Belief in God is a universally known concept. Immanuel Kant observed that the seeming universality of the belief in God is one of the greatest proofs of the existence of God. The belief in God is rooted in every culture that ever existed (1). Nonetheless, as we ponder over the existence of God, the Creator, we naturally desire to know more about Him and His characteristics or attributes.
We can imagine that God has many attributes. However, throughout religious history, we notice most religions only describe a few of them. It is unique to Islam that God revealed a long list of His perfect attributes. Naturally, perfection is viewed within the constraints of the human condition since our perfect God is not limited in any way by any set of attributes. Based on this understanding of God’s limitlessness, we can say that these specific attributes we have come to know and will discuss here, are for our benefit and understanding. As our Creator, which itself is an attribute of God, God communicates to His creation only for its benefit. Thus, as we discuss these beautiful attributes of Allah, we must understand them in terms of how they can deepen and strengthen our relationship with our beloved God.
God says in the Qur’an:
“And to Allah alone belong all perfect attributes. So, call on Him by these. And leave alone those who deviate from the right way with respect to His attributes. They shall be repaid for what they do” (2).
As a personal reflection, when I read about God’s perfect attributes, I am reminded of a more ancient belief in Forms. I am referencing the Platonic concept of Forms. Muslims believe that Socrates was undoubtedly a prophet of God and a source of pride for the Greek people.
Therefore, it is not entirely surprising that a pupil of Socrates, Plato, would have some concept of perfect attributes or Forms in his mind. One can only imagine that Socrates held some belief in perfect attributes of God that was then re-defined to some extent by his pupil. The idea that everything in the earth is a representation of some innate attribute is undoubtedly a derivative of the Islamic determination of God’s perfect attributes having manifested in His creation:
“Hast thou not seen that it is Allah Whose praises all who are in the heavens and the earth celebrate, and so do the birds with their wings outspread? Each one knows his own mode of prayer and praise. And Allah knows well what they do” (3).
It is no stretch of the imagination to accept the notion that all created things in our universe would reflect one or many attributes of the Perfect God. Most religions past and present, and Islam, currently, contain this universal teaching in the one perfect God who has many attributes to help us attain nearness to Him. Having defined His magnificent attributes through Islam to Prophet Muhammad (sa), God has made it easy for man to understand what to strive for and to imitate to achieve success.
Following the guidance of the Qur’anic verse cited, we understand that we ought to “call on Him (Allah) by these (His attributes)” (2). Thus, if God instructs us to reference His attributes when calling on Him for whatever we may need, this clearly indicates the importance of our relationship to God’s attributes. These attributes are genuine, to be kept close within our hearts. This requires an emotional relationship. When reflecting on the exquisite attributes of Allah, we see how easy it is to capture these attributes in our hearts in two ways.
Allah’s attributes are not only characteristics that we may endeavor to adopt in our lives but, also in their divine sense, are those attributes wherein we fall to the ground prostrate begging Allah for His infinite means of support. Although we try to emulate many of these attributes in our ways, we must always recognize Allah as the trustworthy source and reality behind these attributes.
For example, although a doctor may desire to heal others and therefore manifest Allah’s attribute of the Healer, he also understands that it is only Allah that cures. If Allah wants a person to be healed, it will be so. Otherwise, the best of physicians will undoubtedly fail. Therefore, this person who strives in the way of Allah to heal persons must nevertheless fall prostrate in prayer, since he knows only Allah truly heals.
This personal and spiritual connection with Allah’s attributes exists whether one recognizes it or not. All good things on this earth are represented in Allah’s beautiful and inspiring attributes. Thus, we cannot help but begin to reflect Allah’s attributes in our hearts and souls if we desire good things.
The Qur’an says:
“Bad things are for bad men, and bad men are for bad things. And good things are for good men, and good men are for good things; these are innocent of all that they (the calumniators) allege. For them is forgiveness and an honorable provision” (4).
Those who pursue the good and are good themselves will have good things with them. There is genuinely no separating the path of Allah and the path of goodness. Any person in this life, in whatever capacity, may it be a judge, lawyer, policeman, teacher, manager, business owner, or public employee, will depend on some attribute of Allah whether it be the Just, the Merciful, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise, the Guardian, the Sustainer, or the Self-Subsisting. Reflecting these attributes in our hearts means achieving the happiness that material success alone is incapable of providing. The wise person who succeeds in life is the one who ponders over and remembers these attributes, and then does his utmost to adopt them in his life.
This article appears in the February 2022 print edition.
1. Immanuel Kant (Kant’s Moral Philosophy, First published: Feb 23, 2004;
Substantive revision: Jul 7, 2016), https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-moral/ [Accessed December 6, 2021]
2. The Holy Qur’an (7:181)
3. The Holy Qur’an (24:42)
4. The Holy Qur’an (24:27)
Last modified: February 2022