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Tuesday 24th of May 2022
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The Infinite Power of God

The infinite power of God has no clearer proof than that furnished by the study and examination of the phenomena of the created universe and the multiple forms and colorations of nature that can never be fully described.

When we look at God's creation we find ourselves confronted with so vast an energy that no limit can be imagined for it. A look at creation and the millions of truths secreted in the wonders of nature and the depths of man's own being provides the clearest indication of the scale of the power of the One Who has created it, for the rich and complex order of being admits of no other explanation.

It is God's incomparable power that compels man to bow humbly before the Creator of this great scheme. There is no word to express the dimensions of His power; that unique essence has much power that whenever He wills a thing to come into existence, it suffices for the command "Be!" to issue forth from Him and the object addressed will be. The Quran says: "When He wills a certain thing, He commands it 'Be!' and it is" (36:82)

The law expounded in this verse is the best indicator of His limitless power and manifestation of His boundless power and splendor. It negates any limit that might be set on God's power and proclaims the inadequacy of all criteria and measures when confronted with this divine law.

The champions of the natural sciences, the men of the laboratory, despite all the advances they have achieved, have not yet gained complete knowledge of the inner secrets of a single one among the numerous and varied beings of the created universe. Nonetheless, the partial and defective knowledge that man has acquired concerning a few of the beings that exist in this world is enough for him to realize with all his being that the great power that has created such variety and abundance in the universe must be infinite.

Consider the range of His creation: tiny creatures and monstrous beasts with strange appearances both dwelling in the depths of the ocean; delicate and melodious birds with multicolored wings, the beauty of which skilled artists imitate as an adornment to their craft; stars that shine in the heavens and the sun that rises and sets; the dawn and the moonlight; the planets, galaxies and nebula each of which sometimes contains at its heart millions of great shinning stars giddying in their apparent infinitude.

Does not a creation such as this, awe inspiring in its splendor, indicate the infinite power of its Maker? Can one disregard the power of a Creator Who imparts such variety to life and made distinct, finite forms of it appear in all this vast range of phenomena?

Now, given the fact that all these captivating forms of creation ultimately arise from the atom, the question of being cannot be explained except by reference to a guiding and infinite power. It is He Who impels all things toward the assumption of life-giving form and possesses the power and intelligence to plan and design this vast and precise scheme.

*****

Large and small, difficult and easy, are properties pertaining to finite beings; in the infinite realm of God's essence and attributes, there is no question of great and little, much and few. Impotence and inability are caused by the finiteness of the energy at the disposal of an agent, by the existence of an obstacle on his path, or by the absence of means and instruments; they are inconceivable in the case of an infinite power.

The Quran says: "Nothing in the heavens or on earth can induce weakness or impotence in God; indeed, God is all-knowing and all-powerful." (35:44) Although God is capable of doing all things, He has created the world according to a precise and specific scheme in the framework of which a set role has been assigned to certain phenomena in the origination of others.

Those phenomena are completely and unquestioningly subordinate to His command while fulfilling that role and never rebelling against His orders in the slightest.

The Quran says: "The sun, the moon and the stars are all at His command. Be aware that creation belongs only to God; it is His penetrating command that in its exalted purity creates the world and all it contains." (7:54)

Strictly speaking, no creature in the scheme of the universe can be a manifestation of power or have any share in His will and command, for just as God has no partner in His essence, so, too, He has no partner in His agenthood. Just as all creatures in the world lack independence in their essence and are dependent on Him, they also lack it in producing acts and effects.

Every agent and cause derives the essence of its being from God and also its power to act and produce an effect. Whenever He wills and necessitates it, the order that encloses all beings abandons its role, for that order is itself subordinate to His will, precious and firm though it may be.

The Creator Who has assigned a particular effect to every factor and cause is able to neutralize and suspend that effect at any instant. Just as one command brought the order of the universe into existence, another command robs phenomena of their customary effect.

Thus, the Quran says: "They said, 'Burn Abraham and thus us render help unto your gods, if you are men of action.' We commanded the fire, 'be cool for Abraham and harm him not.' They sought a stratagem against him, but We made them the losers." (21:68-69) Although the powerful attraction exerted by the sun and the earth prevails over a vast space, both bodies are subordinate to His will.

As soon as He gives a little bird the necessary power, the bird is able to resist the pull of the earth and take flight. The Quran says: "Do they not look at the birds in the heavens and see how the skies have been subjugated to them? It is God alone Who keeps them aloft, and in this there is an evident sign of God's power for the people off faith." (16:79)

Whatever phenomenon may be imagined to exist in the world of being finds its needs for sustenance and life met by the Creator. Therefore, whatever power and capacity is found in the scheme of creation must necessarily go back to the infinite power of God. Ali, peace be upon him, him, the Commander of the Faithful, says in a sermon reproduced in the Nahj al Balaghah: "O God, we cannot penetrate the depths of Your splendor and majesty.

We know only that You are living and self-subsistent, that You are exempt from eating and sleeping. No mind can perceive You and no eye can see You. But You see all eyes, You know the life span of all things, and You are all-powerful.

Although we have perceived nothing of Your creation, we are astounded by Your power and praise You mightily. That which is hidden from us and our eyes cannot see and our mind and intelligence cannot attain, which is concealed from us by veils of the unseen, is much greater than what we can see ...

When man decides to build something, for example, a hospital, he assembles the necessary tools and pieces of equipment that do not have any essential relationship with each other, and, then, connects them with each other by means of a series of artificial relationships in order to reach his goal.

In order to create such artificial relationships, he makes use of different forces and object that he finds to be already existing. His work and activity are a part of the system of creation; they are not properly speaking creative activity, but only a form of motion that takes place within existing objects.

Divine creation forms a quite different category from the production of artificial relationships between unrelated objects. God originates things with all their properties, forces and energies and characteristics. When we say that God is all-powerful, we must be aware that His power relates only to things that are possible.

Things that are rationally impossible are entirely outside the sphere of His power, and to use the word "power" or "capacity" in connection with things that are impossible is incorrect and meaningless. Although the power of God is, indeed, unlimited, the receptive capacity of things and their ability to serve as locus for the manifestation of divine power must be taken into consideration. The implementation of God's will is intertwined with the relations between cause and effect, with the complex network of reasons and causes.

In order for a thing to become the object of the divine will, it must not be impossible and must, in its essence, possess receptive capacity; divine will is accomplished by means of the receptivity of things. It is true that the divine effulgence is infinite and constantly overflowing, but the ground destined to receive it may be defective and unable to absorb the infinite share that superabundant source offers it.

The ocean is an immensely abundant source of water, but a tanker has only a limited capacity to take on its water; in fact, only a minute amount of that water can be loaded onto a tanker. Clearly enough, what is finite and limited in this case is the capacity of the tanker, not the water in the ocean.

Someone once asked Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, upon whom be peace, "Is your Lord able to fit the whole world into a hen's egg?" He answered: "God Almighty is, indeed, able to do anything, but what you ask is something impossible." So although God's sacred essence is utterly free of all impotence and inability, it is meaningless and irrational to ask whether God can do something inherently impossible.

*****

One whose heart beats with the love of God and flows over with belief in the Creator of all being will never be discouraged lonely and hopeless even in the midst of the most complex difficulties. Whatever deed he undertakes he does so in the consciousness of being in the protective shade of a supreme power that can make him triumph over all difficulties.

A man who is aware of God and knows that he enjoys His support can resist and endure all kinds of hardship. Difficulties are for him like foam on swift vanishing foam on the face of the waters The fire that burns within him becomes ever brighter and he emerges stronger than ever from the crucible of hardship.

Throughout the toils he endures, he is comforted and strengthened by God's kindness and favor, and it is this that forms the true motor of his activity. Failure does not block his path and cause him to surrender; instead, with sincere intention and diligent effort, he continues his strivings until final victory.

He understands well that his efforts cannot remain fruitless and that victory goes to the deserving. Whenever He wills, God takes the hand of the fallen and the oppressed who have no refuge other than Him and raises them up to the apex of power. Sometimes, too, He rubs in the dust of humiliation and disaster the noses of the powerful and arrogant oppressors who believe only in violence and the logic of force and treat men as if they were worthless.

How many arrogant tyrants have been cast down by disaster in the course of human history, sinking and vanishing in a tempest of shame!

The story of God's messengers represents in itself a complete and ideal model of human values. We all know how the messengers stood alone against the oppressive forces of their day in order to guide men to salvation, reform their society, and inculcate lofty values in them.

In doing so, they lit the first spark that ultimately destroyed polytheism The response aroused by their beliefs caused such a positive tumult that they were able to change the face and direction of history. They laid the foundations of monotheistic worship and established the principles of virtue in the most comprehensive way. Who can deny the role played by their devotion and faith in the untiring struggle they waged?

How far can will power alone take man, and how much can it enable him to endure and sacrifice? A cursory review of the proud history of the Prophets' lives enables us all to behold, in the most vivid fashion possible, the sincerity and devotion they displayed, their mercy and forbearance, and their intense desire to guide and reform men. The fundamental secret of their success was the fact they never thought of themselves for a single instant; they sincerely renounced their own beings, making them a gift to God's cause. God then responded by bestowing immortality and everlasting fame on them.




A Creator Who cannot be circumscribed by place, for Whose Essence no limit is conceivable, of Whose being not a single part of the heavens and earth is empty-such a Creator is naturally aware of all things; there is nothing throughout the whole scheme of being on which the bright rays of His knowledge do not shine.

The events that occur in the most distant part of the universe, happenings that occurred billions of years ago or will occur billions of years in the future-all are contained in the sphere of His knowledge, and the most comprehensive attempts at interpreting His knowledge are, therefore, doomed to failure.

In order to understand the extensive scope of His knowledge, we stretch the limits of our thought, apply our intelligence to reflection and search, and try to advance to our goal with a clear mind. In the last resort, however, our mental apparatus lacks the skills required for reaching the goal.

If we were to exist everywhere in just the same way that we exist at a given place and in a given time, so that no place was deprived of our presence, nothing would be hidden from us and we would be aware of everything.

For us, the world of being has been divided into two sectors: the manifest and the hidden. Things are "hidden" in the sense that certain truths, being infinite and non-material, cannot be perceived by the outer senses. It is important to remember that the entirety of existence does not consist of matters that lie within the range of the empirical sciences.

In order to understand the secrets and mysteries of creation we need, as it were, a launch platform. The elevation we are able to reach depends on the intellectual force we have at our disposal and the degree of understanding that propels our ascent. Once we have a suitable launch platform, many realities become knowable to us.

*****

Through its use of the term ghayb (hidden), the Noble Quran sets before man a broad vision of reality. God's messengers have also striven to raise man's awareness of the created universe to a level that embraces infinite as well as the finite and the boundaries of the unseen as well as the dimensions of the manifest.

For God, the "hidden" does not exist; for Him, the universe is entirely "manifest." The Quran says: "He is the Knower of the Hidden and the Manifest, the Compassionate and the Merciful." (59:22)

Whatever is made by man derives from the skill, intelligence and knowledge of its maker. The more subtle and refined the product, the more clearly it displays the profound and extensive knowledge of its maker, and the more fully it proves his ability to plan and design.

Man's handiwork is not in any way comparable to the mysteries and splendor of creation. Nonetheless, it suggests to us that the harmonious and orderly scheme of the universe, and the manifestatior of intelligence in this vast, beautiful and astounding pattern of creation, must necessarily indicate that the one who plans it and endows it with order must possess boundless and comprehensive knowledge.

The orderliness of the universe is the strongest proof for the existence of a being that overflows with the knowledge, will, awareness and wisdom and has designed the wonders of creation in accordance with a precisely calculated plan. The signs of His infinite knowledge are to be seen plainly in every particle of every phenomenon.

The experiments and theories of scientists furnish proof for who ever desires it of the boundless knowledge of God and its countless manifestations in the insect, animal and vegetable realms.

God is aware of the course of the stars in space, the tumult ridden world of the nebulae and the rotation of the galaxies; of all things from pre-eternity to post-eternity; of the total number of atoms in all the heavenly bodies; of the motions of the billions of creatures, large and small, that move on the face of the earth and in the depths of the oceans; of the norms and laws that unfailingly regulate nature; of the hidden and manifest aspects of all things. He even knows the perplexities of the distraught better than they do themselves.

Listen again to what the Quran has to say: Is not the one who created the world aware of the secrets of His own creation? Certainly He has knowledge of all the subtleties and mysteries of the world. (67:14) Nothing is hidden from God, neither on earth nor in the heavens. (3:5)

Natural scientists are better acquainted than others with the subtle and precise mysteries that are implanted in every particle of creation; they are aware from their studies and researches of the various calculations that are built into things both living and lifeless, in cells and globules; of the various forms of action and reaction, outward and inward, that take place in them; and of the effects of various materials and substances.

Thus, they witness the signs of God's astounding wisdom and infinite knowledge in nature or, as the Quran puts it, "...on the horizons." (41:53) More than others, they are exposed to the manifestation of God's attributes and perfection's, including His unbounded knowledge, and if they do not reject the call of their conscience, they will also discern the existence of the Creator more clearly.

A certain thinker once said, Our world resembles a great idea more than it does a great machine. As a theory or a scientific definition, it can be said that the world is the product of a great idea, the manifestation of a thought and an idea superior to our own. Scientific thought seems to be moving in the direction of this theory.

God's knowledge is not restricted to things past or to present events and objects; His knowledge of the future is exactly like His knowledge of the present.

God's knowledge is, so to speak, "immediate" in the complete sense of the word. It is not in the first instance necessary that there should be an object of knowledge to Which His knowledge should attach itself. All things stand revealed before Him, for at the very same time that His sacred essence is utterly other than all creatures and phenomena, it is also not separate from them: all things past and future are in His unmediated presence.

Ali, upon whom be peace, the Commander of the Faithful, says: He knows all things, but not through means and instruments, the absence of which would entail the cessation of His knowledge. There is not some added entity called 'knowledge' interposed between Him and the objects of His knowledge; there is nothing but His essence alone.

Here, Ali, peace be upon him, is referring to the theological principle that God's awareness of things is direct and immediate. In His knowledge of phenomena, God has no need of the mental forms that are the basis of acquired knowledge. Were He to acquire His knowledge by means of those forms, need would arise in Him, whereas He is utterly free of need.

The one from whom the existence of the world and its inhabitants derives, who is capable of meeting every imaginable need, who grants every perfection and bounty-is it all conceivable that He should Himself be imprisoned by Need?

Mental forms remain in our minds only so long as we wish them to exist; they disappear as soon as we withdraw our attention from them, because they are fashioned and created by us. This form of knowledge is not direct and unmediated and it is, therefore, termed "acquired knowledge," by contrast with "immediate knowledge," that has no need of a means.

The difference between us, who create our own mental forms and the Creator Who originated all being, lies in this, that we owe our very existences to Him and, therefore, stand in need of Him, whereas He is the true Creator and vivifier of all things, is free of need, and does not need the exercise of vision to acquire knowledge.

The delineation of past and future events that takes place on the horizons of our being and thought is inevitably limited, since we occupy a given time and space outside of which we have no existence. We are material phenomena, and matter, according to the laws of physics and relativity, needs time and place in its gradual and continuous process of development and change. Past and future have no meaning for a being who is present from pre eternity to post-eternity, in all places and at all times and free from the captivity of matter and its consequences.

Since every phenomenon relies on the infinite existence of the Creator for its origin and existence, no veil or barrier can be supposed to exist between God and that phenomenon; God encompasses its inner and outer dimensions and is utterly empowered over it.

Someone once asked Ali, upon whom be peace, the Commander of the Faithful, "Where is God?" Ali answered: It is not correct to ask where God is because it is God Who made place. Nor is it correct to ask how God is, of what nature is God, since it is God Who created all nature. Further, it is not correct to ask what God is because it is God Who created all quiddity.

Glorified be God Almighty in the waves of Whose splendor the wise are unable to swim, the remembrance of Whose eternity halts all thought in its track, and in Whose vast heaven of sanctity the intellect loses its way!

The Quran says: God is aware of all that exists on the face of the earth and in the depths of the oceans. He knows of every leaf that falls and every seed that is hidden in the darkness of the earth. All things, fresh and dry, are clear and evident to Him. (6:59)

Let us imagine that we are in a room overlooking the street and watching through a small window the mass of cars that swiftly moves down the street. Obviously we cannot see all the cars at once; we see them one by one as they pass in front of the window, and then they disappear from sight. If we knew nothing about cars, we might imagine that they gradually come into being on one side of the window and cease to exist on the other.

Now this small window corresponds exactly to our field of vision; it determines a past and a future for the cars. Those who are outside the room standing on the sidewalk see all the cars moving along together.

Our situation with respect to the past and future of the world is like that of the person watching the cars through a small window. Once we realize that God is above time and place, we understand that all past and future events are always present and existent in front of Him, like a painting.

We ought, therefore, to have a sense of responsibility toward a Creator Who is aware of the slightest act and deed of creation, as the Quran says: "He knows all that you do" (2:283) and avoid any sin or mistake that would cause us to become distant from Him. We ought to worship God, the possessor of absolute knowledge Who has caused us to traverse these various stages and to attain the capacities we now have. We ought not to disobey His commands Which open up for us the path to true felicity and the ultimate aim of man, and we should accept no goal other than Him.

In order to reach God we must adorn ourselves with divine attributes and prepare ourselves, during our brief sojourn in this world, for the meeting with Him. Then we may return to Him, the source, origin and beginning of our existence. This requires action and striving effort aimed at refining the self, for the responsibility to act in this sense has been placed on man's shoulders as a divine trust.

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