Reflection No. 248 on Q 6:18 – Dominance of Allah over all things
وَهُوَ الْقَاهِرُ فَوْقَ عِبَادِهِ وَهُوَ الْحَكِيمُ الْخَبِيرُ
Wahuwal-qāhiru fawqa ‘ibādihi wahuwal-hakīmul-khabīr
And He is the All-dominant over His servants, and He is the All-wise, the All-aware.
(Sūratul An‘ām, no. 6, Āyat 18)
Almighty Allah is described as the Qāhir in this verse. Qahr is the ability to overcome without resistance such that it makes the other submit to its effect even when its effect is against the inherent properties of the other. It is domination over the effects of the dominated. ‘Allāmah Tabātabā’ī gives the example of the effect of water when poured over fire. Fire has the quality and effect of burning but when water is poured on it the water overcomes that effect.
Everything in this world which produces a certain effect is a cause that Allah (swt) has created and brought into existence. He has given the cause a certain effect as part of the system He created for the world. It is the means through which events happen in the world. Each cause can have many effects and each effect in turn can become a cause of other effects. It is a chain of causality set in motion by the Almighty who imbued the quality of affecting in the cause, and the quality of being affected in the effect.
To help understand this think of the following example:
When fire burns wood, both the fire and the wood are natural elements that have their own properties. Each operates according to its properties. The properties of fire and wood conflict and fire overcome the wood. The process of burning takes place. The properties of wood are affected and dominated by the properties of the fire.
Almighty Allah is the Supreme Dominator and has the ability to overcome the effects of His servants. His domination is different from the domination of one being over another, for those two beings share certain qualities of created beings. Both are physical beings with different demands of nature and some are more powerful than others in imposing their effects. Allah’s dominance is more overpowering. It is complete and comprehensive. The domination of others is itself a sign of domination of Allah over them who gave that effect to them in the first place.
It is interesting to note that when Fir‘awn threatened to slaughter all the baby boys that were born in his kingdom, he says about himself: We will slay their sons and spare their women and surely we are dominant over them (7:127). Fir‘awn used his limited power to overcome resistance and dominate others by oppressing them.
The Āyat ends with two names of Allah – the Wise and the all Knowing. His ability to dominate is used with wisdom and knowledge of all things. He does not oppress with that dominance nor does He misuse it.
Recite this verse to remind you of the domination of Allah over all things. He gives causes their effect and can control them as He wishes. All the servants of Allah are under His domination and cannot overcome His will. Amīrul Mu’minīn Ali b. Abī Tālib (a) reminds us about this in Du‘ā as-Sabāh: So, O He who is alone in might and subsistence; and dominates (qahara) His servants with death and annihilation. Thus it makes sense for us to turn to Him and trust in Him rather than other human beings whose power and control is limited and who are dominated when Allah wishes it so.
Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūne; ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān