What are the attributes of allah? How many attributes are there of allah? Attributes of allah and their meaning…
In addition to the beautiful names of Allah, the Creator and the Lord of the worlds also has unique and unmatched attributes. Belief in Allah must also include belief in these attributes because knowing Allah Almighty is only possible through His attributes.
The attributes of Allah and the attributes of His creatures are different from each other. First of all, it is Allah who bestows certain qualities to creatures. However, these qualities and abilities are limited in these beings, they can function indirectly, and as a result, with Allah’s creation and help.
Attributes of Allah are divided into three as dhātī, thubūtī, and fiʿlī:
a) Dhātī Attributes
They are attributes that are with Allah’s being and essence and cannot be considered separate from Him. These are also called “salbī attributes”. They are called salbī attributes for they remove the attributes that contradict Allah’s majesty and perfection from Him and are free from all deficient attributes.
There are six dhātī attributes: wujūd, qidam, baqā, waḥdāniyyah, mukhalafatun li al-hawādith and qiyām bi nafsihī.
- Wujūd: It means “to exist”. It is also called “ṣifat al-nafsiyyah”. Without God, nothing would exist. The existence of the universe is the greatest witness to His existence. Nothing can exist nor disappear by itself. Allah Almighty is called “Wājib al-Wujūd (whose existence is absolutely necessary)” because His existence is absolutely necessary and his non-existence is impossible.
Non-existence, the opposite of existence, is inconceivable for Allah. The existence of Allah is not through any other being but is a necessity of His divine existence. The proofs we have mentioned above regarding the existence of Allah are also the proofs of the attribute “wujūd”.
- Qidam: It means “having no beginning, being pre-eternal”. There is nothing before Allah, He is the First and He has no beginning. He is pre-eternal. No matter how far back one goes into the past, it is inconceivable to think of a time when God did not exist. It is implausible to argue that if God was not pre-eternal, he would have to have come into existence at a later point. Everything which happens needs a Creator. The existence of Allah is a necessity of His essence, that is, His existence is from Himself.
The pre-eternal attributes of Allah are ḥayāt, ‘ilm, samī’, baṣar, qudrah, kalām, irādah and mashī’ah, khalq, and giving sustenance.
The pre-eternity of Allah Almighty is declared Himself as follows in the Qur’an, “He is the First and the Last, the Evident and the Immanent: and He has full knowledge of all things.”
To conclude, it could be said that before all beings in this world and in the universe, there was a time when they did not exist. Allah, on the other hand, exists free from time and space. The concept of time is a process that occurs between the earth and some planet, star, star cluster, or galaxy. The absence of an advancing time concept in regards to God refers to the absence of His beginning and His end, in other words, His pre-eternity and eternity, His qidam and baqā.
- Baqā: It means “not to have an end to existence, to be eternal”. The following is stated in the Qur’an: “All that lives on earth or in the heavens is bound to pass away: but forever will abide your Lord’s Self, full of majesty and glory.”, and “He is the First and the Last, the Evident and the Immanent: and He has full knowledge of all things.” These Qur’anic verses demonstrate that Allah is eternal. Moreover, it is recognized that it is an inability if one is not able to continue one’s existence. Therefore, inability is a deficiency. God is free from all deficiencies and imperfections. He has infinite power. There is no power that can destroy him.
- Waḥdāniyyah: It means “The Oneness of God”. Allah is unique in His being, attributes, and actions. The being of Allah is not composed of parts and pieces, He is not an object, He has no equal or alike. He is not like what He has created. Allah’s attributes are not like the attributes of His creatures. Being unique in his actions means being unique in creation. Creation, in the sense of creating out of nothing, belongs to Allah. The oneness of Allah is expressed as follows in chapter al-Ikhlas: “Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begets not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.”
If there were more than one god who created and ruled the universe then when they had different desires and wills, what one said would come true whereas the other would be compelled to accept what he does not will. For that reason, the one who is helpless cannot be considered a god. This so-called deity cannot be said to have the rank of lordship since he is helpless and base in front of the other deity. Moreover, these contradictions between the gods would disrupt the fine-tuned order that exists in the universe. This situation is stated in the Qur’an as follows: “If there were, in the heavens and the earth, other gods besides Allah, there would have been confusion in both!…”, “…Is there any creator other than Allah?…”, and “…Whose will be the dominion that Day? That of Allah, the One the Irresistible!”
The formation of the order in the world and its continuation without deterioration is the work of Allah alone. The unity of God brings unity, harmony, and order to the universe. If Allah had a partner, this order would be broken down. In this regard, the following is stated in the verse, “No son did Allah beget, nor is there any god along with Him: (if there were many gods), behold, each god would have taken away what he had created, and some would have lorded it over others!…”
Throughout history, people have strayed, from time to time, and associated partners with Allah. This is called “shirk (associating partners)”. The one who commits this is called a “mushrik (polytheist)”. There are two ways to associate partners with Allah:
- a) To accept another being such as humans, idols, trees, animals, etc. as a god besides Allah.
- b) Associating partners with Allah in worship and deeds. Such as hypocrisy, and boasting to show oneself as pious or superior in the acts of worship.
The fact is that Allah is free from the description of the polytheists. He has not adopted children of any kind. There is no other god besides Him. If He did, the consequences that we mentioned would appear, and disorder would emerge in the universe.
The polytheistic belief of the Christians are also mentioned in the Qur’an as follows: “They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah…” According to this, Christians who accept three deities (who believe in trinity) as God, Jesus Christ, and the holy spirit have gone astray from the belief in God’s Oneness and Unity. The Qur’anic verse “They do blaspheme who say: “Allah is Christ the son of Mary”” indicates another state of shirk that the Christians fall into by attributing a “son” to Allah.
If there were three deities, as the Christians espoused, a conflict between them would be inevitable to seize the universe and the central power. The result of such an assumption is indicated in the following verse, “Say: If there had been (other) gods with Him, as they say, behold, they would certainly have sought out a way to the Lord of the Throne! Glory to Him! He is high above all that they say! Exalted and Great (beyond measure)!”
- Mukhālafatun li al-Ḥawādith: It means “not to be like the things that happened afterward”. Allah does not resemble anything, and nothing resembles Allah. It is not possible for Allah to resemble His creatures with His essential attributes. This is because God is pre-eternal, he has no beginning whereas the creation came into existence later. God is eternal, and He has no end. The creation, on the other hand, is finite and mortal. Moreover, the creation is composed of a number of parts and pieces. Therefore, such a thing cannot be conceived of concerning the being of Allah Almighty.
No matter how we may think of Almighty Allah, He is not like any of the forms we may imagine or envision. This is simply because the human being envisions the things he or she sees, hears, and knows. These are beings and forms created in time and space at a certain time that can always, in one form or another, be categorized as later. Allah, on the other hand, is not associated with anything created or later. The following is stated in the Qur’an: “(He is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves, and pairs among cattle: by this means does He multiply you: there is nothing whatever like unto Him, and He is the One that hears and sees (all things).”
The attribute that Allah is not like the creatures also expresses that He is free from the attributes found in other beings such as being corporeal, being a substance, being an accident, composed of parts and pieces, eating, drinking, sitting, sleeping, being sad, sorrowful or joyful. Expressions such as “the hand, the face, and establishment on the Throne”, which are attributed to Allah in some Qur’anic verses, do not mean that Allah resembles other beings. They are used in a figurative sense. God’s hand is considered “His power”; His face “His being”; and “Establishment on the Throne”, has been interpreted as “dominating the throne, and passing judgment”.
- Qiyām bi Nafsihī: It means “existence to be from oneself, not to need another being in order to exist”. The existence of Allah is from Himself and not from anyone else. While all other beings need the creation of a being other than themselves, Allah does not need a creator to create Him, a dwelling to live, space, or any other being, object, or power.
Beings are divided into two kinds as mumkun (possible) and wājib (obligatory). Apart from Allah, all perceivable or unperceivable beings are possible beings (mumkun). Their presence and absence are equal. They exist because Allah wills them to exist. If He wished them to vanish, they would vanish instantly. This feature of beings is expressed in the Qur’an as follows, “Is not He Who created the heavens and the earth able to create the like thereof?” Yea, indeed! for He is the Creator Supreme, of skill and knowledge (infinite)! Verily, when He intends a thing, His Command is, “be”, and it is!”
Human intellect accepts the Creator of these beings as obligatory. Therefore, the existence of Allah is recognized as “wājib”. The mind is not able to accept it any other way. The existence of God is a necessity of His own being. For that reason, it is obligatory to know and recognize Him in the way He introduced Himself in the Qur’an.
Finally, the opposites of these essential attributes, which we have briefly explained above, are unthinkable for Allah. This is because He is the Creator, not the created.
b) Thubūtī Attributes
These are the attributes whose existence is obligatory and expresses perfection. The features that are the opposites of the thubūtī attributes cannot be thought of about God. These attributes are eternal and they did not come into existence later, like the attributes of other creatures. All thubūtī attributes can be attributed to God, whether they are adjective words in terms of linguistic rules such as ḥay (Living), ‘alīm (All-Knowing), qadīr (Omnipotent), or words in an infinitive form such as ḥayat, ‘ilm, and qudrah. Although there are similarities in usage with the attributes of humans, in reality, Allah’s attributes are infinite, absolute, pre-eternal, and eternal, while human attributes are finite, limited, and subsequently created, incomplete and inadequate. Thubūtī attributes are eight as follows:
- Ḥayāt: It means “to be alive and living”. Almighty God is alive. In our daily lives, we see that only a living being can carry out a deed, movement, and accomplishment. No action of the dead is ever observed. The livingness of Allah is not a temporary and material life seen in creatures that arise from the union of matter with spirit, but it is the Ḥayāt that has no beginning nor end and does not need an external factor or support. It is important to note that death is an attribute of imperfection and that God is free from all imperfections.
The following is stated in the Qur’an regarding this attribute: “And put your trust in Him Who lives and dies not; and celebrate his praise; and enough is He to be acquainted with the faults of His servants.”, “Allah! There is no god but He, the Living, the Self-Subsisting, Eternal.”, and “(All) faces shall be humbled before (Him) the Living, the Self-Subsisting, Eternal: hopeless indeed will be the man that carries iniquity (on his back).” 
- ʿIlm: It means “to know”. God is all-knowing. He knows what happened, what is happening, what will happen, the past, the hidden, and the apparent. He knows everything both as a whole, as an individual piece, and in detail. This knowledge is not dependent on a tool or instrument, it exists with Allah Almighty, it is pre-eternal and eternal. His knowledge is not knowledge-based on thought, contemplation, and reasoning, like the knowledge of human beings. Allah knows everything since it will absolutely happen, otherwise, nothing happens because Allah knows it will not. Ignorance (jahl), which is the opposite of the attribute of knowledge, cannot be said of Allah.
The theologians rejected the claims of some philosophers that “Allah knows the general, not the details” because they argue, that such a way of thinking contradicts Allah’s attribute of knowledge and means attributing a deficiency to Him.
There are many verses in the Qur’an regarding the attribute of knowledge. We will mention four of them:
“With Him are the keys of the unseen, the treasures that none knows but He. He knows whatever there is on the earth and in the sea. Not a leaf does fall but with His knowledge: there is not a grain in the darkness (or depths) of the earth, nor anything fresh or dry (green or withered), but is (inscribed) in a record clear (to those who can read).”, “Are you not aware that Allah knows all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth?”, “And [know, O men, that] whether you keep your beliefs secret or state them openly, He has full knowledge indeed of all that is in [your] hearts.”, and “(Allah) knows of (the tricks) that deceive with the eyes, and all that the hearts (of men) conceal.”
The breadth of Allah’s knowledge is also explained in the verses as follows:
“Say: ‘If the ocean were ink (wherewith to write out) the words of my Lord, sooner would the ocean be exhausted than would the words of my Lord, even if we added another ocean like it, for its aid.’”, and “And if all the trees on earth were pens and the ocean (were ink), with seven oceans behind it to add to its (supply), yet would not the words of Allah be exhausted (in the writing): for Allah is Exalted in Power, full of Wisdom.”
The fine calculation, balance, logic, wisdom, and physical rules seen in the creation of beings show that the One Who creates and manages them knows everything.
- Samīʿ: It means “to hear”. Allah hears everything, the most secret sounds and movements are not excluded from His hearing. Allah’s hearing is not like the hearing and knowing of other living things. While other beings need intermediaries such as the ear, sound, and air vibration that transmits sound, and electrical communication tools in order to hear, Allah hears without the need for an instrument. The opposite of this attribute, deafness, is unthinkable about Allah because He is free from such deficiencies. The attribute of hearing is mentioned in many verses of the Qur’an, usually together with the attribute of seeing (baṣar) or knowing (‘ilm). We will give one example for each “Allah is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.”, and “… He is the One Who hears and sees (all things).”
- Baṣar: It means “seeing”. It is Allah’s attribute of seeing. He sees everything. Nothing can be hidden from His sight. Seeing one thing does not prevent Him from seeing another thing. The opposite of this attribute is “not being able to see”. It is a shortcoming and Allah is free from any shortcomings. The vision of other living things depends on conditions such as the presence of an eye organ and light, and the absence of an obstacle preventing vision. Allah does not need such a tool to see. There are many verses about Allah being able to hear and see. In one of them, the following is stated: “(Allah) knows of (the tricks) that deceive with the eyes, and all that the hearts (of men) conceal. And Allah will judge with (justice and) Truth: but those whom (men) invoke besides Him, will not (be in a position) to judge at all. Verily it is Allah (alone) Who hears and sees (all things).”
- Irādah: It means “to will”. Allah is the One who wills. The determination to do something by deciding on it is called “irādah”. God has will and is free in what he does. There is no power to compel him to do any work. Since Allah has a complete and perfect will, He created this universe in accordance with his eternal will. Everything that has happened or will happen in the universe has happened and will happen by Allah’s will and decision. Whatever He wills happens, and what He does not will does not happen.
The following is stated in the Qur’an: “Verily Your Lord is a sovereign doer of whatever He wills.” When Mary asked how she would give birth to a child even though she was not in a relationship with a man, she was given this reply, ““Even so: Allah creates what He wills: When He has decreed a plan, He but says to it, “Be,” and it is!”, and “For to anything which We have willed, We but say the word, “Be”, and it is.”
Sometimes its synonym “mashī’ah” is used instead of irādah. The following verses clearly state that everything ultimately happens according to Allah’s will: “Say: “O Allah! Lord of Power (And Rule), You give power to whom You please, and You strip off power from whom You please: You endue with honor whom You please, and You bring low whom You please: In Your hand is all good. Verily, over all things You have power.”, and “To Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. He creates what He wills (and plans). He bestows (children) male or female according to His Will (and Plan).”
- Qudrah: It means “to have power.” Allah has power over all things. Almighty Allah, who has will and power, has a power that is sufficient for everything. Thus, He can create everything to which He directs His will at any time and in any quality, or He can destroy the existing thing with Qudrah. His power manifests itself in accordance with his knowledge and will. Allah’s power is pre-eternal and eternal and directed to the beings whose existence and non-existence are possible. The state of helplessness and powerlessness, which is the opposite of the attribute of qudrah, cannot be thought of about Allah.
The Qur’an states the following regarding the might of Allah: “To Allah belongs the mystery of the heavens and the earth. And the decision of the Hour (of Judgment) is as the twinkling of an eye, or even quicker: for Allah has power over all things.”, and “Praise be to Allah, Who created (out of nothing) the heavens and the earth, Who made the angels, messengers with wings, two, or three, or four (pairs): He adds to Creation as He pleases: for Allah has power over all things.”
- Kalām: It means “to speak and talk”. God has the attribute of speech. With this attribute, Allah sent down books to His prophets and spoke to some of His messengers. The nature of the pre-eternal attribute of kalām cannot be fully known by people. This is because Almighty Allah has the attribute of speaking and speech that is not dependent on sounds, letters, and words. Speechlessness and muteness, which are the opposite of kalām, cannot be thought of about God.
In the Qur’an, which is a manifestation of Almighty Allah’s attribute of speech, the following is stated regarding this attribute, “When Moses came to the place appointed by Us, and his Lord addressed him, He said: “O my Lord! show (Yourself) to me, that I may look upon You.”…”, “…to Moses Allah spoke direct.”, and “Say: ‘If the ocean were ink (wherewith to write out) the words of my Lord, sooner would the ocean be exhausted than would the words of my Lord, even if we added another ocean like it, for its aid.’”
The Qur’an is the manifestation of Almighty God’s attribute of speech and it is the word of God. This attribute of Allah is also pre-eternal. However, the Qur’an that is circulated, read, and written is not pre-eternal in terms of wording, letter, verse, and writing. Ahl al-Sunnah has adopted the principle that the Qur’an is not created in terms of it being the word of God, and it is pre-eternal.
- Takwīn: It means “to create, to bring the non-existent to the realm of existence from nothingness”. It expresses Allah’s attribute of creation and bringing into existence from nothing. He has created with His infinite power everything that He knows and wills with His pre-eternal knowledge. Creating, providing sustenance, resurrecting, death, blessing, tormenting, and shaping are the consequences of Allah’s attribute of creation. The proposition that “nothing comes into existence out of nothing, and nothing that exists vanishes”, put forward by positive science, may be considered an expression of Allah’s unchanging law (sunnatullah). However, this cannot be a binding proposition for Almighty Allah because the attribute of creation is an ongoing process and is divided into two types. The first is to create something that does not exist out of nothing. The second is to create new formations with changes and compositions on the existing matter. In this latter, creation is demonstrated through “metaphors”. The creation of Adam’s body from the earth’s soil instead of being created out of nothing, the emergence of the living cell structure of the soil with a new shape and formation, and the creation of life through the blowing of the spirit are examples of this type of creation. The formation of the human being out of nothing, his birth, and growth in the womb is also the result of such a creation. The following is stated in the Qur’an: “For to anything which We have willed, We but say the word, ‘Be’, and it is.” Like creating, all actions such as giving sustenance, tormenting, resurrecting, and death are also dependent on the attribute of takwīn.
 Al-Taftazanī, Sharḥ al-Aqāid, Trans. S. Uludağ, Istanbul 1980, p. 164. Al-Ḥadīd, 57: 3. Al-Raḥmān, 55: 26-27. Al-Ḥadīd, 57: 3. Al-Ikhlas, 112: 1-4; See al-Anbiya, 21: 22; al-’Isrā, 17: 42; al-Zumar, 39: 4. Al-Anbiya, 21: 22. Fāṭir, 35: 3. Al-Mu’min, 40: 16. Al-Mu’minūn, 23: 91. Al-Mā’ida, 5: 73. Al-Mā’ida, 5: 72. See Şerafeddin Gölcük, ibid, p. 82 ff.; Hamdi Döndüren, Delilleriyle İslam Hukuku, Istanbul, 1983, p. 226-228. Al-’Isrā, 17: 42-43. Al-Shūrā, 42: 11. See Al-Fatḥ, 48: 10; al-Raḥmān, 55: 27; Ṭa Ha, 20: 5. Ya Sin, 36: 81-82. See al-Baqara, 2: 255. Gölcük, ibid, p. 86, 87. Māturīdī, Kitab al-Tawḥīd, Beirut 1970, p. 44; Sabûni, Matûridiyye Akaidi, (Trans. Bekir Topaloğlu), Ankara 1979, p. 73-77; Gölcük, ibid, 87. Al-Furqān, 25: 58. Āl ʿImrān, 3: 2. Ṭa Ha, 20: 111. Al-Anʿām, 6: 59. Al-Mujadala, 58: 7. Al-Mulk, 67: 13. Ghāfir, 40: 19. Al-Kahf, 18: 109. See Luqmān, 31: 27. Luqmān, 31: 27. Al-Baqara, 2: 137, 181, 124, 224, 227, 256; Āl ʿImrān, 3: 34, 35, 38; al-Mā’ida, 5: 76. Al-’Isrā, 17: 1; al-Ḥajj, 22: 61; Luqmān, 31: 28. Ghāfir, 40: 19-20. Hūd, 11: 107; See al-Burūj, 85: 16; al-Baqara, 2: 185 Āl ʿImrān, 3: 47; See Ya Sin, 36: 82 Al-Naḥl, 16: 40. See al-Insan, 76: 30. Āl ʿImrān, 3: 26. Al-Shūrā, 42: 49. Al-Naḥl, 16: 77. Fāṭir, 35: 1; See al-Nūr, 24: 44, 45; Āl ʿImrān, 3: 28. Al-Aʿraf, 7: 143. Al-Nisā, 4: 164. See Ghāfir, 40: 78. Al-Kahf, 18: 109. See Luqmān, 31: 27. Pezdevi, Ehl-i Sunnah Akaidi, Trans. Ş. Gölcük, Istanbul 1980, p. 77, 78 ff.; Ş. Gölcük, ibid, p. 91; Hamdi Döndüren, “Halku’l-Kur’an”, Şamil İslam Ansiklopedisi. Al-Naḥl, 16: 40; See Ya Sin, 36: 82.
Source: Basic Islamic Principles (ʿilmi ḥāl) According to the Four Sunni Schools With Evidence From The Sources of Islamic Law, Prof. Hamdi Döndüren, Erkam Publications