By: Sadullah Khan
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
|Transliteration: Allahu la ilaha illa huwa alhayyu alqayyoomu la takhuthuhu sinatun wala nawmun lahu ma fee alssamawati wama fee alardi man tha allathee yashfaAAu AAindahu illa biithnihi yaAAlamu ma bayna aydeehim wama khalfahum wala yuheetoona bishayin min AAilmihi illa bima shaa wasiAAa kursiyyuhu alssamawati waalarda wala yaooduhu hifthuhuma wahuwa alAAaliyyu alAAatheemu|
|Translation: Allah, there is no object worthy of worship but Him; the Ever Living, the Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining. Slumber siezes Him not, nor sleep. Unto Him belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them; and none can encompass any of His Knowledge except what He pleases. His Throne (Knowledge and Authority) extends over the heavens and the earth; and the care of them burdens Him not; and He is the Supreme, the Greatest. (Quran 2:255)|
This magnificent verse has been named “Ayat-ul-Kursi” and has been described as “The Grand Verse” in the hadith. In one concise verse it describes the grandeur and uniqueness of God.
Allahu la ilaha illa
Ilah is an object of worship and “Allah” is the title of that Single Absolute Being, in whom is concentrated all attributes of perfection. “Allah, there is none worthy of worship but Him.” This is the fundamental creed of Islam and the ultimate expression of Tawhid. It is an absolute and unreserved negation of any plurality of the Supreme Being. This affirms the unicity and Divine unity of the unbegotten and unbegetting (Quran 112:1-4), and confirms the reality that “Godhead” in its entirety belongs exclusively to the Eternal Being, Allah.
This attribute of Allah signifies the Being who is deathless, for Al-Hayy is on a paradigm denoting perpetuity and thus denotes the Ever-living. “He is the All – Mighty, the All – Wise. Unto Him belong the dominion of the heavens and the earth; it is He who grants life and causes death; and He has power over all things. He is the First (without beginning) and the Last (without ending), He is the Evident and He is the Immanent.” (Quran 57:2-3)
Originating from the word “qaama” (to stand) it carries by association the connotation of establishing, accomplishing, managing, protecting, having power and authority. Al-Qayuum therefore refers to an attribute of Allah that indicates His ability to stand by Himself requiring the support of none, while everything else is in need of His support. He is the unoriginated Who originated everything else. He is the Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining on Whom are dependent all levels of existence.
la takhuthuhu sinatun wala nawm
“Neither tiredness nor exhaustion overcome Him.”
Sinah is derived from Wasana which implies slumber, drowsiness, exhaustion, negligence or unguardedness. Nawm (Sleep) is the opposite of wakefulness and together Sinah and Nawm express the opposite of Qaama.
It is not conceivable for “Al-Qayyum” to ever be in a state of Sinah or Nawm. This is an open refutation of the idea of those who consider the Supreme Being analogous to their own imperfect selves and who therefore ascribe to Him the finite weakness which is characteristic of human beings. In Islam, God is never in need of rest.
lahu ma fee alssamawati wama fee alard
“Unto Him belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is on the earth.”
After making reference to the attribute Al-Qayyum and negation of any fatigue or slumber on the part of Allah, reference is then made to His ownership. Every conceivable thing is part of creation, part of the universe and thus subject to Allah’s authority. The comprehensiveness of Allah’s Being Al-Qayyum includes ownership of the heavens and the earth with due authority. “The Beneficent, is established on the Throne. Unto Him belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is on earth; whatever is between them and whatever is below the surface. He is the One to whom you need not call upon aloud for He knows full well whatever is secret and most hidden. He is Allah, there is no deity nor object of worship but He; unto Whom belongs the most beautiful Names and Attributes.” (Quran 20:5-8)
Allah’s authority and ownership over creation is such that all their attributes, properties, characteristics and traits exist because of Him. There is no activity connected with anything, from its inception to its ultimate end that does not proceed from the ability and capacity provided by Him.
man tha allathee yashfaAAu AAindahu illa biithnihi
“Who can intercede with Allah except by His permission,”
Intercession implies being an intermediary in affecting the consequence of a matter. The intercessor thus has some influence on the affair of the matter or thing for which intercession is made. Here, there is an unreserved refutation of the idea that anyone or anything has the power to impose its will on Allah. No one shares independently in Allah’s governance of the universe and no one therefore could decisively affect His judgment or decision. Such influence would be contrary to the complete authority and total sovereignty of Allah, unless it is by His design, His decree or His permission.
The Holy Prophet, to whom the Divine Will has been revealed, is the model par excellence for humanity (Uswatun Hasanah). The Holy Prophet being the supreme human guide by the design of Allah, leads us to the Path of Salvation and in this sense is shafi’ (intercessor). He is thus the most appropriate of Allah’s creation to be permitted to intercede in the Hereafter.
yaAAlamu ma bayna aydeehim wama khalfahum wala yuheetoona bishayin min AAilmihi illa bima shaa
“He knows whatever is before them and whatever is behind them. They cannot comprehend anything of His knowledge except that which He pleases.”
The whole tenor of this phrase relates directly to the Omniscience of Allah. Allah’s Knowledge is not limited nor measurable for it is not bound by the limitation of the finite. His boundless knowledge is comprehensive, complete and all – embracing; encompassing all dimensions of reality in its entirety. “And there does not lie concealed from your Lord the weight of an atom in the earth or in heaven; nor anything greater nor anything less.” (Q 10:61) The knowledge that all beside Allah have is acquired by instinct, training and experience. The knowledge possessed by creation is but a study and appreciation of Allah’s manifestations which are reflected in His creation.
wasiAAa kursiyyuhu alssamawati waalard
“His Kursi extends over the heavens and the earth.”
Kursi literally means chair. This word has been variously interpreted by the scholars:
The Kursi (chair) and ‘Arsh (throne) of Allah (Quran 20:5) is one and the same. The Kursi and ‘Arsh is symbolic reference to Divine Sovereignty.
It signifies Allah’s power. It is used to connote Divine Authority and relates to Allah’s Omnipotence.
It signifies Allah’s Knowledge. The word Kursi has often been used in Arabic to indicate learning and knowledge. This is evident from the Arabic proverb “Khayr al-nasi al-karasi” (the best of people are the learned)
It is an image expressing Allah’s Grandeur and Majesty.
There is no doubt that the tenor of this phrase relates to Allah’s Omnipotence and All-Encompassing Divine Authority. In cognizance of that, the Kursi could be an expression indicating the Divine capacity, originating and maintaining the functioning order which is prevalent in the cosmos.
The Authority and Knowledge of Allah is an indispensable extension of His Divinity, reflected in the maintenance and preservation of everything in the heavens and the earth with all its potentialities, characteristics and variety.
wala yaooduhu hifthuhuma
“And the preservation of both (the heavens and the earth) does not tire Him.”
Allah is not burdened by the responsibility of the heavens and the earth, for the management of all affairs is the dominion of Allah. This management is exercised through His knowledge of all existence and His authority over the intermediary causes which He Himself created. Thus, he is not burdened by the preservation of all that which His limitless knowledge and authority encompasses. This is clear indication of Allah’s total authority, perfectness of His management, supremacy of His ability, greatness of His sovereignty; His freedom from weakness and imperfection.
wahuwa alAAaliyyu alAAatheem
“And He is the Supreme (Most High), the Greatest.”
The ayah concludes by indicating two great principles of Divine Attributes. They reflect Allah’s Eminence, Majesty and Grandeur. He is High above all levels of existence, beyond imperfection, beyond comparison and beyond limitations. He is the Perfect, the Absolute, the Supreme, The Magnificent… the Greatest.
A’zam – al – Avah (The Grand Verse)
A person asked the Holy Prophet: “O Messenger of Allah! Which verse in the Book of Allah is the Grandest?” The Holy Prophet replied: “Ayat – ul – Kursi; Allah, there is no deity but Him, the Ever – Living, the Self- Subsisting…” (Al – Darirai).
The fact that this verse was referred to by a special name indicates the importance attached to it. Its uniqueness is due to the highest nobility of its meanings, the elegance and grace of its style, dealing in detail with the various aspects of monotheism and Divine Authority, establishing the pristine belief of the Absolute Supremacy and Perfection of Allah. Imaam Al – Ghazali (Allah’s Mercy be upon him) wrote in his book, Jawahir – ul – Qur’an; “When you reflect on all the meanings contained in the Verse of the Throne and recite other verses of the Qur’an, you will not find all these meanings of Divine unity, sanctification and explanation of highest attributes combined in a single one of them. This is the reason why the Prophet said that the Verse of the Throne is the chief of the verses of the Qur’an.”
Sadullah Khan is the Director of Islamic Center of Irvine. He has presented lectures on Islamic Civilization at California State University at Dominguez Hills. He is a frequent lecturer for the Academy of Judaic, Christian and Islamic Studies at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). He is also an advisor to the Chancellor’s Committee on Religion Ethics and Values at UCLA and serves as Director of Muslim Affairs at USC (University of Southern California).