“Phrases in the Qur’an like The Best of Creators,2 and The Most Compassionate of the Compassionate,3 suggest that there are other creators and compassionate ones. And you also say, ‘the Creator of all the worlds possesses endless perfections. United in Him are the utmost levels of every kind of perfection.’
Whereas the perfections of beings are known through their opposites: if there was no pain, pleasure would not be a sort of perfection; if there was no darkness, light could not be proved to exist; if there was no separation, there would be no pleasure in union, and so on, would there?”
We shall answer the first part of the question in five Indications.
FIRST INDICATION: From beginning to end, the Qur’an demonstrates Divine unity; this is a clear indication that those sort of phrases in the Qur’an are not as you understand them. Rather, The Best of Creators is to say, “He is at the highest and best rank of creativity,” which in no way indicates that there is another creator.
Like the other attributes, creativity has many degrees or ranks. The Best of Creators means, “He is a Glorious Creator at the furthest and most excellent degree of creativity.”
SECOND INDICATION: Terms like, The Best of Creators do not look to a plurality of creators, but to the varieties of the state of being creature. That is, “He is a Creator Who creates everything in an appropriate form, at the most faultless degree.” Verses like, who makes most excellent everything He creates,4 express this meaning.
THIRD INDICATION: The comparison suggested by terms like, The Best of Creators, Allah is Most Great, The Best Judge between truth and falsehood,5 and The Most Bountiful are not comparative and superlative adjectives comparing Allah Almighty’s attributes and actions, which are actual, with others who possess samples of those attributes and actions.
For all the perfections in the universe, and in jinn, men, and angels, are but pale shadows in relation to His perfection. How should any comparison be possible? It is rather human beings, and particularly the people of neglect, who see perfection in terms of comparison.
For example, a private shows complete obedience and respect to his corporal. It seems to him that all benefits come from him, and he thinks little of the king. Even if he does think of him, it is still to the corporal that he shows his gratitude. So, it is said to the private: “See here!
The king is much greater than your corporal, it is only him that you should thank.” Now this sentence does not compare the king’s imperial commandership, which is actual, with that of the corporal, which is partial and only apparent, because to do so would be meaningless. It is a result of what the private considers to be important, of how he sees his relations with the corporal, that he prefers him and loves and thanks only him.
Similarly, when apparent causes are imagined to be the creator and bestower of bounties in the view of the people of neglect, they become a veil to the True Bestower of Bounties. These neglectful people cling onto causes and think that bounties and favours are from them; they praise and acclaim them. The Qur’an says: “Allah Almighty is a greater, more excellent Creator, a far better Bestower of Bounties. So, look to Him, and thank Him.”
FOURTH INDICATION: Just as there may be comparison between actual beings and preference for some over others, so there may be comparisons between possible or even hypothetical things and preference. Numerous degrees or levels are present in the true natures of most things. So too, in the view of the intellect, innumerable degrees may be present in the true natures of the Divine Names and sacred attributes.
Whereas Allah Almighty is at the most perfect and excellent of all the possible and imagined degrees of those attributes and Names. The whole universe witnesses to this truth through all its perfections. His are the Most Beautiful Names,6“describing all His Names as the most excellent,” expresses this meaning.
FIFTH INDICATION: This use of the comparative and superlative is not to be understood in terms of creatures, but in terms of the fact that Allah Almighty has two sorts of manifestations and attributes.
The First Sort: Through the mystery of His unity, this consists of His disposal over creatures under the veil of causes and intermediaries and in the form of a universal law.
The Second Sort: Through the mystery of His oneness, it is His disposal over creatures directly, without veil, regarding each in a particular way. This means that through the mystery of oneness, His bestowal, creation, and grandeur which are direct are greater and more elevated and excellent than the works of His bestowal, creation, and grandeur which are apparent through the manifestations of causes and intermediaries.
For example, let us suppose there is a king, but he is a saint-king. He has great numbers of officials and commanders, but they are only veils, for the authority and execution of all matters are directly in his hand. The king’s power of disposal and execution of affairs are of two kinds:
The First Kind: The execution of affairs he demonstrates and the commands he gives through a universal law in the form of visible officials and commanders in accordance with their abilities and ranks.
The Second Kind: This is not through a universal law. He does not make visible officials a veil; his execution of affairs and royal favours are direct and may be described as more elevated and excellent.
In the same way, the Creator of the universe, the Monarch of Pre-Eternity and Post-Eternity, has made numerous causes and intermediaries a veil to His execution of affairs and has demonstrated the majesty of His dominicality. But He left private telephones in His servants’ hearts so that they might leave causes behind and turn directly to Him and might say: You alone do we worship, and You alone do we ask for help!7
Thus, the meanings of The Best of Creators, Most Compassionate of the Compassionate, and, Allah is Most Great look to this meaning, too.
We shall answer the second part of the representative’s question with five Signs.
The First Sign: In his question, he said: “If something has no opposite, how can it be perfection?”
The Answer: The questioner does not know what true perfection is. What he has in mind is only relative perfection. For merits, virtues, and qualities that look to something and are acquired relatively to something else are not real, they are relative and weak. If what they look to disappears, then they too will disappear.
For example, the relative pleasure and merits of heat occur through the effect of cold, and the relative pleasure of food, through the effect of the pain of hunger. If the cold and hunger disappear, then the pleasure diminishes. Whereas true pleasure, love, perfection, and virtue are such that they are not constructed on imagining something else. They are present of themselves. They are essential, inherent truths.
Qualities such as the following are like this: the pleasures of existence, life, love, knowledge, mercy, and compassion; and the beauty of light, sight, speech, noble-heartedness, fine character, and form; the perfection of essence and of attribute and perfection in actions. Whether or not there is something else, these qualities will not change. Thus, all the perfections of the Glorious Fashioner, the Beauteous Maker, the Perfect Creator are true perfections; they are essential and what is other than Him cannot affect Him. They can only be recipients.
The Second Sign: Sayyid Sharif al-Jurjani wrote in Sharh al-Mawaqif: “The cause of love is either pleasure, benefit, resemblance (that is, inclination towards creatures of same kind), or perfection. For perfection is loved for itself.” That is to say, if you love something, you love it either because of the pleasure it affords, or the benefits it brings, or because it is similar in kind, like the inclination towards children, or because it possesses some perfection.
If it is for perfection, no other cause or purpose is necessary; it is loved purely for itself. For example, in the olden days everybody loved people who possessed perfection; even if they had no connection with them, they would still love them admiringly.
Thus, since all Allah Almighty’s perfections and qualities and all the degrees in His Beautiful Names are true perfections, they are loved for themselves. The Glorious One, who is the true beloved, loves His perfections, which are true perfections, and the beauties of His attributes and Names in a manner appropriate to Himself. And He loves the good qualities of His art and creatures, which are mirrors reflecting those perfections.
He loves His prophets and saints, especially the Most Noble Beloved, who is the Lord of the Prophets and Prince of the Saints. That is, with His love for His own beauty, He loves His Beloved One, who is the mirror to that beauty. With His love for His own Names, He loves His Beloved One and his brothers who are comprehensive and aware loci of those Names’ manifestations.
With His love for His art, He loves His Beloved One and those like him who are heralds and exhibitors of that art. With His love for His artefacts, He loves His Beloved One and those who follow him who appreciate and admire those artefacts and respond to them saying:
“What wonders Allah has willed! How beautifully they have been made.” And with His love for the good qualities of His creatures, He loves His Most Noble Beloved One and his followers and brothers in whom are united the finest of moral qualities.
The Third Sign: All the perfections in all the universe are signs and indications of a Glorious Being’s perfection and beauty. Indeed, all the goodness, perfection, and beauty in the universe is but a pale shadow in relation to His true perfection. We shall indicate briefly five proofs of this truth.
First Proof: A perfect and splendidly adorned and decorated palace plainly points to perfect skill and craftsmanship. And that craftsmanship and art, which is a perfect act, plainly points to a perfect author, master, and craftsman together with his titles and names like Fashioner and Adorner.
And those perfect names doubtlessly point to the master’s perfect and skilful attributes. And that perfect skill and those attributes self-evidently point to his perfect ability and faculty. And that perfect ability and faculty necessarily point to the perfection of his essence and the exaltedness of his nature.
In the same way, this palace of the universe, this perfect and adorned work of art, self-evidently points to actions of the utmost perfection. For perfections in works of art result from perfection of action and they demonstrate it. And perfection of actions point to a Perfect Author and the perfect Names of that Author. That is, in relation to the works of art, they point to the perfection of Names like, Planner, Fashioner, All-Wise, All-Compassionate, and Adorner.
Moreover, the perfection of the Names and titles, without any doubt, point to the Author’s perfect attributes. For if the attributes were not perfect, the Names and titles which originate from the attributes would not be perfect. And the perfection of the attributes self-evidently points to the perfection of His functioning essence because it is from the functioning essence that the attributes proceed.
And the perfection of essential functions points at the degree of ‘knowledge of certainty’ to the perfection of the functioning essence. They point to a perfection so worthy that although the light of the perfection passes through the veils of functions, attributes, Names, actions, and works of art, it still demonstrates the goodness, beauty, and perfection to be seen to this great extent in the universe,
Thus, after the existence of this degree of true, essential perfection has been established with cogent proofs what importance remains for relative perfections, which look to other things, and which exist only in so far as they gain superiority over their likes and opposites? You may understand, then, just how paltry they become.
Second Proof: When the universe is studied as something from which lessons are to be taken, the conscience and heart may conjecture and perceive the following: the one who has so beautified and adorned the universe with all manner of fine things, himself possesses an infinite degree of beauty and perfection so that he might make it thus.
Third Proof: It is a well-known fact that works of art which are well-proportioned, symmetrical, perfect, and beautiful are based on an exceedingly well-drawn-up plan. And a perfectly drawn plan points to a perfectly sound knowledge, fine intellect, and refined faculty of spirit. That is to say, it is the spirit’s immaterial beauty which is manifested in art by means of knowledge.
Thus, the universe, with its innumerable material fine qualities, is formed of the distillations of immaterial fine qualities pertaining to knowledge. And those immaterial qualities pertaining to knowledge and those perfections are certainly the manifestations of an infinite, eternal loveliness, beauty, and perfection.
Fourth Proof: It is obvious that that which gives light must possess light, and that which illuminates must be luminous, that bounty comes from riches, and kindness proceeds from one who is kind. Since this so, since all this loveliness and beauty is given to the universe and perfection is bestowed on beings, they point to an eternal beauty as light points to the sun.
Beings pass over the face of the earth like a vast river sparkling with flashes of perfection. In the same way that a river sparkles with manifestations of the sun, the flood of beings momentarily sparkles with flashes of loveliness, beauty, and perfection, and then is gone. And the beings following after them display the same flashes and sparkling.
It may be understood from this that just as the manifestations and instances of beauty on the flowing bubbles of water are not from themselves but are manifestations and instances of beauty from the light of a sun, so the qualities and perfections which glisten briefly on the flood of the universe are the flashes of the beauty of an Eternal Sun’s Names.
Yes, the annihilation of the mirrors and the vanishing of beings is together with perpetual manifestation and constant effulgence. It is clear from the manifestations appearing that their apparent beauty is not theirs; they are rather eloquent manifestos and clear proofs of a Transcendent Beauty and Renewed Munificence; of the Necessarily Existent, the Loving One, the Undying One.
Fifth Proof: If four people who have arrived via four different routes all speak of the same event, it suggests with a certainty born of unanimity that the event definitely occurred. Thus, although their ways, dispositions, abilities, and times were all different, all the scholars of religion with their different ranks, the saints and purified ones with their different paths and ways, and the true philosophers with their different creeds are in agreement.
They are the people of illumination and experiential knowledge, who have unveiled the secrets of the cosmos and have observed and borne witness to the truth -through their unveilings, illuminations, and witnessing, they have unanimously agreed that the qualities and perfections to be seen in the mirrors and displays of the universe and its beings, are the manifestations of a Single Necessarily Existent One’s perfection and the manifestations of the beauty of His Names.
Their consensus and accord, then, constitutes an unshakeable proof.
Let us suppose that in order not to hear this Sign, the representative of the people of misguidance was compelled to stop up his ears and flee. For certainly, like bats, heads so plunged into darkness cannot endure these lights. In which case, from here on we shall consider them little, if at all.
The Fourth Sign: Rather than looking to its likes and opposites, the pleasure, loveliness, and beauty of a thing look to where those qualities are manifested. For example, generosity is a fine and pleasing attribute. The pleasure a generous person obtains from the joy and pleasure of those he has favored is thousands of times more gratifying than the relative pleasure obtained from feeling superior to other generous people.
Also, a kind and compassionate person receives true pleasure proportionately to those towards whom he has been compassionate find ease and comfort. For example, the pleasure a mother receives from the happiness and comfort of her children, because of her compassion, is so strong she would sacrifice her very soul for their comfort. The pleasure of such compassion will even make a hen attack a lion in order to protect her chicks.
Thus, the true pleasure, goodness, happiness, and perfection in elevated attributes do not look to peers and opposites, but to their dependents and the places they are manifested. The beauty, therefore, of the Glorious and Perfect One’s mercy, who is Ever Living
and Self-Subsistent, Clement and Benevolent, Compassionate and Merciful, looks to those who receive His mercy.
There are endless degrees in the happiness, ease, and joy of those who receive the manifestation of His mercy and compassion, and especially those who receive its endless varieties in everlasting Paradise. We may understand that, according to the degrees of their happiness and joy, the Merciful and Compassionate One experiences exalted, pure, holy, and beautiful meanings, like fondness and love, in a manner appropriate to Him, that may be described through qualities which are proper to Him.
He possesses utterly pure and holy qualities which we may not mention because the Shari‘a does not permit it, but which may be described as ‘sacred pleasure,’ ‘holy love,’ ‘pure joy’ and ‘sacred happiness.’ We have proved in many places that they are infinitely more exalted, elevated, holy, and pure than the love, joy, and happiness that we see in the universe and may perceive among creatures. If you wish to take a look at a flash of those meanings, then look through the telescope of the following comparisons.
For example, a noble-hearted and magnanimous personage laid out a fine banquet on his magnificent voyaging ship in order to feed the poor, the needy, and hungry. Then he himself watched from on deck. You can understand how pleased and happy the thankful pleasure and appreciative gratitude of the poor, hungry and needy made that generous personage; how much it gratified him.
Man is not the true owner of even the humblest repast and is merely like a distributor. Therefore, if his joy is thus, you can draw an analogy with the sacred meanings of love and results of mercy that pertain to the Merciful and Compassionate One and which we are powerless to express. For He causes men, jinn, and animals to journey in the seas of space, and to board the mighty earth, which is a dominical ship.
Then, loading the table of the face of the earth with innumerable varieties of foods, He invites all living creatures to the feast, which is a sort of light snack or appetizer. For besides this, He will make each of every sort of perfect delight a table laden with bounties in a permanent and everlasting realm. He will inaugurate an unending and comprehensive banquet of innumerable pleasures and subtle wonders, which will be true food for His countless and endlessly needy and yearning slaves.
And, for example, a skilful and practised craftsman who likes to display his ingenuity, after inventing an object like a gramophone which plays without records, will set it up, try it out and then show it off. If it gives the desired and expected results perfectly, how proud will its inventor feel, how pleased and gratified will he be. He will say to himself: “May Allah bless this!”
And so, if an insignificant man is so pleased with the smooth working of a gramophone and with his craftsmanship which is only superficial, for in reality he creates nothing, then how should the All-Glorious Maker be? For He created the mighty universe as an orchestra and gramophone, and He made the earth, and all the animate creatures on it, and among animate creatures especially man. And man’s head He created in such a fashion that it is a dominical gramophone and Divine orchestra so that science and philosophy are struck with wonderment at the art and craftsmanship displayed in it.
Thus, all these beings show all the results desired of them to the utmost degree and in the best possible way. They are completely obedient to the commands that give them existence, which are described by the creatures’ particular worship and glorification and their appointed salutations to Allah.
The pride, pleasure, and joy together with the sacred meanings and pure qualities, which we are unable to describe, that are obtained from these and from the attainment of the dominical aims sought from the beings, are so exalted and holy that if all the minds of mankind were to unite and become one mind, it would still be unable to reach or comprehend their substance.
And another example. What pleasure and enjoyment a just ruler who loves to enforce justice and right receives from giving the oppressed their rights and receiving their thanks and from punishing the wrongdoers and taking revenge for the oppressed. You can draw an analogy with the sacred meanings pertaining to the Absolutely Wise One, the Truly Just One, the All-Compelling and Glorious One, which arise from establishing justice, and not only for men and jinn, but for all creatures.
That is to say, the sacred meanings arising from bestowing the right of existence and the right of life on everything, from protecting existence and life from aggressors, and from arresting and restraining those ghastly creatures from their aggression; and that arise especially from the judgement of men and jinn at the Great Gathering in the realm of the hereafter. And besides this, the sacred meanings arising from the greatest manifestation of justice and wisdom that is apparent in animate creatures.
Thus, as may be seen from these three examples, just as a great many degrees of loveliness, beauty, grace, and perfection are present in all the thousand and one Divine Names, so there are a great many degrees of love, pride, glory, and grandeur.
It is because of this that the elevated and authoritative saints who manifested the Name of Loving One said: “Love is the very leaven of the universe. It is through love that all beings are in motion. It is from love that the laws of attraction, affinity, and ecstasy present in all beings spring.”
That is to say, everything receives the manifestation of Divine love and is intoxicated in accordance with its disposition. It is well-known that every heart has affection for someone who bestows kindnesses on it, and that it loves true perfection and is enamoured of noble beauty. And the heart loves even more one who bestows kindnesses, not only on itself, but also on those it loves and feels compassion for.
And so, as we explained before, may it not be understood from the following just how deserving of love and passion is the All-Beauteous and Glorious One, the All-Perfect Beloved One, and how intoxicated and giddy is the whole universe with love of Him? For He is named with a thousand Names each of which is the source of thousands of perfections and the means for thousands of degrees of beauty. And through His bounties, in all the Names are thousands of treasuries containing bounties, and He makes all those beings we love happy.
It is because of this mystery that the saints who manifested the Name of Loving One declared: “We do not want Paradise. One flash of the Divine love will suffice us forever.”
It is also because of this that as is recorded in the Hadith: “A minute’s vision of the Divine beauteousness in Paradise will far surpass all its other delights.”8
Thus, these endless perfections of love only occur through the All-Glorious One’s Names and His creatures within the sphere of His unity and oneness. That is to say, those perfections that are imagined existing outside that sphere are not perfections at all.
The Fifth Sign: The Fifth Sign consists of five Points.
First Point: The representative of the people of misguidance said next: “The world is execrated in your Hadiths and called ‘carrion.’9 Also, all the saints and people of truth have contempt for the world, they say that it is pernicious and unclean. Whereas you show it to be the means and proof of all Divine perfections and speak of it rapturously.”
The Answer: The world has three faces.
Its First Face looks to Allah Almighty’s Names; it displays their impress. It is a mirror to them, reflecting their meanings. This face of the world consists of innumerable letters or missives describing the Eternally Besought One. This face is utterly beautiful, and is worthy of love, not loathing.
Its Second Face looks to the hereafter. It is the seedbed of the hereafter and arable field for Paradise. It is the flowerbed of mercy. This face is also beautiful like the first one and is deserving of love not contempt.
Its Third Face looks to man’s base appetites. It is a veil of neglect and a plaything for satisfying the desires of the worldly. This face is ugly because it is transient and mortal; it is full of pain, and it deceives. The contempt described in the Hadith and the loathing of the people of truth, then, is for this face.
The importance and approbation which the All-Wise Qur’an demonstrates towards the universe and all beings is towards the first two faces. It is the first two faces of the world that the Companions of the Prophet (Peace and blessings be upon him) and other people of Allah seek.
There are four classes of people who have contempt for the world.
The First: Those who seek knowledge of Allah. They have contempt for it because it is a barrier to knowledge, love, and worship of Allah.
The Second: Those who look to the hereafter. They see the world as ugly because unavoidable worldly matters prevent them from doing works pertaining to the hereafter. Or, due to their elevated degree of belief, they see it as ugly in relation to the perfections and beauties of Paradise.
Indeed, in the same way that a handsome man will appear ugly when compared to the Prophet Joseph (Peace be upon him), however valuable the qualities of this world, when compared to those of Paradise, they become as nothing.
The Third: These have contempt for this world because they cannot obtain it. This contempt arises not from loathing but from love.
The Fourth: These have contempt for the world because although they obtain it, it does not stay, it leaves them. And this vexes them. They insult it in order to console themselves and say it is foul. But this arises from love of the world, whereas acceptable contempt arises from love of the hereafter and the love that springs from knowledge of Allah.
That is to say, acceptable contempt is of the first two kinds. May Allah Almighty make us like those people. Amen.
IN VENERATION OF THE LORD OF THE PROPHETS
Credit: Bediüzzaman Said Nursi
1.That is, the question at the beginning of the Second Aim, not the small questions at the end of the Conclusion.
2. Qur’an, 23:14, etc.
3. Qur’an, 7:151, etc.
4. Qur’an, 32:7.
5. Qur’an, 6:57.
6. Qur’an, 17:110, etc.
7. Qur’an, 1:5.
8. Tirmidhi, Zuhd, 14; Ibn Maja, Zuhd, 3; Darimi,Muqaddima, 32, Suyuti, al-Durr al-Manthur, iii, 305-6.
9. Ibn Maja, No:4112; al-Manawi, Fayd al-Qadir, No:4281
Allah knows Best.