What is the reality of Tawakkul and what is its philosophy?


The word tawakkul1 has been derived from وکالت (wakalat), meaning ‘taking for oneself a representative’, and a good representative generally possesses the following four characteristics: Awareness, Trustworthiness, Strength and Sympathy.

It might not appear necessary to mention that one selects a barrister for a task when the individual lacks the strength to defend himself. He therefore seeks the strength of another person and uses his assistance to solve his personal problem.

Accordingly tawakkul means that man, in the face of the difficulties of life, enmity and troubles of opponents, the tangles of existence which hinder his journey towards his objectives, and in instances wherein he finds himself unable to untie the knots, takes Allah (s.w.t.) as his support but, at the same time, does not stop his own efforts and endeavours. Rather, in those instances too, wherein he possesses the strength to perform the work, he looks upon Allah (s.w.t.) as the fundamental influencing force. This is because in the eyes of a (true) monotheist, He is the source of all strength and power.

Contrary to the attribute of ‘relying on Allah (s.w.t.) ‘ is ‘relying on other than Him’ – meaning living dependently upon someone else and not possessing self independence.

Scholars of ethics state: Tawakkul is the direct outcome of ‘Unity of Divine acts’; this is because, as we have mentioned previously, in the eyes of a monotheist every motion, endeavour, movement and occurrence that takes place in this world eventually finds a connection with the Primary Cause of this world i.e. Allah (s.w.t.); consequently, a monotheist regards every strength and power to originate from Him.
The Philosophy of ‘Tawakkul’

In the light of our previous statements, it can be inferred that:

Firstly: Relying on Allah (s.w.t.) – the interminable Source of power and strength – causes man to become more resilient in the face of the troubles and adversities of life. An example of this is when the Muslims suffered a severe blow in the battle of Uhud and the enemies, after having abandoned the battlefield, decided to return once again midway from their journey (back home) with the aim of inflicting a final blow upon the Muslims.

The Qur’an states that when the Muslims were informed of this, those who possessed firm faith were untouched by fright in this extremely dangerous moment when they had lost most of their active forces. On the contrary, placing their reliance on Allah (s.w.t.) and seeking assistance from the power of faith, they increased themselves in firmness and resistance. As a result the victorious enemies, being informed of this, hastily retraced their advance.2

Examples of such resistance, under the light of tawakkul, are observed in numerous verses, amongst them being verse 122 of Surat Ale ‘Imran, in which the Qur’an says that reliance on Allah (s.w.t.) prevented the two groups of soldiers from being overcome with lassitude, in the battlefield.

In verse 12 of Surat Ibrahim it has been mentioned that tawakkul should be accompanied by patience in the face of the attacks of the enemy.

In verse 159 of Surat Ale ‘Imran it has been ordered that when intending to perform an important task, initially consultation should take place; this should be followed up by a firm decision after which, one should place one’s reliance on Allah (s.w.t.) (and proceed in accordance with the decision taken).

The Qur’an even says that only those, who possess faith and tawakkul, shall be able to exhibit resistance vis-à-vis satanic whisperings and not be influenced by them.

إِنَّهُ لَيْسَ لَهُ سُلْطَانٌ عَلـى الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَ عَلـى‏ رَبِّهِمْ يَتَوَكَّلُونَ‏

“Surely he has no authority over those who believe and rely on their Lord.”3

From the entire collection of these verses it can be concluded that tawakkul means that man, in the face of problems, does not experience a feeling of weakness and inferiority, but instead considers himself victorious by relying on the infinite power of Allah (s.w.t.). Thus, tawakkul is a hope-inspiring, energy-insuntiling and reinforcing factor which increases perseverance and resistance.

If the concept of tawakkul meant taking to a corner and sitting idle, it would be meaningless to attribute it to the soldiers and the likes of them.

And if some believe that resorting to various means and natural factors is not in conformity with the spirit of tawakkul, they are mistaken. This is because endeavouring to separate the effects of natural causes from the Will of Allah (s.w.t.) is a kind of polytheism. But is it not a fact that whatever the natural causes possess is from Him alone? And is it not that everything is in accordance with His Will and command? Yes, if we were to regard the causes and means to be an independent apparatus as opposed to Allah’s Will, this would be incompatible with the spirit of tawakkul.

How is it possible to interpret tawakkul in this manner when the Noble Prophet (S), the leader of those who exhibited tawakkul, had never been heedless of utilizing every opportunity, appropriate plan and other exterior means for furthering his aims and objectives; all these only go to prove that the meaning of tawakkul does not have that negative dimension attached to it at all.

Secondly: Relying on Allah (s.w.t.) delivers man from being dependent (on others) – a state, which is the source of humiliation – and imparts freedom and self-confidence to him.

At this point we present some of the traditions in connection with tawakkul for the purpose of illuminating its actual meaning.

Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) says:

إِنَّ الْغِـنـى وَ الْعِزَّ يَجُولاَنِ فَإِذَا ظَفِرَا بِمَوْضِعِ التَّوَكُّلِ أَوْطَنَا.

“Verily, independence and honour are in (a state of) travel and when they come to the place of ‘tawakkul’ they take up residence there.”4

In this tradition, tawakkul has been presented as being the actual dwelling place of independence and honour.

It has been narrated that the Noble Prophet (S) said: I asked Jibrail: “What is ‘tawakkul’?” He replied: “Cognizance (of the fact) that the creation (of Allah) can neither cause harm nor yield benefit; neither can it grant nor withhold (a bounty); (one must) sever all expectations from the creation (of Allah). When a person becomes such, he shall never work for anyone other than Allah (s.w.t.) and shall never hope and expect from anyone other than Him, and this is the reality of ‘tawakkul’.5

Once someone questioned Imam ‘Ali ibne Musa al-Ridha (a.s.)6:

مَا حَدُّ التَّوَكُّلِ؟ فَقَالَ أَنْ لاَ تَخَافَ مَعَ اللٌّهِ أَحَداً.

“What is the extent of ‘tawakkul’? He (a.s.) replied: That you do not fear anyone once you have relied on Allah!” 7 and 8
1. Relying on Allah (s.w.t.) (Tr.)
2. Surat Ale ‘Imran (3), Verse 173
3. Suratul Nahl (16), Verse 99
4. al-Kafi, vol. 2, Chapter al-Tafwidh IlAllah (s.w.t.) Wa al-Tawakkul ‘Alaihi, no. 3
5. Biharul Anwar, vol. 15, Part 2 Fi al-Akhlaq, pg. 14 (Old Publication)
6. Safinatul Bihar, vol. 2, pg. 682
7. For more explanations in connection ‘tawakkul’ and other such issues, refer the book Angizah-e-Paidaish-e-Madhhab.
8. Tafsir-e-Namuna, vol. 10, pg. 295

Is the ‘prosperity’ or ‘wretchedness’ of mankind, inherent?


In verse 105 of Surat Hud, we read:

يَوْمَ يَأْتِ لاَ تَکَلَّمَ نَفْسٌ إِلاَّ بِإِذْنِهِ فَمِنْهُمْ شَقِيٌّ وَ سَعِيدٌ

“On the day when it shall come, no soul shall speak except with His permission, then (some) of them shall be unhappy and (others) happy.”

The question which arises is: Does this verse indicate that man’s prosperity and wretchedness is inherent?

There are several points that need to be taken into consideration:

1. It as we had mentioned earlier, there are some who, on the basis of such verses, have sought to prove that man’s prosperity and wretchedness is inherent. However, not only do they fail to prove this point, but they clearly prove that wretchedness and prosperity are states which are acquired. This is because the verse says:

أَمَّا الَّذِينَ شَقَوْا…

“As for those who will be wretched…”


أَمَّا الَّذِينَ سُعِدُوا…

“As for those who are fortunate…”

indeed, if prosperity and wretchedness were inherent, the verse should have said:

أَمَّا الأَشْقِيَاءُ ءِ وَ أَمَّا السُّعَدَاءُءِ…

‘As for the wretched ones’ and ‘as for the fortunate ones’,

or something similar to this.

Accordingly, it becomes evident that what Fakhr Razi has said in his commentary, when he says – In these verses, Allah (s.w.t.) has already ruled that on the Day of Judgment a group shall be fortunate and blessed whilst another group shall be wretched; and it is impossible for those, regarding whom Allah (s.w.t.) has passed this ruling and about whom, He knows whether they shall be fortunate or wretched, to bring a change within themselves. This is because, should such a thing ever take place, it would mean that the words of Allah (s.w.t.) were lies and His knowledge was (in fact) ignorance – and this is impossible!! – is totally baseless.

This is the popular ‘knowledge of Allah’ objection, which is propounded in connection with the issue of jabr (compulsion) and ikhtiyar (choice). The answer to this claim is as follows:

If we desist from imposing our pre-conceived opinions upon the verse, then its meaning is clear, for it says: On that Day, a group shall be fortunate as a result of their deeds, while a group shall become wretched due to their deeds, and Allah (s.w.t.) is aware of those, who shall traverse the path to prosperity out of their own free will, and those, who shall advance towards wretchedness, out of their own will and choice.

Thus, contrary to what Fakhr Razi has said, if the people were compelled to select a path, His knowledge would in reality be His ignorance since He had known that all the people would opt for the blessed and wretched path of out of their own will and choice.

A proof to what has been stated above is the fact that the above verses are mentioned pursuant to the narratives of the previous nations, a large number of whom, as a result of deviation from the path of truth and opposition to the divine leaders, were seized by a painful chastisement in this world. And the Qur’an, with the objective of guiding us by distinguishing the paths leading towards prosperity and wretchedness, has recounted these narratives for us.

Essentially, as Fakhr Razi and other like-minded individuals imagine, if we were to possess inherent fortunateness and wretchedness, and if it were to be drawn towards good and evil deeds without any choice, all the teaching and training would be vain and futile. The coming of the prophets, the revelation of the Divine books, the advices, admonitions, encouragements, censures, rebukes, criticisms, remonstrations, Reckoning and finally, rewards and punishments – all of them – would be looked upon as either useless, or tyrannical!

Even those, who regard man as being compelled with respect to performing good or evil acts – irrespective of whether they consider this compulsion to be Divine compulsion, natural compulsion, economic compulsion or circumstantial compulsion, only advocate this theory when speaking or studying; however, when it comes to real life actions, even they do not profess this opinion.

And it is for this reason that when their rights are trampled they regard the transgressor as deserving rebuke and punishment, never willing to condone him on the basis that he had been ‘compelled’ into performing this act (on the part of Allah (s.w.t.) ) or regard punishing him as being unjust, or say: he could not refrain himself from committing the act, for Allah (s.w.t.) or nature or the environment forced him into it. This is another proof of the inherent nature of ikhtiyar (choice).

Furthermore, we do not observe any of those who follow the belief of jabr (compulsion), adhering to this belief in the course of their daily activities; rather, in their interaction with the people, they always look upon them as individuals, who possess freedom and choice.

All the world’s inhabitants, by setting up judicial systems for meting out punishments to the offenders, have practically acknowledged man’s freedom of will.

All the educative institutions of the world too have implicitly accepted the opinion that man performs actions by means of his own will and inclination, and it is possible, by means of education, to distance him from errors, lapses and deviated thinking.

2. Interestingly, in the above verses, the word (شقوا) is in the active voice whereas the word (سُعِدُوا) is in the passive. This difference in expression could be a subtle allusion to the point that man advances upon the path of wretchedness by his own self, yet in order to advance upon the path of prosperity, he requires Divine assistance, in the absence of which he shall never be successful.

Undoubtedly, only those who have stepped out in this direction out of their own choice and will, and have developed within themselves the worthiness to benefit from such support, shall come to receive it.1
1. Tafsir-e-Namuna, vol. 9, pg. 236

Why does Allah (s.w.t.) test people?

The topic of Divine trial is an issue of great debate and discussion. The first question that comes to mind is: Are trials not for understanding matters which are obscure, hence eliminating our ignorance? If so, why does Allah (s.w.t.), Who possesses knowledge of the hidden and the manifest of everything within the heavens and the earth, have to examine and test (the people)? Does there exist something, which is concealed from Him and which may become manifest for Him by means of examination?The answer lies in the fact that the concept of examination with respect to Allah (s.w.t.) is vastly different from that, with respect to us.

Our examinations are that which has been stated above, i.e. for a better comprehension and for clearing away ambiguity and ignorance, whilst the Divine trials are, in reality, development and training.

In the Noble Qur’an there are more than twenty instances of examinations that have been attributed to Allah (s.w.t.). This is a general law (of conduct) of Allah (s.w.t.), implemented by Him for the development of man’s hidden abilities (and bringing them from potentiality into actuality), thereby enabling him to progress. Just as iron, for acquiring greater strength, is put into a furnace to make it tempered, similarly man is also nurtured within the furnace of adversities in order that he becomes steadfast.

In reality, the examination of Allah (s.w.t.) resembles the work of an experienced gardener, who sows the seeds in a fertile soil. These seeds, benefiting from the natural bounties, begin to grow gradually – combating adversities, battling unfavourable conditions and enduring violent storms – until they end up in the form of a spray or a copious gargantuan tree, capable of continuing their existence in the face of hardships.

For the purpose of making soldiers tough, militarily, they are made to participate in numerous different exercises and war games, wherein they are subjected to various hardships such as hunger, thirst, heat, chillness, adverse conditions and severe obstacles, in order that they develop into accomplished, conditioned and proficient soldiers.

And this is the secret of Divine examinations.

The Noble Qur’an has asserted this reality, when it says:

وَ لِيَبْـتَلِيَ اللٌّهُ مَا فِي صُدُورِكُمْ وَ لِيُمَحِّصَ مَا فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ وَ اللٌّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُورِ

“And that Allah (s.w.t.) might test what was in your chests and that He might purge what was in your hearts; and Allah (s.w.t.) knows what is in the hearts.”1

The Commander of the Faithful (a.s.), in a statement very profound in meaning regarding the philosophy of Divine trials, says:

وَ إِنْ كَانَ سُبْحَانَهُ أَعْلَمَ بِهِمْ مِنْ أَنْـفُسِهِمْ وَ لٌكِنْ لِتَظْهَرَ الأََفْعَالُ الَّتِي بِهَا يُسْتَحَقُّ الثَّوَابُ وَ الْعِقَابُ‏.

“Although Allah (s.w.t.) s more aware of their souls than they themselves are, He tries them so that their deeds, which necessitate reward and punishment, become manifest.”2

Accordingly, the internal attributes of man can only be a measure for reward or chastisement when they manifest themselves in man’s actions. Allah (s.w.t.) tries man to enable that which he possesses in the interior to become manifest in deed and, his talents and abilities emerge from potentiality into actuality.

In the absence of Divine examination, these talents and abilities would have never flourished, and consequently the fruits of deeds would have never manifested themselves upon the branches of the tree of human existence; and this is the philosophy of Divine trials from the Islamic perspective.3
1. Surat Ale ‘Imran (3), Verse 154
2. Nahjul Balagha, Short Saying 93
3. Tafsir-e-Namuna, vol. 1, pg. 526

What is the purpose of the perfection of man?


Some ask that although the aim of our creation is human perfection, what is the purpose of this goal?
The answer to this question shall become clear by considering the fact that perfection is the final aim or in other words, it is:

غَايَةُ الْغَايَاتِ.


If we were to ask a student: Why do you study? He would say: So that I can gain admission into a university.

If we ask: Why do you desire to get yourself admitted into a university? He would answer: So that I can become an able doctor or an engineer (for example).

If we ask again: Why do you desire to possess a medical or an engineering degree? He shall say: So that I may engage myself in a productive activity and also that I earn a good income.

If we were to persist and ask: Why do you need a good income? He would say: So that I can lead a respectable and comfortable life.

Finally if we ask him: Why do you desire to lead a respectable and comfortable life? At this juncture we shall notice that his tone changes and he will say: Well, so that I can lead a respectable and comfortable life.

He repeats his previous answer.

This proves that he has reached his final answer and, technically speaking, he has reached the غَايَةُ الْغاَياَت – the final aim of his efforts beyond which there exists no answer and which constitutes his final aim and objective. This is with regard to the material life.

The case is similar in respect to the spiritual life too. When it is said: What was the purpose of the prophets, the revelation of the Divine Books, the religious obligations, and the educative set-up? We say: For achieving human perfection and attaining proximity to Allah (s.w.t.).

Now, if it is said: What is the purpose of achieving human perfection and attaining proximity to Allah (s.w.t.)? We say: For proximity to Allah (s.w.t.)!

This is the final aim. Expressing it differently, we desire everything for the sake of perfection and attaining nearness to Allah (s.w.t.), but we seek nearness to Allah (s.w.t.) for itself (i.e. nearness to Allah (s.w.t.) ).1
1. Tafsir-e-Namuna, vol. 22, pg. 393

Why did Allah (s.w.t.) not create mankind perfect from the onset?

This objection stems from an oversight of the fact that the main branch of perfection is voluntary perfection. In other words, perfection (and development) means that man traverses the path using his own feet and by means of his resolve. If he were to be held by the hand and taken by force, neither would it be a matter of glory nor would real perfection be achieved.

For example, if a person out of his own will decided to give one riyal from his wealth in charity, he would have progressed towards moral perfection in that same ratio, whereas if millions were to be taken forcefully from him and given in charity, he would not have advanced even one step towards this goal. It is for this reason that in various verses of the Qur’an this reality has been asserted that had Allah (s.w.t.) desired, all the people would have become believers, under compulsion. However such faith would not have proved beneficial to them.1

وَلَوْ شَاءَ رَبُّكَ لَآمَنَ مَنْ فِي الْأَرْضِ كُلُّهُمْ جَمِيعًا

“And if your Lord had pleased, surely all those who are in the Earth would have believed – all of them.”2
1. Ibid., vol. 13, pg. 375
2. Surat Yunus (10), Verse 99

What is the purpose of mankind’s creation?


It is rare to find someone who has not asked himself or others the question: “What is the purpose of our creation?” A group of people continuously come into this world while another group leave it, becoming extinguished for ever – what is the idea behind this coming and going?

If we humans had not been living on this planet, what difference would it have made? Is it necessary for us to know why we have come and why we shall go? If we discover the reason, do we have the ability to acquire this objective? Subsequent to this question, numerous other questions loom, plaguing man’s mind and thoughts.

Whenever the materialists ask themselves this question, they apparently cannot answer it since matter does not possess perception and intellect for it to pursue an objective. Hence, they have put themselves at ease in this regard by convincing themselves of the insignificance of man’s creation!

Is it not strange that these people envision precise aims and plan systematic programs for the minute details of life such as education, job, work, treatment, medication and sports, but, when they view life as a whole, they considers it to be aimless?

Thus, it is not astonishing that when a group from amongst such people reflect upon these issues, they become discontented by this vain and purposeless life and consequently resort to suicide.

However, when a God-worshipping person asks himself this question, he never finds himself in despair. Primarily, he knows that the Creator of this world is Wise and therefore His act of creation is undoubtedly based on wisdom – although some men might not be aware of it; secondly, viewing every part of himself, he observes that each one possesses an objective. Not only the brain, heart, blood vessels and the nerves, but even the nails, eyelashes, fingerprints, the depressions in the palms and the feet; each has a philosophy attached to its presence which has been identified and proven today.

How naïvely we reflect when we consider all of these to individually possess a purpose but to collectively lack an objective!

What kind of absurd judgment it is that identifies an objective for the construction of each building within a city, yet denies the existence of any purpose for the city itself!

Is it conceivable that an engineer constructs a great building in which all the rooms, passages, doors, hatches, ponds, gardens and the décors have been meticulously built with a particular purpose in mind, whilst the building itself has been constructed without any objective?

These are the points which provide conviction to a believing person that this creation pursues a great objective, which he should strive to comprehend by means of his intellect.

Furthermore, it is amazing that when the advocates of the purposelessness of creation venture into the fields of physical sciences, they relentlessly endeavor to uncover the aim of various phenomena which they happen come across; so much so that they are unwilling to consider the insignificance of even one small gland situated in a corner of the body – experimenting for years to uncover the reason behind its existence. However, when it comes to the creation of man, they unequivocally claim it to be without an objective! What a bizarre contradiction!

In any event, belief in the Wisdom of Allah (s.w.t.) and attention towards the purpose of the various parts of man, imparts a firm conviction to us that there exists a great significance behind the creation of man.

Having comprehended this, we ought to strive to understand this purpose and, to the best of our abilities, set off towards achieving it.

Attention towards one fundamental point might serve to illuminate our path and thereby make our journey easier:

All of our actions are always motivated by an objective; and this goal usually involves combating our flaws and fulfilling our requirements. Even acts such as serving someone, helping a person in distress or practicing self-sacrifice; each serve to do away with shortcomings and fulfill our spiritual needs.

Accordingly, in contemplating the attributes and acts of Allah (s.w.t.) we usually blunder by comparing them with ours, often asking: What flaws and shortcomings did Allah (s.w.t.) possess that could possibly be eliminated by creating us? Or, when we read in the Qur’an, which states that the purpose of man’s creation is worshipping Allah (s.w.t.), we ask: Why does He need our worship? We do not realize that these thoughts stem from an erroneous comparison of the attributes of the Creator with the created.

Man indeed is a limited and confined entity which strives to do away shortcomings and hence concentrates its efforts towards achieving this objective. However, this concept is meaningless with respect to an Entity that is unlimited and infinite, and hence we ought to seek the objective and purpose of His acts in entities other than Him.

He is an abundant overflowing spring and the bounty-creating Originator who, having taken the entire creation within the canopy of His support, nourishes and fosters them, leading them from imperfection towards perfection. This is the actual purpose of our servitude (towards Allah (s.w.t.) ) and this is the philosophy of our worship and prayers, which are indeed training classes for leading us towards perfection.

Consequently we conclude that the purpose of our creation is the (achievement) of perfection of our selves.

Basically, the actual act of creation – that is to move from non-existence into existence, from a non-entity into an entity, from zero to a figure – is a huge step towards perfection, subsequent to which start the other phases that lead towards this goal, including the entire religious set-up which emphasizes this objective.1
1. Tafsir-e-Namuna, vol. 22, pg. 389

Do Shiites differentiate between Allah and Imams?


Like all other schools, Shiite school has been encountering extremist groups that are called by different names such as ghulāt (exaggerators), muqassera and nawasib and which have, in the course of history, created difficulties for Shiites and their Imams.

Shiite Imams made continuous efforts to protect Shiites from the dangers posed by these deviant currents. By clarifying their position and recommending moderation in all affairs and by repelling corrupt agents and exposing their true personality and their real purposes they tried to consolidate original Shiite beliefs among Muslims especially their followers.

While demonstrating miraculous acts and some distinct traits for Imams, Shiite scholars excommunicated the ghulāt and explained the mistakes in their extremist ideas.

What are the meanings of the informative attributes of Allah?

allahs-99-namesKhabariyah or informative attributes, the definitions and the views expressed concerning them are some of the most contentious issues among various Islamic theological schools. Khabariyah or informative attributes refer to attributes which have been mentioned in the Quran and narrations and that they are not supported by any proofs other than textual evidence.[1] Some examples of the Quranic verses which refer to these attributes are the following:
1. Hand of Allah (Yadullah):
«إِنَّ الَّذِینَ یُبایِعُونَکَ إِنَّما یُبایِعُونَ اللَّهَ یَدُ اللَّهِ فَوْقَ أَیْدِیهِمْ»[2]
“Surely those who swear allegiance to you do but swear allegiance to Allah; the hand of Allah is above their hands.”
2. Face of Allah (Wajhullah):
«وَ لِلَّهِ الْمَشْرِقُ وَ الْمَغْرِبُ فَأَیْنَما تُوَلُّوا فَثَمَّ وَجْهُ اللَّهِ»[3]
“Unto Allah belong the East and the West, and whithersoever ye turn, there is Allah’s Countenance (face). Lo! Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing.”
3. Eye of Allah (Ainullah):
«وَ اصْنَعِ الْفُلْکَ بِأَعْیُنِنا وَ وَحْیِنا»[4]
“And make the ark before Our eyes and (according to) Our revelation, and do not speak to Me in respect of those who are unjust.”
4. Being Established on the Throne:
«الرَّحْمنُ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ اسْتَوى‏»[5]
“(Allah) Most Gracious is firmly established on the throne (of authority).”
Keeping in view that these verses signify that God, the Glorified is physical and corporeal, it has been agreed by all Muslim scholars that while ascribing such attributes to God, we must suffice to what has been mentioned in the Quran and reliable traditions.  However, different Muslim sects have fallen into dispute concerning the interpretation and meaning of these attributes. Some have likened God to material entities and human beings in the sense that He has eyes and hands like human beings. Some others have denied these attributes with regard to Allah saying that there is no resemblance between God and human beings. However, Shiite theologians relying on traditions and sayings of the Household of the Holy Prophet (S), have their own viewpoint as shall be mentioned.
A) Shia Perspective
The Shia school following the Household (Ahlul-Bayt), peace be upon them, believe that God, the Glorified, is free from matter and that He cannot be likened to anything on the surface of the earth. A careful look at the Quranic verses and the likes will reveal their true purport to us. For instance, Shia scholars unanimously state that the word “yad” (hand) in the Quran refers to God’s power. Thus it means that God is Almighty and All-Powerful.  What is meant by ‘wajh’ is God, the Almighty Himself. That is to say, everything is mortal except God.  As for being establishing on throne, it also means that God is All-Knowing and All-Powerful in contriving and running the world.  Not only should we believe in the denial and likeness and resemblance of Allah to any other things, rather the principle that God is purified of all likeness applies to all divine attributes.  For instance, God’s knowledge  cannot be considered as acquired and external to His essence. God’s knowledge is identical with His essence. It is by presence and infinite. The position is the same with God’s power and life which are infinite and identical with His very essence.
Imam Reza (A.S) has been reported as having said: “In the subject of tawhid (divine unity), people are of three tendencies: “Negation (of the attributes); likening (God’s attributes to physical attributes) and substantiation of the attributes without likening. It is not permissible to deny the attributes nor is it permissible to liken them. And what is the right path and the correct method, is the establishment of the attributes without likening.”[6] That is to say we should believe in these attributes in such a way that we do not end up likening them to physical attributes.
B) The Sefatiyah Viewpoint
Sefatiyah had been one of the theological sects with many sub-divisions including Ash’arites, Mushabbeha and Karamiyah[7]. They did not differentiate between the attributes of essence and the attributes of action. At least, some of them considered certain khabariyah (informative) attributes like “face”, and “yad” (face and hand) as proven for God without any esoteric or anagogical interpretation.  They went as far as to liken divine attributes to those of humans.[8]
C) The Mu’attilah Perspective
Contrary to Sefatiyah sect, the Mu’tazilites were the ones who have denied some of the names and attributes of God and it was for the same reason that they were called “mu’attilah”[9]. In the beliefs, the resemblance between God and His creatures has been negated with regards to Allah the Glorious and Majestic. No one from the creation is similar to Him.[10] This was a short account on the existing viewpoints regarding the attributes of Allah especially the informative ones under question.


[1] Subhani, Ja’far, Simai Aqaed Shia, translated by Muhaddethi, Jawad, p. 66, Mash’ar Publications, Tehran, 1386 A.H.
[2]  Fath (48): 10
[3] Al-Baqarah (2): 115
[4] Hud (11): 37
[5] Ta-ha (20): 5
[6]  The Arabic version of the narration is as such:
«للناس فی التوحید ثلاثة مذاهب: نفی، و تشبیه، و اثبات بغیر تشبیه، فمذهب النفی لا یجوز، و مذهب التشبیه لا یجوز، و السبیل فی الطریقة الثالثة، اثبات بلا تشبیه»
Sheikh Saduq, al-Tawhid, researched and corrected by Hussein, Hashem, p. 101, Islamic Publications Office, Qom, first edition, 1398 A.H.
[7] Mashkoor, Muhammad Jawad, Glossary of Islamic Sects, p. 301, Astaan Quds Razawi, Mashad, second edition, 1372.
[8] Shahristani, Al-Melal wa al-Nehal, researched by Badran, Muhammad, vol.1, p. 105, Al-Sharif al-Razi, qom, 1364.
[9]  Rizwani, Ali Asghar, Shiatology and Answer to Spurious Questions, vol.2, p. 513, Nashr Mash’ar Publication, Tehran, 1384.
[10] Ibn Attiyah, Jamil Hamood, Abha al-Murad, fi Sharh Mu’atmar Ulama Baghdad, vol.2, p. 152, Al-A’alami Institute, Beirut, 1423.

What is the meaning of God’s devising?


[dropcap]I[/dropcap]mam Rida (AS) was asked about the attribution of deceit and ridicule to Allah, which the Quran has mentioned, his excellency replied: “Allah Almighty neither ridicules nor deceives or devises against anyone; what He does is requite ridicule, devising and deceit.”[1]

Therefore, Allah devises against those who devise against Him, and this is nothing but a proportionate retribution of their own act. This devising has different degrees that one should never feel secure from[2], the reason being that the self is very deceitful.

For example, when performing certain religious acts, one might become proud of himself and see himself as better and higher than others, and wants to use these acts to attract others and hunt them. By this, he thinks he has deceived Allah, while Allah lets him do what he wants and doesn’t get in the way using different causes and doesn’t wake him from his sleep of ignorance. In reality, what has happened is that Allah has retaliated for this individual’s devising with His (God’s) own devising. This makes Allah’s devising a good one, because it is the retribution for devising, while man’s devising is the opposite and is rooted in his wretchedness.

So, it is actually one’s own devising that is hitting him, and this is what is meant by the devising of Allah.

Some sages, have drawn an analogy between Allah’s acts in response to man and the sun; the sun shines on everyone the same, but if an object obstructs the sunlight, a shadow will be made. Now if this object is straight or crooked, the resulting shadow will be the same. One’s ego is like a dark object that stands in the way of the light of Allah and causes darkness (such as chastisement, etc.). But if there is no egoism, it means that there will be no object in the way of the light and Allah’s light and mercy will encompass the individual. This is how Allah is with His pure servants and Satan has nothing to do with them. The more complex and complicated the hypocrite and deceitful person acts in his devising, the more Allah’s devising will be complicated (the same way it goes for the shadow; the more crooked the object, the more crooked the shadow), and as was said, it is the person who is the cause and no other, the same way the cause for the shadow was the object and not the sun, and of course, this is if there is a sun; if there was no sun, there would be no light and no darkness at all.

Can God bring into existence a stone so large that he himself is not able to lift?


[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ne of the attributes of God is his unlimited and boundless power and omnipotence. This question has been asked and answered in fields such as philosophy and scholastic theology. It has also been explained multiple times in the Holy Quran. Yet, this belief in the unlimited power of God has brought up, since ancient times, certain issues and questions. One of these, is this very same question which is being asked now. This question has been asked in different forms and arrangements; yet the essence of the question still remains the same and probes the mystery of absolute divine power.

In order to answer this question, we must first explore the various types of impossibilities. Impossibilities, from one angle, can be divided into two sections. These are: 1. Logical impossibilities, and 2. Regular impossibilities.

Then, logical impossibilities are themselves divided into 2 sections, which are: A- Things impossible in their essence: These are matters which are impossible in their essence, without having to even come into existence in order to show their impossibility, for example, the co-existence of two contradictions. B- Things which aren’t impossible in their essence, but their coming about necessitates something which is impossible in its essence (impossibilities in occurrence). For example, the existence of an effect without having a cause.

Ordinary impossibilities are matters, which are impossible according to natural laws, but they are not impossible logically. For example, the miraculous changing of a staff into a serpent or the curing of the sick without medicine, or various other miracles. None of these are impossible logically, but it is our ignorance about their causes which makes us count them as practical impossibilities.

The power of God, as well as the power which people possess, is related to all things which are possible, while impossibilities are essentially outside of this circle of possibility. Therefore, in answering this question of whether God can create such a rock, which he cannot lift, it must be said that however great someone’s power may be, whether it is a lot or a little, and whether it is finite or infinite, it is a matter which relates to the world of possibilities (regular impossibilities being part of them) and not to impossibilities (the logical impossibilities).

Here, it may be said that if this is the case, then the power of God has become limited or finite and cannot be considered as infinite and limitless. In answering this question, we must keep in mind that God not being able to do an impossibility (in essence or in occurence) does not count as bringing any sort of limitation on the threshold of divine power. This is because these sorts of actions are in essence impossible to enact and don’t bear the potential to come into being. To summarize, these are things which are self limiting, in and of themselves; they are beyond being able to be done or not; power to do them or not isn’t even applicable to them and this is because of the deficiency they have in their own essences.

Imam Ali (a) was asked a similar question when someone said: “Can your God put the whole world into an egg, without making the world smaller or making the egg larger?” Imam (a) answered: “Weakness or inability are not characteristics which can be attributed to God, but what you have asked is something which is not possible to come into existence (it does not have the possibility of existence).”