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Doctrine of the Attributes of Allah

Doctrine of the Attributes of Allah

We believe that Allah's primary, positive attributes (as-sifat athubutiyyah al-haqiqiyyah), which we call the attributes of Beauty and perfection (al-jamal wa al-Kamal), such as Omniscience ('ilm), Omnipotence (qudrah), Self sufficiency (ghina), Divine will (iradah), Everlasting Life (hayah), are identical with His being and are not in addition to Him, and that His attributes are not part from His Being. Thus His Omnipotence is dependent on His Everlasting life, and His Everlasting Life is dependent on His Everlasting Life, and His Everlasting is dependent on His Omnipotence. His is Powerful because His is Living and His is Living because His is powerful. In fact, there is no duality either between Him and His attributes, or between the attributes of perfection themselves: they must be considered as a unity. They differ in their meaning and their sense,but not in their substance and existence. For, if they differed in their substance, and given that they are eternal to assume that the self-Existence of Allah had number, and the very foundation of tawhid would be destroyed.

However,the positive attributes other than the attributes of perfection (the secondary, positive attributes, as-sifat ath-thubutiyyah al-idafiyyah), such as those of being the Creator (khaliqiyyah), the provider (raziqiyyah), being Without Beginning (taqaddum) and being the First Cause (illiyyah), are all contained within one attributes which is His Self-Subsistence (qayyumiyyah), and we extract these other attributes from the central attribute when we observe the several effects (athar) of its manifestation (e.g when we observe His self-Subsistence in its Creating aspect, we call Him the Creator).

In contrast to this, negative attributes, which are called attributes of Majesty (jalal), are contained in only one negative attribute which is the negation of the possibility (imkan) of these things. This means that He has no body, no appearance, no movement, nor is His motionless; He has no heaviness, nor any lightness, etc.; in reality He has no imperfection. The result of the negation of these possibilities is a return to the Necessity of His Being (wujub al-wujud), which is one of the positive attributes of perfection. So the negative attributes of Majesty ultimately refer back to the positive attributes of perfection, and Allah is One in all respects ; there is no number in His Holy Existence, and there is nothing compound in His Essence.

It is not surprising that some persons, accepting that the positive attributes are, as it were, reflected in the negative attributes, but failing to understand that Allah's attributes are One with His Essence, have imagined, in other to reassure themselves of the Unity of Allah, that the positive attributes depend on the negative ones. However, in this way have permitted a great wrong, for they suppose that Allah's Essence,which is Absolute Being without the Possibility of imperfection, is complete negation and therefore non-existence.

Neither is it surprising that some persons say that His positive attributes are in addition to (idafah) His Essence, therefore saying that His attributes are pre-existence like His Essence, the result being that they are partners of His being. Similarly, others say that Allah is a compound of His attributes, but Allah is far above these things. As the first Imam, Amir al-Mu'minin, 'Ali (A.S) said:

The perfection of His purity is to deny Him attributes, because every attributes is a proof that it is different from that to which it is attributed, and everything to which something is attributed is different from the attributes. Thus, whoever attaches attributes to Allah recognizes His like, and whoever recognizes His like regards to Him as two, and whoever regards Him as two recognizes parts for Him, and whoever recognizes parts for Him has mistaken Him.

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