Descriptions of Allah


Description of Allah (Narrated by Yusuf Islam)

Descriptions of Allah

The Qur'an, however, attributes to Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala) certain descriptions like for instance:

The Beneficent is firmly established on the throne.( 20:5 )
Everything will perish except his Countenance.( 28:88 )
That you are brought up under my eye.( 20:29 )
Allah's hand is above their hands.( 48:10 )
The heavens are rolled in his right hand.( 39:67 )
One whom I created with my two hands.( 38:75 )

And the like. How can we understand these descriptions? Does Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala) have organs similar to ours? These and other verses in the Qur'an are part of what is called allegorical verses in the holy book whose real meaning only Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala) knows. This is referred to in the following verse:

It is He who has sent down to you the book, in it are verses of established meaning, they are the foundation of the book while others are allegorical. But those in whose hearts is perversion follow what is allegorical in it seeking discord and attempting to interpolate it. No one, however, knows its real interpretation except Allah. Those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: we believe in it; each is from our lord. No one will remember except those who have reason.( 3:7 )

Based on this verse and following the injunctions of prophet Muhammad p.b.u.h. Early scholars including leaders of the major four schools of thought took the following attitude. They said: we believe in these descriptions of Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala) but leave the knowledge of their reality to Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala). We should abstain from interpreting them on the lines of similar descriptions ascribed to humans; this is simply because as prophet Muhammad p.b.u.h. Warned us: think of Allah's creation and never think of Allah, for you will never appreciate him as he deserves.(6) also Muslim scholars said that whatever we think of Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala), he is totally different from what we think about him. In sahih Muslim Abu Hurairah said: people will continue to argue and dispute until it is said: this is the creation of Allah who created Allah? Whoever finds anything like this let him say: i believe in Allah.(7) we glorify Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala) from the imagined description that might come to our minds. This is because it is impossible for Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala) to be similar to mortals. Commenting on the verse that says:

The Beneficent is firmly established on the throne.( 20:5 )

Ummu Salama wife of prophet Muhammad said: it is not possible to imagine how, but the divine establishment on the throne is not unknown; faith requires that we accept this without any questions for denying it borders on disbelief. The same attitude is adopted by early scholars like Imam Malek and many others. Prominent scholars even today have the same conviction. Another group of scholars, however, tend to interpret these divine attributes in such a manner that becomes the glory of Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala) although they warn against taking them to be literally equivalent to human qualities. One example of their approach is their interpretation of verse 75 chapter 38 where they took the two hands of Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala) to be only for confirmation and to assert Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala)'s care of his slave Adam.

In addition to the above two approaches the closer of which to Islamic creed is the former although the latter is not excluded, there were some perverted attitudes influenced by alien philosophies like the Greek and other philosophies. One claimed that all these descriptions are identical to human ones. Another group gave incarnate descriptions of Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala) while a third group went to the other extreme and denied all description of Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala). These groups died in the bud; and the only ones that remained to exist are the first two which are very close to each other. The Qur'an gives us a conclusive answer when it says about Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta'ala):

Nothing is like Him and He is the Hearer, the Seer. ( 42:11 )

Based on this verse we can safely confirm these descriptions but we do not compare them to any others. Rather we believe in them and accept them as they are.