Dr. Jamal Badawi
Each of the basic divine attributes has a practical relevance and implication in the day to day life of various individuals. Here, we will discuss a variety of them.
Oneness of God
When discussing the oneness of God this in itself provides a base for humanity to unite. That is talking about one common Lord of the universe. The whole issue of religious, racial or any other prejudice that stems from the mindset of ‘your God vs. my God’ no longer has a place because we’re talking about the God of the entire universe- the whole of humanity. It follows from this, also, that since you have one Lord then you also have one humanity.
The oneness of God also leads to the oneness of humanity and this understanding of the oneness of humanity is also a very profound basis in removing all the artificial barriers of racial, tribal and any other sense of superiority and all other false methods that people have devised to distinguish between one group of the creatures of God and the others.
It follows, also, from both of them (the oneness of God and the oneness of humanity) that you end with the oneness of divine revelation. By this we mean that all the messages, the divine revelations that was received by all prophets throughout history is similar to links in a constant and continuous chain of revelations.
The prophets should be viewed by their followers not as competitors trying to get the most followers but rather as those who are carrying the same basic message of goodness and submission to the will of God. At the same time they should be viewed as completing and complementing what each prophet before them had done. As we said this all culminated in the message of Prophet Mohammed as the last of those prophets. The prophets should be viewed as brothers and so their followers should try to look upon one another as brothers as well.
We find that in a very practical sense the oneness of God provides a very strong foundation to unify humanity in its entirety. Sometimes, as humans, we fail to harness this potential because of the various biases, prejudices and brainwashing that we have because of various individual, social or institutional pressures on us. But the potential is there in this single concept of oneness.
God as Sole Creator
By believing that God is the sole creator of everything that is in this universe, any animate or inanimate object, it follows that the true believer does not see anything in this universe as totally strange to him. There are things that we may not understand but the universe is never something that should be feared. We should never use the terms ‘conquest of nature’ or ‘subduing nature’ because it’s as if you’re in a struggle with an enemy that is nature. We should never look at it as this because nature is the creation of God.
Once we realize that God is the Creator then we conclude that there must be a specific purpose and wisdom behind creating us on this earth. We are not just created here to live and die. That most definitely is not the purpose. There must be a more noble mission and that is the most basic distinction between human beings on one hand and other living organisms or animals or birds or other types of creation on the other hand. This is beautifully depicted in one passage in the Quran, “Those who reject God will enjoy this world and eat as cattle eat; and the Fire will be their abode.” (47: 12) That’s the crux of the matter. By knowing and realizing the attributes and creations of God then we ask ourselves: Why are we created and what mission are we supposed to fulfill?
God is All-Knowledgeable, All-Wise and All-Omniscient
In regards to knowledge and wisdom, both have very practical implications. First of all, when a believer realizes that all his deeds and actions on this earth are watched, that God is watching over what he’s doing (and as we said last time even our inner thoughts are known to the Creator) it helps infiltrate the quality of piety or more correctly God-consciousness in his actions. It causes automatic self-policing. You don’t have to have someone watch over you or tell you what to do because after all you have in direct contact and under direct observation of the Creator. This quality is not a theoretical quality. It’s a very essential quality to build any healthy community or society.
The other aspect that follows from that is that the believers’ view of morality or moral standards would be more lofty than how many view them. That is to say many people would accept moral values but would only do so in a utilitarian sense. That is the concept of having to set certain standards because it’s good for themselves, for their own businesses, and or causes social approval. It’s useful to look at it this way but that’s not all because a more lofty level of looking at morality is to tie it directly with the knowledge of God. This instills the view of following these standards because God knows them, if they cheat people; if they use the pretense of morality just to acquire the admiration of other people then they can cheat all those people but cannot cheat God Himself. This culminates in sincerity in deeds, words, and thoughts.
If you take the question of wisdom also as one absolute attribute of the creator we find that it also relates to the acceptance of God’s command and direction and guidance as the ultimate source because one must believe that God is the ultimate infallible source of knowledge and the ultimate law-giver. Once we inculcate in ourselves this mindset then we take God and his commands as the arbitrator to judge in anything as we as human beings differ on. It gives a kind of stability to the laws and differences we have just in the same sense as the constitution, which provides stability in which various flexible laws can be devised.
By accepting that the authority of forgiveness lies exclusively in the hands of God, the human mind is also liberated from any superstition or strange ideas about how to remit for those sins committed. As we indicated earlier, the Islamic way of remission is sincerity, stopping what was being done that was wrong and immoral, and turning back to God in repentance and sincerity.
It also avoids the tendency that humans have in deifying other human beings in the hopes that those might take care of their sins. As we mentioned before, this tendency was not specific to one case or other. There have been so many cases throughout history where people were believed to be deities or manifestations or incarnations of deities. Even though those individuals themselves have emphatically denied this and never claimed that they were anything more than sincere human beings.
Additionally, it removes and discourages the exploitation of people in the name of religion. Once you start on a path of intermediary or intercession between man and God, even when we’re talking about great prophets as intercessors, then someone would claim that ‘I am the intercessor to the intercessor’ and so a chain would develop and that would raise, as occurred in history, the exploitation of people in the name of religion.
There were cases, throughout history, where people took the power unto themselves to grant forgiveness to people. You’d have to pay a certain amount of money and you get a document that says that your sins have been forgiven. Islam insists that forgiveness only lies in the hands of God. That is one of the reasons why, in a way, Islam doesn’t accept the concept of priesthood as it is looked upon in the west. You can be a religious scholar but not a priest in the terminological sense.
Finally, the belief in the forgiveness of God as the final authority, leads the person to gain a sense of responsibility and accountability. You do not depend on the mindset that someone else will be taking care of your sins. No, you are accountable, individually, before God and as such you have this sense of trying your best in following His command.
You could say that mercy relates to forgiveness, but we’ll add a few more points. Mercy also relates to inculcating the attitude of gratefulness to God. That is we don’t take all the blessings and bounties that God has given us for granted. We know that they are manifestations of His mercy. Even the glass of water that we drink, even the smell of fresh air that is around us, we should always remember and think that these are all manifestations of the mercy of God.
It, also, gives the person the feeling of assurance that there is One who cares for me. I could be sinful, I could be bad, but still there is One who cares and loves me and has mercy on me. And He’s not anyone – He’s The One. So that gives a warm feeling of identification with God.
In case the person faces and problems or difficulties in his life, he should never feel broken hearted or feel despair because, as the Quran says, one should never despair from the mercy of God. In fact, the Quran says, “Despair not of the Mercy of God, for God forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (39: 53)
“No one despairs of God’s soothing mercy except those who have no faith.” (Quran, 12: 87)
Absolute Will and Power of God
Realizing that all power belongs only in the hands of God removes any servitude to any other human being; servitude that we might have to other people because we have hope that they may benefit us. The Quran says the benefit only comes from God and not other human beings.
It, also, removes this servitude towards other human beings in a sense of fear for themselves. That is why we find prophets and other deeply religious individuals throughout history standing in the face of all adversity with great deal of courage in saying the truth, not to satisfy anyone but only because the truth must be said.
It removes the excessive or undue anxiety that people might have about what is happening to them or what will happen to them. The Quran says that nothing will happen to us but what God has destined us to go through. No one will live for one moment more or less than what has been decided for him.
Furthermore, it causes us to be more humble, realizing that all power is in the hands of God and so whatever we have by way of wealth, position, or whatever we should be humble because we know that God can take it all away at any moment. Therefore, we don’t exploit people. We don’t use this power or wealth or influence for our own benefit. We realize that there is a purpose to serve by having all this.
Even in the area of political life and government, we realize again that ultimate authority lies with God and as such all other human beings are equal in His sight and their affair should be decided by mutual consultation.
Closeness to God
Aside from the various passages in the Quran, which I quoted before saying God is closer to man than his jugular vein, that God is close to anyone who prays to Him, and that in Islam there are no intermediaries between humans and God and so in the five daily prayers you pray and communicate directly with God. This is the most noble, close, and direct personal relationship that you could have with the Creator.
In addition to this, this kind of experience or concept gives the person the chance to have the spiritual experience of direct contact with God that would inevitably lead to the feeling of peace of mind and peace of heart, which is the most valuable thing that anyone could attain in this life. Big car and big houses and lots of money and jobs with high salary are all superficial. The real value in life is to obtain this inner peace in the heart and mind.
To conclude, the Quran says:
“Whoever believes in God, God guides his heart aright.” (64:11)
“God is the Protector of those who have faith: He will lead them from the depths of darkness into light. Of those who reject faith their patrons are the evil ones: they will lead them from light into the depths of darkness.” (2:257)
“It is He Who sent down tranquility into the hearts of the Believers, that they may add faith to their faith.” (48:4)
“Those who believe and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of God- Lo in the remembrance of God do hearts find satisfaction.” (13:28)
Adapted, with permission, from transcribed audio lectures on www.jamalbadawi.org