IV. ALLAH'S ATTRIBUTES ANALYZED AND EXAMINED
"And the thunder proclaimeth His perfection, with His praise; the angels likewise fear him. And He sendeth the thunderbolts and striketh with them whom He pleaseth whilst they dispute concerning God; for He is mighty in power. - The Koran (Surah 13:13).
"There is none of all that are in the heavens and the earth hut he shall come unto the compassionate as a slave."- The Koran (Surah 19:94).
THESE verses from the Koran are a fit introduction to the study of Allah's attributes; they express the effect those attributes are intended to have and do have on His worshippers and explain in a measure the reason for the usual Moslem classification of God's ninety-nine names. Through fear of death and terror of Allah's mighty power the pious Moslem is all his life subject to bondage.
By some the attributes are divided into three classes (as their rosary is into three sections), i.e., the attributes of wisdom, of power and of goodness.
But the more common division is into two: Isma-ul-Jalaliyah and Isma-ul-Jemaliyah terrible attributes and glorious attributes. The former are more numerous and more emphasized than the latter, not only in the Koran but in Tradition and in daily life. If we try to classify the names given in the last chapter we find the following result: Seven of the names (viz., 66 67, 72, 73, 74, 75 and 86) describe Allah's unity and Absolute being. Five speak of him as Creator or Originator of all nature (viz., 11, 12, 13, 62 and 63). There are twenty-four titles which characterize Allah as merciful and gracious (to believers) (viz., 1, 2, 5, 6, 14, 16, 17, 32, 34, 35, 38, 42, 47, 56, 60, 78, 79, 81, 82, 89, 92, 94, 98, 99) and we are glad to acknowledge that these are indeed beautiful names and that they are used often and beautifully in the Koran. On the other hand, there are thirty-six names to describe Mohammed's idea of Allah's power and pride and absolute sovereignty (viz., 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 15, 20, 21, 23, 24, 28, 33, 36, 37, 39, 41, 45, 48, 49, 53, 54, 58, 59, 61, 65, 68, 69, 76, 77, 83, 84, 87, 88, 95, 96 and 97). And in addition to these "terrible attributes" there are five which describe Allah as hurting and avenging (viz., 22, 25, 80, 90, 91). He is a God who abases, leads astray, avenges, withholds His mercies, and works harm. In all these doings He is independent and all-powerful.
Finally, there are four terms used, which may be said in a special sense to refer to the moral or forensic
in deity (viz. 4, 29, 51 and 85); although we admit that the merciful attributes are in a sense moral attributes. Of these only two occur in the Koran, and both are of doubtful significance in Moslem theology! While we find that the "terrible" attributes of God's power occur again and again in the Koran, the net total of the moral attributes is found in two verses, which mention that Allah is Holy and Truthful, i.e., in the Moslem sense of those words. What a contrast to the Bible! The Koran shows and Tradition illustrates that Mohammed had in a measure a correct idea of the physical attributes (I use the word in the theological sense) of Deity; but he had a false conception of His moral attributes or no conception at all. He saw God's power in nature, but never had a glimpse of His holiness and justice. The reason is plain. Mohammed had no true idea of the nature of sin and its consequences. There is perfect unity in this respect between the prophet's book and his life. Arnold says (Der Islam, p. 70): "Das Attribut der Heiligkeit wird im Koran durchaus ignorirt; alles was �ber die unnahbare Reinheit und Heiligkeit dessen der in der Bibel als der Dreimal Heilige dargestellt wird, gesagt ist l�szt sich von jedem ehrenhaften Menschen sagen." The attribute of Holiness is ignored in the Koran; everything put forward concerning the unapproachable purity and holiness of him who is represented as Thrice Holy in the Bible can be applied to any respectable man. The Koran is
silent on the nature of sin not only, but tells next to nothing about its origin, result and remedy. In this respect the latest Sacred Book of the East stands in marked contrast with all the other sacred books of the heathen and Word of God in the Old and New Testaments. This was noticed as early as the days of the Reformation; for Melanchthon says in an introduction to a Latin Koran that he thinks Mohammed "was inspired by Satan, because he does not explain what sin is and sheweth not the reason of human misery."1
The passages of the Koran that treat of sin are the few following: Surahs 4:30; 2:80; 4:46; 14:39; also Surahs 2:284-286; 9:116; 69:35; 86:9; 70:19-25, and 47:2, 3.
The nearest approach to a definition that can be gathered from these passages is that sin is a willful violation of known law or, as Wherry puts it: "Sin, according to most Moslem authorities, is a conscious act committed against known law; wherefore sins of ignorance are not numbered in the catalogue of crimes." This idea of sin gives rise to the later Jud�ic distinction of sins great and small (Matt. 22:36, cf. Surah 4:30, etc.) on which are based endless speculations of Moslem commentators. Some say there are seven great sins: idolatry, murder, false charge of adultery, wasting the substance of
1 Quoted in Literary Remains of Emanuel Deutsch, London, 1874, p. 62.
orphans, usury, desertion from Jihad, and disobedience to parents. Others say there are seventeen, still others catalogue seven hundred! Without entering into the fruitless discussion of what constitutes a sin, great or small, it is to be noted that to the Moslem, all sins except the Kebira, "great sins," are regarded with utter carelessness and no qualm of conscience. Lying, deception, anger, lust and such like are all smaller and lighter offences; all these will be "forgiven easily" if only men keep clear from great sins.
Another important distinction between the scriptural doctrine of sin and Moslem teaching and which has direct bearing on our interpretation of Allah's attributes is the terms used. The most common word used in the Koran for sin is thanib,1 although other terms are used, especially haram (forbidden).
The words "permitted" and "forbidden" have superseded the use of "guilt" and "transgression;" the reason for this is found in the Koran itself. Nothing is right or wrong by nature, but becomes such by the fiat of the Almighty. What Allah forbids is sin, even should he forbid what seems to the human conscience right and lawful. What Allah allows is not sin and cannot be sin at the time he allows it, though it may have been before or after. One has
1 This word is used for Mohammed's sins and those of other "prophets," and yet nearly all Moslems hold that all of the prophets, including Mohammed, are sinless!
only to argue the matter of polygamy with any Moslem mullah to have the above statements confirmed. To the common mind there is, indeed, no distinction whatever between the ceremonial law and the moral nor is it easy to find such a distinction even implied in the Koran. It is as great an offense to pray with unwashen hands as to tell a lie, and "pious" Moslems who nightly break the seventh commandment (according to their own lax interpretation of it) will shrink from a tin of English meat for fear they be defiled with swine's flesh. As regards the moral code Islam is phariseeism translated into Arabic.
The lack of all distinction between the ceremonial and moral law comes out most of all in the traditional sayings of the prophet. These sayings, we must remember, have nearly equal authority with the Koran itself. Take two examples: "The prophet, upon whom be prayers and peace, said, One dirhem of usury which a man eats, knowing it to be so, is more grievous than thirty-six fornications; and whosoever has been so nourished is worthy of hell-fire." "The taking of interest has seventy parts of guilt, the least of which is as if a man commits incest with his mother." "The trousers of a man must be to the middle of his leg ... but whatever is below that is in hell-fire."1
To understand the great lack of the moral element
1 Mishkat-el-Misabih in loco, and Osborn's Islam under the Khalifs of Bagdad, p. 63.
in the attributes of Allah we must go further. In the Moslem system and according to Koran and fortified by Tradition, all sin is, after all, a matter of minor importance. It is the repetition of the creed that counts, and not the reformation of character. To repeat the kalimah, "There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is Allah's Prophet" ipso facto constitutes one a true believer. All other considerations are of less import. So confidently is this asserted by Moslem teachers that they say, even if one should repeat the kalimah accidentally or by compulsion, it would make him a Moslem. In a fanatic company, I was told, it would be decidedly dangerous for a non-Moslem to say "the creed" even casually in conversation because, so they said, they would "then take the Nasrani by force and circumcise him." Repeating the creed is the door into the religion of Mohammed.
The Koran teaches that the first sinner was Adam (Surah 2:35), and yet the general belief of Moslems today is that all the prophets, including Adam, were without sin. Especially is the latter asserted in regard to Mohammed, the seal of the prophets; Koran, Tradition, and history to the contrary notwithstanding. The portion of unrepentant sinners is hell-fire (Surahs 18:51; 49:89 and 20:76); the punishment is eternal (43:74-78) and there is then no repentance possible (26:91-105). All the wealth of Arabic vocabulary is exhausted in Mohammed's fearful and
particularized descriptions of the awful torments of the doomed.
And for deeper tints in the horrible picture one has only to read the commentators, who also delight in describing the situation of the unbelievers. Hell has seven divisions, each with special terrors and purpose and name. Jahannam is the Moslem's purgatory; Laza blazes for Christians; El Hatumah is hot for the Jews; Sa'eer for the Sabeans; Sakar scorches the Magi; El Jahim is the huge, hot fire for idolaters, and Hawiyah the bottomless pit for hypocrites. So say the commentaries, but the Koran only gives the names and says that "each portal has his party."
It is remarkable that nearly all the references to hell-punishment are in the Medinah Surahs, and therefore belong to the latter period of the prophet's life; The allusions to hell in the Mecca Surahs are very brief and "are in every case directed against unbelievers in the prophet's mission and not against sin." (Hughes' Dictionary of Islam, p. 171.)
The conclusion we come to, both from the study of the Koran and of Tradition, is that Allah does not appear to be bound by any standard of justice. For example, the worship of the creature is heinous to the Moslem mind and yet Allah punished Satan for not being willing to worship Adam. (Surah 2:28-31.) Allah is merciful in winking at the sins of His favorites, such as the prophets and those who fight in His
battles, but is the quick avenger of all infidels and idolaters. He reveals truth to His prophets, but also abrogates it, changes the message, or makes them forget it. (Surah 2:105.) The whole teaching of Moslem exegetes on the subject of Nasikh and Mansookh, or the Abrogated verses of the Koran, is utterly opposed to the idea of God's immutability and truth. There are twenty cases given in which one revelation superseded, contradicted, or abrogated a previous revelation to Mohammed.1 Allah's moral law changes, like his ceremonial law, according to times and circumstances. He is the clement. Moslem teachers have in my presence utterly denied that Allah is subject to an absolute standard of moral rectitude. He can do what He pleases. The Koran often asserts this. Not only physically, but morally, He is almighty, in the Moslem sense of the word. Allah, the Koran says, is the best plotter. Allah mocks and deceives. Allah "makes it easy" for those who accept the prophet's message. (Surahs 8:29; 3:53; 27:51; 86:15; 16:4; 44:15; 9:5].)
Al Ghazzali says: "Allah's justice is not to be compared with the justice of men. For a man may be supposed to act unjustly by invading the possession of another, but no injustice can be conceived on the part of God. It is in His power to pour down upon men torments, and if He were to do it, His justice
1 See Hughes' Dict. of Islam, p. 520. Jalalu-Din in his Itkan gives the list of passages.
could not be arraigned. Yet He rewards those that worship Him for their obedience on account of His promise and beneficence, not of their merit or of necesity, since there is nothing which He can be tied to perform; nor can any injustice be supposed in Him nor can He be under any obligation to any person whatsoever."1 According to one tradition, the seven chief attributes of Deity are: Life, knowledge, purpose, power, hearing, sight and speech.2 Even granted that these are used in a superlative sense they would still describe only an Intelligent Giant. Mohammed-al-Burkawi in his book on these seven chief attributes uses language that leaves no doubt of his idea of what the Koran teaches. He says: "Allah can annihilate the universe if it seems good to Him and recreate it in an instant. He receives neither profit nor loss from whatever happens. If all the infidels became believers and all the wicked pious He would gain nothing. And if all believers became infidels it would not cause Him loss. He can annihilate even heaven itself. He sees all things, even the steps of a black ant on a black rock in a dark night." This last expression shows how the idea of God's omniscience remains purely physical, even in its highest aspect. How much loftier is the thought of God's omniscience in the 139th Psalm than in any
1 Al Maksad-ul-Asna, quoted in Oakley's Hist. of the Saracens
2 Hughes' Dict. of Islam, p. 27.
verse of the Koran or any passage of the Traditions. In the Koran, God's eye is a big microscope by which He examines His creatures. In the Bible, his eye is a flame of fire laying bare the deepest thoughts and intents of the heart. The Koran has no word for conscience. It is the same when we go to the Koran, or to Tradition, for a description of God's power. The wonderful "Verse of the Throne," which is often quoted as proof of Mohammed's noble ideas, is an instance in point. The verse reads: "God there is no god but He, the living, the self-subsistent. Slumber takes Him not nor sleep. His is what is in the heavens and what is in the earth. Who is it that intercedes with Him save by his permission? He knows what is before them and what behind them, and they comprehend not aught of His knowledge but of what He pleases. His throne extends over the heavens and the earth and it tires Him not to guard them both, for He is the high and the grand." Zamakhshari, after explaining on this passage why Allah does not need physical sleep, tells the following Tradition: "The children of Israel asked Moses why God did not slumber or sleep or take rest. In reply to their question God told Moses to remain awake for three days and nights and at the end of that time
1 Moslems are often offended at the verses in Genesis and in Exodus which speak of God "resting" the seventh day and tell our Bible colporteurs that such statements are "kufr," i.e., infidelity. God never rests, never needs rest.
to hold two glass bottles in his hands. He did so, and, overcome with drowsiness, smashed the one against the other. Tell your people, said Allah, that I hold in one hand the seven heavens and in the other the seven worlds; if my eyes should slumber, verily the universe would smash as did Moses' bottles."
What must have been Mohammed's idea of the character of God when he named Him The Proud, The All-Compelling, The Slayer, The Deferrer, The Indulgent and The Harmful?
Nor can the mind reconcile such attributes with those of goodness and compassion without doing violence to the text of the Koran itself. Some Moslem theologians therefore, teach that all the good attributes are exercised toward believers and terrible ones toward unbelievers, making of Allah a sort of two-faced Janus. In the Moslem doctrine of the Unity all real unity is absent. The attributes of Allah can no more be made to agree than the Surahs which he sent down to Mohammed; but in neither case does this lack of agreement, according to Moslems, reflect on Allah's character.
When God is once called The holy in the Koran (Surah 59), the term does not signify moral purity or perfection, as is evident from the exegetes and from any Mohammedan Arabic lexicon.
Beidhawi's comment on the word is: "holy means the complete absence of anything that would make
Him less than He is1." All the commentaries I have seen leave out the idea of moral purity and use at the most the word tahir as a synonym; this means ceremonially clean, circumcised, etc. In the dictionaries, too, the idea of holiness, for kuddus, in the Old Testament sense, is absent. The Taj-el-Aroos and the Muheet-el-Muheet dictionaries tell us kuddas is pure (tahir); but when our hopes were awakened to find a spiritual idea, the next definition reads: kuddus, a vessel used to wash the parts of the body in the bath; this is the special name for such a vessel in Hejaz." El Hejaz was Mohammed's native country.
It is no better if we study the Koran use of the word tahir. That, too, has only reference to outward purity of the body. As, for example, in the Koran text which states "None shall touch it but the purified." This is generally applied to circumcision or to lustrations as incumbent on all who handle the "holy-book" of Mohammed.
One who was for many years an English missionary in Egypt writes: "Some years ago I was anxious to see what the Koran teaches with regard to the necessity of man's being holy inwardly. I closely examined all the verses having any reference to this subject and did not find a single passage pointing
1 The Arabic expression is "Al bahjh fi'l ,nazahet amma yujib naksanahu," which means anything or nothing! Again a definition by negation.
out the necessity of man's being holy or becoming sanctified in his heart, mind or thoughts. I remember finding one passage which seemed likely to point somewhat more to inward purity, but when I read the commentary showing under what circumstances the verse was revealed, I found a long story explaining that Mohammed having addressed a series of questions to certain people in order to find out whether they were true believers ultimately declared them to be mutahiroon, "purified" (sanctified?) because he had ascertained that they performed their purifications in the proper manner, with three clean stones! It is a hopeless case to look for the doctrine of the holiness of God and the necessity of purity of heart in the Koran." The whole idea of moral purity and utter separation from sin is unknown to the Koran vocabulary.
One further thought we get by study of the Moslem idea of God's attributes; it is the key to what Palgrave calls "the Pantheism of Force."
The seventy-second, seventy-third, seventy-fourth and seventy-fifth names on the list of attributes are called "mothers of the attributes," i.e., they are the fundamental ideas in the conception of God. "Essence and Substance, the First and the Last." This is to Moslems
"The verse which all the names of Allah holdeth
As in one sky the silver stars all sit."
Whether Mohammed himself intended to teach the
ideas of pantheism or had any idea of the import of these terms does not alter the fact that they spell pantheism to many of his followers. If pantheism is the doctrine of one substance, it is taught here. God is the inside and the outside of everything. He is the phenomena (Dhahir) and the power behind the phenomena (Batin). It is this verse that is the delight of the Sufis and the mystics. On this revelation of God they built their philosophy after the Vedanta school of the Hindus. How far this teaching was carried is best seen in the celebrated Masnuvi of Jalal-u-din-ar-Rumi, translated into English by E.H. Whinfleld.1 He puts these words as emanating from Deity: -
I am the Gospel, the Psalter the Koran;
I am Uzzi and Lat - Bel and the Dragon.
Into three and seventy sects is the world divided.
Yet only One God; the faithful who believed in him am I.
Lies and truth, good, bad hard and soft
Knowledge solitude, virtue faith.
The deepest ground of hell the highest torment of the flames,
The highest paradise,
The earth and what is therein,
The angels and the devils, Spirit and man, Am I.
What is the goal of speech, O tell it, Shems Tabrizi?
The goal of sense? This - The World Soul Am I."
Not only are there thousands of Moslems who are
1 Masnavi-i-Ma'navi, the Spiritual Couplets of Jalala-din Moh. Rumi, translated by B. H. Whinfield, M.A., London, 1898, Tr�bner & Co.
pantheists of the Sufi-school, but there is not a Moslem sect which does not go to extremes in its erroneous conception and misconstruction of the doctrine of God. The Wahabis are accused, and not without reason, of being gross anthropomorphists. As a revolt from the rationalism of the Mutazilite school many, in the days of the Abbasids, held anthropomorphic views of Deity and materialistic ideas in regard to the soul. "The soul, for example, was conceived of by them as corporeal or as an accident of the body and the Divine Essence was imagined as a human body. The religions teaching and art of the Moslems were greatly averse to the symbolical God-Father of the Christians, but there was an abundance of absurd speculations about the form of Allah. Some went so far as to ascribe to him all the bodily members together, with the exception of the beard and other privileges of Oriental manhood."1
The Salabiyah hold that "God is indifferent to the actions of men, just as though He were in a state of sleep." The Muztariyah hold that good and evil are both directly from God and that man is entirely irresponsible. The Nazamiah hold that it is lawful to speak of the Almighty as "The Thing."
Some schools hold that the attributes are eternal and others deny it to save their idea of pure and absolute monism in Deity. For, they argue, if any of
1 The History of Philosophy in Islam, by Dr. T. J. de Boer, London, 1903, p. 44.
the attributes are eternal, or all of them, there is more than one Eternal and two Eternals is infidelity!
One sect, the Mutarabisiyah chose an impossible, although golden, mean by teaching that Allah with all His attributes, save three, is eternal; but his power, knowledge and purpose were created. What Allah could have been before He had power, knowledge or purpose they do not say.
In only one passage of the Koran, Allah is described as seemingly dependent on or indebted to something outside of Himself; the verse represents Allah as the Light of the World, but the commentaries cast no light on its peculiar and evidently mystical teaching; "God is the light of the heavens and the earth; His light is as a niche in which is a lamp, and the lamp is in a glass, the glass is as though it were a glittering star; it is lit from a blessed tree, an olive, neither of the east nor of the west, the oil of which would well-nigh give light though no fire touched it. Light upon Light." (Surah 94:35.)
Is this one of the many distorted reflections of ideas which Mohammed borrowed from the Jews and does he refer to the Golden Candlestick?
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