By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam
07 February 2019
Negative Attributes denote the negation of defect, deficiency, need, restriction or negation of all other shortcomings. They are that which are absolutely impossible to be associated with Allah. In other words, Negative Attributes are that Allah Almighty is transcendent and separated from. For example, He Almighty is not an ignorant [Jahil]. He is not incapable [‘Aajiz), nor powerless, nor helpless. Ice melts into water and becomes a single unit but Allah Almighty does not incarnate into anything or any shape. In short He eternally possesses all His Divine Attributes of Perfection—including Essential or Divine-Self Attributes (Sifat Zaatiyya), Related Attributes (Sifat Idafiyya) and Negative Attributes (Sifat Salabiyah).
In this part our focus is on presenting Negative Attributes (Sifat Salabiyya) of God Almighty. However it is important to know some basic beliefs related to His Attributes. Just as His Being is Qadeem (uncreated), Azali (All-Existing) and Abadi (Forever Existing), His Attributes are also Qadeem, Azali and Abadi. Everything other than Allah’s Being (Zaat) and Attributes (Sifaat) is known as Haadith which implies that everything besides Allah’s Being and Attributes was inexistent but only came into existence after being created by Allah Almighty.
Negative Attributes are many in number. Some of the most popular ones which do not befit Allah Almighty are as follows;
‘Arad (accident): He Almighty is not an accident (a’rad) inherent in a body or dwelling in a place. Allama Taftazani (Sharh Aqaid) mentions two proofs in favour of this doctrine.
First, Allah is not accident because an accident does not subsist in itself but rather it always needs such a locus (Mahall/substrate) that would give it subsistence. In the case of believing Allah Almighty to be an accident (‘Arad), it would result that He Almighty is dependent upon a Mahall (locus) and it is the established Belief of Islam that God Almighty is transcendent from dependency or need. It is therefore Allah Almighty is not an accident (A’rad).
Second proof is that the continuance (Baqa’) of accident (A’rad) is impossible. So if God is an accident, His continuance would be impossible while it is the absolute necessity of Islamic faith that God’s continuance or permanency [Baqa] is absolutely necessary. So Allah Almighty is not an accident (A’rad).
Jism (Body): Allah Almighty Is Not A Body.
Allah Almighty is free from everything that is suggestive of bodies, because body is composed of elements or a form occupying space and having boundaries (Tahayyuz), which is a mark of Huduth (Huduth refers to something that comes into existence from non-existence).
Jawhar (Atom): Allah Almighty Is Not An Atom.
The scholars say that the Jawhar is the name for Juzu’n La Yatajazza i.e. the name for an integral part of body (Jism) and something which has boundaries (Mutahayyuz). Allah is far exalted above such a definition.
Makan (Place/Space): Allah Almighty Is Not Subject To Place Or Space.
In other words, He is not located at a fixed place and that He is Omnipresent due to His perfect Omnipotence. Allah is free from all confines of direction, space and place.
Zaman (Time): Time Does Not Affect Allah Almighty.
Muslims hold the view that time is an expression for something renewed by which something else renewed is measured. On the contrary the philosophers believe that Time is the measure of motion and Allah Almighty is free from that.
Mahall Hawadith: Allah Almighty Is Not Subject To Change.
In other words, Allah is free from any and all changes of any kind, be it related to colour, age, form, share or appearance etc.
Hulul (Incarnation): This Means Allah Does Not Incarnate Into Anything Or Anyone.
It implies that all things can be confined into some space, but this does not befit Allah Almighty.
Mahdud (Limited): Allah The Most High Does Not Have A Limit Or An End For His Divine Self Or Attributes. He Is Limitless And Endless.
There are others which can be listed under the category of Negative Attributes. For example, He is free from having any partner, wife or children. He is not a thing portioned or divided, nor a thing numbered, nor a thing described neither by quiddity (al-Mahiyya) nor by quality (al-Kaifiyya).
Allama Amjad Ali, the author of Bahar e Shariat, speaks of the Negative Attributes of God Almighty and says, “Allah He is transcendent from all that which has deficiency or defect. In other words, it is absolutely impossible (Muhaal) for there to be any deficiency or defect in Allah. Moreover, even that which has neither deficiency nor splendour is ‘Muhaal’ for Allah. Allah is transcendent from lies, deceit, distrust, tyranny, ignorance and immodesty etc. These are all absolutely impossible for Allah.
To say that He has Power (Qudrat) over lying, with the implication that He Almighty can tell a lie, is to declare a Muhaal to be Mumkin (possible) and to imply that Almighty Allah has defect. This, in reality is to reject the Attribute of Almighty Allah. It is absolutely baseless to think that Allah’s Divine Power (Qudrat) has a weakness if He does not have Power over a Muhaal (absolutely impossible thing). It is not a shortage or weakness in the Qudrat of Allah but in reality it is the weakness and shortage of that Muhaal, that it is not worthy of having connection with the Divine Qudrat of Allah. (Bahare Shariat)
The classical Muslims scholars present numerous Quranic Verses and Ahadith to speak of the Negative Attributes of Allah Almighty. Some of the Quranic verses are as follows;
وَاللَّـهُ غَنِيٌّ حَلِيمٌ “...Allah is the Independent, Most Forbearing.” (2:263)
وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّـهَ غَنِيٌّ حَمِيدٌ “...And know well that Allah is Independent, Most Praised” (2:267)
فَإِنَّ اللَّـهَ غَنِيٌّ عَنِ الْعَالَمِينَ “...Indeed, Allah is free from need of the worlds.” (3:97)
وَّاسْتَغْنَى اللَّـهُ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ غَنِيٌّ حَمِيدٌ “..And Allah acted independently; and Allah is the Independent, the Most Praiseworthy.” (64:6)
لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ “...Nothing is like Him...” (42:11)
وَيَبْقَىٰ وَجْهُ رَبِّكَ ذُو الْجَلَالِ وَالْإِكْرَامِ “And everlasting is the Entity of your Lord, the Most Majestic and the Most Honourable.” (55:27)
A regular Columnist with NewAgeIslam.com, Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi Dehlvi is an Alim and Fazil (Classical Islamic scholar), with a Sufi-Sunni background and English-Arabic-Urdu Translator. He has also done B.A (Hons.) in Arabic, M.A. in Arabic and M.A in English from JMI, New Delhi. He is Interested in Islamic Sciences; Theology, Jurisprudence, Tafsir, Hadith and Islamic mysticism (Tasawwuf).
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