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Lesson - 43
"Allah there is no god but He, the Ever-Living,
the Self-subsisting by Whom all subsist. Slumber over-takes Him
not, nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever
is in the earth. Who is he that can intercede with Him but by His
permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them.
And they encompass nothing of His knowledge except what He pleases.
His knowledge extends over the heavens and the earth, and the preservation
of them both tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Great."
I gave an introductory commentary on this verse, commonly known
as the aayat-ul-kursi (verse of Divine Knowledge), in my
previous lesson. In fact, there is a great depth of wisdom and knowledge
enclosed in the few sentences of this verse. I will attempt a brief
commentary of it in this lesson. The concept of the Divine Being
that is commonly found in religions other than Islam, can be categorized
into three or four types. One type is that of an inanimate stone
idol carved by man which he has the power to destroy at will. A
second type is that of an animal such as a cow which is inferior
to him. Like all other animals, it is created from a non-existential
state. It was born and will eventually die a natural death, if not
slaughtered for its meat. The third concept of the Divine Being
is that of a human like us. Like all human beings, the deity was
brought from a non-existential state to life in the mother's womb.
Her blood nurtured him, and eventually he was born like any other
baby. The deity felt hunger and thirst, possessed all human frailties,
and eventually passed away. Such is the Christian concept of the
Divinity of Jesus. If the Christians claim that the life experience
of Jesus was different from that of a human because he was given
life after death, it does not in any way make him superior to the
rest of humanity which too has the same fate. In fact, the prophets
of God and the righteous are all given a new life, immediately after
death. The fourth concept of divinity is that celestial bodies,
like the sun, moon, stars etc., are gods. Science has proven that
these are nothing, but masses of heated matter, and gas bound by
the laws of the Great Master and Creator. In this age of science
and knowledge there was the widespread rejection of such concepts,
and the consequential spread of atheism on a large scale.
Concept of the Divine Being in Islam
It is quite apparent that the human mind which is a material entity
like that of other animals cannot independently acquire knowledge
of the Divine Being. The concepts that man formulated independently
were so flawed that they have been rejected today. It is, therefore
essential that knowledge of His Being and attributes be given by
God Himself. He certainly did give such knowledge in different revealed
scriptures, but unfortunately these were either completely destroyed,
or greatly altered by human hands. This is the reason why Allah
Himself became the Guardian of His complete and Final Word, the
Holy Quran. Even the critics admit that the Holy Quran we have in
our hands today, is exactly the same as was revealed to the Holy
Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The concept
of the Divine Being is presented throughout the Holy Quran from
its beginning to the end. The verse (Aayat-ul-Kursi) that
I am going to discuss briefly today, also presents this magnificent
"Allah there is no God (ilaa-ha), but
As I explained in my first lesson, Allah is the proper name of
the Divine Being. When we introduce someone, we first mention his
proper name. For example, "This is Mr. Rashid Khan." It is surprising
that no other religion besides Islam has informed us about the proper
name of God, although there are names describing His attributes.
This is just like saying about someone that he is a Muslim, a very
good person etc., but without revealing his proper name. If only
the descriptive qualities are given without the proper name, the
introduction is not only incomplete, but is also generalized because
these qualities could be possessed by several different persons.
The name Allah, even before Islam, was used in the Arabic language
for the One and Only God, and for no one else. The proper name Allah
means, One Who is perfect in the excellence and goodness of His
attributes, and also in their manifestation, so that His creation
benefits from them at all times. It is not enough for someone to
possess good qualities unless others benefit from them. For example,
if a person is a great scholar, his knowledge is useless unless
it is of benefit to someone else. The creation of Allah, the Most
High, however benefits from His attributes all the time as is quite
apparent from His attributes of Rabb-il-Alamin (One Who nourishes
the whole creation unto perfection), Ar-Rahman (the Beneficent),
and Al-Raheem (the Merciful).
After giving knowledge of the name Allah, it is stated that there
is no God (ilah), but He. The ordinary meaning of the word
ilah in Arabic is One Who is worshipped, i.e., the One served
with humility. In this one word a cogent proof of the unity of the
Divine Being is given. The question is raised, in whose service
is the whole creation obediently bound? This answer which was given
fourteen hundred years ago has been confirmed by modern scientific
knowledge, that the whole universe is one, and is bound by the same
universal law. That is why even the atheist and Christian scientists
have now finally accepted that this magnificent universe has all
been created by, and is under the control of One Being. Since this
whole universe, and even the human body is serving the One God with
humility, mankind should also strive to serve the One and Only God.
This can only be accomplished by completely following the guidance
given in the Holy Quran.
The second meaning of ilah is, the One Who deserves our
love. This tells us that submission to God should be with love,
only then can it be truly representative of genuine enthusiasm and
sincerity. This is the kind of submission which can bring the most
beneficial results. For example, the child who appreciates the favors
of his parents, considers them his well-wishers, and follows their
guidance enthusiastically, will benefit the most from it. If he
does so reluctantly, he cannot reap the same rewards. The parental
favors towards their offspring are nothing compared to the Divine
favors upon mankind. He created the heavens, and the earth and made
man His vicegerent upon earth. He made all creation submissive to
man and blessed him with innumerable favors. He breathed into him
His spirit, and blessed him with His knowledge, and provided him
with guidance, so that by following it he can get closer to Him.
As I have pointed out in my previous lesson, there is nothing more
satisfying, rewarding, or of value that can equal this relationship.
The third meaning of ilah is, the One Who is the desired
objective or purpose of life. Recognition of the Divine Being and
establishment of a relationship with Him is the purpose of man's
creation, and giving man knowledge and guidance to accomplish this
is the greatest Divine favor upon mankind. Whosoever sets up associates
with Allah, fails to achieve the purpose of his creation.
The verse then proceeds to state:
"the Ever-living (Al-Haye), the Self-subsisting
by Whom all subsist."
The Arabic word Haye means One Who was always living, and
will live forever. By using the Arabic letter Alif and Laam,
which makes Al ('the'), with the word Haye,
indicate that the Divine Being is also Unique in this matter, i.e.,
He is the Only One Who was always living and will live forever.
Scientists agree that the universe has finite life, though perhaps
a long one by our reckoning. There was a beginning, and there will
be an end. This is true for everything in the universe, including
humans and all other living beings. Every one amongst us did not
exist at one time, and will eventually die. The other meaning of
Haye is that Allah is not only Himself Ever-Living, but He
also gives life to others. This meaning of the word Haye
informs us that Allah is our Creator and the Source of life for
each one of us. Not only is Allah the initiator of life, but in
accordance with the first meaning of the Arabic word Haye,
i.e., the One Who is Ever-living. He gives everlasting life, which
is a blessed one for those who seek His pleasure. This is a source
of immense satisfaction for humans, because the greatest desire
of every human being is to abide forever. We are thus informed by
this Quranic verse that if you desire a blessed everlasting life,
then Allah is the Only One Who can give it. The Arabic word Qayyum
means that He is the Self- subsisting by Whom all subsist. After
the desire for life everlasting, the second greatest desire of man
is that he should have stability in life, remain physically active,
and in good health. This can also be granted only by Allah, the
Most High. He has promised this for the life Hereafter, where mankind
is to abide forever.
It is quite surprising that modern science has also come to the
conclusion that the existence of this universe is because of the
Divine Being. There are several books on this subject, two of the
easily comprehensible ones being, 'The Mysterious Universe,' by
Sir James Jeans, and 'The Universe and Dr. Einstein,' by Lincoln
Barnett. Sir James Jeans writes in his book: "The Universe exists
because it exists in a Universal Mind."
A being that is not ever-living and self-subsisting by whom all
subsist does not deserve to be called god, for such a being was
born like us, and will likewise die one day. It did not give life,
or subsistence to others nor is it self-subsisting. In contrast,
the Holy Quran has given such a magnificent and attractive concept
of the Divine Being that in this age of science and reasoning no
other concept can be acceptable. It is then stated:
"Slumber overtakes Him not, nor sleep."
Slumber creates a period of temporary unawareness, while sleep does
that for a more prolonged period. Science today has also established
this principle. If the existence of this universe is because of
its existence in a Divine mind encompassing the whole universe,
if that Being goes into slumber or sleep, then the whole universe
would perish. Those who elevate their prophets to the status of
god do not deny that they were prone to slumber and sleep. I have
heard from Hindus that their idols do sleep in the temple, or cave.
That is why the worshipper rings a bell before commencing supplications.
If those prophets or idols were the real Divine Being, then this
universe would have ended in a few seconds. How can the Being Who
is prone to slumber and sleep be our guardian at all times? I have
quoted Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in my previous lesson that "Allah
lies awake while human beings are asleep, He sees their enemies,
and the dangers they face, and protects them, provided they are
His humble servants."
It is then stated:
"To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever
is in the earth."
Ordinarily heavens are considered as the physical heavens about
which modern science is making novel discoveries everyday. If we
accept his meaning momentarily, it is quite obvious that Allah is
the Creator of whatever is in the heavens and the earth, for man
comes into this world empty handed and leaves it in a similar condition.
A better meaning of the heavens, is those spiritual heavens which
are the abode of man's life Hereafter. According to the Quran and
the Hadith, these are seven in number and man's everlasting existence
and progress will continue in them after death. Considering this
meaning, let us now study the words of this verse: "To Allah belongs
all that is in the heavens and the earth." This implies that whatever
you desire in your earthly existence, can only be given by Allah,
who owns everything that is in this world, and He is the Creator
of all. To Him also belongs whatever is in the heavens, meaning
the life Hereafter, for He has created everything over there for
you, and only He can give it to you. Mankind is, therefore totally
dependent upon the blessed being of Allah, in this world, and in
the life Hereafter. What can other human beings, or the ones who
have been made into gods give, for they are themselves dependent
on Allah for everything?
Further on it is stated:
"Who is he that can intercede with Him but by His permission?"
I have discussed the subject of intercession in my previous lessons.
Unfortunately it is a common misconception that a certain entity
can intercede on our behalf, and save us. That is the reason why
prophets, saints, holy men, ascetics and even their graves are worshipped.
The foundations of Christianity rest on Jesus being the intercessor
between man and God. Misunderstanding the concept of intercession
has led people associating other entities with God. As I have already
discussed, and is apparent even in this verse, that Allah, the Most
High, is the One Who gives the permission to intercede. It behooves
us to seek His pleasure by submitting to Him with humility, and
not His displeasure by associating others with Him. If a certain
person has developed a bond with a prophet continuously striving
to follow in his footsteps (the Arabic word for intercession, shafa`at,
means bonding or forming a relationship), and Allah desires to forgive
this person despite his shortcomings, Allah will give His prophet
permission to intercede on the person's behalf and not otherwise.
It must be remembered that Allah's permission to intercede is accepted
merely to honor the prophet. The same holds true for a person who
emulates a righteous person or follows the impulses from angels
to do acts of goodness. If Allah desires to forgive such a person,
despite his shortcomings, He will give permission to the righteous
persons and angels to intercede merely to honor them. The intercession
in the hereafter, therefore, is very different from the intercession
that we see in worldly affairs. Here the intercessions are unsolicited
and the intercessor is generally a person who feels he has some
right over the person he is asking for a favor, if the favor is
not granted it is implied that it will incur the displeasure of
the intercessor. I have worked all my life for the government, and
it is my personal observation that if I did not accept someone's
recommendation it invariably led to their displeasure even if they
did not show it. No one has any right over Allah, the Blessed Most
High, or can have the impertinence to think that he can put any
kind of pressure on Him on basis of which he can intercede without
His permission. Nor can anyone have the audacity to say that if
his intercession is not accepted, it will offend him or result in
The subsequent words of aayat-ul-kursi give another reason
why intercession would not be possible without the permission of
Allah, and those words are, "He knows what is before them, and what
is behind them." Allah only has the complete knowledge of a man's
present and past, and no one else. Only Allah, therefore, is in
the position to decide whether a person should be forgiven or not.
The deeds that are committed by man, his intentions and circumstances
and subsequent actions are known only to Allah, and no one else.
How appropriate are the words that follow:
"And they encompass nothing of His knowledge except
what He pleases."
The limits of human knowledge whether it is of this world, or the
Hereafter, or of his temporal, or spiritual self are defined by
Allah the Most High. We are told not to assess the knowledge of
Allah by means of our own imperfect knowledge. Man's knowledge of
the past or present is incomplete and defective, as is well known
to historians and scientists. That is why science is constantly
making new discoveries which show older ideas to be faulty or incomplete.
The knowledge of the future and the unseen is possessed only by
Allah. He gives proof of this by imparting knowledge of the unseen
to His prophets and righteous servants. He has also made the Holy
Quran a repository of such knowledge. Quranic prophecies are being
fulfilled even today, fourteen hundred years after its revelation
and only Allah knows how many more will be fulfilled in the future.
Even modern science has accepted Allah's knowledge of the unseen.
This a very lengthy subject which I will, if it please Allah, discuss
on another occasion by directly quoting some well known scientists
on this subject. We do not however, need the confirmation of the
scientists to convince us. The unlimited amount of knowledge of
the unseen that is there in the Holy Quran, thousands of prophecies
that the Holy Prophet made on being given knowledge by Allah, and
the knowledge of the unseen given to other righteous servants and
reformers by Allah, is sufficient proof for us.
"His knowledge (kursi) extends over the heavens and the
earth." The Arabic word kursi commonly refers to an object
used for sitting. Without going into the lexicological details,
suffice it to say that the word kursi also signifies both dominion
and knowledge, and both of these meanings are appropriate in the
present context. Allah has created the heavens of this physical
universe, and also those of the Hereafter. His knowledge and sovereignty,
therefore encompasses both the heavens and the earth. with knowledge
comes power. For example, as man has gained more knowledge of science,
his dominion over the rest of the creation has increased. Allah
is the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and His control extends
over not only this world, but also the Hereafter. Man, whether in
this life or the life Hereafter, cannot go outside the domain of
Allah, and there is no refuge for him if he displeases Allah. If
you desire the benefit in this world, or the Hereafter, seek the
pleasure of Allah which can be achieved through humble submission
"And the preservation of them both tires Him not." If Allah
was to tire like humans, the heavens and the earth would cease to
exist. These words also indicate that protection in this world and
the Hereafter can only be acquired by coming within the protection
of Allah and not otherwise.
"And He is the Most High, Great." Most High (`Aliy) indicates
exaltation of status due to His attributes and qualities, and Great
(`Azeem) indicates His dominion and power. 'Most High' is mentioned
first because attributes and qualities are the real source of eminence.
For example, the honor and eminence attained by prophets and saints
by reflecting the Divine attributes within themselves is much greater
than the honor and eminence of kings and rulers, although it cannot
be denied that worldly power and sovereignty is also a source of honor.
The sequencing of `Aliy before `Azeem, therefore, indicates
that it is eminence of character which embellishes worldly prominence
and honor. Without character worldly power and honor are of no consequence
as is frequently observed in the case of world leaders who get involved
in scandals. The sequence of the words the Most High, Great (al-`Aliy-ul-`Azeem)
also indicates that if you rectify your character and spirit, Allah
will also bestow worldly honor upon you.