1. Allâh – The Name of God in the Holy Qur’ân
“I alone am Allâh. There cannot be, is no other and will never be One for worship but Me.” (20:14)
His verses (Ayât) in the Holy Qur’ân have passed the judgement that He is Allâh – Glory be to Him, there is no other Deity but Allâh – He alone possesses this Name, not shared by any other. He is the only Presence that comprehends all presences (al-Wajûd al Jâmi‘). All things in the universe come under the sway of this All-Comprehensive Name.
Allâh is the mighty name of the Self-Existing and Self-Sufficient Being Who comprises all perfect attributes, Who is free from every weakness and defect, is alone worthy of worship, is without partner or peer and is the source of all Love and Grace. Unlike the word “god” in Arabic, the word Allah is never used for any other object or being. It is a substantive name, neither attributive nor descriptive and is inclusive of all His other names and attributes and has primacy over all other titles.
When Moses received his Divine mission he was addressed in the following words:
“Moses! Surely I am, Allâh, the Lord of the worlds” (28:30, 27:9)
In these verses the Lord of the worlds, reveals Moses Who is speaking to him. The word Allâh is accordingly a proper name, whereas the “Lord of all the worlds” (Rabbul-Alamîn), is His first and foremost title. Allâh is a personal name (Ism al-Dhât) applied to the Supreme Being and distinguished from all other names which are called Asmâ’ al-Sifât, or names denoting attributes of God.
In the technical vocabulary of linguistics, the word Allâh is Jâmid, that is, it is not derived from any other word. In the pronunciation of Allâh, the letter ‘L’ is stressed. The word Allâh is not a construction of al-ilâh as some people think, but a different and an independent word. The first two letters Al in the word Allâh are an integral, inseparable part of the word. They do not denote the definite article Al of Arabic, which is equivalent to the English ‘the’. In Arabic, the prefix Al is added before the noun to emphasize the word in the sense of ‘most’ or ‘all’, for example al-Rahmân – the Most Gracious. Sîbwaih, the great grammarian, and Khalîl, the great linguistic, say, “Since Al in the beginning of the word Allâh is inseparable from it, so it is a simple substantive, not derived from any other word.”
If Al in Allâh were an additional prefix, the common exclamation yâ Allâh, (O Allâh!), would not be permitted according to the rules of Arabic grammar, as the form yâ al-ilâh or yâ al-Rahmân are not permissible in Arabic. Moreover, this supposition would mean that there were different gods – âlihah (plural of ilâh), one of which became gradually known as al-ilâh and was then contracted into Allâh. This supposition is not correct. Allâh has always been the name of the Eternal Being (Hughes: Dictionary of Islam), nor has the word Allâh ever been applied to anyone else but the Divine Being. The pagan Arabs had numerous ilâhs or gods, but none of them was ever called Allâh.
This being the proper name of the Supreme Being has therefore no parallel or equivalent in any other language of the world. The English word ‘god’ is applied to any religious object of worship. Most probably it is related to ‘good’ and origins from heathen mythologies. Jehovah, which is the Aramaic or Hebrew expression Ya Howâ, literally means most closely ‘O! That’ or ‘O! Thou’ used to address a Deity, the emphasis is on Huwa which is to emphasize an Existence, therefore it can hardly be a proper name. The Hindus give their senior deity the name of Par-Mâtma (the Super Soul), Par-Barham (the Super and the Great), Par-Mishwar (the Great King or Owner), The Parsis give their supreme God the name of Yazdan and Hermes. In the Sikh religion, their great Deity is called Satt which means the Truth. The use of Jehova in the New Testament by the Witnesses of Jehova is a new invention. In the original Greek version and older versions of the New Testament this name was never used and Jesus never employed the name “Jehova”. Although most Christians are unaware of it, the Aramaic speaking Jesus also used the word Allâh (or ‘Allaha’). Christians speaking the Semitic languages still use it. In the Greek and Latin writings this was then rendered to theos or deos, the generic words for ‘god’ in these languages. These words are derived from Dyeus, the name of a heathen god. The French ‘dieu’ or the English ‘deity’ are also etymologically based on that word.
The names found in other languages for the Supreme Being are either attributive or descriptive and can be used in the plural and or feminine forms (e.g. gods, goddess) whereas the word Allâh cannot be translated and can never be used in plural form nor in any other form nor this word has any root. Allâh says:
“Do you know any other name (which comprises all the Attributes of perfection), and don’t you know that there is no one who is called the same.” (19:65)
People accept the name of a Deity when it is called in their language, but as soon as the name used by other people is used for their Deity, their is the feeling of prejudice and rejection. The Holy Qur’ân has pointed out this behaviour in the words: And when it is said to them, ‘Prostrate to the Most Gracious (Rahmân)’, they say, ‘What thing is this, the Most Gracious?’ (25:60). People have an individual concept of their Lord, which they ascribe to Him and in which they seek Him. So long as a Deity is presented to them which fits into their fancy and concept, they recognize Him and affirm Him, whereas when the Reality is presented in any other form with another name, they deny Him, flee from Him and treat Him in an improper manner, at the same time thinking they are acting properly and fittingly.
The Holy Qur’ân has not presented a new Deity, but has presented the same Eternal Being Who has always been present in the illuminated human heart, in human conscience (30:8) and in the heavens and the earth, Who is visible in the mirror of the laws of nature and is discernible in the book of nature (30:30). He is the same God who was the God of Abraham, Ismaîl, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Rama, Confucius and all other prophets known or unknown to us (2:4; 2:132-133,136: 3:84; 40:78; 42:13). He is the Being who combined in Himself all the perfect Attributes and is free from all imperfections and is the very apex of beauty and beneficence.
He proclaims in he Holy Qur’ân:
“I am Allâh, the All-Mighty, the All-Wise” (27:9)
2. Allâh – The God of the Holy Qur’ân
“Allâh, there is no other, cannot be and will never be One worthy of worship but He, the Ever Living, Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining. Slumber overtakes Him not, nor sleep. Whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth belongs to Him. Who is there that will intercede with Him, save by His leave? He knows their future and their past; and they encompass nothing of His knowledge (of the things) except of such (things) as He Himself pleases (to tell). His knowledge and sovereignty extends over the heavens and the earth and the care of them both tires Him not. He is the Supreme, the Great” (2:255).
“There is nothing like Him (He is beyond all comparison), and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing”. (42:11)
“Say, ‘Is there anyone of your (associated) partners (with God) who starts the cycle of creation and then continues it?’ Say, ‘It is Allâh who starts the cycle of creation and then continues it. Wither then are you being deviated away (from this fact)?’ Ask, ‘Is there any of your (associated) partners (with God) who lead to the truth (through revelation)?’ Say, ‘It is Allâh alone Who leads to the truth. Is then He who leads to the truth more worthy to be followed or he (assumed to be god or a son of god) that cannot find the way (himself) unless he be guided? What, then, is the matter with you? How do you judge?” (10:34)
He is Allâh, Glory be to Him, and there is no other God but Allâh. This is the only Presence that comprehends all presences (al-Wajûd al Jâmi‘), and no worshipper of God worships anything but this Presence (al-Wajûd). There is nothing like Him (He is beyond all comparison), and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing and He has enjoined us to worship none but Him.
Whatever is in the heavens and the earth declares the glory of Allâh. And He is the All-Mighty the All-Wise. The kingdom of the heavens and the earth belongs to Him. He gives life and causes death and He is the Possessor of power to do all that He will. He is (from) the very First (there was nothing before Him), and (He will exist to) the Last (there will be nothing after Him), and when nothing remains He will remain (He being an eternal Being). He is the Supreme Being (subordinate to no one). And (whereas He comprehends everything) He is Incomprehensible. He has full knowledge of every thing. (57:1-3). The physical vision comprehends Him not, but He comprehends all visions, He is the All-Subtle Being (incomprehensible and imperceptible), the All-Aware. (6:103)
He is Incomprehensible, and nothing is like him, therefore the knowledge of Allâh’s Reality (His Essence, Haqîqat al-Dzât), cannot be known through logical proof (Dalîl) or rational considerations (Burhân Aqlî). Revelation is indispensable as a proof of His existence. Nor can any definition or description grasp Him.
He is the Originator of the heavens and the earth. ‘Prior’ to that, He was and nothing was with Him, and He is now, after He has created everything, as He was. Of course, to be precise, the temporal word ‘prior’ is only well-defined in time and can strictly speaking not refer to anything ‘before’ the creation of the universe, which includes the creation of time. So in fact, this is just another way of saying He is independent of the heavens and the earth. He possesses all His Attributes without the need to refer to the worlds He brought into existence, and no new Attribute of Him came into existence. In other words, the way He describes Himself and the names by which He names Himself and by which His creatures call Him now exist independently from the initiation of the creation. When He desired the existence of the universe, He originated the “worlds” from His sacred desire (al-Irâdat al-Muqaddas) in accordance with His knowledge as He calls Himself al-‘Alîm- the One Who possesses all and perfect knowledge of everything.
He is Rabb al ‘âlamîn – the Creator and Nourisher to perfection of all the worlds.‘Alamîn translated here as ‘all the worlds’ has its root in ‘alama which means to know. Thus ‘Alamîn are the means by which one knows the Creator. Hence ‘alamîn signify all forms of creation by which the Creator is known. About the origin of creation we read:
He directed Himself towards the space. Behold! It was (like) a mass of gas (dust), and He said to it (- the space) and to the world, ‘Come both of you (in obedience to Me) willingly or unwillingly.’ They said, ‘We obey you with all our will.’ (41:11)
According to Alî Ibn Abî Tâlib and other people of reflection (Ashâb al-Fikr), “Dust” is the first universal reality. Then Allâh manifested Himself in theophany His Light to that “Dust”. Within this “Dust” was the entire world in its potentiality and readiness (Salâhiya) and each thing in the “Dust” – living or non living, received from His Light according to its peparedness (Isti’dâd) and potentiality, just as the corners of a room receive light according to their distance from the lamp. He says He is the Light, and then He compares Himself with a Lamp:
Allâh is the Extensive Light of the heavens and the earth. His light can be compared to a (lustrous) pillar on which is a lamp. The lamp is inside a crystal globe. The globe of glass is as if it were a glittering star. It (- the lamp) is lit by (the oil of) a blessed olive tree, which belongs neither to the east nor to the west (rather welds the whole world in its fold). Its oil is likely to glow forth of itself even if no fire has touched it. This (lamp) is a combination of many lights over and over. Allâh guides towards His light whoever desires (to be enlightened). Allâh sets forth excellent parables for the people, and Allâh alone has full knowledge of every thing (24:35).
Within this “Dust” nothing is nearer to the Light in reception than Mohammad followed by his followers.
(This light is now lit) in houses, which Allâh has ordained to be exalted and His name be commemorated in them. Therein (are such as) glorify Him in the mornings and the evenings,
Men, whom neither trade nor sale distracts from exalting (the name of) Allâh and from the observance of Prayer and from presenting Zakât (- purifying dues) regularly. They dread the day when the hearts and the eyes will be in a state of agitation and anguish;
With the result that Allâh will give them the reward according to their fairest deeds and will (even) give them much more by His grace and bounty. And Allâh does provide without measure to whom He will. (22:36-38)
The cosmos is the sensory realm, and its Ruler is veiled. That is why He describes Himself as being hidden (al-Bâtin) in veils of darknesses (Zulumât) and in veils of light (Nûr). The cosmos cannot perceive Him nor He will ever be unveiled, thus this Present Reality will never be known by an originated thing completely. That is why He says:
“It is not given to a human being that Allâh speaks to him except by direct revelation (Wahî) or from behind a veil or by sending messengers who reveal to the people what He pleases by His command” (42:51)
God’s speech is His knowledge, which he imparts to some of His selected servants, who come to know Him through His speech (Kalâm). This is the most definite and absolute knowledge (Ilm al-Yaqîn), which lies beyond the stage of intellect and cannot be attained by reflections and considerations. This knowledge of Him is granted only to prophets (Ambîya), and to His friends (Awliyâ) and to the “people of unveiling” (Ahl al-Kashûf).
The originated things have no part in Divine Self-Sufficiency and Independence. His Self-Sufficiency demands that He does not depend on His creation in anyway, therefore He is not in need of any son or a daughter.
The main theme of the Holy Qur’ân, the one that predominates over all other themes is that of Oneness of Being (Wahdat al-Wajûd). This concept of Allâh, which the Holy Qur’ân presents to us is all-embracing, all other concepts are facets of this. He describes Himself in Surah Ikhlâs: “He Allâh is One in His Unique Self. He is the Eternal Refuge in respect to our dependence on Him. He begets none in His identity and relation to us, nor is He begotten, and He has no equal”. We on our par part beget and are begotten, for this we depend on Him. So He describes Himself and isolates His Essence in the words “Allâh is One”. Indeed Allâh has given us no better description of Him. We know Him through His Attributes and the multiplicity of His Attributes are well known.
3. The Attributes Of The Name Allâh
Allâh manifests Himself to His creation through His Divine Names and Attributes, and they are many. There are those of His Names that make Him known as the Knower, the Powerful, the Hearing, the Seeing, the Living, the Responder and the Thankful. There are the Names of description like the First, the Last, the Manifest, the Hidden, and there are Names that make known His Works, such as the Creator, the Provider, the Shaper. There are Names of Incomparability and His Omnipotence. His Attributes are of different ranks (Marâtib). The following paragraphs are an attempt to explain some of His most beautiful Names and Attributes.
3.1 Four Basic Attributes Of Allâh
All types of perfect and true praise belong to Allâh alone, the Creator and Nourisher to perfection (Rabb) of all the worlds, the Most Gracious (Rahmân), the Ever Merciful (Rahîm), Master (Mâlik) of the Day of Requital. (1:1-4, 2:163)
The Holy Qur’ân begins with the name of Allâh and the name Allâh appears in the very beginning of the opening chapter (al-Fâtihah) of the Holy Qur’ân. This is followed by Rabb; no other attribute of Allâh is mentioned so frequently. Next to Rabb are the attributes Rahmân and Rahîm and finally Mâlik. The name Allâh is found in the Holy Book some 2697 times, the name Rabb occurs 978 times, the name Rahmân and Rahîm 376 times.
3.1.1 Rabb al âlamîn – Creator, Sustainer, Nourisher
Rabb al âlamîn is the first attribute of Allâh. He is not Abb (Father), rather Rabb of the nations, creations, worlds and all kinds of created beings and things and their classes collectively (- al âlamîn as the Holy Qur’ân says). According to Lisân al-‘Arab, Tâj al-Urûs and Mufradât-i-Râghib, the three most authentic lexicons, the Arabic word Rabb has many connotations, as Master, Chief, Determiner, Provider, Sustainer, Rewarder, Perfecter, Ruler, Creator, Maintainer, Reposer of Properties in things of nature, Developer, Framer of Rules and Laws of the Growth of Things, Regulizer, Foster of things in such a manner as to make them attain one condition after another until they reach their goal of perfection and completion, Arranger of different stages through which they have to pass on their way to completion, Author of all existence Who has sole title to it with no one having any share in it. Thus the word Rabb signifies dozens of processes which a thing passes through in the course of creation and evolution before it reaches its final development. These meanings have not been forced on this word Rabb. All standard lexicons of the Arabic language speak of all of them when they give the meaning of the root Raba. In English the word Rabb is generally translated as Lord, but this word can not at all convey the real significance of the original Arabic word Rabb. The process of creation embodied in the word Rabb covers, of course, with the exception of the Creator Himself, every existing thing whether in the realm of spirit or in the realm of bodies, whether of earthly creation or other celestial objects.
As Rabb al âlamîn He has provided all the material means for the physical requirements of all kinds for all creatures collectively and without discrimination, as food, grains, air, water, light and so many other things:
Would you really disbelieve in Him (- the Rabb) Who created the earth in two aeons? And do you set up compeers with Him? This is the Lord (- the Rabb) of the worlds. He placed therein (- in the earth) firm mountains rising above (its surface) and showered it with His blessings and placed in it various provisions according to a set measure, (provisions to which) all those who require them have equal rights, (and all this He created) in four aeons. (41:9-10)
All creation bears His signature. He is the Rabb of the world of elements and command, since elements preceded from command and compounds are fashioned: Then He directed Himself towards the space. Behold! It was (like) a mass of gas. And He ( – The Lord, Rabb) said to it (- the space) and to the earth, ‘Come both of you (in obedience to Me) willingly or unwillingly.’ They said, ‘We obey you with all our will.’ (41:11)
He commands not only the formation of compounds from elements, but also commands the reversal of process, commanding the formation of elements from compounds.
Do those who disbelieve not see that the heavens and the earth were (once) one mass all closed up, then We rent them apart. And it is from water that We created all life. Will they not believe? And We have made firm mountains on the earth so that they may be a source of benefit and provision for the people and lest it should quake with them. And We made on it wide pathways that people may find right guidance to reach the goal. And We have made the heaven a roof, well protected, still they turn away paying no heed to its (heavenly) signs. And it is He Who created the night and the day, the sun and the moon. They are all gliding along smoothly in (their respective) orbits. (21:30-33)
Thus the word Rabb al âlamîn conveys not only the idea of creation but also that of regulating, completing and accomplishing, that is of the evolution of things from the crudest state to that of the highest perfection: The word Rabb al âlamîn also signifies the fostering of a thing in such a manner as to make it attain one condition after another until it reaches its goal of perfection and completion. Hence the Rabb is not only the Author of all existence, Who has not only given to the whole creation its means of nourishment (41:9-10), but has also beforehand ordained for each a sphere of capacity and within that sphere provided the means by which it continues to attain gradually its goal of perfection:
We create a human being from an extract of clay; then We reduce him to a drop of sperm (and place him) in a safe depository; then We form the sperm into a clot; then We develop the clot into a lump of flesh; then We fashion bones out of this lump of flesh, then We clothe the bones with flesh, thereafter We evolve him into another being. Therefore blessed be Allâh the Best of Creators. Then as you have passed (these seven stages of physical and spiritual stages) you are heading towards death. Then (after death) you will certainly be raised up to life (for another never ending progress) on the Day of Resurrection (23:12-16).
The Holy Qur’ân in the above verses is drawing our attention to the principle of evolution at work in the creation of all non-living and living things in their sphere. It establishes the working of a grand scheme under the ever vigilant eye of Rabb al âlamîn through hundreds and thousands of years in some cases, in order to bring things to their final perfection.
The progressive development of things makes creation all the more marvellous and Allâh becomes all the more deserving of praise and worship. This evolution is prevalent not only in the physical world but also in the spiritual world, and as well as in Revelations (Wahî and Ilhâm) from God. As things grow, develop and change, they do not do so by themselves, they are all undergoing progressive development by stages, so is the case with the spiritual development. All spiritual life is subjective to Allah’s Lordship and He is constantly providing means through revelation (Wahî, Ilhâm) for the spiritual advancement of mankind. This is because Allâh has created human beings for unlimited progress, and beyond every stage of their evolution there is another in a never-ending process as we read:
It is He Who has evolved you from one living entity, then (He has provided for you) a permanent abode (starting after death to the final everlasting abode of paradise) and a temporary lodging (from birth to the grave). Verily We have explained (Our) signs in detail for a people who would understand. (6:98)
Some people deny His Providence and say that whatever they receive is the consequence of their actions. The believers in Tanâsukh or incarnation and some of the followers of the Hindu religion think, that if some of them had not sinned in a particular fashion and not been born as cows and buffaloes in a previous incarnation there would have been no milk. They also allege that whatever we receive in this life is the fruit of action of some people in their previous incarnation. Such image-worshippers believe their idols to be Divine personification. These people have lost the track, and the very opening verses of the Holy Qur’ân reject such concepts and tell us that all types of perfect and true praise belongs to Allâh alone, the Lord of all the worlds.
The announcement that Allâh is Rabb al âlamîn also clearly opposes those who seek to confine the Providence and grace of God to their own country and people, believing that other communities or peoples of other lands or ages were not created by God or that after creating them, God rejected them or forgot them. They may also believe that all Prophets and Messengers were raised from among the children of Israel and that Allâh was so angry with other peoples that He did not take the least pity on them even when He found them in error or in a state of unawareness, or that Divine revelation and Divine speech always remained restricted within the frontiers of India or Israel. These people do not accept Allâh as Rabb, the Lord of Universal Providence. When He is the Lord of Universal Providence and not only the Lord of Israel or the Lord of Bharat and Arya Varta, why should He attach Himself permanently to a particular people and a particular age? That is partiality and favoritism. The Holy Qur’ân denounces such notions and expounds in diverse ways that Allâh has made provisions for the material welfare of the people of all different lands and He has made provisions for the spiritual sustenance of every people:
There has been no people without a Warner and a Prophet (35:24)
This is so that no people may have cause to complain that Allâh was gracious only towards some nation and not towards another, or that particular people were given a book so that they may be guided therewith and others were not, or that He manifested Himself through His words and revelations and signs in a certain age but remained hidden and silent in another age. That is why the Holy Qur’ân says:
(We have sent this revelation) lest you should say, ‘The Book has only been revealed to two communities (- the Jews and the Christians) before us, and (as for us) we remained unaware of what those (Books) read.’ Or lest you should say, ‘Had the Book been revealed to us we would surely have been better guided than they. (6:156-157)
By extending His Providence universally He disposed all such objections and exercised such universal benevolence that no people or age was denied the beneficence of His material and spiritual grace. As Rabb al âlamîn He is the source of all grace and every capacity proceeds from Him, and every thing that exists is sustained by Him. He is the support of every creature. His grace comprehends all people and all epochs.
And indeed We have already sent (Our) Messengers before you. There are some of them whom We have mentioned to you and of them there are some whom We have not mentioned to you. (40:78)
This creates a sense of respect and honour for all the prophets that have appeared among the various nations of the world and by accepting that all as having been sent by Allâh paves the way for the unity among the nations and peace through religion. These words also tell us that Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and all such faiths are but different aspects of one and the same religion, which in their original purity conveyed the same message of the Unity of God. Their religion was the submission to the will of One God and to make peace with their Creator and creation:
And We sent no Messenger before you but We revealed to him, (saying), ‘The truth is that there is no other, cannot be and will never be One worthy of worship but I, therefore worship Me (alone).’ (21:25)
Therefore we should believe in all those prophets, as this is the foundation of a universal brotherhood. This lays down the sound basis of peace and harmony among the religions of the world. Thus the source of all Divine Scriptures, Bible, Vedas or other similarly claimed Holy Books is the same. Divine revelations or Allah’s communion with human beings, men and women, is a necessary factor in the evolution of humanity. This Divine gift is bestowed upon all the nations of the world. He raised His Prophets not only in the Land of Palestine but in all continents. It was from India that Rishîs, Prophets and saints like Buddha, Rama, Krishna and Guru Nanak were chosen and where the Holy Scriptures, the Vedas were revealed in Sanskrit several thousand years ago.
Allâh being Rabb al âlamîn abolishes all individual and racial distinctions and tells that the noblest among us in the sight of Allâh is he who guards against evil, and who is most righteous (2:177); and thus opens a door of dialogue among the religions of the world, and establishes a vast brotherhood between all races, tribes and nations. No body is to be deprived of any right on the score of race, language, colour or sex, and no one of us is a believer in Allâh until he not only recognizes the truth of all the previous Prophets but also believes in the Divine origin of their teachings (2:4; 2:136; 3:84). We can understand differences of opinion arising from differences of temperament. They may lead to the existence of several schools of thought, but they cannot affect the real and basic faith, so far as the cardinal principles are concerned in their pure integrity. That is why we are told:
Surely, those who (profess to) believe (in Islam), and those who follow the Jewish faith, the Christians and the Sabians, whosoever (of these truly) believes in Allâh and the Last Day and acts righteously shall have their reward with their Lord, and shall have nothing to fear, nor shall they grieve. (2:62)
3.1.2 Rahmân – the Most Gracious
Rahmân is the second attribute of Allâh. Allâh says:
Call upon Him Allâh or call upon Him al-Rahmân, call upon Him whichever name you like, for all beautiful Names belong to Him (17:110)
The difference between Rabb and Al-Rahmân is that Rabb is an all-embracing providence by means of which the entire universe came into being and continues to be sustained and nourished whereas the attribute Al-Rahmân, – the Most Gracious, is a special eternal grace which extends only to the living realm without reference to any merit or right of any of them in relation to their respective requirements, and not being a recompense of any action on their part. The special concern of Rabb for the entire living realm has been called al-Rahmân. It is because of this attribute that every thing capable of sensation and consciousness is alive, works, eats, drinks, feels, secures against affliction and has his needs fulfilled.
3.1.3 Rahîm – the Ever Merciful
Rahîm, the Ever Merciful, is the third basic attribute of Allâh. The distinction between Rahîm and Rahmân is that the Rahmân grants of His own accord out of pure grace and beneficence without reference to any deed or request, while Rahîm, on the other hand, means Who causes good results to follow on good deeds, and would not nullify anyone’s work and labour. Allâh is Rahmân in the sense that He grants a pure nature to human beings, without the taint of sin, in the finest make and the best proportions with enormous capabilities for an all-round advancement and for the purpose of seeking God, and He is Rahîm in the sense that when he makes use of his faculties He blesses his efforts with goodly results.
The Arabic words Rahmân and Rahîm translated as Most Gracious and Ever Merciful are derived from the same root Rahm signifying love, tenderness, grace, mercy, pity, forgiveness, goodness, all required for exercising beneficence. Both al-Rahmân and al-Rahîm are active participle nouns of different measures denoting extensiveness of significance. An Arabic intensive is more suited to express God’s attributes than the superlative degree. It is wrong to think that Rahmân and Rahîm are the repetition of one and the same attribute and they are narrated in the first chapter of the Holy Qur’ân one after another for the sake of emphasis alone (as Allâma Moudûdî explains in his translations and interpretations of the Holy Qur’ân). The fact is that these are two different attributes of Allâh. Rahmân is in the measure of Fa‘lan which conveys the idea of fullness and extensiveness and indicates the greatest preponderance of the quality of mercy which comprehends the entire universe without regard to the effort and asking. It circumscribes the quality of abounding grace inherent in and inseparable from Him. Rahîm is in the measure of Fa‘il. This measure denotes the idea of constant repetition and giving of liberal reward again and again to those who ask for it and deserve it. It is on account of this attribute that it is said that he who seeks finds and he who asks is given. It is on account of this grace that Allâh hears the prayers of supplicants when He says:
“Call on Me! I will answer your Prayer” (40:60)
Striving is essential for achieving good results and invoking this grace. For this special benevolence, effort, exertion, hard work, purification of the heart and supplications are necessary conditions. Those who exert in the direction of Allâh and those who do not care cannot be the same. In the Holy Qur’ân there are dozens of verses which remind us of this Attribute of Allâh. The Attribute of al-Rahîm is almost always in association with other Attributes of Him. His Attribute of being the Most Gracious (al-Rahmân), Oft-Returning (al-Tawwâb), Most Loving (al-Wadûd), the All-Mighty (al-Azîz), the Most Beneficent (al-Barr), the Great Protector (al-Ghafûr), the Ever Loving (al-Raûf) are to be found together with al-Rahîm.
Seek protection of your Lord and turn to Him. Surely, my Lord is Ever Merciful, Most Loving (11:90)
Take Allâh as your shield, surely Allâh is Oft-Returning with Compassion and Ever Merciful (49:12)
The attributes of Rahmân and Rahîm rule out the doctrine of Atonement and Transmigration of souls in this very world. According to a saying of the Holy Prophet the attribute of Rahmân generally pertains to this life while the attributes of Rahîm generally pertains to the life to come, (Muhît, Zamakhshari) as this world is mostly the world of actions and the next a world where actions will be particularly rewarded. The attribute of Rahmân provides us with what we need for our deeds in this life, whereas the attribute of Rahîm brings about in the hereafter rewards and blessings after using those resources.
3.1.3 Mâlik e Youm al-Dîn – Master of the Day of Requital
Mâlik e Yaum al-Dîn: This is the fourth basic attribute of Allâh. Allâh is called Mâlik e yaum al-dîn – the Master of the Day of Requital. The translation of the word Mâlik is not King, as most English translations have adopted. Mâlik (- Master) and Malik (- king) are two different words from the same root Malak. According to the rules of forming derivations in the Arabic language, the larger the number of letters added to the root word, as the alif in Mâlik the more intensive or more extensive does the meaning become (Muhît, Zamakhshari). Hence a Mâlik or Master is one who possesses the right of ownership over a thing and has the power to deal with it as one likes. It is more than malik or king or ruler (Lane). It shows that the Almighty is not unjust if He forgives His servants, or gives more of their dues, as He is not like a king or a judge who is bound to give his judgment strictly in accordance with the prescribed law, but being Master He can forgive or give more than the due and show love and mercy wherever and in whatever manner He may like. He dominates and rules over every particle of the universe. To punish every sin is incompatible with the Divine attributes of forgiveness and forbearance.
As Mâlik, He has full authority to dispense reward and punishment. It is obvious that no one can be truly called Master unless he has the power to pardon or punish as he may like and determine. He does as He will. There is no room for anyone to find fault with that which He does. The use of the word Mâlik serves a twofold purpose. On one hand it gives courage, hope, and confidence to a person who has in a moment of weakness committed some wrong or sin, not to lose hope as the beneficent Allâh being his Master has the power to forgive or give more. On the other hand it serves as a warning of taking undue advantage of the graciousness and beneficence of Allâh. Both these things are essential for human beings’ spiritual progress and advancement.
The Divine Attribute Mâlike yaum al-dîn is a link between the attributes Rabb – the Nourisher to perfection, Rahmân – the Most Gracious and Rahîm – the Ever Merciful. This attribute shows the process of development of great and continuous mercy. The life after is also a creation of the Almighty, so His attributes of Nourishing, Graciousness, and Ever Compassionate Mercy will continue to operate in that life as well, thus effort and action and therefore progress will continue forever. The mentioning of the attributes of fostering and nourishing to perfection, graciousness, and compassionate mercy and love bear a subtle indication that Allah’s supreme Lordship is not due to domination by violence or subjugation but to the two forms of compassion, the general form (Rahmanîyyat) and the particular form (Rahîmiyyat). He combines all kinds of glorification in His being and is unique in all His beauties and bounties. He is sublime, perfect, glorious and subject to no limitation. To Him is due all praise in the beginning and in the end through eternity. All excellencies belong to Him as a matter of right. No other shares in it.
The word yaum translated as ‘Day’ also means time, absolutely short or long, day and night (Tâj). This word is used in the terminology of Qur’ân refering to any period of time from a moment (5:28) to fifty thousand years (70:4). Although the process of reckoning is already going on in this life up to some extent, the last and the perfect reckoning will take place on the Day of Requital, the Day of greatest dispensation. There is continuous judgment and requital in this life as well but only in small measure. Award is reward and punishment is in His hands alone. A thief may escape once or twice but he is sure to be caught in the end or to be punished some other day in a different way. He who does evil suffers evil.
The Divine Attribute Mâlik e yaum al-dîn refutes those who do not believe in the Hereafter. The difference between this Divine attribute and Rahîm is that Rahîm opens the path to progress and success through good deeds, supplication and worship, whereby a reward is earned and through the attribute of Rahîm attribute that reward is conferred. Those who do not believe in the Divine attribute of Rahîm are indifferent towards good deeds, as the atheists say there is no reward and no punishment and thus deny the very existence of God and thereby deliberately neglect good actions. Under the attribute of Rahîm and through good actions and prayer one is deemed worthy of grace, but it is through the attribute of Mâlik e yaum al-dîn that the grace is bestowed. Mâlik also indicates that He has not withdrawn Himself from the governance of the universe, committing it to some vicegerent with all authority to award recompense here and Hereafter. He alone is the complete Master and Owner.
In the category of Mâlik e yaum al-dîn it could be asked why Allâh called Himself Master and not Judge? The answer is that the concept of justice does not emerge until after the establishment of right and no one has any right against the Lord. Salvation in the Hereafter is a bounty from Allâh. The Christian concept of vicarious atonement lacks such forbearance, forgiveness and mercy. On the other hand, the contemplation of these four Divine attributes creates in human beings an irresistible longing for seeing his Creator, an intense desire to offer his wholehearted devotion to Him and an irresistible feeling of love. This imperfect, dim, dense, narrow world of limited capacity is not suited to serve as stage for the magnificent manifestation of these attributes. An altogether different realm is needed for its demonstration. Through its mild reflection and forecast we can see in this life of those who ‘die in the path of Allâh’ before death overtakes them and though they subsist in this world they have their being in the Hereafter, Allâh manifests His light to them in a manner which is not manifested to others except after death. The heart of such a perfect man is a reflection of these four attributes.
3.2 The Four Divine Graces
All type of perfect and true praise belongs to Allâh alone, Who is the Creator and Nourisher to perfection of all the worlds. The Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful, Master of the Day of Requital. Him alone do we love and worship with complete and utmost humility, submissiveness, and obedience to receive the impress of His attributes and imbibe them in us and reflect them in our own life, and to Him we implore for help, to lead us on the exact right path till we reach the goal, the path of those on whom He has bestowed His blessings, those who have not incurred His displeasure, and those who have not gone astray. (1:2-7)
The four principle attributes of Allâh are mentioned in the very first chapter and at the very beginning of the Holy Qur’ân: Rabb – Nourisher to Perfection; Al-Rahmân – The Most Gracious; Al-Rahîm – The Ever Merciful; Mâlik e yaum al-dîn – Master of the Day of Requital, and these are expounded in detail in the Holy Qur’ân and its verses flow like a river in exposition of these. These attributes are essential to His being and on them rests the very existence of the universe. They take precedence over everything and comprehend everything and are the source of all other Divine attributes and posts for the throne (‘Arsh) on which He has established Himself.
The very first opening chapter of the Holy Qur’ân (al-Fâtihah) also refers to the four Divine Graces which spring from the four basic attributes of God. These four Graces Rubûbîyyat, Rahmâniyyat, Rahîmiyyat and Mâlikîyyat may be called the mother of all Divine Graces which are in operation at all times in universe, and the order in which they are mentioned in al-Fâtihah is their natural order, and they are being manifested in the order mentioned. They convey us that our Creator and Sustainer and Nourisher to perfection is the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful, ready to do everything for us without recompense, coming to reward many fold for one good deed and only on rare occasion uses His discretion of punishment, and that only in those cases, where it is necessary for rectification and discipline and not at all for revenge, and that only for a limited period. They convey the idea of love and His All Compassion and create in us an irresistible feeling of love, devotion. Out of this impulse we want to worship Him in complete and utmost humility, submissiveness and obedience and want to receive the impression of His attributes and imbibe and reflect them in our own life.
3.2.1 Rubûbîyyat – The First Divine Grace
The first Divine Grace – Rubûbîyyat is the most general grace. This grace perpetually envelopes everything, without distinction of animate or inanimate. Every form of creation, living or non-living, comes into being through it. The coming into being from non-existence and its development from the crudest form to perfection is through the manifestation of this grace. All souls and bodies were manifested and are being manifested through it and all were developed and are developing through it. This grace is the very life of the universe. Were it to be withdrawn for an instant, the universe would come to an end and had it not been for this grace there would have been no creation. So this attribute of Rubûbîyyat is mentioned before all other attributes of graces, as of all the attributes of grace this has natural priority because it comes into manifestation before the other attributes of grace are manifested. His Rubûbîyyat is in operation all the time. It is not that after having created the world Allâh has withdrawn from its control and that He has committed it to the laws of nature so that He Himself does not intervene in any way. It is not as if like the maker of a machine has no concern with it after he has made it. He exercises this attribute all the time over the whole universe, and at no time is the universe deprived of the benefit of this grace. Even after the creation of the universe the need of that source of grace is as insistent every moment as if He had not yet created anything. As the world depends upon this attribute for its coming into being, it is equally dependent upon it for its continuation and sustenance.
3.2.2 Rahmâniyyat – The Second Divine Grace
The operation of the second Grace, His Rahmâniyyat which follows Rubûbîyyat is related only to animates and not to inanimate. We read in The Holy Qur’ân verses like:
“He has taken upon Himself the rule of Mercy” (6:12, 54),
“Your Lord is the Lord of All-Embracing Mercy” (6:146),
“My mercy embraces all things” (7:156),
“Our Lord, You embrace each and every thing in Your mercy” (40:7).
This Mercy is not the consequence of, or reward of any action of ours. It is by the blessing of this Grace that everything lives and eats and has its sustaining needs fulfilled. It is through the operation of this grace that a human being fulfils his requirements of life, the sun for heat, light and energy, the air for breathing and water for drinking. It is by blessing of this grace that all that is needed for spiritual development such as the capacities of rational thinking and speech, embedded love for God and innate drive for worship and the capacity to receive Divine revelation have been provided from the earliest.
Every created thing is the object of Rahmâniyyat and Mercy is His Essence and His Grace, but being Merciful is His Attribute. His Mercy embraces everything, it permeates all His objects of creation, and has precedence over all His other attributes. Every created thing is the object of His Mercy. He is begged for Mercy by everyone by mentioning His other Names and Attributes. As one would say, “O Almighty! Have mercy with me.” Or one might say, “O Avenging One! Have mercy on me”. This is because the Names of God are referring to His attributes with the various ideas they bear. These attributes can all be appealed to for Mercy. His Pleasure and Wrath exist only by virtue of His Mercy and so is with His Mercifulness. Ibn Arabî says:
“The Mercy of Allâh flows in all created things and courses through His Selves and the Essences. The rank of Mercy is epitome to those who perceive and sublime to those of discursive mind.”
It is because of this Rahmâniyyat that He gives respite to the disbelievers. We are told in the Holy Qur’ân if He were to seize people immediately for their wrong committing, no human being would be left on the face of the earth, but He gives them respite till an appointed term (16:61) so that the disobedient may have the favourable combination of circumstances to avail and correct, and chance to repent. He says:
“And do not let those who disbelieve think that the respite We give them is good for them. Surely, We grant them respite (that they may have chance to mend their ways and correct their evil actions) but they do not avail it,” (3:178)
In short, through this grace of Rahmâniyyat the human beings and other living beings enjoy the fulfilment of millions of their wants. No one can claim that these are the result of their actions or that they had been engaged in some virtuous pursuit in a previous incarnation or time, in favourable estimate of which God has conferred all these innumerable bounties upon mankind, or because of his demand or request or because of demand or request by somebody else. It is this grace which reveals itself in thousands of ways to elevate the well being of all livings. It is a bounty regardless of merit, claim, or demand on the part of anyone. It is but the upsurge of Divine mercy so that every animate creature may attain his natural goal, and may meet the requirements inherent in his nature and to look after all that is good for him. That the Divine Being possesses this attribute is manifestly established through a study of the law of nature. No one can dispute the fact that all these objects, like the earth, the sun, the moon, and the elements, that are the mainstay of life, proceeds from this very grace, and that every animal, beast, and human being, believer and disbeliever, good and bad, is getting benefit therefrom. All that is in our bodies owes its origin to His Rahmâniyyat, no body can claim that it is a reward for his action. He provides His bounties out of His sheer grace and not in return for anyone’s labour and even long before the birth of His creatures and before the commencement of their deeds and thinking.
God’s Mercy is universal, and He is begged ever for His Mercy by everyone through His other attributes and names. It is His Mercy (Rahmatî – My Mercy 7:156) which is all encompassing. His Mercy has precedence over His wrath, that is to say that His Mercy is attributed to Him before wrath.
3.2.3 Rahîmiyyat – The Third Divine Grace
The third Divine Grace, Rahîmiyyat, follows His Rahmâniyyat. The difference between this and Rahmâniyyat is that in the case of the latter the beneficiary is not under obligation to make himself good or bring his ego out of the coverings of darkness, or to put forward any effort to take advantage of it. In the case of Rahîmiyyat striving and effort and purification of the heart and supplication and attention towards God and every other kind of appropriate effort are needed. He alone receives this grace who seeks it and this grace descends upon those who work for it. Allâh says:
“And those who strive hard in Our cause, We will certainly guide them to the ways that lead to Us” (29:69)
It is out of this grace that our prayers and supplications are accepted:
“And when My servants ask you concerning Me (tell them), I am nearby indeed, I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me, so they should respond to My call, and believe in Me (that I possess all these attributes) so that they may proceed in the right way.” (2:186).
By virtue of this grace God’s name is al-Rahîm, the Ever Merciful. Since the attribute of Rahîmiyyat follows upon the fulfilment of certain conditions it is mentioned after Rahmâniyyat. This Mercy can be acquired by obligations, in a way as the verse 7:156 continues to inform us or by Divine Grace followed by what is said in verse 48:2.
This Qur’ân is sent by the All-Mighty, the Ever Merciful (- Al-Azîz al-Rahîm) (36:5)
3.2.3 Mâlikîyyat – The Fourth Divine Grace
The fourth Divine grace – Mâlikîyyat – Master of the Day of Requital, is followed by Rahîmiyyat. To bring creation to perfection, the manifestation of Mâlikîyyat is also needed, as submission to the laws brings in the reward which results in the advancement of human beings. Disobedience to the laws must result in punishment and as a result of this retardation in progress. There are ample indications in the nature that the Divine Law of requital is constantly at work and is being manifested every moment. In fact, the punishment of wrong is necessary in the Divine scheme, as is the reward of good. Reward and punishment are different phases of the exercise of the attribute of Rabûbîyyat, for the perfection is still the object, and Hell is nothing but a nursing home, a kind of a hospital till the souls of sinners are completely cleansed of the taint of the disease of sin. Fear of punishment and punishment is the only deterring influence in crushing evil. The pressure of legal penalties is a discourager of wrong and wherever it relaxes its hold, evil begins to crop up.
The fear of punishment in this world and the Hereafter acts as a deterrent in this respect; such can hardly be the case with the belief in the Atonement. If God could not find any other remedy for the cleansing of human sins, then there is no need of any good action on our part. There are few human beings who pursue virtue for its own sake. It is the requital and reward of virtue, especially seen in its efficacy in counterbalancing the effects of sin that they fulfil the law and lead a good life. But if the same thing is attainable merely by a belief in the “Grace of Blood”, few would consider it worthwhile to bear the hardships and trials of the life of piety and righteousness. Belief in the Atonement obviates the necessity for good deeds. We must not forget that it is only the awe and fear of Divine Majesty that can safeguard against sin and evil. Once one realizes that God is dispenser of punishment as well, and that His punishment is severe (2:165), that awesome consciousness would become a barrier against sins. The idea of atonement makes a person unbridled and wayward. But compassionate mercy and mastery stimulate both hope and effort. Mâlikîyyat supported by culture and progress has played havoc with the belief in Atonement. Belief in this attribute, when rendered into action in our daily life, would bring our culture and civilization to collapse. It is useless to sing hymns at the top of our voices if we are not leading Godly lives. He does not stand in need of any adoration from us. It is neither creditable to Him nor profitable to us. It is very dangerous to believe in things that not only have no bearing on our life but are actually harmful in their effects on the building of our character. In the matter of culture and civilization such beliefs as Atonement have proved an implacable enemy to human progress. Virtue and vice, both in their growth and origin, are in the right proportion with strength or weakness of our belief in law and its forces. Crimes come to the surface in quarters where law and order can be avoided without fear of detection and punishment. And law loses all its force and cannot compel universal attachment unless and until some reward or punishment comes to its fulfiller or breaker. We cannot imagine any greater harm to the very fabric of human society than that which comes to us as a natural growth by reason of our belief in a doctrine of Atonement that either weakens our sense of responsibility or causes us to lose our physical or moral strength and divests us of a motive for action. So to bring creation to perfection, the attribute of Mâlik yaum al-dîn, Master of the Day of Requital, is needed. Hence in the very opening chapter of the Holy Qur’ân this basic attribute is mentioned. This sequence is in agreement with the book of nature. Perfect composition in a book of revelation demands that the order followed in the book of nature should also be kept in view in a book of revelation. To reverse the natural order in composition is to reverse the law of nature. For a perfect composition it was also necessary that the order of nature, as if it were its photograph, which is natural, and in fact prior, should be prior in description also.
While describing the attribute the word Mâlik or Master and not the Judge or Administrator of Justice to meet out the requital of good and evil is very significant. The essential difference between a judge and master is that the former is bound to punish the evildoers for each and every evil and crime, while the master can exercise his discretion, and may either punish the evildoer or forgive him and pass over his sins and crimes. It is because of this fact that the Holy Qur’ân says
“O my servants who have committed excesses against their own souls, do not despair of the mercy of Allâh (that Allâh is going to punish you at all cost, and cannot forgive your sins). Surely Allâh forgives all sins. Verily He is the Great Protector, the Ever Merciful.” (39:53).
Hence the attribute of Mâlik and Master is introduced to link the idea of punishment with that of forgiveness and mercy. In the body of the Qur’ân, Allâh is also mentioned as Al-Ghafûr (91 times), Al-Ghâfir, and Al Ghaffâr with the cognate verb forms (560 times). Hence it will be seen that the Qur’ân gives prominence to the attributes of love and mercy in Allâh to an extent where the parallel is not to be met with in any other book.
On one hand, the Holy Qur’ân stresses the fact that the Divine Law of Requital of deeds is working every moment and thus makes a human being feel the responsibility of what he does, and on the other hand gives prominence to the quality of forgiveness in Divine nature. So the law of requital is not like a rigid law of nature but like the dealing of a most gracious and ever merciful master.
It is here that the makers of the modern Christian creed have made their greatest error. Such doctrines were incorporated from paganism. They are contrary to the very teachings of Jesus Christ, who demands of every person that he should bear his own cross. It is wrong to think that a human being was born with a hereditary stain upon him, and this stain for which he was not personally responsible had to be atoned for, and that God was compelled to make a blood sacrifice of His own innocent son in order to neutralize this mysterious curse. It goes against the justice and mercy of our Creator. It is a piece of superstition and can no longer receive approval from reason and culture. It was to popularize the Christian faith with the pagan world that the dogma of God incarnate with other mystery tenets in its brain was incorporated into the real and simple faith of Jesus Christ. The borrowed colours, though, remained deep and thick enough for centuries to conceal the real faith and have in the meantime become threadbare and are no longer in demand. The suffering God is no longer an ideal in the estimate of the thinking laity. The crucified deity is thus an old myth, well enough for a child’s imagination or for those who are inclined to shift their burden on the shoulders of others. They think that the Son of God is needed to atone for the evil deeds of humanity, since God, being a judge, cannot, and should not, forgive sins without taking revenge unless somebody can be found to provide a compensation. This conception of theirs is against both the justice and mercy of God. God is a Master and He is therefore able to forgive.
The Grace of Mâlikîyyat has nothing to do with the autocracy, inexorability, vengeance and cruelty. On the contrary, this Grace along with the graces of Rahmânîyyat and Rahîmîyyat, which are the graces of love and mercy are emphasized in the Holy Qur’ân and in the sayings of the Holy Prophet again and again. Not only does every chapter of the Holy Qur’ân open with the attributes Rahmân and Rahîm, thus showing that the qualities of love and mercy are predominant in Divine nature, but the following text lays a big stress in explicit words on the immeasurable vastness of the Divine Mercy.
We read in the Holy Qur’ân passages like these which were already cited above:
“He has taken upon Himself the rule of mercy” (6:12, 54),
“Your Lord is the Lord of All-Embracing Mercy” (6:146),
“My mercy embraces all things” (7:156),
“Our Lord, You embrace each and every thing in Your mercy” (40:7).
Abû Hurairah told that he heard Allah’s Messenger say, “Allâh, Most High, had inscribed a document before bringing the creation into being: ‘My Mercy has preceded my anger’ and that this is written in His presence above the throne.” (Bukhârî)
So great is the Divine mercy and love of Allâh that it encompasses believers and disbelievers alike. The picture of the Divine graces portrayed in the Holy Qur’ân is, first and last, a picture of love and mercy and punishment is to impress that evil is a most hateful thing, which ought to be shunned. The punishment itself, as described, is of a remedial nature and has in it nothing of vengeance or intolerance. His punishment is the treatment of a disease, which a human being has brought upon himself and it is only for a limited time. It is still love and affection, as its object is still to set a person on the path of progress, after healing the disease.
“And We sent (Messengers) towards the communities before you, (because of their rejection) We afflicted them with destitution, calamities, and adversities (to discipline them and) so that they might become humble before us (and to set them again on the path of progress).” (6:42, 7:94).
These four Divine Graces are the prime and fundamental source of all other attributes of Allâh. They form the pivot around which all the other Divine attributes revolve, and the basis of the working of the universe and of the labour between Allâh and human beings. Our surprise knows no bounds when we think of the Divine economy of words in the selection of these four names for our meditation. Not only do they serve the purpose of theology but they are comprehensive enough to bring with their scope all that is needed to guide us through all conceivable avenues of human activity and perfect civilization. They are our guide in mundane affairs as well as in morals and spiritualism. Whatever branch of life we may enter upon, we find in these attributes the surest of guidance by which we can achieve our aim of life and real progress and greatness.
3.3 Al-Hamdo li (A)llâh – The Opening Words in the Holy Qur’ân
The Holy Qur’ân begins with the words Al-Hamdo li (A)llâh. In the light of what has been said above these words mean: Every type of true praise, whether relating to external aspects or internal realities, whether relating to inherent excellencies or as manifested in natural phenomena, is due only to Allâh. No other shares in it. There is no excellence which the wisdom of the wise can imagine or that the mind of a thinker can contemplate, but belongs to Allâh, the Supreme. This praise, which is offered in appreciation of commendable action of One worthy of praise, and lauding One Who has done a favour of His own volition and according to His own choice. It is the due only of the Being Who is the source of all Grace and Light and exercises beneficences deliberately and not in ignorance or under compulsion or like a robot, mechanical to some extent, efficient but devoid of sensibility, will and volition. All this is formed in Allâh only. He is the true Benefactor and Ever Merciful. If the suspension of His operation for a single moment were to be imagined, the earth and the heavens and all that exists therein would perish instantly. If we tried to count His Excellencies we would not be able to number them, even if we exerted ourselves hard (31:27). He is known through His glories and Excellencies. Praise is inspired by His qualities, the perfection of beauty (Rabb and Rahmân) and the perfection of beneficence (Rahîm). If a being imbibe in him His Excellencies his heart melts and yearns for Him with fervent devotion and love and worships Him with all his humbleness. He is then drawn closer to that peerless and unique Being. That is why in the very opening chapter (al-Fatihah) of the Holy Qur’ân this charming description and beautiful picture of Allâh has been set forth, Whose Excellencies are the culmination of beauty and beneficence and Who suffers not from any shortcoming or defect. God says:
He has given you of all that you wanted of Him by your natural demand. And if you try to count Allah’s bounties you will not be able to number them. Surely a human being is very unjust, very ungrateful. (14:34)
Countless Thy favours
A hundred thousand tongues
Can deliver not the thanks
due to Thee.
Favours upon favours
Has Thou showered
On the handful of dust
Is indebted to Thee
Thy universal care
3.4 Al-Wadûd – Allâh’s Attribute of Love
“And He is the Most Forgiving and the Most Loving” (85:14)
The Qur’ân gives us a long list of Allâh’s attributes. If we take a look at them, we will find that a great number of them bear on Allah’s love, mercy, grace, concern, affection, friendship and attachment. Majesty (Jalâl) and beauty (Jamâl) are two intrinsic attributes of awe (Haybat), and bewilderment (Hayrat) is the effect of Majesty (Jalâl) and Beauty (Jamâl) on the human being. Many things that are existent become the object of awe. Allâh says that He is Wadûd – Lovely and Loving. He also is Wallî, a Friend, Companion, Comrade. In human hearts, Love for Allâh, our Creator, is embedded deep. There is no lover and no beloved except Allâh. This Love is a basic and inborn human instinct. It is a part of human nature and it is part of the human seed. In the words of Rûmî:
My navel cord was cut
With promise of Thy love
And in my nature didst
the seed of my love
The Holy Prophet said, Allâh loves His servants much more than a mother. It is not that a human being is not acquainted with love. His heart is capable of love of many different kinds – love of parents, love of one’s children, love of near relations, love of riches. How is it that the Being to Whom we owe our every thing and to love whom is a guarantee of our welfare in this life and the Hereafter is considered to be inappropriate as an object of love? We can find no peace of mind without His love and without worship. The Holy Qur’ân says,
“I have created the jinn (- fiery natured and haughty) and the ordinary people only that they may worship Me” (51:56)
It would be unworthy of Him that He should have created us for the above purpose and not have provided means and the capacities and capabilities for doing it. The first step towards attaining this goal is strong desire, strong yearning and strong love for the object we worship. Worship without love and adoration is of no meaning. It is for this reason that love of Allâh is part of our natural endowment and an inborn yearning. We have an inborn desire for communion with Him. Worship is not an affliction or an imposition, as He does not have the slightest need for it. He does not depend on us for His praise and glorification. We need to praise and glorify Him for our own sake, to illuminate, purify, get comfort, and peace of mind. Our heart and soul needs the light of worship. The largest measure of worldly success, material wealth, kingly power, personal glory and fame cannot by themselves lead to true happiness and genuine peace of mind. These blessings are vouchsafed only to the soul which is deep in love with God and which has attained communion with Allâh.
Love has its motives, its springs, perfection of beauty and perfection of beneficence, and these are the unique qualities of Allâh. Beauty and beneficence and love are connected naturally and eternally, where there is beauty and beneficence there must be love. And nothing is more beautiful and kind than Allâh. Where there is strong love there is a strong longing to see the loved one. Overpowered with love and affection, Moses was compelled to say:
“Lord! Reveal Yourself to me so that I may look at You (and Your Beauty)”. (7:143)
If He were to momentarily unveil Himself and manifest a glimpse of His sublime beauty and glory, all creatures would be stunned prostrate before His overpowering majesty (7:143). But as “the physical vision cannot comprehend Him” (6:103), He invites us again and again to ponder over the evidences of the perfection of His beauty and perfection of beneficence.
Who is it that created the heavens and the earth, and sends down water for you from the clouds? (It is We.) Then We cause to grow with it orchards full of bloom and loveliness. You had no power to cause their trees to grow. Is there any god with Allâh? (There is none;) yet there are a people who ascribe (to Him) equals (in all these works) (27:60).
He invites us again and again to ponder over His creation (6:95-99; 10:4; 10:34; 16:6; 50:7; 55:11; 67:3-5). Why this repeated invitation to ponder over His creation? Why the wonderful work of which our Creator is the author is described in the Holy Qur’ân again and again? Why this repeated appeal? Is it not because He wants to kindle the flame of love in our hearts? Knowledge and awareness of perfection is bound to create love of Him. The first thing that moves us to love is beauty. It attracts us. The appreciation of beauty is the part of human nature. It is not possible that there should be beauty and it should not move us. Who has created this beauty? Not self-created, for sure. He Who has created all this beauty, how very beautiful must be He Himself. It does not make good logic that He should be able to create beauty but Himself remain devoid of it. He Who gives beauty to others, how can He be without it Himself? Who enriches others must be rich Himself. He who has nothing himself, what can he give to others? Surprising, a penniless beggar offering charity. His beauty makes us forget all other beauties. His grace makes us forget those nearest and dearest to us. But for His animating beauty there would have been no beauty anywhere in the world. The enchantment of beautiful faces comes all from Him; the colour of all flowers too comes from Him. This eternal beauty, even a passing view of it, could inspire verses like the following:
Patent and perverse
Is this Light of lights
The whole world has become
One large mirror
For the willing to see.
Yesternight the moon I saw,
Made me lose my peace
For some thing in it resembled
The Beauty of the One
Loved by me.
Its beauty abundant
Has filled my heart
With frenzied joy – therefore
Tell me not of Tartar
or the Turkish beauty.
The waves in the ocean, the sun,
Are witness into Thee.
Each scintillating star is a scene
That is Thee.
The beauty of all beauties
of this world,
is Beauty of Thine
The rose, the rose garden,
Receives their colour
From the garden that’s Thee.
The heavy-lidded drunken eye
Of every beauty
Reveals only Thee:
The curved lock
On every cheek
Has its hand
Pointing to Thee.
Wave of Thy beauty
Are to be seen
In the effulgence
Of the sun, and every star
Carries a beam
Of Thy flash!
With Thine own hands
Hast Thou sprinkled biting salt
On the wounded souls:
So, naturally, therefore,
On every side, now,
Is raging a tumult
Of the waxing cries of love,
Wrung from the desolate heart
Of the disconsolate lovers!
For those blind
Of eye, thousands of veils
Have come to hang betwixt:
Otherwise, Thine own face,
Thine own approval,
And pleasure, was the final
Aim and object of every
Believer and nonbeliever!
Thy charming looks constitute
A sharp sword, which cuts
Clean through everything–
Cuts clean through every
Other loyalty, and love!
That I be able to meet
Thee, I have mingled
With the dust, hoping, thereby,
To find some remedy, would put
An end to this torture
For a single moment,
Do I find any rest,
Any peace, without Thee:
My life is all the time
Sinking like the heart
Of an ailing person.
Find out quick
What is the meaning
Of these cries, this noise
This tumult, in Thy love?
Turn Thy attention, immediately
Lest the blood of a lovesick
Caught in the violent throes
Of love, should finally come
To lose his life!
The only thing really,
that matters in this world
is Thy love, material life
Is nothing but a pitiful
Groping, in a thick
And baffling darkness!
Thou art, indeed,
And this love, alone,
Is the love that is real,
So strange, diverse,
In all directions scattered
O beloved Lord!
Is Thy power.
Should we but look–
Around, above, below–
Every time we view
Some aspect of Thee
For Thy sweet sake,
I have scattered the dust,
that is me, on the winds
That blow; This is the way
I have lived my life,
Right from the moment
I came to know this
Is the indispensable
Condition of all genuine
Cases of loyalty
It is possible that on account of his own insensitive mind a person may not feel the impact of beauty when in its presence – the same as animals would remain unmoved by it. Likewise, his own lack of spiritual insight may not permit him to discern in earthly beauty a pointer to the Divine beauty, Who is the eternal, everlasting and the ultimate source of all other beauties – ephemeral and fleeing, though, essentially in character. It is an undeniable truth that beauty and love are connected naturally and eternally. Where there is beauty there must be love, and nothing is more beautiful than Allâh. As Allâh is without body, so the beauty of Allâh is not confined to the physical what we see. Beauty is excellence proper to the person whose beauty is being judged and is in question.
Another thing that moves us to love and inspire the heart spontaneously with admiration and strong liking, inclination and ardour is the perfection of beneficence. If a being contains both these excellencies – the perfection of beauty and the perfection of beneficence – the heart melts and yearns for him with fervent devotion. Islam aims at impressing these two excellencies of the Supreme Being upon the seekers after truth. So that we may be drawn to that peerless and Unique Being and worship Him with fervent devotion and yearning.
(Say O Prophet!,) “I ask no reward from you for (my preaching). All that I ask you is to cherish the strongest love to be near (to Him).” (42:23)
A human being, it is true, is bound to love Allâh; does Allâh also love a human being in return? Yes, Allah’s love for a human being is clearly proved and promised. He is One Most Approving and One Most Appreciating (64:16). We cannot have the least doubt that He will not respond to our love by His. A storm of love in one’s heart but no response to it by Allâh, this is impossible. How can we in return attract His attention? The way to it is told to us in the following verse:
Say (O Prophet!), “Follow me if you love Allâh. (If you do so) Allâh will love you and grant you protection from your sins. Allâh is Great Protector, Ever Merciful.” (3:31).
What a transparent, persuasive and eloquent affirmation we have here of Allah’s love for human beings. Not the least doubt is left that Allâh loves him who qualifies for His love and fulfil his obligation towards Him (64:16-17).
3.5 Akbar and Azîm -Allâh’s Attributes of Resemblance
Allah’s attributes are either tanzîhî, i.e. attributes of transcendence, or tashbîhî, which are the attributes of resemblance. The tanzîhî attributes leads us into what are called tashbîhî or relative attributes. The tanzîhî attributes describe the way in which Allâh is related to the world which is His creation. The tashbîhî attributes are those which are in the very nature of God, as He is One, He exists of Himself, He depends upon nothing, He is self-existent. He is infinite. He is invincible. He cannot be fully comprehended or grasped, He is Akbar (- Big – It does not mean that He is very big, but means that size is irrelevant to Him), He is Azîm (Great), He cannot be measured quantitatively, He is inseparable, He cannot be grasped by the mind of human beings or anyone else.
If the mind can contain it
And the intellect comprehend it
How can it be God.
The God that is infinite
Allâh is infinite, pervasive.
We cannot comprehend Him fully. He is without limits, without dimension. We would be fools to ask for Him to step down from His throne of infinite attributes to become comprehensible for us, or take birth from the womb of a woman. How can a limitless, infinite Being be contained in the mind of a limited being like man or in the belly of a woman? What a logic and what an understanding! In the Holy Qur’ân we read about Moses asking to see Allâh. When Allâh showed him a glimpse of His Glory, Moses, unable to stand it, become dazed and senseless (7:143). The narrative points to the fact that the beauty of Allâh is dazzling, we humans cannot stand it.
Howsoever I may try
I can comprehend not
Thy Beauty Divine-
Farther thou art
Than the farthest I could imagine.
Allâh is spoken of in the Holy Qur’ân as seeing, hearing, speaking, being displeased, affectionate, etc.; yet the use of these words must not be taken in any sense as indicating an anthropomorphic or human-like being. Allâh is not a jism or corporal, He hears but not with ears like our ears, He sees but not with eyes like our eyes. We read that His hands are stretched (bast al yad), this means that He is full of bounties. Thus the hands of God spoken in 5:64 express His unlimited power, favour and protection. God’s throne does not signify any place, rather a symbol of His power and represents His control of things as a monarch’s throne is a symbol of his power to rule. It is taken as indicating might or power and authority. He does not resemble His creatures in form, nor do any of His creatures resemble Him, He is not like anything else or similar (Fiqh Akbar by Imâm Abû Hanîfah). He is beyond all comparison. So transcendent is He and so far above all material conception that a likeness of Him cannot be conceived. He is not only above all material limitations but even above the limitations of metaphor. He is above all material conception. Vision comprehends Him not and He comprehends all vision.
Understanding and reasoning
And imagining besides
May do their utmost
But beyond, ever beyond,
Remains the core, the essence,
of His Being.
Allâh is inscrutable. He cannot be fully comprehended or grasped by the human mind. Our intelligence is fitted for piecemeal learning about the things which we see, touch, taste, and hear. It is not capable to grasp the infinite in any full and final sense. If we had to depend upon our minds alone or are obliged to be content only with the evidence of our senses, we could never reach to Allâh. If we can never entirely understand the spots on the back of a beetle, as one pointed out, how could we ever hope to understand fully the reality of the Creator?
When we think about Allâh we must use our reason and reflect upon our experience. There is no way by which we can escape this kind of limited anthropomorphism, that we think about Allâh in human terms and in terms of our human life. If we try to avoid thinking about Allâh in this fashion we will be obliged to think of Him as though He were either a machine or a blind force. But we do not, in reality, speak of ‘It’ when we mention Allâh, we speak of Him. That means that Allâh is better understood as being personal rather than impersonal. Obviously, He is not a person in just the same sense in which we are persons. That would be quite absurd, for it would negate the infinite nature of Allâh and His inscrutable quality. His personality is far above that of any human being. When we ascribe personality to Allâh, we are saying that He is One (112:1-4). He is free in His nature and not bound by chains of imposed necessity (2:255). He has a will (3:26) and a purpose (51:56). He can and does enter into communion with that which is not Himself (2:186). He is not like sticks or stones, unconscious force or energy or a half-personalized being. He is a spiritual Being without a physical body (24:35). He is not bound down by the limitation in time and space which besets us with physical bodies. He is both immeasurable and eternal, beyond measurement by watches, clocks, or calendars. In spite of all this, the whole of the Scriptural record as well as experience of Prophets and Saints testify to the personal relationship which they had with Him. On the other hand, we can know something about Allâh when we make sense of experience to lead us to recognize certain truths about the ultimate reality. The attributes of Allâh are the most valuable clue we have in order to know Allâh.
Some say that this God of the Qur’ân possesses human morals. It was therefore a human being and not God who pictured Him in the Qur’ân. This is not correct, none of His attributes are like human qualities. When a man is angry, he suffers from anger himself and his heart loses its comfort and perceives a burning sensation and his brain is oppressed and he undergoes a change, but God is free from all such changes. His anger and displeasure means that He removes His support from one who does not desist from evil, and according to His eternal law He metes out to him such treatment as a human being metes out to another when he is angry. Metaphorically it is called God’s displeasure and anger. In the same way His love is not like the love of a human being, for a human being suffers in love also when he is separated from his beloved. But God is not subject to suffering. His nearness also is not like the nearness of a human being to a beloved one, for when a human being nears to someone, he vacates the space which he had occupied before. His rahmah or mercy or compassion or love, for instance, means the bestowal of good things and not an actual inclining of the His heart (Hujjatullâh al-Bâlighah). To indicate His love, power, knowledge and other attributes, the same words had to be used as are in ordinary use for human beings, but the conception is not quite the same. In short, every Divine attribute is distinct from human qualities. There is only a verbal resemblance and no more (Chashma M’arifat). The Holy Names mentioned in the Qur’ân cover attributes like generosity, compassion, intellect and others as worked in the nature long before human beings ever came into existence. It was not a human being who fashion the Qur’ânic God by himself, but it was the Almighty Who made the human being after His own image and revealed to him His such characters so that he may follow Him and act as His vicegerent. God Himself appeared as our prototype in the Book. His attributes are to be taken as referring to the ultimate end of those words.
This God of ours possesses numberless blessings, numberless powers, numberless beauties and beneficences. It is not within the power of a human being to comprehend all the attributes and activity of the Divine Being. They are above intellect and imagination. The truth is that as Allâh Himself is unbounded and limitless, His attributes and activities are unbounded and limitless too. While regarding Divine attributes in general Shah Wallîallah writes that their use is only in the sense of the ultimate end of these words. It is beyond and above human power to count and reach the reality of every name, attribute and activity of Allâh. No one can truly recognize Allâh till he understands that there are innumerable activities and names of Allâh which are far beyond and above human power and reason and speculation. His powers are so numerous that human reason cannot encompass them. His attributes are wonderful, they have depth upon depth and are beyond of and outside comprehension. We do not believe in a God Whose powers are limited by our reason and speculation and there is nothing beyond. We believe in Allâh Whose powers and attributes, like His Being, are unlimited, unconfined and unending.
3.6 Nûr -Allâh’s Attributes of Transcendance
According to Alî Ibn Abî Tâlib and other people of reflection (Ashâb al-Fikr) “Dust” was the first universal reality. Then Allâh manifested Himself in theophany His Light to that “Dust”. He says:
He directed Himself towards the space. Behold! It was (like) a mass of gas (dust), and He said to it (- the space) and to the earth, ‘Come both of you (in obedience to Me) willingly or unwillingly together.’ They said, ‘We obey you with all our will.’ (41:11)
Within this “Dust” was the entire universe in its potentiality and readiness (Salâhiya) and each thing in the “Dust” – living or non living, received from His Light according to its peparedness (Isti’dâd) and potentiality, just as the corners of a room receive light according to their distance from the lamp. He says He is the Light (al-Nûr) of Heavens and the earth, and then He compares Himself with a Lamp:
Allâh is the Extensive Light of the heavens and the earth. His light can be compared to a (lustrous) pillar on which is a lamp. The lamp is inside a crystal globe. The globe of glass is as if it were a glittering star. It (- the lamp) is lit by (the oil of) a blessed olive tree, which belongs neither to the east nor to the west (rather welds the whole world in its fold). Its oil is likely to glow forth of itself even if no fire has touched it. This (lamp) is a combination of many lights over and over. Allâh guides towards His Light whoever desires (to be enlightened). Allâh sets forth excellent parables for the people, and Allâh alone has full knowledge of every thing (24:35)
Within this “Dust” nothing is nearer to the Light in reception than Mohammad followed by his followers.
“(This light is now lit) in houses, which Allâh has ordained to be exalted and His name be commemorated in them. Therein (are such as) glorify Him in the mornings and the evenings,
Men, whom neither trade nor sale distracts from exalting (the name of) Allâh and from the observance of Prayer and from presenting Zakât (- purifying dues) regularly. They dread the day when the hearts and the eyes will be in a state of agitation and anguish;
With the result that Allâh will give them the reward according to their fairest deeds and will (even) give them much more by His grace and bounty. And Allâh does provide without measure to whom He will” (22:36-38)
The cosmos is the sensory realm, and its Ruler is veiled. Therefore He describes Himself as the Hidden (al-Bâtin) in veils of darknesses (Zulumât) and in veils of light (Nûr). The cosmos cannot perceive Him nor He will ever be unveiled, thus the Present Reality will never be known by an originated thing completely.
Every light that is visible on the heights or in the valleys, whether in soul or in bodies, whether personal or impersonal, whether apparent or hidden, whether in the mind or outside it, is a bounty of His grace. This Light of the Lord envelopes everything and nothing is deprived of His light. He is the source of all lights and is the ultimate course of all lights and is the fountainhead of all mercies and laws. He is presented by the light of human beings’ hearts, by their conscience and organic and inorganic complexity.
Just as His Light (Nûr) was there at the beginning of our universe, it will be there at the end, when He will roll up the heavens:
They have not yet appreciated (the attributes of) Allâh with the importance and appreciation that He deserves. The earth altogether shall be in His grip of power on the Day of Resurrection, and the heavens shall be rolled up in His All-Powerful hand (and will so lie at His absolute disposal). Holy is He. (He is) far above and beyond the things these (polytheists) associate (with Him). (That Day) there shall be a blast on the trumpet and all who are in the heavens and all who are on the earth will fall into a swoon except whom Allâh will like (to spare). Then there will be a blast another time and behold! The people shall stand up awaiting (judgment before their Lord). (21:104)
And (on that Day) the earth shall radiate with the light of her Lord. And the record (of their deeds) will be produced (before them), and the Prophets and the witnesses shall be brought forward; people shall be judged in all fairness and no injustice shall be done to anyone of them. And every soul shall be repaid in full for its deeds; for He (the Almighty Lord) is well-aware of all that they do. (39:67-70)
3.7 Kalimat-Allâh -The “Word and Speech” of Allâh
God’s Speech (Kalâm) is His knowledge and His knowledge is the fact that He knows everything. His sublime knowledge is partly shared by His prophets, His Friends (Awlîyâ) and the people of “unveiling” (Ahl al-Kashûf):
“Allâh spoke to Moses in explicit words at great lenght” (4:164)
The knowledge also refers to the awareness of the prophets of the inner states of those who do not believe in those messages with the prophets convey. Those who know God, come to know Him through His Kalâm. The intellects cannot know Him with their sound reflections. This is the knowledge (Kalâm) that lies beyond the stage of reflection and intellect (warâ’ al-Aql). We are told Moses and his comrade met a noble servant of God to whom He had taught knowledge (18:65). So, there is a station beyond reflection where some kind of knowledge is bestowed by Allâh on His servants (cf.: 18:65-82). When we read the narration 18:65-82 we come to the conclusion that there is none more ignorant than the intellect, who never ceases to inquire.
Allâh desires to be known by us. He reveals Himself by His speech (Kalâm) out of His Grace of Mercy (Rahmâniyat) by which our humanity is surrounded. The word of Allâh, (Kalimat-Allâh) that is, the revelation of Allâh, comes to us through His prophets (2:124), His saints, and even directly if we qualify us for this (2:37). Allah’s language in revelation is the language of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, and He has the language of action (19: 52; 20:11; 20:25; 7:104; 20:46; 31:71). A living being is one who is active, who can speak, whose actions and words make him known to others, Allâh says: He is Living (al-Hayyî), and His speech (Kalâm) is a proof of Him being Living. Some people regard Allâh as dumb, mute, destitute of the power of speech and incapable of revealing any knowledge concerning Himself and divest Him of all attributes that must be inherent in the true and perfect Guide. They have not enough faith to believe that He has revealed His existence and His Divinity to the world of His volition. On the contrary, they hold that the Supreme Being was hidden like a dead body or a piece of rock in some dark, gloomy, hidden, vague and obscure corner and the wise and sagacious worked hard to seek Him, and having discovered Him and broadcast His Divinity to the word.
True knowledge of Allâh depends upon the fact that we should reach the living Allâh Who speaks clearly to His favourites and bestows satisfaction and contentment upon them with His majestic and delicious speech. He speaks to them as one man speaks to another and converses with them as a certainty that is beyond doubt or suspicion (Ilm al-Yaqîn). He listens to them (al-Samî’) and responds to them and hearing their supplications He informs them of their acceptance. He proves to them that He is Allâh, their Creator on one hand by His majestic and delicious words and on the other hand by His miraculous works and His powerful and mighty signs. He says:
“It is not given to a human being that Allâh speaks to him except by direct revelation (Wahî) or from behind a veil or by sending messengers (Engels) who reveal to the people what He pleases by His command” (42:51)
The verse 42:51 cited above tells how Allâh speaks to a person, and makes mention of the three ways in which He speaks to His servants and reveals Himself to them. He speaks to them directly without the aid of an intermediary. It is called Wahî, generally translated as meaning ‘revelation’. The word Wahî is from waha meaning: to indicate, reveal, suggest, point out, put a thing into the mind, dispatch a messenger, inspire, speak secretly, hasten, make sign, sign swiftly, suggest with speed, write. The root has been used in the Holy Qur’ân in its ten forms 78 times. It is the inspired word, which enters the heart. The second mode of Allah’s speaking is that He speaks from behind a veil, as in a vision (Kashaf) carrying a deeper significance, which may or may not be interpreted, or sometimes makes him hear words in a state of wakefulness when he is not seeing the person speaking to him. The third form of revelation is that in which an angel (a medium) is chosen by Allâh to deliver His Message to the person to whom He wishes to speak. In all these cases the recipient of the revelation is granted certain senses. He sees what others do not see and hears words, which others do not hear. It is, with what may be called, the spiritual senses that he hears and sees and feels things, which others do not hear, see, or feel. The highest form of Wahî or revelation is called, in the terminology of Islam, revelation that is recited (Wahî matlûw) as in the case of the Holy Qur’ân.
The Holy Qur’ân was from the beginning to the end delivered in the third form to the Holy Prophet of Islam. It is in its entirety Wahî matlûw or revelation recited in words. The Holy Qur’ân is the word of Allâh; its essence and meanings, its formation and arrangement, its language, its words, sentences and diction are all revealed by Allâh. It is incorrect to say that the essence of the Qur’ân was revealed to the Holy Prophet and since the Holy Prophet’s mother tongue was Arabic, he converted the essence of the Holy Qur’ân in appropriate Arabic words and syntax. Whatsoever is contained in this Book, may it be news or history of the past or the good tiding and prophecies of the coming events, or they be varieties of intellect and faith in the Arabic dialect, all of it is from Allâh. If an iota of it be a human interpretation, it cannot be called the word of Allâh.
When we call the Holy Qur’ân the word of God, its significance is much greater, higher and clearer than that which the Christians conceive when they call the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as words of God. Christians acknowledge that their words are the words of these men but they believe that the inherent meanings of them were conveyed by God to the authors of these books. They provided words for those meanings. It was the Holy Ghost who supposedly aided the writers of the Gospels in their composition. God did not reveal the words or the style of composition. So the words of the New Testament cannot be called as words revealed by God. On the other hand, the Holy Qur’ân is the literal word of Allâh from the beginning to the end. There is no human effort involved in it, by way of thought, endurance, words or action. It has no human touch in it, directly or indirectly, or human good will, nor is it the outburst of a man’s unconscious stream of thought, natural or unnatural. It is not the outcome of his dreams, suppressed thoughts or emotions, or the inspiration of a poet or the frenzied utterances or violent mental agitation of those who are possessed. It is not a book written by Muhammad (peace be upon him), nor is it the outcome of an individual or collective effort of someone. Its source does not lie in the Zind, Awista, Vedas, Torah or the Gospels. In the words of Carlyle, “It is the word of the Almighty, its source is the same, whose depth no one has been able to plumb.”
In connection with the revelation of the Holy Qur’ân the Holy Prophet’s position is only that of the receptacle. In it the Almighty produced its echo. The Prophet’s job was simply to convey this revelation in total and in its complete form to the people and to put its teaching in practice in his own life. It was not the Holy Prophet who was making use of the revelation; it was the revelation and the sender of the revelation that was making use of the Prophet (2:143; 53:3; 36:69; 69:41; 52:30). The Holy Prophet was unable to resist the great force of the Divine revelation. There were no personal views or wishes of the Prophet in it. His function was that of a receiver that catches the sound coming from outside and re-broadcasting it (17:47; 25:8; 25:4; 16:103).
There are people who think the Creator is dumb, mute, and without power of speech, and that wahî and ilhâm (- His Revelations) have no real significance. There are others who believe that the door of speech of Allâh, His wahî and ilhâm was opened in the beginning of the world, and God spoke only to three or four saints or rishis in the beginning, and after that He did not ever speak with anyone and His power of communication was gone. The Holy Qur’ân is for them a living proof, and if they still reject to give up their false notions, the Holy Qur’ân challenges them to produce a book like this, or come forward with a single chapter, or even a single verse like that to be found in it. Like such peoples, Jews are also in error for thinking that God spoke only to the children of Israel and that the rest of the world is devoid of this Divine blessing. It is the Holy Qur’ân that proclaims that Divine revelation is not limited to any particular time, nation or country. On the contrary, every nation and epoch has been the recipient of this Divine boon. His power of speech has not come to an end and Allah’s communication with human beings is not a thing of the past. According to Islam, ilhâm and wahî is a universal phenomenon. Every human being is endowed by nature to with the capacity to benefit from it. We find that every nation, country and every epoch has received its share of Allah’s Messages and holy men appointed by Allâh for the people’s guidance. There is not a single nation in the world, which has been left without a Messenger (13: 7; 35:24). Similarly, ilhâm and wahî, which are God’s greatest gifts, are not the exclusive privilege of men, it is granted equally to women just as it is granted to the prophets of God and other saints (28:7; 66:11-13).
Is it not disgraceful to affirm that Allâh speaks to human beings and that no relationship can subsist between a mortal and the Eternal and Ever-Existing Allâh? This is a baseless objection. It is enough to understand that among the natural condition of human beings is the search for a Higher Being for Whom there is an attraction in the heart of every human being and that the Noble, Gracious, and Ever Merciful Allâh has inspired the hearts of human beings with untold eagerness for His own understanding and has drawn them so powerfully to His love, affection and devotion that they have been lost to their own selves. To propose that in such a condition Allâh would not desire to converse with them would be tantamount to saying that all their love and devotion was in vain and that all their eagerness was only one-sided. Human beings plunging into the limitless ocean of Allah’s love and stopping nowhere in that pursuit by perfect human beings is conclusive evidence that human beings’ souls have been fashioned for the understanding of Allâh and that true knowledge of Allâh depends upon His speech. So long as Allâh does not affirm His existence by His words, as indeed He has done, the mere observation of His handiworks does not afford satisfaction.
The Holy Prophet said: “There is knowledge that has the guise of the hidden (- Maknûn): none knows it but those who have the knowledge of God. When they speak of it, none denies it but those who are deluded about God.”
Human beings may live anywhere in the world but their fundamental nature will be the same everywhere. Neither territories of the east nor those of the west can make any basic change in this nature. Neither the colour of skin, nor the variety of language can produce any effect. Nor can the difference of race or tribe in any manner interfere with the uniformity of this nature and human beings came with an immaculate nature. Rather the human being by nature is inclined to love piety and virtue and hates evil and wickedness. He came with wonderful potentialities and with capacities to make unlimited progress, and Allâh has created him in the best make and the best proportions with enormous capabilities for all round advancement through the process of evolution (95:4), and it is in consideration of these capabilities of human beings that Allâh rendered to him His such attributes and has drawn him so powerfully to His love, affection and devotion. Human beings plunging into the limitless ocean of Allah’s love and stopping nowhere in that pursuit by those who guard against evil is conclusive evidence that human beings’ souls have been fashioned for the understanding of Allah’s true knowledge which depends upon His speech. Indeed, Allâh is the Being Who has ever called mankind to Himself by announcing:
“I am present, I am nearby indeed. I answer the prayer of the supplicant when he prays to Me, so they should respond to My call, and believe in Me that I possess all these attributes and that they may proceed in the right way” (2:186).
It would be impertinent to think that human beings have laid Allâh under an obligation through his understanding of Him and that if there had been no philosophers and scientists He would have remained unknown.
It is also not at all correct to think that all Allah’s speaking has been left behind and that there is nothing in the present or in the future. We cannot seal up His words and His speech in any age. The Holy Qur’ân is a living proof of this, and brings about spiritual awakening, and living consciousness, that he whose soul seeks the truth should arise and search for it as the means of obtaining real knowledge through which one can see Allâh and seek the mirror through which one can behold that High Being during the converse with Him. The door of Allah’s blessing of converse is always open. It is open in this age as it was open in the past, in the age of Adam, Indian rishis, Noah, Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, his mother, Aaron, Jesus, his mother Mary and His disciples and Muhammad, and his Companions and Reformers (Mujaddidîn) and so many other men and women of the Ummah. This is Allâh through Whose verbal and factual manifestation a person acquires a living faith and a true relationship is established with Allâh, which removes all personal dirt. Inner darkness is dispelled by the fierce rays of heavenly light and a wonderful change is manifested. The knowledge through Kalâm arises from a disengaged intellect the preparedness of the soul seeks through the attention of the All-Merciful who ignites in His servant the Light of Knowledge (Nur al-Ilm).
3.8 The “Throne” of Allâh
The Throne (al-’Arsh) of the All-Merciful (al-Rahmân) is a figure of speech. It is not a material object nor does it signify any place nor it is physically created. It is not a thing on which Allâh is imagined as being seated but is a symbol of His power and rule which indicates His might, ability to control, authority, dominion and mastery. In order to express Allâh’s state of Holy Supremacy, that is, when His attribute of Holiness covers up His all other attributes, placing Him far beyond every reach, totally hidden, the state is called ‘Arsh in the language of the Holy Qur’ân.
The Most Gracious ( al-Rahmân) is firmly and flawlessly established on (His) Throne (of Power). (20:5)
When this figurative is used, it means to convey to us that Allâh is far above the understanding of human intelligence which has not the strength to find Him or to comprehend His eternity, His limitlessness, His Holiness. It is this high Divine rank when He says that He is the Most Gracious (al-Rahmân) Who is firmly and flawlessly established on His Throne of Power (20:5) and:
(He is the Lord) of the Throne (of Power), (Lord of) all Glory. (85:15)
Some people adopt God’s attribute of transcendence and call Him Nargan or they accept Him as Sargan – having attributes of resemblance. For the declaration of His attributes of resemblance the Holy Qur’ân mentions His seeing eyes, His hearing ears and then to remove the suspicion of resemblance it states that there is nothing like unto Him. For the declaration of attributes of transcendence the Holy Qur’ân mentions His Oneness (Tauhîd) and His Throne (al-‘Arsh). He is beyond all comparison, and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing (42:11). Ponder over the verse to understand what Allâh wants us to understand:
It is not so as they think that We do not hear their talks and their private consultation. Indeed, We do (hear)! Not only that, but Our envoys (the “Angels” who remain) by their side are noting down (everything what they say). Say, ‘The Most Gracious (al-Rahmân) has no son and I am the foremost to bear witness to this fact. Holy is He, the Lord of the heavens and the earth, and the Lord of the Throne of Power, far above and free from that what they ascribe (to Him).’ (43:80-82)
If we insist only on His Attributes of resemblance, we restrict Him. If we insist only on His Attributes of immanence, we limit Him. If we accept both aspects, we are right (43:80-82). We see Him in essences of things both boundless and limited. Allah’s countenance is the mirror of both these attributes.
His having established Himself firmly and flawlessly signifies the most complete and perfect reflection of these attributes. Each post of the throne extends down to an “angel” who upholds it and executes its affairs and becomes the means of projecting its manifestation. The four graces Rubûbîyyat, Rahmâniyyat, Rahîmiyyat and Mâlikîyyat – are upholding His throne here in the present world. They are in full operation in this life. In the Hereafter, however, these four attributes shall appear again in full display. Then the operation of each of these attributes will be displayed doubly and thus appear as eight. It is this phenomenon that has been described in the Divine world as, “the eight (divine powers) will on that Day be above them bearing the Throne of Power of your Lord.” (69:17). Thus al’-Arsh is the attribute of transcendence of Allâh.
3.9 Asmâ’ al-Siffât – The Attributes of Allâh
“To Allâh alone belong all the fairest and most perfect Names (- Asmâ al Husnâ), so call on Him by those, and leave alone those who deviate from the right way with respect to His attributes and violate their sanctity” (7:180).
The Name Allâh embraces all His beautiful names (Asmâ al Husnâ). His other Names are His Attributes, which He ascribes to Himself in His Holy Book. Some of the names He ascribes to Him are the All-Knower (al-Alîm), the Hearer (al-Samî), the Well-Aware (al-Khabîr) and the Crator (al-Khâliq). These are the names that make known a description of Him and the names that make known His acts. There are other names such as He is the One (al-Ahad), He is the Self-Sufficient Being (al-Samad), and nothing is His likeness and He stands High above similarity – these are the attributes of incomparability which denote the Essence of God. And then He possess the attributes of transcendence like He is the Light of the Heavens and the earth.
The Supreme Sovereign.
The Holy One.
The Source of Peace; The Most Perfect.
The Preserver of Security; Guardian of Faith.
The Protector; The Guardian.
The All-Mighty, The Glorious, The Illustrious.
Overpowering; The Compensator of losses.
The Majestic; The Possessor of all greatness.
The Creator of the matter and the Soul.
The Maker; Evolver.
The Fashioner; The Bestower of forms.
The Forgiver; The Great Protector.
The Dominant; The Subduer of all.
The Decider; The Opener.
The All Knowing.
The Constrictor; The Withholder.
The Expander, The Plentiful Giver.
The Honorer, He Who increases another’s honour.
The All Seeing.
The Clement, He Who shows forbearance.
The Appreciative, The Rewarder.
The Most High, The Most Sublime.
The Reckoner; The Giver of what suffices.
The Sublime; The Majestic.
The Loving, Lovely; All Love.
The Glorious; The Lord of Honour.
The Truth; The Real.
The Trustee, The Dispenser of Affairs.
The Restorer to Life.
The Giver of Life.
The Creator of Death.
The Eternal; The Self-Subsisting.
The Grand; The Noble.
The One; The Unique.
The Supreme Being Who is the Independent and Besought of all and Unique in all His attributes.
The All-Appraiser; The All-Powerful.
The Prevailing; The Most Powerful.
The Expediter; The Advancer.
The Grantor of Respite.
The Very First; There was nothing before Him.
The Last; There will be nothing after Him.
The Manifest; The Supreme Being, subordinate to no one; He Who reveals the properties of things.
The Hidden; The Incomprehensible; He Who knows the hidden properties of all things.
The Protecting Friend, Comrade.
The Sublime, The Most Exalted.
The Source of All Goodness.
The Accepter of Repentance.
The Lord of Retribution.
The Compassionate, The Kindly.
The Owner of Sovereignty; Master of Kingdom.
The Lord of Majesty and Splendour.
The Self-Sufficient, The Independent.
The Preventer; One Who Withholds.
The Benefactor; The Propitious.
The Light; He Who enlightens others.
The Incomparable; The First Cause.
The Ever Abiding; The Preserver.
The Director, The Guide to the Right Path.
The Constant and Steadfast and One Who overlooks one’s rudeness. Slow to impose punishment.
God has described Himself as being the Manifest (al-Zâhir) and also the Un-manifest (al-Bâtin). This is because He brought the cosmos into being as unseen and as sensory realm, so that we may perceive the Un-manifest through our unseen and the manifest through our sensory aspect. He has also attributed Himself pleasure and displeasure which express in our selves both as fear and hope. Fear from His displeasure and hope for His pleasure. He has also described Himself as being possessed of beauty (Jamîl) and majesty (Wajha), having created us combining awe of His Majesty and Intimacy of beauty. He calls himself to be the First (al-Awwal) as the One without beginning contradicting any priority in the sense of existence and non-existence, and He, being infinite, calls Himself the Last.
“The Beloved is so sweet, so sweet” they repeat;
I show then the scars where His Stick thrashed me
“The Beloved is terrible, so terrible, a maniac” they complain
I show them my eyes, melting in His tender passion (Rumi)
The knowledge of Him is inferred in knowledge of ourselves. Whenever we ascribe any quality to Him, we are ourselves representative of this quality. Since we know Him through ourselves from ourselves, we attribute to Him all we attribute to ourselves. An exception to this are His Attributes such as of Being Self-Sufficient, His being the First and His being the Last. Absolute and sure knowledge (Ilm al Yaqîn) of Him cannot be arrived at by the intellect, by any rational thought process. This kind of knowledge comes only by Divine Disclosures. His direct Revelation are aid to get to this knowledge. As we are individuals with varying aptitudes and capacities, not all of us qualify to receive His direct Revelations. Therefore such Disclosures reach us through the mouths of His prophets. Through them He describes Himself to us. He has described Himself as Hidden, being behind the veils. So He speaks to us from behind a veil. Therefore the cosmos cannot perceive Him as He perceives Himself, nor He can ever be unveiled.
The subject needs a voluminous literature and the space at our disposal hardly permits us to enter into any details. So we have given here some Names and attributes according to a tradition of the Holy Prophet on the authority of Abû Hurairah. A Muslim sums up his whole religion when he says La ilâha ill Allaha, this is no other cannot be and will never be one deity worthy of worship but Allâh. It should not be forgotten that Allâh’s Names do not at all comprehend and complete the list of Allah’s attributes. No one can comprehend them in their entirety. He is the only knower of His own person. The utmost that can be said on this point is that at one occasion the Holy Prophet mentioned these as ways by which Allâh manifested Himself to humanity. This does not mean that the human mind has clothed Allâh with these attributes only. Here, Allâh has been described to be a Being in whom all that is noble, lovely and good is focused. The human beings have been created to take and adopt His attributes. Different writers had mentioned these attributes under different headings from different angles of view. They classified them with regard to their bearing on human affairs in their material, economic, moral and spiritual aspects but the order adopted by the Holy Qur’ân is a highly scientific.
A companion of the Holy Prophet, Abull Yaman narrated, he said Shu`aib told us that Abû al-Zinad told us that Aaraj said on the authority of Abû Hurairah that the Messenger of Allâh said: “Allâh has ninety-nine names, one hundred less one. He who has memorized them all and learns, understands, enumerates, becomes conscious of them and succeeds in implanting, making them part and parcel of himself and knows it by heart, and believes in those qualities derived from those names and should be accompanied by good deed, which Allah’s names inspire us to do and behave in accordance with their implications will enter Paradise.” This saying of the Holy Prophet does not mean that Allâh has only 99 attributes. There are further names attributable to Allâh even in the Holy Qur’ân as Rabb and infinite others which He has revealed to His choice creations and so many others which may be read in the pages of nature. Some religious scholars have related that Allâh has 3,000 names. There are so many names of the Divine Being that are taken from some attributes or acts ascribed to Him in the Holy Qur’ân. As for instance Al-Rafi’, Al-Bâsit, Al-Mûjib, Al-Muhyî, Al-Wâjid, Al-Muqaddim, Al-Mua’khkhir. The attribute Kalâm (Speaking) of the Divine Being is mentioned frequently in the Holy Qur’ân. Allâh spoke to (Kallama) Moses (9:164, 7:143). He spoke to other Prophets (42:51). This leaves no doubt that speaking is an attribute of Allâh, as the Holy Qur’ân definitely and decidedly states again and again that Allâh has been speaking to His servants.
In fact all the heavenly bodies and earthly elements, indeed every particle in the lower bodies and earthly elements, visible or invisible, indeed every particle in the upper spheres, what is visible and perceptible, all of them are, by virtue of the various properties that are found in them, attributes of Allâh. Each object manifests some attribute of Allâh, His love, His magnificence, His many names emulate through these objects. It is the power of God that manifests itself through them. There is no end to these manifestations so long as the process of creation exists and continues, the entire creation manifests Allah’s names. There is a link that cannot be avoided and evaded and is bound to come between what we see, feel, and ourselves. It sheds a flood of light on the attributes of Allâh. It is because of the fact that it is said he who succeeds in knowing, perceiving, learning, recognizing, judging, and becoming aware of his own self, spirit, desires, his attractions and repulsion, his freedom and obedience, his joy or anger, and there is no end to them, will recognize his Lord, as a human being is the vicegerent of Allâh and His attributes are implanted in his self, and which are going to be manifested in all his life in this world and the Hereafter (2:30-31). That is why a human being could represent Allâh as His khalîfah (2:30) and become worthy of receiving the homage, obeisance, and salutation of the angels and granted him the mastery of this entire creation (2:34).
The talents of God are within us.
How could this be otherwise when our soul was
Derived from his Breath (Hafiz)
The proper names of Allâh and His attributes are innumerable. They index the work of nature when a person falls at His threshold with a new spirit and devotion and carries out a change in himself, only to win His pleasure. Allâh also makes, so to say, a change for such a one, so that Allâh Who appears to him is quite a different God from the One known to the average person. As He says, “Every moment He manifests Himself in a new state of glory and wondrous way” (55:29) and His attributes know no limit. The effects of Allah’s attributes are called sunnat Allâh or the way of Allâh or the laws of nature
You will find no change in the law of Allâh, nor will you ever find the law of Allâh shifting from its course (35:43).
Because Allâh along with His perfect attributes is Unlimited and Endless, it would be folly on our part to claim that the effects of those attributes, that is to say, the laws of nature, do not extend beyond our limited experience or intelligence or observation. It is a great mistake that we first regard the law of nature as something which has been completely defined and then we refuse to accept anything new which we encounter. This attitude is not well founded. If all scientists and philosophers were to employ their intellectual capacities till the day of Resurrection in discovering the qualities of a mustard seed, no one would believe that they would comprehend completely Allah’s qualities. Thus there is nothing more absurd than to think that the qualities of heavenly and earthly bodies are limited to those which have so far been discovered through our astronomy, physics, and other sciences.
In short, the law of nature means such Divine actions and attributes which were manifested or might be manifested in a natural way, and Allâh is not tired of manifesting His powers, nor has He become disabled from doing so, nor has He gone to sleep, nor has He moved away into a corner, nor has He been overpowered and has under compulsion ceased manifesting His wonders, leaving us only His actions during a few centuries reason, wisdom, philosophy, science, literature and education. We should not confine the body of natural law to the few demonstrated powers of which innumerable details are still to be discovered and we should not insist that the actions of Allâh and His attributes cannot go beyond what we have already observed. How can these things be the final and absolute measures of truth or be the scale for judging the truth which are still awaiting a further explanation of themselves. Certain heavenly and earthly qualities are manifested after millions of years, which appear supernatural, and which are looked upon with doubt and are considered false. This is the basis of the miracles of the Prophets and can solve the problems of those who find difficulties in crisis and signs of Allâh. The Holy Qur’ân has not presented a new and unfamiliar Allâh, but has presented the same God Who is presented by the light of a human being’s heart, his conscious and in the heaven and the earth.
It should be repeated that the sacred list of the Most Beautiful Names is in no sense exhaustive. The Holy Qur’ân and the Holy Prophet do not claim to furnish an exhaustive list of them. No one can comprehend in their entirety. He is the only Knower of His own person. He possesses many other attributes that stand far beyond number and imagination and can come within our comprehension.
“If every ocean become ink for (recording) the words and creation of my Lord, surely the oceans would be spent up before the words and creation of my Lord came to an end, even if we brought to add (therewith) as many more (oceans).” (18:109)
These 99 names are such as can be read in the pages of nature and we can perceive them and can come within the scope of our coping and with them we must imbue ourselves. They show us how to inspire ourselves with all that they require. They remind us of those Divine moulds in which we have to cast our daily life, as high morality in Islam consists in the reflection and doing deeds in conformity of these attributes and to a certain extent imitates them. In this sense we have been spoken of as prototypes of Allâh and we have been asked to assume His colours and imbue ourselves with the Divine character (7:180).
In short, it would be wrong to think that ninety-nine are the only names Allâh has. This inadequate expression of His beauty, greatness, majesty, and beneficence and is all that is possible for us earthbound creatures of limited capacity and knowledge and come within our comprehension and the scope of our imitation and which the Holy Prophet told Abû Hurairah at one sitting. Otherwise His wonderful and glorious attributes are numberless and surpass all description and understanding.
Understanding and reasoning
And imagining besides,
May do their utmost,
But beyond, ever beyond,
Remains the core, the essence
of His Being.
To be virtuous is to walk humbly with Allâh, to imbue ourselves with His attributes. Everything that goes against the demands of these attributes is sin; they sum up the whole of Qur’ân injunction. The traces and signs of His attributes in human beings and upon His other creations are at least a reflection, a symbol, a word, a means, a path to understand and reach Him. Of each attribute less than an atom is given to us; it is in order that we know His perfect attributes which He has given us in traces, in signs in and around us. It is so that we know Him and find Him and love Him and be with Him and act as His vicegerent.
And to Allâh alone belong all the fairest and most perfect attributes, so call on Him by these, and leave alone those who deviate from the right way with respect to His attributes (and violate their sanctity) (7:180)
4. Tauhîd – Oneness of Allâh
And know, your God is One God, there is no other, cannot be and will never be one worthy of worship but He, the Most Gracious (- Rahmân), the Ever Merciful (-Rahîm). (2:163)
The cornerstone of all the basic attributes of Allâh is His Tauhîd or Unity. La ilâha ill-Allah – there is no other, cannot be and will never be one worthy of worship but He. It is this confession which when combined with the confession of the prophethood of the Holy Prophet of Islam admits a man or woman into the fold of Islam. The Unity of Allâh implies that Allâh is One in His Person, One in His attributes and One in His works. His Oneness in His Person means that there is neither plurality of gods nor plurality of persons in this Godhead. His Oneness in attributes implies that no other being possesses one or more of the Divine attributes in perfection. His Oneness in works implies that none can do that which Allâh has done and which He may do and no other being has influence over Him. This doctrine of Unity is very beautifully summed up in one of the shortest and earliest chapters of the Holy Qur’ân:
Say, “(The fact is) He is Allâh, the One and Alone in His Being. Allâh is that Supreme Being Who is the Independent and Besought of all and Unique in all His attributes. He begets none and is begotten by no one, and there is none His equal.” (112:1-4)
The above sûrah of the Holy Qur’ân is called al-Ikhlâs (- The Purification of the Unity of Allâh). Another name of this sûrah is al-Asas (- the Foundation), this is because the whole foundation of the Faith of Islam lies in the Unity of Godhead. The highest object of any revealed Book should be to furnish us with the correct and sure knowledge of God. This small sûrah fulfils this very purpose. The verses in their four short sentences point out the fundamental errors of many religions and reject outright all forms of polytheism, including the doctrine of trinity, sonship and partnership.
The verses of this sûrah illuminate the heart of a human being with the true knowledge of Allâh and His glory and tell him that defective qualities should not be attributed to Him. They tell him that He is Ahad, the One, the Sole, Who has been and will ever be One and Alone, Who has no second to share in His Lordship nor in His Essence or Love, the idea of a second being inconceivable. He is also Samad, that Being Who is One and Alone in the sense that when we think of Him, the very idea that there is any other being or thing is absent from our minds. He is One and Alone in every sense. He is neither the starting link of any chain not its last link. Nothing is like Him (42:16), nor is He like anything else. Soul and matter are not co-eternal with Him but are His creation.To Him alone obedience is rendered, without Whom no affair is accomplished. He will continue to exist forever, after all creation has ceased to exist, He is above time, for time is also His creation (103:1). He is above conception and conjecture. His attributes know no bound or limit. He requires the assistance of nobody without Whom He cannot carry on His work. Everything existing or conceivable goes back to Him as its source. Any attempt at depicting Allâh by means of figurative representation or by abstract symbols is wrong. It is also incorrect to describe Him as father or an incarnate according to which a man is likened to Him. Thus every kind of shirk is rejected. This is Allâh as presented by the Holy Qur’ân.
The true Unity of Allâh is to believe in God Who, in His Being, is free from every associate, whether it is an idol or a human being or the sun or moon or river or fire or tree or another human being or one’s ego or one’s desires or deceit, and to conceive of no one as possessing power in opposition to Him, nor to accept anyone as sustainer, nor to hold anyone as bestowing honour or disgrace, nor to consider anyone as helper, and to confine one’s love and one’s worship and one’s humility and one’s hopes and one’s awe to anyone other than Him. No Unity can be complete without the following three types of particularization. First, there is the Unity of Being. Secondly, the Unity of attributes, that is to say, that all good attributes and Godhead are confined to His Being, and that all others who offer or sustain or benefactor are only a part of the system set up by His hand. Thirdly, the Unity of love, sincerity, devotion, and worship, and not to consider anyone as an associate of God in the matter of love and worship and prayer. This drive is embedded in human nature.
He it is Who is (the Only) God in all the heavens and (the only) God in the whole of the earth and He alone is the All-Wise, the All-Knowing. And blessed be He to Whom belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth and all that lies between them and He alone has the knowledge of the promised Hour and to Him you shall all be made to return.
And all those whom they call upon, apart from Him, have no authority to intercede (with their Lord), but (this right is given to him) who bears witness to the truth and they know him (the Prophet) and his good conduct well.
If you were to ask them, ‘Who created them.’ They will no doubt say, ‘Allâh.’ Then whither are they being led astray? (43:84-87)
4.1 Tauhîd – Unity of the Human Race
Never has there been an obstacle to human advancement so great as the idea of the inequality of mankind. So the greatest task to be performed in the socio-religious life of human race is to establish the Unity of God and through this to bring about unity of human race. The Holy Qur’ân announced, “Mankind are a single community” (2:213; 10:19) therefore we should always keep this fact before us as Allâh is the Rabb, the Creator and the Nourisher to perfection of all nations (1:2) and all the nations of the world are, as it were, the children of the same God, and He takes equal care of all, deals with all alike and bring all to their goal of moral and spiritual completion by degrees. His people benefit from His earth, irrespective of their origin, colour or belief, His moon and sun shine for all. His dealings in the spiritual matters is also marked with the same equality. He hearkens to the supplication of everybody, whatever their religion, language, or nationality. He is equally Gracious and Merciful and forgives the sins whenever He likes because He is the Master and King of all nations. He rewards the good deeds of the believers and nonbelievers (2:62) male and female alike. He says:
O mankind! We have created you out of a male and a female, and We have made you tribes and sub-tribes that you may recognize (and do good to) one another. Surely the most honourable of you in the sight of Allâh is he who guards against evil the most. Verily, Allâh is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (49:13)
So the racial and tribal sense of superiority is of later growth, and it is because of this sense that one section of humanity is fond to look down upon another section. This was not the motive of making different tribes and sub-tribes. Islam expresses disapproval of this feeling and points out that all people belong to one brotherhood and also that it is improper to take pride in one’s race or parenthood, as it directs one’s course to promote arrogance and to undermine the basic and fundamental unity of the human race.
O you who believe! Let no people look down upon another people for the (latter) people may be better than they, nor let women (look down) upon other women, who (- the women who are treated lightly) may be better than the other ones. And find not fault in one another (in order to defame your own people), nor call one another by nicknames. Bad is the reputation of wickedness after the (profession of) belief. (49:11)
Of course, a person should be honoured but only on the basis of righteousness and honest living. Similarly a nation who guards against evil the most and is actively engaged in rendering services to the fellow nations and to the creatures of Allâh becomes honourable in the eyes of Allâh and in the eyes of the rest of other nations. Thus, if the Holy Qur’ân has described Allâh as the Lord of all the nations, it has also presented its laws as of universal application. According to the Qur’ânic teachings it is immaterial to what race a person belongs and of what nation he is a member, so long as he guards against evil and is a doer of good deeds he will be favoured by Allâh. The Holy Prophet of Islam has elucidated this principle when he said, “Verily the people who are nearest to me are those who guard against evil, no matter of whatever race they are and to whatever country they belong.” This is a message that deserves to be called a Gospel for humanity. The unity of the human race is a natural corollary of the doctrine of the Unity of God. Only the belief in One Lord of the world can bring solace and comfort and cheer up the hearts of all men and women and can prepare a person for a correct form of godliness and for service to the creatures of God. Surely a person who is mindful of Allâh is also mindful of his sympathy for his fellow beings.
All the languages and the art of intelligent speech are equally the creation of Allâh through His grace of Rahmânîyyat. The Holy Qur’ân says, “He (- the Rahmân) created the human being and taught him intelligence and the art of distinct speech.” (55:3-4). There are thousands of diversities in this universe and yet there is a unity in the midst of these diversities, and that is because the source of all these diversities lies in One All-Powerful Unity. Allâh, the Lord of the worlds and the nations, has created human beings with different complexions and has created different languages for the expression of their respective feelings, yet in spite of all these differences humanity at the bottom is one and the same.
“The creation of heaven and earth, and in the diversity of your tongues and colours are (also some) of His signs. Behold! There are sure signs for the learned people in this (unity of mankind and Oneness of God). ” (30:22).
4.2 Tauhîd – Unity of Religion
He has ordained for you the same course of faith as He enjoined on Noah (to adopt), and which We have revealed to you, and it is that (same faith) which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, Jesus, so keep the faith and do not differ in it. (He ordains you) to establish obedience (to Allâh) and not to be divided (in sects) therein. (42:13)
The Unity of God should lead to the unity of religion. The recognition of Allâh is tied up with the recognition of all His Prophets. A Prophet is a mirror for beholding of Allâh. It is only through this mirror that the countenance of Allâh may be seen. It is a part of the Unity of Allâh to believe in those who have been appointed as a means of the recognition of Him. Without this belief, faith in the Unity of Allâh cannot be perfected. The Prophets do not precede Him in speech and they only carry out His bidding. Accordingly Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism are but different aspects of one and the same religion, which, in its original purity, is the religion of Islam (- submission to the will of God and to make peace with God and mankind). Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Krishna, Rama, Buddha or Confucius, all were Prophets of God and were sent for the guidance of their respective people. The Qur’ân repeatedly claims to be in conformation with the truth of all faiths as the Qur’ân defines the true believers:
And who (also) believe in that (Message) which has been revealed to you and in that which had been revealed before you (2:4)
The Qur’ân, therefore, not only recognizes the truth of all the previous Divine Books and Prophets, but also makes it obligatory for Muslims to believe in the Divine origin of their teachings. The Qur’ân requires not only a belief in Divine revelation to the Prophet of Islam, but also belief in Divine revelation to all the Prophets sent to all nations of the world in all times (3:84). This is one of the matters relating to faith (Îmân) and a fundamental principle of Islam. This is also a broad doctrine of the Unity of God which is taught repeatedly in the Qur’ân (3:184; 13:4).
In short, Islam is the religion of the Unity of God and the unity and equality of mankind. Lineage, riches and family honours are accidental things; virtue and service of humanity are matters of real merit. Distinction of colour, race and creed are unknown in the ranks of Islam. All mankind is of one family and only Islam can weld the black and the white, east and west, rich and poor, into one fraternal whole.
4.3 Shirk – Association with Allâh
He lets none associate with Him and share His judgement (18:26)
Let him who hopes to meet his Lord do deeds of righteousness and let him associate no one in the worship of his Lord (18:110)
The Holy Prophet reported these words directly from Allâh the Most High:
“My mysterious robes are Transcendence and Magnificence. Whoever contends with me for one of these will encounter the Fire.” (Abu Hurayra)
Oneness of Lord is His Attribute of Transcendence. Therefore Shirk, the associating of anyone or anything with Allâh, whether such association be with respect to the person of Allâh or His attributes or His works or with respect to worship and obedience which are due to Him alone, is the gravest of all evils and sins
Allâh does not forgive (unless the sinner repents) that a partner be associated with Him, but He forgives everything short of it to whomsoever He wishes. And whoso associates a partner with Allâh has indeed committed a great sin. (4:48)
Allâh does not forgive (unless the sinner repents) that a partner be associated with Him, but He forgives everything short of it to whomsoever He wishes. And he who associates a partner with Allâh has strayed a far off straying (4:116)
Whatever they (who associate partners with Allâh) call beside Him are none but lifeless objects. They call none but satan the rebellious, whom Allâh has deprived of His blessings
Indeed he who associates anything with Allâh falls from a high place, and either the birds snatch him or the wind blow him off to some deep far away place (22:31)
“Associate no partners with Allâh, surely this (act of) associating partners (with Him) is a grievous wrong.” (31:13)
Do they associate (with Him as partners) those who create nothing but are themselves created.
And they (the associated gods) will have no power to give them (who associate partners with Allâh) any help, nor can they help themselves (but will themselves perish).
And if you (O Polytheists!) invite these (associated gods) for (your) guidance, they will not respond to you. It makes no difference to you whether you call them or you remain silent.
Verily, those whom you call on beside Allâh are (merely helpless maids or) servants like yourselves. (If it is not so then) call on them, they should then make a response to you if you are right.
Have these (false gods) feet with which they walk, or have they hands with which they hold, or have they eyes with which they see, or have they ears with which they hear? Say, ‘Call upon your associate gods, then contrive you all against me and give me no respite, (yet you will see that I am triumphant because)
‘Verily, My Protecting-Friend is Allâh who has revealed this perfect Book and He takes into (His) protection all the righteous.
‘And those whom you call upon besides Him have no power to help you, nor can they help themselves.’ (7:191-197)
This is not due to a feeling of jealousy on the part of Allâh, which is unthinkable as an attribute of the Divine being. The Islamic formula of Faith – Kalimah – is:
La ilâha ill Allah, Muhammad rasûlullah, i.e.
“There is no other, cannot be, and will never be One worthy of worship but Allâh and Muhammad is his Prophet.”
The human being is Allah’s vicegerent on earth (2:30), and he is gifted with the power of controlling the rest of the world and is made to rule the world (95:12) and is placed above the whole of creation. He is placed even above the angels and is the object of their obedience (2:34). Does he not degrade himself by taking others as his object of worship and bowing before the very things which he has been created to conquer and rule?
“Shall I seek for you a god other than Allâh? Whereas He has made you excel all created things” (7:140)
There are various forms of shirk or associating of gods with Allâh. This includes the worship of objects as stones, idols, trees, animals, tombs, heavenly bodies, forces of nature, or human beings supposed as gods or semi-gods or God incarnate in the form of human beings. It is also a form of shirk to suppose that other things and beings possess one or more of the attributes as the Divine Being to the same extent, for example to believe that there are three persons in the Godhead, and that the Son, the Holy Ghost are eternal, omnipotent and omniscient like Allâh Himself or that there is a creator of evil along with a creator of good, or that matter and soul are self-existing and co-eternal with Allâh. It is also a form of shirk to take the learned, the monks, the pîrs and khalîfas (self-made religious leaders) for lords besides Allâh.
They have taken their learned men and their monks for lords apart from Allâh, and (similarly they have taken) the Messiah, son of Mary, whilst they were enjoined to worship none but One God. There is no other, cannot be and will never be One worthy of worship but He. Too glorified is He for what they associate (with Him).
They seek to put out the light of Allâh with (the breath of) their mouths, but Allâh disdains every other thing save that He will perfect His light; however much the disbelievers may consider (it) hard. (9:31)
It is also a form of shirk to blindly obey such people and pîrs and self-made khalîfahs in what they enjoin and what they forbid and behest, as a slaved mind is incapable of judging what is good and great and is incapable of doing anything good and great (16:75). Besides the forms of shirk mentioned above, there is another form of shirk which the Holy Qur’ân mentions in following verse:
Have you considered (over the plight of) one who has taken his own low desires for his deity? (25:43)
Going after one’s low desires and their requirements is apt to become in the long run the object of adoration. We clothe our own low desires in a Divine garb and our profit or loss and fear and hope goad us to place them at the altar of Divinity. The kind of shirk mentioned in the above verse indicate that only the sublime doctrine of Unity gives to the world an ennobling message of progress all around, physical, moral, and spiritual. We are freed and released, not only from the bondage of animate and inanimate objects but also from subservience to the wondrous forces of nature and from the slavery of human beings, but also of our own low desires. A person becomes a blessing for himself, for his family and for his nation to the extent of his acquiring control over his low desires (91:9-10). Thus all the bonds are fettered and we are set on the road of evolution, betterment and development.
The verse 25:43 shows the breadth of the idea of polytheism or shirk. It is thus not simply worship of idols of devotion to material means that is condemned but blindly following one’s desires likewise. Intellectually, human beings may have advanced far enough so as not to bow before stones, stars, trees, rivers, fire and forces of nature, but he has not outgrown his worship of false ideas, prejudices and low desires. It is these idols that lie enthroned in the depth of his heart whose worship is to be condemned. In the Holy Qur’ân the doctrine of Tauhîd or the Unity of Divine Being has been brought to a perfection.
Or Who is it that created the heavens and the earth, and sends down water for you from the clouds? (It is We.) Then We cause to grow with it orchards full of bloom and loveliness. You had no power to cause their trees to grow. Is there any god with Allâh? (There is none;) yet there are a people who ascribe (to Him) equals (in all these works, and deviate from the right path).
Or Who is it that made the earth a resting place; and made the rivers flow in it; and raised (on the earth) firm mountains for its advantage; and put a barrier between the two waters? Is there a god with Allâh (as an associate with Him in His works)? Nay, not so, yet most of them do not know (the truth).
Or Who is it that answers the distressed person when he calls on Him, and removes (his) distress? And Who is it that makes you (the) rulers in the land? Is there any other god with Allâh? Little is the heed you take!
Or Who is it that guides you (to the path of salvation) in all kinds of darkness (and vicissitudes) on the land and the sea; and Who is it that sends the winds as heralds of His mercy. Is there any god with Allâh (to do such things)? Highly-Exalted is Allâh above all the things they associate (with Him).
Or Who is it that originates the creation then keeps on repeating and reproducing it, and Who is it that provides for your sustenance (both physical and spiritual) from the heaven and the earth? Is there any other god with Allâh (capable of being a partner with Him in all these works)? Say, ‘Bring forward your proof (in support of your polytheistic beliefs) if you are truthful (in what you claim).’
Allâh is Highly Exalted far above the things they associate with Him (7:190, 9:31, 27:63, 28:68, 10:18, 52:42, 59:24)
by A.M.Omar, former editor of the “Encyclopedia of Islam”
ref: Islam Info