“Who is God? What is God?” – The response of Imam `Ali bin Abi Talib

Muhammad ibn Ishaq narrated that Nu`man bin Sa`d said:

“In my presence, Nawf bin `Abdullah came to `Ali and said, “O Leader of the Believers! There is an assembly of about fourty Jews standing outside, and they are here to ask you a few questions.”

`Ali invited them in and asked them to put forth their questions. They asked `Ali different questions regarding the reality and howness (Kayfiyyah) of God (Allah). Imam `Ali bin Abi Talib, the great jurist, said the following in response to their questions:

O Assembly of Jews , listen to me. Do not be concerned about asking anyone but me in this affair.

My Lord – Mighty and Majestic – He is the First, without beginning

He is neither intermingled with His Creation

Nor is He in a state in between that

He is not a ghost or spirit that is remote

He is not remote where He does not know His Creation

He did not appear at some point where it could be said He is created

No, Majestic is He that He be decribed in this way when He has given all things their shape

He has always been and does not change through time

He was – when there was no thing – without time or place

And He is now as He ever was!

He is not distracted by different affairs

How can He be decribed as are ghosts and how can He be truly praised by people?

How can this be when He is not within things so as to be called separate?

He is without likeness and how yet He is closer to you than your jugular vein!

He is as far as can be from any likeness with the creation

The slightest thing from His Creation is not hidden from Him

Whether it is the slightest statement off the tongue, the hidden action or the single footstep

In the great shadows of the night, the shining of the moon, the brightness of the sun, nothing is hidden from Him when He is the source of light for all things.

He surrounds all in His Creation, whether it is the sudden onset of night or the sudden brightness of the day without His being encompassed by the creation.

He knows about every place and all of what is and will be

And also the end of all things that are to come

Time and ending is something that has been given to the creation.

Limits are only attributed to created things and not Him.

He did not create the things from the foundations of eternity where they always existed

Nor did He create from existing things already present.

No! Rather He created what He made and established its’ creation from nothing.

He gave shape and good form to everything.

He is One and Unique in His Oneness

There is nothing the creation can do that can harm Him and there is no way the creation can benefit Him

He is quick to answer the supplications of those that call upon Him

Yes, indeed the angels in the skies and earths obey Him.

His knowledge of all that has died or ceased is just as full as His knowledge of all things living and what is in the highest skies.

The same holds true for His knowledge in every thing and all the voices and languages do not confuse or baffle Him.

He hears all the different  voices and languages without limbs or organs

Indeed He is the Designer and the All Seeing, The Knower of all affairs, All Living, Self Sufficient

Glorified be He, He spoke to Musa directly without the need of limbs and instruments, lips or throat.

Glorified and Exalted is He from having a similarity like the creations.

Whoever claims that Our God has boundaries, then He does not know the Creator that is worshipped

The same is said of the one who says that the places encompass Him

This claim means that He is mingled with and contained by the creation!

No, He surrounds and encompasses every place.

The one that claims He is surrounded by His Creation when he describes the Most Merciful while He has no revelation or text to prove this, I have this question for him:

Describe for me (angel) Jibril, Mika’il, Israfil! Go ahead! I defy you to do so!

Are you then unable to describe what is a creation like you?

Are you unable to describe just a creation when you describe the Creator with form and organs, this same One who is neither overtaken by sleep nor slumber!

This is the same One who owns all that is in the skies and the earths, what is between them! He is the Lord of the Glorious Throne!

{This narration of Nu`man bin Sa`d is Ghareeb and Muhammad ibn Ishaq (who is Saduq) has narrated it Mursalan in Hilyat ul-Awliya wa Tabaqat ul-Asfiyah Volume 1, Page 72-73 of Imam Abu Nu`aym Ahmad Asfahani}

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