AKĀL MŪRATI, a composite term comprising akāl (non-temporal) and mūrati (image or form), occuring in the Mūl-Mantra, the root formula or fundamental creed of the Sikh faith as recorded at the beginning of the Japu, composition with which the Gurū Granth Sāhib opens, literally means 'timeless image'. Elsewhere, in the compositions of Gurū Rām Dās (GG, 78), and Gurū Arjan (GG, 99, 609, 916 and 1082), the expression Akāl Mūrati reinforces the original meaning of Divine Reality that is beyond the process of time, and yet permeates the cosmic forms. The non-temporal Being transcends the space-time framework and, as such, is Formless. However, in its manifest aspect, the same Being assumes the cosmic Form. The Sikh vision of God combines the Formless and its expression in natural forms, the transcendent and the immanent, the essence (spirit) and existence (creation).
The expression 'Akāl Mūrati' lends itself to interpretation in two ways. The exegetes, who treat it as one term, take akāl in the adjectival form that qualifies the substantive mūrati, the whole expression implying Everlasting Form equivalent to the Supreme Being. Those approaching the pair akāl and mūrati severally, treat both the units independently, each expressing an attribute of the Divine Reality, believed to transcend time and space, yet manifest in spacio-temporal forms. But, despite the divergence of approach, both interpretations agree in substance, i. e. the featureless eternal Reality assumes features and modes of empirical existence. To put it differently, Akāl Mūrati presents a synthesis of nirguṇ and saguṇ facets of the Absolute-God of Gurū Nānak's vision. It however does not embrace the notion of incarnation. Non-incarnation is a basic theological postulate of Sikhism.