Monday, December 11, 2017
News Code : 349356 | Publish Date :2017/6/7 - 08:58 | Category: ARTICLES
Doctrines of Shi’i Islam
The divine attributes (Sifat ) part ۶
There is another group of attributes mentioned in the Quran and Hadith that cannot be understood any other way than by means of traditional, transmitted knowledge (naql).

 - (Hawzah News Agency ­(Qom, Iran) - The reason for calling these attributes khabari (pertaining to information) is that it is only traditional, transmitted knowledge that can provide us with information regarding these attributes. It is important to remind ourselves that the intellect, or human wisdom, cannot interpret these attributes according to their conventional meanings.

Informative (khabari) Attributes
What has thus far been addressed in regard to the divine attributes (except for that of speech) pertains to the type of attribute that can be evaluated by means of intellectual affirmation or negation in regard to God. But there is another group of attributes mentioned in the Quran and Hadith that cannot be understood any other way than by means of traditional, transmitted knowledge (naql). For example:

1. The Hand of God:
 

Truly, those who swear allegiance unto thee [O Prophet], swear allegiance only unto God. The Hand of God is above their hands. (Sura al-Fath, XLVIII:10)
 

2. The Face of God:
 

Unto God belong the east and the west, and wherever ye turn, there is the Face of God. (Sura al-Baqara, II:115)
 

3. The Eye of God:
 

Build the ship under Our Eyes and by Our inspiration. (Sura Hud, I:37)
 

4. God being ‘established’ (istiwa) on the Throne:
 

The Beneficent One, Who is established on the Throne. (Sura Ta Ha, XX:5)
 

The reason for calling these attributes khabari (pertaining to information) is that it is only traditional, transmitted knowledge that can provide us with information regarding these attributes. It is important to remind ourselves that the intellect, or human wisdom, cannot interpret these attributes according to their conventional meanings, for this would lead to conceiving of God as ‘embodied’ (tajsim), and therefore similar to us (tashbih); intellectual and transmitted knowledge alike warn us against these misconceptions. Thus, we must keep firmly in mind all of the Quranic verses on this subject if we are to obtain a true explanation of these attributes. We must also remember that the Arabic language, like many others, is rich in metaphors and symbolic allusions, and the Holy Quran, which employs the language of the Arabs, makes ample use of this mode of discourse. This having been understood, we can proceed with an explanation of these attributes.
 

In the first verse quoted above, it is said that those who pledge allegiance to the Prophet—by taking his hand into theirs—are in fact making their pledge to God, since allegiance given to the one sent is ipso facto allegiance to the One who sent him. So it is said that the Hand of God is above their hands: this means that the power of God is greater than their power—not that he possesses a bodily ‘Hand’ and that His ‘Hands’ are literally above
their ‘hands’. In support of this interpretation we might adduce the remainder of the verse:
 

So whoever breaketh his oath, breaketh it only to his soul’s detriment; while whoever keepeth his covenant with God, on him will He bestow an immense reward. (Sura al-Fat, XVIII:10)
 

The content of this discourse—threatening those who break their promise and giving glad tidings to those who keep their promise—clearly reveals that the meaning of the ‘Hand’ of God is His power and authority. Also, the word ‘hand’ appears in many dictionaries as a metaphor for power, as it is said in Persian: ‘There are many whose “hands” are higher than yours’ [meaning: there are many who are more powerful than you.]
 

[In the second verse quoted above], the meaning of the ‘Face’ of God is His Essence; it is not to be compared with the human face or any other creature’s face. When the Quran speaks of the annihilation (fana) and non-existence of human beings, it says,
 

Everyone that is thereon will perish,’ following this with an affirmation of the subsistence (baqa) and permanence of the Being of God, there being no possibility of annihilation in regard to Him:
 

Everyone that is thereon will perish; and there subsists the Face of thy Lord, Possessor of Might and Glory. (Sura al-Rahman, IV:26–27)
 

The meaning of the ‘Face’ of God being everywhere is clarified by these verses. God is not to be located at a particular point; rather, His Being encompasses all things, such that wherever we look, we are facing Him. Further affirmation of this interpretation is given by reflecting upon the following two attributes [mentioned at the end of the verse partially cited above, al-Baqara, II:115]: the All-encompassing (al-Wasi), the Being of God is infinite; and the Knowing (al-Alim), He knows all things.
 

In the third of the verses quoted above, the Prophet Noah is commanded to construct the ark. The building of such a vessel, far from the sea, led to Noah being mocked by his ignorant folk. In such circumstances, it is as if God said to him: ‘Build the ark, you are under Our supervision; We have inspired you to do this.’The meaning here is that Noah was acting under divine guidance, hence he would be protected by God, and would not be disturbed
by the mockery to which he was being subjected. [In the fourth verse], the word arsh in Arabic means ‘throne’;
and istiwa, when used in conjunction with ala, means ‘being established’ and ‘having ascendancy over’. Those in power normally dispose of the affairs of state when they are firmly established in the seat of state authority; hence, we can interpret this verse as a metaphor for the divine authority, which holds sway over the disposition of all things. Apart from the evidence given by the intellect and traditionally received sources, which alike affirm that God is not spatially restricted, one can uphold the validity of our metaphorical interpretation of God ‘being established on the Throne’ by considering the following two points: (a) in many verses preceding this one there are descriptions of the creation of the heavens and the earth, and how God raised up the edifice of the universe without recourse to visible pillars; (b) in many verses following this one, mention is made of the governance of the affairs of the world.
 

The significance of the phraseestablished on the Throne becomes clearer when we see that this verse comes between the theme of creation, on the one hand, and that of governance, on the other. The Quran wishes to remind us that the creation of the universe, despite its awesome dimensions, does not require us to exclude God from being in absolute control of its affairs. On the contrary, in addition to being responsible for the initial act of creation, God has a firm grip on the reins of supreme power over all the affairs of the universe. Suffice to cite the following as one of the many verses demonstrating this point:
 

Verily, your Lord is God Who created the heaven and the earth in six days, then He established Himself upon the Throne, directing all things. There is no intercessor [with Him] save after His permission... (Sura Yunus, X:3)

 

Reference:

 Ayatollah Jafar Sobhani, Doctrines of Shii Islam, A Compendium of Imami Beliefs and Practices, Translated and Edited by Reza Shah-Kazemi, published by I.B.Tauris Publishers, london • new york  2003

Negative (Salbi) Attributes

Hawzah News Agency ­- Informative (khabari) Attributes
What has thus far been addressed in regard to the divine attributes (except for that of speech) pertains to the type of attribute that can be evaluated by means of intellectual affirmation or negation in regard to God. But there is another group of attributes mentioned in the Quran and Hadith that cannot be understood any other way than by means of traditional, transmitted knowledge (naql). For example:
 

1. The Hand of God:
 

Truly, those who swear allegiance unto thee [O Prophet], swear allegiance only unto God. The Hand of God is above their hands. (Sura al-Fath, XLVIII:10)
 

2. The Face of God:
 

Unto God belong the east and the west, and wherever ye turn, there is the Face of God. (Sura al-Baqara, II:115)
 

3. The Eye of God:
 

Build the ship under Our Eyes and by Our inspiration. (Sura Hud, I:37)
 

4. God being ‘established’ (istiwa) on the Throne:
 

The Beneficent One, Who is established on the Throne. (Sura Ta Ha, XX:5)
 

The reason for calling these attributes khabari (pertaining to information) is that it is only traditional, transmitted knowledge that can provide us with information regarding these attributes. It is important to remind ourselves that the intellect, or human wisdom, cannot interpret these attributes according to their conventional meanings, for this would lead to conceiving of God as ‘embodied’ (tajsim), and therefore similar to us (tashbih); intellectual and transmitted knowledge alike warn us against these misconceptions. Thus, we must keep firmly in mind all of the Quranic verses on this subject if we are to obtain a true explanation of these attributes. We must also remember that the Arabic language, like many others, is rich in metaphors and symbolic allusions, and the Holy Quran, which employs the language of the Arabs, makes ample use of this mode of discourse. This having been understood, we can proceed with an explanation of these attributes.
 

In the first verse quoted above, it is said that those who pledge allegiance to the Prophet—by taking his hand into theirs—are in fact making their pledge to God, since allegiance given to the one sent is ipso facto allegiance to the One who sent him. So it is said that the Hand of God is above their hands: this means that the power of God is greater than their power—not that he possesses a bodily ‘Hand’ and that His ‘Hands’ are literally above
their ‘hands’. In support of this interpretation we might adduce the remainder of the verse:
 

So whoever breaketh his oath, breaketh it only to his soul’s detriment; while whoever keepeth his covenant with God, on him will He bestow an immense reward. (Sura al-Fat, XVIII:10)
 

The content of this discourse—threatening those who break their promise and giving glad tidings to those who keep their promise—clearly reveals that the meaning of the ‘Hand’ of God is His power and authority. Also, the word ‘hand’ appears in many dictionaries as a metaphor for power, as it is said in Persian: ‘There are many whose “hands” are higher than yours’ [meaning: there are many who are more powerful than you.]
 

[In the second verse quoted above], the meaning of the ‘Face’ of God is His Essence; it is not to be compared with the human face or any other creature’s face. When the Quran speaks of the annihilation (fana) and non-existence of human beings, it says,
 

Everyone that is thereon will perish,’ following this with an affirmation of the subsistence (baqa) and permanence of the Being of God, there being no possibility of annihilation in regard to Him:
 

Everyone that is thereon will perish; and there subsists the Face of thy Lord, Possessor of Might and Glory. (Sura al-Rahman, IV:26–27)
 

The meaning of the ‘Face’ of God being everywhere is clarified by these verses. God is not to be located at a particular point; rather, His Being encompasses all things, such that wherever we look, we are facing Him. Further affirmation of this interpretation is given by reflecting upon the following two attributes [mentioned at the end of the verse partially cited above, al-Baqara, II:115]: the All-encompassing (al-Wasi), the Being of God is infinite; and the Knowing (al-Alim), He knows all things.
 

In the third of the verses quoted above, the Prophet Noah is commanded to construct the ark. The building of such a vessel, far from the sea, led to Noah being mocked by his ignorant folk. In such circumstances, it is as if God said to him: ‘Build the ark, you are under Our supervision; We have inspired you to do this.’The meaning here is that Noah was acting under divine guidance, hence he would be protected by God, and would not be disturbed
by the mockery to which he was being subjected. [In the fourth verse], the word arsh in Arabic means ‘throne’;
and istiwa, when used in conjunction with ala, means ‘being established’ and ‘having ascendancy over’. Those in power normally dispose of the affairs of state when they are firmly established in the seat of state authority; hence, we can interpret this verse as a metaphor for the divine authority, which holds sway over the disposition of all things. Apart from the evidence given by the intellect and traditionally received sources, which alike affirm that God is not spatially restricted, one can uphold the validity of our metaphorical interpretation of God ‘being established on the Throne’ by considering the following two points: (a) in many verses preceding this one there are descriptions of the creation of the heavens and the earth, and how God raised up the edifice of the universe without recourse to visible pillars; (b) in many verses following this one, mention is made of the governance of the affairs of the world.
 

The significance of the phraseestablished on the Throne becomes clearer when we see that this verse comes between the theme of creation, on the one hand, and that of governance, on the other. The Quran wishes to remind us that the creation of the universe, despite its awesome dimensions, does not require us to exclude God from being in absolute control of its affairs. On the contrary, in addition to being responsible for the initial act of creation, God has a firm grip on the reins of supreme power over all the affairs of the universe. Suffice to cite the following as one of the many verses demonstrating this point:
 

Verily, your Lord is God Who created the heaven and the earth in six days, then He established Himself upon the Throne, directing all things. There is no intercessor [with Him] save after His permission... (Sura Yunus, X:3)

 

Reference:

 Ayatollah Jafar Sobhani, Doctrines of Shii Islam, A Compendium of Imami Beliefs and Practices, Translated and Edited by Reza Shah-Kazemi, published by I.B.Tauris Publishers, London • New York  2003

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