وَلِلَّهِ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ فَادْعُوهُ بِهَا ۖ وَذَرُوا الَّذِينَ يُلْحِدُونَ فِي أَسْمَائِهِ ۚ
“And to Allâh alone belong all the fairest and most perfect Attributes, so call on Him by these, and leave alone those who deviate from the right way with respect to His Attributes (and violate their sanctity).” (7:180)
As the Essence of the Exalted Creator cannot be grasped by the human mind ( see p. 8), and He cannot be known other than that, “He exists,” He manifests Himself to you through His Attributes (asmâ’ al-Sifât) and His beautiful Names (asmâ’ al-Husnâ’). He gives you the knowledge of some of His Attributes so that you know Him. He says:
هُوَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۖ عَالِمُ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ ۖ هُوَ الرَّحْمَـٰنُ الرَّحِيمُ هُوَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْمَلِكُ الْقُدُّوسُ السَّلَامُ الْمُؤْمِنُ الْمُهَيْمِنُ الْعَزِيزُ الْجَبَّارُ الْمُتَكَبِّرُ ۚ سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ هُوَ اللَّهُ الْخَالِقُ الْبَارِئُ الْمُصَوِّرُ ۖ لَهُ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ ۚ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ
“He is Allâh, He is the One beside Whom there is no other, cannot be and will never be one worthy of worship but He. (He is) the Knower of the unseen and the seen. He is the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful. He is Allâh, beside Whom there is no other, cannot be and will never be one worthy of worship but He, (He is) the Supreme Sovereign, the Holy One, the Most Perfect, Bestower of peaceful Security, the Guardian, the All-Mighty, the Compensator of losses, the Possessor of all greatness. Holy is Allâh, far beyond and above the things they associate with Him.
“He is Allâh, the Creator (of the matter and the spirit), the Maker, and the Bestower of forms (and fashioner of everything suiting to its requirement). All fair Attributes belong to Him. All that lies in the heavens and the earth declares His glory; He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise” (59:22–24).
In these verses and many others are Names and Attributes that He has given to Himself, not given to Him by His creation. Regarding the names given to other deities, He says, إِنْ هِيَ إِلَّا أَسْمَاءٌ سَمَّيْتُمُوهَا أَنتُمْ وَآبَاؤُكُم, “these are mere names (bearing no significance) which you have coined, you and your forefathers” (53:23). Just as a writer can be described by his writing, so the Creator describes Himself through His attributive Names. When you are asked, “Who is Allâh?” you can say, “He is عَالِمُ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ, the Knower of the unseen and the seen.” You can also say, He is the Supreme Sovereign (هُوَ الْمَلِكُ), the Holy One (الْقُدُّوسُ), or the Most Perfect Bestower of peaceful Security (السَّلَامُ). You can call Him with any of His beautiful and perfect Names: وَلِلَّهِ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ فَادْعُوهُ بِهَا , “And to Allâh alone belong all the fairest and most perfect Attributes, so call on Him by these” (7:180).
He has given to Himself Attributes of Glory (sifât-i-Jalâl) and Attributes of Perfection (sifât-i-Kamâl). He calls Himself Lord of Majesty (al-Jalâl) and Beauty (al-Jamâl). If you reflect on His Attributes, they will inspire in you awe (haibah) and bewilderment (hiyrah). His Attributes are limitless, you cannot limit Him with any single one of them. Allâh is His proper Name, a Name that combines all of His beautiful Attributes. The name Allâh denotes His essence and al-Rahmân, الرَّحْمَـٰنَ (17:110) is that Name, which is very close to His Essence. In fact, all attributive Names that Allâh has given to Himself are directly related to His Essence.
All His Attributes were always with Him, before creation as well as after creation. No new Name was added to them, and no Name subtracted. There are Attributes mentioned in the Holy Qur’ân that make Him known as the All-Powerful and All-Mighty (al-‘Azîz; 22:74), the Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining (al-Qayyûm; 3:2), and the Possessor of full power to do all He will (al-Qâdir; 2:284). Then there are mentioned those Attributes that are connected to His actions (sifât al-Afâl) such as, Originator of Creation (al-Khâliq), Evolver (Rabb) and Maker (al-Bâri), the Creator (al-Khâliq; 59:24), the Best and Constant Provider (al-Razzâq; 22:58), the Shaper (al-Musawwir; 59:24). Then there are His Names of similarity with His creation, such as the All-Hearing (al-Samî; 22:61), the All-Seeing (al-Basîr; 22:61), the Ever Living (al-Hayy; 2:255), the All-Knowing (al-Alîm; 22:52,59), the High and Exalted (al-Alîy; 22:62), the Great (al-Kabîr; 22:62), the All-Protecting and All-Forgiving (al-Ghafûr; 22:60), the Gracious Patron (al-Mawlâ; 22:78), the Great Helper (al-Nasîr; 22:78). There are His Names with apparent polarity such as, He is the First (al-Awwal; 57:3), He is the Last (al-Âkhir; 57:3), the Manifest (al-Zâhir; 57:3), and the Hidden (al-Bâtin; 57:3). There are Names of Incomparability, such as the Omnipotent (al-Qâdir; 2:20), the Self-Sufficient (al-Ghanî; 22:64), the Unfathomable Unique One (Ahad; 112:1), and the One Who is Independent and Besought of all and Unique in all His Attributes (al-Samad; 112:2). He mentions His Attributes of Transcendence: “Allâh is the Extensive Light [Nûr] of the heavens and the earth” (24:35), He is the “Lord of the Mighty Powers” (Shadîd al-Qawâ; 53:5) and Only One Deity (Ilâhun Wâhid; 2:163).
The “One Who Speaks” (al-Kalîm) is one of the prime Attributes of Allâh mentioned frequently in the Holy Qur’ân as Divine Revelations. Allâh spoke to (kallama) Moses ( 7:103;7:143; 19:52; 20:12-24), and Moses spoke to Him (20:25-35). He revealed Himself to other Prophets (3:55-57; 42:51) and non-Prophets (20:38). However, when He says, “It is not given to a human being that Allâh should speak to him except by direct revelation [wahî] or from behind a veil or by sending a messenger [an angel] who should reveal (to him) by His command what He pleases” (42:51), this explains that this form of speaking is different from that of his creatures. Nevertheless, it is one of the prime Attributes of Allâh. Similarly, when you say, “Allâh is All-Knowing,” al-‘Alîm (2:261), it is to say that Allâh has the knowledge of precreation and knows all the objects of His creation. He is the only One Who knows His own Essence. When you say that He is al-Khabîr, the Omniscient, it is to say that He is aware of the visible and the invisible, the interior as well as the exterior. When you say that He is al-Sam‘î, the All-Hearing, it is to say that from His perception nothing audible is absent. He hears secrets as well as the whispers. He hears the praise of those who are praising Him. The human being shares in some of these attribute, but this sharing is deficient. Allâh’s Ear is not like your ears, and His Hearing is not like your hearing. When He says He is the One Who listens, it is that He listens to the supplications of the one who prays to Him. He hears the thoughts still unuttered and the words still unspoken. His Hearing is an expression of His Attribute by which the objects of His creation are made audible. When He says He is al-Basîr, the All-Seeing, it is to say that He sees all remote objects in a way that nothing remains remote to Him. It also means that nothing in the cosmos escapes His attention. His Light (Nûr) is also an expression of an Attribute by which the objects of His creation are disclosed and made visible.
That He is al–Akbar (Big) does not mean that He is physically big; it means that size is irrelevant to Him. He is al-‘Azîm (the Great) in that He cannot be measured quantitatively, He is inseparable, and He cannot be grasped by human mind. Allâh is Omnipresent. This means that everything everywhere is always present to Allâh. His energizing power is everywhere at work in every range and level of creation; past, present, and future are present to His Knowledge. The Knowledge of Allâh’s Omnipresence does not come from reason, the power of reflection, or consideration, but from His unveiling. The vision of His Omnipresence is granted to a few from among His servants. Before His unveiling, none of the Prophet knew Him through their rational consideration. They were directly chosen for His unveiling. He is Qâdir al-Mutlaq; that is, He possesses the full power to do all what He wills. He is free to choose between nothingness (al-Adam) and Being (al-Wajûd), and His Will opted for the second. You came into existence by virtue of His free choice without modality (dûna kayfîyah). Few words have been so misunderstood as Qâdir al-Mutlaq. Can Allâh speak a lie? Can He make squares that are circles? Can He do things that are self-contradictory? Can He make black out of white while it remains white? Can He make another God like Himself? The real answer of all such questions is in the Words that are used in the Holy Qur’ân: yaf‘alo mâ yashâ’—that is, He can do all what He Will, and He does not will things that are contrary to His own Wisdom and Wish, Knowledge, Mercy, His status of Lordship, Grace and Beauty.
He calls Himself al-Quddûs الْقُدُّوسُ, the Holy One (59:22–24), the One Who is above any description that human perception could apprehend, that the imagination could grasp, that the reflection could reach, and that the innermost consciousness could pervade and thereby have an understanding of Him. Al-Quddûs is beyond all characteristics of perfection that you or any other human being can imagine and describe. Al-Quddûs has His own Perfection, such as His Knowledge, His Power, His Hearing, His Sight, and His Speech. Al-Quddûs is free from and exalted above every attribute that you could possibly ascribe, and above everything resembling Him. He calls Himself al-Salâm, السَّلَام (59:22–24); the One Whose Essence is free from imperfection. His Attributes are devoid of any trace of deficiency, and His actions are free from any weakness. There is no perfect, unimpaired state of being in existence except that which is ascribed to and emanates from Him.
“Naught is as His exegesis” لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ (42:11) is His Attribute of incomparability. Nothing in the entire cosmos is like Him. He alone possesses the Attributes of Incomparability. He is incomparable in His Essence in Himself, and He does not accept the “incomparability” of His creatures in their essence. Only the ignorant imagine the “incomparability” of His creature that he follows, adores, and calls “his lord.”
Many of the Divine Attributes are related to our knowledge of our self (like Sam‘î, who listens; Khabîr, who is aware; ‘Alîm, who knows; Basîr, who sees; Halîm, who is not excited with anger; Shakûr, who is grateful; Muqît, who is nourisher and many others). Others are related to our knowledge of the cosmos (10:34; 35:1). Allâh has shared with us some of His own Attributes. If you say He is the Living, the Speaking, the Powerful, the Hearing, and the Seeing, you are also all of that. When you say He is Compassionate and Merciful, these Attributes may be applied to you in some instances as well. You may often attribute to Him descriptions that somehow apply to your own essence. Whenever you ascribe any quality to Him, you yourself are a representative of this quality, but the real essence of His Attribute is unknowable and inaccessible to you. Allâh’s Attributes that are related to seeing, hearing, forgiving, might, and the like can be shared with the objects of creation; still, these Attributes differentiate the Creator from the creation, Allâh on one side and the creation on the other. The attributes of the created are not the Attributes of the Creator; they are but similarities in their weak form (salb al-Naqâis wa al-Tashbîh). Never, at any time, can any Attribute of Allâh be discovered in its real Essence in any human being, may he be Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, Rama, Krishna, or any other person. No human being has ever ceased to be human and risen to the level of divinity. The Attributes of Allâh are far beyond any accidental knowledge of a human being. Like His Essence, His Attributes closely adhere to His Essence, which cannot be separated.
Polarity in Divine Attributes
He unites in Himself the Attributes that show apparent polarity. He calls Himself the First (al-Awwal) and the Last (al-Âkhir), the Manifest (al-Zâhir) and the Hidden (al-Bâtin) (57:3). Some people regard these Attributes to be opposed to each other, thinking that what is first cannot be last and what is manifest cannot be hidden; however, a closer look at the meaning resolves this apparent paradox: He is the First (al-Awwal) with respect to existing things, for they emanate from Him one after the other. He is the Last (al-Âkhir) with respect to initiating new creations and new forms of His creation. He is the last point in your never-ending journey. He is al-Bâtin – hidden behind the veils, because the cosmos cannot perceive Him as He perceives Himself, nor can He ever be unveiled. Likewise, He is Hidden (al-Bâtin) from those who are veiled, trying to seek Him with their five senses and reasoning, but He is Manifest (al-Zâhir) for those who seek Him by His Light (Nûr) in their hearts. He has also attributed to Himself pleasure (radzâ’; 92:21) and displeasure (ghadzab غْضب; 1:7), which finds its expression in you both as hope for His pleasure and fear of His displeasure. He has also described Himself as being possessed of Beauty (Jamâl; 16:6) and Attention (Wajha; 28:88), having created in you the combining awe of His Majesty (Jalâl) with the Intimacy of His Beauty (Jamâl).
He has given you a free choice, but also through His Coercive Power (al-Qahhâr; 13:16) He obliges you to acknowledge that He is your Lord, since if He had let you go, you would never have acknowledged His Lordship (Rabûbîyyat), and He would have remained hidden. He manifests Himself as the Most Gracious and All-Merciful (al-Rahmân and al-Rahîm). He says His Mercy encompasses all objects of His creation, but you are afraid of His wrath. His wrath (ghadzab غضب) is but a reflection of your own attitude. The true nature of Divine wrath is the state of Divine Mercy that you lose; otherwise termed as the state of Divine displeasure. When you abandon the His path, which is the means of receiving His special Mercy (Rahîmîyyat), He forfeits His Mercy, and if you lose the way to Divine Mercy, you are lost. This is the significance of the word Divine wrath (غْضب) and going astray (2:36). Similarly, He says He is Just and decides accordingly, but He is also the Master and the King (al-Mâlik; 1:3), not bound to the His own laws of justice. He may let an infidel go, who otherwise deserves His punishment. He says He is al–Jabbâr, the One Who coerces everyone, but no one coerces Him, and Whose will is effective in respect to everyone by way of compulsion, whereas the will of no human is effective in respect to Him. He is the One from Whose Grasp no one is free. He says He is the Protector against our sins (Ghâfir al-Zanb) and Acceptor of repentance (Qâbil al-Taubah) at the same time He is Severe in respect of punishment (Shadîd al-‘Iqâb) (40:3).
He has united His own polarity in the qualities of a human being to confer a distinction to him from Engels and satan. In verse 38:75 you read “[God said], O Iblîs! What prevented you from submitting to him whom I have created with My two hands”. His two hands are as if left hand and right hand. Both similar yet opposite. He composed human outer form from natural and cosmic realities and shapes, but his inner form, his essence; He composed to match His own polarities. In a wellknown Hadîth-i-Qudsî Allâh says, “I become his hearing and his sight”. He did not say “I am his eye and his ear” in order to show distinction between two forms – the perceptible and inperceptible. Allâh described Himself Manifest and Hidden, so are the two forms of a human being, manifest – his outward form, and hidden – his spiritual form. In your outward bodily form you are transient, but eternal in your essence that is your spiritual form. Why it could be otherwise, He has breathed into you His Spirit (see 32:9; 38:72). It is this synthesis that makes a human superior to Engels (see 2:34; 38:72) and his soul eternal.
Ranks (Marâtib) of Divine Attributes
His Attributes have ranks (marâtib), but they all are a part of the same Essence, whose name is Allâh. The Attribute of Creator (al-Khâliq; 59:24) is under the shelter of the All-Mighty (al-‘Azîz, al-Qawwî; 22:74), as the Might of the All-Mighty is needed for the creation. The Might requires the Will, and what is to be “willed” (22:74) comes from His Knowledge (al-‘Alîm; 22:52–59). The rank of the Attribute al-Alîm (22:52, 59), the All-Knowing, is thus higher than the rank of All-Mighty (22:74). The All-Knowing is Allâh, Who owns all these Attributes. All these are under the shelter of His Grace and Mercy (Rahmânîyyat), which is closest to His Essence of Rabûbîyyat, which is Allâh.
Ninety-Nine Names of Allâh: The Messenger of Allâh (pbuh) said, “Allâh has ninety-nine Names (or Attributes), one hundred less one.” These ninety-nine Holy Names and Attributes were mentioned by the Holy Prophet (pbuh) on the authority of Abû Hurairah and are found in the books of Islamic Traditions from such sources as Bukhârî, Abû Muslim, Tirmidhî, and Musnad Ahmad. Imâm Ghazâlî explained their meanings in his book al-Maqsad al-Asnâ’ fî Sharh Asmâ’ Allâh (translated into English by David Burrel). There is no Divine Attribute in these ninety-nine names in which we humans do not participate; they all apply to human essence. They are such as can be read on the pages of nature. You can perceive them within the scope of your activities, and you can imbue yourself with them. They remind you of those divine molds in which you have to cast your daily life, since high morality consists in the reflection and doing of deeds in conformity with these Attributes and to a certain extent in imitating them. Allâh offers you an opportunity to assume the characteristics of one or more of His Attributes.
He says dye yourself in the colours and imbue yourself with these characters (2:138;7:180). For those who assumed of the characteristics of one or more of His Attributes, He will say, “These are the blessed ones” (56:27). The Messenger of Allâh (pbuh) said he who has memorized Allâh’s ninety-nine names, understands them, has become conscious of them, has implanted them in his character, has made them part and parcel of himself, and believes in those qualities, which are derived from those Names and which should be accompanied by good deeds, deeds that Allâh’s Names inspire you to do and to behave in accordance with their implications—that person will enter paradise.
From the Qur’ânic injunction “Assume and share the hues and the Attributes of Allâh!” صِبْغَةَ اللَّهِ (2:138), it cannot be concluded that one or more of the Attributes of Allâh can become the attribute of the servant of Allâh or can be transferred to His servant. Although you can share with our Lord some of His Attributes, and although you can perform deeds in conformity with His Attributes, you do not cease being yourself, and you can never know the real Essence of those Attributes, because Allâh’s Attributes closely adhere to His Essence. He is the only Knower of His own Essence. If you assume, for example, the attribute of creator (khâliq), that does not mean that you can create the heavens and the earth, as Allâh – the al–Khâliq الخالقhas done. This interpretation would be a great error. Allâh’s Attributes cannot become the attributes of Allâh’s worshipper, and an attribute of a human being cannot become an Attribute of Allâh. What is meant by verse 2:138 is that when a servant of Allâh puts forth an effort to attain some compatibility with these Attributes, that when some of the ninety-nine Holy Names become attributes of the servant of Allâh, the servant is following the spiritual path.
Not all Divine Attributes mentioned in the Holy Qur’ân are listed in these ninety-nine names—for instance, Rabb (Sustainer and Evolver; 1:1); Rafî al-Darjât, رَفِيعُ الدَّرَجَاتِ (Who Exalts the people in ranks; 40:15); Shadîd al-Quwâ, شَدِيدُ الْقُوَىٰ (Lord of Mighty Powers; 53:5); Shadîd al-Mihâl, شَدِيدُ الْمِحَالِ (Mighty in Prowess; 13:13); al-Kabîr al-Mutâl, الْكَبِيرُ الْمُتَعَالِ (the Incomparably Great, the Most Exalted; 13:9); Rukn al-Shadîd, رُكْنٍ شَدِيدٍ (Most Powerful Support; 11:80); Ghâfir al-Dhanab, غَافِرِ الذَّنبِ (Granter of Protection against all sins; 40:3); Qâbil al-Taub,قَابِلِ التَّوْبِ (Acceptor of Repentance; 40:3); Shadîd al-‘Iqâb,شَدِيدِ الْعِقَابِ (Severe in respect of punishment; 40:3); Dhiyy al-Tûl, ذِي الطَّوْل (Lord of Beneficence; 40:3); Dhî al-Ma‘ârij, ذِي الْمَعَارِجِ (Master of the Ways of Ascent; 70:4); and Fâlliq al-Habb wa al-Nawâ فَالِقُ الْحَبِّ وَالنَّوَىٰ (One who causes the grain and the date-stone to germinate 6:97), Fâliq al-Asbâh فَالِقُ الْإِصْبَاحِ (Cleaver of the daybreak; 6:96 ).
Some Attributes are included in the list of ninety-nine names but are not mentioned in the Holy Qur’ân, such as al-Mannân. There are further Names attributable to Allâh, which He has revealed to His choice creations, and there are others that may be read in the pages of nature. It would be wrong to think that the ninety-nine Names are the only Names Allâh has. His Attributes are Words, and each of His Word is His Attribute. His wonderful and glorious Attributes are numberless and surpass all description and understanding. He says:
قُل لَّوْ كَانَ الْبَحْرُ مِدَادًا لِّكَلِمَاتِ رَبِّي لَنَفِدَ الْبَحْرُ قَبْلَ أَن تَنفَدَ كَلِمَاتُ رَبِّي وَلَوْ جِئْنَا بِمِثْلِهِ مَدَدًا
“Say, If every ocean became ink for (recording) the words and creation of my Lord, surely, the oceans would be spent up before the words and creation of my Lord came to an end, even if we brought to add (therewith) as many more (oceans)” (18:109).
He possesses Attributes that stand far beyond numbers, Attributes that cannot come within your comprehension. The traces and signs of His Attributes in human beings and upon His other creations are a reflection, a symbol, a word, a means, a path (كَلِمَات) to understand and reach Him. Of each Attribute, less than an atoms weight of the knowledge of it is given to us. It is so that you know Him through His Attributes, which He has given to you in traces, in signs in and around you. And from these traces, it is so that you know Him and adore Him and love Him.
Human being can represent Allâh as His deputy (khalîfah; 2:30) and become worthy of receiving the homage, obeisance, and salutation of the angels (2:34). When you look at yourself, what you see, what you feel, and how you are, you will discover that there is a link between you and the Divine Attributes that cannot be overlooked. It is said he who succeeds in knowing, perceiving, learning, recognizing, judging, and becoming aware of his own self, his spirit, his desires, his attractions and repulsions, his freedom and obedience, his joy or anger, will recognize his Lord. A human being is the vice-regent of Allâh (2:30), and some of His Attributes are implanted in his soul (15:29) and will be manifested in his life in this world and some in the hereafter (2:30–31). “How could this be otherwise when your soul is derived from his Breath?” (Hâfiz).
Some object that the God of the Qur’ân possesses human morals and characteristics, that it is therefore a human being and not God who is portrayed in the Qur’ân. This thinking is not correct. It is beyond and above human power to count and reach the reality of every Name, His Attribute and His activity. Although many of Allâh’s Attributes are mirrored in human qualities, still none of His Attributes are like human qualities. When you are angry, you suffer from anger and your heart loses its comfort and perceives a burning sensation, your facial expression undergoes a change, your feelings bring you close to losing control over yourself, and your thinking is affected. However, Allâh is free from all such changes. His anger is His displeasure; that is, He removes His support from one who does not desist from evil. It is called Allâh’s Wrath (- ghadzab). In the same way, His Love is not as the love of a human being, for a human being feels sad when he is separated from his beloved. However, Allâh is not subject to such feelings. His Love is His Rahîmîyyat and Rahmânîyyat (see 1:1). He loves His creation but does not suffer if any of His creatures turn away from Him and become distant. His nearness to His servant is also not like the nearness of a lover to a beloved. Allâh’s Love is the bestowal of good things (ni‘imâh) and not an actual inclining of the heart. To indicate His Love, Power, Knowledge, and other Attributes, the same words had to be used that are in ordinary usage for human beings; however, the real concept is not quite the same. In short, every Divine Attribute is distinct from human qualities. There is only a verbal resemblance and no more.
The God of the Qur’ân possesses numberless blessings, powers, beauties, and beneficences. It is not within your power to comprehend all the Attributes of the Divine Being. They are above your intellect and your imagination. Allâh is unbounded, formless, and limitless, and so are His Attributes. Shah Wallîullâh, a great Saint from India, writes that their use in our language is only in the sense of the ultimate end of these words. No one can truly recognize Allâh until he understands that there are innumerable works and Names of Allâh that are far beyond and above human power, reason, and speculation. His Powers are so numerous that human reason cannot encompass them. Each of His Attributes have depth upon depth and is beyond comprehension. We believe in Allâh Whose powers and Attributes, like His Being, are unlimited, unconfined, and unending.
وَلِلَّهِ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ فَادْعُوهُ بِهَا ۖ وَذَرُوا الَّذِينَ يُلْحِدُونَ فِي أَسْمَائِهِ ۚ
“And to Allâh alone belong all the fairest and most perfect Attributes, so call on Him by these, and leave alone those who deviate from the right way with respect to His Attributes (and violate their sanctity)” (7:180)
Allâh possessed all His Attributes even before He brought the worlds of particles and non-particles into existence, and no new Attribute of Him came into existence, and none of them did He gave up. In other words, before initiating the creation, He described and named Himself by the Names by which His creatures call Him now. Jalâl al-Dîn Rûmî said, “There are people who are unable to perceive and understand the essence of the Attributes of Divine Perfection. Nothing in existence is as mysterious as the essence of Divine Attributes and consciousness of Allâh. His Attributes are mysteries; the essence of His Attributes are mysteries. Only those who attain nearness to Allâh are able to come close to the mysteries of His Attributes” (Mathnawî III: 3650). When a servant of Allâh falls at His threshold with utmost devotion to win His pleasure and attract His attention, Allâh appears to him as a different Deity, closer to His Essence, different from the One perceived by an average person.
For the declaration of His Attributes of Resemblance (sifât al-Tashbîh), the Holy Qur’ân mentions that He is the All-Seeing, and He is the All-Hearing (42:11), but then to remove any suspicion of resemblance, it continues that “whichever way you may turn (you will find) there is Allâh’s attention” (2:115), and again “He is beyond all comparison” (42:11). Then He says, “(He is) the Most Gracious (God, Who) is firmly and flawlessly established on (His) Throne (of Power),” الرَّحْمَـٰنُ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ اسْتَوَىٰ (20:5). The “Throne,” al-‘Arsh الْعَرْشِ, of the All-Merciful is neither a material object, nor does it signify any place, nor is it physically created. The expression is a figure of speech. When this figurative is used, it symbolizes His high Divine rank and conveys to you that He is high and above the understanding of human intellect, which lacks the strength to find Him and to comprehend His eternity, His limitlessness, and His Holiness (الْقُدُّوسُ). Allâh’s “Throne” الْعَرْشِ is the symbol of His power and rule. It signifies His Might, His controlling Authority, His Dominion, and His Mastery. The expression astawâ اسْتَوَىٰ stands for the flawlessness and perfection in all aspects of His Attributes in terms of what a human being can imagine. The four Divine Attributes of Rabûbîyyat, Rahmânîyyat, Rahîmîyyat, and Mâlikîyyat, mentioned in the Opening Chapter (al-Fâtihah) are upholding His throne here in this present world, where they are in full operation. In the hereafter, these four Attributes shall continue to operate.
He has His Attributes of Transcendence (sifât al-Tanzîh) just as He possesses the Attributes of Resemblance (sifât al-Tashbîh) Al-Rahmân ‘ala al-‘Arsh astawâالرَّحْمَـٰنُ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ اسْتَوَىٰ , is the Attribute pertaining to the transcendence (sifât al-Tanzîh) of Allâh. This Attribute expresses Allâh’s state of Holy Supremacy—that is, the state when His transcendental Attribute of Holiness (Quddûssîyyat; 59:22–24) covers up all His other Attributes, placing Him far beyond every reach, totally hidden. This state is called the Throne of Allâh. If you insist only on His Attributes of Resemblance, you restrict Him. If you insist only on His Attributes of Transcendence, you limit Him again. If you accept both aspects, you are right (43:80–82). You should perceive Him in the Attributes that are both boundless and limited.