Who Is Almighty Allah?
There is no difference of opinion amongst Muslims that the Religion of Allah is Islam that the only way to know Islam is through the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of The Holy Prophet (pbuh&hf). The present article aims to deliver the opinion of Shia Islam concerning Almighty Allah briefly and proves that the Allah that Shia Muslims worship is the same Allah that The Glorious Quran and the Prophet introduced us to pray.
PERSON OF ALMIGHTY ALLAH
Sunni Muslims say that Allah has a body, not like the bodies we know. There is a vast material which can be quoted here describing that belief. But as all the Sunnis nowadays are Asharitc (followers of Abull-Hassan Al-Ash'ari), It would note down his belief on this subject. He says: "We confess that Allah is firmly seated on His Throne.....We confess that Allah has two hands, without asking how.....We confess that Allah has two eyes, without asking how....We confess that Allah has a face We confirm that Allah has a knowledge....We affirm hearing and sight, and do not deny that, as do the Mu'tazila, the Jahmiyya, and the Khawarij....We affirm that Allah has a power...." (1) but We, the Shia Muslims believe that Allah does NOT have a body. "Verily, Allah is One, unique, nothing is like Him, He is Eternal; Hearing, Seeing, Omniscient, Living, Omnipotent, above every need, He cannot be describe in terms of substance, nor body, nor form, nor accident, nor line, nor surface, nor heaviness, nor lightness, nor color, nor movement, nor rest, nor time, nor space. He is above all the descriptions which can be applied to His creatures."(2) "He is away from both extremes: Neither He is just a non-entity (as atheists and in a lesser degree Mu'tazilites implied), nor He is just like other things. He is Existent, not like other existing things". (3) Of course, there are some verses in the Qur'an which ascribe the words used for limbs to the person of Allah. However, according to the interpretation of our Imams, they are used in metaphorical, not literal, sense. For example, the verse: "Everything is mortal except His Face"(4) means 'except His Person'. Surely, even the Sunnis cannot say that only the Face of Allah will remain, while all His so-called limbs will die! Similarly, Allah has used the word Hand in several places in the Qur'an. But it means His Power and His Mercy, as in the verse: "But His Hands are outspread."(5)
IS ALLAH VISIBLE?
As a direct result of the above-mentioned difference, the Sunnis say that Allah can be seen. Some of them, like Ahmad bin Hanbal, say that He can be seen in this world, as well as in the life hereafter. Others say that He can be seen in the life hereafter only. On the other hand, we, the Shia Muslims say that He cannot be seen anywhere, because He has no body, and because Allah says in the Qur'an: "Sight cannot reach Him."(6). The Sunni brothers use the following verse as their proof: "Some faces on that day (of judgment) will be fresh, looking towards their Lord." (7) But in Arabic language the word "Nadhr" does not imply 'seeing'. Often it is said: I looked towards the new moon but I did not see it? Therefore, the verse cannot imply that they will see Allah. According to our interpretation, it means that they will be looking forward for the blessings of Almighty Allah.
ATTRIBUTES OF ALLAH
According to the Shia beliefs, Attributes of Allah can be put in two distinct groups:
First: those Attributes which denote His Person.
Second: those Attributes which denote His action.
Shaykh Sadooq says: "For example, we say that Allah was forever Hearing, Seeing, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Having power, Living, Self-Existent, One and Eternal. And these are His personal Attributes. "And we do not say that He was from ever Creating, Doing, Intending, pleased, displeased, Giving sustenance, Speaking; because those Virtues describe His actions; and they are not eternal; it is not allowed to say that Allah was doing all these actions from Eternity. The reason for this distinction is obvious. Actions need an object. If, for example, we say that Allah was giving sustenance from ever, we will have to admit the existence of sustained things from ever. In other words, we will have to admit that the world was from ever. But it is against our belief that nothing except Allah is Eternal"(8) It appears that the Sunni brothers have no clear view of this distinction. In addition, they say that all His attributes are Eternal. Moreover, that was the actual cause of their belief that Qur'an, being the speech of Allah, is Eternal, not created. Because they said that He was Mutakallim (speaker) from ever. The Hanbalites so far as said that, Not only were the words and sounds of the Qur'an eternal, so that even its recital was uncreated, but its parchment and binding shared the same qualities. In the so-called Testament of Abu Hanifa a more moderate view is expressed: We confess that the Qur'an is the speech of Allah, uncreated, His inspiration, and revelation, not He, yet not other than He, but His real quality, written in the copies, recited by the tongues, The ink, the paper, the writing are created, for they are the work of man." (9). But, as we, the Shia, distinguish between His personal Virtues and His actions. And, we say: "Our belief about the Quran is that it is The Speech of Allah, and His Revelation Sent by Him, and His Word and His Book. And that Allah is its Creator and its Sender and its Guardian"(10). The bitter quarrels, among two groups of Sunnis i.e. the Mutazilites and the Asharites on this subject are well-known, and there is no need to relive them.
PLACE OF REASON IN RELIGION
This is one of the most important distinctions between Sunnis on one side, and the Shia on another. To be more exact, I should have used the word Ash'arites, in place of Sunnis. But all Sunnis nowadays are Ash'arites. Muitazilites have become extinct long ago, though some of the great scholars of the recent times like Justice Amir Ali were Muitazilites. Anyhow, the Shia say: "That irrespective of religious commandments, there is real merit or demerit in different courses of actions, and it is because a certain thing is good that Allah orders it, and because the other is bad that He forbids it." Sunnis deny this conception. They say that nothing is good or evil in itself. Only what Allah has commanded us is good and what He has forbidden us is evil. If a thing is forbidden by Allah, it is bad; then if Allah cancels the first order, and allows it, it will become good, after being bad. In other words, Shia says that Allah has forbidden us to tell lie because it is bad; Sunnis say that lie has become bad because Allah has forbidden it. Shia recognizes the relation of cause with effect. Sunnis deny it. They say that there is no cause except Allah. In addition, it is just a habit of Allah that whenever, for example, we drink water He quenches our thirst. Based upon the above difference of attitude about the position of reason in religion are the following differences: The Shia says, "That Allah never acts without purpose or aimlessly. All His actions are based on wisdom and intelligent purpose. Proof: Because it is not commendable, rationally, to act without purpose. Sunnis on the other hand, because of their denouncement of rational merit or demerit, say that it is quite possible for Allah to act aimlessly. " It follows that, according to the Shia, Allah does nothing which has inherent demerit in it. Sunnis deny it. The Shia says, "That all actions of Allah are intended for the benefit of His creatures. Because He Himself has no need; and if His actions become devoid of benefits for His creation also, they will become aimless, which is rationally not commendable. Sunnis deny it, because of their stand about rational merit or demerit."
Based upon the above differences, is the difference about their attitude towards Grace of Allah. The Shia says, "That Grace is incumbent morally upon Allah. By Grace is understood that action on the part of Allah which would help to bring His creatures nearer to His devotion and obedience and facilitate their moral correction, (which is) morally incumbent on Him." "Allah Has commanded us to be just, while He Himself treats us with something better, namely Grace Tafaddul." Sunnis, on the other hand, say, "Allah leads astray whom He wills and guides aright whom He wills, and it is not incumbent upon Allah Most High to do that which may be best for the creature". (11)
Based upon our stand on Justice and Grace is our view that: "Whatever Allah has promised as reward for a good work, He will fulfill it; but whatever He has threatened as punishment for a bad work it is upon His discretion: If He meted out the punishment, it will be by His Justice; if He forgives it, it will be by His Grace."(12). We are confronted both by Kharijites and Mutazilites on one side and Asharites on other side. Mu'tazilites and Kharijites say, "That it is incumbent upon Allah to fulfill His threats also. He has no power to forgive." Ashiarites, on the other hand say, "That it is not incumbent upon Him even to fulfill His promises of rewards." They go so far as to say, "Even if Allah was to send the prophets into Hell, and Satan in Paradise, it is not against virtue, because there is no inherent demerit in any action".
WHY BELIEVE IN ALLAH?
Shia says: "Man is obliged by his reason to know Allah, and to obey His commands. In other words, necessity of religion is proved, first of all, by reason." But, Sunnis say: Reason has nothing to do with anything. Of course, it is necessary to believe in Allah, but not because of reason. It is necessary because Allah has ordered us to know Him. According to Shia view, this type of proof creates a vicious circle. Believe in Allah. Why? Because Allah has ordered it. But we do not know who is Allah. Why should we obey Him?
1. (A.J. Arbery, "Revelation and Reason in Islam", pp.22-23; quoted from "Al-Ibarla" by Abul-Hasan Al-Ash'ari).
2. (Shaykh Al-Sadooq Itiqadat).
8. (Shaykh Al-Sadooq, Itiqadat)
9. (A.J. Arberry, 'Revelations and in Reason Islam', pp.26-27)
10. (Shaykh Al-Sadooq, Itiqadat)
11. (Creed of al-Nasafi)
12. (Shakh Sadooq, 'I'tiqadat')