On The Unity of Allah (5)

On The Unity of Allah (5)

C. Imam al-Baqir, the Fifth Imam

The Incomparable Lord
Abu Basir has related that a man came to Abu Ja'far (the fifth Imam) and said to him, "O Abu Ja'far, tell me about thy Lord! When was He ?"
He said, "Woe unto thee! Surely it is said of a thing that was not, and then was, 'When was it ?' But my Lord-blessed is He and high exalted - was ever-living without 'how' and had no 'was'. His Being (kawn) had no 'how', nor had it any 'where'. He was not in anything, nor was He on anything. He did not bring into existence a place (makan) for His Being (kan). He increased not in strength after bringing things into being, nor was He weak before bringing things into being. And He was not lonely (mustawhish) before creating things. He resembles nothing brought into being. He was not devoid of power over the dominion before its production that He should be devoid of the dominion [87] after its passing. He remains Living without (created) life, a powerful King before He produces anything (over which to rule) and an all-compelling King (malik jabbar) after He produces the universe (al-kawn). His Being has no 'how', nor has it any 'where', nor has it any limit. He is not known through anything resembling Him. He ages not through the duration of His subsistence. He is thunderstruck by nothing. Nothing causes Him to fear. And all things are thunderstruck by fear of Him." [88]
"He is Living without temporal life, without a being (kawn) described by attributes, without a state which can be defined (kayf mahdud), without a trace which can be followed, and without a place adjacent to anything. Nay, He is a Living One who knows, a King who ever is. His are the power and the dominion. He produces what He wills through His will (mashiyyah). He is neither limited nor divided into parts, and He perishes not. He was the First, without 'how', and He will be the Last, without 'where'. And 'All things perish, except His Face' (XXVIII, 88). 'His are the creation and the command. Blessed be God, the Lord of all beings!'" (VII, 54). "Woe upon thee, O questioner! As for my Lord, truly imaginations envelop Him not, uncertainties touch Him not, He is oppressed by none, none is adjacent to Him, phenomena touch Him not, He is questioned not as to anything He does, [89] He comes not upon anything, [90] 'Slumber seizes Him not, neither sleep' (II, 255). 'To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, and all that is underneath t he soil'" (XX, 6).

D. Imam Ja'far al Sadiq, the Sixth Imam

I. Seeing God
Abu Basir has related that he said to Abu Abdallah-upon whom be peace "Tell me about God, the Mighty and Majestic Will believers see Him on the Day of Resurrection ?"
He answered, "Yes, and they have already seen Him before the Day of Resurrection."
Abu Basir asked, "When ?" The Imam answered, "When He said to them, 'Am I not your Lord?' They said: 'Yea, verily' (VII, I72)." [91] Then he was quiet for a time. Then he said, "Truly the believers see him in this world before the Day of Resurrection. Doest thou not see Him now ?" Abu Basir then said to him, "That I might be made thy sacrifice I Shall I relate this (to others) from thee ?"

He answered, "No, for if thou relatest it, a denier ignorant of the meaning of what thou sayest will deny it. Then he will suppose that it is comparison and unbelief (kufr). But seeing with the heart (al-ru'yah b-il-qalb) is not like seeing with the eyes (al- ru'yah bi-l-ayn). High be God exalted above what the comparers (mushabbihun) and heretics (mulhidun) describe!."
2. The name that can be named ...
It has been related that Abu Abdallah said, "The name of God is other than God, and everything that can be called by the name of a 'thing' (shay') [92] is created, except God. Therefore all that tongues express or is worked by hands [93] is created. God is the goal of him who sets Him as his goal, but the determined goal (al-mughayya, i.e., in the mind of man) is other than the (real) goal. [94]  The goal possesses attributes (mawsuf), and all that possesses attributes has been fashioned (masnu). But the Fashioner (sani) of things does not possess the attributes of any stated limit (hadd musamma). He has not come into being that His Being (kaynunah) should be known through fashioning (sun) (carried out) by other than He. [95] He does not terminate at a limit unless it be other than He. Whoso understands this principle (hukm) will never fall into error. It is the unadulterated profession of Unity (al-tawhid al-khalis), so believe in it, confirm it, and understand it well, with God's permission the Mighty and Majestic." "Whoso maintains that he knows God by means of a veil (hijab) or a form (surah) or a likeness (mithal) is an associator (mushrik), for the veil, the likeness and the form are other than He. He is utterly and only One. So how should he who maintains that he knows Him by means of other than Him be professing Unity ? Surely He alone knows God who knows Him by means of God (billah). Therefore, whoso knows Him not by means of Him knows Him not. On the contrary, he only knows other than Him. There is nothing between the Creator and the created. [96] God is the Creator of things, but not from something. He is named by His names, so He is other than His names, and His names are other than He. [97] The described (al-mawsuf) is other than the describer (al-wasif)." Then whoso maintains that he has faith in that which he does not know has gone astray from knowledge (marifah). [98] A created thing (makhluq) perceives nothing unless by means of God: the knowledge of God is perceived only by means of God. But God is empty of His creatures and His creatures are empty of Him. [99] When He desires a thing, it is as He desires, by His command (amr) and without speech (nutq). His servants have no refuge from that which He decrees (ma qada), and they have no argument against that which is His pleasure. They have no power to act or to deal with that which is brought about in their bodies, created (by God), except by means of their Lord. So whoso maintains that he is able to perform an act which God, the Mighty and Majestic, does not desire, has maintained that his will (iradah) prevails over the Will of God. 'Blessed be God' the Lord of all beings!" (VII 54)

E. Imam kadhim the Seventh Imam

God's Might and Majesty
It has been related that the righteous servant, Musa ibn Ja'far, said, "Surely God - there is no god but He - was the Living without 'how' (kayf) or 'where' (ayn). He was not in anything, nor was He on anything. He did not create a place (makan) for His grandeur (makan). [100] He increased not in might after bringing things into being. Nothing brought into being resembles Him.He was not devoid of power over the dominion before its production, nor will He be devoid of power (over it) after its passing." [101] "He - the Mighty and Majestic - is a Living God without temporal life, King before He produces anything, Master after its production (insha'). God has no limits (hadd). He is not known through something resembling Him. He ages not through subsistence (baqa'). He is struck not by fear of anything, and by fright before Him all things are thunderstruck. [102] So God is Living without temporal life, without a being described by attributes, without a state which can be defined, without a designated location or fixed place. Nay, He is Living in Himself, a Master whose power does not remove. He produced what He wills when He wills through His will and His power. He was First, without 'how', and will be Last, without 'where'.  And 'All things perish, except His face' (XXVIII, 88). 'His are the creation and the command. Blessed be God, the Lord of all beings.' (VII, 54)."

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[87] The text reads "it" for "dominion", but in order to avoid ambiguity the noun has been repeated. In Arabic the masculine pronoun cannot refer to the feminine "power", although if one were to follow the similar sentence in the hadith related from the Seventh Imam below, "power" would be the logical choice as antecedent. The meaning is that before the production of the world God had power over it, and after its end He will still possess it. Whether or not it exists in external form is irrelevant.
[88] Cf. Quran LII, 45: "Then leave them, till they encounter their day wherein they shall be thunderstruck . . .".
[89] Cf. Quran XXI, 23: "He shall not be questioned as to what He does, but they shall be questiooned."
[90] La yaqa' 'ala shay'. The meaning is not completely clear. The editor points out in a footnote (p. 300) that in the Usul min al-kafi the text of this hadith reads yandam for yaqa' i.e., "He becomes remorseful at nothing."
[91] This verse is in reference to the covenant made between God and man before the creation of the world. See S. H. Nasr, Ideals and Realities of Islam, London, I966, pp. 25-7.
[92] God is often referred to as a "thing" (shay') in the, hadith literature, as well as in theology and philosophy, since the meaning of the word "thing" in Arabic is not limited to external, concrete existents. Rather, it signifies reality, entity or quiddity, at whatever level of existence, from the most sublime to the most concrete.
[93] Majlisi interprets this to mean the "script written by hands" (p. I62). I.e., neither the spoken nor the written name is the Named.
[94] The meaning of this sentence is obscure in the Arabic and Majlisi offers at least eight possible readings (pp. I62-3), some of which are very close to one another, and the most likely of which has been followed here. The present interpretation is also that offered by the editor of al-Tawhid, p. 58.
[95] Majlisi comments that this sentence has been interpreted to mean that "God has not come into being. If He had, He would have been originated by another, and His Being as well as the attributes of His origination would be known by means of the fashioning of His maker, just as effects are known by their causes." But, he adds, "In my view perhaps the meaning is that He has not been fashioned and that therefore He cannot be known by comparing Him to something else which has been fashioned" (p. I63). According to this interpretation, the sentence should be translated as follows: "He has not come into being that His Being should be known through something else which has been fashioned."
[96] Majlisi comments: "Between the Creator and His creatures there is no common matter (maddah) or reality (haqiqah) which might allow them to attain to knowledge of Him; rather, He produced them from nothing that was" (p. I65). This passage may also be interpreted to mean, in accordance with the beginning of the paragraph, "There is nothing to act as a veil between the Creator and His creatures."
[97] This passage is related up to this point in the Usul min al-kafi. The Tehran edition of I388/I968-9, published with a Persian translation and notes by one of the well-known contemporary 'ulama', Ayatallah Muhammad Baqir Kamara'i, contains the following commentary (vol. I, pp. 207-8): "The Names of God are His theophanies (jilwah-ha) which cast a ray of light upon man's reason (khirad). Because they become connected to human reason, limit, end and definition (ghayah, nihayah, hadd) apply to them. The limit of each being lies where it is connected to another being. The theophanies of God's act (fi'l) and fashioning (san'ah) which are His creation, become limited in the framework of possible beings (mumkinat) There the ray of light which brings about creation comes to its limit. Thus it is said, 'the existence of a man', or 'of a tree', 'of an angel', 'of the earth', 'of heaven', etc.
"The theophanies of God's attributes (sifat), which are the principle (mabda') of the theophanies of (His) act, are given limits by the functioning of the reason, and thus it is said, God's 'knowledge', 'power', and 'life'. In this way the Names become distinct from the divine Essence, and even the all-inclusive (jami') Name of God, which is 'Allah', is separated from the Essence. The reality of God is other than all of these."
[98] Ma'rifah within the essentially gnostic perspective of Islam is the goal of religious endeavour. See F. Schuon, Understanding Islam, London, I962, chapter I. As explained in the following footnote, the meaning of this sentence is that man has faith not in something which he himself does not know, but in that upon which all of his knowledge is based and which is in fact the object of all knowledge. To the extent he has knowledge, he has knowledge of God, albeit imperfectly, since there is no other knowledge.
[99] In an unpublished work entitled Risalat al-walayah (Treatise on sanctity), 'Allamah Tabataba'i comments on the section of this passage beginning with the words "Whoso maintains that he knows God by means of a veil": "Allusion is made here to the fact that it is logically impossible for the knowledge of something other than God to make necessary the knowledge of God Himself. Because of God's transcendence, it cannot be said that knowledge (of Him) is the very same as the thing known, as has already been explained (earlier m the treatise).
"It is impossible that knowledge of one thing should be knowledge of another thing different from it: otherwise the two different things would be the same, which contradicts the premise. So the fact that knowledge of one thing renders the knowledge of another thing necessary requires some sort of unification (ittihad) between the two things. But since they have been postulated as two things, there must be in addition to an aspect of unification, an aspect of disparity. Thus each of them is compounded of two aspects. Whereas God-glory be to Him-is one and simple in essence: He is not compounded of anything in a manner which would allow Him to be known by other than Him. This point is indicated by the Imam's saying, 'There is nothing between the Creator and the created,' etc., as well as by his words, 'Then he who maintains that he has faith in that which he does not know has gone astray from knowledge', etc., which is derived from his previous saying, i.e., 'Surely he alone knows God who knows Him by means of God,' etc. His words, 'A created thing perceives nothing unless it be by means of God', serve as its proof, for everything is known by means of God, who is 'the Light of the heavens and the earth' (Quran XXIV, 35), so how should things be known by means of other than Him? For He supports every individual being (dhat), and He is without supports in His very Essence (dhat). At the same time, knowledge of that which in its very essence is dependent ensues from knowledge of the Independent Being which supports it, for the fact that knowledge takes form necessarily requires independence in the case of that which is known. Thus knowledge of what is dependent is a consequence of (knowledge of) the Independent which accompanies it. Such is the reality.
And since it might be imagined that this doctrine is incarnation (hulul) or unification (ittihad)-high be God exalted above these-the Imam follows his words by saying, 'God is empty of His creatures and His creatures are empty of Him', etc. Saying that the created being's perception of something is by means of God does not negate the beginning of the passage ('Whoso asserts. . .'), which denies that the knowledge of God should require knowledge of other than Him, for the knowledge which is spoken of at the beginning is acquired (husuli) i.e., rational), and that u the end is 'presential' (huduri) i.e., direct and divinely dispensed knowledge or gnosis)." Folio 26 obverse-reverse (Photocopies of this work are in the possession of a number of 'Allamah Tabataba'i's disciples and students, and it is hoped that some day it will be published).
[100] In al-Tawhid the editor explains that here the second makan is equivalent to makanah or azamah. He comments, "He did not create a place for His station and grandeur because places encompass Him not" (p. I4I). Majlisi prefers the reading kan for makan as found in some manuscripts and also in the ,hadith from the fifth Imam translated above. The meaning would then be as translated there, i.e., "He did not bring into existence a place for His Being."
[101] "Master of the dominion" (malik al-mulk) is a divine name, occurring in Quran III, 26. Cf. Quran III, I89: "To God belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth: and God is powerful over everything" and many similar verses.
[102] Cf. Quran, LII, 45.