An-Nasafiyy said:

وله صفاتٌ أزليةٌ قائمةٌ بذاتِهِ وهي لا هُو ولا غيرُهُ

He has Eternal Attributes of His Self, and they are not Him nor are they other than Him.

We cannot [merely] deny that His Attributes are Him, nor [merely] that they are other than Him. [With the same meaning is denying] that He is them or other than them. This is because in the negation of one of those statements [alone] is confirmation of its counterpart. The confirmation of either is impossible[1], thus, we negate both[2]. Az-Zarkashiyy said:

Some have objected to the ‘Ashˆariyys for saying that His Attributes are not Him nor other than Him. They said: ‘They have fallen into explicit contradiction!’ This is the talk of him who does not know the reality of ‘two different things’, which is when it is valid for one of the two to depart the other in time, place, existence or non-existence. These Attributes do not accept that, so it is not said that they are other than Him, or that He is other than them. Some scholars have expressed that by saying that the Attributes are not His Self, and they are not other than His Self, because two different things are two selves, each of which is not the other[3]. So, even though the Attributes have ‘a meaning more than what is understood from the Self’[4], they are not different from it according to that meaning.

If they said: Had He been Attributed with Knowledge [for example], it would be either Him, or part of Him, or other than Him!

It is said to them: [You have mentioned three options:]

  1. It is impossible for the Knowledge to be Him because it is impossible for knowledge to be knowledgeable! Therefore, had He been knowledge, it would be invalid to say that He is Knowledgeable, and from there, that He would have any Attribute[5]!
  2. It is impossible for the Knowledge to be a part of Him because the Necessary Existence would not be composed of parts! It is also not said that His Attributes agree or comply with Him, nor oppose Him, nor are separate from Him, or adhere to Him, or are connected to Him or disconnected from Him, or that they resemble Him or they do not resemble Him. Nor is it said that His Attributes dwell within Him or that He is made of them. All of that implies that His Attributes are different from Him, which leads to saying that one could exist while the other is non-existent; that the Attributes could exist without the Self, or that the Self could exist without the Attributes. What must be said is: “They are Attributes of His, they are confirmed for Him and unique to Him without being parts or dwelling within Him.”
  3. It is impossible to be other than Him because it is impossible that the Knowledge depart the Self.
[Yet it is necessary that He have Knowledge, or else He would be ignorant, and that is impossible! Therefore, your claim is false, and there is a fourth option: His Attribute is not Him nor other than Him.]

To say that He is His Attributes [leads to two fallacies][6]:

  1. It is to deny His Self because a self is not an attribute.
  2. [It] would [also] mean that He is Power and Knowledge, etc. That would mean that knowledge is power, etc[7]., and that is juggling realities.

Therefore, we do not say that Allaah is His Attributes.

[But] to say that He is other than His Attributes [also leads to two fallacies]:

  1. It validates the Self without Attributes, [and this is taˆtiyl (atheism)].
  2. If they were other than Him; different from His Self, they would be fleeting; temporary qualities (‘aˆraad), like the attributes of the creations[8]. It would be valid for them to depart Him, like it is valid for a white body to lose its whiteness, and for a moving body to become still, but that is a negation of eternity.  

By this we contradict the Muˆtazilah who said: “If Allaah had Attributes they would be eternal, and had they been eternal, there would be more than one eternal one, and then Tawhiyd would be nullified!” For this, they say that Allaah exists without Attributes of the Self[9]. Instead, we say[10]: “Allaah is a Self; One God Attributed with Attributes[11] that are eternal because His Self is Eternal. That does not necessitate multiple Eternal Ones; our stance does not imply another eternal self, nor multiplication of eternal selves. ‘Abuw Haniyfah said[12]:

لم يزل عالما بعلمه والعلم صفة في الأزل وقادرا بقدرته والقدرة صفة في الأزل ومتكلما بكلامه والكلام صفة في الأزل وخالقا بتخليقه والتخليق صفة في الأزل وفاعلا بفعله والفعل صفة في الأزل

“He never ceased to be Knowledgeable by His Knowledge, and the Knowledge is an Attribute in eternity; and Powerful by His Power, and the Power is an Attribute in eternity; and a Speaker by His Speech, and the Speech is an Attribute in eternity; and a Creator by His Creating, and Creating is an Attribute in eternity; and a Doer by His Doing, and Doing is an Attribute in eternity.”

The proof for all of what was mentioned is the hadiyth of the Prophet ﷺ:

كان الله ولم يكن شيء غيره

“Allaah was (existing eternally), and there was nothing other than Him.

It confirms His Attributes and negates them being different from Him.

***وسبحان الله و بحمده***

[1] Our talk is not like what the Muˆtazilah said of confirming for Allaah some “haal (circumstance; situation)” that is not existent nor non-existent, nor known, nor unknown.

[2] What facilitates the understanding of this case, is to say that “ten” is a total, underneath which are ones. It is not said about each individual “one” that it is the ten itself, just as it is not said that all of the ones are different from the ten. The difference, however, is that it is said that each one is a part of the ten, but it is not said about the Attributes of Allaah that they are parts of His Self. Likewise, every organ of the human is not other than the [self of the] human [because the human is a sum of organs], nor [is each individual organ] him, for the existence of the human is valid without his hand or foot. 

[3] Though the Christians may not explicitly confirm different eternal selves, they are bound to that, because they confirmed the father, the son and the ghost, and considered it possible for them to separate. Thus, they are different selves. For us, it is not possible for the Attributes of God to be transferred, because that which is eternal does not change, and Allaah knows best.

[4] What is understood from the Attributes is different from what is understood from the Self. So if one said, “The Knowledge of Allaah”, what is understood is different from what is understood from “The Self of Allaah”. If one said “Allaah”, what is understood is the self.

[5] [This means that had His Attributes been Him, then He would be knowledge, for example. If He were knowledge, then it would not be valid to say that He is Knowledgeable, because knowledge is not knowledgable. Knowledge is an attribute that exists in he who is knowledgeable].

[6]Abu-l-Huthayl said that the Knowledge of Allaah is Him, and that His Power is Him. Had it been as he said, then Allaah would not be Knowledgeable or Powerful, and His Knowledge would be His Power and His Power would be His Knowledge.

[7] [Some say, “Knowledge is power.” This means that having knowledge empowers one to better his situation. However, the reality of knowledge is different from the reality of power. They are not the same, and what is understood from the term “knowledge” is different from what is understood from the term “power”.]

[8] As for the attributes of the creations, they are different from the selves of the creations. This is because the existence of the body of the creation without the attributes is conceivable. For example, when a person is first born, he has certain attributes. Then he develops and acquires different attributes while his self is the same self. It is not mentally possible that the Attributes of Allaah would depart from His self, because His Attributes are not like the attributes of the creation. It is valid for their attributes to depart their selves; it is valid for the knowledge of the human to depart him, and likewise his power. Also, the human’s life departs him by death.

[9] If it were said to them, “Do you not confirm the Power?” They would say: “He is Powerful by His Self, not by an Attribute called Power; if we said that He is Powerful by Power and Knowledgeable by Knowledge, Willing by a Will and a Speaker with Speech, we would be confirming many gods.”

[10] ‘Imaam ‘Abu-l-Qaasim Al-‘Ansaariyy An-Naysaabuwriyy said in the explanation of Al-‘Irshaad: “If it were said, “If you do not definitively confirm what your imaams have mentioned about the reality of “two different things (ghayraan)”, then do you definitively prevent the expression (itlaaq) of differentiating between the Attributes of the Creator and His Self?” We say, “This is among what we definitely prevent because of the agreement of the ‘imaams about preventing this expression. Furthermore, just as the attributes are not described with being different from the self, it is not said that they are Him. Also, we do not avoid saying that the attributes are existing matters, and that the knowledge and the self are both existing. The imaams have also prevented the expression that the attributes are different (mukhtalifah).” Shortly before this case, he said, “What the precise scholars (muhaqqiquwn) among our ‘imaams have accepted is that the reality of “two different things” is that they are the existent matters, one of which could validly separate from the other by time or place, existence or non-existence.”

[11] Thus, there is no problem in saying that Allaah’s Existence is necessary, and His Attributes are necessarily ascribed to His Self. At-Taftaazaaniyy said, “Because of the difficulty of the subject, the Muˆtazilah and the philosophers have gone to negating the attributes, and the Karraamiyyah have gone to negating their eternity.” This means that it is difficult for he whom Allaah did not enlighten his heart[, or else, the case is not difficult]. Rather, ‘Ahlu-s-Sunnah went to denying that the attributes are different from the self and that they are the self.

[12] Al-Fiqh Al-‘Akbar.

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