Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Discourse 2: The Divine Attributes of God

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

The human kind has been sent to this world as a caliph (representative). It is the most prestigious and most valuable of all creation. God has sent all His prophets as human beings. He has sent all the holy books through angel Gabriel to His prophets and the message has been relayed to us and to all the creatures of God through these prophets.

For this reason, we always have to be thankful to our God who has created us as we are and we should try to serve him in the best possible way, and believe with all our heart that he is distant from any imperfections and impurities. It’s our duty to get to know ourselves and to know our Lord as he deserves to be known. In fact, after we die and when we are about to begin our journey to the hereafter, the first question that we will be asked in our grave is: “Who is you Lord?”

The truth is that with this limited wisdom that we have, it is impossible for us to fully comprehend God Himself or what He is made of. We can only get to know Him through His “Divine Names” and His “Divine Attributes”. In Surah An’am in the Qur’an it is stated that: “No human vision can encompass Him, whereas He encompasses all human vision: for He alone is unfathomable, all-aware.” (6/103) God is distant from any imperfect attributes; He is Glorious and Perfect in every sense.

Let’s begin our journey by looking at the divine attributes of God. The divine attributes that must surely be found in God are called “Required (Vacib) Attributes”. These are separated into two groups: “The Essential Qualities (Zati)” and “The Permanent Attributes (Subuti)”.

The Essential Qualities of God

God has six essential qualities. These are:

  1. Being (Wujud): He is the One who exists. He exists all the time. His nonexistence cannot be conceived.
  2. Existence FROM all eternity (Qidam): His existence has no beginning. He is permanent and eternal. Time and space has been created with His will.
  3. Existence TO all eternity (Baqa): His existence has no ending. He has no beginning and no end. He is an eternal presence.
  4. Uniqueness (Wahdaniyya): He is unique in Essence, single in Quality. He has no partners and nothing resembles Him. He does not have spouses or children. He is the One and Only.
  5. Transcendence (mukhalafatun-il hawadith): He does not resemble anything He created later. He has created everything as He pleases. No matter how we imagine Him, He is still different than the way we imagine him. He does not look like anything. As the famous Turkish Sufi Saint Hz. Yunus Emre said in one of his poems: “With this wisdom and knowledge the Creator cannot be found.” Anybody who uses his wisdom comes to the same understanding. Nevertheless, one has to look at the universe with a keen and thoughtful eye. There are no deficiencies or impurities in anything that He has created. It is with this look that one can understand His Greatness. He is Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
  6. Self-Subsistence (Qiyam bi-nafsihi): His existence and the continuation of His existence belong to Him. This is also called qiyam bi-zatihi.
The Permanent Attributes of God

In addition to the essential attributes that we introduced, God also has eight permanent attributes. These are:

  1. Life (Hayat): He is Alive. He is Hayy (the ever-living) and exists without a beginning and without an end. He is the One who gives life to all.
  2. Knowledge (‘ilm): God has knowledge of all things. God is Alim (the all-knowing). Anything that has happened and that will ever happen is within His knowledge. The past and the future are part of His knowledge.
  3. Hearing (Sam’i): God hears the sounds of all the creatures. If all the creatures moved at the same time and if all made sounds or talked at the same time, God would hear their voices and understand them all.
  4. Sight (Basar): God sees. He sees everything to the minute detail even if it is far away or near, in the dark or under light, hidden or exposed.
  5. Will (Irada): He is the one who wills whatever He wishes. There is no power that can stand in front of His will and desire.
  6. Power (Qudra): He possesses great power and strength. He creates whatever He wishes to create and destroys whatever He wishes to destroy. Think about all those things happening in nature all the time: earthquakes, storms, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, floods, droughts… These are just the things that we observe on our planet Earth. How about those that happen outside the Earth? All of these are in His power. What other force can ever withstand such might and power? Absolutely none.
  7. Speech (Kalam): God speaks, without the need for letters or sounds. The way that He speaks is unique. He does not speak with words, but He clearly explains anything that He wishes to whomever He chooses to.
  8. Creativity (Takwin): God is the creator of all things that exist. He is the One who has created everything in pure and perfect form. If we want to understand the perfection, let us look at ourselves, at the human beings, and at all the creatures. Let us look at the falling rain, the blowing wind, the color of water, the taste of water, the color and taste of air, the amazing ability of the eye to see and of the ear to hear, the love and compassion that mothers’ show towards their children across all species. Let us look at the way the whole galaxy, the sun, the earth, the moon and the starts have been following a constant rhythm, for so many millions of years, without even skipping a day, an hour, a minute, or even a split second. Nothing skips. All of this perfection is the job of a Creator, who has created every single thing with perfection.
All praise is to God. Let us serve Him as much as we need Him, in here and the hereafter.