Monday, 20 June 2011

The Attributes of the Divine Being - Light of Islam

How does the Quran present God? 

When we wish to assess the scientific personality and
knowledge of a scholar, we examine his works and subject
them to close study. Similarly, in order to measure the
talent, creativity and ability of an artist to invent
original images, we undertake the study of his artistic

In the same way, we ca n al so perceive the attributes
and characteristics of the pure essence of the Creator
from the qualities and orderliness that pervade all
phenomena, together with their subtlety and precision.
Thereby, within the limits set by our capacity to know
and perceive, we can become acquainted with God's
knowledge, wisdom, life and power.

If it be a question of complete and comprehensive
knowledge of God, then, of course, we must accept that
man's ability to know does not extent that far. God's
characteristics cannot be placed within given limits, and
whatever comparison or simile we offer for them is bound
to be false, for whatever is observable to science and
thought in the natural realm is the work of God and the
product of His will and command, whereas His essence is
not part of nature and does not belong to the category of
created beings. Hence, the essence of the divine being
cannot be grasped by man by way of comparison and

He is, in short, a being for the knowledge of Whose
essence no measure or criterion exists and for the fixing
of Whose power, authority and knowledge, we have no
figures or statistics.

Is man, then, too abject and powerless to perceive
anything of the essence and attributes of so elevated a
reality? To concede the weakness of our powers and our
inability to attain complete, profound and comprehensive
knowledge of God does not imply that we are deprived of
any form of knowledge, however relative. The orderly
pattern of the universe loudly proclaims His attributes
to us, and we can deduce the power and unlimited
creativity of the Lord from the beauty and value of
nature. Phenomena are for us an indication of His unique

Contemplation of the will, consciousness, knowledge
and harmony inherent in the order of being and all the
various phenomena of life, makes it possible for us to
perceive that all these qualities-together with all the
other elements that speak of aim, direction and
purpose-necessarily derive from the will of a Creator Who
Himself possesses these attributes before they are
reflected in the mirror of creation.

That which comes to know God and to touch His being is
the remarkable power of thought-a flash which deriving
from that pre-eternal source shone on matter and bestowed
on it the capacity of acquiring knowledge and advancing
toward truth. It is within this great divine gift that
the knowledge of God is manifested.

* * * * *

Islam deals with the knowledge of God in a clear and
novel way. The Quran, the fundamental source for learning
the worldview of Islam, applies the method of negation
and affirmation to this question.

First, it negated, by means of convincing proofs and
indications, the existence of false gods, because in
approaching the transcendent doctrine of unity, it is
necessary first to negate all forms of pseudo-divinity
and the worship of other-than-God. This is the first
important step on the path to unity.

The Quran says: "Have the ignorant polytheists
abandoned the true God and chosen, instead, the false and
powerless gods? Tell them: "Bring forth your proof!'
This call of mine to unity is my saying and that of all
the learned men of the community, as well as the saying
of all the Prophets and learned men before me. But these
polytheists have no knowledge of the truth and constantly
avert themselves from it."

"Say, O Messenger, 'You worship one other than
God who has no power to help or to harm you. It is God
Who is all-hearing and Who bows the state of all of

The one who has severed his connection with divine
unity forgets, too, his own true position with respect to
the world and being and becomes estranged from himself.
For the ultimate form of self-alienation is the severing
of all links with one's essential nature as man.
Conversely, once man has become alienated from his own
essence, under the influences of internal and external
factors, he will also be separated from his God and
become enslaved by other-than-God. Subordination to
other-than-God, then, takes the place of all logical
thought. This represents a reversion to the worship of
phenomena, for worshipping an idol and according primacy
to matter both are forms of regression that rob man of
his innate capacity for growth.

Monotheism is the only force that makes it possible
for man to recapture the creativity of human values. By
regaining his true rank, he enters a state of harmony
with his own human nature and the ultimate nature of all
being, thus attaining the most perfect form of existence
open to him.

Throughout history, all divine summons and movements
have begun with the proclamation of divine unity and the
exclusive lordship of God. No concept has ever occurred
to man that is more productive of creative insights and
more relevant to the various dimensions of human
existence, or a more effective brake on human perversity,
than the concept of divine unity.

Using clear proofs, the Quran shows man the way to
attaining knowledge of the divine essence as follows: "Did
man emerge from non-being through his own devices? Was he
his own creator? Did mankind create the heavens and
earth? Certainly they do not know God."

The Quran leaves it to man's reason and commonsense to
realize the falsity of these two hypotheses-that man came
into being of himself, or that he was his own creator-by
testing and analyzing them in the laboratory of his
thought. By reflecting on the signs and indications of
God, he will come to recognize with clear and absolute
certainty the true source of all being and to understand
that no value can be posited for any model of the
universe unless behind it an organizing and capable
intellect is at work.

In other verses, man's attention is drawn to the
manner of his creation and gradual emergence from
non-being. He, thus, comes to realize that his remarkable
creation, with all the wonders it contains, is a sign and
indication of the infinite divine will, the penetrating
rays of which touch all beings.

The Quran says: "We created man out of an
essence of clay, then We established him in a firm place
in the form of sperm. Then We made the sperm into
coagulated blood, and then into a formless lump of flesh.
Then we made it into bones, and then clothed the bones
with flesh. Finally We brought forth a new creation. How
well did God create, the best of all creators!"


When the foetus is ready to receive shape and
form" all the cells of the eyes, the ear, the brain,
and the other organs, start to function and begin their
ceaseless activity. This is the truth to which the Quran
is directing men's attention. It, then, poses to man the
question of whether all these wondrous changes are
rationally compatible with the hypothesis that there is
no God.

Is it not rather the case that phenomena such as these
prove and demonstrate" with the utmost emphasis, the
need for a plan, a design, a guiding hand inspired by
conscious will? Is it at all possible that the cells of
the body should learn their functions, pursue their aim
in a precise and orderly fashion, and crystallize so
miraculously in the world of being, without there being a
conscious and powerful being to instruct them?

The Quran answers this question as follows: "He
it is Who creates and brings forth (the totality of
parts), Who separates (the parts belonging to each
organ), and Who gives form (to different aspects)."

The Quran describes every sense phenomenon that man
sees around him as something calling for reflection and
the drawing of conclusions. "Your God is but one
God. There is no god other than Him, Compassionate and
Merciful In the creation of the heavens and the earth, in
the alternation of night and day, in the ships that ply
the seas to the benefit of man, in the water sent down
from the heavens to revive the earth after its death, in
the different species of animals scattered across the
earth" in the rotation of the winds, in the clouds
that are subordinate to God's command between heaven and
earth-in all of this, there are signs for men who use
their intellects."
(2:163-164) "Tell men
to reflect with care and see what things the heavens and
the earth contain."

The Quran also mentions the study of human history and
the peoples of the past with all the changes they have
undergone, as a special source of knowledge. It invites
man to pay heed, in order to discover the truth, to the
triumphs and defeats, the glories and humiliations, the
fortune and misfortune, of various ancient peoples, so
that by learning the orderly and precise laws of history,
he will be able to benefit himself and his society by
aligning the history of his own age with those laws.

The Quran thus proclaims: "Even before your
time, certain laws and norms were in force, so travel and
examine the historical traces left by past peoples, to
see what urn the fate of those who denied the truths of
revelation and the promises of God."
(3:137) "How
many were those powerful ones whom We destroyed in their
cities on account of their oppression and wrongdoing, and
We made another people to be their heirs."

The Quran also recognizes man's inner world, which it
expressed by the word anfus ("souls"),
as a source for fruitful reflection and the discovery of
truth. It points out its importance as follows: "We
make our signs and indications entirely manifest in the
world and in the souls and inner beings of Our servants
so that it should be clear that God is the True."
"On the face of the earth there are signs fur the
possessors of certainty, and also in your own selves;
will you not see?"

In other words, there is an abundant source of
knowledge in the beauty and symmetry of the human body,
with all of its organs and capacities, its actions and
reactions, its precise and subtle mechanisms, its varied
energies and instincts, its perceptions, feelings and
sensations, both animal and human, and most especially in
the astounding capacity of thought and awareness with
which man has been entrusted-a capacity which still
remains largely unknown, for man has taken only a few
steps in studying this invisible power and its
relationship with his material body.

The Quran proclaims that it is sufficient to reflect
on and examine your own self in order to be guided to the
eternal, infinite source that is free of all need, has
unlimited knowledge, skill and power, and a feeble
reflection of which is manifest in your being. You will
then know that it is that infinite reality which has thus
brought together in one place so fruitful a compound of
elements and brought it forth onto the plain of

Given the existence of such vivid indications and
decisive proofs, placed at your disposal and within your
own being for you to seek the knowledge of God, no excuse
will be accepted from you for misguidance and denial.

The Quran also applies the method of negation and
affirmation to the question of God's attributes. Thus, it
describes the attributes that the essence of the Creator
possesses as "affirmative attributes." Among
them are knowledge, power, will, the fact that His
existence was not preceded by non-existence and that His
being has no beginning, and the fact that all the motions
of the world derive from His will and His power.

The Quran says: "He is God, the One other than
Whom there is no god, the knower of the hidden and the
manifest, the Compassionate, the Merciful. He is God, the
One other than Whom there is no god, the Commander, the
All-powerful, Pure and Without Defect, the Bestower of
Safety, the Protector, the Precious; the Mighty, the
Sublime, the Most Elevated. Exempt and purified be He
from the partners which they ascribe to Him."

The "negative attributes" are those from
which God is free. They include the fact that God is not
a body and has no place; His sacred being has no partner
or like; He is not a prisoner to the limitations set up
by the bounds of the senses; He neither begets nor is
begotten; there is neither change nor motion within His
essence, for He is absolute perfection; and He does not
delegate the task of creation to anyone.

The Quran says: "O Messenger, say: "He is
God, the One, the God Who is free of need for all things
and of Whom all beings stand in need. No one is His
offspring, and He is not the offspring of anyone, and He
has no like or parallel."
(12:14) "Pure
and exalted is thy Lord, God the Powerful and Unique, Who
is pure of what men in their ignorance ascribe to

Human logic, which inevitably thinks in terms of
limited categories, is incapable of sitting in judgment
on divinity, because we must admit that it is impossible
to perceive the ultimate ground of that being for whom no
observable or comprehensible analogue or parallel exists
in the world of creation. The most profound schools of
thought and the greatest methods of reflection here fall
prey to bewilderment.

Just as all existent beings must lead back to an
essence with which existence is identical, to an
independent being on which all other beings depend, so,
too, they must derive from a source of life, power and
knowledge, from the infinite being of which all these
attributes and qualities surge forth in abundance.


The Conditions for an Ideal Object of Worship

The Lord of the World, as presented in the Quran,
possesses all the necessary conditions of an ideal object
of worship. He is the creator of love and all forms of
beauty, the originator of all forms of power and energy.
He is a vast ocean on the slightest ripple of whose
surface the swimmer of the intellect is tossed around
like a plaything. It is He Who preserves the heavens from
falling and the earth from collapsing. If, for an
instant, He closes His eye of mercy or averts it from
this world, the whole of the universe will perish and
hurtle toward non-being in the form of dust. The
existence and survival of every atom in the universe is,
therefore, dependent on Him.

It is He Who bestows all bounties and all felicities,
Who owns us and may freely dispose of us. When He
commands and an order goes forth, as soon as He says,
"Be!," a creature comes into being.

Truth and reality derive their substance from His
essence, and freedom, justice, and other virtues and
perfections derive from the rays of His attributes. To
take flight towards Him, seek to draw near to His
glorious threshold, is to attain all conceivable desire
at the highest degree. Whoever gives his heart to God,
gains an affectionate companion and a loving friend; the
one who relies upon Him has placed his hope on a firm
foundation, while the one who attaches his heart to
other-than-God is a prey to illusion and builds a
foundation on wind.

He Who is aware of the slightest motion that takes
place any where in creation can also determine for us a
path leading to happiness and lay down a way of life and
a system of human relations that conforms to the norms He
has established in the order of creation. He is, after
all, aware of our true interests, and it is even His
right alone to lay down a path for us as the logical
outcome and natural consequence of His divinity. To act
in accordance with the program He lays down is the only
certain guarantee for our ascent toward Him.

How is it possible that man should be so enamored of
truth and justice that he is ready to sacrifice his life
fur their sake, unless he is aware of their source and

If a being is worthy of worship, it cannot be anyone
other than the Creator Who is the axis of all being. No
thing and no person has such a rank as to deserve the
praise and service of man. All values other than God lack
absoluteness and primacy and do not subsist in and of
themselves; they are relative and serve only as a means
fur the attainment of degrees higher than themselves.

The primary qualities that elicit man's worship are
being the bestower of all bounties and being aware of all
the possibilities, needs, capacities and energies
contained in man's body and soul. These qualities belong
exclusively to God; all beings stand in need of and rely
upon that being Who is existent by by virtue of His own
essence. The caravan of existence is constantly moving
toward Him by means of His aid, and His commands descend
unceasingly of every speck in the universe.

Absolute submission and worship belong, then,
exclusively to His Most Sacred Essence. His glorious
presence, uninterrupted by a single moment of absence, is
felt at the heart of each atom of being. All things other
than God resemble us in that impotence and deficiency
prevail over them. They are, therefore, unworthy of our
submission and are not worthy of usurping sovereignty
over any part of God's realm, which is the whole broad
plain of existence. Man, too, is too noble and valuable a
being to be subjected and humbled by anything other than

In the whole broad plain of being, it is God alone Who
deserves man's praise. Man must grant to his love of God,
to his efforts to draw near to Him and earn His pleasure,
precedence over all other beings and objects of love.
This Will result in the ennobling of man and, the
augmenting of his value, for man is but a small drop and
if not united with the ocean, he will be swept away by
the storm of corruption, dried up by the burning sun of
chaos. Man gains his true personality and becomes eternal
when he attaches himself to that effulgent source, when
God gives meaning to his world and becomes the
interpreter of all the events of his life. It is in this
sense that men's worlds may be either broad and expansive
or narrow and constricting.

The Commander of the
Faithful, Ali, peace be upon him, says, in discussing
the weaknesses of man and his limited capacities:
"How strange and remarkable is the affair of man! If
he becomes hopeful with regard to a certain desire, greed
will render him abject; desire will lead to greed, and
greed will destroy him. If he falls prey to hopelessness,
grief and sorrow will kill him. If he attains happiness
and good fortune, he will fail to preserve them. If he
falls prey to terror and fear, they will reduce him to
utter confusion. If abundant safety is granted him, he
will become negligent If his blessings are restored to
him, he will become arrogant and rebellious. If he is
stricken with misfortune, sorrow and grief will disgrace
him. If he acquires wealth, he will become overweening.
If poverty lays hold of him, he will be plunged in
misery. If he is weakened by hunger, he will be unable to
rise from the ground. If he eats to excess, the pressure
of his stomach will discomfort him. So all deficiency in
the life of man is harmful, and all excess leads to
corruption and ruin."[1]

Generally speaking, justice, nobility, virtue and
other qualities that earn respect and praise must either
be illusionary and imaginary, or we must consider these
values as real and necessary, based on the perceptions of
conscience and instinct. In the latter case, we ought
humbly to submit to that universal existence and absolute
perfection which flows over with virtue, life and power,
and from which all values derive.

* * * * *

When we look into the matter carefully, we see that
all the countless beings that exist in the world, as well
as the love and aspirations that are rooted in the depths
of our being, all converge at one point, all revert to
one source-God. The very essence and reality of the world
is identical with its connection, relation and attachment
to God. Being reascends by a different route to the point
where it began and from which it descended, and that
point alone is worthy of man's love and devotion. Once
man discovers this point, he becomes so enamored of its
absolute beauty and perfection that he forgets all else.

We see that all phenomena have emerged from non-being
into a state of being, and that throughout the period of
their existence, whether short or long, they are
dependent on a source external to themselves for aid and
sustenance; they are marked indelibly with subordination
and lack of autonomy.

If the ideal object of worship we seek and toward
which we are attempting to advance were unaware of the
pains we suffer and the nature of the world; if it were
unable to satisfy our desires and longings, being replete
with impotence and deficiency just like ourselves and
belonging to the same category as us-it could not
possibly be our final aim and ultimate object or possess
absolute value.

When we seek the fulfillment of a wish by means of our
worship, it is God alone Who can respond by meeting our
needs. The Quran says: "Those whom you call upon
other than God are servants like yourselves (i.e., they
have no power of themselves)."

The Commander of the Faithful, upon whom be peace,
while supplicating his Lord in the mosque of Kufa, said:
"O my Master, O my Master! You are God the Great and
I am your wretched and insignificant slave. Who can show
mercy to His insignificant slave but God the Great? O
Master of mine, O Master of mine! You are strong and
powerful, I am weak and impotent; other than one strong
and powerful, who can show mercy to the weak?

"O Master of mine, O Master of mine! You it is
Who bestows generosity on the beggar, and I stand as a
beggar at your threshold. Who will show mercy to the
beggar other than the generous and the munificent one?

"O Master of mine, O master of mine! You are
eternal existence and I am a creature destined to perish.
Who will have mercy on one destined to perish other than
the eternal, everlasting essence?

"O Master of mine, O Master of mine! You are the
guide Who points out the way, and I am lost and
bewildered. Who will take pity on the lost and bewildered
if not the guide Who points out the way?

"O Master of mine, O Master of mine! Have mercy
upon me by Your infinite mercy; accept and be satisfied
with me in Your generosity, favor and kindness, O God,
possessor of generosity, favor and kindness, and in Your
all-embracing mercy, O most merciful of the

Thus, to show reverence to other-than-God, to orient
oneself to other than His pure essence, is in no way
justifiable; apart from God, nothing can have the
slightest effect on our true destiny. If an object of
worship deserves man's devotion and love and is capable
of lifting him to the peaks of felicity, that object of
worship must be free of all deficiency and inadequacy.
Its eternal rays must touch all creatures with sustenance
and life, and its beauty must cause every possessor of
insight to kneel down in front of it. Possessing infinite
power, it quenches the burning thirst of our spirits, and
gaining knowledge of it, is nothing other than attaining
the ultimate source of our true nature.

If we choose an object of love and worship other than
God, it may have certain capacities and be able to
fulfill our desires up to a point, but once we reach that
point, it will no longer be an object of love and worship
for us. It will no longer be able to arouse and attract
us; it will, on the contrary, cause us to stagnate. For
not only will it not satisfy our instinctive desire to
worship, it will prevent us from reflecting on any higher
value and imprison us in a narrow circle, in such a way
that we no longer have any motive to advance or ascend.

If the object we choose to worship and love be
inferior to us, it can never cause us to ascend and
refine our beings. Our inclination to it will, on the
contrary, drag us down to decline, and we will, then, be
like the needle of a compass which is diverted from the
pole under the influence of a completely alien magnetic
field. The result will be total loss of direction;
eternal misery will become man's inevitable destiny.


Man's Loftiest of Expression of Gratitude

An object of worship can give direction to man's
motion and light up his darkness with its brightness when
it is able to give him ideals, is endowed with a positive
and elevated existence, is the cause of effects, and is
the very essence of stability and permanence. Then, the
object of worship produces inner effects in man and
guides him in his thought and his actions. It facilitates
for the essence of man, that part of him nurtured by the
divine wisdom, its search for perfection.

Any effort or motion on the part of man to choose a
false direction for himself, to take the wrong path in
life, will result in his alienation from himself, his
loss of all content, and the distortion of his
personality. Man cannot possibly come to know himself
correctly if he has separated himself from his Creator.
To forget God means to forget oneself, to be oblivious to
the universal purposes of human life and the world that
surrounds one, and to be unable to reflect on any form of
higher values.

Just as attachment to other-than-God alienates man
from himself and transforms him into a kind of moving
biological machine, so, too, does reliance on God and
supplication at His threshold draw mono-dimensional man,
lacking all spiritual life, up from the oceanic depths of
neglect, revive him and restore him to himself.

Through worshipping God, the spiritual capacities and
celestial forces in man are nourished. Man comes to
understand the lowliness of his worthless material, hopes
and desires and to see the deficiencies and weaknesses
without his own being. In short, he comes to see himself
as he is.

To be aware of God and take flight toward the
invisible source of all being illumines and vivifies the
heart. It is utterly pleasurable, a pleasure that cannot
be compared to the pleasures of the three dimensional
material world. It is through orienting oneself to that
abstract, non-material reality that thoughts become lofty
and values transformed.

The Commander of the Faithful, Ali, peace be upon him,
discusses the wonderful effect of awareness of God on
men's hearts as follows: "The Almighty Creator has
made awareness of Him the means for purifying the heart.
It is through the awareness of God that deaf hearts begin
to hear, blind hearts begin to see, and rebellious hearts
become soft and tractable."[3]

He says, too: "O Lord! You are the best companion
for those who love You and the best source of remedy for
all who place reliance upon You. You observe them in
their inner states and outer doings and are aware of the
depths of their hearts. You know the extent of their
insight and knowledge, and their secrets are manifest to
You. Their hearts tremble in separation from You, and if
solitude causes them fear and unease, the awareness of
You comforts them, and if hardship and difficulty assail
them, You alone are their refuge."[4]

Imam Sajjad, upon whom be peace, that paragon of
purity and justice who had an unbreakable bond with his
Lord, demonstrates to us in his supplicatory prayers the
highest expression of love. This was a sacred love that
had inflamed all of his being, and although his spirit
was sorely pressed by the mortal sorrow of separation,
the powerful wing of love enabled him to soar up into the
limitless heavens. With indescribable sincerity and
humility, he thus prayed at the threshold of God, the
Eternal: "O Lord! I have migrated to Your
forgiveness and set out to Your mercy. I ardently desire
Your pardon and rely on Y our generosity, for there is
naught in my conduct to make me worthy of forgiveness,
and Your kindness is my only hope.

"O God, send me forth on the best path and grant
that 1 die as a believer in Your religion and be
resurrected as a believer in Your religion.

"O Lord Whom I worship! O You whose aid the
sinners supplicate through Y our mercy! O you in the
remembrance of Whose generosity the wretched seek refuge!
O You in fear of whom the wrongdoers bitterly weep!

"O source of tranquility for the heart of those
banished in fear from their homes! O consoler of those
who sorrow with broken hearts! O succorer of the lonely,
helper of the rejected and needy! I am that servant who
responded obediently when You commanded men to call on

"O Lord! Here I am prostrate in the dust at Your
threshold. O God, if You show mercy to whomever calls
upon You in supplication, then let me be earnest in my
supplications, or if You forgive whomever weeps in Your
presence, then let me hasten to weep.

"O God, do not make hopeless the one who finds no
giver but You; do not thrust me away with the hand of
rejection now that I stand here at Your

Anyone who wishes to understand the profound meaning
of supplication must realize that rational explanation
and logical deduction are incapable of yielding a deep
understanding of questions touching on spiritual

The Noble Quran describes the conduct and way of life
of the unbelievers and materialists as follows: "The
deeds of those who are unbelievers are like a mirage in a
flat and waterless desert. A thirsty man will imagine
them to be water and hasten toward them, but when he
reaches them, he will find no water."

"God and His Messengers summon mankind to the
truth; other than God, all claims are baseless and vain,
for they are unable to meet any of man's needs. One who
relies upon them will be like the one who dipped his hand
in a well to drink from it but found his hand could not
reach the water. The unbelievers summon men only to
(13:14) "The dwelling of
those who choose other than God as friends and protectors
is like the dwelling of the spider; were the spider to
know, the weakest of dwellings is his."
(29:41) "The
deeds of those who disbelieve in God are like ashes that
are swept away by a strong wind; they have no benefit
from all their strivings. This is the path of
misguidance, utterly distinct from the path of

The loftiest expression of thankfulness that man can
make at the threshold of his true object of worship is
supplication, the profession of love for His absolute
perfection and devotion to it.

This he does in harmony with all of creation, because
all beings praise and glorify God.

The Quran says: "The seven heavens and the
earth and all they contain praise God. There is no
creature not engaged in the praise and magnification of
its Lord, but you do not understand their praise. God
Almighty is forbearing and most forgiving."

This worship and praise naturally do not bring God the
slightest benefit, for He possesses all perfections to an
infinite degree and neither the world nor man can add
anything to Him or take anything away from Him. Is it at
all conceivable that He would create man in order to
benefit from his worship and praise? On the contrary, it
is man who, by gaining knowledge of the supreme being and
worshipping Him in His sublimity, reaches his ultimate
aim and true perfection.

Professor Ravaillet, celebrated philosopher and
physicist, has the following to say about consciousness
in the universe: "The new cosmology says that atoms
and molecules know what they are doing; in the normal
sense of the word, they have awareness of the tasks they
perform and of the course of their lives. This
consciousness of theirs is superior to the knowledge of
the physicist, because all the physicist knows of an atom
is that if it were not tangible and recognizable, no one
would know anything about it.

"Bodies, motion, speed, the concepts of here and
there, radiation, equilibrium, space, atmosphere,
distance, together with many other things-all came into
existence thanks to the atom. If the atom were not to
exist, what would be the origin of all the remarkable
phenomena of creation? There exists the same affinity
between consciousness and body as there does between
motion and motion-lessness, or the positive and negative
aspects of motion.

"Now, space, taken as a whole, is not blind. We
demonstrated, if you remember, when examining the field
of vision, that the eye is not the basic and determining
factor. Since it is fixed at a given point on the globe,
according to the limited circumstances of the human
species and other terrestrial beings, it has a certain
narrow physical field within which it operates. But as
for the space between the earth and the sun, between the
sun and the galaxies, and between the galaxies and remote
gigantic planets, where huge forces with tremendous range
are engaged in exchanging energy there an organ such as
the eye of terrestrial creatures has no opportunity to
show itself or demonstrate its effectiveness.

"But precisely for this reason we cannot believe
that lack of consciousness and awareness prevail in that
field for the exchange of vast energies and forces ruled
by the laws of attraction, equilibrium, motion, light and
centrifugal force. Blindness does not exist in these
wondrous phenomena, and even particles of light cannot be
regarded as something akin to an illiterate mailman whose
only job is to deliver messages he cannot read."[6]


The Incomparability of the Divine Attributes

In our efforts to describe the Creator and gain
knowledge of His attributes, we ideally need concepts and
expressions that are beyond our reach. Those terms we do
employ are unable to help us in reaching our goal, a true
description of God, for our limited understandings cannot
accommodate a perception of the nature of God's infinite
attributes. He is exalted above all concepts coined and
fashioned by the human mind.

Man, who is created and limited in every respect,
should not expect to be able to assess and describe a
non-material being by means of material attributes and

A reality that is other than contingent beings and
natural beings, whose absolute power and infinite
knowledge encompass all things, who in the words of the
Quran, "has no similarity to finite and deficient
created beings,"
(42:11) such a reality naturally
can not be discussed in the same breath as ordinary

Ali, upon whom be peace, the Master of the
God-fearing, said:

"Whoever compares and assimilates God to
something or refers to His sacred essence, has not, in
reality, had Him in view. Whatever man knows to be the
ground of His essence must necessarily be created. God is
the Creator and Maker. Whatever depend s on other than
itself is caused and created. It is God alone who is only
a cause (and not an effect).

"He undertakes creation without any means of
instruments. He measures without having recourse to
thought and reflection. He is free of all need and
derives no profit from anything. Time and place do not
accompany Him. Tools and instruments do not aid Him. His
existence precedes all time and His pre-eternity precedes
all beginning.

"He is not limited by any limit, for it is
phenomena that delimit their essence by means of the
limits peculiar to them and it is bodies that indicate
their likes. His sacred essence does not admit the
concepts of motion and motion-lessness; how is it
possible that something created within phenomena should
also exist in His being?

"Were there to be motion and stillness in His
essence, He would be exposed to mutation and change; He
would be divisible and the pre-eternity of His being
would be negated.

"'He is the source of all powers, and hence no
being can have any effect upon Him. Finally, He is the
Creator Who does not change or disappear and Who is never
hidden from the people of knowledge and insight."[7]

The fact that God's attributes are utterly separate
from ours and cannot be examined through a comparison
with our attributes is because the attributes of that
fountainhead of being are different from the attributes
of all other beings.

For example, we have the ability to perform certain
tasks, but this is not the same as the power of God; in
our case, the attribute is one thing and the entity it
describes is another. When we boast of our knowledge, we
are not one and identical with our knowledge. During
infancy there was no trace of learning or knowledge in
our beings, but later we gradually acquired a certain
amount of knowledge by learning. Knowledge and power form
two distinct comers of our being; they are neither
identical with our essence nor are they united with each
other in our being. The attributes are accidents and our
essence is a substance; each is independent of the other.

But the case of the divine attributes is fundamentally
different. When we say that God is all-knowing and
all-powerful, what we mean is that He is the source of
knowledge and power: the attribute is not something other
than the entity it describes al though it is conceptually
distinct. In reality, His attributes are identical with
His essence; for His essence does not constitute a
substance to which accidents might adhere. He is absolute
being, identical with knowledge, power, life, stability
and realization; He is not subject to any mental or
external limit or restriction.

Since we are nurtured in the very heart of nature and
are, there fore, familiar with it at all times, and since
whatever we see has particular dimensions and shape, a
time and a place, and all the other properties of
bodies-in short, because of the habituation of our mind
to natural phenomena-we try to measure all things with
the criteria of nature, even intellectual and rational
concepts. The criteria of nature thus serve as the point
of departure for all scientific and philosophical

To imagine a being who has none of the properties of
matter and who is other than whatever our minds might
conceive, and to understand attributes that are
inseparable from the essence, not only requires great
precision but also demands of us that we completely empty
our mind of material beings.

Ali, peace be upon him, has spoken eloquently,
profoundly and meaningfully on this matter. He emphasizes
that men cannot imprison God in a description, saying:
"Pure monotheism and perfect faith lie in exempting,
negating and excluding from His sacred essence all the
attributes of created beings. God forbid that He should
be described by any such attribute, because when He is so
described, it appears as if each attribute is separate
from its possessor and alien to it. So one who says
something in description of the Creator imagining Him to
possess some attribute superadded to the essence has made
Him the partner of something and suggested He consists of
two parts. Such an attempt to describe God arises from
ignorance and lack of awareness."[8]

Mental concepts cannot describe God by recourse to
finite attributes; being limited, they are inapplicable
to God's being. Each attribute, with respect to the
particular meaning it conveys, is separate from all other
attributes. For example, the attribute of life is quite
different from the attribute of power; they are not
interchangeable. It is possible that certain instances
might gather all these attributes together in a single
location, but each of them lexically has a different

When the human mind wishes to ascribe an attribute to
a certain thing, his aim is to establish in a given
instance a kind of unity between the attribute and the
entity it describes. But since the attribute is
conceptually distinct from the entity, the mind
inevitably decrees that they remain separate from each
other. The only means for the knowledge of things is to
describe them through the use of mental concepts, which
are conceptually separate from each other and, therefore,
necessarily finite. Those concepts cannot, therefore, be
used to gain knowledge of that Most Transcendent Reality.
He is exalted above the possibility of being known by
description, and whoever limits God with a given
attribute has failed to gain any knowledge of Him.

By mentioning a few examples we can understand to some
degree how the attributes are not superadded to the
essence. Take into consideration that the rays of heat
proceeding from fire convey heat to everything, so that
one of the qualities and attributes of fire is burning
and the distribution of heat.

Has this quality occupied one corner of the being of
the fire's being? Of course not; the entire being of fire
has the attribute of burning and the distribution of

Ja'far as-Sadiq, upon whom be peace, said in answer
to someone who was questioning him about the nature of
God: "He is something utterly other than all things;
He alone is identical with the very essence of being. He
is not a body and has no form. The senses cannot perceive
Him and He cannot be sought out Re escapes the grasp of
the five senses; fantasy and imagination are unable to
perceive Him. The passage of time and the succession of
ages in no wise diminish Him and He is exempt from all
mutation and change."[9]


The Unity of God

When the question of divine unity is raised in
religious discourse, it is taken to include many topics
including belief in the oneness of the essence, so, too,
the compounding of the attributes and the distinction
between essence and attributes is totally excluded with
respect to unity of the attributes. Distinctness and
differentiation derive from limitation. If we posit a
difference among the divine attributes, it is valid only
from the point of view of our rational thought and
reflection; a multiplicity of directions and of
superadded attributes cannot affect the divine essence as

If in the world of nature we look at a body through
different colored pieces of glass" that body will
appear to us in a succession of different colors.
Similarly, when we contemplate the unique divine essence
with our reason, we sometimes ascribe knowledge to that
infinite being with regard to the fact that all creatures
are at all times present before Him; we then say that He
is all-knowing. At other times we are aware of His
ability to create all things, and we then speak of His
being all-powerful.

So when we perceive through these various apertures,
the different attributes which appear to resemble the
properties of our limited beings, we attempt to separate
them from His infinite essence. Objectively, however, all
the concepts conveyed by the different attributes have a
single existence and convey a single reality, a reality
that is free of all defect and deficiency, that possesses
all perfections such as power, mercy, knowledge,
blessedness, wisdom and splendor.

Ali, upon whom be peace, the Commander of the
Faithful, says in the first sermon of the Nahj
, "The beginning of religion is the
knowledge of the pure divine essence, and the perfection
of such knowledge lies in faith in that sacred being.
Perfect belief" in turn" lies in sincere
devotion at His threshold, and perfect devotion is none
other than the dissociation of that Unique Principle from
all the attributes of contingent beings.

"'Beware, for He cannot be described with any
attribute, for then difference would appear between the
name and the attribute. Whoever attempts to describe Him
with an attribute is, in effect, creating a like and a
partner for Him, or rather he is seeing God to be two.
Whoever sees God to be two is attempting to divide His
being. Such a person lacks all knowledge and insight into
the nature of God's unique being and is blind and

"The one who is thus deprived of vision will
attempt to point to God (i.e., restrict Him to a given
time and place), and whoever does this posits imprisoning
limits for the Creator of all being and makes Him finite.
Whoever limits and restricts Him in this way regards Him
as a measurable quantity. Whoever asks: "Where is
God?" unintentionally makes of Him a body enclosed
within another body, and whoever asks, "In what is
God engaged?" unintentionally states that certain
places are empty of His being."

So each attribute is
infinite and coextensive with the infinitude of the
essence. God
is free of and exempt from finite attributes that might
be distinct from each other and separate from the

Once we realize that God's being derives from Himself,
it follows that an absolute being is infinite in all
respects. If being and non-being are equally conceivable
for an entity, it must acquire being from some external
cause to come into being; self-origination is, after all,
impossible. It is, then, only absolute being that derives
from itself; all other realities are subordinate to it
and knowable only by means of it. Once an essence is
identical with its own existence, it is infinite with
respect to knowledge, power, non-origination and
everlastingness, for all of these are forms of being, and
an essence that is identical with existence must
necessarily possess all these perfections to an infinite

* * * * *

The oneness of God is one of His foremost attributes.
All the heavenly religions, in their original and
undistorted teachings, have summoned mankind to a pure
affirmation of God's unity, untainted by the ascription
of partners to Him. Such ascription of partners, in all
its forms and dimensions, is the most harmful error to
which man is liable. It has occurred throughout history
as a result of ignorance, unawareness, and turning away
from the guidance of reason and the teaching of the

If men believed in God according to correct thought,
the proofs of reason and the guidance of the Prophets, it
would be impossible for them to accept any contingent
phenomenon or created thing in His place, and to imagine
that any other being might be His partner or equal in
commanding and controlling the destinies of the world, or
even have some share in administering the order of the

If numerous gods ruled over the world and each of
these gods acted and gave commands in accordance with his
own will, the order of the universe would dissolve into

The Quran says: "If there were numerous gods
other than the one true God" the order of the
heavens and the earth would collapse. So exalted be the
Lord of the Throne above what they say concerning

If we say that God is one, it is because He is not a
body. A body is a compound of a series of different
elements, the union of which causes it to come into
being. Compounding, division and generation are all
attributes of contingent beings and bodies; we,
therefore, negate them in the case of God and assert that
whatever has come into existence, as a result of
compounding and generation, neither is God nor resembles

It is feasible to conceive of plurality within a given
category once we speak of limitations such as quantity,
quality, and time. God, however, is not limited by any of
these, and it is, therefore, impossible to conceive of
Him having any like or congener.

If we try to imagine the essence of water, without any
limiting attribute, and repeat this exercise several
times, nothing will be added to our original conception.
Because in the beginning we conceived of water in an
absolute sense, not limited by any condition, quantity or
quality, it is impossible that in our subsequent attempts
to conceive of it, a new hypothesis should occur to us.

But when we add to the essence of water certain
limiting at tributes which are extrinsic to it, different
forms and instances of water will appear and with them,
plurality. Examples of this would be rainwater,
springwater, river water, sea water, all of these
observed at different times and in different places, here
and there. If we eliminate all these limiting attributes
and look again at the fundamental essence of water, we
will see that it is exempt from all duality and is a
single essence.

We must be aware that any being which can be contained
in a certain place necessarily has need of that place,
and any being that be contained in a certain time owes
its very existence to the defining conditions of that
time: its existence will be realized only within the
specific temporal framework where those conditions

So, when we come to know a being that is present at
all times and in all places and who possesses the highest
conceivable degree of perfection, and other than whom
nothing is perfect or absolute and free from defect, we
must recognize that to impute duality to such a lofty
reality is to make it finite and limited.

Indeed, God is not one in a numerical sense so that we
might imagine Him to be the first member of a category
that is followed by a second. His oneness is such that if
we imagine a second to exist with Him, that second must
be identical with the first.

Since the multiplicity of things derives from the
limiting circumstances that differentiate them from each
other, it would be totally irrational to posit a second
for a being that is free of all limits and bounds. The
existence of a second would mean that the first had
limits and bounds, and if limits and bounds are excluded,
we cannot possibly have two beings; our conception of the
second will simply be a repetition of the first.

The doctrine of divine unity means that if we consider
God alone, to the exclusion of all phenomenal being, His
sacred essence is completely affirmed. Likewise, if we
regard His being together with phenomenal being, again
His existence will be completely affirmed. But if, on the
contrary, we look at contingent phenomena to the
exclusion of God, they cannot in any way be said to be
existent, because their existence is dependent on the
Creator for its origination and perpetuation.

So, whenever we ascribe some limit and condition to
God, it means that God will cease to exist whenever that
limit and condition cease to exist. However, God's
existence is not subject to condition and plurality, and
reason cannot, therefore, posit a second member of His

Let us give an illustration. Suppose that the world is
infinite it has no bounds and in whatever direction we
travel, we never come to its end. With such a concept of
the world of bodies, all of its dimensions being
infinite, can we imagine another world to exist in
addition to it, whether finite or infinite? Certainly we
cannot, because the concept of an infinite world of
bodies necessarily excludes the existence of another such
world. If we try to conceive of another such world, it
will be either identical with the first world or a
segment of it.

So, considering that the divine essence is absolute
being, to posit the existence of a second being
resembling Him is exactly the same as imagining a second
world of bodies to co-exist with an infinite world of
bodies. In other words, it is impossible.

It is, thus, clear that the meaning of God's being One
is not that He is not two; it is that a second is
inconceivable and that the exclusive possession of
divinity is necessitated by His essence. He becomes
distinct from other than Himself, not by means of any
limit but by means of His essence itself which can
clearly be distinguished from all else. All other beings,
by contrast, attain their distinctiveness not from their
essence but rather from God.

* * * * *

We see clearly that extensive interrelatedness and
harmony exist among all the components of the world. Man
produces a carbonic gas that enables plants to breathe,
and trees and plants, reciprocally produce oxygen that
enables man to breathe. As a result of this interchange
between man and plants, a certain amount of oxygen is
preserved at all times; were it not to be so, no trace of
human life would remain on earth.

The amount of heat received by the earth from the sun
corresponds to the need of living beings for heat The
speed of the earth's rotation around the sun and the
distance it keeps from that source of energy and heat
have been fixed at a level that makes human life on earth
possible. The distance of the earth from the sun
determines a degree of heat that exactly corresponds to
the needs of life upon earth. Were the speed of the
earth's rotation to be a hundred miles an hour instead of
a thousand miles an hour, as it now is, our nights and
days would be ten times as long, and the intensity of the
sun's heat would rise to the point that all plant life
would be burnt and the cold nights of winter would freeze
all fresh shoots in the ground.

If, on the one hand, the rays of the sun were to be
reduced by half, all living beings would be frozen in
place by the extreme cold.

If, on the other hand, they were to be doubled, the
sperm of life would never come to fruition. If the moon
were farther away from the earth, the tides would become
strong and fierce enough to uproot the mountains.

Seen in this light, the world appears to be a caravan
in which all the travellers are joined together like
links in a chain. All of its parts, big or small, are
striving cooperatively to advance in a single direction.
Throughout this organism, everything fulfills its
particular function and all things aid and complement
each other. A profound and invisible link joins every
single atom to all other atoms.

A world that is thus replete with unity must
necessarily be connected to a single source and
principle. Being derives from a single origin; if the
entirety of the universe is one, its creator must also be
one. The fact that the creator has brought forth unity
within the multiplicity of the created world is in itself
a convincing proof of His oneness, power and wisdom.

The Quran says: "Ask them, 'Show me these
partners whom you worship in place of God. Have they
created anything from earth or have they shared with God
in the creation of the heavens ? Have we given them a
book on which they rely in their ascription of partners
to us?' No, the wrongdoers deceive each other with their
false promises. Certainly it is God Who preserves the
heavens and the earth from collapse and annihilation;
were they about to collapse and be annihilated, there is
none other who could preserve them. Know that God is most
forbearing and forgiving."

Our innate nature, which is a fundamental dimension of
our existence, also confirms the oneness of God. In
severe crises and times of hardship, our desires are all
focused on one point; we turn in one direction and
entrust our hearts to Him.

One of the pupils of Imam Ja'far Sadiq, upon whom be
peace, asked him, "What proof is there for the
oneness of God?" The Imam answered him: "The
proof of His oneness is the interrelatedness and
continuity of all creation, the integral order of being
that rules over all things. God says in the Quran: 'Were
there a creator in the heavens and earth other than the
One God, their order would vanish and the world would be

So the regularity and comprehensiveness of the order
that ruled over all things refutes the theory that there
might be several gods, ruling the same or different

* * * * *

Although the Quran stresses the unity of God in
creation and wisdom, it also mentions the role of the
causes and means that implement the divine command. It
says: "God sent down water from the heavens and
revived the earth thereby after its death. In that is a
clear sign for men who pay heed."

Once we reach the conclusion that God alone is engaged
in creating, ordering and managing the entire universe,
and that all sources of effect and causality are
subordinate to His will and command, each having its
particular role assigned to it by God once we reach this
conclusion, how can we imagine any other being to be on
the same level as God and bow down in worship before it?
The Quran says: "Some men regard other beings as
equivalent to God and love them as if they were God but
the believers devote all of their love to God."
"Among His signs are the night and the day and
the sun and the moon. Do not bow down and prostrate
yourselves before the sun and the moon. Instead,
prostrate yourselves humbly before the God that created


Infinite Power of God

The infinite power of God has no clearer proof than
that furnished by the study and examination of the
phenomena of the created universe and the multiple forms
and colorations of nature that can never be fully

When we look at God's creation we find ourselves
confronted with so vast an energy that no limit can be
imagined for it. A look at creation and the millions of
truths secreted in the wonders of nature and the depths
of man's own being
provides the clearest indication of the scale of the
power of the One Who has created it, for the rich and
complex order of being admits of no other explanation.

It is God's incomparable power that compels man to bow
humbly before the Creator of this great scheme. There is
no word to express the dimensions of His power; that
unique essence has much power that whenever He wills a
thing to come into existence, it suffices for the command
"Be!" to issue forth from Him and the
object addressed will be. The Quran says: "When
He wills a certain thing, He commands it 'Be!' and it

The law expounded in this verse is the best indicator
of His limitless power and manifestation of His boundless
power and splendor. It negates any limit that might be
set on God's power and proclaims the inadequacy of all
criteria and measures when confronted with this divine

The champions of the natural sciences, the men of the
laboratory, despite all the advances they have achieved,
have not yet gained complete knowledge of the inner
secrets of a single one among the numerous and varied
beings of the created universe. Nonetheless, the partial
and defective knowledge that man has acquired concerning
a few of the beings that exist in this world is enough
for him to realize with all his being that the great
power that has created such variety and abundance in the
universe must be infinite.

Consider the range of His creation: tiny creatures and
monstrous beasts with strange appearances both dwelling
in the depths of the ocean; delicate and melodious birds
with multicolored wings, the beauty of which skilled
artists imitate as an adornment to their craft; stars
that shine in the heavens and the sun that rises and
sets; the dawn and the moonlight; the planets, galaxies
and nebula each of which sometimes contains at its heart
millions of great shinning stars giddying in their
apparent infinitude.

Does not a creation such as this, awe inspiring in its
splendor, indicate the infinite power of its Maker? Can
one disregard the power of a Creator Who imparts such
variety to life and made distinct, finite forms of it
appear in all this vast range of phenomena?

Now, given the fact that all these captivating forms
of creation ultimately arise from the atom, the question
of being cannot be explained except by reference to a
guiding and infinite power. It is He Who impels all
things toward the assumption of life-giving form and
possesses the power and intelligence to plan and design
this vast and precise scheme.

* * * * *

Large and small, difficult and easy, are properties
pertaining to finite beings; in the infinite realm of
God's essence and attributes, there is no question of
great and little, much and few. Impotence and inability
are caused by the finiteness of the energy at the
disposal of an agent, by the existence of an obstacle on
his path, or by the absence of means and instruments;
they are inconceivable in the case of an infinite power.

The Quran says: "Nothing in the heavens or on
earth can induce weakness or impotence in God; indeed,
God is all-knowing and all-powerful."

Although God is capable of doing all things, He has
created the world according to a precise and specific
scheme in the framework of which a set role has been
assigned to certain phenomena in the origination of
others. Those phenomena are completely and
unquestioningly subordinate to His command while
fulfilling that role and never rebelling against His
orders in the slightest.

The Quran says: "The sun, the moon and the
stars are all at His command. Be aware that creation
belongs only to God; it is His penetrating command that
in its exalted purity creates the world and all it

Strictly speaking, no creature in the scheme of the
universe can be a manifestation of power or have any
share in His will and command, for just as God has no
partner in His essence, so, too, He has no partner in His

Just as all creatures in the world lack independence
in their essence and are dependent on Him, they also lack
it in producing acts and effects. Every agent and cause
derives the essence of its being from God and also its
power to act and produce an effect.

Whenever He wills and necessitates it, the order that
encloses all beings abandons its role, for that order is
itself sub ordinate to His will, precious and firm though
it may be. The Creator Who has assigned a particular
effect to every factor and cause is able to neutralize
and suspend that effect at any instant. Just as one
command brought the order of the universe into existence,
another command robs phenomena of their customary effect.

Thus, the Quran says: "They said, 'Bum Abraham
and thus render help unto your gods, if you are men of
action.' We commanded the fire, 'be cool for Abraham and
harm him not.' They sought a stratagem against him, but
We made them the losers."
(21 :68-69)

Although the powerful attraction exerted by the sun
and the earth prevails over a vast space, both bodies are
subordinate to His will. As soon as He gives a little
bird the necessary power, the bird is able to resist the
pull of the earth and take flight.

The Quran says: "Do they not look at the birds
in the heavens and see how the skies have been subjugated
to them ? It is God alone Who keeps them aloft, and in
this there is an evident sign of God's power for the
people of faith."

Whatever phenomenon may be imagined to exist in the
world of being finds its needs for sustenance and life
met by the Creator. Therefore, whatever power and
capacity is found in the scheme of creation must
necessarily go back to the infinite power of God.

Ali, peace be upon him, the Commander of the Faithful,
says in a sermon reproduced in the Nahj al-balaghah:
"O God, we cannot penetrate the depths of Your
splendor and majesty. We know only that You are living
and self-subsistent, that You are exempt from eating and
sleeping. No mind can perceive You and no eye can see
You. But You see all eyes, You know the life span of all
things, and You are all-powerful.

"Although we have perceived nothing of Your
creation, we are astounded by Your power and praise You
mightily. That which is hidden from us and our eyes
cannot see and our mind and intelligence cannot attain,
which is concealed from us by veils of the unseen, is
much greater than what we can see..."[11]

When man decides to build something-for example, a
hospital-he assembles the necessary tools and pieces of
equipment that do not have any essential relationship
with each other, and, then, connects them with each other
by means of a series of artificial relationships in order
to reach his goal.

In order to create such artificial relationships, he
makes use of different forces and objects that he finds
to be already existing. His work and activity are a part
of the system of creation; they are not properly speaking
creative activity, but only a form of motion that takes
place within existing objects. Divine creation forms a
quite different category from the production of
artificial relationships between unrelated objects. God
originates things with all their properties, forces and
energies and characteristics.

When we say that God is all-powerful, we must be aware
that His power relates only to things that are possible.
Things that are rationally impossible are entirely
outside the sphere of His power, and to use the word
"power" or "capacity" in connection
with things that are impossible is incorrect and
meaningless. Although the power of God is, indeed,
unlimited, the receptive capacity of things and their
ability to serve as locus for the manifestation of divine
power must be taken into consideration. The
implementation of God's will is intertwined with the
relations between cause and effect, with the complex
network of reasons and causes. In order for a thing to
become the object of the divine will, it must not be
impossible and must, in its essence, possess receptive

divine will is accomplished by means of the
receptivity of things. It is true that the divine
effulgence is infinite and constantly overflowing, but
the ground destined to receive it may be defective and
unable to absorb the infinite share that superabundant
source offers it.

The ocean is an immensely abundant source of water,
but a tanker has only a limited capacity to take on its
water; in fact, only a minute amount of that water can be
loaded onto a tanker. Clearly enough, what is finite and
limited in this case is the capacity of the tanker, not
the water in the ocean.

Someone once asked Ali, the Commander of the Faithful,
upon whom be peace, "Is your Lord able to fit the
whole world into a hen's egg?" He answered:
"God Almighty is, indeed, able to do anything, but
what you ask is something impossible."[12]

So although God's sacred essence is utterly free of
all impotence and inability, it is meaningless and
irrational to ask whether God can do something inherently

* * * * *

One whose heart beats with the love of God and flows
over with belief in the Creator of all being will never
be discouraged, lonely and hopeless even in the midst of
the most complex difficulties. Whatever deed he
undertakes he does so in the consciousness of being in
the protective shade of a supreme power that can make him
triumph over all difficulties.

A man who is aware of God and knows that he enjoys His
support can resist and endure all kinds of hardship.
Difficulties are for him like foam on swift vanishing
foam on the face of the waters. The fire that burns
within him becomes ever brighter and he emerges stronger
than ever from the crucible of hardship.

Throughout the toils he endures, he is comforted and
strengthened by God's kindness and favor, and it is this
that forms the true motor of his activity. Failure does
not block his path and cause him to surrender; instead,
with sincere intention and diligent effort, he continues
his strivings until final victory.

He understands well that his efforts cannot remain
fruitless and that victory goes to the deserving.
Whenever He wills, God takes the hand of the fallen and
the oppressed who have no refuge other than Him and
raises them up to the apex of power. Sometimes, too, He
rubs in the dust of humiliation and disaster the noses of
the powerful and arrogant oppressors who believe only in
violence and the logic of force and treat men as if they
were worthless.

How many arrogant tyrants have been cast down by
disaster in the course of human history, sinking and
vanishing in a tempest of shame!

The story of God's messengers represents in itself a
complete and ideal model of human values. We all know how
the messengers stood alone against the oppressive forces
of their day in order to guide men to salvation, reform
their society, and inculcate lofty values in them. In
doing so, they lit the first spark that ultimately
destroyed polytheism.

The response aroused by their beliefs caused such a
positive tumult that they were able to change the face
and direction of history. They laid the foundations of
monotheistic worship and established the principles of
virtue in the most comprehensive way.

Who can deny the role played by their devotion and
faith in the untiring struggle they waged? How far can
will power alone take man, and how much can it enable him
to endure and sacrifice?

A cursory review of the proud history of the Prophets'
lives enables us all to behold, in the most vivid fashion
possible, the sincerity and devotion they displayed,
their mercy and forbearance, and their intense desire to
guide and reform men. The fundamental secret of their
success was the fact they never thought of themselves for
a single instant; they sincerely renounced their own
beings, making them a gift to God's cause. God then
responded by bestowing immortality and everlasting fame
on them.


Boundless Knowledge of God

A Creator Who cannot be circumscribed by place, for
Whose Essence no limit is conceivable, of Whose being not
a single part of the heavens and earth is empty-such a
Creator is naturally aware of all things; there is
nothing throughout the whole scheme of being on which the
bright rays of His knowledge do not shine.

The events that occur in the most distant part of the
universe, happenings that occurred billions of years ago
or will occur billions of years in the future-all are
contained in the sphere of His knowledge, and the most
comprehensive attempts at interpreting His knowledge are,
therefore, doomed to failure.

In order to understand the extensive scope of His
knowledge, we stretch the limits of our thought, apply
our intelligence to reflection and search, and try to
advance to our goal with a clear mind. In the last
resort, however, our mental apparatus lacks the skills
required for reaching the goal.

If we were to exist everywhere in just the same way
that we exist at a given place and in a given time, so
that no place was deprived of our presence, nothing would
be hidden from us and we would be aware of everything.

For us, the world of being has been divided into two
sectors: the manifest and the hidden. Things are
"hidden" in the sense that certain truths,
being infinite and non-material, cannot be perceived by
the outer senses. It is important to remember that the
entirety of existence does not consist of matters that
lie within the range of the empirical sciences.

In order to understand the secrets and mysteries of
creation we need, as it were, a launch platform. The
elevation we are able to reach depends on the
intellectual force we have at our disposal and the degree
of understanding that propels our ascent. Once we have a
suitable launch platform, many realities become knowable
to us.

* * * * *

Through its use of the term ghayb
("hidden"), the Noble Quran sets before man a
broad vision of reality. God's messengers have also
striven to raise man's awareness of the created universe
to a level that embraces infinite as well as the finite
and the boundaries of the unseen as well as the
dimensions of the manifest.

For God, the "hidden" does not exist; for
Him, the universe is entirely "manifest" The
Quran says: "He is the Knower of the Hidden and
the Manifest, the Compassionate and the Merciful"

Whatever is made by man derives from the skill,
intelligence and knowledge of its maker. The more subtle
and refined the product, the more clearly it displays the
profound and extensive knowledge of its maker, and the
more fully it proves his ability to plan and design.

Man's handiwork is not in any way comparable to the
mysteries and splendor of creation. Nonetheless, it
suggests to us that the harmonious and orderly scheme of
the universe, and the manifestation of intelligence in
this vast, beautiful and astounding pattern of creation,
must necessarily indicate that the one who plans it and
endows it with order must possess boundless and
comprehensive knowledge. The orderliness of the universe
is the strongest proof for the existence of a being that
overflows with the knowledge, will, awareness and wisdom
and has designed the wonders of creation in accordance
with a precisely calculated plan. The signs of His
infinite knowledge are to be seen plainly in every
particle of every phenomenon.

The experiments and theories of scientists furnish
proof for who ever desires it of the boundless knowledge
of God and its countless manifestations in the insect,
animal and vegetable realms.

God is aware of the course of the stars in space, the
tumult ridden world of the nebulae and the rotation of
the galaxies; of all things from pre-eternity to
post-eternity; of the total number of atoms in all the
heavenly bodies; of the motions of the billions of
creatures, large and small, that move on the face of the
earth and in the depths of the oceans; of the norms and
laws that unfailingly regulate nature; of the hidden and
manifest aspects of all things. He even knows the
perplexities of the distraught better than they do

Listen again to what the Quran has to say: "Is
not the one who created the world aware of the secrets of
His own creation ? Certainly He has knowledge of all the
subtleties and mysteries of the world."

"Nothing is hidden from God, neither on earth nor
in the heavens."

Natural scientists are better acquainted than others
with the subtle and precise mysteries that are implanted
in every particle of creation; they are aware from their
studies and researches of the various calculations that
are built into things both living and lifeless, in cells
and globules; of the various forms of action and
reaction, outward and inward, that take place in them;
and of the effects of various materials and substances.
Thus, they witness the signs for God's astounding wisdom
and infinite knowledge in nature or, as the Quran puts
it, "...on the horizons."(41:53) More
than others, they are exposed to the manifestation of
God's attributes and perfections, including His unbounded
knowledge, and if they do not reject the call of their
conscience, they will also discern the existence of the
Creator more clearly.

A certain thinker once said, "Our world resembles
a great idea more than it does a great machine. As a
theory or a scientific definition, it can be said that
the world is the product of a great idea, the
manifestation of a thought and an idea superior to our
own. Scientific thought seems to be moving in the
direction of this theory."

God's knowledge is not restricted to things past or to
present events and objects; His knowledge of the future
is exactly like His knowledge of the present.

God's knowledge is, so to speak, "immediate"
in the complete sense of the word. It is not in the first
instance necessary that there should be an object of
knowledge to Which His knowledge should attach itself.
All things stand revealed before Him, for at the very
same time that His sacred essence is utterly other than
all creatures and phenomena, it is also not separate from
them: all things past and future are in His unmediated

Ali, upon whom be peace, the Commander of the
Faithful, says: "He knows all things, but not
through means and instruments, the absence of which would
entail the cessation of His knowledge. There is not some
added entity called 'knowledge' interposed between Him
and the objects of His knowledge; there is nothing but
His essence alone."[13]

Here, Ali, peace be upon him, is referring to the
theological principle that God's awareness of things is
direct and immediate. In His knowledge of phenomena, God
has no need of the mental forms that are the basis of
acquired knowledge. Were He to acquire His knowledge by
means of those forms, need would arise in Him, whereas He
is utterly free of need.

The one from whom the existence of the world and its
inhabitants derives, who is capable of meeting every
imaginable need, who grants every perfection and
bounty-is it all conceivable that He should Himself be
imprisoned by Need?

Mental forms remain in our minds only so long as we
wish them to exist; they disappear as soon as we withdraw
our attention from them, because they are fashioned and
created by us. Th is form of knowledge is not direct and
unmediated and it is, therefore, termed "acquired
knowledge," by contrast with "immediate
knowledge," that has no need of a means.

The difference between us, who create our own mental
forms and the Creator Who originated all being, lies in
this, that we owe our very existences to Him and,
therefore, stand in need of Him, whereas He is the true
Creator and vivifier of all things, is free of need, and
does not need the exercise of vision to acquire

The delineation of past and future events that takes
place on the horizons of our being and thought is
inevitably limited, since we occupy a given time and
space outside of which we have no existence. We are
material phenomena, and matter, according to the laws of
physics and relativity, needs time and place in its
gradual and continuous process of development and change.
Past and future have no meaning for a being who is
present from pre-eternity to post-eternity, in all places
and at all times and free from the captivity of matter
and its consequences.

Since every phenomenon relies on the infinite
existence of the Creator for its origin and existence, no
veil or barrier can be supposed to exist between God and
that phenomenon; God encompasses its inner and outer
dimensions and is utterly empowered over it.

Someone once asked Ali, upon whom be peace, the
Commander of the Faithful, "Where is God?"

Ali answered: "It is not correct to ask where God
is because it is God Who made place. Nor is it correct to
ask how God is, of what nature is God, since it is God
Who created all nature. Further, it is not correct to ask
what God is because it is God Who created all quiddity.

"Glorified be God Almighty in the waves of Whose
splendor the wise are unable to swim, the remembrance of
Whose eternity halts all thought in its track, and in
Whose vast heaven of sanctity the intellect loses its

The Quran says: God is aware of all that exists on
the face of the earth and in the depths of the oceans. He
knows of every leaf that falls and every seed that is
hidden in the darkness of the earth. All things, fresh
and dry, are clear and evident to Him."

Let us imagine that we are in a room overlooking the
street and watching through a small window the mass of
cars that swiftly moves down the street. Obviously we
cannot see all the cars at once; we see them one by one
as they pass in front of the window, and then they
disappear from sight. If we knew nothing about cars, we
might imagine that they gradually come into being on one
side of the window and cease to exist on the other.

Now this small window corresponds exactly to our field
of vision; it determines a past and a future for the
cars. Those who are outside the room standing on the
sidewalk see all the cars moving along together.

Our situation with respect to the past and future of
the world is like that of the person watching the cars
through a small window.

Once we realize that God is above time and place, we
under stand that all past and future events are always
present and existent in front of Him, like a painting.

We ought, therefore, to have a sense of responsibility
toward a Creator Who is aware of the slightest act and
deed of creation-as the Quran says: "He knows all
that you do"
(2:283)-and avoid any sin or mistake
that would cause us to become distant from Him. We ought
to worship God, the possessor of absolute knowledge Who
has caused us to traverse these various stages and to
attain the capacities we now have. We ought not to
disobey His commands Which open up for us the path to
true felicity and the ultimate aim of man, and we should
accept no goal other than Him.

In order to reach God we must adorn ourselves with
divine attributes and prepare ourselves, during our brief
sojourn in this world, for the meeting with Him. Then we
may return to Him, the source, origin and beginning of
our existence. This requires action and striving effort
aimed at refining the self, for the responsibility to act
in this sense has been placed on man's shoulders as a
divine trust.


No comments:

Post a Comment