THIRD AIM

After receiving this decisive and convincing answer to his second question,(*) the representative of all the people of misguidance was reduced to silence, but then asked the following third question.

{(*) That is, the question at the beginning of the Second Aim, not the small questions at the end of the Conclusion.}

“Phrases in the Qur’an like The Best of Creators,2 and The Most Compassionate of the Compassionate,3 suggest that there are other creators and compassionate ones. And you also say, ‘the Creator of all the worlds possesses endless perfections. United in Him are the utmost levels of every kind of perfection.’ Whereas, the perfections of beings are known through their opposites: if there was no pain, pleasure would not be a sort of perfection; if there was no darkness, light could not be proved to exist; if there was no separation, there would be no pleasure in union, and so on, would there?”

The Answer: We shall answer the first part of the question in five Indications.

FIRST INDICATION:

From beginning to end, the Qur’an demonstrates Divine unity; this is a clear indication that those sort of phrases in the Qur’an are not as you understand them. Rather, The Best of Creators is to say, “He is at the highest and best rank of creativity,” which in no way indicates that there is another creator. Like the other attributes, creativity has many degrees or ranks. The Best of Creators means, “He is a Glorious Creator at the furthest and most excellent degree of creativity.”

SECOND INDICATION: Terms like, The Best of Creators do not look to a plurality of creators, but to the varieties of the state of being creature. That is, “He is a Creator Who creates everything in an appropriate form, at the most faultless degree.” Verses like, Who makes most excellent everything He creates,1 express this meaning.

THIRD INDICATION: The comparison suggested by terms like, The Best of Creators, God is Most Great, The Best Judge between truth and falsehood,2 and The Most Bountiful are not comparative and superlative adjectives comparing God Almighty’s attributes and actions, which are actual, with others who possess samples of those attributes and actions. For all the perfections in the universe, and in jinn, men, and angels, are but pale shadows in relation to His perfection. How should any comparison be possible? It is rather human beings, and particularly the people of neglect, who see perfection in terms of comparison.

For example, a private shows complete obedience and respect to his corporal. It seems to him that all benefits come from him and he thinks little of the king. Even if he does think of him, it is still to the corporal that he shows his gratitude. So it is said to the private: “See here! The king is much greater than your corporal, it is only him that you should thank.” Now this sentence does not compare the king’s imperial commandership, which is actual, with that of the corporal, which is partial and only apparent; because to do so would be meaningless. It is a result of what the private considers to be important, of how he sees his relations with the corporal, that he prefers him and loves and thanks only him.

Similarly, when apparent causes are imagined to be the creator and bestower of bounties in the view of the people of neglect, they become a veil to the True Bestower of Bounties. These neglectful people cling onto causes and think that bounties and favours are from them; they praise and acclaim them. The Qur’an says: “God Almighty is a greater, more excellent Creator, a far better Bestower of Bounties. So look to Him, and thank Him.”

FOURTH INDICATION: Just as there may be comparison between actual beings and preference for some over others, so there may be comparisons between possible or even hypothetical things and preference. Numerous degrees or levels are present in the true natures of most things. So too, in the view of the intellect, innumerable degrees may be present in the true natures of the Divine Names and sacred attributes. Whereas God Almighty is at the most perfect and excellent of all the possible and imagined degrees of those attributes and Names. The whole universe witnesses to this truth through all its perfections. His are the Most Beautiful Names,1 “describing all His Names as the most excellent,” expresses this meaning.