The Nature of God

Allah the Exalted – Part 9

The Promised Messiah(as) wrote over 80 books in Arabic, Urdu, and Persian. Excerpts of his collected works have been translated into English and organised by topic.

The Review of Religions is pleased to present these excerpts as part of a monthly feature. The Promised Messiah (as) presents views about God’s justice found in other religions, and whether these behove the Divine Creator.

Extracts from The Essence of Islam – Vol. I, 123-134.

This is the ninth part of a multi-part series.

Refutation of the Misguided Notions of the Aryas

Pandit Dyanand has recorded at page 501 of his Urdu book Satyarath Prakash that Permeshwar cannot forgive anyone’s sin, for if He were to do so He would be guilty of injustice. Thereby he confesses that Permeshwar is merely a judge and is not Master. On the same page he has recorded that Permeshwar cannot bestow unlimited reward for limited actions. But if He is Master, there is no harm in His rewarding limited service with unlimited reward. The Master’s actions are not to be measured by justice. If we own something and out of it we bestow a portion upon someone who asks for it, no one else has the right to complain that more was given to another than to him. In the same way, a creature has no right against God Almighty to demand justice. A servant cannot ask for justice nor can God admit the right of any of His creation to demand justice. Whatever God bestows upon a creature as a reward for his actions is purely His bounty.

Actions are nothing in themselves, for no action can be performed without the support and grace of God. When we reflect upon God’s law, it becomes clear that whatever God Almighty has provided for His creatures is a bounty of two types.

One is the bounty which existed before the coming into being of man and man’s action has nothing to do with it. He has created for the benefit of man the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth, water, air, fire, etc. and there is no doubt that all these things were prior to the actions of man, and man himself came into being after them. This is the divine mercy which, in the idiom of the Qur’an, is called Rahmaniyyat. That is to say, such bounty is not bestowed as a reward of a person’s actions, but is by way of pure grace.

The second type of mercy is called Rahimiyyat in the idiom of the Qur’an; that is to say, the bounty that is bestowed upon man as a reward of his righteous actions.

Can we imagine that the God Who has demonstrated as an instance of His generous Malikiyyat that He made the earth and heavens and the moon and sun, etc. when there was no trace of His creatures and their actions, is indebted to His creatures and rewards them according to their right, but no more? Had His creatures any right that He should have made the earth and heavens for them and should have created thousands of illuminated bodies in the heavens and thousands of things upon the earth which are a source of comfort and ease? To describe that Absolute Donor as a mere dispenser of justice like a judge and to deny His status and dignity as Master is the height of ingratitude.

—Chashma-e-Ma’rifat, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 23, pp, 26-28

It should be borne in mind that Master is the word which does not admit of any rights, and this expression can be applied in its fullness only to God for He alone is the Perfect Master. A person who accepts another as the Master of his life etc. confesses that he has no right to his life and property and that he owns nothing and everything belongs to the Master. In such a case, it is not permissible for him to demand from his Master that justice should be done to him in such and such a matter because justice depends upon right and he has given up all his rights. In the same way, man who in juxtaposition to his True Master accepted his own status as that of servant and confessed:

إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّآ إِلَيۡهِ رَٰجِعُونَ [1]

That is to say: Our belonging, life, body and progeny are all the property of God.

After this confession there remains no right which he can demand from God. That is why those who are gifted with true understanding, despite every type of endeavour, worship and almsgiving, leave themselves to the mercy of God Almighty and attach no value to their actions and make no claim that they have any right. In truth, Virtuous is only He through Whose bestowed strength a person can accomplish anything good, and He is God. No person can demand justice from God Almighty on account of his personal ability or merit. According to the Holy Qur’an, all God’s doings are as Master. As He punishes sin so He also forgives sin. He has power to do both as befits His Malikiyyat. If He were always to punish sin there would be no escape for man, but God forgives most sins and punishes some so that a heedless person being warned should attend to Him. As is said in the Holy Qur’an:

مَآ أَصَٰبَكُم مِّن مُّصِيبَةٖ فَبِمَا كَسَبَتۡ أَيۡدِيكُمۡ وَيَعۡفُواْ عَن كَثِيرٍ [2]

Whatever misfortune befalls you is in consequence of that which you practise. He pardons many of your sins, and punishes some.

And in the same surah is the verse:

وَهُوَ ٱلَّذِي يَقۡبَلُ ٱلتَّوۡبَةَ عَنۡ عِبَادِهِۦ وَيَعۡفُواْ عَنِ ٱلسَّيِّـَٔاتِ  [3]

He it is Who accepts repentance from His servants and forgives sins.

No one should be misled by the fact that the Holy Qur’an also contains the verse:

وَمَن يَعۡمَلۡ مِثۡقَالَ ذَرَّةٖ شَرّٗا يَرَهُۥ [4]

Whoso will have done the smallest particle of ill will also see it.

Here there is no contradiction for the ill that is mentioned here is the ill in which a person persists and from which he does not repent. The Holy Qur’an repeatedly affirms that remorse and repentance, and non-insistence upon evil, and asking for forgiveness procure forgiveness of sins. Indeed, it is said that God loves those who repent, as in the verse:

إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يُحِبُّ ٱلتَّوَّـٰبِينَ وَيُحِبُّ ٱلۡمُتَطَهِّرِينَ[5]

That is: God Almighty loves those who repent and loves those who strive to purify themselves from sin.

In short, to punish every sin is contrary to the forgiveness and mercy of God Almighty, for He is Master and is not like a magistrate. He has named Himself Master in the very first Surah of the Holy Qur’an where it is said: He is Malik-i-Yaum-id-Din, that is to say, He is the Master of punishment and reward and it is obvious that no one can be called Master unless He has authority to do both, that is to say, to punish when He wills and to forgive when He wills.

—Chashma-e-Ma’rifat, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 23, pp. 23-24

According to the principle of the Aryas, their Permeshwar cannot be called Malik for he has not the power to bestow what he has as a pure bounty or gift, while the donee has no right to it. He who is the owner of property has the authority to bestow any portion of it on anyone he chooses, but the Aryas believe that Permeshwar can neither forgive sins nor can He bestow anything on anyone as a gift or bounty, because if He does either He would be acting unjustly.

Those who believe in the transmigration of souls cannot affirm that Permeshwar is the Master of creation. We have repeatedly affirmed that it is quite improper to bind a Master to act according to the principles of justice. We can affirm that He Who is Malik is Rahim and Bestower and Generous and forgives sins, but we cannot say that He adheres to justice in respect of His slaves and horses and cattle, inasmuch as the notion of justice is only applicable where there is a certain freedom on both sides. For instance, we can say concerning worldly sovereigns that they are just and treat their subjects with justice. So long as their subjects obey them, the rule of justice makes it obligatory upon them that, in return for the obedience of their subjects and the payment of their dues, the sovereign should safeguard their lives and properties and in times of need should help them out of his wealth. Thus, from one aspect sovereigns impose their commands upon their subjects and from another aspect the subjects impose their wishes upon the sovereigns. So long as these aspects operate in cooperation, the country remains at peace, but when either side commits a default the country ceases to be at peace. This shows that we cannot describe a sovereign as a true Malik for he has to behave justly towards his subjects and his subjects have to behave justly towards him.

As regards God Almighty, we can call Him Rahim on account of His Malikiyyat, but we cannot call Him just. Any person who is owned by another cannot demand justice from his owner, though he can humbly supplicate for mercy. That is why the Holy Qur’an does not designate God Almighty as just, because justice demands mutual equality. God Almighty is Just in the sense that He acts justly as between creatures regarding their mutual rights, but He is not just in the sense that any creature of His might demand his right from Him as an associate. All His creatures belong to God and He has authority to treat them as He might wish. He might bestow kingdom upon whom He wills and He might make a beggar of him whom He so wills. He might cause anyone to die young or He might bestow a long life upon any. We ourselves when we own anything are free to bestow it as we might choose. Indeed God is Merciful; rather, He is the Most Merciful of all. By virtue of His mercy, and not out of any limits in consideration of justice, He provides for His creation. As we have repeatedly affirmed, the quality of Malikiyyat and the quality of justice are inconsistent with each other. Having been created by Him, we have no right to demand justice from Him. We supplicate Him humbly for mercy.

It is most unbecoming for a creature to demand justice from God Almighty in His treatment of him. As everything relating to the nature of man is from God and all of man’s faculties, spiritual as well as physical, are His bounty and a good action can be performed only through the support and strength bestowed by Him, it would be the height of ignorance to demand justice from Him relying upon one’s good actions. We cannot consider such a teaching to be based on true knowledge. Indeed such a teaching is deprived of all true understanding and is full of folly. God Almighty has taught us in the Holy Qur’an that to call God Just vis-à-vis His creatures is not only a sin, but a rank blasphemy.

—Chashma-e-Ma’rifat, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 23, pp. 32-34

Refutation of the Misguided notions of Christians

Short-sighted Christians, through lack of proper reflection, are involved in the false notion that justice and mercy cannot coexist in God Almighty, inasmuch as justice demands punishment and mercy demands forbearance. They fail to consider that the justice of God Almighty is also a mercy for it is all for the benefit of mankind. For instance, if God Almighty adjudges that a murderer should be executed this does not add anything to His Godhead. He ordains this so that mankind should not become extinct through killing each other. This is mercy for mankind and God Almighty has established this system of mutual rights between His creatures so that peace might be maintained and no group should trespass against another and thus create disorder. Thus all the punishments prescribed in the sphere of life, property, and honour are a mercy for mankind…

There is no conflict between justice and mercy. They are like two streams that run parallel to each other in their courses without one interfering with the other. We find the same principle in operation in worldly sovereignties. An offender is punished, but those who behave well and please the government become recipients of bounties and gifts.

It should be borne in mind that the basic attribute of God is mercy, and the notion of justice comes into operation after reason and law are established. That also is in a way a mercy. When reason is bestowed upon a person and, through his reason, he becomes aware of the limits set by God Almighty and His laws, he becomes subject to the operation of justice, but reason and law are not a condition for the operation of mercy. As God Almighty out of His mercy desired to exalt man above the rest of His creation, He prescribed the limits and rules of justice between them. It is a folly to imagine a contradiction between justice and mercy.

—Kitab-ul-Bariyyah, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 13, pp. 73-74

Knowledge of God

A subtle question rises here: what is the nature of the knowledge of Almighty God through the perfection of which He is aware of the overt and the covert of every particle? It is true that reason cannot comprehend the true condition of that knowledge, yet it is entirely true to say that of all types of knowledge that can be conceived of that knowledge is more powerful and stronger and fuller and more complete. When we observe our own ways of acquiring knowledge and consider its diverse types, we find that the greatest and most certain and most absolute of all the types of knowledge is the knowledge that we possess concerning our own existence.

No man can in any condition forget his own existence or entertain any doubt concerning it. So far as our reason extends, we find this type of knowledge more powerful and stronger and fuller and more complete. We find it inconsistent with the perfection of God Almighty that His knowledge with regard to His creatures should in any way be less perfect than this, inasmuch as it would amount to a deficiency on the part of God Almighty, that He should not possess the highest kind of knowledge one could conceive of and it could be objected why God’s knowledge fell short of the highest kind; was it by His own design or by some compulsion? It could not be by His own design for no one deliberately permits a deficiency with regard to himself. Then how should God Almighty, Who loves perfection, permit such a deficiency concerning Himself? If it is said that it is by some compulsion, then it would follow that the compeller would be supreme over God Almighty in his powers and his strength, so that on account of that excess of strength he should be able to restrain God in His designs. But that is impossible in itself because nobody is supreme over God Almighty through whose obstruction He could be confronted with some compulsion. It is established, therefore, that God’s knowledge is perfect.

We have already established that of all types of knowledge the most perfect is that which a person has with regard to his own existence. We have therefore to acknowledge that God’s knowledge concerning His creation is like that knowledge though we cannot comprehend its true nature. Our reason tells us that the most certain and absolute knowledge is that which should exclude any distance or barrier between the knower and that which is to be known. That knowledge is of this type. As a man is not dependent upon other sources of knowledge in order to be aware of his own existence, to be animate and to consider oneself as an animate are so close to each other as to be identical. Such should be the knowledge of God Almighty concerning the whole universe. Here also there should be no difference and distance between the Knower and that which is to be known. This high quality of knowledge which God needs for the establishment of His Godhead can be predicated of Him, when it is accepted concerning Him that there is so much closeness and such relationship between Him and the subject of His knowledge, greater than which it is not possible to imagine.

This perfect relationship with the subjects of His knowledge can exist only when all of them should have proceeded from Him and should be His creation. Their being must be dependent upon His Being. In other words, when the situation should be such that the true existence should be only His and all others should have proceeded from Him and should subsist with His support. Even after their creation, they should not be independent of Him, nor be separate from Him, but in truth after the creation of all things, He alone should be truly alive and all other life should have proceeded from Him and should exist only with His support. He alone should be subject to no limitation and everything else, souls as well as bodies, should be confined within the limits set by Him. He should comprehend everything; everything should be comprehended in His Rububiyyat. There should be nothing which should not have proceeded from His hand and should not be included within His Rububiyyat, nor should it exist without His support. It is only in such a situation that God Almighty would have a perfect relationship with the subjects of His knowledge. This relationship is referred in the Holy Qur’an as:

وَنَحۡنُ أَقۡرَبُ إِلَيۡهِ مِنۡ حَبۡلِ ٱلۡوَرِيدِ [6]

We are closer to him than his jugular vein. Similarly at another place it is said:

 هُوَ ٱلۡحَيُّ ٱلۡقَيُّومُ [7]

That is to say: He alone sustains true life and everything else has proceeded from Him and has a life because of Him; In truth He is the Life of all lives and is the Power of all powers…

If the soul is not accepted as having been created, then there would be no reason to assume that someone who bears the fictitious title of Permeshwar would have any knowledge concerning the reality of the soul, whose knowledge would extend to the ultimate limits of the soul. A person who has full knowledge concerning a thing has the power to make it also, and if he has not the power then his knowledge must be defective in some respect. In the absence of full knowledge, it would be difficult to distinguish between similar things, let alone to have the power of making them. If God Almighty is not the Creator of things then He not only suffers from the deficiency that His knowledge is incomplete, but it also follows that He would be subject to confusion in distinguishing between millions of souls and might often mistake the soul of X as the soul of Y. Partial knowledge often leads to such confusion. And if you assert that it does not, then produce some argument in your favour.

—Surmah Chashm Arya, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 2, pp. 221-226 footnote


[1] The Holy Qur’an, 2:157.

[2] The Holy Qur’an, 42:31.

[3] The Holy Qur’an, 42:26.

[4] The Holy Qur’an, 99:9.

[5] The Holy Qur’an, 2:223.

[6] The Holy Qur’an, 50:17.

[7] The Holy Qur’an, 2:256.