The surest sign that one has enlightened his soul and has indeed comprehended the truths of Creation is in being left confounded and perplexed by the majesty of Allah Taʿālā. This is the intended outcome of all learning and the greatest proof of being learned. Though knowledge is usually sought to dispel confusion and increase understanding, in this instance the hallmark of wisdom is to affirm that the intellect is incapable of perceiving the greatness of the Creator. His greatness is such that even His primary creation, ʿAql al-Kul, affirms that he can never comprehend his Creator. ʿAql al-Kul’s loftiness was in truth determined by this very admission that he can never fathom his Creator.

Furthermore, appreciating some of the meanings entailed in the name ‘Allah’ makes ones realise that being perplexed by His greatness is the desired outcome of all learning. The word Allah is derived from the word ilāh, meanings of which include:

  • the one who is worshipped
  • the one who is desired
  • the one whose grandeur leaves Creation confounded
  • the one who is a sanctuary for refuge seekers

Finally, the lofty words of Amirul Mumineen AS demonstrate the majesty of Allah Taʿala and our inability to comprehend Him:

‘Praise to Allah, Who is present in all things hidden and towards Whom all things visible guide. He cannot be seen by the eye of an observer, but the eye which does not see Him cannot refute Him, while the mind that establishes His existence cannot perceive Him. His greatness is such that nothing is greater than He, while His proximity is such that no one is nearer than He. However, His greatness does not distance Himself from His creation nor does His proximity equate them with Him. He has not defined His traits and qualities for the intellect nor has He prevented it from comprehending Him. All signs of existence bear witness to Him, even the mind of the atheist. Allah is greater than what is described by those who liken Him to things or those who deny Him.’

‘I affirm that there is no Creator but Allah, he is alone and without any partner. He is the First, with nothing before Him. He is the Last, without there being any end for Him. Minds cannot fathom His qualities. Hearts cannot determine His nature. He cannot be grasped by sectioning and division. Eyes and hearts cannot perceive Him.’

‘He is the first but not numerically, is the Creator but not through activity or toil, is a Listener but not by means of an organ, is a Beholder but not by an opening of eyelids, is a Witness but not by adjacency, is Remote but not by distance, is Manifest but not by sight and is Hidden but not due to sublimity. He is distinguished from all things because of dominance and power over them, while they are distinct from Him because of their subjugation and dependence upon Him.

The one who describes Him limits Him. The one who limits Him quantifies Him. The one who quantifies Him denies His eternity. The one who asks ‘how’ has sought a description for Him. The person who asks ‘where’ has confined Him. He is All-Knowing even when there is nothing to be known. He is the Sustainer even where there is nothing to be sustained. He is the Powerful even when there is nothing to be overpowered…’

‘It does not befit the one who understands the grandeur of Allah Taʿālā to become arrogant, for the standing of those who understand His grandeur is in humbling themselves before Him while the well-being of those who realise his strength is in submitting themselves to him.’

As stated in verse four, the intellect can only comprehend that which is created, made or formed; hence comprehending its Creator is beyond it. The human intellect, as stated by Imam Jaʿfar al-Sadiq AS, was created so that it could ascertain its place of servitude, not so that it could grasp the divine.’