Rafed English

The Concept of God in Islam (a selection)

The Concept of God in Islam (a selection) by : Yasin T. Al-Jibouri


In any theistic religion, the concept of God rests at the core of its beliefs, tenets and practices, and it determines what its adherents regard as admissible or otherwise. It shapes their attitudes towards others whom they label as "unbelievers." It inspires their perceptions, formulating how they conceive their role in life, how they should treat one another, what they should do when they sin or fall into error. It determines the extent of their humanity and provides them with a yardstick to measure that of others.

It dictates to them ways to treat other living beings around them: animals, plants, the environment at large, how they look at nature and how they envision their responsibility to protect and preserve it. It paves their path to worldly happiness and to salvation in the hereafter. No words can over-estimate the significance of such a concept in any given faith based on the belief in a Supreme Deity, God Almighty, Creator of everything and everyone. This book is written primarily for open-minded non-Muslims.

This is why I have refrained from using the usual salutation of "peace be upon him and his family" whenever the name of Prophet Muhammad is mentioned, or "peace be upon him" whenever the name of a messenger or a prophet of Allah or an Imam is mentioned. Needless to say, the primary reference utilized is the Holy Qur’an. A colon (:) separates the number of its Chapter (Sura) from that of the verse (aya). For example, 2:255 refers to Chapter 2 (al-Baqarah, the Cow), verse 255, or ayat al-kursi, verse of the Throne.

For about quarter of a century living in exile here in America, I have had the opportunity to closely discern the attitudes of non-Muslims around me towards Islam and Muslims, often visiting a number of churches__and one synagogue in Atlanta, Georgia__to observe first-hand how they worship God, what their faith enjoins or prohibits, how they look at those who do not subscribe to their beliefs.

When I was living in Atlanta, Georgia, from 1972 to 1979, as many as five churches had my name and address on their mailing lists. Beautiful young ladies would come to my apartment to escort me and my roommates (a Pakistani Hindu named Udeshi and an Indian Sunni Muslim named Aziz) to various church functions. The food was always good, although I and my Indian roommate had to always make sure no pork or any of its derivatives would pollute our systems. And there were many good looking young ladies there.

The trap was well set for us. And we were single and available, young and healthy. And temptation was always there. I had asked those churches to place my name and address on their mailing list, to let me know when they had a function, and to send their good-looking young ladies to my apartment for the ride to the church. All of that did not happen coincidentally. In my view, nothing, absolutely nothing, happens by a coincident, not even a stone rolling down a mountain or a leaf falling on the ground.

Everything happens according to a plan put forth by the Planner and Executor of the world, the One and Only God Who created it and everything in it. "Accidentally," "coincidentally," and "by chance" are words and expressions which should be eliminated from language altogether; they are intruders. They are sacrilegious.

My visits to churches and Christian homes were never done out of a pure desire to have a good time, to socialize, to have one girl-friend or more as some of my roommates had anticipated, nor to kill time. To me, killing time is one of the worst murder crimes. I had a burning desire to see things for myself. Some promoters of those church programs were more aggressive than others.

They wanted to gauge how serious we were about our religious beliefs in order, perhaps, to evaluate their chances to succeed in converting us to Christianity, and they did so in various ways. There were occasions, therefore, when tempers rose high, accusations flew, and offenses committed. Yes, there were times when I had to pay a dear price for defending my Islamic creed in the face of attacks launched by those promoters, for not keeping my mouth shut as was the case with my nice Indian roommate Aziz who just did not want to offend anybody. I have never hesitated to offend others, including my closest friends, when I was convinced that they were offending the Almighty.

And there was always a price to pay, and I gladly paid it even when it hurt very badly. This is why I have been called many names by many people, by Muslims and non-Muslims. I still am being called names, but it is O.K. with me as long as the Almighty calls me a good, though far from being perfect, servant of His. I do not care if all people of the world call me bad names. As long as my Lord and Maker keeps the gates of His mercy open for me, name calling does not hurt me in the least.

From the very beginning, I realized that those churches were doing their best__and worst__to convert non-Christians to Christianity; after all, is not this what missionary work is all about?! And who could be better candidates than single foreign students studying for their graduate degrees? Once they go home, these students will disseminate their new faith with zeal and enthusiasm to others. At least this is what those churches were hoping. This is why many of their preachers and priests were distributing anti-Islamic literature, thinking that by attacking others' beliefs, they would protect their own and win new converts.

They had forgotten about the laws of action and reaction. Some of those churches were showing movies derogatory to Islam and to the Prophet of Islam. Since my life's motto has always been the Prophet's tradition saying, "One who remains silent rather than says the truth is a tongue-tied Satan," I refuse to be that Satan.

I almost broke into a fist fight once with an Atlanta pastor who was then my host and who was assaulting Islam and the Prophet of Islam; he had to shut his mouth after listening to my counter-arguments and to a volley of charges of my own against today's version of Christianity which included tracing the deviation in the Christian Church back to its very first years. I explained to him how much respect Muslims have for Christ and his saintly mother and juxtaposed it with the disrespect of people like him towards our Abrahamic faith.

I reminded him of the bloody and shameful history of the barbaric Crusades which were sponsored by the Church, of the Muslim lands they burnt and looted and of the Muslim blood they shed, of the Muslims who were brought to Europe as slaves. He soon realized that he was facing a formidable foe who was fully knowledgeable of the history of the Christian church and who, for many years, had studied such bloody history academically and written numerous term papers about it, and who knew fully well the extent of mischief inflicted in the past and is still being inflicted upon the Islamic world by the colonizers and imperialists who profess to follow Christ, the prince of peace, the man who never hurt anyone or anything.

He realized how ignorant he was about our faith, how tolerant our religion is, how hypocritical most leaders of the Islamic world nowadays are, how much the so-called Christian West is indebted to Islamic civilization, and how rude he was in attacking my beliefs despite his knowledge of the fact that I was then editor of a globally circulated Islamic publication1.

The memory of the encounter with that pastor still boils the blood in my veins even today, despite the passage of so many years; it is in defense of this precious Islamic creed that I write this book hoping the Almighty will accept and bless it, praying that He accept and bless the other articles and books I have written, edited, or translated during all these years and, God willing, in the years to come.

This incident took place before the outbreak of the glorious Islamic Revolution in Iran. Needless to say, this Revolution enraged and provoked the enemies of Islam, mostly Zionist Jews who dominate the public opinion through their total control of the information and news media. These Zionist Jews also control the financial and political systems of the West in general and of the U.S. in particular.

The Islamic Revolution in Iran provided these traditional enemies of Islam and those whom they brainwashed with a golden opportunity to vent their contempt towards Islam and Muslims, making the latter the object of their daily attacks and favourite pastime. I had, of course, to bear my share of persecution, being a staunch and uncompromising follower of the Shi`a Ithna-`Asheri School of Muslim Law, and an admirer of the late Ayatullah Ruhullah al-Mousawi al-Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran and arch-enemy of all arrogant tyrants and bigots wherever they are.

I was, like millions others, inspired by this great Revolution that signaled the dawn of freedom for all the downtrodden and persecuted peoples of the world, not only for the Muslims. The details of the persecution to which I was exposed will Insha-Allah be incorporated in Volume Two of my autobiography titled Memoirs of a Shi`a Missionary in America. Volume One has been received so well, many readers have suggested its text makes the plot for a first-class movie!

The book in your hands is not written for those who deliberately misrepresent our Islamic faith, for these will never see anything except through their own tinted glasses, and there is no cure for their blindness. These are mentally and psychologically sick with a sundry of contagious and terminal diseases: prejudice, arrogance, close-mindedness, racist superiority complexes..., and it is a waste of precious time to try to deal with them; they are rubbish unworthy of attention.

Rather, it is written for open-minded and fair non-Muslims who sincerely wish to know how Muslims conceive their Creator. It is for these non-Muslims, and for those Muslims whose extended stay in any non-Muslim country may have taken its toll on their faith, who changed their names from "Jasim" to "Jessy," from "Husain" to "Jose," etc., that this book is written.

If the reader wishes to comment on this book's contents or on those of my other books, I encourage him to write me; my address is included in the Conclusion. Such comments, be they compliments or complaints, are always welcome. May Allah ta'a`la guide us to His

Path, Allahomma Ameen.

Yasin T. al-Jibouri

September 26,

1996 Falls Church, Virginia, U.S.A.
1. At that time, I was editing Islamic Affairs newsletter which was being mailed out to readers in all U.S. States as well as in 67 countries world-wide.
Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, has said, "One among you who knows Allah best is the one who fears Him most, and I fear Him even more than him." Ibn `Abbas1 says that a bedouin once came to the Messenger of Allah and said, "O Messenger of Allah! Teach me of the most unusual of knowledge!" He asked him, "What have you done with the peak of knowledge so that you now ask about its most unusual things?!"

The man asked him, "O Messenger of Allah! What is this peak of knowledge?!" He said, "It is knowing Allah as He deserves to be known." The bedouin then said, "And how can He be known as He ought to be?" The Messenger of Allah answered, "It is that you know Him as having no model, no peer, no antithesis, and that He is One and only: He is the One Who is Apparent yet Hidden, the First and the Last, having no peer nor a similitude; this is the true knowledge about Him."

Accurately knowing Allah is the pillar whereupon Islam in its entirety hinges. Without such knowledge, any action in Islam does not have any real value whatsoever: it has neither essence nor value. The Question is: "How can we get to know Allah, and what is the venue for attaining such knowledge?"

The answer is crucially conditional: If we do not know the right course, we can never reach our destination. Any erroneous approach to knowing Allah is a major contributor to distancing a large number of people from accurately getting to believe in Allah. The Holy Qur’an narrates to us stories about those who disbelieved in Allah in every age and time, depicting for us how they insisted, in order to believe in Him, on hearing or seeing Him, relying on their senses. Following are only a few examples: Allah Almighty has said,

And those who have no knowledge say: Why does not Allah speak to us or a sign come to us? Even thus did those before them say; (they said) the like of what such people say; their hearts are all alike. Indeed, We have made the signs (leading to belief in Him) clear for people who are sure. (2:118)

And those who do not hope for Our meeting say: Why have no angels been sent down upon us, or (why) do we not see our Lord? Certainly they themselves are too proud and have revolted in great revolt. On the day they see the angels, there shall be no joy on that day for the guilty... (25:21-22)

Pharaoh said: O Haman! Build me a tower so that I may attain the means of access, the means of access to the heavens, then (I may be able to) reach the God of Moses, and I surely think he is a liar. And thus was the evil of his deed made fair-seeming to Pharaoh, and he was turned away from the (right) course. (40:36-37)

"Turned away from the (right) course" refers to the course that ends with acquiring a sound and accurate knowledge of the Almighty. Such a goal should be our first and foremost concern. Without properly knowing Allah, how can we properly worship Him?

The Messenger of Allah Muhammad has said in a qudsi tradition, "For everything there is a path, and the path to Paradise is knowledge." This is a humble attempt to search for such sound and accurate knowledge, the one that brings us closer to our Lord and leads us to the path of salvation, to happiness both in this life and in the eternal life to come.
Muslims Start Everything in the Name of Allah
In one hadith, the Messenger of Allah is quoted saying, "Anything which does not start with the Name of Allah is cut-off (from Allah's blessing)." It is customary for Muslims to invoke the Name of Allah whenever they do anything important, or whenever they seek His protection against His arch-enemy and ours Satan the Accursed. Examples are:

When they stand up or sit down, when they eat or drink, when they enter their homes, when they open the door of their cars or bathrooms or any room in the house, when they start the engines of their cars, when they put on or take off their clothes, when they ascend or descend a ladder, when they start writing something important, when they slaughter an animal decreed by Allah as lawful for their food..., and even when they cohabit with their wives in the hope Allah will bless them with righteous progeny.

Such are the manners of good Muslims. So let us start in the Name of Allah Who created and determined everything from nothing, the ever-Living, the Eternal Who is never affected by time, nor space, nor anything else, Who never initiated a place for His being, nor did He attain His might after having created everything, nor was He weak before then. In the Name of Allah Who never needed company before creating everything.

In the Name of Allah the like of Whom there is none at all, nor was He without His domain before the latter's creation. In the Name of Allah Who hears without a hearing faculty, Who sees without vision. In the Name of Allah Who is Mighty without having to derive His might from His creation. In the Name of Allah the eyes of Whose creatures can never see Him, the Most Exalted One, the all-Knowing. I testify that Allah is the One and Only God; there is no partner with Him, the One and only

One upon Whom all things and beings depend. He does not beget, nor is He begotten, nor is there anything like Him. I further testify that our master Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger, bearer of His Message and of the glad tidings, the one whom He trusted for His revelation; blessings of Allah be upon him and his righteous and pure progeny.
How Prophet Muhammad Praised His Lord
Our master Muhammad has said, All Praise is due to Allah, the One and only God. His being Eternal is compounded by His being Divine. He is Proud in His own right and in His Greatness. He creates whatever He wills and initiates the creation without having to have a model for any of what He creates! Our Lord is the One Who has always been beyond time as such; through His knowledge has He split the seed; through His Might has He created all creation; through the light of the morning has He started the dawn; there is none that can alter what He has created, nor is there any that can change what He has made, nor is there any that can revoke His decree or repeal His command or be exempted from His call!

There is no extinction to His domain, nor is there a term for His Divinity. He is the first to create, the One Who is eternal even beyond eternity itself, the One Who has obscured Himself from His creation in the horizon of ambition, in the lofty Exaltation, in the abundant domain, higher than anything that is high. Yet He is close to everything, so He manifests Himself to His creatures even without being seen, while He is the most Sublime! By His Light He veiled Himself and ascended the height, obscuring Himself from His creation.

He sent them messengers so that He would have the clear argument against them, and so that His messengers would testify against His creation. He sent prophets to them to bring them glad tidings and to warn them, so that He would guide whomsoever He pleases after providing them with His clear signs and bringing to life whomsoever He pleases with the same, hence the creation will know about their Lord that which they did not know, and they will know Him as their God after having rejected Him. They will believe in His Unity after having persisted in denying it.
Commonly Asked Questions About "Allah"
Let us now try to answer a number of basic questions about the Almighty:
1. How can you describe Him?
Numerous verses of the Holy Qur’an point out to His existence. Consider the argument of His Friend Ibrahim (Abraham, as) who said:

"My Lord is the One Who brings life and Who causes death" (Qur’an, 2:258),

and the argument of Moses who said,

"[He is] your Lord and the Lord of your fathers of old" (Qur’an, 26:26).

Also consider these verses:

Our Lord is the One Who gave everything its creation, then He guided it (to its destination). (20:50)

The Lord of the East and the West: there is no god but He; therefore, take Him for a protector. (73:9)
2. Can you define Him?
The Exalted One says that He defies definition:

"... nothing at all is like Him" (Qur’an, 42:11).
3. Can one ask: "What is He?"
Pharaoh asked Moses, "And what is the Lord of the worlds?" (Qur’an, 26:23).

Moses answered by saying that He is "Your Lord and the Lord of your fathers of old" (Qur’an, 26:26).

There is no way to know Him by defining "what" He is; rather, one can get to know the proofs of His Existence, Might, Knowledge, Wisdom, Mercy and His being the Creator of everything. "Do not think about Allah," said Imam `Ali, "rather, think about what Allah has created, for thinking about Allah only increases one's bewilderment."
4. Is He one or more?
The Glorified One has required the Muslims to

Say: He, Allah, is One. (112:1)

And your God is One God! (2:163)

Had there been in them any gods besides Allah, they would both have certainly been in a state of disorder. (21:22)
5. Is He confined to any place?
The Holy Qur’an tells us that:

He is the Supreme (watching) over His worshippers. (6:61)

They revere their Lord High above them. (16:50)

The Beneficent God is firmly established on the throne (of authority). (20:5)

"Above them" in 16:50 refers to the Almighty being above His servants in His Might, Power, Loftiness, not to being above them in place, space, area, elevation, or physical location; these do not apply to Him. The Messenger of Allah called upon His Lord during his ascension to heavens pleading to Him thus, "You are as You have praised Your own Self," and Prophet Younus (Jonah) son of Matti, while being in the bottom of the sea, called upon his Lord saying,

"There is no god but You! Glory to You! Surely I have become one of those who commit injustice against their own souls!" (Qur’an, 21:87).

The Messenger of Allah has said, "Do not exalt me over him [over Younus] in nearness to Allah just because I reached the High Throne while he was in the bottom of the sea, for the Adored One is above being confined to a space or a direction." He has also addressed Him saying, "You and he in the strata of the heavens;" the believers call upon Him saying,

"You and them on earth." Had He been in a particular area or place, all these persons could not have differed from one another in His regard at any given time. He is above being confined to place or direction:

"All those in the heavens and the earth glorify Allah" (Qur’an, 57:1).
6. When did He begin to exist?
The Praised One has said, He is the First and the Last, the Evident and the Immanent, and He has full knowledge of all things. (57:3)

Everything is to perish except He. (28:88)

Anyone who asks when His existence came to be implies that there was a time when He did not exist, i.e. that void preceded Him. He is not "preceded" by anyone, nor is He "succeeded" by anyone. His continuation is above being tied to time. His existence is too holy to be dependent on time; such are characteristics of things or persons who come to be then perish, or of those whose being is possible in the future, but they do not apply to Him.

Another verse which similarly describes His eternity and perpetuity is this one:

"Everyone on earth will perish but will abide (forever) the Face of your Lord, full of Majesty, Bounty and Honour" (Qur’an, 55:26-27),

and also this:

"Blessed is He in Whose hands is the dominion" (Qur’an, 67:1).

"Blessed," that is, tabaraka, is derived from baraka, blessing, which connotes constancy and lack of acceptance to change. His existence is everlasting, eternal, perpetual.
7. Over what does He rule?
The Almighty says,

"Say: O Allah! Master of authority! You give authority to whomsoever You please and take it away from whomsoever You please" (Qur’an, 3:26).

He, and only He, is the King of kings; He grants others authority:

"Blessed is the One in Whose hand is the kingdom" (Qur’an, 67:1).

Vanities and possessions owned by others will all disappear on the Day of Judgment:

"Whose will be the dominion that Day? It is Allah's, the One, the Subduer (of all)" (Qur’an, 40:16).
8. What is [the extent of] His knowledge?
He has said,

[He is] the One Who knows the unseen and the seen. (6:73)

And with Him are the keys of the unseen treasures: none knows them except He. (6:59)

Slumber does not overtake Him nor sleep. (2:255)

And your Lord is not forgetful. (19:64)

And you are not (engaged) in any affair, nor do you recite concerning it any portion of the Qur’an, nor do you do anything, except that We are witnesses over you when you enter into it. (10:61)
9. What is His speech?
The Most Glorified and Exalted has said,

Were every tree on earth (made into) pens and the sea (to supply it with ink), with seven more seas to add thereto, the words of Allah would not have been exhausted; surely Allah is Mighty, Wise. (31:27)

Say: Were the sea (turned into) ink for the (recording of the) words of my Lord, the sea would surely be consumed before the words of my Lord are exhausted though We were to bring the like of that (sea) to add thereto. (18:109)
10. How is He?
The Exalted One says,

Allah's is the command before (now) and thereafter. (30:4)

The day on which no soul shall control anything for (another) soul, and the command on that Day shall be entirely Allah's. (82:19)
11. Why is He the Praised One?
The Almighty has said that He is "... the Apparent and the Hidden" (Qur’an, 57:3), that is, His Existence, Might and Wisdom are all evident if one observes the indications thereto, yet His reality is obscured from all intellects.
12. What is His will?
The answer to this verse is provided by verses such as these:

And you do not please except if Allah [so] pleases. (76:30)

Allah chooses whomsoever He pleases especially for His mercy, and Allah is the Lord of mighty grace. (2:105)

Allah grants His authority to whomsoever He pleases, and Allah cares for all, and He knows all things. (2:247)

Allah sets on the right path whomsoever He pleases. (2:272)

He it is Who shapes you in the wombs as He pleases. (3:6)

If He pleases, He may take you off and make whomsoever He pleases successors after you. (6:133)
13. Why is He the all-Knowing, the Omnipotent?
He has responded to those who raised such a question by saying, He cannot be questioned concerning what He does while they shall be questioned. (21:23)

All things are destined in the end to the One Who has facilitated their being what they are, the One Who cannot be explained; therefore, the attempt to analyze Him, His Attributes, and His actions, is simply impossible.
14. Does He have sons, daughters, parents, or any family members or relatives?!
The God of Islam and of all mankind has said,

"Say: He, Allah, is One. Allah is He on Whom everyone [and everything] depends. He does not beget, nor is He begotten, and none is like Him" (Qur’an, 112:1-4).
15. Does He forgive?
He has said, "Inform My servants that I am the Forgiving, the Merciful" (Qur’an, 15:49).
16. What about His creation?
He has said,

O man! What has beguiled you from your Lord, the Gracious One Who created you then made you complete, then He made you symmetrical? Into whatever form He pleased did He shape you. (82:6-8)

Have they not considered that Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth and was not tired by their creation...? (46:33)

This is Allah's creation, so show Me what those besides Him have created. (31:11)
17. Can He be seen?
He, the Most Exalted, the Most High, has told that

When Moses came to the place appointed by Us, and his Lord addressed him, he said: "Lord! Show (Yourself) to me so that I may look upon You." Allah said: "By no means can you see Me; but look at the mountain; if it abides in its place, then shall you see Me." When his Lord manifested His glory to the mountain, He made it like dust, and Moses fell in a swoon. When he recovered his senses, he said: "Glory to You! To You do I turn in repentance, and I am the first to believe." (Qur’an, 7:143).

Sunnis, however, believe, as the reader will find out in a later part of this book, that the believers will be able on the Day of Judgment to see Allah. Shi`as disagree with them as you will read later in this book, Insha-Allah.
18. How does He command?
He has said, His command, when He intends anything, is only to say to it: Be, and it is. (36:82)

When He decrees an affair, He only says to it: Be, and it is. (40:68) His creatures have always wondered about His Attributes, Praise and Glory to Him, so He provided them with the following verses wherein they can find the clear answer: And Allah's are the most Beautiful Names (Attributes), so call upon Him thereby. (7:180)

Allah: there is no god but He; His are the very Best Names. (20:8)

Say: Call upon Allah or upon al-Raman; whichever you call upon, He has the Great Names...(17:110).

He is Allah, besides Whom there is no other god; the King, the Holy, the One Who grants peace, the One Who gives security, the Guardian over all, the Mighty, the Supreme, the Possessor of greatness; Glory to Allah from what they set up (with Him). He is Allah the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner; His are the most beautiful Attributes; whatever in the heavens and the earth declares His glory, and He is the Mighty, the Wise. (59:21-24)
1. Ibn `Abbas was one of Prophet Muhammad's cousins: he was Abdullah ibn `Abbas ibn Abd al-Muattalib, of Banu Hashim, of Quraysh. Referred to as the Islamic nation's scribe, he was a highly respected sahabi whose hadith are classified by al-Bukhari and Muslim as "sahih" accurate, authentic. He was born in Mecca, and he kept the Messenger of Allah company and narrated his traditions. He fought on the side of Imam `Ali during the Battle of the Camel (which started on Friday, Jumada I 16, 36 A.H./November 10, 656 A.H.) against `Ayesha and her supporters, and also during the Battle of Siffin (which started in Thul-Hijjah 36 A.H./May 657 A.D.). During his later years, he became blind, so he retired to 'if where he died in 68 A.H./687 A.D. In both al-Bukhari's and Muslim's Sahih books, there are 1160 hadith transmitted through Ibn `Abbas alone.
In the Holy Qur’an, we read the following verses:

Allah: There is no god but He; His are the Greatest Names. (20:8)

Say: Call upon Allah or call upon the Beneficent God (al-Rahman); whichever you call upon, He has the Greatest Names." (Qur’an, 17:110)

To Allah belong the Greatest Names; therefore, call on Him thereby, and leave alone those who violate the sanctity of His Names..." (Qur’an, 7:180)

In order to familiarize ourselves with Allah's Attributes, we have to consult the Holy Qur’an, traditions, or even common-sense. On page 220 of his Book of Unity (of Allah), Shaikh Muhammad ibn `Ali ibn Babawayh al-Qummi al-Saduq quotes Imam Ja`fer al-Sadiq quoting his forefathers quoting the Messenger of Allah saying,

"There are ninety-nine Attributes, one hundred minus one, of Allah; whoever counts them will enter Paradise." He is also quoted saying that whoever learns these Attributes by heart and comprehends their meanings (and acts upon it) will enter Paradise. One should be familiar with the meanings and implications of these names, not just with their count. Nobody can sufficiently be acquainted with the Attributes of Allah as He Himself says in 73:20: "He knows that you cannot (sufficiently) count Him (His Attributes)."

A tradition says, "Derive your manners from the Attributes of Allah." Allah has willed to show His servant His Attributes which collectively describe Him without His Name being a separate part thereof, even though He is not identical to them in essence.

On page 112, Vol. 1, the renown scholar al-Kulaini al-Razi cites Hisham ibn al-Hakam saying that when he once asked Imam Ja`fer al-Sadiq about Allah's Attributes and their derivation, as well as the derivation of the word "Allah," the Imam said to him, "O Hisham! The proper noun `Allah' is derived from `ilah;' the Creator requires the existence of creation [to testify to His being its Creator]. This is a noun, not an adjective.

Anyone who worships a name without worshipping what the name stands for is actually committing kufr, apostasy; in reality, he does not worship anything at all. One who worships the name and the meaning is also committing kufr, for he will be worshipping two. Only one who worships the meaning without the name is in line with the concept of Tawhid (Unity of God). Have you understood all of this, O Hisham?"

He answered him in the affirmative, requesting him to provide more explanations, whereupon the Imam said, "There are ninety-nine Attributes of Allah. Had each Attribute been the same as it describes, each one of them would have been a god by itself. But `Allah' is the meaning one deducts once he becomes familiar with all these Attributes. They all, O Hisham, in their collective sense, are not the same as He Himself. Bread is something you eat. Water is something you drink. A garment is something you put on. And fire is something that burns. Do you understand all of this, O Hisham, fully enough so that you would promote it and fight the enemies of Allah for its sake?!"

Hisham answered him in the affirmative, whereupon the Imam added, "May Allah grant you thereby benefits, and may He keep your feet firm thereupon, O Hisham!" Imam al-Sadiq has said,

O son of Adam! If a bird were to eat your heart, it would not have felt satisfied. If the hole of a needle were put before your vision, it would have covered it up. How dare you, using these two, expect to know by them the domain of the heavens and the earth?! Had you been truthful, you would have looked at this sun: it is one object among many of Allah's creations. Had your eyes been able to see all of it, then, and only then, would you have really been truthful. Allah, the Exalted and the Great, says,

"And to your Lord is the [end] goal" (Qur’an, 53:42).

So, when speech reaches the subject of Allah, it is then that you should hold your tongue ...
Explanation and derivation of the word "Allah"
Views vary in this regard. One says it is derived from one who ilahs (as a verb) another when the latter seeks refuge with him during the time of fear or calamity, and he would grant him refuge and a safe haven; so, the word would become ilah (as a noun) of people, just as one may be their imam when he leads them in congregational prayers or becomes their undisputed leader, or just as a robe becomes a rid' when it is worn, or lihaf when used as a covering. Since it is an adjective for someone who is great, "There is nothing like unto Him" (Qur’an, 42:11), people desired to glorify Him by giving the word the prefix al, thus it became Al-ilah.

But they found the hamza in the beginning and also in its midst, where it is quite heavily stressed, heavy on the tongue, so they eliminated it and it became just as it is revealed in the Holy Qur’an, that is, "Allah." This viewpoint is supported by al-Harith ibn Asad al-Muhasibi and a group of scholars, and there are dissenters.
Derivation of the Word "Allah"
Some say that the word "Allah" is derived from the verb walaha (past tense), yawlahu (present tense), from the root noun walah. The waw was replaced with a hamza, just as the case with wisad and isad, wisha and isha, wikaf and ikaf. Walah is extreme love. Prophet Yahya (John the Baptist) used to be forlorn most of the time whereas Jesus used to be mostly merry and always wearing a smile on his face. They both sought the judgment of the Almighty in their regard, whereupon Allah inspired them, "The nearest of you to Me is the one who thinks best of Me." And surely Allah knows best.

The Almighty is Endless regarding His essence, perpetuity, eternity, Attributes, qualities and blessings. His creation, on the other hand, are described as reaching the end of their life terms, being limited in their characteristics, thoughts, and spheres. The one who is incapacitated cannot reach the Endless One. No wonder, then, that the minds are forever overcome by the lights of His Independence, and the reasons are too feeble to realize the brightness of His Greatness. He is as He describes Himself when He says in 6:18 and 6:61, "He is the Supreme above His servants."

The Creator is the One Who is adored, and He is worthy of it; hence, He is called ilah. He has made it clear for us that He is the One who bestows His blessings upon those whom He creates in sundry ways. Adoring is the ultimate form of glorifying. Reason testifies that the ultimate end of glorification suits only the One Who is the source of benevolence and bliss. It is to this fact that the Almighty refers when He says,

"How do you deny Allah while you were dead and He gave you Life"? (2:28).

Nobody knows Allah as He deserves to be known except Allah Himself. In sermon 186 in Nahjul Balagha, Imam `Ali says the following:

One who assigns conditions to Him does not believe in His Oneness, nor does one who likens Him to anything grasp the reality about Him. One who illustrates an example for Him does not revere Him. One who points at Him and imagines Him does not know the meaning of His Lordship. Anything known by itself is a created thing, and everything that exists by virtue of other things is the effect thereof. He does things but not with the help of instruments. He assigns measures but not with the faculty of thinking. He is rich but not by acquisition. Time does not keep company with Him, nor does He seek help from any means.

His Being precedes time. His Existence precedes non-existence, and His eternity precedes beginning. By creating the senses, it is known that He does not have the same. By comparing antitheses, it is known that He has no antithesis, and by striking similarities between things, it is known that there is nothing similar to Him. He has made light the contrary of darkness, brightness the opposite of dimness, dryness the opposite of moisture, and heat the opposite of coolness.

He causes harmony among opposites. He fuses together diverse things; He brings closer what is remote and distances what is joined together. He is not confined to limits, nor computed by figures. Matters are attracted to one another, and parts point out to what is similar to them; the word "since" disproves their eternity, and possibility disproves their perpetuity, while certain means keep them distant from perfection.

Through them does the Creator manifest Himself to the intellect, and by them is He veiled from vision. Stillness and motion do not apply to Him; how can anything that He causes to have any effect on Him, and how can anything which He has created revert in its effect unto Him? Or how can anything have an impact upon Him while He Himself brought it to being? Had it not been so, He would have become subject to diversity, His Being would have become divisible (into parts), and His reality would have been prevented from being Eternal.

Had He had a front, He would have had a rear! He would have needed to be completed had there been any shortage in Him. In that case, characteristics of His creatures would have appeared in Him, and He would have become a sign (leading to other objects) instead of the latter leading to Him. Through the might of His effectiveness is He distanced above being affected by things. Neither change nor extinction affect Him. He has not begotten anyone lest He should be said as having been Himself born. He has not been begotten lest He should have been confined to limits. He is too sublime to have sons, too pure to take women.

Imagination cannot reach Him to assess Him. Comprehension cannot conceive Him and fancy a shape for Him. Senses do not perceive Him to probe Him. Hands cannot touch Him to feel Him. He does not change into any condition. He does not pass from one stage to another. Nights and days do not age Him. Light and darkness do not alter Him. It cannot be said that He has a limb or extremity, an end or an expiration, nor do things control Him to raise or lower Him, nor does anything support Him to bend Him or keep Him erect. He is not inside things nor outside them. He conveys news, but not with the tongue or voice. He listens, but not with ear holes or organs of hearing. He speaks but does not utter words.

He remembers but does not memorize. He determines but not by exercising His mind. He loves and approves without sentiments. He hates and feels angry without any painstaking. When He intends to create a thing, He says to it "Be" and it is, but not through a voice that strikes (the ears). His speech is a manifestation of what He has created. His peer never existed before, nor is He regarded as old; otherwise, He would have become a second god. It cannot be said that He came into being after He had not been in existence because in that case the effects of creation would have been reflected on Him, and there would have remained no difference between them and Him, and He would have no distinction over them.

Thus, the Creator and the created would have become equal, and the Initiator and the initiated would have been on the same level. He created creation without any model made by someone else, and He did not secure the assistance of any among His creation for creating. He created the earth and controlled it without having to hold it, retained it without having to support it, making it stand without poles, raising it without pillars, protecting it against bending or curving, defending it against crumbling or fragmenting.

He fixed mountains on it like pegs, solidified its rocks, caused its streams to flow and expanded its valleys. Whatever He made did not suffer any flaw, and whatever He strengthened did not permit any weakness. He manifests Himself over the earth through His authority and greatness. He is aware of what there is inside it through His knowledge and understanding. He has power over everything on earth by virtue of His sublimity and dignity. Nothing on earth that He asks defies Him, nor does it oppose Him to overpower Him.

He is not in need of anyone to feed Him. All things bow down to Him and are humble before His greatness. They cannot flee away from His authority to someone else in order to escape His benefit or harm. There is no parallel for Him who may match Him, and none is like Him to equal Him. He will destroy the earth after its existence, till all that exists on it will become non-existent. But the extinction of the world after its creation is no stranger than its formation and invention the first time. How could it be?

Even if all the beings on earth, be they birds or beasts, cattle or pasture herds, of different origins and species, clever or not so clever nations, all jointly combine efforts to create even a mosquito, they will not be able to bring it into being nor understand the means to its creation. Their wits are bewildered and they are aimlessly wandering. Their powers fall short and they fail, returning disappointed and worn out, realizing that they are defeated, admitting their inability to produce it.

They will also realize that they are too weak (even) to destroy it. Surely, after the extinction of the world, Allah the Glorified will remain alone with nothing else besides Him. He will be, after its extinction, as He was before then: without time or place, a moment or a period. Age and time will not then exist, and years and hours will disappear. There will be nothing except Allah, the One, the Omnipotent. To Him is the return of all matters.

The initial creation of all matters was never within the power of the latter, and the prevention of their own extinction was never within their reach. Had they had the power to prevent such an extinction, they would have existed forever. When He created any part of this world, its making did not cause Him any difficulty, and the creation of anything which He created and formed did not exhaust Him. He did not create it to enhance His authority, nor did He do so for fear of any loss or harm, nor to seek help against an overwhelming foe, nor to guard against any avenging opponent, nor for the extension of His domain, nor for boasting of it before a partner, nor because of His feeling of loneliness and desire to seek company.

Then, after its creation, He will destroy it not because of any worry that overcomes Him in maintaining and administering it, nor for any pleasure that will accrue to Him, nor for the cumbersomeness of anything over Him. The prolongation of its existence does not wear Him out to induce Him to its quick destruction.

But Allah, the Glorified One, has maintained it with His kindness, kept it intact with His command, and perfected it with His might. Then, after its destruction, He will bring it back to being again not for any need of His own for it, nor to seek the assistance of anything in it, nor to change the condition of loneliness to that of company, nor from ignorance to knowledge, nor from want and need to independence and plentitude, nor from disgrace and lowliness to honour and prestige.

In another sermon, wherein he discusses the beginning of the creation of the heavens and the earth, the Imam says,

Praise is due to Allah Whose worth cannot be described by orators, Whose bounties cannot be counted by those who compute, the obedience to Whom cannot be satisfied by those who strive to do so, Whom the height of intellectual endeavor cannot appreciate, and the depths of understanding cannot reach, for Whose description no limit can ever be set, nor praise satisfies, nor time suffices, and no duration is fixed.

He brought forth creation through His might, dispersed the winds as an act of His mercy, and He firmed the earth with the mountains. The foremost in religious obligation is to acknowledge Him, the perfection of acknowledging Him is to achieve His Pleasure, the perfection of achieving His Pleasure is to believe in His Oneness, the perfection of believing in His Oneness is to regard Him as the Pure, and the perfection of His purity is not to attach adjectives to Him because every adjective is an indication that it is different from that to which it is best named, and everything to which something is best named is different from the Best Name itself.

Thus, whoever attaches adjectives to Allah recognizes a peer like Him, and whoever recognizes His peer regards two gods; and whoever regards Him as One of two associate-partners with Him, and whoever associates partners with Him errs in His regard and does Him injustice, and whoever errs in His regard points out at Him, and whoever points out at Him admits limitations for Him, and whoever admits limitations for Him numbers Him.

Whoever wonders where He is maintains that He is confined to a place, and whoever wonders above what He is maintains that He is not above something else. He is a Being but not through phenomenon of coming into being. He exists but not from non-existence. He is with everything but not in physical proximity. He is different from everything but not in any physical way. He acts but without connotations of movement or means. He sees yet none among His creation can see Him. He is One and Only, so there is none with whom He keeps company or whom He misses when absent.
The Attributes of Allah
Now let us discuss His Attributes in more details:
1. "Allah"
The proper noun "Allah" solely belongs to The Almighty God, the Truth. Anything succeeding it is regarded as an adjective describing it, while it remains a noun indicative of the True God. It combines all His Attributes, and it needs no introduction from others, whereas the other Attributes attain recognition when added thereto. "Allah" is not given to anyone other than Him, nor should it ever be used for anyone besides Him.

"Allah" is the ever-Existent, the One Who causes existence, Who maintains existence, Who creates everything that exists. Whatever He creates shall perish; He never will: "... say: `Allah!' then leave them sporting in their vain discourses" (Qur’an, 6:91).
2. "Al-Rahman"
Allah has said, "All those in the heavens and the earth will come to the Beneficent God obediently" (Qur’an, 19:93).

"Al-Rahman al-Rahim" are two of the Attributes of Allah which remind people of His mercy, of the fact that His act of affecting goodness and rewards reach whomsoever He pleases, thus warding off evil from them. "Al-Rahman" and "al-Rahim" are two concurrent Attributes of His each conveying more meanings of mercy than the other.

"Al-Rahman" is an Attribute specifically relevant to Allah; none besides Him can be called or referred to as such, whereas "al-rahim" can be applied to people: One may be described as "rahim," merciful or kind, but a human cannot be "rahman".

In the Holy Qur’an, we read:

"In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful" (Qur’an, 1:1); "The beneficent God is firm in power" (Qur’an, 20:5).

It is an Attribute demonstrating that mercy can be possible only through Him. It means "the One Who grants mercy beyond which there is no other mercy at all and the like of which does not at all exist." Though derived from mercy, "al-Rahman" is both a noun and an adjective. Neither contradicts the other. It is commonly known that mercy means: one's desire or power of will to bring goodness to one who is much less than him in status.
3. "Al-Rahim"
Allah, Praise and Glory to Him, has said,

"Inform My servants that I am the Forgiving, the Merciful" (Qur’an, 15:49).

"Al-Rahim" is derived from "rahmah," mercy or compassion. "Rahmah" implies the salvation of those who receive it from harm and loss, and their being blessed with guidance, forgiveness and sound conviction. Al-Rahim, i.e. the One Who grants rahmah, is a superlative. It is the highest derivative form of rahmah. Allah has said,

"He it is Who sends His blessings on you, and (so do) His angels, so that He may bring you out of utter darkness into the light, and He is Merciful to the believers" (Qur’an, 33:43).

Al-Rahim is the One Who bestows countless blessings. Some say that this word is derived from "Rahim," and we have already come to know that the root word for it is "rahmah," that is, favours from Allah and blessings; surely His blessings cannot be counted, nor can they ever be exhausted.

The Messenger of Allah has said, "One who has no compassion towards people is deprived from Allah's Compassion." He has also said, "One who does not respect the seniors among us, nor shows compassion towards our young, nor safeguards the rights of the scholars among us, is surely none of us." Compassion among the servants of Allah is a sure path to achieving the mercy of Allah. The Messenger of Allah has said, "Be merciful unto those on earth so that those in the heavens may be merciful unto you."
4. "Al-Malik"
God has said, "So exalted be Allah, the True King" (Qur’an, 23:116).

"Al-Malik" conveys the meaning of "One Who is free, by virtue of His Own merits and characteristics, from depending on anything in existence, while everything in existence depends on Him." Nothing in existence can do without Him, whereas everything that exists derives its existence from Him or because of Him. Everything/everyone is His.

Al-Malik occurs in: "Master of the Day of Judgment" (Qur’an, 1:4). Another method of recitation: Melik, King of the Day of Judgment. Al-Maleek exists in this verse: "In the seat of honour with a most Powerful King" (Qur’an, 54:55). "Malikul-Mulk" exists in: "O Allah, Master of the Kingdom!" (Qur’an, 3:26). "Al-Malakoot" exists in: "Therefore glory to the One in Whose hand is the kingdom of all things" (Qur’an, 36:83).

The Almighty has described Himself as being "Malikul-Mulk," the Owner of everything, of the whole domain, saying, "Say: O Allah, Master of the Kingdom!" (Qur’an, 3:26), and "Master of the Day of Judgment" (Qur’an, 1:4), which is one of the first verses of the Holy Qur’an. A land's owner is its "malik," one legally bound to obey the king, the "malik," with regard to land-related laws issued by the latter, whereas the opposite is not possible.

Among the Attributes of Allah Almighty, the word "al-Malik" has occurred independently, whereas the word "Malik" is always added to something else, such as "Maliki yawmid-Deen," Master of the Day of Judgment; therefore, the first Attribute has to be more revered.
5. "Al-Quddoos"
Allah has said, "Whatever in the heavens and in the earth declares the glory of Allah, the King, the Holy" (Qur’an, 62:1).

"Al-Qudoos" means: the One Whose characteristics cannot be conceived by the senses, nor can He be conceived by imagination, nor can He be realized by any mind or reason or judged by any intellect. Linguistically, it is derived from "quds," purity or cleanness. "Al-bayt al-muqaddas" means the Purified House, the one in which people purify themselves from the filth of sins.

Paradise is also called the place of quds because it is free from the ills of the life of this world. Arch-angel Gabriel is called in Islam "al-ruh al-quds," the Holy Spirit, because he is free from any fault in delivering divine inspiration to the messengers of Allah. Allah has described Himself as "... the King, the Holy" (Qur’an, 59:23), and He has also said, "Whatever in the heavens and in the earth declares the glory of Allah, the King, the Holy" (Qur’an, 62:1).

Al-Qudds is the One Who is above need and Whose Attributes are above being deficient. He is the One Who purifies the souls against sinning, Who takes the wicked by their forelocks, Who is above being limited to space or time.

The Messenger of Allah once sent one of his companions to teach Islam to a group of new converts and to lead them in congregational prayers. That companion used not to recite any chapter of the Holy Qur’an (besides, of course, the Fatiha) other than Surat al-Tawhid (or al-Ikhlas), so those believers went back once to the Prophet and told him about it. The Prophet said to them, "Go back and ask him why he does so." Upon asking him, the companion answered them by saying, "... because it contains the Attribute of al-Rahman, and this is why I love to recite it so often!" When they told the Prophet this answer, he said to them, "Go back and tell him that the Praised and Glorified One loves him too."

Ibn `Abbas spent a night once with his cousin the Messenger of Allah. When the Messenger of Allah woke up and stood up on his bed, he raised his head towards the heavens and thrice repeated the following statement: "Subhanal Malik al-Qudds!" (Glory to the King, the Holy!) Then he recited the last verses of Surat Ali-`Imran starting with the verse: "Surely in the creation of the heavens and the earth ..., etc."
6. "Al-Salam"
Allah Almighty has said that He is "... the King, the Holy" (Qur’an, 59:23).

"Al-Salam" means: the One Who is free from defect and shortcoming, Whose qualities are above deficiency, Whose deeds are free from evil. Since He is as such, there can be neither peace nor security in existence without Him.

"Salam" means peace. Allah Almighty has said, "... and Allah invites to the abode of peace" (Qur’an, 10:25), meaning Paradise: anyone who abides therein will have been saved from agony and perdition. Allah has said, "And if he is one of those on the right hand, then peace to you from those on the right hand" (Qur’an, 56:90-91), that is, rest assured that they are enjoying peace and tranquility. "Salam!" is a greeting; if a Muslim tells another Muslim "As-Salamu Alaikum!" he will have assured him of safety and security, granting him immunity against his evil or ill intentions. Allah Almighty praises Yahya, John the Baptist, by saying, "And peace be on him on the day he was born..." (Qur’an, 19:15).

The most precarious situations to which human beings are exposed are three: The time of birth, the time of death, and the time of resurrection. So Allah honoured Yahya in all these three situations, granting him peace, safety and security against their woes. He saved him from the perils of all these three situations and granted him security against fear.

Muslims are repeatedly enjoined by the Holy Qur’an to disseminate peace and to be receptive to those who offer it:

O you who believe! Enter into peace one and all... (2:208)

And if they incline to peace, do incline to it too and trust in Allah. (8:61)

And the servants of al-Rahman are the ones who walk on earth humbly, and when the ignorant ones address them, they say: Salam (Peace)! (25:63)

And when those who believe in Our Signs come to you, say: Peace be on you! Your Lord has ordained mercy on Himself... (6:54)

So turn away from them and say, Peace! For they shall soon come to know. (43:89)

Allah's Salam is His speech. Likewise, the Messenger of Islam used to quite often enjoin the believers to disseminate the greeting of peace among them. There are numerous traditions testifying to this fact; among them are the following:

Assalamu minal Islam: The greeting of peace is an integral part of the creed of Islam. Afshu al Salama taslamu: Disseminate the greeting of peace among you so you may achieve peace and security.

Whoever upholds three things will have combined in him the meaning of conviction: 1) fairness to his own self, 2) disseminating of the greeting of peace to everyone, and 3) spending wisely out of what he saves.

Afshu al Salama baynakum: Disseminate the greeting of peace among you.

In one of his supplications, the Messenger of Allah used to say, "Lord! Make us harbingers of peace to Your friends!" The Holy Qur’an tells us that the name of Paradise is "Dar al Salam," the abode of peace; He, Glory and Exaltation to Him, says,

"They shall have the abode of peace with their Lord, and He is their guardian because of what they did" (Qur’an, 6:127).

Allah will make the greeting of the believers, when they meet Him, "Peace!" He says,

"Their salutation on the Day they meet Him shall be: Salam! (Peace!)" (Qur’an, 33:44).

Referring to the believers, He says the following in Surat al-Ra`d, "... the gardens of perpetual abode which they will enter along with those who do good deeds from among their parents and spouses and offspring, and the angels will enter upon them from every gate (saying):

Peace be on you because you were constant! How excellent, then, is the issue of the abode!" (Qur’an, 13:23-24).

Thawban, servant of the Messenger of Allah, has said,

"Whenever the Messenger of Allah finished his prayers, he would seek forgiveness of Allah thrice, saying, `Lord! You are the Peace; from You is the Peace; Glory to You! Greatness and Honour are in You!'"
7. "Al-Mu'min"
Allah has described Himself as al-Mu'min:

"... the One Who gives peace, Who grants security" (Qur’an, 59:23).

"Al-Mu'min" means: the One to Whom peace and security are rendered: He provides the means of their attainment, blocking all the avenues of fear. There is no peace nor security in this life against the causes of disease and perdition, nor in the life hereafter against the torment and the Wrath, except that He provides the means to attain it.

"Iman," linguistically speaking, is an infinitive (to believe) derived from two verbs: tasdeeq, testimony for the truth of something or someone as: "... and you will not believe us though we are truthful" (Qur’an, 12:17), and aman, asylum or a peaceful haven as in 106:4: "... and gave them security against fear" (Qur’an, 106:4). Some linguists are of the view that the derivation of iman is from this second verb.

If we say that the Almighty grants His servants security against anything they dread, we must be understood in the light of the circumstances of the life in this world and in the hereafter. As regarding the life in this world, the removal of the cause of fear is not reasonably accepted except when a precarious situation has actually taken place.

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