Fiqh al-Akbar Commentary (al-Maghnisawi)

2. Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar_The Attributes of Allah

The Attributes of Allah

_Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar – pp.34-36.

Section: Fiqh al-Akbar: “wa Allahu ta`ala wahid… fa-huwa kafirun bi-Allah ta`ala.”


  • Allah is not one in the sense of Number.[1]
  • Allah is ‘One’ (wahid) in terms of having no co-sharers, partners, equal, likeness, peer, etc. in His Essence and Attributes.[2]
  • Allah does not beget.
  • Allah is not begotten.
  • Allah is not an ‘intellect’ (`aql) born out of a Necessary Being (wajib al-wujud).
  • Allah is Self-Sufficient (al-sayyid al-ghani `an kull shay’ alladhi yaftaqiru ilayhi kullu shay’ siwahu = samad).[3]
  • Allah is independent of anything and everything.
  • Nothing is comparable to Allah in any way whatsoever.[4]
  • Allah is not a body (jism) hence he cannot be measured, defined, imagined, divided, counted, etc.
  • Allah is not a substance (jawhar) in which some accidental properties (a`rad) subsist.[5]
  • And Allah is not an accidental property or abstract entity that coheres or subsists in a larger substance.

Point: An argument inspired by Q. 21:22 states that it is impossible to have two divinities/deities known as the argument from ‘mutual hindrance’ (al-tamanu`):

[1] Deity X.

[2] Deity Y.

[3] Deity X desires to create a.

[4] Deity Y desires to create b.

[5] The association (ta`alluq) of Deity X’s Will and Deity Y’s Will are possibilities as there is no hindrance/opposition in their Wills but only in the objects they have willed to created (i.e. a and b).

[6] Either a and b are created together or one is created.

[7] The realisation of Deity X’s Will (i.e. if only a is created) renders powerless the Will of Deity Y (who wanted b to be created) and vice versa.[6]

[8] The constant agreement between Deity X and Deity Y still leaves open the possibility of conflict between the two deities as at one point one deity may wish to fully exercise its Will[7] but will be unable as it has to compromise with the other deity.[8]

Point: There is slight disagreement over whether this is a definitive argument (hujjah qat`iyyah) or a very persuasive argument (hujjah iqna`iyyah). This does not however mean that the argument as presented in the verse is deficient but rather whether the argument is more logical, conceptual and rational or more rhetorical and illustrative.[9]

  • Allah’s Essence and Attributes are not differentiated (neither being identical to it nor other than it).[10]
  • Allah’s attributes are pre-eternal and everlasting.[11]
  • Allah’s existence is His Essence.
  • Created things have their attributes different from their essences.[12]
  • Nothing exists necessarily like Allah.
  • Nothing in creation has any resemblance with Allah.
  • Allah has names and Attributes.[13]
  • Allah’s Essential and active attributes are neither created nor originated. To believe so is kufr.
  • Doubts about Allah’s attributes amounts to undermining yaqin (certainty) and contradicting tasdiq (conviction) and this is kufr.
  • Allah will always have, does and will possess His essential and active attributes.[14]

Essential Attributes

Active Attributes

That attribute whose opposite cannot be attributed to Allah, e.g. ‘Life’ (hayat), its opposite death (mawt) cannot be attributed to Allah.

Others include:

1. Power/qudrah,

2. Knowledge/`ilm,

3. Speech/kalam,

4. Hearing/sam`,

5. Seeing/basar

6. Willing/iradah.[15]

7. Life/hayat.

Any attribute whose opposite can be attributed to Allah, e.g. the ‘Creator’ (al-khaliq) the opposite is the Giver of Death (al-mumit).

Others include:

1. giving life/ihya’,

2. causing death/imata,

3. causing growth/inbat,

4. developing/inma’,

5. shaping/taswir,

7. creating/takhliq,

8. bringing into being/insha’,

9. making/sun`,

10. originating/ibda`,

11. sustaining/tarziq, etc.[16]

= takwin

  • Allah knows everything = omniscient being.[17] This includes:
  1. Every atom and molecule.
  2. Apparent and hidden things.
  3. Parts and wholes.
  4. Existents and non-existents.
  5. The possible and the impossible.
  6. What would result if the non-existent were to come into being (i.e. counterfactuals?).
  • Allah has speech.[18]
  • Allah’s speech is an eternal attribute.
  • Allah’s speech has no sounds, letters, or words (known as kalam nafsi = Allah’s own internal mode of speech).
  • Allah’s speech is not like human speech.
  • The words of the Qur’an as well as other Scriptures (e.g. Tawrah, Injil…) are the articulation of the eternal archetype of the Divine speech.
  • Allah put this articulation or mediated this articulation through words and sounds so that human beings can understand and comprehend them.
  • This articulation of the eternal archetype of the Divine speech into words and sounds is still considered His ‘speech’. But that this speech is not the internal mode of speech (kalam nafsi) which is His attribute but a speech He created to unfold and reflect and manifest His eternal speech.[19]
  • Allah spoke to creation.
  • When Allah speaks to creation, it is via His eternal speech and this is reflected or recorded as letters and words in the Lawh al-Mahfuz (‘Preserved Tablet’) and in texts for humans (such as the Masahifs).
  • Allah’s speech is not composed of letters and sounds associated with His Essence and hence eternal.
  • The volume of the Qur’an, i.e. its binding, paper, ink, colour of the text is not eternal.[20]

1 > The speech of Allah

= The Divine Archetype (kalam nafsi)

2 > Articulated into the words

of the Qur’an we have now (kalam lafzi).

3 > The words of the Qur’an are

composed of letters, sounds, rules, etc.

i.e. a human language.

4 > Therefore, human beings can understand

The Qur’an as it is revealed.[21]

Point: The Arabic imperative ‘kun’ (‘be!’) received a profuse discussion amongst Muslim scholars. In summary:

  • The Maturidis[22] do not consider this to be necessary for Allah to bring about something into existence.
  • The Maturidis believe that something is created through Allah’s act of ‘originating something’ (ijad) and ‘bringing into being’ (takwin) and both are His eternal Attributes.[23]
  • The verse related to kun in Q. 3:47 does not entail that Allah creates a thing with that imperative.[24] It is an expression to indicate that whenever and whatever Allah wills, it simply is and becomes. Therefore the verse establishes how easy it is for Allah to create something.[25]

Point: What about the Qur’an containing tensed propositions? If Allah is beyond time, and His speech is pre-eternal then no past, present or future exists but he uses past tense forms to explicate narrative truths, e.g. Q. 71:1-2. Also, to say something has happened as opposed it will happen is narrating something false and this is impossible for Allah. Answer:

Pre-eternal speech of Allah

with no sounds, letters, words, syntax, etc

Pre-eternal Speech is ‘tenseless’.

This pre-eternal speech is then

Specially revealed.

The revealed word is now in ‘correspondence’ with the

time of the event whether before or

after the time the Qur’an is revealed.

E.g. the sending of Nuh (AS) is known pre-eternally by Allah

And has no tense.

Before sending Nuh, the words to narrate

this event would have been, ‘we will send Nuh…’

And after having sent Nuh, the phrase will

Be ‘We have sent Nuh…’

Thus, the change in tense captures/articulates

The information and not in the

Informing itself.[26]

  • Allah hears all sounds and words through His pre-eternal hearing.
  • Hearing is one of Allah’s eternal attributes.
  • Allah can never be mistaken about what he hears.
  • Allah requires no medium through which to hear.
  • Allah’s hearing is exact, precise, definitive and perfect.[27]


  • Allah sees all colours, forms, images, etc. through His pre-eternal sight.
  • Seeing is one of Allah’s eternal attributes.
  • Allah can never be mistaken about what he sees.
  • Allah requires no medium through which to see.
  • Allah’s seeing is exact, precise, definitive and perfect.[28]


  • Allah has a Will (iradah).[29]
  • Allah’s Will is pre-eternal.
  • Allah’s has willed with His pre-eternal Will what is and will be.
  • Nothing in this world or the next world escapes Allah’s Will.
  • Anything and everything occurs through His pervading Will.
  • Allah’s Will does not preclude human free will.
  • Allah does whatever He wills.[30]

[1] See Fiqh al-Akbar II, art. 2 in Wensinck’s The Muslim Creed, pp.205-206.

[2] See al-Maghnisawi, Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar, p.72.

[3] See surat al-Ikhlas:1-5.

[4] See al-Maghnisawi, Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar, p.73.

[5] See al-Taftazani, Sharh `Aqa’id al-Nasafiyyah, p.76.

[6] Being powerless is a property of created things and contingent beings. `Ali al-Qari, Minah al-Rawd al-Azhar, p.60.

[7] This is what it means to be all-powerful.

[8] See `Ali al-Qari, Minah al-Rawd al-Azhar, pp.61-62. cf. the Appendix on the argument from Ghazali’s formulation.

[9] Cf. al-Maydani, Sharh al-`Aqidah al-Tahawiyyah, pp.89-51 and al-Zabidi, Ithaf al-Sada al-Muttaqin, 2:207.

[10] See al-Maghnisawi, Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar, p.75. For a small discussion of Matruridi’s view on Divine Attributes, see “Maturidism” by A. K. M. Ayyub in A History of Muslim Philosophy (ed. by M. M. Sharif), 1:269-271. Cf. also the Appendix ‘Divine Attributes’.

[11] See al-Ghawji, al-Ta`liq al-Muyassar, p.64.

[12] See al-Ghawji, al-Ta`liq al-Muyassar, pp.63-64.

[13] The difference between Allah’s names (asma’) and His attributes (sifat) is that the names identify and pick out the person/thing/entity/essence whereas an attribute is that which indicates or points to the quality or property of that person/thing/entity possesses. E.g. Allah is called/named ‘All-Powerful’ (al-qadir) or ‘Omniscient’ (al-`alim) but His attribute is ‘Power’ (qudrah) or ‘Knowledge’ (`ilm). The attributes signify a quality and property of the name. See al-Sawi, Kitab Sharh al-Sawi `ala Jawharat al-Tawhid, p.211 and al-Bajuri, Tuhfat al-Murid `ala Jawharat al-Tawhid, p.55.

[14] See al-Maghnisawi, Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar, pp.76 and 86-88. An attribute has three associated elements:




Sifat: One of Allah’s attributes Ta`alluq: the attribute’s link to the effect. Athar: the outcome from the association or connection.
The Maturidis hold the attributes of Allah are eternal but the ta`alluq and athar are created. See al-Ghawji, al-Ta`liq al-Muyassar, p.66.

[15] See al-Maghnisawi, Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar, p.77. Other essential attributes according to Imam Abu Hanifah (RA) include: 1) Oneness/ahadiyyah; 2) sovereignty/samadiyyah; 3) exaltedness/`azama and 4) grandeur/kibriya’, etc.

[16] In fact all these are subsumed under one attribute takwin which is eternal according to the Maturidis but not he Ash`aris who see the categories of takwin as a relation (ta`alluq) to their effects and hence created. See al-Maghnisawi, Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar, pp83-.85 and `Ali al-Qari, Minah al-Rawd al-Azhar, pp.83 and 90 for a rebuttal.

[17] See Q. 67:14 & 6: 59. See `Ali al-Qari, Minah al-Rawd al-Azhar, pp.69-70.

[18] See Kitab al-Wasiyyah, art. 9 and Fiqh al-Akbar II, art. 3 both in Wensinck’s The Muslim Creed, pp.149-151 and p.207 respectively. al-Maghnisawi, Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar, p.78.

[19] Cf. `Ali al-Qari, Minah al-Rawd al-Azhar, p.70.

[20] See `Ali al-Qari, Minah al-Rawd al-Azhar, p.74.

[21] The schema is taken from `Ali al-Qari, Minah al-Rawd al-Azhar, p.74.

[22] For differences between al-Maturidi and al-Ash`ari, see Tritton, Muslim Theology, pp.166-176; Watt, The formative Period of Islamic Thought, pp.303-316 and “Maturidism” by A. K. M. Ayyub in A History of Muslim Philosophy (ed. by M. M. Sharif), 1:268-269.

[23] See al-Qunawi, Sharh `Umdat al-`Aqa’id as cited by al-Qari in Minah al-Rawd al-Azhar, p.72.

[24] Regarding the verse, there are two points: 1) Allah cannot be addressing something here as it cannot make sense to address something that has not yet been given the property of being or existence (i.e. Allah’s address will have no object). 2. Allah cannot be addressing something existent as that would be nonsensical as well as Allah would be ordering something to exist that already exists (i.e. Allah’s address will be directed to an already existing object). Cf. Qari in Minah al-Rawd al-Azhar, pp.72-73.

[25] Other examples may be cited. Allah resurrects everyone with His Power while the blowing of the Horn by Israfil is merely a material cause to express that might of Allah.

[26] See al-Qari in Minah al-Rawd al-Azhar, p.88.

[27] See al-Maghnisawi, Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar, p.80.

[28] See al-Maghnisawi, Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar, p.80.

[29] Which is often referred to as His mashi’ah (will/desire/). The Qur’an mentions that there is a pervading Will, i.e. one that encompasses all created things (irada qadariyyah kawniyyah shar`iyyah = cf. Q. 6:125) and a more specific and particular Will (iradah diniyyah amriyyah shar`iyyah = cf. Q. 2:185) which is linked expressly to His Love and Approval, etc.

[30] See al-Maghnisawi, Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar, p.81.

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