On a clear and sunny afternoon, the three friends met, as they had previously agreed, on the banks of the Seine. Rajiv had invited his two friends to take a trip on board a river steamer. The three friends stood enjoying the magnificent views of the river and greenery surrounding its banks. Yousef addressed his friends, gazing into the horizon.
Yousef: Rivers, seas, plants, animals, mountains and man, and all that we see in this world, in fact all that we don't see too, are clear indications that there is a supreme wisdom that made these things come to life. It shows that this world indeed has a Creator and a Lord… Don't you agree with me on that?
Rajiv: Yes, but we have already agreed in the meeting before the last that this world has a Creator. However, there are some issues relating to this conviction which are worthy of discussion.
Michael: I think that the most important issue to start off with is that which has already been mentioned by you, Rajiv, about the question related to the qualities by which a true God should be characterized.
Yousef: What we live amongst and glimpse at of the magnificence of the creation of the universe, is closely related with what you are asking, since the origin of belief and certainty that God is the Truth is to have "a sound perception" of this universe, including the self that is within you, by knowing its elements, structures and aims of the creation of every creature in it.
Michael: We have recognized the existence of a God, the Creator of the universe. Perception of this God, however, is different in different religions. In fact, these perceptions are so different and contrasting that it drives some people to quit researching in this subject and to live a life closer to atheism, even if they do not explicitly recognize this.
Yousef: You are right my friend, but allow me to add that this doesn't stop them from feeling that they need to worship some god. In fact, when some deny the existence of God, they are but deifying themselves. They make gods out of their own desires. Some of the most obstinate atheists escaped from acknowledging the existence of God and believing in Him by taking other things which they gave the same greatness and qualities that should be given only to the true God, without any justification except to escape from a deviant perception of what is divine.
Rajiv: If we consider our subject, we can say that God must be awed, loved and feared, all at the same time. One must feel the need for Him. This is from the side of human beings. However, these qualities, in fact, represent a condition of man that may be realized by more than one person towards more than one god. Then, let's review the characteristics of the true God, which should be agreed upon by all humans.
Yousef: What you've said is beautiful and correct, and is connected to the subject we've started, for through our recognition of the inevitability of the existence of God, and our agreement that this magnificent harmonious universe has a Creator, who has predestined the existence of this universe and then created it out of nothing, we deduct that this Creator is the one who we describe as the Lord. That the Lord - who is our Creator and the Creator of all things – is in fact the God who deserves deification and worship, and none else should be worshiped but Him, that is, as you've just said, no one should direct his absolute awe, love, fear and hope except to Him. Hence, we can perceive the qualities of this true God.
Rajiv: If we acknowledge what you said, I can say that the first self-evident qualities are that this God is present and alive, and that this Lord God must be a Creator.
Yousef: That's right and this also evidently requires that neither this God nor any of His attributes are created. A Creator can't be created, because if He were a creature, it would have necessitated that He would be like us: He would have a Creator. Therefore, He wouldn't be God and shouldn't be worshipped - and for this same reason, none of the creatures should be.
Michael: It is then necessary to define the meaning of the Creator.
Yousef: In short, I can say that the Creator is the inventor of things for which there is no earlier example or model, i.e. He created everything from scratch, and He is also able to bring everything into existence out of nowhere and nothing. He predestines the existence of these creatures and structures, a predestination that is ordained by wisdom, i.e. not by absurdity or incidentally.
But a necessary characteristic of a creature is that it never existed before it was created, i.e. it must have a beginning. It must also wear out and perish, i.e. it must have an end. It also has limited capacities and capabilities, and always needs others.
Rajiv: If this Lord God is the Creator, it is only natural that He is the Owner of what He creates.
And if we say that all that is in the heavens and on the earth belongs to God and all are His creation, then He has to know all about them, because if anything about them is hidden from Him, it follows that any servant - in such a situation of God not knowing about his state – would be independent of his Creator. What also points to God's knowledge is the perfection and accuracy that we see in the creatures. This can never happen except if the Creator has absolute knowledge.
Yousef: What follows from ownership is the ability to do what one wants with the heavens and the earth and all that is in between them, and due to this and His knowledge, He has the right to manage and lay down laws and regulations for all things.
Michael: But I, too, own things, and I also know a lot. Does that indicate that I have divine attributes? I do not think that is true!
Yousef: Your observation is important, my friend. I see that continuing talking about the qualities in this way will take a while, although it is important. So we can reach a general rule that we can make as a standard for these qualities, and through this we can - to a large extent – deduct all the qualities. Allow me to introduce the features of this rule which, as far as I understand, are based on my Islamic culture.
Michael and Rajiv: Please do.
Yousef: This rule can be summarized as follows:
First, qualities of the self can be divided generally into two categories: qualities of imperfection and those of perfection.
Perfection is to be characterized by good qualities and not being described by the opposite negative characteristics .
Imperfection is to be characterized by negative qualities and not being described by the opposite positive characteristics
It follows then that in order for the denial of having any negative quality to be complete, one must be characterized by the opposite of that quality, i.e. by the quality of perfection; otherwise the negation would be imperfect, since just lacking a quality is in itself imperfect and deficient, and not enough to be characterized by perfection.
The second is that whatever the creature disdains, can't be attributed to the Creator, for all the qualities that it disdains is characterized by and described as being ill-favored; thus it mustn't be attributed to the Exalted, Almighty Lord. Such qualities of imperfection should never be from among His attributes, because God is the Most Perfect, from all aspects.
The third point is that there should be a complete separation between the Creator and the created. There is nothing like the Creator...As for the qualities that are known to be attributed to both the Creator and the created, such as ownership, knowledge, compassion and love, there is no similarity between them in the true sense, because the qualities of the Creator are different from those of the created. Qualities of the created are usually not free from imperfection, from personal interests, and from weaknesses.
Michael: I wish you would illustrate what you say and give examples.
Rajiv: And I wish you would explain them, coupled with the points you mentioned, and that these examples be drawn from what we previously spoke about, or be real life examples.
Yousef: Well, the first point is that all rational people agree that being weak is a quality of imperfection. Similarly, being in need of other people, or things, is also a quality of imperfection. It follows then that it is not right to attribute these two qualities to the true God. Rather, He should be exalted from both qualities and must have, at the same time, the opposite of these two qualities, which are the qualities of perfection of strength, and being free of need. Our Qur'an, therefore, denies the divinity of Christ and his mother (peace be upon them) in just a few words that hit the heart of the matter. Allah says describing this noble prophet and his mother: (they both used to eat food). He who needs to eat food does so when he feels hungry, and this is a quality of imperfection and weakness. Moreover, he who eats food is - like all human beings - in need of this food, so neither of them can be a god, because they do not possess the qualities of the true God.
And another detail is having children. The true God is exalted over the imperfection of being similar to creatures. Humans need children to be remembered, helped and for inheritance, or such like reasons. These are all qualities of imperfection and should never be attributed to the true God.
The second point is that all men of reason shun from being, for example, described with the quality of inefficiency. It is then more of a reason not to give such a quality to the true God. Rather, He should be characterized by the opposite quality of perfection, which is the quality of (efficiency). And so when Christ was unable to ward off from himself the harm he suffered by his enemies, or when idols or animals taken as gods by some people aren't able to ward off harm from themselves, then they are even more inefficient in warding off harm from their worshippers and lovers. This is a natural deduction and therefore someone who is inefficient, can't be fit to be a true god that is worshipped.
And men of reason shun from being described, for example, as being unjust. It therefore follows that a true god is never unjust and that He is The Most Just… and so on and so forth… Each negation of an imperfection should correspond with the confirmation of the opposite of the negated quality.
Finally, the third point. Let’s use the quality of knowledge, as it’s a good quality. Its negative opposite is ignorance. Perfection is being characterized by having knowledge and by being free from ignorance. Imperfection is being characterized by ignorance and by lacking knowledge. God’s quality of knowledge is absolutely perfect , because He is characterized by absolute knowledge and is absolutely free from ignorance.
As for humans, their quality of knowledge is only relatively perfect , because they are characterized by knowledge in some issues, while at the same time characterized by ignorance in other matters. Their perfection is only relative. And so on for the remaining qualities.
Michael: It feels like it’s getting colder, especially since it’s becoming dark. I think that's enough for tonight.