Belief in the reality of God is a principle held in common by all heavenly religions: herein lies the decisive distinction between a religious person (no matter what religion is followed) and a materialist. The Holy Qur'an asserts that the reality of God is a self-evident fact, one that does not stand in need of proof; doubt and obscu�rity on this question should not, as a title, enter into this axiornatic principle. As the Qur'aa says: can there be doubt con(rining God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth? (Sura Ibrahim, xIv: 10) This dazzling self-evidence of divine reality notwithstanding, the Qur'an also opens up ways of removing contingent doubts from the minds of those who seek to arrive at belief in God by means of rational reflection arid argument. To begin with, the individual normally has the sense of being connected to, and de�pendent upon, some entity that transcends the domain revealed by his own particular consciousness; this sense, is as an echo of that call from the primordial hurnan nature referred to earlier. It is this call that leads man to the source and origin of creation. The Qur'an says: And when they board the ships they pray to God, making their faith pure, for him only; but when He bringeth them. safe to land, behold! they ascribe partners to Him. (Sura al-`Ankabut, xxIx: 65) Man is continously invited to study the natural world and meditate upon its marvels, all of which clearly point to the existence of God. These wondrous signs indicate and, in principle, prove the existence of a Being possessed of transcendent knowledge and supreme power, Who establishes and determines all things in harmony and perfection within the realm of existence: Lo, In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and [in] the alternation of night and day, are .rigns, for men of understanding. (Sura A1-Imran, III: 190)
There are many other verses regarding this point, but we shall confine ourselves to this one alone as being altogether representa�tive ot the Qur'anic exhortation to meditate on the creation. It is clear that the ways of acquiring knowledge are not confined to what we have briefly alluded to; there are many ways of proving the existence of 'God, and these can be studied in detail in theological treatises.
Degrees of Tawhid
All divinely revealed religions are based on Tawhid, that is, the Oneness of God, and on the worship of this one and only God. I It,- most evident of the principles held in common by all true religions is belief in Tawhid, however much some religious believers may have deviated from this universally held belief. In what follows, we intend to clarify the degrees of Tawhid, with reference to the Holy Qur'an and the hadiths, and with the application of intellectual reasoning.
Oneness of the Essence
The first degree of Tawhid pertains to the Essence (dhdt) of 'God. We might explain this `essential' Tawhid by saying that the Es�sence of God is absolutely one and peerless; nothing analogous or similar to Him is conceivable. God's nature is absolutely sim�ple, non-compound, without ally plurality. Imam `Ali states, in accordance with these two principles: `He is One (wahid) and there is nothing similar to Him among the [existent] things (al-ashya'),' and 'He-Glorified and Exalted be He!-is one in meaning [or: spiritual substance] (ma'na); He is not divided into pin is by outward existence, by the imagination or by the intellect. The Sura of Tawhid (al-Ikhlas), the veritable cornerstone of Muslim belief in Divine Unity, alludes to both aspects of this `es�sential' tawhid; as regards the First, in the verse: 'The-re is none like unto Him,' and as regards the second, in the verse: `Say: He is God, the One. '2
In the light of what has been said above, it will be clear that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity-God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit-is unacceptable from the point of view of Islamic logic. The inadmissibility of this doctrine has been exposed in certain verses of the Qur'an, which have been amply commented upon in theological treatises; here, we shall limit ourselves to the following, altogether sufficient, argument. The Trinity, in the sense of three gods, must mean one of two things: (a) either it means that each of the three gods possesses a distinct ontological personality, along with all attributes of divin�ity-in which case `essential' Tawhid is contradicted in respect of its first meaning, that is, if(- has no peer or like; (b) or else it means that these three gods partake of a single ontological per�sonality, such that each is a part of the whole-in which case such an entity would perforce be compound, thus contradicting the
Oneness of the Attributes The second degree of Tawhid pertains to the oneness of the divine attributes. We know that God is the possessor of all attributes of perfection; both intellect and revelation indicate the reality of the attributes within the Essence of the Creator. Therefore we know that God is Knowing, Powerful, Living, Hearing, Seeing, and so on. These attributes are distinguished one from the other as regards meaning: that which we understand by the word �Know�ing� is distinct from that which we understand by the word �powerful� . But the question is this: If these attributes are. distinct in terms of meaning, are they also distinct in terms of objective reality, that is, within the divine nature, or are they united at this level?
In response to this question, we would say that if such distinctions are found within the Essence of God, then there will be multiplicity and compounded-ness within the Divine Essence. It must therefore be understood with the utmost clarity that while these attributes are distinct from each other as regards their respective meanings, they are at one as regards their inmost reality. In other words, the Essence of God comprises, within its absolutely undifferentiated nature, all of these perfections; it is not the case that one part of the Essence consists of knowledge, another part of power, and yet another of life. As the sages say: `Nay, He is knowledge, all of Him; lie is Power, all of Him; He is Life, all of Him.�
Therefore, the essential attributes of God are in reality eternal and everlasting, partaking of the absolute unity of the Divine Essence. The view of those who regard the attributes of God as eternal and everlasting, but somehow added to the Essence, is erroneous. I III,, is an opinion derived from a false analogy between the attributes of God and those of man just as man's attributes are distinct from, and added to, the essence of man, so, it is believed, the same holds true for God. Imam Sadiq explains: 'God-Glorified and Exalted be He!-�shall never cease to be our Lord. And knowledge is His Essence-and it cannot be known; hearing is His Essence-and it cannot be heard; seeing is His Essence-and it cannot be seen; power is His Essence-and it cannot be dominated. '4
Imam `Ah has said, in regard to the oneness of the divine at�tributes with the Divine Essence: `Perfect sincerity in Tawhid is that. we negate all attributes from Him; for every attribute testifies to its being other than the object to which it is attributed, and every such object in turn testifies to its being other than the attribute.' 5
Oneness of Creatorship The third degree of Tawhid pertains to the oneness of the source of creator-ship (khaliqiyya). This means that there is no creator but God, and that whoever or whatever dons the robe of exist�ence is of necessity His creature. The Qur'an mentions this aspect of Tawhid thus: Say: God is the Creator of all things, and He is the One, the Almighty. (Sura al Ra'd, XIII: 16) And again: Such is God, your Lord, the Creator of all things. There is no God save Him. (Sura al-Ghafir, xL: 62)
In addition to revelation, the intelligence also bears witness to the oneness of creatorship. For all that which is other than God is a possibility, as opposed to a necessity, and thus stands in need of something other than itself, in order that it be translated from possibility into actuality. Naturally this need for existence can only be fulfilled by God, and only through God can all the subsequent aspirations of the creature, once it exists, be realized.
Needless to say, this affirmation of the oneness of creatorship does not imply the negation of secondary causality in the order of existence, for the principle by which contingent phenomena have reciprocal effects upon each other is itself derived from the authority of God. The reality of the cause and the very principle by which causality inheres in existent things-both should be grasped as manifestations of His will. It is He who bestows upon the sun and the, moon their heat and light; and if He so desires, I3e can withdraw from them their capacity to influence phenomena. From these points it should be clear that He is indeed the sole Creator, without peer. As mentioned in Article 8 above, the Qur'an has confirmed the principle of causality; for example: God is He Who sendeth the winds so that they raise clouds, and spreadeth them along the sky as He will ... (Sura al-Rum, xxx: 48) Despite the fact that all phenomena are connected with the all-inclusive sphere of divine creatorship, it does not follow that the evil acts of God's creatures are also to be linked to God. It is mw that every single phenomenon, insofar as it is a contingent entity, cannot enter into existence without the support of the universal power and will of God. However, it must clearly be stated that in the case of man-since he is a being endowed by divine providence with free will and the capacity for independent deci�sion-making as regards his actions-the quality of his actions will depend upon his own decisions. From a somewhat different point of view, it can be said that since God is indeed the bestower of existence-such that existence, in the absolute and universal sense, comes from Him and depends upon Him-evil does not really enter into existence.7 As the Qur'an says: �Who made all things good which He created. (Sura al-Sajda, XXXII:7)
But the capacity to make rational decisions, proper to man alone, determines the extent to which man's actions will conform to the standards established by the intelligence and the divine law alike. Let us consider two actions such as eating and drinking. Insofar as these actions partake of existence, they are grounded in the divine reality. But from another angle we must note, firstly
that `existence', within these two actions. manifests in the form of `eating' and `drinking'; then, since it, is man's free actions that result in these particular forms of existence, the actions must be seen as pertaining to the agent, man. These two actions, in their particular forms and qualities, cannot in any respect pertain to God. Thus, God must be understood as the bestower of existence, while man is the agent of the acts within existence, the actual eater and drinker.
Oneness of Lordship The fourth degree of tawhid pertains to the oneness of lordship and of the governance of the world and man. This oneness of lordship has two aspects: (a) creative governance (tadbir takwuini), and (b) religious governance (tadbir tashri`i).
As regards the second aspect, religious governance, this will be addressed in a separate Article below; for now we shall focus on the first aspect. What we mean by creative governance is the means by which the created universe is ordered. The arrangement of the domain of existence, including its origination and creation, pertains to God's act alone. It is true that as regards human activi�ties, one is able to separate the aspect of 'governance from that of origination; for example, one person might construct a factory and another might manage it. But in the domain of creation, the `originator' and 'manager' are one and the same. The point here is that the governance of the universe is inseparable from the source of its creation.
The history of the Prophets reveals that this principle of the oneness of creatorship has never been in dispute within their re�spective communities. If polytheism (shirk) entered into the picture, it generally did so in regard to the question of govern�ance and maintenance of the created order, resulting in the worship of, and servitude to, the agents through which these func�tions were effected. The polytheists in the time of the Prophet Abraham believed in one Creator, but erroneously conceived of the stars, the sun and the moon as the lords and governors of the univers. The dispute between Abraham and his people was over this question, precisely. Likewise, in the time of the Prophet Joseph, long after that of Abraham, polytheism asserted itself in respect of this aspect of governance, it being supposed that God, having created the universe, entrusted its governance to others; this subject comes up in the discourse of Joseph addressed to his fellow prisoners. He asked them: Are diverse lords better or God, the one, the Almighty? (Sura Yusuf, XII: 39) There are also verses in the Qur'an which show that the poly�theists of the time of the Prophet [Muhammad] believed that a part of their destiny was determined by their gods. For example: And they have chosen gods beside God that they may be a lbowerfor them. (Sura Maryam, XIX: 81) Likewise it is mentioned: And they have taken gods beside God in order that they mtay be helped. It is not in their power to help therrt; but they [the worshippers] are unto them a host in arms. (Sura Ya Sin, xxxvi: 74-75) In many verses, the Qur'an warns the polytheists that the gods they worship have no power to benefit or harm either those who worship them or their own selves. These verses indicate that the polytheists of the time of the Prophet believed that their gods could produce benefit or harm for them.9 It was this belief that motivated their idol-worship. The verses show also that the polytheists associated partners with God, violating thereby the principle, of the oneness of creatorship, in respect of the lordship and gov�ernance of the Creator over the creation, believing that in these domains their gods wielded effective power. In order to make them cease their idolatry, the Qur'an affirms the falsity of the aforesaid motive, saying, in effect: the gods which you worship are in no way capable of performing such tasks as you expect of them. I n some verses the polytheists are upbraided for conceiving equals and peers of God, and loving them as they ought to love God: And of mankind are some who take unto themselves rivals to God, loving them with a love like that [which is the due only] of God. (Sura al�Baqara, II: 165)
This condemnation of associating rivals (nidd, pl. anddd) with God is expressed in other verses,' the polytheists attributing to their own creations the prerogatives of God, and thus bestowing upon these false gods the love and worship that should be di�rected ssolely to transcendent spiritual authority. In other words, it was because they supposed God to have rivals, peers and simili�tudes, tthat they engaged in the worship of these imaginary beings. The Qur'an tells us, in the words spoken by the polytheists on the Day of Resurrection, that they upbraid both themselves and their idols thus: By God, we were truly in error manifest, when. We made you equal with, the Lord of the worlds. (Sirra al-Shu'ara', xxvi: 97-98) The sphere of the lordship of God is indeed all-encompassing. In this respect, the polytheists of the Prophet's time agreed with him; that is, they acknowledged God's lordship in such domains as the provision of sustenance, the giving and taking away of life and the overall governance of the universe: Say: Who Provideth for you 'from the sky and the earth, or Who owneth hearing and sight; and Who hringetie forth the living from the dead, and bringeth forth the dead from the liniuy and Who governs over the affair [of creation] ? They will say: God. Then say: Will ye not then keep your duty to Him? (Sura Yunus, x: 31) Say: Unto Mom belongeth the earth and whosoever is therein, if you have knowledge? Then they will say: Unto God. Say: Will ye not then remem�ber? Say: Wqeo is Lord of the seven heavens and Lord of the tremendous Throne? They will say: Unto God [all that belongeth]. Say: Will ye not then keep your duty to Him? (Sura al-Mu'minun, xxiii: 84-87)
But these very people, according to the verses cited from Sura
Maryam and Snra Ya Sin above, believed their gods to have effective power as regards such rnatters as victory in war, protection against dangers whilst on Journeys, and so oil; and, clearer still, they believed their gods to have the right lo intercede, supposing them capable of intercession without needing the permission of God, and that such intercession would be effective.
Therefore, it is not contradictorv to say that., on the one hand, some of the people, in certain matters, recognize that govern�ance pertains to God-and in this respect being, therefore, monotheistic (muwahhid)-and, on the other hand, that they at�tribute the power of governance and supervision to their gods, believing in their- efttvctive authority as regards such matters as making intercession. bestowing profit or causing loss, dispensing , of might and granting of forgiveness. Indeed, the polytheists occasionally said, by way of accounting for their practice of polytheism and idolatry: 'We perform this worship only in order to attain nearness trrrto God thereby; we do not believe in their effective authority over our lives.' The Qur'an relays this [attempted1justification thus: We worship them, only that they 7nry bring to near unto God. (Sura al-zumar, xxxix: 3) But the end of the same verse asserts that such claims are but lies: Lo! God guideth not him who is a liar and ungrateful.
However, the affirmation of the oneness of lordship coasists in the total rejoction of all types of belief in any kind of governanc � whether on the universal or particular planes-which is independent of God's command, and is carried out by am being other than God, in relation to man and the trniverse. The unitive logic of the Qur'an dictates not only the rejection of the idea of any kind of independent governance, but also of any kind of wor�ship of what is Other than God. The rationale for the orrerless of lordshih is clear: in respect of the universe and mall, the continuous operation of tlic 'tools' of creation cannot be separated from the initial `act' of creation; and if the creator of man and the universe is one, their governor can only be one. Because of this clear link between creating and governing the universe, one finds that God, in the course of de�scribing the creation of the heavens, makes Himself known as the governor over all creation, saying: God it is Who raised up the heavens without visible supports, then mounted the Throne, and compelled the sun and the moon to be of service. Each runneth unto an appointed term; He governs over the affair [of crea�tion]. (Suraal-Ra'd, xiii: 2) In another verse, the harmony of the order ruling over crea�tion is given as evidence of the unity of the governor of the universe: If there had been tie-rein gocLs other than God, then verily both [the heav�ens and the earth] would have been disordered. (Sura al-Anbiya', xxi: 22)
The principle of thr oneness of governance, however, does not preclude the validity of belief in other `governors' who, with the permission of God, carry out their respective duties. In truth, they do but constitute one aspect of the various means by which the lordship of God is outwardly deployed. Thus, the Qur'an, in the very rnidst of stressing the oneness of lordship, clearly establishes the reality of other 'governors'.
... And those zuho g-overn the event. (Sura al-Nazi'at, Lxxlx: 5)
The meaning of governance (tadbir) is the ordering and adminis�tering oof the universe and man at every level and in every respect, both in this life and in the Hereafter, from the point of view of both the engendering of existence (takwini) and the establish�ment of religion (tashri'i). Therefore, the governance of human affairs, in all respects, is the exclusive preserve of the one-and�only God.
Now we shall consider the second aspect of the oneness of lord�ship, tthat is, governance as regards religion. Just as God alone governs over the domain of engendered existence, so all matters concerning religion are likewise His prerogative alone-whether in respect of the imposition of rules and commands, the framing of religious laws, defining obedience and submission to such laws, establishing the principles of intercession and the forgiving of sins. Nobody has the right to change any religious prescriptions without His authority. Thus, oneness in rulers}rip, oneness in the establishment of religious law, oneness in obedience--all of these are counted as so many dimensions of oneness of governance. Therefore, if the prophet is given the title of 'ruler' over the Muslims, this is be�cause he was chosen be so by God, and such rulership is in accordance with divine authority. It is for this reason that obedi�ence to him, like obedience to God, is incumbent upon all Muslims; indeed, obedience to him is at one with obedience to God. As(he Qur'an says: Whoso obeyeth the Messenger Izath obeyed God. (Sura al-Nisa', lv: 80) And also: We sent no Messenger but that he should be obeyd by God's leave. (Sura al Nisa, lv: 64) However, without the permission and command of God, the Prophet would neither be a ruler nor one to whom obedience is due; and, in truth, his rulership and his right to be obeyed are but loci formanifestation of these properties which, in reality, pertain to God alone. Since the specification of religious obliga�tions forms part of the preserve of lordship, nobody has the right to judge that which God has commanded: Whose judgeth not according to that which God hath revealed: such are disbelievers. (Sura a1-Ma'ida, v: 44) Likewise, the right to make intercession, and to forgive sins, are the exclusive prerogatives of God; none has the right to intercede without His permissiori, as the Qur'an says: Who is he that intercedeth with Him save by His permission? (Sura al Baqara, ll: 255) And also: And theycannot intercede except him whom He accepicth. (Sura al� Anbiya, xxl: 28) Therefore, from the Islamic perspective, the buying and sell�ing of `title deeds' to forgiveness, on the assumption that a person-someone who, by definition, is distinct from the rank of divine (crrdship-can 'sell' heaven to another, or who can pre�vent the punishment of the Hereafter from afflicting him, such practices, which once prevailed in Christianity,` are utterly fu�tile; as the Qur'an srys: ... then implore forgiveness for their sins-Who forgiveth sin save, God only? (Sur:ra AI `Imran, lll: 135)
Taking into consideration what has been said, a believer in the Onencss of G0d must recognize that God alone is the source of authority, and the Sole governor in respect of all matters concern�ing rreligion, unless God Himself appoints someone to enforce and explain the religious obligations laid down down by Him.
Oneness of Worship Oneness in worship is a principle that is held in common by all the divinevlv-revealed religions. A key reason why Messengers were sent by God to mankind was tliat ihev might remind people of this principle. As the Quran says: And verily We have raised in every nation a Messenger [proclaiming]: Worship God and shun false gods. (Sura al-Nahl, xvl: 36 ) All Muslims, in the course of performing their five daily prayers, testify to this principle of onrrres.s it) worship when they titter the words of the Sura al-Fatiha: �thee, alone do we worship.' Therefore, there is no doubting the fact that God alone is to be worshipped and that the worship of anything else is prohibited; nobody op�poses this fitndamental principle of religion. Insofar as there is debate on this subject, it concerrts the status
of other acts: namely, whether the performance of these acts be considered as evidence of worship of what is other than God. ]it order to arrive at a definitive judgement as regards this question, wemustprovide, first, a logical defenition of worship, and then clearly separate those acts which can properly be subsumed within this definition, from those acts which pertain, on the contrary, to veneration (ta'zim) and revering (takrim). There is no doubt that the worshipping of' one's parents, of the prophets and of the saints is polytheism (shirk) and thus forbidden; (in the other hand, bestowing veneration and respect upon them is necessary, and indeed forms part of integral Tawhid: Thy Lord hath decreed that ye worship none save Him, and [that ye show] kindness to parents. (Sura Bani Isra'il, xvll: 23)
Now we must focus on the element that distinguishes `worship' from �veneration�, and ask the question: How can a given act in certain circumstances-such as the prostration of the angels be�fore Adam, and the prostration of the sons of_Jacob before Joseph- be at one with Tawhid, while the same act, in different circumstances--such as prostration before idols-be an expres�sion of shirk and idol-worship? An answer to this question emerges clearly from the discussion above, on the issue ofonenrss in gov�ernance. The type of worship which is directed to what is other than God, and which is therefore rejected and forbidden, is that whereby a person humbles himself before a relative, engendered being, in the belief 'that this being possesses some independent power to change the destiny of rnan and the universe, wholly or in part; in other words, in the belief that such a being is the lord or master of the world and of men.
On the other hand, if Fmmility is manifested before a person who is himself a righteous slave of God, one who is blessed with virtue and nobility, and is, moreover, a model of piety and right�eousness for mankind, then such humility is an aspect of proper respect and reverence for that person arid not worship of'him.
If the prostration of the angels, and that of the sons of Jacob, did not take on the taint of idolatrous worship, this is because such prostration is based upon a belief in our slavehood and servitude to God; but, accompanying this belief there is the knowl�edge of the nobility ofAdarn and of Joseph, a nobility and a majesty that derive from their being honoured in the spiritual realm. In other words, the act of prostration is in no sense based upon a belief in their divinity or omnipotence.
Taking full cognisance of this principle, one is in a better posi�tion to evaluate the respect and veneration accorded by Muslims; in holy places, to the saints (awliya), those brought close to God. It is obvious that the kissing of the holy tomb of the Prophet, or expressing joy on the anniversary of his birth, or on the anniver�sary oof the advent of his mission (bi�tha)�all are aspects of the reverence and love which are due to the Prophet; they are not in the least derived from any belief in his divinity. In like manner, such acts as the chanting of poems praising the exemplary lives or lamenting the death of tlte srints, the preserving of all monu�ments left as traces of the prophetic mission, the building of mausoleums above the graves of holy personages-none of these acts can be called shirk (associating partners with God), nor can they be called bid'a (innovation). They are not to be equated with shirk because their source is love and affection for the saints of God, and not a belief in their clivioitv: neither can they be re�garded aas bid'a, since these actions are rooted in a principle enshrined in the Qur'an and HaUith, that is, the necessity of lov�ing and honouring the Prophet and his family. Our acts of reverence towards the Prophet on thc� occasion of his birthday and the onset of his mission (bi`th.a) at c but the expression of the outpouring of our lore for him(we shall return to this issue be�low, in Article 123 on bid'a).
In stark contrast to this is the prostration of the polytheists be�fore their idols, which is rejected arid forbidden precisely because it springs from a belief in the divinity and authority of the idols, and from the false supposition that they exercise control over part of man's destiny; for the idolators believe that their idols have, at the very least, the power to glorify or abase, to forgive and to grant intercession.
The Divine Attributes (Sifat) Given the fact that the Essence of God is an infinite reality, having thus no like or equal, man has no way of grasping the depth of this Essence; he can only come to know God by way of an appreciation of God's attributes of Beauty (jamal) and Majesty (jalal). The attributes of Beauty are those which display the perfection of God�s nature, such as Knowledge, Power, Life, Will, and the like. As for the attributes of Majesty, they refer, on the contrary, toHis being too exalted to be described by any attribute; they therefore refer [in the first instance] to a lack, an absence: or inability. Now God is absolutely self-sufficient, utterly transcending all imperfection or deficiency. Possessing a material body, occu�pying a particular space, being established in a particular time,being a composite entity, and so on-all of these qualities fall into this type of attribute. Sometimes these two types of attribute are referred to as thubuta (affirmative) and salbi (negative), while the object to Which both ultimately refer is one and the same.
In our discussion [in Chapter One] on the means of acquiring knowledge, we stated that the principal paths leading to the knawl�edge of objective truths are those opened up by the senses, the intellect and revelation. In order to acquire knowledge of the at�tributes of God, both of Beauty and Majesty, we can benefit from two of these paths: (a) the way of intellect, and (b) the way of Revelation.
The way of intellect Careful study of the created universe-along with meditation upon its secrets and its mysteries, all of which are part of God's crea�tion�leads us to a discovery of the perfections of God's Being. Can one conceive of the raising up of the magnificent edifice of creation without the active involvement of some transcendent Knowledge, Power and will? The Glorious Qur'an calls attention to this capacity of thc� intellect to arrive at the natural conclusion of such reflection, by inviting man to ponder deeply the signs of creation, both tile external signs outside himself and the internal ones within his own son]: SaY: Behold what is in the heavens and the earth. (Sura Yunus, x: 101 ) In such reflection upon the natural world, intellectual discern�ment operates with the assistance of the senses: it is the senses t}rat first register the impressions of wonder arid marvel tarpon beholding a particular, tangible phenomenon, and then the in�tellect discerns the glory and beauty of the Creator through this runnel of His creation.
The Way of Revelation Once prophecy and revelation have been clearly upheld by deci�sive evidence, so that it is, clear that both the Quran and the Hadith of the Prophet are inspired by God, it will naturally follow that the verses of the Scripture and the sayings of the Prophet will lead one to an understanding of the attributes of, God. Within these two.sotrrces, God has described Himselfwith the best of attributes; suffice to note here that the Qur'an meotions 135 names and attributes of' God. The following verses contain several of these names: He is God, other thann Whom there is no god, the sovereign Lord, the Holy One, Peace, the Keeper of faith, the Guardian, the Majestic, the Compeller, the superb. Glorified be God from all that they ascribe as partner (unto Him).
He is God, the creator, the shaper, the fashioner. His are the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and the erth glorifieth Him, and He is the Mighty, the wise. (Sura al-Hashr, Llx: 23-24)
Here, we should recall that those who subscribe to the mu`attila position-strippirrg God of' all qualities-would deprive man of the lofty, sacred sciences ntade possible by the intellect and rev�elation on the question of the attributes of God. We would reply to this by asserting that if discussion and investigation of these sciences pertaining to the divine Names and Qualities were to be forbidden, the mentioning of all these attributes in the Qur'an, along with the command to meditate upon them, would have been utterly redundant. From another point of view, the attributes of God can be divided thus: (a) attributes oftheEssence (sifat al-dhat), and (b) attributes of Activity (sifat al-fi�l).
The attributes of the Essence are those which describe God in a mannrer that adequately enables us to form some kind of con�ception of His essential nature. These attributes are, so to speak, derived frorn the station of the Essence; attributes such as knowledge, Power and Life.
As for the attributes of Activity, these pertain to the various kinds of action that emanate from God, actions by which He becomes described, such as creating, sustaining, fokgiving, and the like. In other words, it is only in the measure that God actually, creates and sustains that He can be called Creator and Sustainer, however much His Essence may contain prin.cipially the power to create, sustain, forgive, and so on.
To conclude this discussion, let us recall that all the active at�tributes of 'God spring from His Essence, and, in particular, from the perfections of His Essence; that is to say, God is the possessor of absolute perfection, which is the sonrce of all the differenti�ated. activc perfections which He displays.
Attributes of the Divine Essence
Having noted the distinctions, within the realm of divine attributes, between the affirmative and the negative, and between the essential and active attributes, it is appropriate to elaborate somewhat upon the most important questions relating to these attributes.
Knowledge The knowledge of God, since it partakes of His very Essence, is eternal and infinite. In addition to possessing absolute knowledge of His own Essence, God is aware of all that is other than Him� whether universal or particular realities, before or after creation. The Qur'an lays much stress upon this truth; for example: Verily, God is aware of all things. (Sura al-`Ankabut, xxix:62) And again: Should He not know what Ne created? And Fle is the .Subtle, the Aware. (sura al-Mulk, Lxvll: 14) In the sayings of the Irnarns of the ahl al-bayt, there is also great emphasis on the eternity and totality of God's knowledge. Imam Sadiq says, for example: �His knowledge of a place before its crea�tion iis llike the knowledge of it after its creation; and His knowledge is thus as regards all things.
Power The power of god, like His Knowledge, is eternal; and insofar as it, too, partakes of his very Essence, it is infinite. The Qtzr'an em�phasizes the coyorehensiveness of God's power thus: And God is eaerablWo do all things. (Sura al-Ahzab, xxxll: 27) And again: God has Pozuer to do all things. (Sura al-Kahf, xvlll: 45) Imam Sadiq statcot: 'All things are equal before Him in respect of [His] knowledge, power, authority, dominion and all-conzpre�hensiveness.' Now, if the engendering of impossible things-those entities which cannot be-fall outside the domain of God's power and control, this is not due to the inadequacy of divine power: rather, it is due to the inadequacy inherent in the impossible: the impos�sible lacks receptivity tto being, that is, it lacks the capacity to actualize itself. When asked alxmn the engendering of impossible things, Imam Ali replied: �God has no connection with incapacity, so that about which you ask cannot be.
Life A knowing and powerful God is obviously a living God, as the two former qualities are distinctive features of life; they furnish evidence, indeed, for the reality of His life. The divine attribute of life as with all the other attributes, is devoid of imperfection, and transcends the particular features of this attribute insofar as it pertains to man and other creatures-features such as being subject to the contingency of death. For, inasrnuch as He is living, by his essential nature, death cannot affect Him. In other words, since the being of God is absolute perfection, death, which is but a form of imperfection, cannot find away into His Essence. Thus it is said: And trust in the Living One, Who dieth not ... (Sura al-Furqan, xxv:58 )
An agent who is conscious of his activities is more complete than one who is not. A free agent, endowed with a will to perform his acts--such that he can choose to accomplish or not accomplish a given act--is more complete than an agent constrained and com�pelled [by some other agent] to do or not to do something, being helpless and unable to choose for himself. Taking into account this point, and seeing that God is the most perfect agent in exist�ence, it is altogether natural to assert that the Divine Essence is, by nature, an absolutely free agent, neither constrained from with�out nor imposed upon by anything other than Himself; and if it is said that God is `one who wills' (murid), the meaning is that He has perfect liberty to will whatever He desires.
Will in the conventional sense of a human faculty that is origi�nated in time and is actualized gradually thereafter, does not figure in the Divine Essence. Hence we have the sayings from the ahl al-bayt, intended to prevent error and deviation, to the effect that the will of God [with regard to a given act] is identical to the accomplishment and realization of the act, as it is said: `Will, in regard to man, is an inner statc, which man strives to realize in outward action, but the will of God itself constitutes the cmsumrnation of the action, without this involving ternporal origination. This explanation makes it clear that will, in the sense of liberty, is one of the attribmos of the Essence, while in its aspect of existentiation, it is ()it(. of the attributes of Divine Activity.
Attributes of Divine Activity Now that we have dealt with the principal themes related to the attributes of the Essence, it is appropriate to turn our attention to some of the attributes of Divine Activity. Here we shall consider the following three attributes: speech (takallum), veracity (sidq) and wisdom (hikma).
Speech The Qur'an has dc.sorilrcd God as one who `speaks': And God spoke directly with Moses. (Sura al-Nisa', lv: 164) And again: And it was not vouchsafed to anY mortal that God should .speak to him unless [it be] by revelation or from behind a veil, or [that] He sendeth a Messenger...(Sura al-Shura, xLll: 51) There is thus no doubt that speech is one of the attributes of God. There is, however, debate over the question of the ultimate nature of this attribute: is it an attribute of the Essence of God or off is Activity? It is clear, to begin with, that speech in the form in which it appears in man, cannot conceivably apply to God. Since the attribute of speech is given in the Qur'an, we ought to refer to the Scripture itself in order to understand the reality of this at�tribute. As we have seen in the verse cited above, the Qur'an establishes the fact that God speaks to His slaves according to three modes of self-disclosure. It is impossible for the speech of God to reach ya by the following three modes: (a) unless [it be] by revelation'-in other words, by divine inspiration; (b) `or from behind a veil- in other words, that man can hear God's speech, but cannot see Him (God's speech to Moses took this form); (c) `or [that] He sendeth a Messenger'-in other words, an angel is sent by God to man to convey the inspiration.
In this verse, the speech of God has been explained as having been brought into being by God, either directly without intermediary, or indirectly through the intermediary of an angel. According to the first mode-divine inspiration-God sometimes casts His words directly into the heart of t}re Prophet., and some�times He causes His words to enter the heart after having first been heard by the ear. In all three modes of speech, however, the words of God are brought into being. The speech of God is there�fore to be considered as one of the attributes of Divine Activity. This is, one explanation of the speech of God, derived frorn the guidance given by the Qur'an. Another explanation is as follows: God has called all existent entities of the universe His `words'. As the Quran says: Say: were the, sea to he ink for the Words of nzy Lord, verily the sera would used up before the words of my Lord zuere exhausted, even if We were to bring the like threof to help. (Sura al-Kahf, xvlll: 109)
In this verse, what is meant by `words' is all of the creatures of God, which none but He can count. In the following verse, we find evidence of this [assimilation of all creatures as `words' of God] Jesus is explicitly referred to as the `Word of God' (kalimat-Allah)
The messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a Messenger of God, and His word which He cast unto Mary. (Sura al-Nisa', lv: 171 )
Imam Ali, in one of his discourses, interprets the speech of God in terms of His creative activity: `When God wishes to bring something into being, He says rrnto it Be!, and it is; but [He does so] not with a voice that is sounded, nor with a call that cans be heard. For the speech of God is one of His actions whereby a thing is endowed with existence.' 19
From the discussion above regarding the reality of God's speech it should have becorne evident that the speech of God is origi�nated in time (hadith), and is not eternal (qadim). For His speech constitutes His act, and, as the act of God takes place in time, it follows naturally that His speech possesses, likewise, a temporal condition.
Nonetheless, in order to uphold correct spiritual courtesy (adab), and in order to forestall any misconceptions, we cannot call the speech of 'God `created', because of the many for whom the idea of 'being ore.rted connotes being artificial or constructed. But leaving aside t his point of view, we can regard all that is other than God as His creature. Sulayman al,Jafari related thus: 'I asked the seventh Imam, Musa Ibn Ja`far-, is the Qur�an crceated? The Imam replied, `1 say that the Qur'an is the speech of God. At this point the following should be noted: At the beginning of the 3rd/9th century, the question ot whether the Qur'an was created or uncreated was being hotly debated by the Muslims, and was a source of acute acrimony and divisiveness. Those who advocated the eternity of the Qur'an did not support their posi�tion with sound reasoning, with the result that some Muslims viewed the Qur'an as temporally originated, while others regarded it as eternal. If the purpose of the Qur'an and its words is that these words be read, and if they are words which the angel Gabriel was charged by God to reveal to the heart of the Prophet, it is obvious that all of these words are temporally originated. Also, if the purpose of the Qur'anic verses is to impart knowledge and meaning, and some of these verses relate the historical tales of the Prophets, and also relate the wars fought by the Prophet [of Islam], then these verses cannot be regarded as eternal.
To conclude, if the aim is to acquire knowledge of God through the Qtrr'an, by means of both words and underlying meanings, the knowledge of God is, evidently, eternal, being one of the attributes of His Essence-but knowledge is one thing and speech, another.
Veracity One of the attributes of Divine Activity is veracity (sidq), that is to say, whatever He says is true; the blemish of falsehood does not tarnish His speech. The reason for this is clear: lying is the way of the ignorant, those in need, the afflicted and the frightened-and God is utterly beyond all such conditions. In other words, lying is an abomination and God cannot be tainted by any evil.
Another of the divine attributes of perfection is wisdom (hikma), �the wise�( al-Hakim) being one of His names. The meaning of God being wise is, first, that His actions are brought to ultimate fruition in a perfect, complete and definitive consummation. Secondly, God is utterly beyond perforrning any actions that are deficient vain. Evidence of the first fact is furnished by the marvellous order of the world of creation and by the beautiful way in which the awesome edifice of creation is raised up. As the Qur'an says: �the fashioning of God, Who perfeeteth all things. (Sura al-Naml,xxvll:88) evidence of the second fact is provided by the following verse: And we created not the heaven and the earth, and all that is between them, in vain. (Sura Sad, xxxvlll: 27)
God is absolute perfection; therefore, His actions must also partake of perfection and be devoid of all defect and futility.
Negative (Salbi) Attributes
We recalled above that the attributes of God can be divided into two categories, those of Beauty (jamal) and those of Majesty (jalal). Those that pertain to perfection (kamal) are referred to as at�tributes oof Beauty or positive (thubuti) attributes; while those that refer indirectly to God [by negating what He is not] and which relate to imperfection or deficiencv, are referred to as attributes of Majesty or as negative (salbi) attributes.
The intention behind the formulation of negative attributes is to negate from the Divine Reality any possible susceptibility to imperfection, deticicmoy or inadequacy. Insofar as the Divine Es�sence is utterly self-sufficient and constitutes in Itself absolute perfection, It is neccessarily devoid of any attributes that derive from imperfection and dependency. From this point of view, Muslim theologians argrue that God does not have a body, nor is He material; He is not a locus for any other entity, nor is He in�carnate in any other entity--such features presuppose the imperfection and dependency proper to contingent, existent entities.
Among the other attributes deriving from imperfection is the capacity of being seen; for, in order to be seen, an object must fulfil the conditions of visual sense-perception, such as: being in a particular place; being illuminated by some source (that is not being in darkness); and being separate, in essence, from the per�ceiving subject.
It is clear that such conditions are but the traces of an entirely corporeal and material franrr of existential reference; they are utterly inapplicable to God, exalted .is He is above all things. In addition, we can say that a `god' that can be seen cannot escape from the following two conditions: either the totality of its being would be visible or else a part of its being; in the first case, the all�encompassing divine reality would be encompassed and delimited, and in the second, it would consist of parts-both of which condi�tions are far removed from the divine realitV, elevated in sublimitv as It is.
I Iw Imrycriug discussion has considered corporeal, sensible vision, but as regards the vision of the heart, that is, inward spir�itual perception which sees hy the light of perfected faith, this is of an entirely different order; there is no doubt as regards its possibility, rather, of its reality, for the saints of 'God.
Imam `Ali was asked by one of his companions, Dhi'lib al-Yamani, �Have you seen your Lord?' The Imam replied. `I would not worship a lord whom I have not seen.' He was then asked, How did you see Hirn?' The Imam replied, 'The eyes cannot see Him according to outward vision; rather, it is the hearts that perceive Him, through the verities of faith. Apart from the refutation of the possibility of corporeal per�ception of God by intellectual arguments, the possibility of this type of outward vision is also explicitly denied by the Qur'an. When the prophet Moses, at the insistence of the Children of Israel, asked to see God, he is given a negative reply: My lord, show me [Thy Self] that may gaze upon Thee. He said: thou wilt notsee Me. (Sura al-A'raf, vll: 143)
It might be asked: if seeing God is impossible, why does the Qur�an tell its that on the Day of 'Resurrection those of His slaves who are worthy will behold Him?
That day will faces be radiant, looking at their Lord. (Sura al-Qiyama, Lxxv: 22-23)
The reply to this question is that the meaning of `looking' in this verse is the expectation of the mercy of God, the verses them�selves providing evidence supporting this interpretation. First, the looking in question is connected to `faces', that is, to happy faces that are looking toward Him. If the meaning here were the actual vision of God, then it would have been necessary to connect this vision with the eyes and not with faces. Secondly, the discourse of the Sura in question refers to two groups: one with bright and radiant faces, whose [anticipated] reward is made clear by the verse 'looking al their Lord'; and the other group with grim and anguished faces, whose [anticipated] punishment is alluded to by the verse `knowing thal some gr-eat disaster is about to befall them' (verse 25). The meaning of the second phrase is clear: they know that some painful punishment will soon befall them, and they are , dreading its imminent advent.
As a parallel to the comparison between the two groups, we ', can make use of another aspect of the meaning of the first, verse. In regard to those with radiant faces, the phrase `looking at their' Lord' can be understood as a metaphor for their expectation of mercy. There are many examples of this metaphor in Arabic and Persian. To take one example from the Persian language, it is said that such-and-such is looking at another person's hand; this means that he is expecting help from him. Moreover, in com�menting upon the meaning of Qur'anic verses, one must not in , principle confine oneself to one verse alone; rather, one must locate verses which shed light on the subject in question, and then derive the true meanings of a given verse from a whole series of verses of similar import. On the question of seeing God, if we gather together those verses and prophetic sayings pertaining to this question, it is clear that, from the Islamic perspective, there can be no possibility of seeing God [in terms of visual sense�perception].
It also becomes clear from the above arguments that Moses's request for a vision of God was at the insistence of the Children of Israel who said: 'Just as you hear the voice of God and transmit that to us, so look upon God and describe Him to us.'
...and when ye said: O Moses, we will not believe in thee till we see God plainly. (Sura al-Baqara, ll: 55) It is also said: And when Moses came to Our appointed tryst and His Lord had spoke unto him, he said: My Lord, show me [Thy Self], that l may look upon thee. He said: Thou wilt not see Me. (Sura al-A'raf, VII: 143)
Informative (khabari) Attributes What has thus far been addressed in regard to the divine attribute (except for that of speech) pertains to the type of attribute that can be evaluated by means of intellectual affirmation or negation in regard to God. But there is another group of attributes men�tion in the Qur'an and Hadith that cannot be understood any other way than by means of traditional, transmitted knowledge (naql)22 For example:
1. The hand of God: Truly, those who swear allegiance unto thee [O Prophet], swear allegiance only unto God. The Hand of God is above their hands. (Sura al-fath, xlvlll: 10)
2. The face of God: Unto God belong the east and the west, and wherever ye turn, there is the Face of God. (Sura al-Baqara, ll: 115)
3. The eye of God: Built the ship under Our Eyes and by Our inspiration. (Sura Hud, xl: 37)
4. God being �established' (istiwa'} on the Throne: The Beneficent One, Who is established on the Throne. (Sura Ta Ha, xx: 5) The reason for calling these attributes khabara (pertaining to information) is that it is only traditional, transmitted knowledge that can provide its with information regarding these attributes. It is important to remind ourselves that the intellect, or human wisdom, cannot interpret these attributes according to their con�ventional meanings, for this would lead to conceiving of God as �embodied� (tajsim), and therefore similar to us (tashbih); intellectual and transmitted knowledge alike warn us against these misconceptions. Thus, we must keep firmly in mind all of the Qur�anic verses on this subject if we are to obtain a true explana�tion of these attributes. We must also remember that the Arabic language, like many others, is rich in metaphors and symbolic allusions, and the Holy Qur'an, which employs the language of the Arabs, makes ample use of this mode of discourse. This having been understood, we can proceed with an explanation of these attributes.
In tile first verse quoted above, it is said that those who pledge allegiance to the prophet-by taking his ]land into theirs-are in fact making their pledge to God, since allegiance given to the one sent is ipso facto allegiance to the One who sent him, So it is said that the Hand of God is above their hands: this tneans tlrat the power of God is greater than their power-not that he pos�sesses a bodily �Hand� and that His �Hands' are literallv abovc their 'hands In support of this interpretation we might adduce the remainder of the verse: So whoever breaketh his oath, breaketh it only to his soul�s detriment; while whoever keepeth his covenant with God, on him will He bestow an immence reward. (Sura, al-fath, xLvlll: 10)
The content of this discourse�threatening those who breake their promise and giving glad tidings to those who keep their prom�ise-clearly rreveals that the meaning of the `Hand' of God is His power and authority. Also, the word 'hand' appears in many dictionaries as a metaphor for powor, as it is said in persion: 'There are many whose �hands� are higher than yours' [meaning: there are many who are more powerful than you.] (In the second verse quoted above] the meaning of the `Face' of God is His Essence; it is not to be compared with, the human face or any other creature's face. When the Qur'an speaks of the annihilation (fana') and non-existence of human beings, it says, Everone that is thereon will perish,' following this with an affirma�tion of the subsistence (baqa') and permanence of the Being of God, there being no possibility of annihilation in regard to Him: Everyone that is thereon will perish; and there subsists the Face of thy Lord, possessor of Might and Glory. (Sura al-Rahman, Lv: 26-27)
The meaning of the `Face' of God being everywhere is clari�fied by these verses. God is not to be located at a particular point; rather, His Being encompasses all things, such that wherever we look. we are facing Him. fttrther affirmation of this interpretation is given by reflecting upon the following two attributes [mentioned at the end of the verse partially cited above, al-Baqara, ll: 115]: the All-encompassing (al-Wasi ), the Being of 'God is infinite; and the knowing (al-alim), He knows all things.
In the third of the verses quoted above, the Prophet Noah is commanded to construct the ark. The building of such a vessel, led to Noah being mockcd by his ignorant folk. In such circumstances, it is as if God said to him: 'Build the ark, you are under Our supervision; We have inspired you to do this.'
The meaning here is that Noah was acting under divine guidance, hence he would be protected by God, and would not be disturbed by the mockery to which he was being subjected.
[In the fourth verse], the word `arsh in Arahic means `throne'; and istiwa, when used in conjunction with `ala, means `being established� and �having ascendancv over'. Those in power normally dispose of the affairs of state when they are firmly established in the seat of state authority; hence, we call interpret this verse as a metaphor for the divine authority, which holds sway ovcr tile dis�position of all things. Apart frorn the evidence given by the intellect and traditionally reccived sources, which alike affirm that God is not spatially rostricted, one can uphold the validity of our meta�phorical interpretation of God 'being established on the Throne'
by considering the following two points: (a) in many verses preceding this one there are descriptions of the creation of the heavens the earth, and how God raised Ill) the edifice of the universe without recourse to visible pillars; (b) in many verses following this one mention is made of tit(.- governattce of the affairs of the world. The significance of the phrase `established becomes clearer when we see that this verse comes between the theme of creation, on the one hand, and that of governance, on the other. The Qur�an wishes to remind its that the creation of 'the universe, depite its awesome dimensions, does not require us to exclude God from being in absolute control of its affairs. On the contrary, in addition to being responsible for the initial act of creation, God has a firm grip on the reins of supreme power over all the affairs of the universe. Suffice to cite the following as one of the many verses demonstrating this point: Verily, your Lord is God Who created the heaven and the earth in six days, then He established Himself upon, the Throne, directing all things. There is no intercessor [with Him] save after His permission... (Sura Yunus, x: 3) 13