will or a part of their will and even they are able to make effort in order to achieve it. When we attempt to materialize our will with consciousness:
"I intended to do some work", so:
"Will is an awareness and strong wish which can be effective in achieving of our goals."
Among the various beings in this world, at least rational animals possess this capability of will, that is, when they have an urge of something from within they make conscious effort to achieve it. Man enjoy this advantage more than other animals.
The domain of man's will is wider than of the other animals, that is why the role of knowledge and consciousness is more creative in the life of man than it is in the other animals. Despite all many activities that man himself perform are not seemingly the act of will. For instance, circulatory system, respiratory system, digestive system, major glands and minor glands producing the necessary chemicals in the body. These systems function involuntarily55.
Nevertheless, the realm of voluntary acts anyhow limited, for example, no voluntary act of man can have any effect on the rotation of the solar system or can influence the hereditary physical characteristics with which he is born. As such, the effect of 'will' and 'intension' of man is limited.
That is why sometimes it so happens that one decides to do something but fails for those factors which are beyond the sphere of one's knowledge and power, prevent one's will from being materialized. But God Who is the absolute Knower and All powerful can do what He wills.
إِنَّ رَبَّكَ فَعَّالٌ لِمَا يُرِيدُ
“... Surely your Lord is the mighty doer of what he intends.” (11: 107)
فَعَّالٌ لِمَا يُرِيدُ
“The great doer of what He will.” (85: 16)
Nothings can prevent Him from performing His will, 11: 33, 35: 44 etc.
His will govern the whole world (qada). And not the will of others than him (40: 20) whatsoever and whenever anything acts or moves its act and movement are within the framework pre-determined by God, for, he has imposed certain limitations on everything (qadar) 25: 2, 65: 3, 41: 10, ...
Man, too is governed by this absolute law. The role of his ability to develop and adopt the path of truth is limited, and is determined by Fate and Destiny of God (qada wa qadar). God as such wishes that man with his own distinct will and choice determines his future for good or bad, beauty or ugliness, brightness or gloom.
Even within these limits, neither man nor any other being can consider himself the undisputed and absolute ruler of the limited jurisdiction. If God wills, He can render man Powerless and ineffective even here.
إِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَبِالْمِرْصَادِ
“Most surely your Lord is constantly watching.” (89: 14)
It is likely that His command divests the efforts of an arrogant individual or a group in a manner that is warned and has to understand even within the domain of one's power and ability to mould himself, he always should keep in mind that the will and intention of God compasses everything and rules everywhere.
There are many instances in the Qur’an regarding such command of God, as the verses 68: 17-32 directly illustrate the same matter:
“We brought them to test and trial the same way as we tried those orchard-owners who has sworn that they would pluck the fruits of the orchard, but did not utter "If God wills." And while they were asleep, a storm, by God's command, began blow in the orchard rendering it a desolate plot.”
When the morning dawned, they called on each other to start soon for the garden and fruit plucking, lest the poor got to know of it and entered the orchard.
In this way, determined to deprive the poor, they set out for the orchard.
But when they saw the orchard, they said:
"Most surely, we have gone astray, Nay! we are made to suffer privation"
The best of them said: "Did I not say to you, Why do you not glorify (Allah)?"
They said: "Glory be to our Lord, surely we were unjust."
Then some of them advanced against others, blaming each other.
Said they: "O, woe to us! surely we were in ordinate:
May be, our Lord will give us instead one better than it: surely to our humble petition."
A being which enjoys power along with consciousness and will is called an alive being. The same way we determine an individual or society to be alive based on his/their quest with awareness and knowledge. Which nation is more alive? A nation that display greater measure of conscious quest in its life. Among the living creatures, man is endowed with the fullest measure of life. Therefore, the conscious quest in his life is the deepest and broadest.
Now, which being enjoys the highest level of conscious activity and is greater than all other active and conscious beings? God, so, God is the living and even enjoys the maximum rank of life. The Ever Living 40: 65, the Living who dies not.
وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى الْحَيِّ الَّذِي لَا يَمُوتُ وَسَبِّحْ بِحَمْدِهِ
"And rely on the Ever-living who dies not, and celebrate His praise ... (25 :58)
The living who is Self-Subsisting and never tires of work or action. Slumber does not overtake Him nor sleep.
اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْحَيُّ الْقَيُّومُ ۚ لَا تَأْخُذُهُ سِنَةٌ وَلَا نَوْمٌ
“Allah is lie besides whom there is no god, the Ever living, the Self-Subsisting by whom all subsist; slumber does not overtake Him nor sleep...” (2 : 255)
الم اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْحَيُّ الْقَيُّومُ نَزَّلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ مُصَدِّقًا لِمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ وَأَنْزَلَ التَّوْرَاةَ وَالْإِنْجِيلَ
“Alif Lam Mim. Allah, (there is) no god but He, the Ever living, The Self-Subsisting by whom all things subsist. He has revealed to you the Book with truth ...” (3: l-3)
وَعَنَتِ الْوُجُوهُ لِلْحَيِّ الْقَيُّومِ ۖ وَقَدْ خَابَ مَنْ حَمَلَ ظُلْمًا
“And the faces shall be humble before the living, the self-subsistent God, and he who bears iniquity is indeed a failure.” (20: 111)
The word "qayyum" is of the same root from which the word "qiyam", meaning standing is derived.
The word "qa'im" which is the subject, means one who stands up. Therefore, the word "qayyum" which is an exaggeration should mean very much "Firmly standing", or in more clear words "that who is eternally established". The exegetists are of the different views regarding the meaning of this attribute in the Qur'an. Tabarsi in his Majma 'ul-Bayan says:
"The word "qayyum" means one who maintains the creation, whether in the creation of beings or in providing the day to day maintenance to them. As it is said in another verse: there is no moving creature on the earth that whose maintenance is not provided by God. This view is narrated from Qatadah. If is said that "qayyum" means He is omniscient. It is derived from this Arabic idiom."
That is, "this person knows whatever is written in this book". In another place it is said "qayyum" means "eternally existing", that he who always existed."
This view is quoted from Sa'id ibn Jubayr and Dahhak. On other occasion it is said that "qayyum" means "that one who is watching all standing over their heads so that to reward or punish them according to his knowledge." This view is narrated from Hassan Basri. The word "qayyum" is in harmony with all these various interpretations.56
In the philosophical discussions this word "qayyum" is defined as (القائم بالذات مقوم لغیره) which means self-independent and not depended upon others. What stands on this foot and its existence is not derived from outside and that imparts to others and make them stand. We depend on you for you are independent
Sadr ul-Muta'allihin (Mullah Sadra) also inclined to accept the same interpretation, after discussing the issue in detail, he finally concluded that by the term "Qayyum" it meant that who is so much independent that all others depend for their existence on Him."57
Sayyid Qotb in the interpretation of "qayyum" says: "That who not only created all beings, but maintain them also.''58
'Allamah Tabãtabai also in his al-Mizan 2: 347-348 has interpreted the word in a way similar to the version of Qatadah in Majm'a ul-Bayan.
We are of the view that the same meaning that is ever standing, ever-subsisting and ever-watchful, which have come in Persian translation are not only more compatible with the meaning and derivations of the literal meaning its derivations from "qiyam" but also, they are consistent with the explanations of the verse (2: 255), regarding the interpretation of the word "qayyum". The term "qayyum" in this sense is complementary to the same attribute "Hay" and weights its meaning.
As we know that all living beings in the earth are more or less in need of sleep. They should sleep to reinforce themselves for the continuation of life. Sleep is associated with weakness and dullness of muscles, and every animate being sleeps usually falls down and cannot stand on its feet in state of sleep, usually a part of his vital energies, particularly the abilities of perfection and movement, will be in the state of semi-suspension.
The Qur’an says: God is perfect living being, whose modes of being have no room for dullness; He is indefatigable being, Ever-subsisting and Ever-awake, neither sleep overtakes Him nor does He nap. Therefore, He is Ever-knowing an Ever Powerful. Now let us once again pay attention to the sequence of text of verse 2: 255.
اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْحَيُّ الْقَيُّومُ ۚ لَا تَأْخُذُهُ سِنَةٌ وَلَا نَوْمٌ ۚ لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۗ مَنْ ذَا الَّذِي يَشْفَعُ عِنْدَهُ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِهِ ۚ يَعْلَمُ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمَا خَلْفَهُمْ ۖ وَلَا يُحِيطُونَ بِشَيْءٍ مِنْ عِلْمِهِ إِلَّا بِمَا شَاءَ ۚ وَسِعَ كُرْسِيُّهُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ ۖ وَلَا يَئُودُهُ حِفْظُهُمَا ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَلِيُّ الْعَظِيمُ
“Allah—there is no god except Him — is the Living One, the All-sustainer. Neither drowsiness befalls Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that may intercede with Him except with His permission?59 He knows that which is before them and that which is behind them, and they do not comprehend anything of His knowledge except what He wishes. His seat embraces the heavens and the earth, and He is not wearied by their preservation, and He is the All-exalted, the All-supreme.” (2: 255)
You have seen that all the conclusions that may be driven from this verse indicate the wisdom and absolute power of God which is the sign of being free from any weakness regarding the Attribute of His life.
Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful (1:1), Allah is compassionate to His servants (3:29) and He gives you all that you ask from Him; and has bestowed upon us innumerable bounties (14:34), (16:18). Surely, Allah is the Bestower of sustenance, (51:58), Allah is the best of sustainers (62:11), Allah is pardoning, Forgiving (4:99). The most Forgiving (36:66), Allah is Forgiving, Forbearing (2:235) and Exalted (34:40), if a sinner gives up the life of sin and impurity and returns to the path of God, that is, path of piety and virtue (tubah in its Islamic sense), God again bestows his blessings upon him and He is who accepts repentance of His servants and pardons the evil deeds (42:25) and He immediately takes a lenient view turning (to mercy) of the misdeed of the repentant (2:160).
The signs of affection and mercy of God are abundant and innumerable throughout the universe. Man, like other beings enjoys this immanent blessing of God with this distinction that man enjoys an exceptional favour of God, that is, ability for self-improvement, a conscious process of self-improvement with knowledge of distinguishing bad and good, beauty and ugliness and also has the power to choose one of them.60
This conscious self-improvement along with the ability to make choice is possible with this condition that at least some part of man's acts should yield desirable consequence and some yield undesirable consequences. The desirable consequences for him are pleasant and rewarding, and the undesirable consequences for him are painful and bring in their wake suffering, punishment and intense wrath of God.
This concern and anguish regarding losing desirable consequences, that is "reward" and facing undesirable consequences that is "punishment" may stimulate man to develop his self and change him into a man who deserves reward and is saved from punishment. So, existence of such concern and anguish in man's self is a blessing from God which will be followed by punishment and wrath of God for those who are thankless and ungrateful.
"Oh, thee, thine mercy is prior to thine wrath."
The Qur'an on this base repeatedly cited the wrath of God which befalls those disobedient persons.
وَمَنْ يَحْلِلْ عَلَيْهِ غَضَبِي فَقَدْ هَوَىٰ
“…lest My wrath should descend on you. And he on whom My wrath descends certainly perishes.” (20: 81)
إِنَّ اللَّهَ قَوِيٌّ شَديدُ العِقابِ
“...Indeed, Allah is all-strong, severe in retribution” (8: 52)
“…and a painful punishment [prepared for].” (73: 1-13)
Allah is the High (2:225), the Great (31:30), Possessor of the highest ranks (40:15), Allah is Mighty, Wise (2:209), The most High, the Great (2:225). The most High (13:9), The Lord of Glory and Honour (55:78), He is praised, Glorious (11:73).
He is proud, that is the being who makes his grandness and greatness manifest and all the signs of greatness which are visible in the universe belong to him only (45:37) surely, it is He who deserves all praise, Glorious (11:73).
وَمَا أَنَا بِظَلَّامٍ لِلْعَبِيدِ
“…and I do not the least injustice to My Servants.”(50: 29)
He always calls upon us to act based on justice and equity (16:90), (7:29). He has created all things in this world in such a fashion that was compatible with the firm system of being, in which all are harmonious and are complimentary to each other. (87:2, 67:3). God set reward for good deeds and punishment for sin in the hereafter within the frame work of an inevitable system of "action and reaction".
In the hereafter one may reaps the fruits of that which he has harvested in this world. In this way he attains that individual essence of his being which he has shaped for himself in this world. Every sweet or sour that is given to man in the other world is the product of his acts in this world, according to which he gets full and perfect justice, without any reduction, without being unjustly treated (2:281), (14:51), (40:17) etc.
Every man is responsible for what he shall have wrought (52:21). His self-development, whether it is in right direction or in wrong direction, and his endower to mold his environment so that social and physical environment becomes favourable for his welfare, and others welfare, paves the way for a man's self-development in the right direction.
This part was concerned with the Names and Attributes of God in the Qur'an, with special reference to the acts of God. One can find numerous other Names and Attributes which exceed hundreds of words. We come across many such Names and Attributes in prayers and supplications. For instance, one thousand Names and Attributes of God occur in the famous supplication, known as Jawshan Kabir.
Most of these Names and Attributes used for God are compound words either in term of word or in term of their meanings, and since the connotation of compound words is extremely vast. One cannot be sure of any definite number for the Names and Attributes of God. Theologians and mystics also consider Names and Attribute of God to be innumerable.61 This was a summary of the metaphysical teachings of the Qur'an dealing with the knowledge of God62.
This type of knowledge is derived from the authentic source of revelation (Wahy). At the same time, it is also based on the man's conscious knowledge which attain through contemplation over the signs of God meditating on the Names and Attributes of God63. This is a kind of knowledge which can quench more or less the thirst of a man who is eager to the significance of the Names and Attributes of God and it has got its practical problem which we face, that is, orientating the life.64
In this approach there is no room for futile and useless discussion which are injurious to the life of individual as well as society (Ummah). This is a lesson we should learn in order to avoid and abstain from such endless and fruitless disputes in the field of metaphysics. For, such discussions and controversies do not lead us to any definite conclusion, as most of them arise out of ignorance and prejudices.
The Qur’an criticizes those people who adopt this method particularly in metaphysical issues.
هَا أَنْتُمْ هَٰؤُلَاءِ حَاجَجْتُمْ فِيمَا لَكُمْ بِهِ عِلْمٌ فَلِمَ تُحَاجُّونَ فِيمَا لَيْسَ لَكُمْ بِهِ عِلْمٌ ۚ وَاللَّهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
“Behold! you are they who disputed about that of which you had knowledge; why then do you dispute about that of which you have no knowledge? And Allah knows while you do not know.” (3: 66)
I pray to God that we are not regarded as one of such people who indulge in futile disputes. Our last word is that all praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the world.65
- 1. These conventions are mostly social conventions which emerge gradually in social process and are not coined through the agreement reached among a group of people who deliberate.
- 2. "Ism" (name) is derived from "simah" meaning symbol.
- 3. How can one know Him? It is all that one can say "He is". (the Upanishad, 376).
- 4. Al-Kulayni, al-Kafi, v.2, p.82.
- 5. Ibid, p.84.
- 6. Saduq, Asrar al-Tawhid, p.l02
- 7. For detail please see Maqalat al-Islamiyya, vol. 1, p.66
- 8. It points out to the famous doctrine that is "God is spirit of the world". This doctrine is seen in the Upanishad also.
- 9. Nahjui-Balagah, (Sermon 1).
- 10. Bharatan Kumarpa, The Hindu Conception of the Deity, (London, 1934).
- 11. U. M. Miller the History of the Ancient church in the Empire of Room and Iran. (Germany, 1931). p. 245.
- 12. The Upanishad, p. 424
- 13. The Chandogya Upanishad, p. 288.
- 14. Ibid, p.288.
- 15. Ibid, p. 289.
- 16. Ibid, p. 289.
- 17. The Avesta, 9: 69.
- 18. Ibid, 2: 33.
- 19. Ibid, 8: 40.
- 20. Asman is the name of the angel that supervises the heaven. (f.t. the Avesta).
- 21. The Avesta, 27: 346.
- 22. Ibid, 14: 65-66.
- 23. Ibid, 4: 68.
- 24. Compare it with that which the Qur'an says about this sustainer:
"Surely, Allah upholds the heavens and the earth lest they come to naught; and if they should come to naught, there is none who can uphold them after Him; surely He is the forbearing. (35:41).
- 25. The Avesta, 238: 1-2-3.
- 26. The old Testament, Exodus, 19: 19-24.
- 27. Ibid, 24: 1/2.9-12.
- 28. Ibid, 24: 9-12.
- 29. Ibid, Genesis, 18: 20-23.
- 30. Ibid, 17: 23.
- 31. Ibid 35: 13
- 32. Ibid, Kings, 8: 40.
- 33. Ibid, 40: 36-37.
- 34. The Bible Mathew, 5: 44-45-48.
- 35. Ibid, 6: 9-10-11.
- 36. Ibid, 5: 10.
- 37. From such phrases about (al-Sama al-Dunia) the nearest heaven in the Qur'an one can infer that the Qur'an considers the space within the stars placed as one heaven. That is also the first heaven, the lowest and the nearest heaven to us. So, of the phrase "the seven heavens" which is used in many verses of the Qur'an is not a symbolic impression and in the real sense indicates a specific number of heavens, then this heaven is different from the eight or nine heavens believed in old astronomy for according to that doctrine from the first up to the seventh heaven the planets were placed. The eighth heaven is the place of fixed bodies, and the ninth heaven had been Atlas, that is, starless, for more information in this regard, refer to discussions and books concerning this matter, according to that doctrine.
- 38. The Lote-tree in these verses of the Qur'an is like the someh tree in the Upanishad. p. 203.
- 39. The bible Mathew, 5: 34-35.
- 40. The usage of such indirect terms are usual matter in the symbolic writings.
- 41. There are same view in the verses second to seventh of the genesis in the old Testament.
- 42. This view is also rooted in pre-Islamic culture. Take for instance the old Testament, Exodus, 24: 10.
- 43. Though we come across the traditions from the Prophet (S) and Imams ('A) regarding the notion of throne, but totaling those tradition and investigation about their authenticity is beyond the limitation of this writing.
- 44. This theory is more or less close to the scientific theories with reference to the book “Science for the Intelligents” pp.27-113.
- 45. For detail classification about the merciful Name and the compassionate Name which is discussed in page No. 11 and his discourse on the Holy Blessing and the Holiest Blessing in page No. 18.
- 46. Qaisari, Sharheh Fusus-e Qaisari, p. 20.
- 47. Tabarsi, Majma'ul-Bayan, vol.9, p. 175.
- 48. Mullah Sadra, Al-Shawahid al-Rububiyyah p. 48.
- 49. This is one of the meanings of pantheism which makes difficult to distinguish it with certain materialistic doctrine regarding the world.
- 50. Allamah Hilli, Kashf al-Murad, p. 182. 51 - Ibid, pp. 182-184.
- 51. Ibid, pp. 182-184
- 52. Most probably this matter rooted in the Torah. for there are many instances in the genesis and Exodus of the Torah that God has meet Ibrahim and Jacob.
- 53. Ash'ari, Maqalat al-lslamyyia, vol. 1, p. 263.
- 54. Ibid, pp. 321-322.
- 55. Like the verses 6: 103, 7: 143.
- 56. In the verse 4: 153 same incident is cited.
- 57. Zoroaster also spoke about the seeing of God with his own eyes:
"AhuraMazda, when I saw you with my own eyes a thought over you in my heart that first and the last being and the father of God." (The Avesta, 8: 43).
- 58. There is no doubt that the function of each one of these systems is related to the nervous system. Even the advanced anatomy believes in a central command for each system located in a part of the brain. But each act which related to the command from brain cannot be called a voluntary act. Nevertheless, some people may control themselves voluntarily by practice and ascetism. They may control somewhat of their circulatory system also. but such control, in case it is true, is limited and exceptional and not applicable to all men.
- 59. Tabarsi, Majma al-Bayan, vol. 2, p. 362.
- 60. Mullah Sadra, Tafsir-e Mulla Sadra, pp. 305-306.
- 61. Sayyid Qutb, Fi Zalal al-Qur'an, 1: 419.
- 62. The verses 2: 117, 3: 47, 16: 40, 19: 35, 40: 68 are in this context. In certain verses it is emphasized on this point that God in achievement of His order is Besought of all means.
- 63. This is the same distinguishing feature of the philosophy of existence that is called today existentialism: The existence of man precedes its essence, and that man's essence is developed and shaped by himself.
- 64. Qaisari, Shahr Fusus e-Qaisari, p. 20.
- 65. In this book certain issues such as the knowledge of God, justice of God etc. are discussed briefly, though each one of these topics require detailed discussion in the form of several independent voluminous books.
Fortunately, recently some useful books have been written in this regard which deal with only some of these issues by scholars having good command of writing. We hope that books dealing with other aspects of this theme would be written and published.