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Allah’s Attributes – similar to humans?


BISMILLAH HIR RAHMAN NIRRAHEEM

We only call Allah with the beautiful names and attributes that He has assigned to Himself in the authentic texts, Quran and Sunnah. There are some attributes that are exclusive to The Lord of the Universe such as Al Muhyee (The Creator of Life) and Al Mumeet (The Creator of Death), while there are others such as Hearing, Seeing, Hands, Living etc that are also attributable to human beings. There are two groups who have gone to extremes in explaining this similarity. The Anthropomorphist (Muattil) take the position that Allah Azzawajal and human possess the exact same attribute, Allah has used the same name to describe that attribute. The Rationalists (Muatazilla) disregard the text that describe these attributes and deny them, explaining them away as secondary attributes. Then what is the correct understanding?

Firstly, we have to note that the human mind is incapable of comprehending the vastness of Allah’s Majesty. Allah states that:

“Their knowledge cannot encompass Him.” [ Quran Soorah Taahaa (20): 110]

So even though Allah informs us that He sees, it is impossible for us to understand “how”. Hence it is not possible for the finite, imperfect human mind to conceive and comprehend the infinite and perfect attributes of Allah. While there might be resemblance in name, such as Allah’s ‘hands’, the similarity ends at that; and it is impossible to imagine what Allah’s hands might look like. The imaginary description is forbidden as it is not based on knowledge but the human mind’s imagination is an amalgamation of observations from creation.

Secondly, Allah Subhana Wa Ta’alaa states that

“Nothing is similar to Him…” [Quran Soorah Shooraa, (42): 11]

Imam Abu Hanifa in his book “Fiqh Al Akhbar” further expounds that “There is none in His creations in His likeness” and goes on to say “His Attributes are totally different from the attributes of His creation. He knows, but not in the manner we know.” Additionally, Nuaym bin Hammad has written that “Whoever declared Allah similar to an attribute of His creation in any manner, committed disbelief.” Allah’s attributes are similar to humans, just in name. For instance, Allah mentions:

“… He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing.” [Quran Soorah ash-Shooraa, (42): 11]
“Then we made him (i.e. man) hearing, seeing.” [Quran Al-Insan 76:2]

From the above example, we see that qualities of hearing and seeing are present in man, but these attributes are not the same perfect attributes that Allah possess. This can be understood in the realms of man that two people possess intelligence. But, no one person may be equal to another in intelligence. Hence, Allah possess the perfection of the attribute without any deficiency. When we think of humans seeing, we can imagine an eye apparatus and light passing through and falling on the retina inverted and so on. But with Allah, it is impossible to imagine something like a big eye or delving into “how Allah sees?”

When we study the attribute of “Hearing” as in this hadith: ‘Urwah narrated from ‘Aa’ishah that she said, “All praise is due to Allaah whose hearing encompasses all sounds. Khawlah [bint Tha‘labah] came to Allaah’s Messenger complaining about her husband [Aws ibn as-Saamit] and I [according to Ibn Maajah’s narration: was in another corner of the house and] couldn’t hear what she said. Then Allaah, Most Great and Glorious revealed: “Allaah heard the statement …and Allaah hears your conversation.””
In this instance, hearing is referred to Allah’s general awareness of sound. So any human limitations of the definitions of hearing such as range, ears etc. does not apply. As Sheik Uthaimeen (RH) eloquently stated “All of Allah’s attributes are transcendent, attributes of perfection and praise, without any deficiency in any respect,” as stated in the following Quranic verse:

“And to Allah belongs the supreme example.” [Quran Surah Nahl 16:60]

To understand this principle further, let us look at the following hadith:
A man came to Allaah’s Messenger (r) and said: “O Messenger of Allaah! I am suffering from fatigue and hunger.” The Prophet (r) sent someone to his wives but did not find anything with them, so he said: “Isn’t there anyone who can entertain this man tonight so that Allaah may be merciful to him?” A man from the Ansaar got up and said, “I will, O Messenger of Allaah.” So he went to his wife and told her, “This is the guest of Allaah’s Messenger (r), so don’t save anything.” She replied, “By Allaah, I have nothing but the children’s food.” He told her, “When the children ask for their dinner, put them to bed and put out the light and we will not eat tonight.” She did so. When the man from the Ansaar came the next morning, he (r) said to him, “Allaah, Most Great and Glorious, was amazed at such-and-such a man and woman. So Allaah, Most Great and Glorious revealed: “… They give preference to others over themselves even though they are in need.” (Quran Soorah al-Hashr, 59: 9)”

We see “amazement” attributed to Allah in the above hadith. So how do we apply the principle of affirming perfection and disassociating deficiency? Amazement can occur either by the subject being surprised at an event as he was not aware of it or one can be amazed as a particular event was out of the norm, even though he may be aware. The latter is an amazement due to appreciation which can be attributed to Allah and the former is due to lack of knowledge and cannot be attributed to Allah Almighty.

In conclusion, we say state that the correct attitude towards Allah’s attribute is neither the extreme view of denying and misinterpreting those attributes that are common in name nor the other end of the spectrum of assigning human attributes in complete similarity to Allah’s but it is in between the two that Allah’s attributes are transcendent, attributes of perfection and praise, without any deficiency in any respect. While they may be similar to some attributes that His creation possess, the similarity ends in the name and it is impossible for us to comprehend the “hows” of His attributes.

Pg 13-14, Aqeedah Tahawi, Syed Iqbal Zaheer
Pg 11, The Radiance of Faith, Dr. Bilal Philips
Pg 24. Aqeedah Tahawi, Syed Iqbal Zaheer
Pg 11, The Radiance of Faith, Dr. Bilal Philips
Sahih Al Bukhari, vol. 9, p. 359, Chapter [9], Sunan Ibn Maajah, vol. 1, p. 105, no. 188
Pg 11, The Radiance of Faith, Dr. Bilal Philips
Sahih Al-Bukhari, vol. 6, p. 382-3, no. 411
Pg 36, The Radiance of Faith, Dr. Bilal Philips

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  1. MAHA FARHAT
    November 4, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    HOW DOES THE BELIEVE THAT HUMAN SHARES ALLAH ATTRIBUTE BUT IN IMPERFECT FORM EFFEATS OUR BEHAVIOUR?

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