The Four Fundamental Attributes of God
It has become customary for Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih Vaba, Head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to address an audience of non-Muslims on the 2nd Day of the Annual Convention (Jalsa Salana) of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Germany. During the Annual Convention in Germany 2013, His Holiness addressed over 1000 guests including politicians, teachers, university Professors, university students, lawyers and people from all walks of life. Prior to the address by His Holiness, various dignitaries delivered brief addresses, including Member of the National Parliament of Germany Mr. Kilic, Member of National Parliament of Macedonia, Dr. Pachemski and the Lord Mayor of Heidelberg Dr. Würzner. Dr. Pachemski presented his national flag and a shield to His Holiness.
Keynote Address by Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmadaba, Khalifatul Masih V, Head of the Worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community on 29th June 2013
After reciting Tashahhud, Ta’awwuz and Bismillah, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaba said:
“All guests – Assalamo Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahe Wa Barakatohu – peace and blessings of Allah be upon you all.
First of all I would like to thank all of our guests who have come and graced the occasion of our Annual Convention. This event, in which I have the opportunity to address our non-Ahmadi friends, has become a permanent feature of Jalsa Salana (Annual Convention) Germany.
As the majority of you are non-Muslims, the topic I have chosen to speak about today is the perception of God in Islam. There is not enough time to discuss this subject in depth, but nonetheless, I will try to explain the fundamental Attributes of God according to true Islamic beliefs. The reason I have chosen this subject is because when the teachings of Islam in relation to God become clear, automatically many of the doubts or reservations that are held about Islam or Muslims will be dispelled. There is a general impression in today’s world that the God presented by Islam is extremely cruel and domineering. It is thought that He advocates compulsion and that His only task is to administer punishment and send people to Hell. Indeed, it is commonly considered that Islam’s God will undoubtedly punish every mistake or sin, no matter how minor or insignificant. The truth is that this belief is completely erroneous and unjust.
The God who we worship and who we believe to possess all powers is completely sovereign, and so He has the power to do anything and everything. At the same time He is Ever Merciful. Therefore, in the Qur’an God Almighty has given people the glad tiding that His mercy and compassion are all-encompassing. This is written in Chapter 7, Verse 157. In another verse of the Qur’an, Allah says those people who have wronged and committed excesses against their own souls ought not to despair and become hopeless. The verse explains that Allah can forgive all sins, as He is the Most Forgiving and Ever Merciful (Chapter 39, Verse 54). At another place, Allah has said that were it not for His Grace and His Mercy, then due to their wrong acts and slander a great punishment would have befallen the people of the world. (Chapter 24, Verse 15). Another example of God’s infinite love is that He has said that the reward for good deeds will be multiplied by ten times the value of the act, yet the punishment for doing wrong is only equal to the bad deed itself.
These few examples illustrate the true nature of the God of Islam. Do these examples elicit an image of a cruel and tyrannical God, or rather, do they point towards a benevolent, compassionate and loving God? Indeed, there are very many verses in the Holy Qur’an through which we learn of God’s Mercy, Compassion and Benevolence. I have given just a few examples.
Certainly, it is true that Islam decrees that whosoever does a good act, or conversely whosoever commits a sin, will be rewarded or punished accordingly. It cannot be that one person performs an action, yet another person is held accountable for it. In worldly legal systems we would never tolerate or accept a principle of transferred responsibility through which one person would be punished for the wrong of another. Thus, how can we accept that in God’s System of Laws one person could be punished for the crime of another? God’s justice and wisdom are completely unparalleled and beyond the realms of the intellect, wisdom and justice of mankind. So how could we ever envisage that God could make decisions that were devoid of justice and wisdom or inferior to those made by mankind? Indeed, if a decision is attributed to God that a crime is committed by one person but its punishment is stomached by another, we would be left with no alternative but to deem God to be cruel and unjust. For example; a son transgresses yet his father endures the sanction. A god who commits such a miscarriage of justice would have to be considered an unjust and vengeful god. However, the God of Islam is absolutely free from all forms of injustice and cruelty; rather, He has said that His mercy and compassion are extremely vast and far-reaching and due to these attributes He is a Forgiving God.
Furthermore, I should explain that the God of Islam is He who is the ‘Master’. And a master has the right to forgive his servants. Once this point is understood then the objection cannot be raised against God or Islam that why does Allah forgive and furthermore, why does He cover mankind in the cloak of His Mercy and Forgiveness. Through the examples I have presented from the Holy Qur’an, I have proven that the criticisms presented by certain people about the perception of God in Islam are nothing but misconceptions and fallacies. Such wrong beliefs are tendered either due to a lack of knowledge or of a desire to needlessly defame and discredit Islam.
As I stated earlier, I shall now come to speak about some of the Attributes of God which have been mentioned in the first chapter of the Qur’an, which is recited by a Muslim in all formal prayers and also when praying at other times. I will not be able to explain this in depth, but I shall at least present an overview of these core Attributes.
The very first chapter of the Holy Qur’an states that ‘Your Lord is Allah,’ and the meaning of ‘Allah’ is the Supreme Being Who is the possessor of all perfect attributes, completely free of all defects and flaws. He is the Sole Possessor of all of the attributes and qualities that could ever be envisaged by man. In addition He also possesses countless attributes that human beings are unable to comprehend due to their limited understanding. The word ‘Allah’ is a distinctive name that can only be used to describe that Perfect Being Who is not only free from all flaws or potential flaws, but Who also possesses all perfect attributes and characteristics. When we claim that Allah is ‘Perfect’ it is based on reality, because the very definition of perfection is based on two fundamental characteristics.
First of all, for something to be deemed perfect its beauty and appearance must be utterly immaculate and without any flaw. Secondly, if something or someone claims to be perfect then they must be beyond compare in their favours, kindness and grace towards others. And so we find that the magnificence and beauty of everything within the Heavens and the Earth is actually a display of God’s beauty and His favours towards His Creation and thus absolute proof of His perfection. When we observe the rewards and blessings that God has given to mankind it naturally leads us to be grateful for His kindness and favours upon us.
The Qur’an has further told us that the majesty, kindness and beauty of Allah have no parallel. One of the most important and fundamental attributes of Allah is that He is ‘Lord of all the Worlds.’ This means that He is the God Who nourishes and sustains all peoples. He fulfils all necessary requirements and provides the means of subsistence for all people, without any form of discrimination. God, according to Islam, is the God for the entire world. He is the God of the Muslims and so He provides provisions and nourishment to them. He is also the God of the Christians and the Jews and so He provides for them all that they need in this world. He is also the God of the Hindus, Sikhs and the people of all faiths and religions and so He has bestowed them all with the means of life and sustenance. In fact, God even provides to those who do not believe in Him and who believe that whatever they possess is either a result of their own efforts or due to scientific advancements. However, a true Muslim believes that advancements in science are also a direct result of the grace and blessings of that God, Who has within His laws of nature, enabled for the fruits of hard work and research to be reaped. And so because of God’s laws of nature, whosoever strives will be rewarded for his efforts. This is the God Who has instilled within mankind various faculties and capabilities so that he can partake and benefit from God’s blessings and bounties.
The God of Islam has said that in the same way that He has provided food and drink for the nourishment of man, He has also provided remedies and cures to protect them. He has placed the cures for some illnesses and diseases within certain things for our benefit and there are occasions where God Himself brings to light such remedies. On such occasions God’s system of ‘effort and research’ does not operate, in fact God Himself directly guides in such cases. Let me give you one example. Some time ago an Ahmadi woman was diagnosed with cancer of the uterus. The doctors said her case was terminal and that there was no cure for her. Indeed, they said she only had a very short time left to live and thus she should return home and make her final arrangements. Despite the prognosis given by the doctors upon her return home she was treated in a truly astonishing manner by the God who had given her life and provided for her. One night in a dream she saw a shrub which grew in that part of Pakistan where she had lived. In the dream she saw that the shrub appeared before her and a voice emanated from it saying “I am your cure – so use me.” This was the voice of the shrub. As a result of this dream she did use the shrub as a treatment and with the Grace of Allah the cancer was completely cured. Her doctors, who had given up all hope, were left astounded and they said it had been a true miracle. That lady, who Allah Himself cured, informed one of our Ahmadi doctors about her case and since then the Ahmadi doctors and physicians have started to prescribe the shrub for both breast cancer and uterus cancer. With the Grace of Allah, the results have been extremely positive and so many women have been saved from these horrific diseases. One of our Ahmadi doctors living in the UK is conducting research on this shrub and with the Grace of God the results until now are quite promising.
These are the means of God Almighty’s nourishment of mankind and the way He protects His Creation. Similarly, there are countless other things that all mankind is benefitting from. Whether it is the air we breathe, the water we drink or whether it is light, whether it is day or night – all of these things and so many more have been provided to all of mankind by God. In fact, they have not just been provided to human beings but to all of God’s Creation.
Thus, this is the first Attribute of Allah that has been mentioned in the first chapter of the Holy Qur’an. When a true Muslim learns of it, whilst on the one hand, he naturally comes to express his gratitude for the bounties and favours that God has provided as the lifeblood for mankind, he also derives insight into the fact that the God of Islam is the God of Everyone and that He provides the means of life to all people irrespective of religion. A true Muslim comes to appreciate that all humans and all living things form a part of God’s Creation. This is why it becomes incumbent upon every Muslim to take care and be kind to all people and to always consider how they can benefit them.
So you can see how understanding and truly appreciating the meaning of God’s Attribute of being the ‘Lord of all the Worlds’ motivates true Muslims to live in accordance with the principle of God being for everyone. By understanding this, a Muslim can only learn that it is his or her duty to serve mankind and be of benefit to every single person, in fact to all of God’s Creation. This is why we use this slogan of ‘Love For All, Hatred for None.’
Now I shall briefly present the second Attribute of God which God has informed us of. Apart from being the ‘Lord of All the Worlds, ‘Allah is also the ‘Gracious.’ In the Qur’an, Allah has said that those people who do not believe in the existence of God question Muslims by asking: “Who is the Gracious God that you refer to?” In reply, the Qur’an says that they should be told that the Gracious God is He who is the source of all blessings and from Whom all goodness shines forth. It is the Gracious God Who has created the Universe and within it, He has created the sun, the moon, the stars and the planets. All of this has been created not just for the benefit of Muslims but for all Creation without any discrimination or prejudice. Those people who perceive all of this, who truly believe in the Gracious God and who understand the scope of His kindness and benevolence are engulfed in gratitude to Him. Such people walk upon the earth with immense humility and live in a good and kindly way. They do not cause harm or suffering to anyone, and if other people approach them in anger or in a harsh manner, they reply in a dignified way, with peace and affection. They respond to abuse and curses with prayers alone and so they develop those qualities within themselves that are reflective of the Gracious and Loving God. In other words they strive to benefit and to do good to all others. I explained earlier that God’s Mercy and Grace was truly vast, and so in the same way, those who believe in Him also come to manifest great levels of kindness and compassion. And certainly this is how it should be.
The third core Attribute of God mentioned in the Qur’an is of being ‘Merciful’. Whilst God’s Attribute of being ‘Gracious’ means His blessings and benevolence are distributed equally to all, His Attribute of ‘Mercy’ is granted to humans based on their individual conduct. As the Merciful God, Allah provides the very best rewards to those who follow His commands. God Almighty rewards each person who strives and endeavours to walk the path of goodness with the very best fruits for his efforts. As the Sympathetic and Kind God, He overlooks and covers any shortcomings in a person’s efforts and does not let a person’s effort go to waste, rather He values and rewards it. If a person maintains a strong connection with God, He rewards him in truly miraculous ways and by answering his prayers He displays miracles. We, Ahmadi Muslims, undoubtedly, are constantly witnessing the miracles of God. For example, there have been many occasions where doctors have given up all hope and said a patient was certain to die, yet when Ahmadis bowed down before their Lord and beseeched His Mercy it led to people being cured and restored to health. I gave one such example earlier when I mentioned the Ahmadi lady who had cancer. When such cases occur it invariably leaves doctors astounded and they admit that the recovery was a genuine miracle. In this sense we have firm belief in the miracles of God and so this is the Living God that Islam presents. It is this concept of Mercifulness that is the reason we have been saved from any doubt in our faith in God. By answering our prayers it is God who Himself strengthens our faith and belief in His existence.
The fourth fundamental Attribute of God according to Islam is that God is the ‘Master of the Day of Judgement.’ He is the master of punishments and rewards. This attribute does not only relate to God’s judgment in the Hereafter but even in this life there is reward and punishment from God. Humans will certainly be held to account for their own actions in the life to come. They will be rewarded for their good acts and punished for their mistakes. In the worldly system of judgement, the concept of reward and punishment appears to be based on a principle of absolute equality. However, Islam teaches that because God is the Master of everything, He is not bound by the law that He must necessarily punish every bad deed. In fact, when God’s other Attributes of grace, mercy and compassion come into play Allah can forgive someone altogether in reward for any single act of goodness. An example of this element of God’s kindness is narrated in a tradition of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa whereby he said that once a person had killed 100 people and having done so finally repented for his sins. He was sincere in his remorse and so he set out in search of true repentance, however during that period he died. Nevertheless, Allah was pleased at his final act of repentance and so forgave Him for all of his killings, and admitted him into Heaven. In this case, Allah’s Sovereignty and His being the ‘Master’ came into effect. In the same way, in this very life God overlooks many errors or mistakes committed by man and saves him from the negative consequences and harm associated with those acts. In fact, due to His Grace and Mercy, sometimes Allah even brings about positive and beneficial results from those mistakes. This is the difference between God’s Laws and man-made laws, because in man-made laws, sins and wrong acts only lead to sanction.
Therefore, and in conclusion, Allah has mentioned these four fundamental Attributes of God in the Qur’an as evidence of His existence and so we have been commanded to worship the God Who possesses these Attributes. It is when sincere worship of this God, Who possesses these perfect attributes, is carried out, that a person comes to experience the spiritual miracles of God in an altogether new way.
I should also mention that Allah has enjoined true believers to seek to develop these attributes within themselves. Therefore, where on the one hand a true Muslim develops a strong bond with God, he also proves to be a means of establishing peace and harmony in the world.
With these words I hope and pray that to some degree you will have come to learn and understand the true concept of God in Islam. In the end let me once again express my gratitude to all of you for joining us today. May Allah bless you all. Thank you very much.”