‘Oh Allāh! You are al-Awwal, for there is nothing before You’. This is the perfect way of ascribing eternity to Allāh, as it is how Allāh Himself asserted it.
قديمٌ بلاَ ابتداءٍ، دائمٌ بلا انتهاءٍ،
He is Eternal without a beginning, Everlasting without an end.
The author gives another description of Allāh: ‘He is Eternal and Everlasting’; just as He Himself said: ‘He is al-Awwal (the First) and al-Ākhir (the Last)’
Allāh, Exalted is He, is the One who created time, and thus time does not encompass Him. Allāh preceded time, and moreover He will be present for all eternity, without an end.
The Prophet SAW explained the words of Allāh: ‘He is the First and the Last’, when he SAW said: ‘You are al-Awwal (the First), for there is nothing before You; and You are al-Ākhir (the Last), for there is nothing after You’.
Time itself is a creation of Allāh and Allāh is the first, before whom there was no creation; nor is there time after Him. This is what the author intended by the word qadīm, that there is no point in time after which He came into existence. Allāh is the First, both in terms of His Divine Essence (dhāt) and His Attributes (ṣifāt). We do not say, as the scholars of speculative theology (mutakallimūn) say, that at some point in time Allāh began creating; before that there was no creation, and after a certain point in the future Allāh will cease to create. Rather Allah creates as and when He pleases, for He is: ‘the Doer of whatever He Wills’; whenever He wills.
Qadīm: It is a relative term used to express that something comes before another thing. In the Arabic language it can refer to the moon of the twenty-ninth day, were the moon of the first day is said to be “hadith” (new moon). This meaning cannot be attributed to Allah as it implies something could have come before Allāh. The word qadīm is thus deficient in describing Allah, Exalted is He.
Allāh is the Creator of all; the sound reasoning necessitates that He be the first. What we find in the Qur’ān is the word: al-Awwal (the First), with the Prophet SAW himself supplicated to Allāh by this name: ‘Oh Allāh! You are al-Awwal, for there is nothing before You’. This is the perfect way of ascribing eternity to Allāh, as it is how Allāh Himself asserted it. It is superior to qadīm as it implies not only that He is before all else, but also that whatever comes after Him is in need of Him.
Points of Benefit
- 1) Some the scholars of speculative theology asserted that Allāh is not only qadīm but also has the name al-Qadīm, even though this name is not mentioned in the Qur’ān or Sunnah. This is incorrect based on the fact that a) Names of Allāh are confined solely to revelation, for only Allāh can assert for Himself a name b) the meaning contains praise but also deficiency as mentioned above c) Names of Allāh can be used to supplicate with, and call upon Allāh with; as Allāh said: ‘The Most Beautiful Names belong to God. So call on him by them’. As for the name al-Qadīm, one cannot call upon Allāh with it for it lacks an essential element that true Names of Allāh have; at best it can be said to be a description (khabr) when qualified further.
- 2) One of the important principles of Ahl al-Sunnah in speaking about the actual Names & Attributes of Allāh is as follows: The subject of Allāh’s names (asmā) is more tightly regulated than the subject of Allāh’s attributes (ṣifāt) > the subject of Allāh’s attributes (ṣifāt) is more tightly regulated than the subject of Allāh’s Acts (af‘āl) > the subject of Allāh’s Acts (af‘āl) are more tightly regulated than the subject of Allāh’s description (akhbār); whereas Allah’s descriptions (akhbār) refers to speaking about Allah without actually using a revealed Name, Attribute, or Act. The opposite likewise holds true. Therefore, the statement of the author: ‘He is qadīm without a beginning’, is sound in terms of subject relating to Allāh’s description (akhbār), as the meaning of the statement is true. However, to relate this as a Divine Attribute of Allāh would require proof to be brought from revelation, as the subject of Allāh’s attributes (ṣifāt) are more tightly regulated than the subject of His description- according to the aforementioned principle. To assert that al-Qadīm is a name from the Names of Allāh would require greater and more explicit proof.
- 3) Names of Allāh generally contain three core elements a) they have explicit mentioning in the Qur’ān and Sunnah as an actual name or title, and not as an act or verbal noun b) it can be used to call upon Allāh with c) its meaning has only perfect praise in the absolute sense.
- 4) Allāh is the First, both in terms of His Divine Essence (dhāt) and His Attributes (ṣifāt).
- 5) Existing beings must have a beginning in One who necessarily exists by Himself in order to avoid an infinite regress. The concept of infinite regress can be understood by the following example: If A holds a gun to B but has to contact C for permission to kill, who in turn has to contact D for permission, who in turn has to contact E for permission, to the nth person; then person B would never be killed.
Notes: Note; Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad’s explanation of al-Aqeedah al-Tahawiyyah will soon be published as a hardback book. Islam21c have exclusive rights to share extracts from the book for its readers, and will be posting certain sections of the book on a weekly basis. The book: al-Aqeedah al-Tahawiyyah, is a short text outlining the aqeedah of Ahl al-Sunnah in short statements. Each extract posted is a complete explanation of any one of those statements. Edited by Asim Khan
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 Q. Al-Hadīd, 57: 3.
 H. Sahih Muslim.
 Q. Al-Burūj, 85: 16.