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Acts & Essence of Allah



Do Shia believe the Act of Allah to be separate from the Essence that performs that Act? So for example is the Act of creation separate from the Essence. I have read that the Attributes of Action are separate from the Attributes of Essence.

Could you please clarify this?


Alaykum salaam

Thank you for your question. Any separation between the Essence of Allah
and anything else, be that Acts or Attributes causes a problem in Tawhid
as there will be two entities; the Essence and the other thing. Therefore
while we may conceptually separate Allah’s Essence from His Actions they
cannot be separated in reality. The ahadith in this issue are plentiful
and for further reference see many of the speeches in Nahj al-Balagha.

Perhaps one of the better ideas which help to understand this unity of
Essence and Act further is that of manifestation (also known as self
disclosure). A manifestation of something is that thing but at a lower
level like the manifestation of a persons image in a mirror. This example
was given by Imam al-Rida (as) in the court of Ma’mun al-Abbasi when he
(as) was asked: “Is the creation in Allah or is Allah in the creation?”
Part of the Imam’s (as) reply is: “…Tell me about a mirror, are you in
it or is it in you? If neither is within the other then how did you use
the mirror to see yourself?…” (Uyun akhbar al-Rida vol 1 p 172)

Other examples of manifestation given by philosophers are like the rays of
the sun in relation to the sun. Or like the waves of an ocean in relation
to an ocean.

So to summarise there is no real separation between Essence and Act, but
at the same time we conceptually differentiate between Essence and Act on
an intellectual plane alone for the purposes of analysis.

Zoheir Ali