Is God Composed of Different Attributes

Is God Composed of Different Attributes?

Is God composed of different names and attributes? Are there any differences between Him and His attributes? Does He need His attributes? We know that God is One, All-Sufficient, infinite, non-physical, and a simple existence.

He does not need anyone or anything. Therefore, all of His attributes and His essence are one reality. His essence and attributes are equal. The division between His essence and attributes is purely conceptual.

In this article, we are going to learn the following:

Good Qualities Are Attributed to God

Good qualities are attributed to God, for instance, He is All-Independent, All-Mighty, All-Sufficient, and so on. However, we should know that all of His attributes and essence are one entity, and there is no separation or division between Him and His attributes.

هُوَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۖ عَالِمُ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ ۖ هُوَ الرَّحْمَٰنُ الرَّحِيمُ ‎ هُوَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْمَلِكُ الْقُدُّوسُ السَّلَامُ الْمُؤْمِنُ الْمُهَيْمِنُ الْعَزِيزُ الْجَبَّارُ الْمُتَكَبِّرُ ۚ سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ ‎‏ هُوَ اللَّهُ الْخَالِقُ الْبَارِئُ الْمُصَوِّرُ ۖ لَهُ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ ۚ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ ‎‏

He is God. There is no god beside Him, the knower of the unseen and the seen. He is All-Compassionate, the All-Merciful. He is God, there is no God except Him, the Sovereign, the Holy, Flawless, the [Provider of] the Peace, Guardian, Powerful, Compeller, and the Greatest. He is exalted and above what they ascribe [to Him]. He is God, the Creator, the Originator, and the Former. He has beautiful names. Whatever exists in the heavens and the earth glorifies Him and He is All-Mighty, All-Wise.1

To clarify the issue, we should mention that two types of attributes are attributed to God. One type is the qualities that are attributed to His essence. The other type of qualities are attributed to His actions.  

Attributes of Essence

We said that God’s essence and attributes are equal; they are one. Therefore, there is no difference between His attributes and essence, but we use this type of definition to introduce Him so that we can understand Him better.

The attributes of essence are divided into three main attributes:

Knowledge

One of the main attributes of God is His infinite knowledge. He knows all things. He knows how to create and what to create. He knows the past, present, and future, for He is beyond time. His knowledge is incomparable with the knowledge of human beings; it is exclusive to Him, and He can disclose some parts of it to whomever He wills, for instance, His messengers. The fact that God knows the future and the fates of people does not contradict our free will. This unique knowledge does not interfere with the free will of human beings. Many verses of the Quran mention this attribute. For instance,

قَالُوا سُبْحَانَكَ لَا عِلْمَ لَنَا إِلَّا مَا عَلَّمْتَنَا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَلِيمُ الْحَكِيمُ

 The angels said [to God], “You are glorified [and know all things, but] we know nothing except what you have taught us. Indeed, you are All- Knowing All-Wise.”2

Might

God is All-Mighty. He can do all things as He created the heavens, the earth, and the human being. He can recreate, resurrect, or create their likes.  In the following verses, God mentions that He is All-Mighty and has the power of doing all things:

لِّلَّهِ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۗ وَإِن تُبْدُوا مَا فِي أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوْ تُخْفُوهُ يُحَاسِبْكُم بِهِ اللَّهُ ۖ فَيَغْفِرُ لِمَن يَشَاءُ وَيُعَذِّبُ مَن يَشَاءُ ۗ وَاللَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ

Whatever exists in the heavens and on the earth belongs to God. If you disclose or hide what is in your heart, God will bring you to account for it. He forgives whomever He wills and punishes whomever He wills, and God is able to do all things.3

اَوْ كَالَّذِي مَرَّ عَلَىٰ قَرْيَةٍ وَهِيَ خَاوِيَةٌ عَلَىٰ عُرُوشِهَا قَالَ أَنَّىٰ يُحْيِي هَٰذِهِ اللَّهُ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا ۖ فَأَمَاتَهُ اللَّهُ مِائَةَ عَامٍ ثُمَّ بَعَثَهُ ۖ قَالَ كَمْ لَبِثْتَ ۖ قَالَ لَبِثْتُ يَوْمًا أَوْ بَعْضَ يَوْمٍ ۖ قَالَ بَل لَّبِثْتَ مِائَةَ عَامٍ فَانظُرْ إِلَىٰ طَعَامِكَ وَشَرَابِكَ لَمْ يَتَسَنَّهْ ۖ وَانظُرْ إِلَىٰ حِمَارِكَ وَلِنَجْعَلَكَ آيَةً لِّلنَّاسِ ۖ وَانظُرْ إِلَى الْعِظَامِ كَيْفَ نُنشِزُهَا ثُمَّ نَكْسُوهَا لَحْمًا ۚ فَلَمَّا تَبَيَّنَ لَهُ قَالَ أَعْلَمُ أَنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ ‎

Or like the one who passed a town which lay fallen on its roof. He said, “How will God give life to this after its death?” Then God made him die for a hundred years, then He gave him life [and] said, “How long have you stayed?” He replied, “One day or a part of a day.” God said, “You have stayed for a hundred years, so look at your food and drink which have not been spoiled, and look at your donkey, and We make you a sign for the people, and look at the bones [to see] how we formed them and covered them with flesh, therefore, when it had become clear to him, he said, “I know verily God is able to do all things.”4

Life

God is primordial and eternal. All life emanates from Him. He is Self-Sufficient while the rest of creation depends on Him. He is like the beams of light that depend on the source of light. If the source is cut, they will exist no more.

اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْحَيُّ الْقَيُّومُ ۚ لَا تَأْخُذُهُ سِنَةٌ وَلَا نَوْمٌ

God [is your Lord alone]; there is no god except Him, the living, the All- Sustainer.5

Is God Able to Do Impossible Things?

Impossibility is discussed in two aspects: The event or thing which is naturally impossible to occur. For instance, can a dead person be alive? Events that are rationally impossible, for example, passing a camel through a needle’s eye without changing the size of the camel or needle’s eye is rationally impossible. This is the perfect order that God has designed with His infinite knowledge and wisdom. Therefore, He grants the needed capacity to His subject and then performs it. It is not a matter of God not being able to do such things, rather we and the laws governing us do not have the capacity to accept it. It is interesting to know that in the Quran, when God wants to say something is impossible, He says just what we mentioned about a camel passing through the needle’s eye:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا وَاسْتَكْبَرُوا عَنْهَا لَا تُفَتَّحُ لَهُمْ أَبْوَابُ السَّمَاءِ وَلَا يَدْخُلُونَ الْجَنَّةَ حَتَّىٰ يَلِجَ الْجَمَلُ فِي سَمِّ الْخِيَاطِ ۚ وَكَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِي الْمُجْرِمِينَ ‎﴿٤٠﴾

Indeed, those who denied Our signs and were too arrogant to believe in it, neither the gates of heaven will be opened to them nor will they enter heaven until the camel passes through the needle’s eye. Thus We punish the guilty.6

Can We Attribute Bad Qualities to God?     

Contrary to God’s creation, God has no flaws, and nothing can limit Him. Indeed, no one is equal to Him. God’s knowledge is not limited like a human being. His power is also unlimited, unlike man because God is infinite, Self-Sufficient, and Independent. Therefore, His attributes are infinite, too, meaning they are without any limits or flaws. As a result, we cannot attribute any bad qualities or flaws to Him.

Some attributes or qualities that degrade God’s actual exalted position must not be attributed to God. Thus, we negate all sorts of limitations, flaws, and weaknesses from God. For example, God is not physical, seeable, or touchable.

When we read in the Qur’an about some attributes of God, such as the hands of God or the face of God, we should consider the fact that these are linguistic expressions that God uses symbolically for us to understand, and they do not convey literal meanings. Some ignorant people in the past took these expressions literally, thus limiting God to the flaw of being a physical entity. Meanwhile, the Quran says God is not like anything that people ascribe to Him because all things except Him are mortal.

Conclusion

God is one simple infinite being. There are not two Gods, and He is not composed of different parts or attributes, but rather He is one infinite God, the source of all the good qualities and attributes. Therefore, to introduce Him, we have to use many good attributes to introduce Him to others partially. Nevertheless, no word can introduce Him as He deserves.



References

  1. Quran 59:22-24 (Foroutan).
  2. Quran 2:32 (Foroutan).
  3. Quran 2:284 (Foroutan).
  4. Quran 2:259 (Foroutan).
  5. Quran 2:255 (Foroutan).
  6. Quran 7:40 (Foroutan).
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Dr.Behrouz Foroutan
Dr.Behrouz Foroutan
Dr. Behrouz Foroutan is a scholar, author, and international lecturer in Islamic studies. He has been involved in scripture translation and its commentary for approximately two decades now but he put most of his focus on translating the Qur’an and its commentary in English in a way that makes it easier for the reader to understand, without losing its credibility. The product of that was books on spirituality, beliefs, and a new English translation of the Qur’an and its commentary in 12 volumes.

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