God – Allah – In the eloquent words of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib

By Syeda Qudsiya Mashhadi

How does one describe God? The truth is that one cannot, but one can feel His existence in everything we see around us. What can be a better way to introduce Him than to use His own words that He has used in the Quran for Himself. His name is Allah but He has also used 99 different names for Himself in the Quran which essentially show His various attributes. They are called Asma ul Husna or the beautiful names.

Nobody can adequately introduce God, but I would like to quote one of the greatest personalities in Islam, the son in law of Prophet Muhammad PBUH and the fourth caliph of Islam, Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib who is well-known for his eloquence and knowledge. This is how he described God:

“Praise be to Allah.
He is such that senses cannot perceive Him,
place cannot contain Him,
eyes cannot see Him and veils cannot cover Him.
He proves His eternity by the coming into existence of His creation,
and (also) by originating His creation (He proves) His existence,
and by their (mutual) similarity He proves that there is nothing similar to Him.
He is true in His promise. He is too high to be unjust to His creatures.
He stands by equity among His creation and practices justice over them in His commands.

He is One, but not by counting.
He is everlasting without any limit.
He is existent without any support. Minds admit of Him without (any activity of the) senses. Things which can be seen stand witness to Him without confronting Him.
Imagination cannot encompass Him.
He is not great in the sense that His volume is vast and so His body is also great.
Nor is He mighty in the sense that His limits should extend to the utmost and so His frame be extensive. But He is great in position and mighty in authority.”

He who assigns to Him (different) conditions does not believe in His Oneness,
nor does he who likens Him (to something) grasp His reality.
He who illustrates Him does not signify Him.
He who points at Him and imagines Him does not mean Him.
Everything that is known through itself has been created, and everything that exists by virtue of other things is the effect (of a cause).
He works but not with the help of instruments. He fixes measures but not with the activity of thinking. He is rich but not by acquisition.

Times do not keep company with Him, and implements do not help Him.
His Being precedes times.
His Existence precedes non-existence and His eternity precedes beginning.
By His creating the senses it is known that He has no senses.
By the contraries in various matters it is known that He has no contrary,
and by the similarity between things it is known that there is nothing similar to Him.
He has made light the contrary of darkness, brightness that of gloom,
dryness that of moisture and heat that of cold.

He produces affection among inimical things.
He fuses together diverse things, brings near remote things and separates things which are joined together.
He is not confined by limits, nor counted by numbers.

Stillness and motion do not occur in Him, and how can that thing occur in Him which He has Himself made to occur,
and how can a thing revert to Him which He first created,
and how can a thing appear in Him which He first brought to appearance.
If it had not been so, His Self would have become subject to diversity,
His Being would have become divisible (into parts),
and His reality would have been prevented from being deemed Eternal.

If there was a front to Him there would have been a rear also for Him.
He would need completing only if shortage befell Him.
In that case signs of the created would appear in Him, and He would become a sign
(leading to other objects) instead of signs leading to Him.
Through the might of His abstention (from affectedness) He is far above being affected by things which affect others.

He is that which does not change or vanish.
The process of setting does not behove Him.
He has not begotten anyone lest He be regarded as having been born.
He has not been begotten otherwise He would be contained within limits.
He is too High to have sons. He is too purified to contact women.
Imagination cannot reach Him so as to assign Him quantity.
Understanding cannot think of Him so as to give him shape.
Senses do not perceive Him so as to feel Him.
Hands cannot touch Him so as to rub against Him.
He does not change into any condition.
He does not pass from one state to another.
Nights and days do not turn Him old.
Light and darkness do not alter Him.

He cannot be described through (the possession of) parts, or through limbs and organs,
or by an accidental quality or alteration or portions.
It cannot be said that He has a limit or extremity, or end or termination;
nor do things control Him so as to raise Him or lower Him,
nor does anything carry Him so as to bend Him or keep Him upright.
He is not inside things or outside them.
He conveys news, but not with the tongue or voice.
He listens, but not with the holes of the ears or the organs of hearing.
He says, but does not utter words.

He remembers, but does not memorise. He determines, but not by exercising His mind.
He loves and approves without any sentimentality (of heart).
He hates and feels angry without any painstaking.
When He intends to create something He says ‘”..Be” and it is’ (2:117),
but not through a voice that strikes (the ears) is that call heard.
His speech is an act of His creation. His like never existed before this.
If it had been eternal it would have been a second god.

He manifests Himself over the earth with His authority and greatness.
He is aware of its inside through his knowledge and understanding.
He has power over everything in the earth by virtue of His sublimity and dignity.
Nothing from the earth that he may ask for defies Him,
nor does it oppose Him so as to overpower Him.
No swift-footed creature can run away from Him so as to surpass Him.
He is not needy towards any possessing person so that he should feed Him.
All things bow to Him and are humble before His greatness.
They cannot flee away from His authority to someone else in order to escape His benefit or His harm.
There is no parallel for Him who may match Him and no one like Him so as to equal Him.

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