Abu Basir has related that a man came to Abu Ja'far (the fifth Imam) and said to him, "O Abu Ja'far, tell me about thy Lord! When was He?"
He said, "Woe unto thee! Surely it is said of a thing that was not, and then was, 'When was it ?' But my Lord-blessed is He and high exalted - was ever-living without 'how' and had no 'was'. His Being (kawn) had no 'how', nor had it any 'where'. He was not in anything, nor was He on anything. He did not bring into existence a place (makan) for His Being (kan). He increased not in strength after bringing things into being, nor was He weak before bringing things into being. And He was not lonely (mustawhish) before creating things. He resembles nothing brought into being. He was not devoid of power over the dominion before its production that He should be devoid of the dominion1 after its passing. He remains Living without (created) life, a powerful King before He produces anything (over which to rule) and an all-compelling King (malik jabbar) after He produces the universe (al-kawn). His Being has no 'how', nor has it any 'where', nor has it any limit. He is not known through anything resembling Him. He ages not through the duration of His subsistence. He is thunderstruck by nothing. Nothing causes Him to fear. And all things are thunderstruck by fear of Him."2
"He is Living without temporal life, without a being (kawn) described by attributes, without a state which can be defined (kayf mahdud), without a trace which can be followed, and without a place adjacent to anything. Nay, He is a Living One who knows, a King who ever is. His are the power and the dominion. He produces what He wills through His will (mashiyyah). He is neither limited nor divided into parts, and He perishes not. He was the First, without 'how', and He will be the Last, without 'where'. And 'All things perish, except His Face' (XXVIII, 88). 'His are the creation and the command. Blessed be God, the Lord of all beings!'" (VII, 54).
1. The text reads "it" for "dominion", but in order to avoid ambiguity the noun has been repeated. In Arabic the masculine pronoun cannot refer to the feminine "power", although if one were to follow the similar sentence in the hadith related from the Seventh Imam below, "power" would be the logical choice as antecedent. The meaning is that before the production of the world God had power over it, and after its end He will still possess it. Whether or not it exists in external form is irrelevant.
2. Cf. Quran LII, 45: "Then leave them, till they encounter their day wherein they shall be thunderstruck ...".
"Woe upon thee, O questioner! As for my Lord, truly imaginations envelop Him not, uncertainties touch Him not, He is oppressed by none, none is adjacent to Him, phenomena touch Him not, He is questioned not as to anything He does,1 He comes not upon anything,2 'Slumber seizes Him not, neither sleep' (II, 255). 'To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, and all that is underneath t he soil'" (XX, 6).