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What is Islam?

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What is Islam?

     

Belief in God, Allah
Mohamed Helal 426

Belief in God, Allah

Belief in the existence of one God, Allah[1]
 

     Allah is the Creator of the universe, its Controller, the Creator of its phenomena, and upon Whom its affairs depend. He is imbued with perfect attributes, from the Majestic to the Absolute, and He is Allah, whom Abraham, peace be on him, describes by saying, as stated in the Glorious Qur’ān:

“It is He who created me. It is He who guides me; He gives me food and drink; He cures me when I am ill; He will make me die and then give me life again; and He will, I hope, forgive my faults, on the Day of Judgment.” (Qur’ān, 26:78-82)

     Belief in the existence of one God, Allah, is perceived by sound natural disposition. Common sense calls for it, as mentioned in the hadith where Prophet Muḩammad, peace be upon him, said:

     "Every child is born with a true faith (i.e. to worship none but Allah alone) but his parents convert him to Judaism, to Christianity or to Magainism.” (Hadith by Al-Bukhāri)

Allah the most High says,

“So, [Prophet, as a man of pure faith], stand firm and true in your devotion to religion. This is the natural disposition Allah instilled in humankind. There is no change in Allah’s creation. This is the right religion, though most people do not realize it”. (Qur’ān, 30:30)

So if the human intellect contemplates the universe and the soul, it will arrive at belief in the existence of one God, Allah.

Allah the most High says,

“On earth, there are signs for those with sure faith, and so are in yourselves too; do you not see?” (Qur’ān, 51:20-21)

     For this reason, there are numerous verses that command the observer to contemplate on the universe, the heavens, and the earth, so that the fair-minded one could arrive at faith. He may be awestruck at the power of Allah, and thus thank Him for His bounties. Among the verses in confirmation of the oneness of Allah, sanctified be He, are the following:

“Say, ‘He is Allah the One, Allah the eternal. He begot no one nor was He begotten. No one is comparable to Him.” (Qur’ān, 112:1-4)

Allah the Most High says,

“If there had been in the heavens or earth any gods but Him, both heavens and earth would be in ruins.” (Qur’ān, 21:22)

Allah the Most High says,

 “Allah has never had a child. Nor is there any Allah beside Him—if there were, each Allah would have taken his creation aside and tried to overcome the others. May Allah be exalted above what they describe!” (Qur’ān, 23:91)

Faith in One Lord over the whole of the universe renders the servant nearer to Him than the servant’s jugular vein.

Allah the Most High says,

 “[Prophet], if My servants ask you about Me, I am near. I respond to those who call Me; So, let them respond to Me, and believe in Me so that they may be guided.” (Qur’ān, 2:186)

And good deeds are the mediation of the servant to the Lord.

Allah the Most High says,

“...except for those who repent, believe, and do good deeds, Allah will change the evil deeds of such people into good ones. He is most forgiving, most merciful.” (Qur’ān, 25:70)

Allah the Most High also says,

“Good things drive bad things away.” (Qur’ān, 11:114)

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Belief in God Almighty[2]
 

     Belief in God, Exalted is He, is the key principle of the Islamic creed on which other principles are built, deriving veracity and certitude from it. Here, it is worth noting that if the ‘Divine Self’ is a matter of faith and belief, it is subject to human cognition. It is possible, through reasoning, that man can prove the existence of Almighty God and other befitting Monotheistic Attributes of Divine Perfection and Transcendence. However, no human mind -no matter how much perceptive, keen or insightful it may be- can comprehend the Divine Self or perceive its essence or reality. So, as the Glorious Qur’an invites humans to believe in God, it opens up for them vistas of reflection towards knowing God, Exalted is He, through the signs and indications that He has displayed throughout the universe. In the meantime, however, the Qur’an protects the human mind from any delusion or presumption that it is capable of comprehending that Divine Self. [3]

Almighty God says,

“That is God, your Lord, there is no god except He, the Creator of everything. So worship Him; and He is an Ever-Trusted Trustee over everything;” (Qur’an, 6:102)

 and,

“As soon as Moses came to Our fixed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord! Show me, that I may look at You!’ Said He, ‘You will never see Me.’” (Qur’an, 7:143)

     The Glorious Qur’an’s assertion that the human mind is incapable of comprehending the Divine Self represents the hub in the issue of belief in God, Exalted is He. Still, this does not mean belittling or underrating the value of the human mind, but it rather maintains reality in terms of the mind’s nature, capacity and limits. By nature, a human mind cannot comprehend numerous facts and phenomena, upon which it comes by night and day, and on top of which is the essence of a ‘human self’, the closest fact to it. Likewise, the mind cannot comprehend the reality of light or atom, which is the core of contemporary scientific interpretation of any sensory phenomena. Of these immediate facts, the human mind can perceive only their effects, impacts or consequences, as it stands fully incapable of comprehending their substance, essence or reality. In addition, the mind’s incapability to comprehend these facts does not negate their existence. Indeed, its incapacity to comprehend the reality of atom or light does not mean there is no such thing as atom or light. This also applies to the rest of facts referred to above.

     If the mind is incapable of comprehending the reality of surrounding tangible issues, how could it then transcend the bounds of its incapacity to comprehend the essence of the Divine Self! As such, mind’s reflection in relation to belief in God, Exalted is He, focuses—first and foremost—on the effects of God’s Mercy and His Signs in the horizons and in human selves. The purpose of such reflection is to know about Almighty God’s Glorious Names and Attributes as evinced in the Glorious Qur’an and the Noble Sunnah, and not to comprehend or encompass the essence of the Divine Self. As shown above, mind’s incapacity to comprehend the essence of atom or light does not negate their existence and so is mind’s incapability to comprehend the Divine Self.

Intuitive Belief in the Existence of God

     Man’s pure instinct (fiṭrah) is the primary way to gain knowledge about and belief in Almighty God. Here, pure instinct means man’s proclivity to believe in the truth, opt for good and acknowledge the existence of One God Who has created the universe and Who regularizes it. This perception or consciousness of the existence of God has been a common denomination among the entire humanity since the beginning of creation and until God inherits the earth and whoever is on it.

     It is true that such sentiment -or pure instinct- is at times correct and at other times distorted. However, it never misses evidence and acknowledgement of the existence of God or submission to Him. The history of peoples and nations, past and present, testifies to the prevalence of the instinct of acknowledging and believing in the existence of God among primitive and civilized nations alike. It was also found that nations, despite their difference in languages, would express their reflection on and feelings towards God, and in turn it is true to claim that belief in God has always been there among all nations, past and present.

     Undoubtedly, belief in God is a common perception among humans, young or old, ignorant or learned, dull or smart, civilized or uncivilized, the anonymous and the well-reputed, and the shallow and the philosopher alike. All nations and communities have indeed expressed this instinct in one way or another.[4] This common perception among humans is asserted in the Qur’anic verse that reads,

“(Remember) as your Lord took from the Seeds of Adam, from their backs, their offspring, and made them bear witness concerning themselves, ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They said, ‘Yes indeed, we bear witness.’ (So, beware) that you should not say on the Day of Resurrection, ‘Surely we were heedless of this.’” (Qur’an, 7:172)

     This verse explicitly indicates that Almighty God made human souls bear witness that He is their Lord and Creator, and that these souls admitted knowing Him and testifying to His Lordship long before they came into this world.[5] This is the secret that every human self comes to this world while carrying a vestige of this Divine Covenant that is represented in the incessant perception of the existence and Lordship of Almighty God.

     The Glorious Qur’an unequivocally refers to this pure instinct, maintaining its reality and considering it a cornerstone in establishing the Divine Creed, as it reads,

“So set your face upright to the religion, unswervingly upright; (this religion is) the original disposition from God upon which He originated mankind.” (Qur’an, 30:30)

     Most scholars agree that the original disposition in this verse means the acknowledgment of knowing Almighty God, and in this sense the Glorious Qur’an asserts that all humans are born with an instinctive belief in the Divine Religion. They have an inherited strong feeling that drives them to know their Lord, acknowledge His Lordship, love Him and submit to Him.[6] Ibn ul-Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah deems that interpreting this noble verse as meaning “acknowledgement of God’s existence” is the only interpretation that is sustained by evidence from the Qur’an, the Sunnah, traditions and statements of the righteous predecessors.[7]

     Moreover, it should be known that the instinctive belief is not a reflection of man’s relation to or reactions towards the surrounding universe, but is rather consciousness ingrained in the human self to dawn in its horizons and surface on its scape. It is sufficient for the emergence and dawning of this consciousness in the horizons of the human self that man listens to the eternal instinctive voice in establishing the necessity of acknowledging the existence of God, the Originator of this universe. This means that acknowledging the existence of the Lord–through original disposition–is not dependent on any exterior condition, but is rather altogether dependent on clarity and purity of that disposition. Similarly, when the original disposition is free form accidental ills and perversions that divert it from its proper course, then knowledge about God becomes inevitable for it.

     It is also worth noting that the original disposition, despite being the nearest way for man to know the Lord, is frequently afflicted with accidental ills and distractions that divert it towards corruption and aberration. On top of these distractions is the whispering and luring of the devil, followed by other negative factors that work on distorting the good nature of instinctive disposition and driving it towards blindness, aberration and ingratitude. The Prophet (PBUH) has instructed us to beware of the distortion and corruption of instinctive disposition due to devilish whisperings, aberration of parents, or disturbance of the mental and intellectual environment. He reported Almighty God to have said, “I have created My servants as one having a natural disposition (to the worship of God), but it is Satan who turns them away from the right religion and he makes unlawful what has been declared lawful for them and he commands them to ascribe partnership with Me, although I have not sent down to them any authority for that”.[8]

     The Prophet (PBUH) also said in another hadith, “Every infant is born on pure disposition (true faith of Islam), and it is the parents of that infant who convert it into a Jew or Christian or a Magi, just as an animal delivers a perfect baby animal. Do you find any defect in it?” Then, Abu Hurairah (narrator of the hadith) said, “Recite, if you wish, (the Qur’anic verse that reads), ‘(this religion is) the original disposition from God upon which He originated mankind.’”.[9]

     Furthermore, if corruption of the pure instinct is possible, rather frequently, then the proofs sustaining belief in God are not limited to that instinct alone. Rather, another key vista is opened up for man to gain belief, that is the vista of thought or reasoning, on which the Glorious Qur’an draws when addressing or debating with atheists and polytheists. In more than three hundred verses, the Qur’an invites humans to draw on and refer to reasoning, describing rational, thoughtful and reflective people as the ones endowed with understanding, guided by God and granted a distinguishing privilege over other humans. Among these verses we read,

“So give good tidings to My servants who listen to the sayings (and) so closely follow the fairest of them. Those are they whom God has guided, and those are the ones endowed with intellect;” (Qur’an, 39: 17-8)

and,

“God will raise in degrees the ones of you who have believed and the ones to whom knowledge has been brought.” (Qur’an, 58: 11).

     Within the context of reasoning, Muslim intellectuals proposed several accurate patterns in deducing the existence of Almighty God, of which the following are only examples:

Logic-Based Evidence of God’s Existence

First: Scholastic Theologians’ Evidence (Argument of Createdness of the Universe):

The argument of creating (ephemerality) consists of two premises that lead to a logically inevitable conclusion:

1. First premise: The world is created (ephemeral)

2. Second premise: Every created thing necessarily has a creator

3. Conclusion: The world has a creator, that is God, Exalted is He.

     The meaning of the first premise is that the world, or all that exists- including humans, animals, plants, inanimate objects and whatever constitutes these existent objects of atoms, elements, factors and energies- is brought forth into being out of nothing. First it was nonexistent and then it became existent. Existence following nonexistence is thus the meaning of “creating”. In this sense, the world is undoubtedly created. Moreover, sensory experience indeed proves that the world has been created out of a state of nothingness, since the parts of the world we witness come into being and then slip into nonexistence, to be followed by the existence of other parts that eventually come into nonexistence, and so on.

     The second premise is simple and clear per se, needing no sensory or logical evidence to be acknowledged. The claim that ‘every created thing has a creator’ is itself the law of causality which is naturally acknowledged by all humans. In brief, this law is to the effect that you cannot see an existent object, be it animate or inanimate, and in the meantime believe that this thing lacks a cause that brought it into existence, or that such a thing has come into existence by itself. This axiomatic law is eloquently expressed by an Arab Bedouin who once instinctively stated, “Camel dung indicates (that) camels (had passed by)”. The same notion is introduced in the second premise proposed by scholastic theologians, namely that every created thing has a creator, knowing that such is an inevitably acknowledged notion.[10] When the mind judges that the world is created, this judgment inevitably indicates that the world has a creator and inventor, based on the axiomatic law (of causality) embodied in the second premise.

     Hence, we come to the conclusion that the world must have a creator, and such creator is Almighty God, Exalted is He. An atheist may cunningly claim to agree that things have come into existence out of nothing and that such created things prove the existence of a creator, based on the inevitability of causality, and yet disagree about the Muslims’ claim that the Creator is the Divine Self independent and separate from the universe. Such an atheist may fallaciously claim that the creator of the universe could be the universe itself and that the universe has come into existence by itself!

Scholastic theologians respond to such fallacy through the following points:

1. The presumption that the world has created itself is exactly equal to the presumption that the universe is both a creation and a creator. In other words, the world would be a cause and an effect at one and the same time.

2. As a creating cause, the universe must be in existence, while as an effect to be created it must have been nonexistent.

3. Logically, nothing can by any means be judged as existent and nonexistent at the same time, since such a judgment that indicates coexistence of two antithetical premises is totally rejected on a logical basis. Hence, it is logically impossible that a created thing be a creator, just as it is impossible that a creator be created. Indeed, both must be distinguishable in the sense that one of them be completely opposite to the other.

Second: Philosophers’ Evidence (Argument of Possibility)

     If the above evidence introduced by scholastic theologians is grounded on createdness in the sense of coming into existence out of nothing, then the grounds of this evidence is the notion of ‘possibility’. To get to the significance of possibility, we need to give a brief overview of the meaning of the ‘possible’ and the ‘necessary’.

Scholastic theologians classify all existent things into two categories:

A. Existent thing whose existence is possible

B. Existent thing whose existence is absolute perse.

A. The possibly existent is the existent thing that, when observed carefully, shall be found at a middle point between existence and nonexistence. Consider for example a tree, a house, a human or any other thing of which you catch sight. You will find that existence and nonexistence regarding the essence of that thing are equally possible. Before its existence, it was likely for it to exist, and now–after it has come into existence–it is likely to turn into nonexistence. In other words, its existence out of nothing is possible, and its nonexistence–after its existence–is also possible. Hence, existence and nonexistence are equally possible for that thing. From this perspective, philosophers designate every being whose essence is equally likely to exist and to cease to exist, as the ‘possibly existent’, while they call the likeliness to exist and cease to exist ‘the possibility’.

B. An entity that is absolute by itself is the being whose nonexistence is logically impossible. This Absolutely Existent -according to technical philosophical definition- is Almighty God, Exalted is He, Whose existence is not the result of an external cause, like a possible whose existence -or nonexistence- is brought about by a cause that is external to it. Hence, as the possible thing is likely to exist and to cease from existence, its existence is caused through a cause that is external to itself, as it lacks the power to cause its own existence or nonexistence. Since the absolutely existent is eternally existence and its nonexistence is impossible, its existence is absolute through itself and not through another self.

Having illustrated these two terms, let’s now proceed to the stages of the evidence of possibility.

1. If the essence of the possible being falls at a middle point between existence and nonexistence, then when it moves towards existence and already comes into existence, the mind necessarily presumes that a “cause” has determined existence over nonexistence of this possible being. In this case, it is impossible that the possible being turns from nonexistence into existence without a cause, since the axiomatic principle addressed above as part of the scholastic theologians’ evidence, namely causality, predominates here, entailing that the createdness that has befallen the possible necessarily has a cause that determined its existence over its nonexistence. Hence, it is logically necessary here that there be a cause determining existence over nonexistence of that possible being.

2. If that cause that has brought the possible into existence is the Absolutely Existent (Almighty God!), then the evidence of Almighty God’s Existence is established.

3. However, if it is further presumed that the cause is some other possible being, then you need to look again for the cause to this possible cause, and when you come to a necessary cause, you reach the evidence that proves the existence of God. Still, if you end up with a possible cause, you would get into the same searching chain for a third, fourth, etc. cause, and so on.

A. One either proves the Absolutely Existent and thus comes to the required conclusion,

B. Or the mind keeps entangled in endless quest for an unfathomable chain of causes and effects. However, it has been proven with conclusive evidence that the endless sequence of existential causes and effects is logically impossible and that the chain of such sequence must stop with a thing whose existence is necessary through that thing itself and not through another.

C. Hence, remains the first premise of the necessity of reaching up to an Absolute Being Whose existence is necessary through itself.[11]

Third: The Arguments of Care and Order

These two arguments are grounded on two principles:

     The first principle is that one detected through observation of perfect accuracy and superb design of the universe, at all its high and low levels and manifestations. Whether we consider humans, animals, plants, the earth or the planets, or even consider the atom, the cells or the galaxies, we will notice their marvelously accurate, compact, and harmonious design. Meanwhile, we will find out that such perfectly designed universe is meant to provide care for man. Indeed, the entire universe is set in conformity with man’s life and in unison with his existence. The Glorious Qur’an asserts more than once that man has all that is in the heavens and on earth subjected to him, and that such subjection is made out of care for him.

     The second principle in this (two-fold) argument is a logical necessity, which dictates that there must be a willing and regularizing designer for that accurate system, which is meant to care for man. Besides, it is likewise logically impossible that all such system has come into being by pure chance or haphazardness.[12]

Existence of God in the Ever-Glorious Qur’an

     Many Muslim Scholars think that proving God's existence is not one of the aims of the Ever-Glorious Qur’an since it is an easy issue to recognize and prove. God is always in the hearts of all people. This is usually called intrinsic feeling of God. Scholars argue that the Qur’anic verses dealing with God's existence are intended to prove the Oneness of God and that He has no associate.

     The existence of God is one of the closest issues to our minds and hearts. However, there are always some people who deny the existence of God, the Maker, the planner, the Knowing and the All Powerful. They claim that the world has been created by itself and that a human being or an animal is from a sperm and that sperm is in its turn produced by a human being or an animal and so on ad infinitum.

     The Ever-Glorious Qur’an refutes all these allegations by showing how much care, innovation and wisdom are involved in this world, its systems and laws. It also shows God's greatness and power that are manifested in all that He Creates, and therefore there must be a maker, creator and designer for all these things.

     One who reflects on some verses in the Ever-glorious Qur’an will notice that they miraculously encompass a conclusion of the aforementioned long deductions made by common people, philosophers and theologians. The Ever-glorious Qur’an argues against these allegations using logical deductions and reminds those who went astray that the existence of a creature necessitates the existence of a creator:

“Is there any doubt regarding God, the Originator of the heavens and the earth?” (Qur’an, 14:10)

     It also calls peoples' attention to another conclusion, namely that action necessitates an existing doer -from a theologian perspective- or what is likely existing entails what is definitely existing -from a philosophical perspective- in a short verse:

“Were they created out of nothing? Or are they the creators?” (Qur’an, 52:35)

     Using a rhetorical question, the first part of this verse "Were they created out of nothing?" asserts the impossibility of having this world come out from nothing. It adequately addresses causality, a previous basic issue in the nature of all beings. For theologians, it means ‘each action must have a doer’ and, philosophically speaking, ‘each effect has a cause". The second part of this verse "Or are they the creators?" also uses another rhetorical question to assert that it is impossible for a creature to create itself, a complete contrast between ‘the Creator’ and ‘the creature’. Logically speaking, therefore, a creature cannot be a creator nor can the Creator be a creature. Theologians have also arrived at the same conclusion that the world has a creator, the Almighty God. The same is asserted by philosophers who see that the cause of what likely exists cannot in any way be within the range of what likely exists. First, the verse lays down the principle of causality. Then it establishes that the two concepts of creature and creator are totally different.

Impossibility of Chance Hypothesis

     Now it seems clear that ‘the globe’ or ‘the world’ necessitates the existence of ‘the Creator’ and that common people, philosophers, scholars and thinkers do believe that the world cannot possibly come out of nothing. However, some philosophers and thinkers hold that this world has come by chance and out of nothing. They argue that countless atoms were moving aimlessly in an endless space and immemorial time, and suddenly they united and turned into a huge mass that banged into the sun decomposing into many parts forming the earth, celestial bodies, planets and the present solar system.[13]

     Although this is a weak and irrational argument, a number of atheist scholars support it in favor of atheism and seek to replace religion and belief in God with science. It seems that they see nothing in the world that calls their attention to God! Thus, they see the whole world just as something that originated by chance. One of them said, "If six monkeys randomly used typewriters for millions of years, they may finally produce one of Shakespeare's poems. The same applies to the existing world, random interactions of the matter for billions of years.[14]

Criticism of Chance Hypothesis

     One cannot think of those who support this tenuous argument as responsible scholars even if they bear the highest academic degrees. The Ever-glorious Qur’an questions their sanity due to their deliberate distortion and ruthless mockery of Divine realities. Regardless of their degrees and social ranks, disbelievers in God's existence are depicted in the Ever-glorious Qur’an as follows:

“They will say, ‘If we had heard or had considered, in no way would we have been among the companions of the Blaze.’” (Qur’an, 67:10).

     In 1940s, Julian Huxley introduced, supported and tried to prove ‘the hypothesis of chance’ based on the outcomes of modern science. However, he was quickly met with trenchant criticism from his contemporaries led by the great American scholar A. D. Cressy Morrison, a former president of New York Academy of Science, who compiled his scientific rebuttals of Huxley's arguments in a small book entitled Man Does Not Stand Alone in English and Al-‘elmu Yad‘u Li l-Eman in its Arabic version.[15] The Muslim Scholar Wahiduddin Khan also disproved Huxley's materialistic allegations in his Al-‘Islamu Yatahadda (Islam Challenges). The argument against ‘the theory of chance’ is based on two premises:

Rational Evidence

     Order never comes out from chaos and wisdom never comes from foolishness. Chance means accidentalness. This world, however, is based on a precise order and creative design aimed at providing human beings and other creatures with life requirements, actions and effects. Logically speaking, deliberateness in this world involves "mind" and "knowledge." If this deliberately and knowledgably organized world, originated from nothing, how then could the mind justify the present order in our world? Did it originate from chaos? You cannot get blood from a stone! Is it logical for an action to have no doer?

     The Chance theory does not only fail to provide a logical answer to this question, but it also contradicts the aforementioned principle of causality that we discussed above under Proving the Existence of God. Causality is an intrinsic and basic principle in the minds of all people. Thus, a rational mind is the first to consider this theory false and fraudulent.

Mathematical Evidence

The evidence of "possibilities calculation" refutes and uproots the allegation of chance as shown in the following three steps:

1. First step: There is perfect and constant harmony between each environmental phenomenon and human life. This has led us to believe that all these phenomena aim at making life easier for humankind. If any change occurs to these phenomena, our life will immediately come to an end.[16]

2. Second step: This compatibility and harmony between millions of environmental phenomena and the life of human beings can be explained by one hypothesis: There is a perfectly wise Maker who wants to provide the earth with life through networking all these different phenomena. The more examples of harmony between an environmental phenomenon and life we have, the more possible this hypothesis is.

3. Third step: If we try to explain all these countless examples of harmony and compatibility in the light of the chance hypothesis, we have to postulate that millions of things happen by chance. The more cases we have, the less possible this hypothesis is, ending in zero. Now that ‘the hypothesis of the Maker’ is much more likely than the chance hypothesis, the mind will undoubtedly accept the former hypothesis and rule out the latter. Finally, we will reach "the inescapable conclusion that this world is created and designed by a perfectly Wise Maker. This is evident from all these signs of consistency and creative designs in the world." [17]

"We will show them Our signs in the horizons and in themselves until it is evident to them that it is the truth." (Qur’an, 41:53)

 

An Example of the Impossibility of Chance

     If we remove the last layer of human eyes, we find that it consists of thirty million thin threads and three million conic minute particles. These threads are in an extremely accurate organization so that the eye can see. If we assume that these threads are serially numbered from one to thirty million, and then we mix them up; then imagine these threads with the order necessary for the eye to see using the hypothesis of chance, how will it be possible for the thread number (1) to be in the correct order necessary for vision? This ratio is one to thirty millions of possibilities. The ratio of the thread number (1) to be in the correct order by chance is one to nine hundred billion possibilities. You can imagine the ratio of thread number (10), (100) or (1000) to be in the correct order by chance. The number of possibilities may involve tens of meters of zeros.

     Meanwhile, the value of possibilities will gradually decrease until it equals zero.[18] This is one part of one organ in the body of human being. So, what about this huge and amazing universe starting with atoms and ending with galaxies?

The Lofty Divine Attributes

     In the previous section, we got to know that the existence of God is an undoubted matter and it is conclusively proven. We also came to know that it is the mind and instinct that guide us to God. The present section deals with God's attributes and His fairest names. We should first of all recognize the mind's limits and restrictions regarding God's names and attributes. The mind has come to know that God is the Creator of this world, with many perfected attributes like knowledge, richness, mercy and justice. Thus, God does have these attributes in a way that is fit for His Sacred Self because it is He who provides all these perfection attributes.

     The mind, therefore, admits that these attributes must first be assigned to God; otherwise, we will be unable to explain and trace down the origin of these attributes of human perfection. A cause must have at least the same attributes as the effect; otherwise, there will be no cause. Thus, the mind is more limited regarding the assignment of attributes than with proving the existence of the Self. For attributes, it is all about affirming God's possession of all perfection attributes and denying any imperfection attributes. In the Ever-Glorious Qur’an, God assigns Himself the fairest Names and Attributes and asked us to invoke Him by them:

“To God (belong) the Fairest Names, so pray to Him by them.” (Qur’an, 7:180)

“Say, ‘Pray to God, or pray to the All-Merciful. Whichever you call upon, to Him (belong) the Fairest Names.’” (Qur’an, 17:110)

“He is The First and The Last.” (Qur’an, 57:3)

“He is God, (other than Whom) there is no God except He. He is The Knower of both the Unseen and the Witnessed. He is the All-Merciful, the Ever-Merciful. He is God, (other than Whom) there is no God except Him. He is the King, the Superb Holy, the (Giver of) Peace, the Supreme Believer, (i.e., the Giver of Belief) the Supremely Hegemonic, the Ever-Mighty, the Superb Potentate, the Supremely Proud. (i.e., the Justly Proud); All Extolment be to God above whatever they associate (with Him). He is God, the Creator, the Initiator, and the Supreme Fashioner. To Him (belong) the Fairest Names. Whatever is in the heavens and the earth extols to Him, and He is the Ever-Mighty, the Ever-Wise.” (Qur’an, 59-:22-24)

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) says, “God has ninety-nine names. Whoever counts them will enter paradise.” [19]

Early Muslims' Position on Affirmation of Attributes for God

     Righteous early Muslims believed that one should affirm to God all the attributes He affirms for Himself in the Ever-Glorious Qur’an or in the sound sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and should deny to Him all those attributes He denies to Himself or those denied by the prophet Muhammad (PBUH). They see that we should not investigate the nature of these attributes because this would lead to more ambiguity and confusion. As the mind is unable to investigate the entity of God, it is also unable to investigate the nature of God's attributes. If the entity of God is not similar to all other entities, His attributes are then different from that of His creatures.

     Righteous early Muslims view God's attributes as Qur’an and Sunnah-based. This means that no attribute shall be affirmed for God unless it is in the Ever-Glorious Qur’an or the rigorously authenticated Sunnah. No attribute shall be affirmed for God on the basis of analogy or reason.[20] Al-Baghdadi says, "The Sunni Muslims maintain that God's attributes are ‘the Fairest Attributes’, based on the Noble Qur’an and rigorously the authenticated Sunnah, and they stressed that no attribute shall be affirmed for God except those in the Ever-Glorious Qur’an, rigorously authenticated Sunnah and the agreed-upon attributes.[21] Accordingly, there are two kinds of God's attributes:

1. Negating Attributes

2. Affirming Attributes

     The negating Attributes are the ones that deny to God any meaning that is not fit for His majesty and perfection, e. g. the One, the First, the Last, the Ever-Affluent and ‘to Him none could be equal’. Theologians state that the negating attributes are:

1. Oneness: God is Only One.

A. Oneness of Self: denial of synthesis or plurality to the Self. Unlike others, His Self does not consist of a number of parts. God is not plural in nature, i.e., to Him none could be an associate or equal.

B. Oneness of Attributes: His attributes are totally different from those of His Creatures.

C. Oneness of Actions: It is only God who is the Creator and the Originator; The Qur’an says:

“Say, ‘He is God, the Only One, God, the Everlasting Sovereign. He has not begotten and has not been begotten; to Him none could be equal.” (Qur’an, 112:1-4)

“Do not take to yourselves two Gods. Surely He is only One God; so of Me only, then, have awe.” (Qur’an, 16:51)

"Is not He Who begins creation, and thereafter brings it back again, and provides you from the heaven and the earth? Is there an associate with God? Say, Offer your proof, in case you are sincere.” (Qur’an, 27:64)

“In no way has God taken to Him any child, and in no way has there been with Him any God. Otherwise, each God would indeed have gone away with whatever he created, and some of them would indeed have exalted themselves over others.” (Qur’an, 23:91)

2. Eternity and Immortality: Eternity means that God has no beginning and He has never been nothing. Immortality means that He has no end and He is immortal and uncreated. He has never been and never will be nothing, because “He is definitely existent”; God says,

“He is the First and the Last, and the Outward and the Inward; and He is Ever-Knowing of everything.” (Qur’an, 57:3);

“All things perish, except His Face.” (Qur’an, 28:88)

3. Incomparability with Creatures: This means that God is incomparable with any creature; He is not a physical body and can never be described by anything associated with physical bodies and their characteristics, such as being hungry, thirsty, sleepy, inattentive, etc. In conclusion, God is totally different from anything you may think of. The Qur’an says,

“There is not anything like Him (whatsoever), and He is the Ever-Hearing, the Ever-Beholding.” (Qur’an, 42:11)

It also states that,

“To God is the Most Exalted likeness; and He is the Ever-Mighty, the Ever-Wise.” (Qur’an, 16:60)

4. Self-subsistence: It means that He does not need anyone (whatsoever); He did not need a creator to create Him or a space to take up. This is evident in “God, the Everlasting Sovereign” (Qur’an, 112:2) because Sovereign means independent and having ultimate power.[22]

Affirmative Attributes:

They affirm to God a meaning of perfectness that can be summarized in seven attributes as follows:

1. Knowledge: The Qur’an says,

“He knows whatever penetrates into the earth and whatever goes out of it, and whatever comes down from the heaven, and whatever ascends with difficulty into it; He is the Ever-Merciful, the Ever-Forgiving.” (Qur’an, 34:2)

“Our Lord embraces everything in (His) knowledge” (Qur’an, 7:89)

“And in His Providence are the keys of the Unseen; none knows them except He. He knows whatever is in the land and the sea. In no way does a leaf fall down, except that He knows it, and not a grain in the darkness of the earth, not a thing wet or dry, except that it is in a clear Book.” (Qur’an, 6:59)

     A rational mind affirms knowledge to God since the Creator, the Maker, the All-Planner must be quite knowledgeable about His creatures. God's knowledge encompasses all past, present and future things and information. His knowledge is not limited to a certain time or place. This is clear in “God is Ever-Knowing of everything.” (Qur’an, 4:176) His knowledge is as consistent as a mirror; it does not vary by any change or increase in information just as a mirror does not vary by any change or increase in images. Unlike the acquired knowledge of human beings which is preceded by ignorance, God's knowledge is not acquired; it is unoriginated endless knowledge. God's knowledge is about having knowledge of what is known in the present, the past and the future. However, it is not about influencing what is likely to exist in terms of creation or termination.[23]

2. Will: This is about influencing what is likely to exist with regard to existence and non-existence and different other things. It assigns a certain attribute to a creature rather than other attributes; a creature may be long or short, handsome or ugly, literate or illiterate, existing in a certain place rather than others or in a certain time rather than others, and so on. In this regard, the Qur’anic evidence includes:

“Surely, Our only Saying to a thing when We have willed it is that We say to it, ‘Be!’ so it is.” (Qur’an, 16:40)

“Whomever God wills to (subject to) temptation, then you will never possess for him anything against God.” (Qur’an, 5:41)

     Will is an eternal attribute. This, however, does not mean that what God wills was old or uncreated, since eternal Will means that God willed -in the ancient times- that something existed and happened in its predestined time.[24]

3. Power: Power is all about creation or annihilation. This attribute means that it is God's power that influences the existence and creation of all creatures (whatsoever). The Qur’an says,

“Indeed We have already created the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them in six days, and in no way has any fatigue touched Us.” (Qur’an, 50:38)

It also states,

“He is the One Who gives life and makes to die, and to Him belongs the alternation of night and daytime; will you then not consider?” (Qur’an, 23:80)

Power is exercised according to what has been predestined in the unoriginated knowledge and in a way devised by God's will.

4. Hearing and Beholding: These are two attributes that you use to fully and really hear and see things. God is Ever-Hearing and Ever-Beholding with no hearing or beholding senses, and without any media or requirements like light, radiation or air that are required for creatures to be able to see or hear. To say that God is Ever-Hearing and Ever-Beholding does not mean that what He sees or hears is unoriginated, just as information and creatures are not unoriginated. These attributes are unoriginated, but they are associated with current and renewable affairs.[25] God is Ever-Hearing; He hears everything, even a black ant's creeping up on the smooth rock in a dark night. "Do not think that whenever God hears what a group of people says, this can prevent Him from hearing others. Not indeed, because nothing can distract Him from other affairs. He never misses a whisper and never be confused by a language, even despite the fact that there are a lot of them. God also sees everything. He sees through deep darkness and needs no light to see the hidden things, nor a microscope to see microorganisms".[26] The Qur’an says,

“God has already heard the saying of her who disputes with you concerning her spouse and complains to God; God hears the two of you conversing together; surely God is Ever-Hearing, Ever-Beholding.” (Qur’an, 58:1);

“Does he not know that God sees?” (Qur’an, 96:14);

“Surely, I myself will be with you both; I hear and I see.” (Qur’an, 20:46)

5. Speech: God describes Himself as having speech:

“To Moses God spoke long, (eloquent) speech." (Qur’an, 4:164); “As soon as Moses came to Our fixed time and his Lord spoke to him…” (Qur’an, 7:143)

     Speech is affirmed to God by the scholarly consensus of the Muslim Community and frequent reports by the prophets (Peace and blessings be upon them).[27] What we have to know is that God has speech which consists in what He orders, prohibits and informs, and that His speech does not consist of letters, sounds or anything associated with the speech of people. God's speech is eternal and unoriginated. Nothing of God's Speech is created or accidental; telepathy and accidental meanings are impossible for God's Speech. Thus, the Ever-glorious Qur’an, the Torah and the Gospel go under the rubric of God's speech. This account of God's speech is what Muslims are unanimously concurring.[28]

6. Living: The Qur’an says,

“Faces will be subservient to the Ever Living.” (Qur’an, 20:111);

“Put your trust in the Living God Who does not die.” (Qur’an, 25:58)

     Living is an unoriginated attribute that is necessary for having other attributes: Knowledge, Power, Will, Hearing, Beholding and Speech; One must be living in order to have all these attributes. Living thus is a necessary attribute for having other attributes. God's Life is a perfect and absolute Life. God is the Ever-Living who does not die. The Qur’an says,

“There is no God except Him. All things perish, except His Face. To Him belongs the Judgment, and to Him you will be returned.” (Qur’an, 28:88)

 

[1] Shaikh ‛Aṭiya Ṣaqr, Former Chairman of Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee, “Understanding Islam”, Al-Azhar Center for Translation (ACT), 2017, p. 15.

[2] Prof. Aḥmad Muḥammad Aṭ-Ṭayyeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, “Essential Features of Islam”, Al-Azhar Center for Translation (ACT), 2017, p. 12.

[3] Mahmoud Shaltout, Al-‘Islamu `Aqeedatan Wa Sharee`ah, p. 26.

[4] Diraz, Ad-Deen, p. 83.

[5] See Al-Fakhr Ar-Razi’s Tafsir, 15:54, and Ibn Kathir’s Tafsir, 2: 59.

[6] Ibn Al-Qayyim, Shifa’ ul-`Aleel fi Masa’il il-Qada’i wa l-Qadar wa l-Hikmati wa t-Ta`leel, pp. 302-3 paraphrased.

[7] Ibid, p. 302.

[8] Muslim, Saheeh, 5:716.

[9] Saheeh ul-Bukhari bi Sharh il-Karmani, 7:133-4.

[10] See Ibn Taymiyyah’s Ar-Risalatu t-Tadmuriyyah, p. 8.

[11] See: Ar-Razi, Al-Mabaahithu sh-Sharqiyyah, 1:125, and Sharh ul-Mawaqif, 2:332 ff. See also Ibn Sina, Al-‘Isharaatu wa t-Tanbihaat bi Sharh it-Tusi, 3:20.

[12] Ibn Rushd (Averroes) maintains that this argument, coupled with another argument that he calls ‘Invention’, is the legal way indicated in the Glorious Qur’an and adopted by the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them), and that it is a facilitated argument for all people, whatever their level of understanding, knowledge or intelligence may be. He also provided as examples to the unison between all beings and man, including night and day, sunand moon, and the four seasons. Moreover, he referred to the harmony between man and other beings like animals, plants, rains, rivers and seas. Then, he concluded that the entire universe represented by the four elements, earth, water, fire and air, is in unison (with the existence of humans). See Ibn Rush, Al-Kashfu `an Manahij il-‘Adillah, p. 65 ff., and Sharh ul-Mawaqif, pp. 2, 352.

[13] See Shams ud-Deen, Muhammad Jafar. Dirasaatun fi l-Aqeedati l-Islamiyya, p. 88. Beirut, Lebanon: Book House.

[14] Huxley, Julian quoted by Wahiddudin Khan. Al-‘Islamu Yatahadda. p. 72. Beirut: 1985.

[15] Translated by Mr. Mahmoud Saleh Al-Falaki and published several times.

[16] Examples of these phenomena:

- The distance between the earth and the sun is precisely predetermined to provide the life on earth with the necessary = temperature. If it had been twice as much as the current distance, temperature would not have been adequate for life to continue on the earth, and if it had been half of the current distance, temperature would have risen to a point where life would became impossible.

- Air has 21% of Oxygen, the exact percentage that the living creatures need. If it increases, the environment will be damaged by huge fires, and if it decreases, life will become difficult and there will be no adequate fire.

- The distance between the earth and the moon is designed to make life easy for people. If it had been shorter, the tide would have raised twice as much as the current rate and moved the mountains away from their original places.

- "Even the natural beauty, its fragrance and magnificence are all designed to make life easier. For example, insect pollinated flowers are supplied with bright colors and exquisite fragrance to attract the insect and make fertilization easier. However, wind pollinated flowers are not supplied with any of these attractions. The perfect match between the physiological structure of males and that of the females in human beings, species of animals and plants in a way that maintains interaction and life is another piece of evidence in this respect: ‘In case you number the favor(s) of God, you will not enumerate them; surely God is indeed Ever-Forgiving, Ever-Merciful.’" (16:18). Al-Muwjazu fi Usul id-Deen, (Beirut: 1987), pp. 41-42.

[17] Ibid, pp. 44-45

[18] Muhammad Ja‘far. Ibid, pp. 91-92; Nadeem Al-Jesr: Qessat ul-‘Imaan. pp. 249-ff. Beirut: The Islamic Office. 1969.

[19] This hadith was related by Al-Bayhaqi in the Book of Faith: 10: 27 and by At-Tirmidhi in the Book of Invocations: 38: 3507.

Scholars differed on the number of God's fairest names, whether they are 99 names or more? Most of them support the second view based on what the prophet (PBUH) has said: "I ask You by every name belonging to You which You named Yourself with, revealed in Your Book, taught to any of Your creations, or preserved in the knowledge of the unseen with You." (Ahmad, Musnad, 1: 391).

The phrase "or preserved" means that in addition to the 99 names that we already know, God has other names that we do not know. Thus the names of God are more than 99. Other relations also include other names like "the Companionate, the Benefactor, the Helper, the Protector, and the All-Creator". In his explanation of At-Tirmidhi's, Abu-Bakr ibn Al-‘Arabi quoted a scholar as saying that one thousand of the Fairest Names were collected from the Ever-Glorious Qur’an and the Sunnah. The majority of scholars say that the number specified in the prophetic hadith was intended to emphasize the importance of these particular names and their adequacy for people.

[20] See Al-Julayned, Muhammad Al-Sayyed. Qadiyyat ut-Tawheed bayna ad-Deeni wa l-Falsafah. p. 45-46. Cairo. 1986.

[21] Usul ud-Deen, p.116. See also Al-Guwayni’s Al-Ershaad, p. 43; and Al-Razi. Lawame' il-Bayanaat. p. 40. The other view to this issue is that of Al-Moa'tazelah who see that it is permissible to call God by any name with a meaning affirmed to Him, whether cited in the Ever-Glorious Qur’an and the Prophetic Sunnah or not. The third view is that of Al-Ghazali who distinguishes between the name and the attribute. A name should be one cited in the Ever-Glorious Qur’an or the Prophetic Sunnah, but an attribute can be affirmed to God, provided that it has a correct meaning that does not imply imperfection. Al-Razi says "Al-Ghazali thinks that the names are dependent on what is permitted by the Islamic law and this is the preferred view. (Ibid, same page)

[22] In his exegesis of the Ever-Glorious Qur’an (16:182), Al-Razi cited Abu-Hurayrah interpreting “As-Samad” as the One who dispenses with whatsoever.

[23] At-Taftazani. Tahdheeb ul-Kalaam with its commentary “Taqreeb ul-Maraam”, 2:135 ff.

[24] See At-Taftazani. (Ibid, pp. 137-138).

[25] Sharh ul-‘Aqaed in-Nasafiyyah. Volume 1. p. 116.

[26] Sheikh Muhammad Al-Ghazali. 'Aqeeddat ul-Muslim, pp. 106-107, Cairo: Dar ul-Kutub il-Hadithah. 1976.

[27] See, Al-Sa'd 'Ala Al-'Aqaed in-Nasafiyyah wa Hashiyat il-'Esaam, p. 288.

[28] Sharh ul-Mawaqef, 2:360; Muhammad S. R. Al-Bouti, Kubra l-Yaqeeniyyat il-Kawniyyah. (Dar ul-Fekr. 6th ed. 1399), p. 104.

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