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A Shi'a Anthology


God's Might and Majesty


It has been related that the righteous servant, Musa ibn Ja'far, said, "Surely God - there is no god but He - was the Living without 'how' (kayf) or 'where' (ayn). He was not in anything, nor was He on anything. He did not create a place (makan) for His grandeur (makan).2 He increased not in might after bringing things into being. Nothing brought into being resembles Him. He was not devoid of power over the dominion before its production, nor will He be devoid of power (over it) after its passing."3 

"He - the Mighty and Majestic - is a Living God without temporal life, King before He produces anything, Master after its production (insha'). God has no limits (hadd). He is not known through something resembling Him. He ages not through subsistence (baqa'). He is struck not by fear of anything, and by fright before Him all things are thunderstruck.4 So God is Living without temporal life, without a being described by attributes, without a state which can be defined, without a 


1. In an unpublished work entitled Risalat al-walayah (Treatise on sanctity), 'Allamah Tabataba'i comments on the section of this passage beginning with the words "Whoso maintains that he knows God by means of a veil": "Allusion is made here to the fact that it is logically impossible for the knowledge of something other than God to make necessary the knowledge of God Himself. Because of God's transcendence, it cannot be said that knowledge (of Him) is the very same as the thing known, as has already been explained (earlier m the treatise).

"It is impossible that knowledge of one thing should be knowledge of another thing different from it: otherwise the two different things would be the same, which contradicts the premise. So the fact that knowledge of one thing renders the knowledge of another thing necessary requires some sort of unification (ittihad) between the two things. But since they have been postulated as two things, there must be in addition to an aspect of unification, an aspect of disparity. Thus each of them is compounded of two aspects. Whereas God-glory be to Him-is one and simple in essence: He is not compounded of anything in a manner which would allow Him to be known by other than Him. This point is indicated by the Imam's saying, 'There is nothing between the Creator and the created,' etc., as well as by his words, 'Then he who maintains that he has faith in that which he does not know has gone astray from knowledge', etc., which is derived from his previous saying, i.e., 'Surely he alone knows God who knows Him by means of God,' etc. His words, 'A created thing perceives nothing unless it be by means of God', serve as its proof, for everything is known by means of God, who is 'the Light of the heavens and the earth' (Quran XXIV, 35), so how should things be known by means of other than Him? For He supports every individual being (dhat), and He is without supports in His very Essence (dhat). At the same time, knowledge of that which in its very essence is dependent ensues from knowledge of the Independent Being which supports it, for the fact that knowledge takes form necessarily requires independence in the case of that which is known. Thus knowledge of what is dependent is a consequence of (knowledge of) the Independent which accompanies it. Such is the reality.

And since it might be imagined that this doctrine is incarnation (hulul) or unification (ittihad)-high be God exalted above these-the Imam follows his words by saying, 'God is empty of His creatures and His creatures are empty of Him', etc. Saying that the created being's perception of something is by means of God does not negate the beginning of the passage ('Whoso asserts. . .'), which denies that the knowledge of God should require knowledge of other than Him, for the knowledge which is spoken of at the beginning is acquired (husuli) i.e., rational), and that u the end is 'presential' (huduri) i.e., direct and divinely dispensed knowledge or gnosis)." Folio 26 obverse-reverse (Photocopies of this work are in the possession of a number of 'Allamah Tabataba'i's disciples and students, and it is hoped that some day it will be published).


2. In al-Tawhid the editor explains that here the second makan is equivalent to makanah or azamah. He comments, "He did not create a place for His station and grandeur because places encompass Him not" (p. I4I). Majlisi prefers the reading kan for makan as found in some manuscripts and also in the ,hadith from the fifth Imam translated above. The meaning would then be as translated there, i.e., "He did not bring into existence a place for His Being."


3. "Master of the dominion" (malik al-mulk) is a divine name, occurring in Quran III, 26. Cf. Quran III, I89: "To God belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth: and God is powerful over everything" and many similar verses.


4. Cf. Quran, LII, 45. 


designated location or fixed place. Nay, He is Living in Himself, a Master whose power does not remove. He produced what He wills when He wills through His will and His power. He was First, without 'how', and will be 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)."

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