CHAPTER IX / Implicit Meanings in Abundance

Implicit Meanings in Abundance

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If we reflect a little we find that this particle is highly significant, forming an essential part of the intended meaning.

To omit it is to remove an aspect of the meaning which cannot be otherwise compensated for in the sentence.

We will explain this in two ways, one more subtle than the other, hoping to bring out the meaning of this unusual statement in full relief.

The first, which is the easier to understand, is that if the Qur’anic verse were to simply say:

“Nothing is like Him,”

then that would be a negation of an equal likeness, or a being who is exactly like Him.

This is the meaning that comes to mind when we speak of likeness in general. If the statement was limited to this, then doubts might be raised that there could be a status which is not exactly the same as God’s, but a degree below it.

It may also be said that such a status belongs to angels and prophets, or to stars and natural forces, or to the jinn, idols and clergy.

This would give such beings a similarity to God in His ability or knowledge, or a share in His creation or rule.

But the use of ‘as’ in the sentence puts an end to all such doubts, as it removes the whole universe from any possibility of being like God, and of being similar to any shade of comparability with Him.

It is as if the verse is saying: There is nothing which has any quality that brings it in any similarity with God, let alone it being similar to Him in reality.

This is a case of highlighting what is inferior in order to stress what is superior.

A similar case is the Divine order prohibiting the use of any words of offence when speaking to one’s parents:

“Should one or both of them attain to old age in your care, never say ‘Ugh’ to them or chide them, but always speak gently and kindly to them.”

(17: 23.)

This is an express order prohibiting the slightest offence, which means that a greater offence is even more strictly prohibited.

The second, which is more subtle, is that the immediate purpose of the verse, which is the negation of any comparability with God, is not all that the statement aims to convey.

It would have been sufficient to state that negation by saying, ‘Naught is like God,’ or ‘There is nothing like God’.

But while the verse aims to emphasise this fact, it wants at the same time to draw our attentions to the logical argument that proves it.

If we wish to describe a certain person as having a good character and say, ‘he is neither a liar nor miserly’, we are simply making a statement without adding anything to prove it.

But if we say, ‘such a person is neither a liar nor miserly’, we are not referring to a person similar to him and free of such unbecoming behaviour. Indeed, our statement in this case adds a universal proof of the absence of such qualities in his character.

It denotes that a person with his fine qualities and benevolent character cannot be either a liar or a miserly. His good character will simply not admit such defects.

It is in the same way that the Qur’anic verse is phrased, so as to say that a being of such fine qualities as those of God can have none similar to him.

Indeed, the universe cannot have two of His type.

Hence, the statement employs two words, each denoting complete similarity, so as to use one of them as an essential part of the claim, while the other serves as an undeniable proof of the same claim.

The negation of the similarity denoted by the particle, ‘as’, or ‘ka’ in the Arabic text, signifies the complete uniqueness of God, while use of the word ‘likeness’, or ‘mithl’ in Arabic, in reference to God Himself, alerts us to the indicated proof.

This is, indeed, a special type of proof denoting the Oneness of the Creator in a way that no scholar of Divinity has, to our knowledge, ever approached.

All the proofs they provide of God’s Oneness seek to disprove the possibility of there being more than one deity by negating the practical results that form the outcome of such multiplicity.

This is pointed out by the verse which says:

“Had there been in heaven or on earth any deities other than God, both [these realms] would surely have fallen into ruin.”

(21: 22.)

The argument here, which is the basis of all the points advanced by scholars of Divinity, is that a multiplicity of deities, each of whom having the qualities of the Divine Being,

leads either to the non-existence of creatures, which means that they fall into ruin at the time of their existence, or leads to conflict between them that results in their falling into ruin after they are brought into existence.

If we were to assume the presence of two gods and that both will for something to be created, they would not be able to do so because a single effect cannot be the result of two causes.

To say that it is produced by the power of one of them while both have the same powers and forming the same will is to give one of them precedence over the other without any clear basis for it.

On the other hand, if one of them wills to create something and the other wills to create its opposite, neither can be created because that would mean that two opposites exist concurrently at the same time and place.

To allow one to be produced without the other is to demonstrate that one of them has precedence over the other.

If one of these two gods wills to create some creatures different from those created by the other, then each deity will control his own sector of creation.

This would mean the existence of two universes with a separate system for each. Inevitably, they will be in conflict until both are destroyed. All these possibilities are clearly disproved by the fact that the universe continues to exist following the same system.

Every part of it functions harmoniously with the rest, like the organs of a single body function to serve the same purpose.

This unity of operation is a proof of the Oneness of the Operator who orchestrates them all, [limitless is He in His glory].

All their arguments, then, are of the type pointed out by the verse quoted above, stating:

“Had there been in heaven or on earth any deities other than God, both [these realms] would surely have fallen into ruin.”

The statement in Surah 42, “Naught is as His likeness”, looks at a meaning beyond this.

It negates the very possibility of there being more than one God, regardless of any effects that such multiplicity produces.

The verse is, thus, saying that the nature of Divinity is such that it differs from anything that accepts multiplicity or similarity with others.

To admit such multiplicity or similarity is to make its perfection incomplete. But true Divinity presupposes absolute perfection negating the very concept of multiplicity or similarity.

The deeper you go in emphasising Divinity, the greater the superiority you imply, which means that the Divine Being is the origin of everything:

“It is He who is the Originator of the heavens and the earth.”

(42: 11.)

You also emphasise that He is in full control of everything:

“To Him belong the keys of the heavens and the earth.”

(42: 12.)

If you were to assume that these qualities apply to two beings, you contradict yourself most clearly. You simply make each one of the two beings superior and inferior, originator and originated, supreme and follower at the same time.

Alternatively, you restrict their absolute perfection by making each one of them neither superior nor supreme in relation to the other.

How, then, will either of them be God when “to God belongs the essence of all that is most sublime in the heavens and the earth”?

(30: 27.)

We see now what a great contribution the particle ‘as’ adds to the meaning of the statement, “Naught is as His likeness”.

It is useful to remember this example in order to appreciate the accuracy of the measure applied in the composition of the Qur’an.

Page II

A Difficult Approach Made Easy

But the secret of concise expression in the Qur’an is not limited to avoiding anything that is not essential to the meaning..