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Books Section > by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Sahib of Qadian > The Triumph of Islam (Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya) > Chapter 4: The Chief Attributes of God
The Chief Attributes of God:
"He is Allah besides Whom there is no God: The Knower of the unseen and the seen; He is the Beneficent, the Merciful" (59:22).
We shall now describe the chief attributes of God as mentioned in the opening chapter of the Quran which, by consensus of opinion, and according to a saying of Prophet Muhammad, is the quintessence of the Holy Book.
Among the attributive names of the Almighty, four stand out prominently in the Fatiha: "In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds, the Beneficent, the Merciful, Master of the day of Requital. Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help. Guide us on the right path, the path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favours, not those upon whom wrath is brought down, nor those who go astray" (1:1-7).
Of these attributive names, priority has been given to "the Lord of the worlds" (Rabb al-alamin); next comes "the Beneficent" (al-Rahman), then "the Merciful" (al-Rahim) and, last of all, "Master of the day of Requital" (Malik yaum al-din). These attributes manifest themselves in this very order which is, therefore, the natural order of their display.
The divine grace of Rabubiyyat, or bringing to perfection by fostering, which is absolute and all-embracing, covers all things from heavens down to this earth without any discrimination of the animate or the inanimate. It is on account of this attribute that a thing which existed not comes into being and, passing through a process of evolution, attains to its highest point of. perfection. The Quran says: "Indeed He (Allah) has created you by various stages" (71:14).
And again: "You shall certainly ascend to one state after another" (84:19).
It is by means of this great attribute that all the souls and all the bodies have come into existence, and each and every thing is fostered and fed. It is, as it were, the life-breath, the animating spirit of the whole universe. Should it cease to function ever for a moment, the whole world would disappear; and if it had not been, there would not have been any creation (6:165). Hence of all His gracious attributes, God has made first the mention of Rabb al-alamin (the Lord of the worlds), the reason being that the attribute of Rabubiyyat has precedence and priority over all the other attributive names. Their relative importance is further shown by the fact that while the name Allah is found in the Quran some 2,800 times, the name Rabb occurs about 960 times, no other name being so frequently mentioned.
The second kind of grace, standing next in importance, is the general grace. The difference between the two kinds is that whereas the former is Rabubiyyat on an unconditional and universal scale, the existence and exhibition of the whole universe having been on account of it, the latter special divine favour having its relation exclusively with the living creatures. The purpose of this divine favour is to bestow upon all living creatures, according to their needs, without any one's having any right, title or privilege thereto. It is neither a recompense nor a reward for any one's actions or deeds. On the other hand, it is on account of the blessings of this divine grace that every living creature lives, eats and drinks, and has its needs satisfied and fulfilled; and that all the requirements of life, necessary for the subsistence of each and every living being and its species, seem to have been provided for and supplied.
All these are signs of the same divine grace that, whatever was needed for the physical development of living beings, has all been given unto them; in the same way, for the good of such creatures which, along with their physical upbringing, also stand in need of spiritual nourishment - they have in them the power to make spiritual advancement. Divine Word, just in times of urgent need, has ever since been revealed for their guidance. In short, it is by means of this second kind of God's grace that man has been successful in getting over his various needs and requirements. For his residence he has the vast surface of this earth, the sun and the moon for light, air for breathing, water for drinking, different kinds of food for eating, many medicinal herbs for the treatment of his illness, clothes and garments of so many kinds for wearing, and heavenly Books to give him guidance And none there is who can put forth the claim that all these things have been created in consequence of his actions, and that he had done some noble deed as a reward whereof the Lord of the world has conferred all these innumerable blessings upon him.
It is thus clear that this divine grace, which is in operation in many different ways for the good of living beings, is a gift without any right or title. It is not a reward nor a return to compensate some deed or action, but it is purely a fine fervour, an admirable ardour of divine love and kindness, so that every living soul may get to its destined goal, and the needs which have been infused into his nature may be accordingly provided for. Therefore, the purpose of God's eternal favour in this grace is to provide for the requirements of man and all other animals so that they may perpetuate and the powers and faculties created in them may not remain in a state of inaction. The existence of this bountiful attribute in the person of the Almighty stands manifestly proved by, an observation of the law of nature, for, no sensible person can have any objection to the fact that all the indispensable necessaries of this world - the sun, the moon, the earth, the elements of nature, etc., whereon depended the life of all living creatures - have come into existence on account of this divine grace, and each and every living being, without any discrimination of man or beast, believer or heretic, good or bad, is deriving benefit from these great gifts according to his needs, and not a soul there is that has been deprived of this great good, which has been called Rahmaniyyat. With reference to this attribute, God says: "My mercy encompasses all things" (7:156). [See also 25:60-63.]
Since, after Rabubiyyat, this divine grace stands second in dignity and rank, the Almighty has made a mention of it after the attributive name of Rabb al-'alamin, keeping in view their natural order and sequence.
The third kind of divine grace known as Rahimiyyat is of a special nature. The difference between Rahimiyyat and Rahmaniyyat is that, whereas it is not essential for the recipient of benefit under Rahmaniyyat to make himself noble and good as a prerequisite for the attainment of that favour nor to pull himself out of darkness, nor to perform some kind of strenuous spiritual struggle but, under that attribute, the Supreme Being confers of Himself on every living creature all the requirements of life which a living being naturally stands in need of, and provides for all the requirements without any request or attempt for their achievement. In the second kind of grace, effort and struggle, purification of the heart, prayer and supplication, humility and humbleness, turning towards the Lord, and any other sort of spiritual struggle that suits the occasion, is an essential condition. This favour is achieved only by he who seeks after it and it is granted unto him who works hard for it. Its existence, too, is proved by an observation of the law of nature. For, it is clear that the unconcerned cannot stand on the same level with those who work hard and strive in the way of God. There is no doubt that people who struggle on the right path, abstaining from every kind of evil and darkness, are made the recipients of a special kind of favour. And it is on account of this special grace that Rahim is the name of the Almighty in the Quran. This attribute, for the reason of its being a special kind of favour, bound up with certain conditions, stands next to Rahmaniyyat, because the latter came into play first, after which the attribute of Rahimiyyat began to function. We are told in the Holy Quran that "those who believed and those who fled (their homes) and strove hard in Allah's way - these surely hope for the mercy of Allah. And Allah is Forgiving, Merciful" (2:218). [See also 7:56; 33:43.]
In short, God's grace of Rahimiyyat surely comes upon those who deserve it, and none there is who sought after it and got it not.
The divine grace of the fourth kind, called Malikiyyat, is of a greater nature. It is such that it cannot be displayed merely on account of one's hard work and labour. The first and foremost condition for its coming into play is that this world of cause and effect should completely cease to exist and the perfect power should display its splendour without God's stirring up the usual causes. For, in this last grace, the finis of all the favours, whatever more can be imagined intellectually with regard to the previous favours, is that this grace should be crystal-clear, and not a shade of doubt or deficiency should be left in it. In other words, there should not remain the, slightest suspicion regarding the fact of the Merciful's having bestowed it with a will, and that it is the real and true favour and the perfect special blessing; rather the bountifulness and benefaction of the Great Giver of this grace should shine forth like the sun, so that the recipient thereof may be able to cherish the firm belief that, in reality, it is the Divine Sovereign Who, with His will, mercy and power, is bestowing this great blessing upon him, and that he is, as a matter of fact, getting on a perfect and perpetual basis in return for his good deeds, the reward which is excellent, pure, delightful, and that it is neither a trial nor a tribulation of any kind.
To be blessed with such a perfect, perpetual, and excellent grace depends upon the fact that man should depart from this world, which is imperfect and gloomy, fleeting and doubtful, and go to the next world, for this divine grace is a manifestation of great splendour and glories, with the condition that the excellences of the Benefactor may be seen to the highest degree of firm belief and conviction. And there should be left no stage unachieved in this matter of manifestation, observation and full belief, nor any screen of common causes standing in between, and every subtlety and acuteness, connected with the perfect divine knowledge, may get out of the place of concealment into the open field of action. Moreover, the grace itself should be so distinct, so well-defined, that the Lord Himself may say in respect of it that it is pure and clean of the scum of every kind of trial and tribulation. Besides, it should have in itself delights of such a high order that the perfect nature of which should exercise such a complete influence over the mind, body and soul, and every spiritual and physical faculty of man, that it will be impossible to imagine anything over and above it intellectually, speculatively, and even capriciously. And this world, which is imperfect and impermanent, obscure and inadequate, cannot stand to bear those great glories, brilliant lights and everlasting favours, nor can it contain the radiant rays which are perfect and ever-abiding; but quite another world is required for its display which is wholly pure and clean of the common causes and is the manifestation of the perfect power and majesty of the Creator of the world.
It is also true that some sort of felicitous foretaste of this super-special grace is enjoyed even in this world by those pure and virtuous men who trudge upon the path of Truth and turn towards God, having torn themselves off from the will and desire of their bodies; for, they die before dying, and although to all seeming they are in this world, in reality they reside and live in the next world; and since they separate their minds from the means and resources of this world, breaking away from the tendencies of human nature, and adopt a way which is extraordinary, therefore, the Almighty, too, treats them in the same singular manner, and confers upon them His special lights, which cannot be given unto others without death.
It may also be recalled that the divine purpose in making a display of this fourth truth is to disclose the following facts upon every soul to the point of firm belief. Firstly, that reward is a positive fact which comes upon the people from their Lord in accordance with His Will; but such a display is not possible in this world for the reason that the why and wherefore of the pleasure and pain that befall the human race, and the power under whose authority it works, is not disclosed upon the people in general in this world, and none of them feels or perceives, nor hears a voice saying that he is reaping the fruit of his deeds. Secondly, this great truth brings to light the fact that common causes of daily occurrence go for nothing, and the real power is God, Who is the Supreme Source of all good and grace and the Master of every kind of reward and requital. Thirdly; the exalted blessedness is that state of splendid bliss and glory when heavenly light and ecstasy, benign pleasure and comfort, penetrate into and pervade over the entire human body, externally as well as internally, and not a limb nor any human faculty remains without the line of its effect; and the bitterest misery constitutes that excruciating pain which, in consequence of man's disobedience and defilement, going astray and in remoteness, takes fire in the heart, blazes and spreads over to plunge the whole body into the horrid fire of hell. And these great manifestations cannot be disclosed in this world, for, being turbid, tainted and shrunk, so far as causes are concerned, it is in an imperfect state, and is, therefore, incapable of standing these displays. On the other hand, trials and tribulations predominate over this world and both its pleasure and pain are impermanent. Moreover, whatever befalls a man in this world is under the cover of causes, on which account the face of the Master of Requital remains concealed.
It is for this reason that this world cannot be the day of Requital in a perfect and manifest way, but the real day of Requital, on the other hand, will be the next world, the place for the perfect display of great manifestations, majesty and grace. And since the present world is the place of trial and affliction, hence whatever pleasure or pain, adversity or affluence, sorrow or delight befalls human beings, is not an indication nor evidence of the Supreme Being's favour or frown. For example, a person's becoming wealthy is no argument to prove that the Creator of the world is pleased with him, nor his falling into poverty implies that He is annoyed with him. But both these conditions are two kinds of trial, that the wealthy one may be tested in his riches, and the poor in his penury.
All these truths, it may be pointed out here, had disappeared from the world before the advent of Prophet Muhammad, and not a people there was that conformed to these truths without any admixture of exaggeration or decrease. When the Quran was revealed it pulled out these lost truths from the limbs of oblivion, brought them anew to the ears of the erring, and enlightened the world with their celestial light.
From the explanations thus given of the four names - Rabb, Rahman (the Prophet is reported to have said: "Al-Rahman is the Beneficent God Whose love and mercy are manifested in the creation of this world, and al-Rahim is the Merciful God Whose love and mercy are manifested in the state that comes after"), Rahim and Malik - from the frequency of their mention in the opening chapter, it is clear that the Quran looks upon these four names as the chief attributive names of the Divine Being, and all His other attributes are but the offshoots of these four essential attributes. [On the basis of a report from Abu Huraira, which, however, is regarded as weak by Tirmidhi, ninety-nine names of God are generally mentioned, the hundredth name being Allah, but while some of them occur in the Quran, others are only inferred from some act of the Divine Being, as finding expression in the Holy Book.]
"Thee do we serve and Thee do we beseech for help" continues the opening chapter. This means that we worship God alone, and we believe not in the intermediation of anything else to reach Him, nor do we rely on our own intellect and
knowledge, but in every affair seek His help alone. This truth is concealed from the eye of the unbeliever. Turning away from the heavenly light of revelation; the faithless seeks salvation in the imperfect intellect and believes himself to be safe. Such a view is faulty and fallacious. It has been explained that mere intellect cannot be the
means for the attainment of those high aims of perfect faith and true knowledge whereon depends salvation. Intellect, it may however be conceded, can appreciate these sublime truths only after these have been acquired; but then the perfect
manifestation comes exclusively from that pure light which exists only in the Divine Being; and the imperfect light of human reason and intellect becomes simply useless and unavailing in this case.
"Guide us on the right path" we implore. This constitutes, in fact, the true and real prayer of man that he should search the right way, which may lead him to God, for such is the natural law ordained by the Lord that measures by means of which the desired object may be achieved and fulfilled should, as a matter of principle, be adopted. When man treads on the right path, and adopts the necessary measures and means, the desired object is achieved automatically. It has always been the law of nature that, for the acquirement, of every object, there be a fixed way, and that, unless man follows that way, no one be able to achieve that object. Hence, the goal to be acquired with all the toil and trouble, prayer and supplication, is the Right Path.
It is thus clear that the unfaithful are bereft
of this truth as well. Some ask for food and comfort in their
prayers; others believe that a sinner is not permitted to seek after
guidance; yet others argue that a set form of prayer need not be
Such views are baseless. Having emerged from all kinds of darkness, man should reach the highest stage of divine knowledge and no trace of any infidelity should be left behind in him.
Recognizing God in the most perfect way, and having been saturated with His pure love, he should attain communion with Him, which is the highest state of blessedness. It is, therefore, the true prayer which man stands in urgent need of, and whereon depends his whole beatitude. The simple and straight way for its achievement is that we should beseech the Merciful to guide us on the right path.
The opening chapter of the Quran (al-Fatiha) ends in saying: "the path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favours, not those upon whom wrath is brought down, nor those who go astray."
It may be recalled that the children of Adam, according to their words and deeds, intentions and actions, are of three kinds: Some are sincere seekers-after-God and tend towards Him with a true and humble heart. The Almighty, too, becomes a Seeker-after-them, and bestows His blessings upon them. This is called "Divine Favour" (Inam-i Ilahi).
The second kind consists of those people who adopt intentionally the course of conflict and reject God, and He, too, turns away from them in disgust so that the animosity and aversion, the resentment and repugnance that lay hidden in their hearts assume the form of a separating wall between Him and them. The name of this condition is the "Divine Wrath" (Idlal-i Ilahi).
The third kind of people are those who remain unconcerned towards God, and make no effort to search Him, and so He, too, becomes indifferent towards them, and guides them not unto His path for the obvious reason that they have themselves become sluggish and slothful in searching for His way. The name of this state is the "Divine Indignation" (Ghazab-i Ilahi).
In short, the quintessence of the above three verities is that just as man stands in three different relations to God, in the same way He, too, deals with them accordingly. With them who resign themselves contentedly to His will, and yearn after Him with true love, He showers upon them the blessings of His pleasure. With regard to those who turn away from Him, He assumes the same role, paying them back in the same coin; and with them who become careless as to institute a quest for Him, He deals accordingly, leaving them to wallow in the mire of error.
These three examples illustrate the three states, which emerge from man's own action. However, some people argue as to why God gives not guidance to mankind indiscriminately; others contend, how can the quality of "wrath" be possibly found in Him? The former oppositionists think not that divine guidance comes only to those, persons who sincerely strive for its achievement, and who tread upon those ways which are necessary for this purpose. The latter reflect not that the Almighty deals with each man in conformity with His fixed and immutable Laws; of His help and guidance He deprives him who, out of carelessness and indifference, turns away from Him; but shows His ways to him who struggles for them with all his heart and all his might. For, how can it be that he who idles away his time in doing nothing, neither stirs nor moves his foot in quest for the Lord, should be treated on a par with him who seeks after Him with all his soul and sincerity? The Supreme Being has Himself said that "those who strive hard for Him, He shall certainly guide them in His ways" (29:69).
In the Name of
Mention may now be made of another truth contained in the opening chapter of the Quran. The first verse reads: "In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful" (Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim). It may be remarked here that other chapters of the Quran are also headed by this verse. It occurs once in the middle of a chapter as well (27:30), and the recurrence with which it has been repeated in the Quran is not to be found in the case of any other verse. In Islam, it has been adopted as a practice that in the beginning of every affair, for which prosperity is desired, this verse is recited to invoke divine help and benefaction; it has acquired such a wide usage among young and old, that even though a Muslim may not understand all the Quranic teachings, yet he will not be ignorant of this verse.
The real aim underlying the revelation of this verse is to educate the humble and the uniformed in the subtle point of divine knowledge that, out of the many attributes of God, only two have been stated here: Beneficence and Mercy. It is of these two attributes that Divine Word, together with its blessings, descends from on High. It is on account of the manifestation of the quality of "Beneficence" that the Divine Word is revealed for the knowledge and guidance of mankind, for it is a specific character of this attribute that it comes into play merely through the munificence and generosity of God before man has done any deed to deserve it. For instance, He has created the sun, the moon, the rain, the air, etc., for the good and benefit of man. All this benevolence is in consequence of His attribute of Beneficence, and no human being can put forward the claim that all these things have been created as a reward for any of his deeds.
The revelation of the Quran, which took place in order to quicken life into the dead earth, has been caused into creation by this divine attribute. It is this attribute which, in the physical field, takes care of the famine-stricken and pours the heavenly rain on the dry soil. It is, again, this attribute which, in the spiritual sphere, takes pity on the hungry and thirsty, standing on the deadly brink of agnosticism and unbelief, denuded of the truth which sustains spiritual life. The Beneficent, therefore, out of His mercy and grace, provides spiritual sustenance at the time of true need, just as He provides food at the time of hunger. It is true that Divine Word is vouchsafed only to those chosen persons with whom He is pleased; but it is certainly not true that with whoever He be pleased, a heavenly Book should be sent even unnecessarily without any genuine need whatsoever. The Word of God descends from on High only when there exists a vital need and exigence for its revelation.
To invoke help in the name of Him Who is the Beneficent and the Merciful is indeed the way of profound humility and resignation unto divine will. The importance of this way lies in the fact that it forms the first rung of the ladder of unity in actions and deeds, by means of which man, adopting the humble submissiveness, is purified of all arrogance and conceit; then, having full belief in his own weakness and the divine help, he gets a share of the supreme knowledge which is given only to the chosen ones. There is no doubt that the extent to which man adheres to this way, and considers it his duty to act, upon it, and sees death and damnation in renouncing it, to that extent he is purified in his belief in Divine Unity. It is, thus, the sublime truth which guides man gradually to the stage of annihilation in the Creator of the world and he sees that there is nothing his, but all things have been conferred upon him.
In pursuance of this truth, the sincere seeker .has to acknowledge the fact of his own frivolity, and accept that God is the Possessor of all power and glory, and the source of all blessings. Both these things are such which constitute the ultimate goal of the seeker-after-truth, and the essential condition for ascending to the stage of annihilation. For instance, rain, although universal, drops only on him who stands in the shower; in the same way, he who seeks, gets, and he who searches, finds. People who, at the commencement of a work, repose their confidence in their own power, wisdom and skill, do not appreciate the greatness and worth of the All-Powerful.
It may also be pointed out here that there are philosophers who say that there is no need of invoking divine help in the commencement of a work, for God has already created powers and faculties in man, and it would be vain to ask for them again.
The Almighty, it is no gainsaying the fact, has bestowed upon us some powers for the performance of certain deeds, yet His dominion has not passed away from over our heads ; from Himself He has not separated us, and from His support, He has not detached us, nor deprived us from His blessings that know no end. Whatever He has conferred upon us is limited and small, and what is begged of Him is limitless and unbounded; and for the accomplishment of those matters which are above and beyond our bend, no power has been vested in us. These truths are so manifest and clear that any one can test and appreciate their truthfulness by making his own experiments. No man can exist from whom these transcendent truths can remain hidden. However, these are not disclosed upon such people who, on account of their hardheartedness and indifference, have their eye only on the few limited means, and possess no knowledge of the Divine Process ; nor is their wisdom and understanding sufficient to think that it is not within the power of mortal man to prepare and provide for the innumerable things, celestial as well as terrestrial, which are required for each and every comfort and adornment of the human body, and that it is only the Possessor of all the attributes Who brings into existence all those requirements from above the heavens and from beneath the earth, and has a strong dominion over them.
An objection is sometimes adduced as to why this seeking of divine help does not bear fruit invariably, and why does not God's mercy manifest itself every time when His help is solicited? It is only the misconception of a truth that has given rise to this doubt. For, every prayer offered with a true and sincere heart is surely heard by the Lord, Who sends His help in the way He thinks best; but sometimes it also happens that a man's prayer and supplication are devoid of sincerity and humility, and his spiritual condition, too, is unsound and impure, and with his lips he utters the words of prayer, whereas in his heart there is indifference and even hypocrisy; and it may also sometimes happen that God is pleased to hear his prayer, and bestows upon him what He deems profitable, but the unwise man cannot comprehend this subtle favour, and begins to complain, failing to appreciate the sublime teaching that "it may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you, and it may be that you love a thing while it is evil for you ; and Allah knows while you know not (2:216).
It should, therefore, be understood that what is illimitable and infinite cannot be brought under the operation of any law for the simple reason that a thing which is, from beginning to end, within the ambit of a known and accepted law, and no portion thereof falls without its field, nor is unknown and incomprehensible, is undoubtedly limited and confined within bounds. If the perfect divine power should, likewise, be understood to lie within the limits of a definite law, then a thing which has been accepted and acknowledged as illimitable and infinite shall have to be regarded as confined within limits. Those who want to squeeze into the narrow hole of their knowledge and experience the illimitable power of God, understand not that such matters which fall within the operation of a definite law must be limited and narrow, whereas the wisdom and power found in the Infinite Being must necessarily be boundless and unconfined. Can any sensible man say that the Supreme Being knows only to create in this way, and nothing beyond this? Can His infinite and interminable power be measured by the imperfect human imagination? Can His inexhaustible and eternal power be ever inoperative and helpless in its dominion over this universe? His powerful hand, beyond the least shadow of doubt, is holding its sway over each and every particle and not a single creature there is that depends not on Him, and owes its existence to the greatness of its own creation. Countless fields, which neither internally nor externally have any end or extremity, lie open before His limitless power.
Just as it is possible that He can create
external causes to extinguish the heat of a blazing fire, in the same
way it is also possible that, in order to destroy the burning quality
of that fire, He can create causes to that effect within its very
body. Moreover, when we have accepted God's power and wisdom to be
limitless and eternal, it becomes equally incumbent upon us to
believe that it is merely impossible for us to know of all His power
and wisdom. We cannot, therefore,
frame any rule for His boundless strength; and we certainly cannot measure a thing the limits whereof we do not know. This world is indeed very small, and yet we do not possess full knowledge of this tiny sphere. It will, therefore, be unwise on our part if we should try to measure the infinitely immense power and wisdom of the Creator with our imperfect and inadequate scale.
This page was printed from the 'Official Website of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha'at-e-Islam Lahore (Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement for the Propagation of Islam)'
located at http://aaiil.org or http://www.aaiil.org