God and knowledge in the Quran is an important discussion about Divine knowledge and in this article we will discuss some of the verses that explain God’s knowledge and how it is all-encompassing.
The article covers the following topics:
God and Knowledge in the Quran: God Knows Everything
God’s knowledge, which is all-encompassing, has been discussed in numerous places in the Holy Quran. A few of the verses in this regard will be explained below.
God and Knowledge in the Quran: Proof of God’s Knowledge
أَلَا يَعْلَمُ مَنْ خَلَقَ وَهُوَ اللَّطِيفُ الْخَبِيرُ ﴿14﴾
Would He who has created not know? And He is the All-attentive, the All-aware. 1
This verse is asking a rhetorical question and is proof of God’s knowledge over the open and manifest as well as the hidden actions of creation. Despite the fact that our actions, which include our voluntary actions, are attributed to us; in reality, it is Allah who creates that action through His servant’s free will and the requisites of all other causes. Therefore, it is God who is the creator of actions too because He has created the owner of actions.
The owner of actions with all his effects, actions, and the relationship that exists between him and his effects, which manifests his effects; all are God’s creation. God is all-encompassing, both over their bodies as well over their effects and actions and how can He be all-encompassing but not have knowledge?
This verse proves that God is the creator of all these aspects of a human being, as the verse bases the argument of God’s knowledge on the effects, states, and actions of creation when it says that He has knowledge of the creation itself and if these aspects of a human being are separated from him; the argument would be incomplete. These are all requisites of a creation and if the creation is attributed to God all parts and aspects of it are too. 2
God and Knowledge in the Quran: Not the Smallest Thing Escapes His Knowledge
وَمَا يَعْزُبُ عَن رَّبِّكَ مِن مِّثْقَالِ ذَرَّةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِي السَّمَاءِ وَلَا أَصْغَرَ مِن ذَٰلِكَ وَلَا أَكْبَرَ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مُّبِينٍ ﴿61﴾
Not an atom’s weight escapes your Lord in the earth or in the sky, nor [is there] anything smaller than that nor bigger, but it is in a manifest Book. 3
This verse explicitly states that all creations are present for God and that His knowledge of them is knowledge by presence (العلم الحضوري) and direct knowledge. 4
Kitābin Mubīn (کتابٍ مبین) refers to the Lawḥ al-Maḥfūẓ (لوح المحفوظ) (the preserved tablet) or God’s vast knowledge in relation to all of existence and the creation which includes their acts as well everything that is in the heavens and earth, from the smallest to the greatest thing. 5
God and Knowledge in the Quran: Closer to Us Than Our Jugular Vein
وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ وَنَعْلَمُ مَا تُوَسْوِسُ بِهِ نَفْسُهُ ۖ وَنَحْنُ أَقْرَبُ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ حَبْلِ الْوَرِيدِ ﴿16﴾
Certainly We have created man and We know to what his soul tempts him, and We are nearer to him than his jugular vein. 6
The word tuwaswisu (توسوس) which is from the root word waswasah (وسوسة) refers to the undesirable and unwelcome thoughts that pass through our hearts and minds.
If God is aware of the transient thoughts that come to us and what passes through our hearts, then He is definitely aware of all our beliefs, actions and words and keeps the accounting of these for the Day of Judgment.
God is the creator of human beings and as such, it is not possible for the creator to be unaware of the smallest details of His creation’s existence; particularly since His act of creating is eternal and continuous. All of creation receives the grace of existence from Him moment to moment and if our connection with Him is broken for the smallest moment; we would cease to exist. We are dependent on His existence in all our states; how then is it possible for Him to be unaware of our outer and inner states? 7
Our Life Depends on Our Jugular Vein
Our physical life depends on the jugular vein which takes blood into the heart and the rest of the body and if that stops, a person would die. God, however, states in this verse that He is closer even than that vein to a person.
Although, it must be noted that all these are just metaphors, for God’s closeness to us is greater and higher than this even, though no better example can be given for this from material matters.
With this all-encompassing knowledge that God has over us and His infinite power over us, our responsibility is clear. Neither our actions and words nor our thoughts and intentions are hidden from Him. Paying attention to this reality awakens a person to the heavy responsibility that we have and the precise record of deeds in the Divine court of justice. And it helps us change from being an indifferent person to one who is conscious and aware, committed, and pious. 8
God and Knowledge in the Quran: God as The Teacher
وَعَلَّمَ آدَمَ الْأَسْمَاءَ كُلَّهَا ثُمَّ عَرَضَهُمْ عَلَى الْمَلَائِكَةِ فَقَالَ أَنبِئُونِي بِأَسْمَاءِ هَـٰؤُلَاءِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ ﴿31﴾
And He taught Adam the Names, all of them; then presented them to the angels and said, ‘Tell me the names of these, if you are truthful.’ 9
This verse indicates that the Names mentioned or what they were named for, were creations that were alive and rational beings and were veiled and this is why knowledge in relation to them is of a different type to the knowledge we have to the names of things.
If this knowledge was the same as our knowledge of the names of objects, after Adam informed the angels of these names (which is explained in later verses), the angels should also have become knowledgeable of those names like Adam and should have been equal to him. This is because even though Adam taught them the Names, he himself learned them from God and therefore, Adam should not have been considered superior to the angels or be respected more and given a higher status.
Similarly, if the knowledge was of the same type as our knowledge, the angels should not have been satisfied merely with the fact that Adam knows the names of those beings and as a result, that their argument was invalidated (where they asked God if He wanted to appoint someone as His vicegerent who would spread bloodshed and corruption on earth which was mentioned in the verse prior to this).
It is not a strong argument that God would teach some vocabulary to Adam and then take pride in His creation for the angels and make him superior to them even though the angels were so elevated in terms of His worship. 10
What Was the Knowledge Adam Learned?
The angels do not need language which is a means to understand the intentions of the speaker. However, angels already know of the inner thoughts and intentions of every person without any mediation.
So what was the knowledge Adam learned from God? The knowledge that he learned from God was different to what the angels learned from Adam. The knowledge that he learned was the reality of knowledge in relation to the Names which was possible for Adam but not for the angels. And if Adam was worthy of the status of vicegerency of God, it was due to this knowledge of the Names not due to informing the angels of it. If the latter was true, after he informed the angels of it, the angels should also have the knowledge just like him and there was no cause for them to say:
They said, ‘Immaculate are You! We have no knowledge except what You have taught us. 11
In conclusion, the knowledge which Adam learned was such that the realities of those creations were revealed to him; not just their names, and that they were external realities not simply concepts of the mind and they were hidden, that is, they were the unseen of the earth and heavens. Knowledge of the unseen creations, as they are, was possible only for a material creature on one hand, and on the other hand, that knowledge had a part in him being the Divine vicegerent. 12
God and Knowledge in the Quran: Knowledge of God
سَنُرِيهِمْ آيَاتِنَا فِي الْآفَاقِ وَفِي أَنفُسِهِمْ حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ ۗ أَوَلَمْ يَكْفِ بِرَبِّكَ أَنَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ ﴿53﴾
Soon We shall show them Our signs in the horizons and in their own souls until it becomes clear to them that He is the Real. Is it not sufficient that your Lord is witness to all things? 13
Knowing God has levels:
- Sometimes we gain knowledge through the effects of the one from whom those effects originate, which is indicated by the phrase,
Our signs in the horizons and in their own souls. 14
Horizons refers to the signs we see in the external world like the sky, earth, and so forth while in their own souls refers to the signs of God that are present in our own existence.
- And sometimes we find God Himself and put aside all intermediaries. 15 The verse question: is it not enough that God is perceivable in all things, which is a rhetorical question. The answer is that yes it is sufficient since all creations – without exception – need and depend on Him in all aspects and He is subsistent, mighty and beyond them. Therefore, God is perceivable and known to everything; even though some may not recognize Him. 16
God and Knowledge in the Quran looks at the proof of God’s knowledge in verses of the Quran and other verses which describe God’s knowledge as being all-encompassing.
Another aspect of God’s knowledge in the Quran is Him being a teacher to Adam and teaching him the Names which are one of the things that distinguishes and makes Adam superior to the angels.
The Quran also speaks of knowing God and this is sometimes through signs in the external world and sometimes through looking at our own existence and other times, it is through putting aside all these effects and perceiving God as He is the most evident reality.
- [67: 14]. Qarai translation
- Tafsir al- Mīzān. Vol. 19, pp. 594-595
- [10: 61]. Qarai translation
- Qarashi, A. A. Tafsīr Aḥsan al-Ḥadīth, 3rd ed. Beʿthat. Vol. 4, p. 408
- Tafsīr Nūr. Commentary of Surah Yunus. Verse 61
- [50: 16]. Qarai translation
- Tafsīr Namūna. Vol. 22, p. 244
- Ibid. pp. 244-245
- [2: 31]. Qarai translation
- Tafsir al- Mīzān. Vol. 1, p. 180
- [2: 32]. Qarai trasnslation
- Ibid. pp. 180-181
- [41: 53]. Qarai translation
- Tafsīr Nūr. Commentary of Surah Fussilat. Verses 53 & 54
- Tafsir al- Mīzān. Vol. 17, p. 614
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