Monotheism 6 – Divine Attributes Cont

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Jamal Badawi

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Salam Alaikum, ladies and gentlemen, peace be upon you and welcome to a new episode of Islamic focus. I'm your host, Muhammad Hussain Hosni. This will be our sixth episode of Islamic teachings, and more specifically the fifth episode on the concept of monotheism in Islam. Our guest today is Dr. Jamal Badawi Salaam Alaikum, welcome to our program.

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Maybe you should start as usual, by giving us a very short summary of last episode.

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And what we did last time was to continue the negation aspect of monotheism, or what Allah is not.

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And on this, we discuss the worship of other human beings, whether those human beings are saints, great prophets, whether they are clergy, or people who might take the liberty of violating the commands of God and giving their interpretation which is contrary to the Scriptures, or whether it's obedience to dictators who try to impose themselves as the final authority instead of God, or Allah, or even the self worship by disregarding God's guidance and revelation and thinking that we are smart enough to supersede the teachings and the commands of our creators. In the second part of the program, we started on the discussion of the positive aspects or the affirmative aspects of belief

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in Islam. And in this, we made three basic remarks to start with, one is to distinguish between the essence and nature of Allah or God, and his attributes. And he said, we, as human beings who are finite and limited, cannot really totally comprehend the essence or nature of the Creator. However, we can understand some of his attributes. This is one point. The second remark was that even when we try to understand some of the divine attributes, we have to be careful about the terminology we're using. When we say God, or Allah hears or sees, it doesn't mean the same human connotation, seeing with eyes or hearing with ears. And the third remark is that as a result of these two, in Islam,

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there should be no image for God in some form or the other, because this tend to reduce the infinite

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creator into something physical, which is, by definition is very limited. Like we discussed the various paintings, Michelangelo and others trying to depict God in the form of a man of man. And then we started with more specifically one of the affirmative attribute attributes of the Creator, and that is creation. And he said, creation is not only does not only mean that he simply is the only Creator of the universe, but creator, creation and sovereignty go hand in hand. So he is creator and Lord, or controller sustainers of the universe. Well, the concept of creation in itself is a continuous process. It's an ongoing process. It's not a one shot thing you create today, and

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then that's it. It's something that keeps going on and on. So one would assume that hand in hand with the concept of creation, God should be pre existent and eternal in the sense that he existed before everything, and will remain existence after the end of times. Now, does Islam view that idea? On this particular point? I'm glad to say that the stand on Islam on this is not that much different from for example,

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Judeo Christian tradition, we hear our Christian and Jewish friends for example, saying God is the Alpha and Omega, the first and last In fact, the term is used in the Quran.

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For example, in chapter 57, verse three of the Quran,

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the translation of meaning he is a lot, the first and the last, the evident and the sublime.

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And he has full knowledge of all things. So in that sense, yes, he is he has to be the first nonetheless or else. How could you say that the whole universe emanated from him, I realized that sometimes it's difficult for us, as humans to understand How can any being be infinite, difficult for us to imagine this infinity. But let me give a very simple example to show that even in finite things in this universe, sometimes it is dazzling for us to imagine even

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many of the astronomers would tell us that the distance between Earth and the farthest star is 2000 million lines here. One, this is dazzling, because imagine the the whole distance that we have from here to the moon, which is relatively very close, the light of the moon arrives to us in about one and a half seconds, the light from the sun, which is much, much further arrives to Earth, within a few minutes, maybe about eight minutes or so traveling at a speed. And as you know, the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second. Which means that if you're struggling at this fantastic speed, 186,000 miles per second, it would take you 2000 million years to travel from the earth to the

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farthest star, it's dazzling, I just can't imagine how this numbers even could be imagined an hour on him human mind. And we're talking still about the known universe, let alone something that's beyond that, that you are not able even to see. The example I'm giving here is to show that even in finite things, it's very difficult. And that's not for us to imagine that extent. When we think about Allah, the creator, we should then be more accepting to the fact that he is the first and the last, even though we might not be totally comprehend how come there is nothing before him. And there's nothing after him, perhaps we can turn to the Quran, that gives us some clarification of

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this. First in 2558, it says, and put your trust in Him who lives and dies not because if God dies, if he's subject to this, even for a temporary period, who

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is capable of giving him life, because God controls by saying God Himself dies, who is capable to get him life. So it's illogical for the Muslim to say that God would be subject to this like humans. And furthermore, if God dies, even on a temporary basis, who is going to run the universe, in his absence? So it's everything is related to the will and the eternal, perpetual life of God, Allah. The second petition also gives another tinge of it. In 2888. It says and call not besides Allah, any other Lord, there is no God, but he, everything that exists will perish except his own self. To Him belongs the command, and to him, will you all be brought back? One more.

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All that is on earth will perish, but will abide forever the presence of your Lord, full of majesty, bounty, and honor, and that's in 7527 and 28. Perhaps I can conclude by giving you one very famous and widely quoted passage in the Quran, known as is of course,

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it's in the second chapter of the Quran, verse 255. And notice here there is a combination of a number of divine attributes.

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It reads in translation, Allah, there is no god but He, the living, the self sustaining the eternal. No slumber, sees him nor sleep. His are all things in the heavens and on earth. Who can intercede in his presence except as he permits, he knows what is ahead of them, that's in the future, and what is behind them, nor shall they campus out of his knowledge, except as He wills, his throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and he feels no fatigue, in guarding and preserving them, for He is the Most High, the Supreme in glory. If you notice here, even though it's only one verse, actually one long passage, seven things I emphasize in this, that there is no deity but him. Secondly, that he is

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a living God is not just created and live the universe is a living God. Certainly that is eternal. Firstly, that his knowledge is all comprehensive includes everything.

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That his throne which could also be a symbol of power or sovereignty extends over

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Everything on Earth and in heaven, there is no associates or assistance.

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Six, that there is no intercession or intermediary, except by his permission, which means that there is nobody who acts can act as a judge. He is the ultimate judge anyone interceding is only by permission of Allah or God, by his leave. And finally, that he's not subject to some of the human weaknesses like feeling those are sleepy, and needing really no rest, from any thing that she does. That's a very interesting guy there because it gets us to the concept of the day of the Lord or the day of

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resting for the Lord the Sabbath, if we use a Judeo Christian, a term.

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How does Islam view that idea? How does Islam view the concept of God, having the necessity of resting, or the requirement of resting on the seventh day, because of the fatigue that befell him after six days of work? Well, in order to get to

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an appropriate comparison I have with me here is the King James Version of the Bible. And in order not to use my own words, I have to quote it as it is, and then perhaps, give you the Islamic perspective on that. In the book of Genesis, chapter two, verse two, it reads, and on the seventh day, God ended his work, which he had made, and he rested on the seventh day, from all his work which he had made. This is the the the text as it appears in the in the Bible. Now,

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as such, your question is as to whether there's any parallel in Islam to that.

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In a nutshell, I could say no, absolutely no parallel to that, in fact, there's,

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there's an opposite statements in the Quran, to this particular

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statements in the Bible. Let me give you four quotations from the Quran that reflects a different kind of understanding of this divine attribute. First of all, in chapter 15, verse 58, of the Quran will talk now.

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It says, we created the heavens and the earth and all between them in six days, nor did any sense of weariness, touch us. No sense of weariness or

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writer. Furthermore, to clarify the issue further in chapter 35, verse 44, it says, it's part of a verse, nor is God to be frustrated by anything, whatever in the heavens and on earth, for he is all knowing, all powerful. Another one, for anything which we have when we bought say to be, and it is, in other words, once Allah God decides on something, it is enough to say, be it there is no tiring or fatigue involved at all. Another one, in 19, certified, glory be to him. When he determines it matters. He only says to it be, and it is. So I am glad that you raise this issue because some sometimes, even though there might be some fundamental similarities between Islam and Judeo

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Christian tradition in some aspects, unfortunately, some writers make a very superficial comparisons. And they find, for example, the Quran talk also about the story of Adam and Eve. So they conclude that everything that the Bible says also has parallels the Quran. In fact, this is quite different. And this one, we assume that God could get tired and need rest, then we are really endowing on him. characteristics which are human, which does not apply to him. This is not the only case maybe I can give you another citation that is very similar to this from the Bible again, and in the chapter in digital, the Genesis Book of Genesis, chapter three, verse eight, talking about Adam

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and Eve after they committed their mistake, it says, and they heard the voice of the Lord God, working in the garden, in the code of the day. Again, that's Genesis three, eight. Now, this as well as the years the other citation on the gods resting after escaping the heavens and as both depict God in human form. That's what is called anthropomorphism. To think of God in some human term that he walks he gets tired and dressed. Now, like I said, as far as the Quran is concerned

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There is no single parallel in the entire Quran that shows this kind of anthropomorphic configuration of understanding of deity. And that leads to one more question since you raised specifically the concept of Sabbath. A very common mistake that we find in the Western media and books either listened by so called scholars. They say for example, the Jewish Sabbath is Saturday, the Christian Sabbath on Sunday, the Muslim Sabbath and Friday. This is again a very superficial comparison. It is true that on Friday, Muslims are supposed to have a congregation of prayer. But the concept of Sabbath which is derived, like you said, as a day of the Lord, that they will the

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Lord rested, has no analogy whatsoever have the same connotation. No, no, no.

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Exactly. Yeah.

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It's it's interesting now to to look at another aspect of affirmative attributes of God. And they really come hand in hand again with the concept of creation, the concept of eternal life and the concept of indefatigable nature of God. And that is the knowledge and wisdom in several of the positions that you made yourself from the Quran, you reiterated that idea of omniscience of all knowledgeable when you talk about God as being knowledgeable.

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Could we elaborate a little bit on the knowledge, the omniscience and the wisdom of God, as viewed in Islam, perhaps the best way would be to refer directly to the Quran and give us a citation that depicts that, but I can summarize it before I start even that the knowledge of Allah of God is absolute and complete. And it's not limited by time.

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First into five and six, from Allah, verily, nothing is heaven is hidden on Earth, or in heavens,

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He it is Who shapes you in the rooms as he pleases.

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There is no God, but he the Exalted in Might wise.

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Second one, in 3134. Verily, the knowledge of the hour, the hour here is the day of judgment, the knowledge of the hour is with Allah alone. It is he who sends down rain, and he who knows what is in the woods, nor does anyone know what it is that he will earn tomorrow. Nor does anyone know in what land he or she is to die very big with Allah is full knowledge. And he is acquainted with all things. The third one is quite interesting. It's in the sixth chapter in the Quran, verse 59.

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It says, with Allah with him,

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are the keys of the unseen,

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the treasures that none knows, but he, he knows, whatever there is on earth, and in the sea, not a leaf, see, a tree leaf, not a leaf does fall. But with his knowledge, there is not a grain in the darkness, or depth of the earth, nor anything fresh or dry, but is inscribed in a clear record. I find that sometimes difficult really, to add something to that I mean, the the the expression in the Quran is so powerful, it's so clear, that even with the difficulty of translating the meaning in English, I suppose you can get an answer better than any human flaws, because this is the word of God Himself. So there is only one thing that maybe you should add here, which is the idea that a lot

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of people have.

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And that goes like that, well, God is omniscient, God is all knowing. But he is only all knowing and omniscient of what is manifest. What is external, what can be seen? And what can be a tangible, so to speak, but how about our inner most, most votes? Somebody may say, Well, I'm thinking of something evil, but I'm not going to do it. So, God will never know about it, that kind of thing is I may be putting it in the grave, right? Actually, this is another form of anthropomorphism also, because in our understanding as human beings to say, all right, I could not have any knowledge unless I have some source of that knowledge. But I can tell what you have in mind, you know, but

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again, like I said, this does not apply to Allah when we talk about the absolute and perfect knowledge. And again, I could refer to the Quran covering specifically two areas. One, what happened when a few people conspired together in secret would Allah know about that? And secondly, like I said, is the innermost thoughts in our mind, the first one in 5817. See, you are not that Allah does know all that is in the heavens and on earth. There is not a secret consultation between three but he makes the force among them.

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Not between five but he makes the six not between fewer or more, but he is

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in their midst wheresoever they are you hired here? Oh, there he is there. Okay. And the second one even comes more directly to this inner thoughts that you might have in 67, verses 13 and 14 and the Quran

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and whatever you hide and whatever and whatever, sorry, and whether you hired your word or publish it, he certainly has full knowledge of the secrets of all hearts. Should he not know that he created and he is the one that understands the finest mysteries, and is well acquainted with them? So it follows that if he is the one who created us, who created our innermost

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thoughts, how can he doesn't really know what we think of it? So the slightest thought that even passes in our mind without telling anyone? Definitely, who knows?

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So maybe the last thing that we could

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mention here, regarding the attribute of omniscience of knowledge of Allah is how does this concept of omniscience or that Islamic concept of omniscience of Allah relate to the similar attribute in the Judeo Christian tradition? Well, I hope I don't sound like always trying to show the differences. Of course, I must show and we have repeated that in several programs that the origin of all three monotheistic faiths and others also has proceeded from Allah. But of course, as time went on,

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apparently, philosophical and theological arguments sometimes have accepted the Preston revelation. But

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even though of course, you could say that the basic notion of the old embrace of knowledge of God isn't the Quran as it is also in the Bible. But you find the Quran is more strict, there is no muddying of that thought whatsoever by any citation that could be misinterpreted, to mean anything less than full knowledge, in order to again, make the discussion on objective and clear basis, I refer again to the to the Bible, the King James Version. And there are two citations that strike me. And these are not the only ones, but this one, to strike me as really not totally consistent with the Quranic conception of the knowledge of God. Let me quote them directly. For example, in the book

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of Genesis and chapter 11, verses five,

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five, I would say to seven or six,

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describing the attempt of humans to build the Tower of Babel. And the tree, it's starting from verse five, and the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the children of men bended. And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language. And this they begin to do, and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to let us go down, and they're concerned their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. Now, when I read that, or anyone really reads it, you get the impression somehow that

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God or Allah did not realize that people would be smart and intelligent not to be able to build the tower, the Tower of Babel, that we just discovered that they did that, aside from the fact that it might carry also the connotation that maybe God was worried about the the arrogance or scared of the power of the humans, which again, would be contrary to the standard concept of God being all powerful and all knowledgeable. The second citation is in the book of Exodus, chapter 32, verse 14, and the tree it's, and the Lord repented of the even which he thought to do unto his people. Notice here the Lord repented of the evil. Now again, when you say defense, we as human beings, we can

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depend, because we are sinful, we are imperfect. We don't have full knowledge, and sometimes you do something wrong, say I was ignorant, I was bad, I repent, but to attribute to the Creator Himself, that he has to repent, also carries the meaning that somehow he didn't know. Or he rushed too much in his decisions. We didn't have full knowledge when he decided, and as I indicated before, this notion does not have any parallel in the Quran, which insists that the knowledge of Allah is perfect is complete, that

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he did not really get into this kind of human type of false. In fact, this might relate to another interesting issue, which relate to the knowledge Also, sometimes in my discussion with some of my Christian friends, one time I participated in

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interfaith debate. And one of the my friends in Montreal, a priest, he said that

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they said

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That Prophet Jesus because he doesn't believe in him as a prophet, he believes him as a son of God, but I

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presented from the Muslim perspective, he said, the fact that Jesus came as a human being is a blessing because after all, that means that God is sharing with men, his feeling God becoming man to see how men feels and to even sacrifice and suffers like the humans do. And he gives me an example. He said, like a human being great as he may be big as you may be, cannot understand the end. You have to be an entity in order to fully understand how the end feels, or

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behaves. But my answer to him, I said, well, as human, yes, I'm imperfect. And it's impossible for me to understand how the ENT seal, but the knowledge of God is so impressive that he does not really need to become men to understand men because He created man he knows all the secrets.

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Exactly. So it doesn't mean that in order for God to be able to understand other animals, he has to be like them, he has to be a bird and this and that, no, his knowledge is all impressive, so complete, that his full knowledge of the suffering, the feeling, and the force of the human being is there without necessarily materializing in any physical form.

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Now we can move from the attribute of knowledge or omissions to another misconception that is perpetuated in most western literature about Islam. And that is summarized as follows. They say, well, in Islam, or the God of Islam, as they refer to a lot of God of Islam, is put on such a high pedestal on such a high throne, that he is untouchable unapproachable, he is so remote he is so far from his creatures and from his servants that nobody can relate to.

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What do you have to say about that one, again, another misconception jumping to conclusions. It is true, like I indicated before in all the divine attributes which God has perfect knowledge, perfect, will perfect power. But this does not mean that he is unapproachable. And that's the beauty of it. In fact, I give you evidence directly that you can document from the Quran. When you open the Quran. The very first statement that you read is what Bismillah R Rahman r Rahim in the name of God or Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. The very first thing that you read in every chapter of the 114 chapters of ICANN starts with the same formula In the name of Allah. A Muslim is told that whenever

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you start any act, you should always say in the name of God, and that's again, the attributes of mercy are used in this formula. When you start to eat when you start to sleep when you wake up in the morning when you leave your house when you start writing your means of transportation. entering the house starting to do some work, starting study, starting to play sports. A true devoted Muslim really would always start his action with Bismillah Ar Rahman Rahim in which, like I said, emphasizes the attributes of Mercy of Allah. But there's something even more beautiful in that the original words used to convey Mercy of Allah are both Ar Rahman and Rahim, these are very difficult

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to translate fully in English or Rahim, which is the second one means simply the merciful, which is an attribute that could be shared also by humans, you could say, I am merciful, you are merciful, Allah is merciful. So in that sense, the the term unique is not unique in that, but the beautiful other term, or Rahman, according to one interpretation means not just that Allah is merciful, but that all mercy emanates from him. That is, he is the source of all mercy, which is much more beautiful. In fact, one whole chapter in the Quran carries the name urashima and the source of mercy. It's called a rough man. So that's one whole chapter just carries that title of mercy.

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Not only this, we find that the citations in the Quran the passages that deal with mercy are plentiful. I just caught one I understand we might be running short for this particular session in seven 156 days, but my mercy extends to all things that mercy I shall ordain for those who do write and practice charity, and those who believe in our science. Great, thank you very much, Dr. Gamal will have to continue on that particular point in the following program. Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, for joining us today and we hope you will meet with us next week on the same program until then, Salaam Alaikum.