QIDAM (a.) in the technical vocabulary of philosophy and theology denotes eternity. It must be distinguished from azal and from abad [q.v.]. Al-Tahanawi writes: 'Azal is the constant duration of existence in the past, as abad is its constant duration in the future.' As opposed to temporal origin (huduth), it is the fact of having been preceded by nothing else (al-la masbuqiyya bi 'l-ghayr): azal implies the negation of a first beginning (nafy al-awwaliyya); it is therefore a case of eternity a parte ante, and abad is eternity a parte post. Azal and abad are essentially identical in God (inna abaduhu 'ayn azalihi), for they mean that the two relative extremities which are the beginning and the end are both 'cut off' from God (inqita' al-tarafayn al-idafiyyayn 'anhu). For Him they are negative attributes (cf. Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, commentary onqthe Most Beautiful Names of God, sura VII, 180; azali and qadim are classed among the real and negative attributes. First, awwal is regarded as real, accompanied by relationship and negation (sifa haqiqiyya ma'a 'l-idafa wa 'l-salb). He is eternal, in the sense of azali, that which is not preceded by nothingness, that which is in existence before any rational conception of a first beginning (qabla ta'aqqul al-awwaliyya), and in the sense of abadi, that which persists beyond any rational conception of an ultimate term (ba'da ta'aqqul al-akhiriyya). Through these various definitions there come to light two conceptions of pre-eternity and post-eternity. The first is that of endless duration (la nihayata lahu) which extends either towards the past, or towards the future (in which case it is also known as al-la-yazal, that which does not cease to be). This scheme (cf. below) raises many difficulties in the solution of the problem of the creation of the world, since it introduces the concept of an infinite time before the moment of this creation. The second is more philosophical: the two eternities are nothing more than negative conceptions, to which contemplative thought has recourse in order to grasp the idea of eternity in relation to time, but which do not correspond to the reality of an infinite time in the two senses: they are relative to the mode of thought belonging to the
human spirit, which as al-Razi points out (cf. below), cannot conceive of itself outside time. The reality which is hidden behind these imaginary concepts is that of God and of His subsistence through His essence (baqa'uhu bi-dhatihi), that is, of a being totally unaffected by time and temporality.

So what does qidam denote? Etymologically, the term should be associated with azal since it is a root expressing the idea of anteriority. The LA says of it exactly the same as al-Tahanawi says of azal: 'It is the contrary of temporal origin (naqid al-huduth)'. Ibn Manzur also explains it through the roots 'ataqa and sabaqa ('to precede in a race'). It should in fact be noted that the idea of anteriorness in time or space is linked to that of superior worth, as would appear from the substantive qadam and from its qur'anic use: qadam sidq (X, t) which al-Zamakhshari interprets as sabiqa wa-fadl wa-manzila rafi'a, a priority, a higher abode that God is preparing for the Believers. Another explanation is that in advance a gift has been prepared for them on the part of God (qad sabaqa lahum 'ind Allahkhayr) which unites the two ideas of anteriorness and of the excellence of the divine gifts. It may be noted further, with regard to qadam ('step', whence the fact of being a step ahead of the others, of precedence) that the LA, as well as al-qurtubi in his commentary, quotes verses of Ju 'l-Rumma [q.v.] where the expression of Bedouin mentality may be seen: qadam is associated there with high nobility and acts of splendour (mafakhir). Since the qualities of Bedouin ethic were in general transferred by Islam to God, it may reasonably be supposed that the root q-D-M served not only to connote the anteriorness of God, but also His ontological pre-eminence over all things, while it must be made clear that this is not an anteriority and a pre-eminence relative to others, as in the case of mufakhara which implies rivalry, but qualities that are transcendental and absolute. It is in this sense that the LA says that God is al-Muqaddim, because he precedes all things (yuqaddim al-ashya') and He puts them in their place (yada'uha fi mawadi'iha). But the terms qidam and qadim in the sense of eternity and theqeternal, are technical creations (istilahat); they are not qur'anic. The qadi 'Abd al-Jabbar, in the Sharh, writes that according to the principles of the language qadim is that which has existed for a longer time than something else (ma taqadama wudhudhuhu) and he quotes the verse (XXXVI, 39) where God compares the moon to an old palm (ka 'l-'urdhun al-qadim). As for the word qidam, it does not occur in the qur'an. The revealed Book conveys the idea of divine eternity through that of transcendence. God is al-Muta'ali (XIII, 9), and this name, according to al-Razi, belongs to him on the grounds that he is utterly removed (munazzah) in His essence, in His attributes and His actions from all that may not be asserted of Him. In consequence, He is outside time, Eternal, and it is thus that the term qadim, taken absolutely (al-qadim) denotes God Himself.

Al-Tahanawi also makes qidam the opposite of huduth [q.v.]. These two terms denote attributes of existence and are studied together. Essence (mahiyya) is qualified only in regard to the qualification of the corresponding existence. They may be applied to nothingness, according to whether it is preceded by existence or not; thus one may speak of an eternal nothingness or nothingness resulting from obliteration. qidam and huduth may be taken according to reality
(haqiqiyyan) or according to relation (idafiyyan).


Real eternity consists in the fact of not being preceded by another thing according to an anteriority which is essential and not temporal. This is what is known as essential eternity (qidam dhati), which consists in the fact of needing absolutely nothing other than the self in order to exist. This implies the necessity of the being. The Eternal in this sense is the necessary Being. On the contrary, origin (huduth) is the fact of having been preceded by something in existence
according to an essential anteriority, which in this case may or may not also be a temporal anteriority (for example, the world is essentially the result of an origin, it is muhdath, but nothing precedes its time; man is also essentially engendered, but his parents existed in the time previous to his birth). In a certain sense, time is the result of an origin (hadith), because if it has been preceded by nothing which could have existed before it in a temporal way, an absurd
hypothesis, it does not have the absolute existence of necessary Being and at every instant it renews itself. It is possible to understand in particular by eternity the fact of not being preceded by the non-existence of a temporal anteriority: this will then be called temporal eternity (qidam zamani), and the eternal in terms of time is therefore 'that of which the time of existence has no first beginning'. Similarly, one may talk of a temporal origin (huduth zamani) where the existence of a being is preceded by non-existence in time. Thus we define that which is the fruit of a temporal origin (al-hadith al-zamani) as that which is preceded in time by its non-existence, according to the well-known formula: lam yakun, thumma kana ('it was not, then it happened'). In this sense, time is not hadith because nothing can pre-exist itself.

As for relative qidam, it implies that the past time of the existence of a being is greater than that of the existence of another. But this sense cannot be conveyed by the word eternity. It concerns the antiquity of a being compared to the novelty of another, and qadim means ancient, old, like 'atiq. Conversely, huduth will be novelty, hadith, that which is new.

Al-Tahanawi adds that essential eternity is more particular (akhass) than temporal eternity, which in its turn is more particular than relative eternity or antiquity. Thus necessary Being, which is qadimdhati, is also eternal according to a temporal point of view, since it is preceded neither by nothingness nor by that which is other than itself. But the converse is not true: thus the attributes of eternal Being, which are not preceded by nothingness since they are concomitants of its eternal essence, are not eternal in themselves and so do not have qidam dhati. The same could be said of the world which is qadim zamani according to the falasifa, but which is not however qadimdhati, because it depends on its cause, which is other than itself. As for qidam idafi, it is not co-extensive with qidam zamani. In fact, the past time of an existence may be greater compared with that which subsequently occurs for the first time. This applies to the father who is qadim in relation to his son, but who is not thereby qadim zamani, because he is born of parents So if we compare the world to a man, both of these have a history made up of successive events. In relation to one of these events, the past of the world and of this man extend over a time greater than that of the new happening. Each of them will therefore be called qadim in relation to it. They are both qadim idafi. But the world is not only qadim in this context: it is so in itself, because there has never been a time where it did not exist. Man is only qadim in relation, for example, to the event of his paternity: doubtless he preceded it, but precisely according to an antecedence which is only relative to it. On the contrary, in the context of origins, it is huduth idafi which is the most particular; then comes huduth zamani and finally huduth dhati. This is because everything whose existence in the past covers a lesser time-span (aqall: that is to say hadith idafi) is preceded by nothingness, and is therefore hadith zamani. A fortiori, it is hadith dhati. This analysis has clearly been influenced by the thought of philosophers who tend to associate eternity with the ontological necessity of the wadhib al-wudhud and huduth with continuity. Theologians simply understand by qadim that which is not preceded by nothingness, or in the vocabulary of al-Tahanawi, qadim zamani.

To what does the notion of eternity apply? qidam relates first to the essence of God. On this point all the philosophers and religious scholars are in agreement. On the question of the eternity of the attributes of God, there are differences of opinion among the mutakallimun. God is eternal because He is not subject to an origin, and being, cannot be other than muhdath or qadim. So if God were subject to origin, in order to exist He would need another being to create him, a muhdith. But the question would apply to the latter too and so on to infinity. So one must affirm the existence of God as eternal Creator, as it is expressed by 'Abd al-Jabbar (al-‘ani' al-qadim). This argument, which bears a philosophical mark, is not the exclusive property of the Mu'tazilis. It is found in the same or similar terms in the Kitab al-Tamhid of al-Baqillani, in the chapter where he shows that the agent which produces beings subject to origin (fa'il al-muhdathat) cannot itself be the fruit of an origin. It is found in the Kitab al-Irshad of al-Juwayni, where he proves that the existence of the Eternal 'does not inaugurate itself' (wudhu¸ al-qadim ghayr muftatih); in the same place he gives an interesting and precise observation on the concept of an existence that has no beginning: does this not imply an infinite succession of moments? He repliesqthat the moment of a thing is defined by the fact that it is contemporary with other things. Now God is not contemporary with any other thing. So the eternity of God is implied by his uniqueness.

The Ash'ari school admits the eternity of the divine attributes. On the contrary, the Mu'tazilis express the major principle that 'God has no co-eternal', according to the formula of 'Abd al-Jabbar in the Sharh (la qadima ma' Allah). Nevertheless, they recognise as eternal four attributes: existence, life, knowledge and power. In fact, according to al-Jubba'i and the majority of the learned men of the school, these four attributes necessarily belong to God through his essence, therefore they are also eternal. His knowledge is His being in acts of knowledge (kawnuhu 'aliman) and the same applies to the other sifat. Or furthermore, He knows through a knowledge which is Himself (Abu 'l-Hudhayl), etc. They do not say that He possesses eternal knowledge, but that he has not ceased to be in acts of knowledge (lam yazal 'aliman), etc. 'Abbad b. Sulayman refused to say that God possesses knowledge, any more than He possesses eternity (qidam); but it may be said that He is eternal (qadim). Contrariwise, Ibn Kullab thought that God is in acts of knowledge through a knowledge belonging to Him, and so on. To say that He is eternal, is to assert that He has not ceased to be in His Names and Attributes (lam yazal bi-asma'ihi wa-sifatihi; Maqalat). The essence of God alone is eternal, not in the sense that it is stripped of all attributes, but on the contrary, clad in all that belong to God. Some of his disciples claimed that God is eternal through an eternity (qadim bi-qidam), others that He is eternal, but not through an eternity (qadim la bi-qidam). We begin to deal here with pure subtleties of language, as in the distinction between the two expressions 'God has not ceased to be' and 'God has not ceased to be through the eternal attribute of eternity.' A passage from the Maqalat deserves notice, however; 'The supporters of the theory of attributes (ashab al-sifat) differ in opinion concerning the attributes of the Creator: are they eternal or have they had an origin? Some say that they are eternal. Others declare: 'If we say that the Creator is eternal in His attributes, we do not need to say that His attributes are eternal; so we say neither that they are eternal, nor that they have had an origin.' According to al-Tahanawi, Abu Hashim added a fifth eternal attribute to the four above-mentioned; holiness (al-ilahiyya), which is distinct from essence. This is reminiscent of the divinitas of the 1tth century theologian of Chartres, Gilbert de la Porree. It is no doubt to this thesis that 'Abd al-Jabbar alludes when he writes that, according to Abu Hashim, the attributes belong to God necessarily, and by virtue of that to which he confirms in his essence (li-ma Huwa 'alayhi fi dhatihi). So it is through divinity that these attributes are eternal. For Sulayman b. Jarir and other ‘ifatiyya, the attributes belong to God necessarily through 'notions (li-ma'ani) which can be qualified neither by existence nor non-existence, nor by origin nor eternity' (Sharh). It is the concept of notional attribute (sifa ma'nawiyya), a term that has been translated variously as 'essential', 'qualitative', or even 'entitative'. It is nothing other than the qualification made necessary by the notion that one has of God. Ma'na is always a notion signifying cum fundamento in re. The attribute ma'nawi therefore is not essence; neither is it a 'thing' in God. It is that which the reality of God demands that one saysqof God. But, here too, that which is eternal is God and his essence, and the sifa ma'nawiyya escapes all ontological alternatives. Nevertheless, according to 'Abd al-Jabbar, certain disciples of Ibn Kullab reified the ma'ani and considered them to be eternal; for them the four aforementioned attributes are fitting to God by means of the ma'ani azaliyya, which may be translated by 'eternal entities'. (We may note with 'Abd al-Jabbar that here azali has the sense of qadim, as often happens). The qadi points out however that these Kullabiyya did not dare employ this formula in its absolute sense, so as not to run counter to the unanimity of the  Muslims over the denial of co-eternal attributes.

From the same root as qidam is the 5th form masdar, taqaddum, which occurs in a very interesting commentary by Razi on qur'an, LVII, 3: 'He is First and Last'. The word taqaddum (antecedence) has several meanings: (1) al-taqaddum bi 'l-ta'thir where the antecedent exercises an influence over the consequent, for example, the movement of the finger entails that of the ring; (t) al-taqaddum bi 'l-hadha, based on the need which the consequent has of the antecedent; thus the nnumber one is anterior to the number two without being its cause; (3) al-taqaddum bi 'l-sharaf, according to worth; thus Abu Bakr has precedence over 'Umar; (4) al-taqaddum bi 'l-martaba, according to a hierarchical order, either sensible, such as the place of the imam in prayers before the faithful who pray; or rational, such as the place of the genus in relation to the species; (5) al-taqaddum bi 'l-zaman, temporal anteriority or qabliyya; to which al-Razi adds (6) 'But I think that there is a sixth division which is like the anteriority of certain parts of time in relation to others; this anteriority is not temporal, otherwise it would be necessary for time to develop another time, to the point of infinity. Thus the present would be within another present which would be within a third present... and all these presents would be present at the present moment (kulluha hadira fi hadha 'l-an). But the ensemble of these moments would be posterior to the ensemble of past moments, to the extent that there would be another time for the ensemble of times (madhmu' al-azmina), which is absurd, for, being a time, it would have to enter into the ensemble of times. Consequently, it would be both within and outside this ensemble, which is impossible. 'Furthermore, this anteriority of parts of time in relation to one another is not an anteriority according to causality, nor according to need, otherwise they would co-exist; evidently it is not according to worth, nor according to space. It is therefore a sixth kind of taqaddum. Now the qur'an shows that God is First (Primus, not prior) for all that is not Him, and al-Razi shows here that this qualification only fits the necessary, first and unique Being, for all that is not Him is possible (mumkin) and the possible exists only through origin: it is muhdath. But what is the nature of this divine anteriority? It is not owed to an act of influence, for the agent and the patient are relative one to another and co-existent. It is not a priority founded on need, since the precedence here is absolute. It is not a precedence owed to worth, for it cannot be said that God is more worthy or more noble (ashraf) than possible, since He is incomparable (although in one sense, necessary existence implies a fulness of being besides which the existence of the possible is deficient). As for anteriorities according to time or space, they have no meaning for God, because time and space are possibles which depend on an origin. God, being anterior to the totality of times, is not anterior according to time, otherwise the divine anteriority would have to enter into the ensemble of times, since it would be a time; but it would have to be exterior to it, because it would contain them all and that which contains is other than what is contained.
This would be an absurdity. Apparently al-Razi is proposing, in so far as concerns God, a sixth kind of anteriority which is not without analogies to the anteriorities of parts of time in relation to one another. However, these are not identical and that is why al-Razi, when introducing his sixth division, does not say it is, but only that it is like ... In conclusion, we know that God is First in a universal manner ('ala sabil al-idhmal), not in a detailed manner ('ala sabil al-tafsil). As for grasping the reality of this priority (awwaliyya), human intelligences have not the means, since they cannot escape temporal forms. We may note that a similar division of taqaddum is to be
found in the Maqasid al-falasifa of al-óhazali, except that the taqaddum bi 'l-hadha is called taqaddum bi 'l-tab', in a case where the antecedent is not suppressed by the suppression of the consequent, but the consequent is suppressed by the suppression of the antecedent (as with a series of numbers), and except that taqaddum bi 'l-ta'thir bears the name taqaddum bi 'l-dhat (in the relation of cause to effect).

The doctrine of the eternity of the world [see abad] was upheld in Islam only by the falasifa, directly following the systems of thought of the Greek philosophers: Plato, Aristotle, Philo of Alexandria, Proclus, and John Philoponos the Grammarian. The two Tahafut of al-Ghazali and of Ibn Rushd deal with it in a detailed fashion. The fundamental argument is that it is impossible to conceive a temporal beginning to the world, a moment of time in which it was
created, in such a way that an empty time preceded the creation. In fact, if, as Aristotle maintains, time is the numerical measurement of movement (a theory taken up by the falasifa, see haraka), movement demanding a mobile thing, moving bodies, the physical world and in particular the stars, then it is impossible for time to have existed before the existence of the world. Furthermore, if it existed, it would be eternal or created. But eternity does not conform with time that is changing and elapsing (sayalan): each of its parts is new in relation to the preceding part, and time renews itself (yatadhaddad) in every one of its instants. If time is hadith in each of its parts, it has all the more reason for being so in its totality. So it is created: but then the problem arises: is it created in time and did a time exist before time? That is absurd. This is the argument as taken on the part of the world. On the part of God, given a temporal creation, what did the Creator do before creating. Was He inactive? That is not his nature and it is written (II, t55) that 'Neither weariness nor sleep take hold of Him'. Besides, if He was first inactive, then active, a change would have taken place in Him, which is inadmissible. What would have induced Him to create at the moment when He undertook His creation? A muradhdhih, something which could have turned the scales in the sense of the act of creation? But this muradhdhih is eternal or created. If it is eternal, the world must also be eternal, unless some other thing could prevent this muradhdhih from acting; this is known as tark al-muradhdhih. This tark in its turn will be created or uncreated. If it is eternal, there must have been, for creation to have taken place, the intervention of aqtark tark al-muradhdhih, and so on. If now the muradhdhih is created, the question applies to it as to the world.

For their part, the theologians who believe in the creation of the world in time object on the grounds that if the world is eternal, it has no beginning, it has never ceased to exist and consequently it has existed for an infinite period of time. Now, according to an Aristotelian principle, it is impossible to traverse an infinite time. If there is an infinity of instants to traverse in order to arrive at the present instant that exists, it is impossible to arrive there and it does not exist. This is a contradiction. The same reasoning is made in considering the infinite chain of causes: the effect that exists at present could not possibly exist. The difficulty arises from the assimilation of eternity to an infinite time. But to say that the world is eternal is to affirm that while remaining in the interior of the world and of the time which is linked to the world, one will never find a moment which could be its first beginning. One will need to go back indefinitely, but not to infinity: in other words, we are dealing here with an indefinite, or in the language of Aristotle, with an infinity in power, not an infinity in action. In short, the objection supposes that the expression 'not having a beginning in time' means 'having a beginning in infinite time.' Besides, an infinity may be traversed if it is contained; between two points on a
line, an infinite number of points is traversed. Ibn Sina seems to have held this view with regard to the problem of the first cause, analogous to the problem of the first beginning. If one considers the ensemble (dhumla) of causes within this world, it is clear that each one of them is at once cause and effect. Therefore, one cannot insert into this ensemble a first cause which would be without cause. 'Every ensemble of which each unit is an effect caused demands a cause
exterior to these units'. In such a hypothesis of a causal chain 'every series composed of causes and effects, whether finite or infinite, shows itself, if it contains within itself only caused effects, to need a cause that is exterior to it, but is definitely in continuity with it, as with a limit (tattasilu biha tarafan)'. If the components of this ensemble are infinite, we are then dealing with a limited infinite ensemble. That is to say, that in the search for the first cause, it will be seen to stand out as a limit to the infinite which thought can never reach and towards which it strives. But its action does not need to traverse the infinite discontinuity of causes and effects in order to act hic et nunc, for, as Ibn Sina points out 'every cause of an ensemble which is not one of the units of that ensemble is in the first place cause of these units and in consequence cause of the ensemble.' Such is one of Ibn Sina's points of view on this question, according to the Isharat. Another objection to the theory of the eternity of the world is based on astronomy. We have an example of it  in the Fisal of Ibn Hazm. Having declared that to an infinite time one can add nothing, and having thus shown that the infinity of centuries to come adds nothing to the infinity of centuries passed, Ibn Hazm writes: 'In its circular orbit, Saturn makes one revolution in thirty years, and it has never ceased to turn. The greatest sphere, in these thirty years, makes approximately revolutions, and it has never ceased to turn. Now beyond any doubt revolutions is greater than one alone. Consequently, that which is infinite will be approximately times greater than that which is infinite, which is absurd.' This is a crucial variation on the same theme: the assimilation of eternity to an infinite time. The reasoning of Ibn Hazm is ingenious, but it ignores the powers of the infinite.

And what of the end of the world? Plato apart, the philosophers held the view that that which has a beginning has an end, and correspondingly that which has no beginning has no end. From a creationist perspective, one could, however, admit that God will not destroy that which He has created, in such a way that the world could have been created, but eternal a parte post. For the philosophers, the universe cannot perish, but a part of it may disappear. For the theologians who believe in the end of the world, there remain Paradise and Hell which are eternal in the sense of abadi; in fact, it is written that the Chosen and the Damned shall dwell there eternally (hum fiha khalidun, as the qur'an says in a number of places). But on the basis of the verse where God describes Himself as the Last, Jahm b. ‘afwan supposed that Paradise and Hell shall also have an end, and he found a confirmation of his theory in verses 107 and 108 of Sura XI, 'To dwell there eternally as long as the heavens and the earth remain'. Thus God will find Himself as absolutely alone in post-eternity as he was in pre-eternity.
(R. Arnaldez)

See the bibl. to abad.
Texts which should be especially consulted: Ash'ari, Maqalat al-Islamiyyin

Baqillani, K. al-Tamhid

Juwayni, K. al-Irshad

'Abd al-Jabbar, Sharh al-usul al-khamsa

Ibn Hazm, Fisal, ch. on those who say that the world is eternal

'Abd al-qahir al-Baghdadi, K. Usul al-din, 4th principle, 1st question: explanation of the number of the eternal (azaliyya) attributes. Studies and articles: M. Allard, Le probleme des attributs divins, Beirut 1965

R. Arnaldez, La pensee religieuse d'Averroes, in SI, vii (1957)

idem, Introd. to the De aeternitate mundi of Philo of Alexandria, with Fr. tr. of J. Pouilloux, Paris 1969

E. Behler, Die Ewigkeit der Welt, Munich-Paderborn-Vienna 1965.

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