THE ESSENTIAL ATTRIBUTES

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These are the following six Attributes:

(The All-Holy, Self-)Existence, Oneness, Having No Beginning, Eternal Permanence, Being Unlike the Created, and Self Subsistence.

These are particular to God and cannot be attributed to anyone or anything other than God. Since the opposites of these Attributes are not in question for the Divine Being, they are also considered to be among the Attributes of Exemption.

 

Wujud ([The All-Holy, Self-]Existence)

Literally meaning being and being existent, Wujud ([The All-Holy, Self-]Existence) is an Essential Attribute of God Almighty and denotes that God’s existence is by Himself. Even though some scholars of theology and Sufis have asserted that “Existence is identical to the Divine Being Himself,” and have therefore attributed to It certain meanings of Divine Unity, verifying scholars have seen Existence as the title of Eternal—Eternal in the past and in the future—Existence and accepted It as the original source of the metaphysical and physical worlds. Just as all existent things and beings are, in one sense, the shadows of the Light of that Essential Existence, so also it is through aspects of their existence such as contingency, being contained in time and space, being created out of non-existence, having certain, unchanging patterns of existence, and purposes for their existence, and through the order, favoring, wisdom, and mercy that they display through their existence or life, that they also act as witnesses and proofs of the Eternal Existence.

God is such a Necessarily Existent Being that in the same way as all the proofs, signs, indications, and witnesses in both our inner worlds and in the outer world demonstrate His existence and Oneness, our sensations, perceptions, and intuition, which we always feel appear in the depths of our spirits, and the points of reliance and seeking help in our consciences also indicate that Permanent Existence both individually and collectively. All consciences that are open to the life lived at the level of the heart and spirit always speak of Him and proclaim His Existence through an inward sensation and intuition that burst forth from the essence of their existence and more loudly than their external sensations and comprehension and more profoundly than their mental perceptions.

 

Wahdaniyya (Oneness)

Oneness is an Essential Attribute of God in the sense that God Almighty has no peers, equals, rivals, or opposites in either His Essence or His Attributes. Since this Attribute denotes God’s being absolutely exempt or free from having any peers or equals, or any resemblance to any other things or beings, It is also considered to be among the Attributes of Exemption.

The Oneness of the Divine Being does not mean that He is one in terms of number; rather He is One in the sense that He has no partners, peers, equals, or opposites in His Essence, Attributes and Acts. As He is One and Unique in His Essence, He is also peerless and unequalled in His Divinity; it is only He Who is the absolutely Worshipped, Besought, Beloved, and Sought One. The Qur’an, which declares, Say: He—(He is) God, (Who is) the All-Unique of Absolute Oneness. God—(God is He Who is) the Eternally All-Besought (Himself in no need of anything). He begets not, nor is He begotten. And comparable to Him there is none.” (112:1–4), expresses that He is absolutely One and completely independent of anything.

In every place where His existence is mentioned and stressed in the Qur’an and the Sunna, His Oneness is also mentioned; where His Oneness is noted, His being the Necessarily Existent One is also emphasized. Let us examine the topic briefly from Bediüzzaman, who dedicated his life to describing and teaching about God’s existence and Oneness:

O friend, everything bears a stamp and seal particular to the One, the Eternally All-Besought, and has signs testifying that He is its Maker and Owner. If out of the innumerable stamps of His Oneness and seals of His being the Eternally All Besought you can look at the “stamp” put on the sheet of the earth in spring, you will see that the following facts indicate and bear witness to Him as brightly as the sun:

On the sheet of the earth, we observe acts of ever-original, wise, and purposeful creation. Now notice the following facts and  see that wise and purposeful  creation:

The act of creation on the earth occurs in infinite abundance.

Together with infinite abundance, it occurs with absolute ease, through  an absolute power and with perfect artistry.

Everything  is created at an incredible speed but in perfect order and arrangement.

Things are created in absolute abundance and with the greatest economy or at the lowest cost imaginable, yet every individual is unique and priceless.

Despite innumerable causes of disorder and confusion, everything is brought into existence with extraordinary distinction.

Despite the vast distances in time and space and worldwide distribution, there is the highest correspondence and similarity between and among individuals and species.

Despite the highest correspondence and similarity, and though generated from similar or even the same materials, structural principles, and organization, they are in perfect balance and order with an absolute variety and a perfect individualization of characters and features.

The wise and purposeful creation, and perfect ease and artistry despite the absolute abundance; the perfect order, arrangement, proportion, and firmness despite the incredible speed; the uniqueness and highest value of every individual despite the absolute abundance and the greatest economy; the extraordinary distinction despite the innumerable causes of disorder and confusion; the highest correspondence and similarity despite the world-wide distribution; the perfect individualization of characters and features and distinction despite the highest correspondence and similarity and being generated from similar or even the same materials, structural principles, and organization—all  these features are such wit nesses for both the existence and Oneness of the Necessarily Existent One that it would be absolute blindness and obstinacy not to recognize these witnesses, each of which has the strength of thousands of proofs.(1     al-Mathnawi an-Nuri – Seedbed of the Light (trans.), New Jersey, 2007, pp., 49–50.

 

Qidam (Having No Beginning)

God Almighty exists free of time; He has no beginning and His existence does not rest on a cause previous to Him. His Attribute of Having No Beginning is a blessed title of His being eternal in the past in connection with His Name the First, and is the basis of the celebrated Name al-Muqaddim (the One Who causes to advance).

All Muslim scholars, to whichever school of thought they belong, are in agreement that Having No Beginning is one of the Essential Attributes of the Divine Being. Interpreting this in the meaning of God Almighty being absolutely free from and independent of any causes previous to Him, they have used the following statement concerning this Attribute of the All-Sacred One: “He is the First, Eternal in the past, without having a beginning.”

Both the Attribute of Qidam (Having No Beginning) and the celebrated Name al-Qadim (One with no beginning) mark the Divinity of God Almighty. They denote that God’s Existence has no beginning and that non-existence is not applicable to the All-Holy Existence. The opposite of Having No Beginning is being existent in time, from which God, exalted is His Majesty, is absolutely free.

 

Baqa’ (Eternal Permanence)

Eternal Permanence with no discontinuity at all is one of God’s Essential Attributes and is related to the Name the Last, similar to the relationship of the Attribute of Having No Beginning and the Name the First. The Qur’an and the Sunna indicate this Attribute sometimes explicitly and sometimes allusively, and refer to God’s eternal permanence either through the Name the Last singly or the Names the First and the Last together. In addition to frequently reminding us that everything is perishable except Him, the Qur’an makes references to His Eternal Permanence by mentioning Him with His Names the First and the Last. Our Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, also reminds us of God’s Attributes of Having No Beginning and Eternal Permanence in some of his sayings or prayers, such as: “O God! You are the First, there is nothing preceding You. You are the Last; there is nothing to succeed You.”63 The Attributes of Having No Beginning and Eternal Permanence have approximate meanings and implications. It is this relationship or approximation which has led scholars to establish the undeniable, logical argument: “The non-existence of one who exists eternally is inconceivable.” In addition, it is also important that in demonstrating the relationship between these two Attributes verifying scholars usually mention them together.

Scholars have expressed the Attribute of Eternal Permanence sometimes with the phrase “the Undecaying,” sometimes with the phrase “the Undying,” and sometimes with the phrase “the Imperish- able.” All of these words have almost the same meaning.

In addition to the scholars who have seen the Attribute of Eternal Permanence as one of the Essential Attributes like (the All-Holy Self-)Existence, there have been some who have regarded It as being among the Positive or Affirmative Attributes, Which are the Attributes that describe Who God is, such as Life, Knowledge, and Power; they say: “God is eternally permanent with a permanence that is particular to His Essence.” There have also been some who have considered It to be among the Attributes of Exemption and have used Eternal Permanence in the meaning of God being absolutely exempt or free from cessation or becoming non-existent.

Another point to mention concerning Divine Eternal Permanence is that creatures will be favored with eternity in the eternal realm. God is Eternally Permanent, so some creatures will be favored with eternity in the other, eternal realm. However, God’s Eternal Permanence is by Himself and inseparable from Him, while the eternality of others is a relative permanence that is absolutely dependent on God’s Permanence. The eternality of Paradise and Hell is also due to God’s Eternal Permanence, like the eternality with which creatures such as human beings, jinn, spirit beings, and angels will be favored.

 

Muhalafatun lil-hawadith (Being Unlike the Created)

This Attribute denotes that the All-Majestic, All-Exalted God does not resemble, in any way, any of His creatures in His Essence or Attributes. On account of the fact that the opposites of the Essen- tial Attributes of God Almighty are inconceivable for the Divine Being, this Attribute has also been mentioned among the Attributes of Exemption. The decisive, explicit statements of the Qur’an and the Sunna which state that God has no peers, equals, partners, or opposites point to the truth of His Being Unlike the Created.

While some misguided sects have deviated into likening God to His creatures in some respects, some other schools of creed and thought, such as the Mu‘tazila64 and Jahmiyya,65 have gone to the extreme of not recognizing His Attributes to emphasize His being unlike the created. However, the scholars of the Ahlu’s-Sunna or the Sunni scholars have followed the middle way and, by recognizing God’s Attributes and drawing attention to an important, basic difference between the Creator and the creation which is marked by the Attribute of Being Unlike the Created, have emphasized that God is unlike the created in both His Essence and Attributes. They conclude: “Whatever comes to your mind concerning the Divine All-Transcending Being, He is beyond it.”

 

 

Qiyam bi-nafsihi (Self-Subsistence)

God’s Being Self-Subsisting means He subsists by Himself in absolute independence of anything else and without needing anything, either in His existence or subsistence, while everything and everyone other than Him owes both their existence and subsistence to Him. On account of any meaning opposite to this Attribute being inconceivable for the Divine Being, this Attribute is also regarded as being among the Attributes of Exemption. Although this Attribute of Glory is not explicitly mentioned in the Qur’an, all the verses concerning God’s self-subsistence and maintaining the whole of creation also point to His Self-Subsistence.

Muslim theologians have explicitly stressed God’s absolute in dependence of and freedom from time and space, and from everything else, whether it be a substance or an accident, material or immaterial. They have regarded the physical causes and means that He employs in His Acts and executions as the veils of His Dignity and Grandeur. In the words of Bediüzzaman, Divine Dignity and Grandeur require that physical causes must be veils before the Hand of Power in the sight of the intellect, so that the Power’s relationship with some unpleasant and insignificant seeming things and affairs will not be seen.

 

2     Muslim, “Dhikr” 61; at-Tirmidhi, “Da‘awat” 19, 67

3     The Mu‘tazilites or al-Mu‘tazilah: The school of the Muslim “rationalists” which accorded creative effect to human will and agency, concluding that it is human beings who create their actions. In addition, it denies God Almighty Attributes, and claims that God is obliged to reward those who believe and do good deeds, and punish those who disbelieve. (Tr.)

4     Jahmiyya, founded by Jahm ibn Safwan, who lived in the second century of Hijra, is

the deviant school of creed whose members deny God Attributes and humanity free will, attribute space to God, and claim that the Qur’an is created. (Tr.)

 

 

Gulen, Fethullah. “The Emerald Hills of The Heart 4” Tughra Books Press. December 2011.