Divine Attributes in the Qur’an: 2. Knowledge

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Divine Attributes in the Qur’an: 2. Knowledge
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One of the common qualities of God among followers of the Abrahamic religions is knowledge. In Judaism, Christianity and Islam, God is thought of as the ‘Omniscient’, indicating that He is all-knowledgeable. There are hundreds of verses in which the Qur’an talks about different aspects of divine knowledge. The reason for this emphasis lies partly in the great impact that belief in such an idea may have on people’s lives.
When we remember that the world is created and run by God who knows everything and that whatever we do or believe, or even intend, is known by Him and that He is fully aware of our needs, sufferings, interests, limits and capabilities, our attitude to the world and to our lives becomes totally different.

The reason for this emphasis lies partly in the great impact that belief in such an idea may have on people’s lives. When we remember that the world is created and run by God who knows everything and that whatever we do or believe, or even intend, is known by Him and that He is fully aware of our needs, sufferings, interests, limits and capabilities, our attitude to the world and to our lives becomes totally different.

What follows is a detailed look at the occurrences of this quality of the knowledge of God in the Qur’an.

‘Alim

‘Alim (عليم) means the All-Knowing or the Omniscient. This attribute is used for God in the Qur’an 153 times. One example is in the following verse of the Qur’an:

Ah! You are the ones who bear love towards them, while they do not love you, though you believe in all the Books; and when they meet you, they say, ‘We believe’, but when they are alone, they bite their fingertips out of rage at you. Say, ‘Die of your rage!’ Indeed, God is All-knowing of what is in the breasts. (3:119) 1


A‘lam

A‘lam (أَعلم) means the Best Knower or the Most-Knowing. This attribute of God is mentioned in the Qur’an 48 times. For example, the Qur’an says:

Your Lord is the Best Knower of whoever is in the heavens and the earth. Certainly We gave some prophets an advantage over others, and We gave David the Psalms. (17:55) 2


Basir

Basir (بصير) means the All Seeing or the Seer, this is attributed to God 42 times. For example, the Qur’an says:

Your relatives and your children will not benefit you on the Day of Resurrection: He will separate you [from one another], and God is the Seer of what you do. (60:3) 3


Sami‘

Sami‘ (سميع) means the All Hearing. This quality of God is mentioned 46 times in the Qur’an. One instance is quoted below:

“Say, ‘If I go astray, my going astray is only to my own harm, and if I am rightly guided that is because of what my Lord has revealed to me. Indeed He is All-hearing, nearmost. (34:50) 4


Khabir

Khabir (خبير) literally means well aware. This attribute is used 45 times in the Qur’an for God:

So have faith in God and His Apostle and the light which We have sent down, and God is well aware of what you do. (64:8) 5


Latif

Latif (لطيف) means attentive and/or subtle (or knower of subtleties). This is attributed to God seven times in the Qur’an. For example, the Qur’an says:

Have you not regarded that Allah sends down water from the sky, whereupon the earth turns green? Indeed Allah is All-attentive [and/or subtle or knower of subtleties], all-aware. (22:63) 6


Raqib

Raqib (رقيب) literally means the Watchful. This is used for God 4 times in the Qur’an. One of the four verses in which it is used is quoted here:

O mankind! Be wary of your Lord who created you from a single soul, and created its mate from it, and, from the two of them, scattered numerous men and women. Be wary of God, in whose Name you adjure one another, and the wombs. Indeed God is Watchful over you. (4:1) 7


Qa’im

Qa’im (قائم) literally means standing. This is used once in the Qur’an to denote the watchful quality of God:

Is He who is Watchful over every soul as to what it earns [comparable to the idols]? And yet they ascribe partners to Allah... (13:33) 8


‘Allam al-ghuyub

‘Allam al-ghuyub (علّام الغيوب) literally means the Knower of all that is Unseen. This is mentioned 4 times in the Qur’an, such as in the following verse:

“The day God will gather the apostles and say, ‘What was the response to you?’ They will say, ‘We have no knowledge. Indeed You are Knower of all that is Unseen.’” (5:109) 9


‘Alim al-ghayb wa al-shahadah

‘Alim al-ghayb wa al-shahadah (عالم الغيب والشهادة) literally means Knower of the Unseen and the Sensible. This is mentioned 10 times in the Qur’an. One example is:

That is the Knower of the Sensible and the Unseen, the All-mighty, the All-merciful.= (32:6) 10


‘Alim al-ghayb

‘Alim al-ghayb (عالم الغيب) literally means the Knower of the Unseen. This is mentioned 3 times: twice in a general way and once in respect to the heavens and the earth. The following are examples of how the quality is used in various verses:

Knower of the Unseen, He does not disclose His Unseen to anyone, except to an apostle He approves of. Then He dispatches a sentinel before and behind him so that He may ascertain that they have communicated the messages of their Lord, and He comprehends all that is with them, and He keeps count of all things. (72:26 -28) 11

and

Indeed God is the Knower of the Unseen of the heavens and the earth. Indeed He knows well what is in the breasts. (35:38) 12


God is not ghafil

God is not ghafil (غافل), that is, oblivious or unmindful. This idea is mentioned 11 times in the Qur’an, like in the following instance:

Certainly We created above you the seven tiers and We have not been oblivious of creation. (23:17) 13


God is not nasiyy

God is not nasiyy (نسيّ), that is, forgetful. This idea is mentioned once in the Qur’an in the following verse:

We do not descend except by the command of your Lord. To Him belongs whatever is before us and whatever is behind us and whatever is in between that, and your Lord is not forgetful. (19:64) 14-15

 

1. ها أَنتُمْ أُولَاءِ تُحِبُّونَهُمْ وَلَا يُحِبُّونَكُمْ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْكِتَابِ كُلِّهِ وَإِذَا لَقُوكُمْ قَالُوا آمَنَّا وَإِذَا خَلَوْا عَضُّوا عَلَيْكُمُ الْأَنَامِلَ مِنَ الْغَيْظِ ۚ قُلْ مُوتُوا بِغَيْظِكُمْ ۗ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ عَلِيمٌ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُورِ‌
2. و رَ‌بُّكَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْ‌ضِ ۗ وَلَقَدْ فَضَّلْنَا بَعْضَ النَّبِيِّينَ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ ۖ وَآتَيْنَا دَاوُودَ زَبُورً‌ا
3. لَن تَنفَعَكُمْ أَرْ‌حَامُكُمْ وَلَا أَوْلَادُكُمْ ۚ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ يَفْصِلُ بَيْنَكُمْ ۚ وَاللَّـهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ‌
4. قُلْ إِن ضَلَلْتُ فَإِنَّمَا أَضِلُّ عَلَىٰ نَفْسِي ۖ وَإِنِ اهْتَدَيْتُ فَبِمَا يُوحِي إِلَيَّ رَ‌بِّي ۚ إِنَّهُ سَمِيعٌ قَرِ‌يبٌ
5. فَآمِنُوا بِاللَّـهِ وَرَ‌سُولِهِ وَالنُّورِ‌ الَّذِي أَنزَلْنَا ۚ وَاللَّـهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ خَبِيرٌ‌
6. أَلَمْ تَرَ‌ أَنَّ اللَّـهَ أَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَتُصْبِحُ الْأَرْ‌ضُ مُخْضَرَّ‌ةً ۗ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَطِيفٌ خَبِيرٌ‌
7. يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوا رَ‌بَّكُمُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُم مِّن نَّفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ وَخَلَقَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا وَبَثَّ مِنْهُمَا رِ‌جَالًا كَثِيرً‌ا وَنِسَاءً ۚ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّـهَ الَّذِي تَسَاءَلُونَ بِهِ وَالْأَرْ‌حَامَ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ كَانَ عَلَيْكُمْ رَ‌قِيبًا
8. أَفَمَنْ هُوَ قَائِمٌ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ نَفْسٍ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ ۗ وَجَعَلُوا لِلَّـهِ شُرَ‌كَاءَ قُلْ سَمُّوهُمْ ۚ أَمْ تُنَبِّئُونَهُ بِمَا لَا يَعْلَمُ فِي الْأَرْ‌ضِ أَم بِظَاهِرٍ‌ مِّنَ الْقَوْلِ ۗ بَلْ زُيِّنَ لِلَّذِينَ كَفَرُ‌وا مَكْرُ‌هُمْ وَصُدُّوا عَنِ السَّبِيلِ ۗ وَمَن يُضْلِلِ اللَّـهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِنْ هَادٍ
9. يَوْمَ يَجْمَعُ اللَّـهُ الرُّ‌سُلَ فَيَقُولُ مَاذَا أُجِبْتُمْ ۖ قَالُوا لَا عِلْمَ لَنَا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ عَلَّامُ الْغُيُوبِ
10. ذَٰلِكَ عَالِمُ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ الْعَزِيزُ الرَّ‌حِيمُ
11. عَالِمُ الْغَيْبِ فَلَا يُظْهِرُ‌ عَلَىٰ غَيْبِهِ أَحَدًا  إِلَّا مَنِ ارْ‌تَضَىٰ مِن رَّ‌سُولٍ فَإِنَّهُ يَسْلُكُ مِن بَيْنِ يَدَيْهِ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِ رَ‌صَدًا  لِّيَعْلَمَ أَن قَدْ أَبْلَغُوا رِ‌سَالَاتِ رَ‌بِّهِمْ وَأَحَاطَ بِمَا لَدَيْهِمْ وَأَحْصَىٰ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ عَدَدًا
12. إِنَّ اللَّـهَ عَالِمُ غَيْبِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْ‌ضِ ۚ إِنَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُورِ‌
13. وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا فَوْقَكُمْ سَبْعَ طَرَ‌ائِقَ وَمَا كُنَّا عَنِ الْخَلْقِ غَافِلِينَ
14. وَمَا نَتَنَزَّلُ إِلَّا بِأَمْرِ‌ رَ‌بِّكَ ۖ لَهُ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِينَا وَمَا خَلْفَنَا وَمَا بَيْنَ ذَٰلِكَ ۚ وَمَا كَانَ رَ‌بُّكَ نَسِيًّا
15. Shomali, Mohammad Ali & Mahnaz Heydarpoor, The image of God in Quran, p. 14-18.

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Daily Hadith
لا يكونُ أخوكَ أقوى مِنكَ على مَودّتِهِ.
Do not let your brother be stronger than you are in your amity for him.