ATTRIBUTES OF BEAUTY, ATTRIBUTES OF MAJESTY
Islamic theology divides the Divine Attributes into two general categories: Positive Attributes and Negative Attributes. Positive Attributes are those that signify the perfections that God is possessed of, whereas the Negative Attributes indicates the imperfections that are negated of God. Positive Attributes are alternatively referred to as ‘Attributes of Perfection’ or ‘Attributes of Beauty’, as they affirm the beauty and perfection in God’s Existence. The Negative Attributes have alternative names as well. They are sometimes called ‘Dissociative Attributes’-as they dissociate God from the properties and qualities which are characteristic of created being-or ‘Sublimative Attributes’-as they pronounce God’s Eminence. But the more common designation for these Attributes is ‘Attributes of Majesty’-as they emphasize God’s Majesty and Superiority as distinguished from the inferiority of His creatures.
It is important to note that Negative Attributes are actually Positive Attributes in disguise. To negate imperfections of God is to affirm Positive Attributes for Him: Negation of negation amounts to affirmation, as in math where two negative signs cancel each other out, giving way to positive value. Non-ignorance is, for instance, a Negative Attribute. Now, the content of the concept ‘ignorance’ is negative, for it indicates lack of knowledge. As such, to negate lack of knowledge of God is to affirm His Knowledge, which is a perfection. All Negative Attributes are in this manner reducible to Positive Attributes.
GOD’S MOST WELL-KNOWN ATTRIBUTES
Some of God’s well-known Positive Attributes are as follows:
1-God is Omniscient (al-‘Alīm); that is, He knows everything.
2-God is Omnipotent (al-Qādir); that is, He has power over all things.
3-God is Living (al-Ḥayy); life is the quality that enables knowledge and power.
4-God is Eternal (al-Qadīm wa al-Azalī); that is, He is without beginning or end.
A number of God’s well-known Negative Attributes are as follows:
1-God is not composite. He is, rather, Simple. If He were composite, He would have been in need of His constituent parts, while He is absolutely Self-sufficient, without need.
2-God is not corporeal. Corporeal being is finite, mutable, and perishable, but He is Infinite, Immutable, and Imperishable.
3- God is not perceptible, for if He were perceptible, He would have been corporeal, but He is Incorporeal.
God is without equal; He is Unique. If there were other beings on par with Him, He would have been finite and limited, for it is impossible for two absolutely infinite beings to coexist. Furthermore, the unity of the order governing this world clearly demonstrates the Unity of its Creator.
ENTITATIVE (DHĀTĪ) AND OPPERATIVE (FI‘LĪ) ATTRIBUTES OF GOD
God’s Attributes may be divided into two general types: The Entitative (Dhātī) and the Operative (Fi‘lī). The Entitative Attributes are those that the mind abstracts with only God’s Essence in view. These Attributes are predicable of God’s Essence as such and without having to envisage His Operation and Activity that is, without having to take God’s creatures into consideration. As such, the ascription of these Attributes to God requires nothing more than envisaging His Essence.
The Operative Attributes, however, are those that are abstracted from the relation between God and creation. That is, God’s Operation and Activity must be taken into view; it is not enough to merely envisage God’s Essence. To predicate these Attributes of God, it is necessary to take His creatures into account as well. Creator is a typical Operative Attribute. The mind conceives this Attribute only after considering God’s Activity of creation and the dependency of the world on God. In other words, the ascription of Creator to God requires that the mind first take into account the notion of His Creatorship and world’s createdness. It would be wrong, therefore, to ascribe Creator to Divine Essence as such.1
1- Shomali, Mohammad Ali, Islamic Belief System, pp. 34-36.