Divine Power: Too Big To Fail

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Much of the Islamic theological position regarding God’s ability hinges upon the oft-repeated verse:

`There is nothing like Him, yet He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing'. (Q 42:11)

Eloquent yet terse in his summation, Imam Al-Tahawi explains this verse in point seventeen of his famous creed:

"…He has the power to do everything (He is Omnipotent), everything is dependent on Him, and every affair is effortless for Him."

A common Philosophy 101 contention regarding God’s power and ability is that, “If God is omnipotent, then can He create a stone He cannot move?” Ibn Rushd (Averroes) popularized this paradox in the 12th century in his defense of the use of reason. Omnipotence does not mean that God can do anything at all but, rather, that he can do anything that's possible according to His nature. This idiosyncrasy holds great import. God cannot perform logical absurdities; he can't, for instance, make 1+1=3. What omnipotence really implies is the ability to actualize every affair. So God being able to “create a stone He cannot move” actually describes an affair that is impossible, just like if we were to say “a circle quad lateral triangle”.

Such statements describe nothing at all and have no informative value, they are meaningless. Since God is all powerful it means that He will always be able to do what He wills, as the creedal statement above mentions “and every affair is effortless for Him.” Therefore omnipotence also includes the impossibility of failure. The paradox however is saying that since God is all powerful He can do anything which includes failure, which is not conceivable. It is the equivalent to saying “an all powerful being cannot be an all powerful being”, which is irrational and absurd.

Bottom-line: God can create a stone that is heavier than anything we can imagine, but He will always be able to move the stone; what must be understood is that failure is not an aspect of omnipotence.

Theology To Actuality: How does God assist in your success?

Ibn Ata’illah Al-Iskandari in point 197 of his Book of Aphorisms (Kitab al-Hikam al-‘Ata'iyya) states:

“Whoever finds it astonishing that God should save him/her from his/her passion or bring him/her forth out of heedlessness has underestimated the Divine Power (omnipotence): And God, over all things, has Power (18:45)

A key point regarding this verse, as mentioned by Ibn Ajiba in his Iqaz al Himman, is to remember you and I are one of those “things”!

God says to the sinner:

“Oh My servants, who have wronged their souls, never despair of the mercy of God! Truly God forgives all sins (38:53), Whosoever repents following a wrong he has committed and sets it aright, verily God will turn to him in forgiveness(5:39)".

Our Messenger (Peace & Blessing upon Him and his Family) affirmed that, “If your sins were to fill the sky and you turned to God in repentance, God would forgive you(Tirmidhi). So regardless of the boulders that obstruct your spiritual or psychological success, God has the power to overcome them given the sincerity of our request.

Ibn Ajiba commented poetically, “Bandits/Thugs (Lusoos) become the Best (Khusoos)”. Ibrahim b Adham, Fudayl b. Iyyad, and Abdullah b. Mubarak are a few of Salaf with troubled pasts. Al-Qushayri begins his famous Risala with profligates who became saints for the express purpose to strengthen the readers hope in God's Power and Grace to change us. Reflecting on Divine Omnipotence should guide us to the reality that only through Divine Grace can we truly change ourselves, our communities, and our destination. It should spark us to repent and to hope in overcoming the negative self (An-Nafs Amaru Bi Su).

The first stumbling “stone” that people of vision, who have a deep abiding desire to alter themselves and their circumstances, confront is the obstacle of doubt (Shak) prompted by the negative self. It discourages you: “You commit sins, you are not that knowledgeable, and you are not that special, therefore you will not succeed”. Allah created you to be special. Allah (Powerful and sublime be He), says: ‘I have divided prayer between myself and my servant into two halves, and My servant shall have what he has asks for. When the servant says:

• ‘Praise belongs to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.’ Allah (Powerful and sublime is He) says: ‘My servant has praised me.’
• And when he says: ‘The Merciful, the Compassionate’, Allah (Powerful and sublime is He) says: ‘My servant has extolled me,’
• And when he says: ‘Master of the Day of Judgment’, Allah says: ‘My servant has glorified me’ - and on one occasion He said: ‘My servant has submitted to my power.’
• And when he says: ‘It is you we worship and it is you we ask for help’, He says: ‘This is between me and my servant, and my servant shall have what he has asked for.’
• And when he says: ‘Guide us to the straight path, the path of those upon whom You have bestowed favors, not of those against whom You are angry, nor of those who are astray.’, He says: ‘This is for My servant, and My servant shall have what he has asked for.’” (Muslim)

At minimum God gives you 17 moments daily when you are not just 1 of 7.106 billion on the planet, but rather you are the 1 in 7.106 billion. So the next time you hear the Adhanic phrase, “Come to Success (Falah)”, realize your presence in prayer is the first step towards succeeding, from escaping despair in your sins, and relying on Divine Power to do the heavy lifting in clearing your way.