What is the meaning of “without a beginning” (al-Awwal) and “eternal” (al-Qadim)?
The meaning of “without a beginning” (al-‘Awwal), is the One Who does not have a beginning to His Existence. Allah is the only one Who is eternal in this context. Allah said in Surat al-Hadid verse #3:
﴿هُوَ اْلأَوَّلُ وَاْلآخِرُ﴾ سورة الحديد
The verse means: [Allah is the One Who does not have a beginning and does not have an end to His Existence.]
The Eternal “al-Qadim” has the same meaning as “al-‘Awwal” when referring to Allah. The nation unanimously agreed on the validity of attributing the name “al-Qadim” to Allah. Az-Zabidiyy narrated this agreement in his book ‘Sharh Ihya’ ^Ulum id-Din’.