What Is the Relation between Allah’s Attributes and Names?

Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah

Question

I have several questions regarding the ta‘alluqat of Allah’s attributes (تعلقات الصفات), the difference between the Maturidis and the Ash‘aris on the attribute of creation (صفة التكوين), and the difference between the essential attributes (صفات الذات) and the operational attributes (صفات الفعل).

How do we understand the operational attributes (صفات الفعل) in the context and framework of the Ash‘aris? Do they – contrary to the Maturidis – hold the view that they are haditha (حادثة)? How should the ta‘alluqat (تعلقات) themselves be haditha (حادثة)? Aren’t the relationships themselves i‘tibari (اعتباري) and only exist in the mind?

If the operational attributes (صفات الفعل) are contingent, how do we understand this in relation to Allah being the Creator before creation and the Razzaq before giving Rizq, as is written in Tahawia?

Finally, what’s the relation of Allah’s attributes to His Most Beautiful Names?

Answer

I will address the questions one after the other, inshaAllah.

How are the ta‘alluqat (تعلقات) themselves haditha (حادثة)? Aren’t the relationships themselves i‘tibari (اعتباري) and only exist in the mind?

What I’ve understood your question to be is the following: If the relationship (التعلق) is an abstract concept (أمر اعتباري) then it is not something in actual existence (وجودي), as a contingent (حادث) is that which exists after non-existence, while the abstract concept is not something in existence, but rather in the mind. So why do the Ash‘aris say it is contingent (حادث)?

The answer to this question is that the relationship (التعلق) is the association (النسبة) between the pre-eternal Attribute (المتعلِق) and the contingent object or result (المقدور– المتعلَق). So the first is pre-eternal (قديم) and the second contingent (حادث). The association between the two is not possible to conceive except as contingent because one part of the connection is contingent.

We do not mean by ‘the relationship (التعلق) is contingent (حادث)’ that it has an external reality after having been non-existent, but rather what we mean by it is that because the relationship is not an external reality, the mind cannot conceive it unless the action takes place (the creator creates something).

For example, before two people ever meet, there is no ‘friendship’, but only when they meet does friendship occur, and this ‘friendship’ is not an external reality, but rather it is an abstract meaning that the mind deduces after the two people have met, and which was not possible before that.

 

 

If the operational attributes (صفات الفعل) are contingent, how do we understand this in relation to Allah being the Creator before creation and the Razzaq before giving Rizq, as is written in Tahawia?

The answer to this question is actually answered in the Tahawiyyah you mentioned when he says,

ليس منذ خلق استحق اسم الخالق… ذلك أنه على  كل شيء قدير

It wasn’t since creation that He is deserving of the name The Creator, As He has the power to do all things. 

Allah is always possessed of the attributes of being the Creator, the Giver, The Merciful, etc., even if He does not create, give, or show mercy, because He is and always will be, able to do all things if He willed.

Those who state that Allah Most High must create all the time in order to justify his being called ‘The Creator’ make a grave mistake, for this entails that Allah Most High is obliged to create, and we know that nothing is obligatory on Allah the Exalted, He is the Doer of whatever He wishes, Subhana wa-Ta’ala.

We have explained what is meant by the relationship (التعلق) being ‘contingent’ in our first answer.

 

 

Finally, what’s the relation of Allah’s attributes to His Most Beautiful Names?

Some of the Beautiful Names of Allah Most High are proper nouns for the Divine Essence. Some are Attributes of the Essence. Some are combinations of meanings derived from Attributes of the Essence and the Attributes of Action.

Thus, ‘Allah’ is a Proper Noun for the Essence, and al ‘Aleem (All-Knowing) is derived from the Attribute of the Essence, al ‘Ilm (Knowledge). al Khaliq (The Creator) is derived from the Attributes of action, and al Qahar (The All Prevailing) is derived from a combination of Attributes of the Essence (al Qudrah) and the Attributes of Action (The act of prevailing over everything).

I pray the above explanations have clarified your confusion. There is more we could explain on your questions, but insha’Allah what we have mentioned will suffice for your clarity.

I ask Allah to forgive me for anything said in these answers which are mistaken, out of ignorance, or not befitting of His Absolute Majesty, for He Most High has said, “Say, My Lord has only forbidden open and secret indecencies, sinfulness, unjust aggression, associating [others] with Allah, a practice He has never authorized and attributing to Allah what you do not know.” [Quran, 7:33]

Warmest salams,

[Shaykh] Jamir Meah
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani 

Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.