بسم الله الرحمـن الرحيم
وصلى الله على سيدنا محمد وعلى آله واصحابه اجمعين
Is Allah Described with Al-Qidam (Ancientness)?
Mu’ammar b. Abbâd al-Sulami (d. 215 H), a Mu’tazilite theologian and founder of the Mu’ammariyya subsect, denied that Allah is Qadîm (ancient, old) on the basis that it implies Allah’s existence is contingent to time, whereas Allah is timeless.
In the Hebrew Bible, God is referred to as עַתִּיק Attîq in Aramaic, meaning “Aged” (Strong’s Concordance #6268). God is named “Ancient of Days” (Daniel 7:9, 13, 22)
One of the supplications from the Sunnah when entering the Mosque:
أَعُوذُ بِاللَّهِ الْعَظِيمِ وَبِوَجْهِهِ الْكَرِيمِ وَسُلْطَانِهِ الْقَدِيمِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ
I seek refuge in Allah the Magnificent, and in His Noble Face, and in His Ancient Authority [Sultaanihil-Qadeem] from Satan the Rejected.
(Sunan Abi Dawud)
So here is a proof that the attribute of Allah, His Sultah (Authority) is described as Qadîm (Ancient). And the Sultah of Allah is uncreated, one of His eternal attributes. If it was a created thing and not one of the Attributes of Allah, the Prophet ﷺ would never teach his Umma to seek refuge in it; for refuge is only sought in Allah and in His Names and Attributes.
Imam Abu Ja’far at-Tahawi (d. 321 H), in outlining the agreed upon creed of Ahlus Sunnati wal-Jama’a, said concerning Allah:
قَدِيمٌ بِلا ابْتِدَاءٍ
Qadîm (Ancient) without a beginning
Therefore, as long as beginning/origin/creation are negated then it is correct to affirm the attribute of al-Qidam “ancientness” for Allah.
Many Muslims say that Allah is timeless, meaning He exists outside of time. They further say that time is a creation of Allah. However, such statements are made out of ignorance of exactly what time is. Time is relative to frame of reference and is not a universal constant. This is why Allah says:
أَنَا الدَّهْرُ، بِيَدِي الأَمْرُ، أُقَلِّبُ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ
“I am Time [ad-Dahr]. In My Hand is the command; I alternate the Night and Day.”
So when it is affirmed that Allah is al-Qadîm and al-‘Atîq (Ancient, Old, Aged), it means that Allah precedes all things and His existence, although not quantifiable since He is eternal and infinite, is older than any created thing, no matter how old and ancient they might be. This is like how we say Allah is Kabîr “large, big, great” without quantifying how large He is in terms of size, since He is infinite. And so we should affirm these divine attributes for Allah, as they are true and further serve to magnify Allah in our hearts and minds and take away any awe we might have for the limited and finite creation.