The Nature of God

Allah the Exalted – part 12

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. Here the Promised Messiah (as) discussed the concept of Arsh (the throne) in Islam.

Extracts from The Essence of Islam – Vol. I. pp. 158-170.

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

So much for the prayer taught in the Gospel which takes away man’s hope of God’s mercy and makes Christians forgetful of His Rububiyyat and they do not consider God capable of helping on earth till His kingdom should arrive upon the earth. As a contrast the prayer that God has taught to the Muslims in the Qur’an teaches that God is not helpless in the earth like one dethroned, but that His system of Rububiyyat, Rahmaniyyat and Rahimiyyat are in operation on the earth and that He has the power to help His worshippers and can destroy the offenders with His wrath. That prayer is as follows:

ٱلۡحَمۡدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ ٱلۡعَٰلَمِينَ * ٱلرَّحۡمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ * مَٰلِكِ يَوۡمِ ٱلدِّينِ * إِيَّاكَ نَعۡبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسۡتَعِينُ * ٱهۡدِنَا ٱلصِّرَٰطَ ٱلۡمُسۡتَقِيمَ * صِرَٰطَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَنۡعَمۡتَ عَلَيۡهِمۡ غَيۡرِ ٱلۡمَغۡضُوبِ عَلَيۡهِمۡ وَلَا ٱلضَّآلِّينَ [1]

This means that: God alone is worthy of all praise. There is no deficiency in His kingdom. Nothing is awaited out of His excellences which does not exist today, but would be achieved tomorrow. There is nothing vain in His kingdom. He provides for all the worlds. He bestows His mercy absolutely without any prior action on the part of man, and also in return for man’s actions. He awards reward and punishment at their due time. We worship Him and seek His help and pray that He should show us the way of all bounties and should keep us away from the ways of His anger and of error.

This prayer which is set out in Surah al-Fatihah is the antithesis of the prayer taught in the Gospel, inasmuch as God’s present kingdom of the earth is denied in the Gospel. Thus according to the Gospel neither God’s Rububiyyat, nor His Rahmaniyyat, nor His Rahimiyyat nor His Malikiyyat is in operation on the earth because God’s kingdom has not yet arrived upon the earth, but Surah al-Fatihah indicates that God’s kingdom is in operation on the earth and thus all the essentials of the kingdom are set out in the surah.

It is obvious that a king should possess the following qualities: He should have power to provide for people and Surah al-Fatihah proclaims that God is the Sustainer of the worlds. The second quality of a king should be that whatever his subjects should need for settling down in the earth should be provided out of his kingly mercy and not in return for any service. Surah al-Fatihah affirms this quality in God by calling Him Rahman. The third quality which a king should possess is that he should help his subjects towards achievement of that which they cannot achieve by their own efforts. The surah affirms this quality by the use of the word Rahim. The fourth quality that a king should possess is that he should have power to reward and punish so that social conditions should not be disturbed. The surah affirms this quality in God by describing Him as Malik Yaum al-Din. In short, the surah presents all those essentials of kingship that prove that God’s kingdom and kingly control are in operation on the earth…

Listen, the greatest understanding is that every particle of the earth is as much under the control of God as every particle of heaven is part of His kingdom, and that as there is a grand manifestation in heaven there is also a grand manifestation on earth. The manifestation in heaven is a matter of faith. An average person has not ascended to heaven nor witnessed that manifestation, but the manifestation of God’s kingdom upon earth is clearly visible to everyone’s eyes.

Every human being, however wealthy he might be, tastes of death contrary to his desire. Observe, therefore, how the manifestation of the command of the true King is visible upon the earth that when His command comes no one can delay his death for a second. When a person is afflicted with mortal illness, no physician is able to cure it. Reflect, therefore, what a manifestation of God’s kingdom upon earth it is that His command cannot be rejected. How can it then be said that the kingdom of God upon earth is not yet, but will arrive at some future time?

In this age, God’s commandment from heaven has shaken the earth with the plague so that it should be a sign for His Messiah. Who is it who can remove it without His command? Then how can we say that God’s kingdom has not yet arrived upon earth? The wicked one carries on like a prisoner on earth and does not wish to die, but God’s true kingdom destroys him and the angel of death finally seizes hold of him. Then how can it be said that the kingdom of God has not arrived upon the earth? Every day by God’s command millions of people die in an hour and millions are born by His command and millions of the poor by His command become rich and millions of the wealthy become poor. Then how can it be said that God’s kingdom upon earth is not yet?

In heaven there are only angels, but on the earth there are men and also angels, who are agents of God and are the servants of His kingdom. They guard the various enterprises of man, obey God all the time and send up their reports to Him. Then how can it be said that there is not the kingdom of God upon earth?

God has been known mostly through His earthly kingdom for everyone imagines that the mystery of heaven is a secret and cannot be witnessed. In recent times all Christians and their philosophers have denied the existence of heaven on which the Gospels base the whole kingdom of God, but the earth is in fact a globe under our feet and thousands of divine decrees are manifested thereupon, which make us understand that all this change and birth and death is by the command of some Master. Then how can it be said that there is not yet the kingdom of God upon earth?

God, the Lord of Honour and Glory, has named neither heaven nor earth in Surah al-Fatihah and yet He has disclosed the reality to us by saying that God is Rabb al-Alamin. That is to say, all through creation, wherever there are bodies or souls, God is the Creator and Sustainer of all, Who provides for them all the time and administers them. His Rububiyyat, Rahmaniyyat and Rahimiyyat are in operation all the time in all the worlds. It should be borne in mind that by the phrase Malik Yaum al-Din in Surah al-Fatihah, it is not meant that reward and punishment would be awarded only on the Judgement Day. The Holy Qur’an has repeatedly made it clear that the Judgement Day will be the time of the grand recompense, but that one type of recompense begins in this very world, which is indicated in the verse:

 يَجۡعَل لَّكُمۡ فُرۡقَانًا [2]

—Kashti Nuh, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 19, pp. 32-42

According to the Holy Qur’an, God is on earth as well as in the heaven, as He has said:

وَهُوَ ٱلَّذِي فِي ٱلسَّمَآءِ إِلَٰهُُ وَفِي ٱلۡأَرۡضِ إِلَٰهُُ  [3]

He it is Who is God in heaven and God on earth.

He has also said that no three are gathered together for secret consultation, but that God is the fourth among them.

He is Limitless as is said in the verse:

لَّا تُدۡرِكُهُ ٱلۡأَبۡصَٰرُ وَهُوَ يُدۡرِكُ ٱلۡأَبۡصَٰرَ [4]

Eyes cannot reach His limit, but He reaches their limit.

It is also said in the Holy Qur’an:

وَنَحۡنُ أَقۡرَبُ إِلَيۡهِ مِنۡ حَبۡلِ ٱلۡوَرِيدِ [5]

We are closer to him than his jugular vein.

At one place, it is said that God comprehends everything and it is also said:

 أَنَّ ٱللَّهَ يَحُولُ بَيۡنَ ٱلۡمَرۡءِ وَقَلۡبِهِۦ [6]

Allah surely supervenes between man and his mind.

It is also said:

اَللَّهُ نُورُ ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ وَٱلۡأَرۡضِ[7]

That is to say: The heavens and the earth are lit up by the light of divine countenance without which it is all darkness.

It is also said:

كُلُّ مَنۡ عَلَيۡهَا فَانٖ  *وَيَبۡقَىٰ وَجۡهُ رَبِّكَ ذُو ٱلۡجَلَٰلِ وَٱلۡإِكۡرَامِ [8]

That is to say: Everything is subject to change and destruction, and the only One Who will endure is God.

Human nature is forced to confess that in this universe there is a Being Who is not subject to change and destruction and Who continues to survive all conditions, and He is God. But as sin and disobedience and all manner of unholy things are manifested in the earth, those who confine God to the earth in the end become worshippers of idols and created beings as has happened to the Hindus.

Concept of Arsh in Islam

The Holy Qur’an has made it clear that, on the one side, God has a close relationship with His creatures and that He is the life of everything living and the support of every being. On the other side, to safeguard against the error lest anyone should conclude from the relationship between God and man, that man himself is God, as do the Vedantists, it is also stated that He is above everything and is beyond everything and that His station is Arsh (the Throne). The Arsh is not something that has been created or something material. It is the name of the transcendental station which is beyond the beyond. It is not a throne on which God is to be imagined as being seated. It is the station which is beyond of beyond from creation and is a station of transcendence and holiness. As the Holy Qur’an says, after establishing the relationship of Creator and created with everything, God settled Himself on the Arsh. That is to say, despite all relationships He remained apart and did not mix with His creation.

God’s being with everyone and comprehending everything is His attribute of resemblance. He has mentioned this attribute in the Holy Qur’an to demonstrate His nearness to man. His being beyond of beyond from all creation and being above all and higher than all and farthest of all and being at the station of transcendence and holiness, which is far from creation and is called Arsh, is the attribute of transcendence. God has mentioned this attribute in the Holy Qur’an so that He should establish His Unity and His being without associate and having withdrawn from the qualities of creation. Other people have either adopted God’s attribute of transcendence and have called Him Nirgun, or they have accepted Him as Sargan and have attributed such resemblance to Him as if He was the very creation itself. They have not combined these two attributes, but God Almighty in the Holy Qur’an has shown His countenance in the mirror of both these attributes and this is His perfect unity.

—Chashma-e-Ma’rifat, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 23, pp. 97-99

It is not the belief of the Muslims that the Arsh is a physical or created thing on which God is seated. You may go through the Qur’an from the beginning to the end and you will not find it stated that the Arsh is something limited and created. God has repeatedly said in the Holy Qur’an that He is the Creator of all things that have any existence. He is the Creator of heaven and earth, and souls and all their faculties. He is Self-Existing and everything exists because of Him. Every particle that exists is His creation. He has nowhere stated that the Arsh is something physical of which He is the Creator… Wherever the word Arsh has been used in the Holy Qur’an its meaning is the greatness and majesty and supremacy of God. That is why it is not included among created things. There are four manifestations of the Greatness and Majesty of God Almighty. The Vedas call them four gods, but according to the idiom of the Holy Qur’an they are angels.

—Nasim-e-Da’wat, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol.19, pp. 453-456

In the Holy Qur’an by Arsh is meant the station which is higher than the rank of resemblance and is superior to every world and is beyond of beyond and is the station of Holiness and transcendence. It is not anything which is made of stone or brick or any other thing on which God is seated. That is why it is described as uncreated. As God Almighty says He manifests Himself to the heart of a believer, in the same way He says that He manifests Himself upon the Arsh. He affirms clearly that He supports everything and has not said anywhere that anything supports Him. The Arsh which is a higher station than the whole universe, is a manifestation of His attribute of transcendence. We have explained it several times that since eternity, divine attributes are of two kinds: the attribute of resemblance and the attribute of transcendence.

As it was necessary to set out both attributes in His Word, for the declaration of His attribute of resemblance, He mentioned His hand and eye and love and anger in the Holy Qur’an, and then to remove the suspicion of resemblance He stated at one place:

لَيۡسَ كَمِثۡلِهِۦ شَيۡءٌٌ [9]

and at other places it is said that He settled Himself on the Arsh as, for instance, in the verse:

ٱللَّهُ ٱلَّذِي رَفَعَ ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ بِغَيۡرِ عَمَدٖ تَرَوۡنَهَا ۖ ثُمَّ ٱسۡتَوَىٰ عَلَى ٱلۡعَرۡشِ [10]

Your God is the One Who raised up the heavens without any pillars, as you can see. Then He settled Himself on the Throne.

From the literal meaning of this verse, it would seem to follow that God was not settled on the Arsh before. The explanation of this is that the Arsh is nothing material, but is a state of being beyond of beyond which is God’s attribute. God created heaven and earth and all other things and bestowed upon the sun and the moon and stars light from His own light by way of reflection and created man, metaphorically speaking, in His Own image and breathed into him His holy attributes. He thus created a resemblance unto Himself. But as He is free from any resemblance He described His transcendence by the expression of ‘settling on the Throne.’ Despite having created everything He is not His very creation itself, but is apart from everything and is at a station which is beyond the beyond.

—Chashma-e-Ma’rifat, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 23, pp. 276-277

Another objection which is sometimes raised is that it appears from the Holy Qur’an that on the Day of Judgement eight angels will bear aloft the Arsh, from which it is concluded that in this world four angels bear the Arsh aloft. Here a question arises that God Almighty is above having His Throne borne up by anyone. The answer is as you have just heard that the Arsh is nothing material which can be borne up or is capable of being borne up. The station of transcendence and Holiness is Arsh and that is why it is described as uncreated. A material object cannot be outside the creation of God. Whatever has been stated with regard to the Arsh is by way of metaphor. A reasonable person can understand that this objection is baseless.

The truth is that when God Almighty withdraws to the station where His attribute of transcendence covers all His other attributes and makes Him beyond of beyond and hidden of hidden, which station, in the idiom of the Holy Qur’an, is called Arsh, then God rises above human reason and reason cannot reach Him. Then four of His attributes which have been named four angels which have been manifested in the world, disclose His hidden Being.

The first of these is His Rububiyyat through which He perfects man physically and spiritually. The manifestation of the body and soul is in consequence of the demand of Rububiyyat. In the same way divine revelation and the manifestation of extraordinary signs are in consequence of the demand of Rububiyyat.

The second attribute which has been manifested is His Rahmaniyyat whereby He has provided numberless bounties for man without any action having preceded from man. This attribute also discloses His hidden Being.

The third attribute is His Rahimiyyat. That means, that at first He bestows upon righteous people by virtue of His Rahmaniyyat the capacity for righteous action and then, as demanded by His Rahimiyyat, He enables them to perform righteous actions and thus safeguards them against calamities. This attribute also discloses His hidden Being.

The fourth attribute is Malik Yaum al-Din. This also discloses His hidden Being as by virtue of it He rewards the righteous and chastises the wicked. These four attributes bear aloft His Arsh. That is to say, His hidden Being is recognised in this world through these attributes. This recognition will be doubled in the hereafter, that is to say, eight angels, instead of four, will bear aloft the Arsh.

—Chashma-e-Ma’rifat, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 23, pp. 278-279

The unity of God is a light which illumines the heart after the so-called outer and inner deities are totally negated, and it courses through every particle of man’s being. It cannot be acquired by anyone on his own, but only through God and His messenger. Man’s function is that he should impose a death upon his ego and should discard the satanic vanity that he is a learned person. He should deem himself ignorant and should be occupied with supplication. Then the light of unity would descend upon him from God and would bestow new life upon him.

—Haqiqat-ul-Wahi, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 22, p. 148

As ever since the creation of the world the recognition of God is tied up with the recognition of a prophet, it is impossible that the knowledge of unity could be obtained except through a prophet. A prophet is a mirror for the beholding of God. It is only through this mirror that the countenance of God may be seen. When God Almighty desires to manifest Himself to the world, He sends a prophet into the world who is the manifestation of His Powers and to whom He displays His Rububiyyat. Then the world realises that God is.

It is a part of the unity of God to believe in those who have been under the eternal law of God appointed as a means of the recognition of God. Without this belief, faith in the unity of God cannot be perfected. It is not possible to achieve faith in the pure unity of God, which is created from the fountain of perfect certainty, in the absence of heavenly signs and wonders which are displayed by the prophets whereby they lead people to full understanding. They are a group that points to God and through whom God, Whose Being is imperceptible upon imperceptible and hidden upon hidden, manifests Himself. That hidden Treasure, Whose name is God, has ever been recognised through the prophets. The acquisition of faith in the Unity of God, which is estimated as true unity by God Himself, except through a prophet, is as much opposed to reason as it is contrary to the experience of all seekers after God.

—Haqiqat-ul-Wahi, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 22, pp. 115-116

The true unity of God, the affirmation of which is demanded by God and upon which salvation depends, is to believe that God in His Being is free from every associate, whether it is an idol or a human being, or the sun or moon or one’s ego, or one’s cunning or deceit; and to conceive of no one as possessing power in opposition to Him, nor to accept anyone as sustainer, nor to hold anyone as bestowing honour or disgrace, nor to consider anyone as helper or assistant; and to confine one’s love to Him and one’s worship to Him and one’s humility to Him and one’s hopes to Him and one’s fear to Him. No unity can be complete without the following three types of particularisation. First, there is the unity of Being, that is to say, to conceive the whole universe as non-existent in contrast with Him and to consider it mortal and lacking reality. Secondly, the unity of attributes, that is to say, that Rububiyyat and Godhead are confined to His Being and that all others who appear as sustainers or benefactors are only a part of the system set up by His hand. Thirdly, the unity of love and sincerity and devotion; that is to say, not to consider anyone as an associate of God in the matter of love and worship and to be entirely lost in Him.

—Siraj-ud-Din ‘Isa’i ke Char Sawalon ka Jawab, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 12, pp. 349-350


[1] The Holy Qur’an, 1:2-7.

[2] ‘He creates discrimination between you.’ – The Holy Qur’an, 8:30.

[3] The Holy Qur’an, 43:85.

[4] The Holy Qur’an, 6:104.

[5] The Holy Qur’an, 50:17.

[6] The Holy Qur’an, 8:25.

[7] The Holy Qur’an, 24:36.

[8] The Holy Qur’an, 55:27-28.

[9] ‘There is nothing whatever like unto Him.’ – The Holy Qur’an, 42:12.

[10] The Holy Qur’an, 13:3.