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If Allah has all the power and can do anything can he create something (e.g. a rock) that he himself can't lift?

If the answer was no doesn't that mean that he is not able to do something which contradicts the view of Islam that Allah can do anything?

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Why would he do that? –  RBarryYoung Mar 20 at 23:18
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A better question: Can Allah make himself no longer all-powerful? Sure, but why would he? –  RBarryYoung Mar 20 at 23:19
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Most answers here seem to be based on personal feelings rather than actual sources. This question is not an easy one at all, it arises in all religions and philosophies dealing with beings called “omnipotent”, so it is not specific of Islam and has a long and very interesting history, but in the context of this site, it should be answered solely on Islam-specific theological grounds. –  Evpok Mar 21 at 0:24
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Downvoted a lot of answers. No question should be answered with "This is a stupid question therefore the answer is no" or "I refuse to use logic because my religion isn't logical". Come on guys, this is embarrassing. –  Muz Mar 21 at 17:23
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Isn't this a variation of the barber paradox? –  Peter Mortensen Mar 21 at 21:40

19 Answers 19

up vote 21 down vote accepted

This is a popular question put forth by Atheists who want to challenge believers. But before trying to answer the question, we should first examine its logical validity. Because only logically valid questions are qualified for answering.

Now by the very concept, we know that Allah is the greatest thing, the most powerful, the all-dominant existence; in a way that nothing can exist independent of Him or out of His reign, let alone being weightier than Him or in anyway exceeding Him. So the question is just logically absurd to begin with, because there's nothing weightier than (or in any respect exceeding) Allah that can be imagined, and thus a logically absurd concept can never be subject to the power of Allah because it just can not exist. So if a thing is impossible to exist due to a logical necessity it is completely out of question of Allah's power or capability. In short, logically we just can not even begin to answer such a question.

PS: Noteworthy, I think, the question stems from a failure in understanding the difference between logic as a normative science of knowledge and philosophy as a science of existence. Logic is to tell us how existence should be examined as it is, by setting rules for preventing false statements about the reality. So when something is logically impossible that means it essentially can not exist in the world as it is. But it doesn't necessarily indicate an incapability on the part of the subject under philosophical examination.

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The atheist position on this: The question is no more logically absurd than the concept of omnipotence. If this question is absurd, then so is the belief that there is (or can be) an omnipotent being. –  nitro2k01 Mar 21 at 3:36
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@infatuated To me it sounds like you are starting from the assumption that Allah is bound by the rules of logic, which implies that Allah exists within a framework of logic and not the other way around. –  Robert Mar 21 at 6:35
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@Robert You are right. But note that Allah only when examined by our mind as a concept (just like every other concept) is (and in fact must be) bound by the rules of logic, whereas, in reality, Allah is not bound by anything whatsoever. In fact, it is Him who encompasses everything. We should always bear in mind that in every philosophical discussion it is crucial to distinguish between the concept of things and their external existence. The confusion of the two is the cause of a great deal of theoretical gridlocks and errors. –  infatuated Mar 21 at 12:39
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An alternate atheist position on this: The question doesn't come from someone interested in theological debate, it comes from a troll. (A troll born in the 12th century, no less.) The Omnipotence paradox is as meaningful as "This statement is false." Congrats, you've discovered the concept of logical paradox. Go get yourself a cookie. –  Brian S Mar 21 at 21:06
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I disagree that this is a popular "atheist" question. In all honesty atheists are for most part not interested in your religion (or any religion!) –  Sklivvz Mar 22 at 22:30

Yes of course he can. He can still lift that 'unliftable' rock though, because nothing can limit His ability.

This may be a nonsensical answer, but I would contend it was a nonsense question.

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clearly then he is limited in not being able to create the critically heavy rock –  Alexander Giles Mar 21 at 14:44
    
@AlexanderGiles but He can create it. And he can lift it. I'm highlighting that the question is flawed. –  Pureferret Mar 21 at 14:56
    
so you're basically saying He can perform impossible tasks... –  Alexander Giles Mar 21 at 14:59
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Except for Him, there are no impossible tasks. –  Pureferret Mar 21 at 15:02
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@Pureferret Right. Can God create a paradox? Yes. –  Mr Lister Mar 22 at 16:05

A man asked this question from Imam Ali a.s. and he answered:

قَالَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ تَبَارَکَ وَ تَعَالَی لَا یُنْسَبُ إِلَی الْعَجْزِ وَ الَّذِی سَأَلْتَنِی لَا یَکُونُ (توحید صدوق باب 9 حدیث 9)

Indeed God almighty is not attributed to disability but what you asked can not be. (does not have the possibility of existance)

Reference of hadith: The hadith book: Tawhid Sadouq, part 9, hadith no. 9

Another similar hadith from Imam Sadiq a.s. says God can created everything, but what you asked is not a thing.

Reference:

www.hawzah.net/fa/question/questionview/10901?ParentID=54688

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The question is irrelevant as Allah subhana Wa Ta'ala is not attributed with lifting, this is an attribute of the creation not the Creator subhana wa Ta'ala. And Allah subhana wa Ta'ala is not similar to the Creation ("Nothing is similar to him" - Surah Shura, Ayah 11).

Logically limbs indicate there is mass and mass means there is a limit and limits are attributes of imperfection and Allah subhana wa Ta'ala is attributed with Perfection, superiority and uniqueness.

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Islam's concept of omnipotence is not "infinite power". Look at the 99 Names of Allah for what Islam and the Quran claim that Allah is able to do. These claims are very specific, and the "omnipotence paradox" which can be used for some religions don't apply here.

I'll need someone who's a native Arabic speaker to back me on this, but if you look at translations, they don't claim Allah to be 'infinitely powerful'. For example, الرحمن is translated to "Most Merciful", "The Merciful", or "Exceedingly Merciful" but not "Infinitely Merciful".

Allah is not infinitely powerful. For example, Moses has requested to see Allah, and this was just not possible despite it being Allah's wish.

And when Moses arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, "My Lord, show me [Yourself] that I may look at You." [ Allah ] said, "You will not see Me, but look at the mountain; if it should remain in place, then you will see Me." But when his Lord appeared to the mountain, He rendered it level, and Moses fell unconscious. And when he awoke, he said, "Exalted are You! I have repented to You, and I am the first of the believers." (Al-'Ar'af 7:143)

Throughout the Quran, Allah also uses the words "We", possibly giving credit to the angels as well. I brought up the previously mentioned verse because it's a rare case where Allah addresses himself as "I".

So, I'd say "we don't know". There has not been any verses in which Allah has attempted to do so and succeeded or failed, so the answer is inconclusive.

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just one point: the 'we' in quran doesn't actualy give credits to angels, It shows the greatness of god –  user4456 Mar 21 at 18:22
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For reference: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_we#Non-Western_usage –  cHao Mar 22 at 0:33
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@infatuated Could you please specify some of the numerous verses you mentioned? –  Robert Mar 22 at 22:41
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@Robert a few examples, though the translation varries from "Allah (He) is able do to all things" to "- has power over everything." tanzil.net/#trans/en.pickthall/2:20 tanzil.net/#trans/en.pickthall/2:106 tanzil.net/#trans/en.pickthall/67:1 tanzil.net/#trans/en.pickthall/11:4 –  infatuated Mar 23 at 5:22
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First and last aren't necessarily infinity. As it seems to be, Allah is more powerful than all of His creations, but there's nothing specific saying that Allah is more powerful than everything including himself. Infinite creates an infinite loop. @infatuated quotes some good verses, which I can't refute unless it's something lost in translation. –  Muz Mar 24 at 15:05

This question which you're asking, has been used a number times by atheist not only against Muslims but theists in general, and sometimes you might even find a Christian using this question to backup his point that Allah has a son. But really it is nothing but a trick question, whether you say yes or no it only supports the asker. It also proves lack of knowledge or misunderstanding of who Allah is, and that He is the most majestic and powerful. So my advice is: don't get your head too wrapped around it, and don't put too much effort in answering it, as whatever you say is most likely not in your favor.

As for there is a contradiction in saying no, that would only exist because of lack of clarity or misunderstanding of "Allah can do anything" in Islam. Allah is all powerful and is able to do what He wishes, and anything He creates is nothing but a sign of His power, but what Allah does or creates is based on His majesty, so to be more accurate Allah does what He wishes and is able to create something by just saying Be, and whatever He does is befitting His majesty. I pray my answer is clear, and I ask forgiveness of any mistake.

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Here's an important distinction: Allah can possibly do Anything; he cannot simultaneously do everything. For example, he cannot both go on existing forever and cease existing forever. However, he is omnipotent, so he must have the ability to cease existing forever. Similarly, he cannot simultaneously vaporize your computer and not vaporize it. Likewise, he cannot be simultaneously omnipotent and not omnipotent; however by virtue of his omnipotence he can become non-omnipotent. So yes, he can create a rock he cannot lift; however, by doing so he would become non-omnipotent - but only in so far as he is unable to lift the rock he created. (Of course, he could obliterate the rock and go back to being perfectly omnipotent at anytime - unless he chose to make that impossible for himself as well.)

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"He can do this", "he can't do that" etc. I think we often confuse what really the verbs "can" or "can not" denote as when they imply an actual (in)capability and when they denote a logical (im)possibility. A logical impossibility doesn't suggest an actual incapability. –  infatuated Mar 21 at 4:04
    
Do you have a reference for your statement that Allah cannot simultaneously do everything? How do you know this? –  Robert Mar 21 at 5:56
    
I think that quantum superpositions resolving to alternate timelines is surely not impossible with omnipotence. –  Cees Timmerman Mar 21 at 11:43
    
@CeesTimmerman Sure, but then you just have to change the example to include all timelines –  Hal Mar 21 at 12:06
    
@Robert Ask yourself, can it be possible for Allah to make it so he can't do something. Necessarily yes, since then he would not be omnipotent. Then you may counter - 'but maybe he can make it so he can do it and not do it'. Then you could also recounter, 'but to be omnipotent, he would also have to be able to make it so he can not both do it and not do it. –  Hal Mar 21 at 12:15

This is a trick question that tries to prove a point that God is really not that powerful and that there are certain things that he can't really do. It really is a pun question to trick your mind, probably for fun or joke or may be some seriousness :)

Let me ask you this: Can you build such a tall budding that even you can't climb? Obviously if you build such a tall budding, you must have already climbed it.

Similarly if God created such a big rock, he has already lifted it and placed it on Earth. So the question is really redundant. It is asking God if he really can do something that he has already done?

This question was asked with a rock on Earth. One can image, the Earth itself is kind of a rock too and it obeys what God says. So of course, God can create a rock that only he can lift!

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Lifting involves applying force greater than gravity to an item in the opposite direction of gravity.

To be able to lift something, you need to overcome gravity.

The lifting action doesn't apply to Allah (c.c) in it's literal sense, because Allah (c.c) doesn't need to overcome gravity, because, Allah decides how physics works. The notion of existence of a rock, which Allah (c.c) can't lift, requires physics, outside of Allah's (c.c) control. This idea doesn't apply to God. Therefore, the question is contradictory in itself.

This question is similar to the question "Can God create triangle with 4 sides?" which cannot be meaningfully answered, because the question involves contradiction in itself.

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If Allah has created a rock that He can't lift.

If such a rock exists, then by definition, the universe is a place where that rock cannot be lifted.

If the rock can be lifted, then by definition, the universe is a place where the rock can be lifted.

You can't have one universe with two differing definitions, again, by definition.

(Oh, certainly, especially Everett's interpretation of quantum physics does allow multiple universes, but that's a step I don't want to take here!)

This definition was first answered, I think, by Isaac Asimov, explaining the "unstoppable force meets immovable object" problem to his girlfriend. That's where I recall it from.

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Yes.

Because Allah can do what he wants. So if Allah decides this rock cannot be lifted by Allah, so it is.

Note that there is nothing stopping him from deciding later than he, in fact, can lift the rock. Why? Because Allah can do what he wants. So it's like Allah playing mind-games with himself.

This is a game of logic where a player can alter the rules. There is no contradiction in the question, at least none that I can see.

Now let's assume he can't change the rock's properties once created (which in turn re-iterates the question, but let's pretend). Can Allah move an "immovable object", without giving himself the power to do so? The answer is yes again.

To move something is to alter its distance from something else, ie. a point of reference. For Allah to move the rock, he must move everything else. The rock's true point of reference is the same, the Universe's point of reference is not.

It's the same as drawing a dot on a piece of paper on your desk, and wanting to move the dot further from your lamp. You can't move the dot, so you move the paper.

You might say that's not a good answer because the rock is still in the same place relative to its true point of reference, no matter what happens to the universe around it. And suddenly we aren't dealing with the omnipotence paradox, but with this question:

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

which is a different paradox alltogether, and is nicely explained in this video by MinutePhysics.


Evpok suggests that answers should come from an Islam-theistic point of view. This is very difficult as yours is a logical question requiring a logical answer in a theistic setting. The two don't really play well together.

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I've always heard it expressed as an irresistable force, which makes more sense and disallows the cheating they did in that cute video. –  Robert Mar 21 at 16:51

Simple answer. Don't imagine Allah like a human or any other creature like animals/plants or any other physical thing. We have never seen Him, he exists from infinity and will exist forever. We can't even imagine what 'forever' is. If your thoughts or vision makes you compare any physical property with Allah then it is satan. Just keep in mind His existence is beyond our imagination.

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Leave alone a rock Allah has the power to make even small feather heavy so heavy that nothing in the entire universe can move it, but Allah will always be able to pick it up as he has the power to do anything. According to the Holy Qur'an surah 36 Yasiin everything is easy for Allah just saying "kun fayakun" it will occur in line with Allah's wish including a heavy rock.

Allah has the power to do things beyond your imagination.

I had heard this question from my RE teacher at school but this questions is there only to confuse you as it is contradictory and therefore not valid.

You have to remember that Allah does not resemble his creation and is never subject to the Laws of the Creation because He is both the Creator and the Law Giver.

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The first thing to consider about this question is :

How do you define lifting a rock?

In a world where relativity rules I could just stand on my arms and pretend lifting the earth, which is true, from a physical point of view. Now if by lifting you mean producing enough kinetic energy to increase or decrease the speed of such a rock(or deviate the earth from its orbit for example) then it makes more sense.

Let's suppose God wanted to create something really big. He was so busy doing it that he didn't consider his own rule that says he can do everything (including lifting everything). So know God is facing a giant rock he can't move anymore, but he wants to get rid of it. So What to do?

Well now God can do everything except moving that rock away. Easy. God decides to change the physical rules of the universe (he still can do that) to make such a giant rock similar to a small rock under the current physical laws. Then just move it. So no matter what he does, he will be able overcome it.

You can consider this from a mathematical point of view. The thing that we call infinity. It's such a nice philosophical term. In an infinite group (lets say real numbers), no matter how big you are, there is still an infinity of numbers bigger than you. So if we suppose God is BIG or has a BIG power (not infinite yet), and he create a rock impossible to move with his current power (so bigger than God), then God has the ability to make himself slightly bigger than this rock (the rock doesn't have this ability, its a statistical product from God). God now is bigger than the rock and can construct another rock bigger and bigger. Every time, he makes himself bigger than the last rock he builds. Doing this in an infinite loop logically leads us to God being infinite. This is based on the Mathematical induction method to demonstrate some theories.

That's how I consider this problem. It might not be directly related to Islam but I think it is worth sharing.

I hope some of you share my point of view

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It's like asking a question:

  • Can you draw a circle with two sides?
  • If you draw then that'a not a circle and if you cannot then you cannot draw a circle ha ha.

The Question is Logically incorrect and put forth because we don't often understand who GOD is basically?

  • We humans, understand everything with a reference point, it can be a image, a word, a feeling or anything which can either be sensed through senses or through senses.
  • For example- if i write that you all definitely have eaten 'swarangasklhhieydb' once in your life.
  • We stop at that word and think what is that? We Google it, we search it in our memories, we search it in different languages but 'NO RESULT FOUND' and we don't understand that thing.
  • So humans cannot perceive something which never came through their senses or neither in their ideas.
  • In that case we need to explain those things by COMPARISON.
  • Like if you have never eaten meat in your life and you ask your friend How it tastes, he will never be able to explain the exact taste? At last what he can do us to compare two things from which you have eaten and then say it tastes like that. But their is a huge huge difference.
  • The Only way you can know it by tasting it.

So ABOUT GOD, IT IS THE SAME-

  • He is known through his properties, reason, logic.

  • Say, "He is Allah , [who is] One,
    Allah , the SAMAD.
    He neither begets nor is born,
    Nor is there to Him any equivalent.
    "

  • As we see that everyone in this world is born same which means The GOD is one not more than that.

  • He is SAMAD. SAMAD is often translated differently but SAMAD means one who is not dependent.
  • Everything in the universe is dependent on something. Like humans are dependent on food to live, air to breathe and thousands more. Plants in turn dependent on Sun to grow. Sun itself if does not obey gravity will fall apart from orbit.
  • So everything from A-Z is dependent on something.

  • BUT ALLAH IS SAMAD, WHO IS INDEPENDENT. HE CREATED THESE THINGS WITH SUCH A PERFECTION AND INTELLIGENCE THAT IS JUST AWESOME AND THANKS TO INTELLECT HE HAD GIVEN US TO THINK. HE DOES NOT GET HUNGRY, HE DOES NOT NEEDS AIR, HE DOES NOT SLEEP AS WE THINK OF HUMANS.

  • When we try to bound him with our perception which we think then the problem arises, because he is not what you imagine.

  • Humans needs to eat, sleep, reproduce and do everything but he does not need all these things.

  • He neither gives birth nor he is born.
  • And the last line says 'Nor is there to Him any equivalent', which means that he is not what you think he is.

Humans till now only knows about Matter and Energy and he can perceive only these two things through his senses not any other things. And both Matter and Energy is bound in Time and Space. BUT ALLAH DOES NOT HAVE ANY BOUNDATION, HE IS NOT BOUND IN SPACE AND TIME.

  • And the most important thing is he is neither 'HE' nor 'SHE'. These are the limitations of the language. He is neither a male nor a female.

That's why the scriptures always point towards his powers and attributes.

  • Vedas says: 'Na tasya pratima asti, tasya naamah mahadhashah', meaning their is no sculpture of the GOD ALMIGHTY, The MOST POWERFUL. Remembering him by his name gives you eternal peace.
  • Vedas says: 'Ekam Brahma, dwitiya naasti nehna naasti kinchan' meaning THE CREATOR IS ONE NOT TWO NOT EVEN IN A BIT.
  • That's what Quran says-
  • Say, "He is Allah , [who is] One,
    Allah , the SAMAD.
    He neither begets nor is born,
    Nor is there to Him any equivalent."
  • And the New Testament says: 'Say their is no GOD but ONE'.

  • These were the difference of languages not Religions, people made them different. When GOD IS ONE HOW COULD RELIGION BE TWO.

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Just picture yourself as being powerful, rich and able to do anything that s possible. Would you make yourself less powerful or create something that will endanger your life. I hope you won t! If you do then you are being a fool! In other words Allah is not a fool, only humans are!

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I understand your point, thanks for the answer. But the question is about 'can he'. In the example you made, the rich can make himself poor (even that he won't). –  user4456 Mar 21 at 14:20
    
What I m trying to say is: Yes Allah can do everything, but He, just like humans also have to do, is asking what is the purpose of doing certain kind of things. –  Yahya777 Mar 21 at 14:35

Well before I answer your question you have to know the definition Of the Creator. and the best definition is mentioned in the Qur'an:

Verse 112:1-4 :

  • Say, "He is Allah , [who is] One,
  • Allah , the Eternal Refuge.
  • He neither begets nor is born,
  • Nor is there to Him any equivalent."

The point is Allah can't be compared to anything in His Creation. If you are asking if Allah can made a rock that He can't lift then you have broken the definition of Allah, which means your question is illogical and wrong.

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This is certainly informative to an areligious lad like me but I don't see how it answers the question. Do you mean to say Don't ask stupid / confusing stuff because Allah will be mad at you? –  rath Mar 21 at 0:43
    
maybe my answer is too harsh, but don't miss understand, you can ask the question whatever you want. The Verse 48: 6-7 is a warning to the people who thinking EVIL. well maybe this is going to make new discussion about the tafseer of the quran regarding Surah Al-Fath 48: 6-7.In my answer I'm just trying a warn him, because in my experience an Atheist is the people who always ask and ask again even the the question has been answered.In my onpinion an atheist is a good one because they're thinking and try t find truth. but they will be bad people if they reject the Truth of The Quran. –  user2652524 Mar 21 at 1:08
    
No I'm not an athiest, can't a muslim ask such a question (out of curiousity of course) –  user4456 Mar 21 at 5:43
    
Yes ofcourse, me as a Muslim sometimes ask a question for example like the question above.because that's nature of Human being. and You have to know that There is no Stupid Question. and also what's wrong if you're asking a wrong / stupid question. as long as you get the answer. –  user2652524 Mar 21 at 6:14

Assalamualaikum, for the real answer, who ALLAH is, read this Sura, Surat Al-'Ikhlāş (The Sincerity):

Say, "He is Allah , [who is] One, Allah , the Eternal Refuge. He neither begets nor is born, Nor is there to Him any equivalent."

Meaning:

(1) Say, "He is Allah , [who is] One,

(2) Allah , the Eternal Refuge.

(3) He neither begets nor is born,

(4) Nor is there to Him any equivalent."

-translation: Sahih International

And of course ALLAH can create anything with any power. But as ALLAH is its Creator, ALLAH can destroy it too. If you want more precision, here is the ayat of (Sura Ya-seen, 36: verse: 82):

His command is only when He intends a thing that He says to it, "Be," and it is.

Meaning: His command is only when He intends a thing that He says to it, "Be," and it is.

So, ALLAH can do anything by just HIS exalted wish.

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Allah the Almighty should not be compared with any other thing/being which are limited and dependant. If He creates a rock and He cannot lift it then you can say he has limitations like Human Being. If He has limitation or He is dependant He cannot be God. The question arising here is from a man who is by nature limited and dependant cannot comprehend God's Almighty. (full stop)

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