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Lessons on Interpretation of the Hamd Surah

First Session

(part 2)


There are those who say that infinite space existed from the very beginning and that within infinitude, forms came into existence, followed first by vapors and gases and then by forms of life. It is against the dictates of reason, however, that a thing would change into something other than itself without the action of an external cause. Such a cause is always needed for the transformation of one thing into something different, as for example when water freezes or boils. If the temperature did not pass below zero or above one hundred degree (noth of these being external causes), the water would remain just as it is. Likewise, an external cause is required to make water stagnate.

Equally, anyone who reflects a little will regard it as rationally self-evident, and assent to the proposition, that in the case of a thing that may exist or not exist, its non-existence as opposed to its existence does not require a cause. But its transformation from a contingent being that does not exist to a contingent being that does exist is inconceivable without a cause. As for the proposition that all being in the world are a name and a sign of God, any rational person can understand it in the general sense, in light of our foregoing discussion of causality.

But to attain a real understanding of the matter, we must realize that here it is not a question of naming something or someone in order to render it knowable of other-than-itself, as, for example, when we attach a name to a lamp, a car, or a man. For God is a being that is infinite, that possesses the attributes of perfection to an infinite degree, and that is subject to no limitation. A being that is unlimited in this manner cannot be contingent for it is in the nature of a contingent being to be limited. If there is no limitation in the existence of a thing, then, reason dictates that it cannot be other than the absolute and necessary being that possesses all forms of perfection, foe once a being lacks a single form of perfection, it becomes limited and thus contingent. The difference between contingent and necessary being is that the latter is infinite in all respects and constitutes absolute being, whereas the former is, in its nature, finite. If it turns out that not all of the attributes of perfection are present to an infinite degree in the being we thought necessary, it is no longer regarded as necessary, but instead as contingent.

Now if we take necessary being as the origin and source of all other being, the beings that come into existence as a result of its origination inherently represent the aggregate of its attributes.

These attributes, however, exist in different degrees, and the highest degree is that wherein all the attributes of God Almighty are contained, to the extent that it is possible for a world to subsume  them.  This  highest  degree  of  the  attributes  is represented by the Supreme Name,1 which consists of the name or the sign that contains, however defectively, all the perfections of God Almighty. Although it is defective with respect to God, it is perfect with respect to all other beings. Beings that are subordinate to the Supreme Name also possess perfection, but to an inferior degree, one limited by their inherent capacity. The lowest degree is represented by material beings, which we imagine have neither knowledge of any form of perfection nor the capacity to acquire it. This belief is not true, however, and is caused by our being veiled from the truth. These beings, which are lower than man and the animals and are deficient, still have the divine perfections reflected in them, but to a degree dictated by their inherent capacity. They even have perception, the same perception that is present in man. “There is naugh but glorifies and praises Him, but you understand not their glorifying.”‌ (17:44).

Since it has been considered impossible for material beings to have perception, it has been said that they are an example of static glorification, although the verse just quoted does not indicate this. We know that it cannot be a question of such glorification because they are material beings subject to causes. Traditions describe certain material beings as engaging in glorification, for example, the pebbles that were held in the hands of the Most Noble Messenger.1 Their glorification of God was a kind inaudible to your ear or mine, and their language and speech were different from ours, yet it still involved perception, perception to a degree dictated by the inherent capacity of the pebbles. It may be that men, who possess the higher degree of perception and regard themselves as the source of all perception, have wished to deny all perception to other orders of being. It is true, of course that those orders do not possess the same high degree of perception, but we, too, are veiled from full perception of the truth. Because of those veils, we are not fully aware, and because we are not fully aware, we imagine many things not to be that are. It is simply that you and I are alien to them. Today many things are becoming known that previously were not. For example, although the vegetable realm was formerly thought to lack consciousness, it is now said that a certain kind of sensor can pick up sounds from the roots of a tree when they are immersed in boiling water. I do not know if this is true or not, but it is certain that the whole world is alive and in ferment.

Everything is a name of God. You, too, are names of God: your tongues are names of God; your hands are names of God. When you praise God, saying, “In the Name of God, praise belongs to God,”? your tongue is a name of God as it moves. When you get up to go home, you cannot separate yourself from the you get up to go home, you cannot separate yourself from the names of God: you go in the name of God, and you are the name of God; the movements of your heart are the names of God, and the movements of you pulse are the name of God. The winds that are blowing are the name of God.

This is a possible meaning of the noble verse we have cited, as well as others where mention is made of the name of God. Every thing is a name of God; conversely, the names of God are every thing, and they are effaced within His being.

We imagine that we have some independence, that we are something in and of ourselves. It is not so. Were those rays of absolute being that every instant create us with an expression of the divine will and a manifestation of God to cease for a second, all beings would instantly lose their state of existence, reverting to their original state of non-existence, for their continued existence depends on His continued manifestation.

It is by means of God’s manifestation that the whole world has acquired existence; that manifestation, or light, is the origin and essence of being. “God is the light of the heavens and earth”? (24:35), and conversely, the heavens and earth are His light or manifestation; the light of all that exists is from God. Whatever emerges from potentiality into actuality, whatever appears in this world, is light, for the characteristic of light is to appear and be visible. Man appears and is visible, and is light; the animals are light; all beings are light, the light of God. “God is the light of the heavens and the earth”? that is, the existence of the heavens and earth is from light and from God. So destined to effacement in the divine being are the heavens and earth that the verse says, “God is the light of the heavens,”? not “The heavens are illumined by God,”? which would imply a certain mode of separation. “God is the light of the heavens” that is, they are nothing in and themselves, and there is no being in the world that possesses independence. By “independence,”? we mean here a being’s leaving the stage of contingency and advancing to that of necessity, which is impossible, since God Almighty alone is the necessary being Therefore, when God says, “In the Name of God, praise belongs to God,”? or “In the Name of God, say, ‘God is One’”? (112:1), the meaning probably is not so much that we are to stay, “In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,”? as “With the Name of God,”? where your speaking is a name of God.


A Commentary on the Chapter of ‘Praise’ 

Witten by: Imam Khomeini(R.A)

Translator: Bahram Afrasiabi 

Other Links:

A Commentary on the Hamd Surah: part 17

A Commentary on the Hamd Surah: part 18

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