Philosophy & Theology

Imam `Ali al-Qari on the Names al-Hayy and al-Qayyum

al-Mullā ‘Alī b. Sult}ān Muh}ummad al-Qārī[1]


The Attributes:

al-H{ayy and al-Qayyūm


الملآ علي القاري: شرح فقه اْلأكبر

By S. Z. Chowdhury

Summer 2003

“Then [the attribute] ‘al-Qayyūm’ indicates the meaning of ‘al-azaliyyah’ (eternity) and ‘al-abadiyyah’ (everlastingness) not whatever indicates [the attribute] ‘al-Qadīm’ (infinite Pre-Existence).[2] [The attribute ‘al-Qayyum’][3] also indicates to the fact of independent existence (mawjūdan bi-nafsihi) and its meaning is the fact of ‘necessary existence’ (wājib al-wujūd).[4] Therefore, the sum total of the realities of these meanings is said to be comprised in the [ascription]: “The Living and The Everlasting” (al-H{ayy al-Qayyūm) and it is [considered to be] the Greatest Name (al-ism al-az}am) and is confirmed (yu’ayyadu) in what was rightly stated by [the Prophet (S}AW)]: “That the saying of Allah (Allah! There is no deity except Him! He is The Living and Everlasting!)[5] is the greatest verse in the Qur’ān (az}am āyah).”[6] Furthermore, what strengthens it is that these two Names are the pivots of all the Beautiful Names (madār al-asmā’ al-h}usnā) for to both all the meanings finally return. And indeed, the life requires all of the attributes of perfection and so no attribute remains absent from it except it shows weakness of the life. If His life is the most perfect of lives and the most complete, its affirmation is required – an affirmation of every perfection corresponding to the perfection of the life.

And as for the attribute of ‘al-Qayyūm’, it implies the perfection of His Self-Sufficiency; the perfection of His Power and the lack of need for anything with respects to His essence and attributes in terms of existence (ījādan) or provision (imdādan).

For indeed He is The Self-Existent requiring nothing whatsoever (fa lā yuhtāju ilā ghayrihi bi-wujūh min al-wujūh); Everlasting (al-muqīm) without need of anything and nothing can exist except by His permission.

Thus these two attributes unify the attributes of perfection by way of completion. And it is not unlikely that the ‘Majestic Name’ (al-ism al-az}am) are these two attributes but Allah Most Glorified knows best.” 

                                                                                                And Allah knows best.

[1] The excerpt is taken from Sharh} Fiqh al-Akbar li-Abī H{anīfah al-Numān, ed. by al-Shaykh Marwān Muh}ummad al-Sha‘‘ār, 1st edn. Dār al-Nafā’is,Beirut 1997, pp.74-75.

[2] Imām al-Ghazālī writes: “Al-H{ayy – the Living – is both agent and perceiver, so much so that one who does not act or perceive at all is dead. The lowest level of perception involves the one perceiving being conscious of itself, for what is not conscious of itself is inanimate and dead. But the perfect and absolute living thing is one under whose perception all perceived things are arranged, as are all existing things under its activity, so that no perceived thing escapes its knowledge and no action its activity and that is God – great and glorious, He is the absolutely living one.” The Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of God, trans. by David B. Burrell and N. Daher, The Islamic Texts Society, Cambridge 2004, p.129.

[3] al-Ghazālī after making the essence-existence distinction introduced by ibn Sīnā into  on the one hand “accidents and attributes” which require a “subject” in order to predicate and one the other hand “substances” which do not need a subject but subsist in themselves, adds that the latter category would still be conditional upon those factors necessary for its existence. However, al-Ghazālī states, if there were to be existent a being “whose essence would suffice for itself, whose subsistence would not be from another and whose existence would not be conditioned by the existence of another, it would subsist in itself absolutely… but that is none other than God – may He be praised and exalted,” The Ninety-Nine Names, pp.129-130. Cf. Imām al-Juwaynī in A Guide to Conclusive Proofs for the Principles of Belief, trans. by Paul E. Walker, Garnet Publishing,Reading 2000, p.85.

[4] The term al-wājib al-wujūd (The Necessarily Existent Being’) denotes that entity whose existence cannot fail to be, i.e. it is formally (that is logically) impossible for it not to exist. The Philosopher ibn Sīnā was famous for offering such a metaphysical proof from necessity for the existence of God but other philosophers such as al-Fārābī before him also employed such proofs and indeed, the latter is deemed to be the original instigator, see Kitāb al-Najāt of ibn Sīnā, 1st edn. Mat}bū‘ah al-Sa‘ādah, Cairo 1938, p.224 for the ‘necessary’ and ‘contingent’ distinction and I. R. Netton, Allah Transcendent: Studies in the Structure and Semiotics of Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Cosmology, 2nd edn. Curzon Press,London 1994, pp.123-125.

[5] al-Baqarah:255. Imām al-Shawkānī (d.1250) writes: “(al-h}ayy) means ‘al-bāqī’ (The Subsisting or Everlasting). It is also said [it means]: ‘He [SWT] neither ceases nor changes. Another opinion is that: ‘He is disposer of all affairs and one who determines all things’ (al-mus}arrif li ’l-umūr wa ’l-muqaddir li ’l-ashyā). And (al-qayyūm) means ‘Existing over everything with respect to what it had earned’. Another opinion is that it means: ‘Self-Subsisting and everlasting without need of anything.’ Another opinion is that it means: ‘Ever-present over the designs of creation as well as its protection,’” Fath} al-Qadīr: al-Jāmibayna Fannī al-Riwāyah wa ’l-Dirāyah, 1st edn. Dār ibn H{azm, Beirut 2000, p.233. This latter meaning was reported by al-Zamakhsharī (d.1144) in al-Kashshāf an H{aqā’iq al-Tanzīl wa Uyūn al-Aqāwīl fī Wujūh al-Ta’wīl, ed. by Yūsuf al-H{amdi, 4.vols. Maktabah Mas}r, n.d., vol.1, p.269, al-Nasafī, Madārik al-Tanzīl wa H{aqā’iq al-Ta’wīl, 1st edn. Dār al-Ma‘ārif, Beirut 2000, p.131 as well as Imām al-Bayd}āwī (d.791AH), Anwār al-Tanzīl wa Usrār al-Ta’wīl, 2.vols. 1st edn. Dār al-Bayān al-‘Arabī, al-Azhar, Cairo 2002, vol.1, p.134. Imām al-Baghawī (d.516) reports: “Mujāhid said: ‘al-Qayyūm’ means ‘Established over all things’ (al-qā’im alā kulli shay’); al-Kalbī said: ‘Established over everyone.’ Another opinion is that it means He [SWT] is established over all affairs (al-qā’im bi ’l-umūr) and Abū ‘Ubaydah said: ‘the one who never ceases (lā yazūlu),’” Maālim al-Tanzīl, 3rd edn. Dār al-Ma‘ārif,Beirut 1992, vol.1, p.239.

[6] See Kanz al-Ummāl by al-Muttaqī al-Hindī, Maktabah al-Turāth al-Islāmī, n.d. vol.1, ah}ādīth:2539 & 2560.


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