Knowing Allah through His beautiful names 11: Al Hakam and Al Adl
Bringing Allah’s names into our lives
Anything related to Allah Almighty is beautiful. When talking about His attributes and His names, we should reflect on how we can live by His names, and activate His names in our lives. Bringing Allah’s names into our lives is transformative. It gives us a new dimension to our life – a life with Allah Almighty. Though we are living in the dunya, there is a big difference between living in the dunya disconnected from Allah Almighty and living in the dunya connected to Allah Almighty. We all experience fluctuations in life, in our practice of Islam. Ups and downs and challenges are the nature of life, and Allah Almighty stated in Surat al Mulk in the Quran, that He created life to test who amongst us is best in his conduct.
ٱلَّذِى خَلَقَ ٱلْمَوْتَ وَٱلْحَيَوٰةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًۭا ۚ وَهُوَ ٱلْعَزِيزُ ٱلْغَفُورُ ٢
˹He is the One˺ Who created death and life in order to test which of you is best in deeds. And He is the Almighty, All-Forgiving. [67:2]
Imam Ghazali’s book Al Maqsid Al Asma is a difficult book, but I have summarised what is easy to understand and apply from the book and left the rest. Otherwise it is too hard for beginners to understand.
Why do we need a judge?
One of Allah’s names is Al Hakam and the second is Al Adl. Al Hakam is the Arbitrator, the Judge. For instance, when you have a competition, you need a judge to establish who is the winner. When you have a case that needs resolving, you need a judge to arbitrate between the two different parties, and their two different opinions. Allah Almighty is Al Hakam.
The one whose ruling cannot be overturned
Al Hakam is the One whose ruling no one can overturn. This is an important point because in the dunya, we can sometimes overturn the ruling of a judge for instance by going to a higher court, like the Supreme Court. Whereas no one can correct the decree of Al Hakam, because He is perfect. His judgement is final and His ruling is beyond reproach. This is what Ghazali will take us through and try to explain the ultimately incomprehensible attributes of Allah Almighty to us with our limited understanding. Though we cannot comprehend His attributes in their entirety, we can try to understand as much as our intellect is able to.
Justice is receiving reward or punishment linked to your own deeds
Allah Almighty is Al Hakam, the Judge, the Arbitrator, with His wisdom, has stated and decreed that you will get the reward of your actions and what you strived for, you will be rewarded for. Indeed as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, ‘When the son of Adam dies, his deeds will cease except three things, and he (peace be upon him) mentioned among these three things, if he left good knowledge, or righteous children or sadaqah jaariyah’. These things will continue to bring reward to his account in the akhirah. Therefore, you continue to reap the fruit of what you planted in the dunya even once you have left the dunya. Those who initiated evil and sins and spread it and will get incur the sins that they encouraged others to do.
Jarir ibn ‘Abdillah Al Bajali (radiyallahu ‘anhu) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
‘Whoever starts a good thing and is followed by others, will have his own reward and a reward equal to that of those who follow him, without it detracting from their reward in any way. Whoever starts a bad thing and is followed by others, will bear the burden of his own sin and a burden equal to that of those who follow him, without it detracting from their burden in any way.” [Muslim]
Of course, tawfeeq (inspiration) is from Allah Almighty. Conversely you are punished for your sins, but not the sins of someone else which you had nothing to do with. No one can dump their sins on you or ask you to carry the weight of their sins, as Christianity states that Jesus was sacrificed for the sins of others. In the dunya we do see miscarriages of justice, where the wrong person can be jailed for even decades for a crime they never committed. In the Hereafter, you only get what you deserve, goodness or punishment.
Allah Almighty has decreed that the righteous will receive a good ending – bliss in Paradise. And wrongdoers will receive punishment and Hellfire out of His wisdom, this is why we bring these two names Al Hakm and Al Adl, because He is All Wise and All Just.
Delivering justice requires wisdom
A good judge is a wise judge as he has to have wisdom to apply the law. To deliver justice, it’s not just the letter of the law that matters, but the spirit of the law which has to be applied. This comes from the wisdom, the experience, and understanding of the judge. This is why we see that though the law is the same, different judges arrive at different judgements.
Sometimes when you read a judge’s verdicts you are shocked. It can be that the unfair verdict was the result of political bias, influence or pressure. This is not the case with Allah Almighty. His judgment is not clouded, biased or corrupted because He is the All Just.
Justice is linked to free will
There are means that lead to goodness and means that lead to wrongdoing. Anyone who is involved with these to whatever degree, will get the reward or punishment accordingly. As Allah Almighty made medicine a means of providing cure, He also made means for evil. Moreover He sent messengers and prophets to provide guidance to people what choices they should make to have safety. And He left mankind with the choices. Whoever follows their guidance will earn reward, whoever ignore it, will deserve punishment. He equipped us with intellect and information. He gave us the map to navigate our way, which are the Books He sent down: the Quran, Taurat, Injeel and so on. Based on our choices, we will be judged on the Day of Judgement.
Reward and punishment are based on your choices and efforts
Free will is essential, as there would be no justice if one acted without free will. On the Day of Judgement, those who committed sins will blame Shaytan for leading them astray, but Shaytan will absolve himself, saying he did not make them sin, they made their own decisions:
﴿وَقَالَ الشَّيْطَانُ لَمَّا قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَعَدَكُمْ وَعْدَ الْحَقِّ وَوَعَدتُّكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُكُمْ ۖ وَمَا كَانَ لِيَ عَلَيْكُم مِّن سُلْطَانٍ إِلَّا أَن دَعَوْتُكُمْ فَاسْتَجَبْتُمْ لِي ۖ فَلَا تَلُومُونِي وَلُومُوا أَنفُسَكُم ۖ مَّا أَنَا بِمُصْرِخِكُمْ وَمَا أَنتُم بِمُصْرِخِيَّ ۖ إِنِّي كَفَرْتُ بِمَا أَشْرَكْتُمُونِ مِن قَبْلُ ۗ إِنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ﴾
And Satan will say when the matter has been concluded, “Indeed, Allah had promised you the promise of truth. And I promised you, but I betrayed you. But I had no authority over you except that I invited you, and you responded to me. So do not blame me; but blame yourselves. I cannot be called to your aid, nor can you be called to my aid. Indeed, I deny your association of me [with Allah] before. Indeed, for the wrongdoers is a painful punishment.” [14:22]
Ghazali explained beautifully here that the one who has been destined to be granted happiness in the akhirah, trod the path of Jannah. Entry to Jannah is related to our effort. It is not granted for no effort or reason. And vice versa being sent to hellfire is not arbitrary. It is the result of being engaged in evil. Allah Almighty’s judgment is based on the choices and actions and path that one takes. People of obedience will find Jannah is their final destination. People of disbelief, evil, and disobedience will find their final destination is Jahannam. This is why Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said in the hadith we previously quoted, ‘amalu’ – do the right thing. Be active. Don’t be idle. Shaytan will prey on the idle. If you are doing nothing, Shaytan will occupy you. So occupy your time with goodness otherwise Shaytan will occupy you.
Destiny – a misunderstood concept
Al Ghazali mentioned ‘Al qadaa’ wal qadar’, divine will and destiny is deeply connected to the attribute of Al Hakam, because judgement is final. Is someone guilty or not guilty? Allah Almighty will give the final verdict. People will be rewarded or punished, based on the mechanism and trial Allah Almighty put in place.
Allah Almighty created and arranged everything in this universe and its entire design is based on His wisdom. Destiny is a topic that is widely misunderstood. And if we misunderstand it, it can ruin our life and our relationship with Allah Almighty. Everything we see in this universe is under divine control and is part of Allah Almighty’s plan, which incorporates reasons and causes and choices.
Allah Almighty is the Just and Wise Judge. And we don’t know what He has destined. One person might say Allah Almighty did not destine for me to be very bright, so I can’t achieve anything in life and he sits and does nothing that is his destiny. However if the same person decides he will try his best and improve himself and becomes successful that is his destiny. Destiny is what you choose with your choices. Don’t predict the end result. You can be optimistic and say Allah Almighty has destined for me to be among the people of Jannah and I’ll work hard to achieve this. When the companions asked Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) why they should make any effort if everything had already been written. They said ‘What’s the point Ya Rasoolallah if everything has been destined, everything has been written, the pen already stopped writing and the papers are dry.’ So the ink is dry and the pen has been lifted. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shifted their focus, saying words to the effect that ‘This is something you have no control over, you don’t know what has been written. Don’t focus on this because you won’t be able to know it. But you should shift your attention to something that you can make a difference, you can have control over, you can make a difference, which is your reality.’
Focus on what you can control
Sometimes we focus our attention on something over which we have no control or influence. We waste our time, effort and emotions on what we can’t change. Whereas if we were to focus our attention on the things we can change, and the area over which we have control, we would achieve a lot. And this is exactly what we have to do. So when they asked Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) what’s the point, he (peace be upon him) said ‘do the right thing, everyone’s path has been eased for what has been destined for him’. Because you don’t know what your destiny is, do the right thing and Allah Almighty will ease your way. Sitting idle and blaming destiny is not an option in life. This is not the Islamic way.
حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى بْنُ يَحْيَى، أَخْبَرَنَا حَمَّادُ بْنُ زَيْدٍ، عَنْ يَزِيدَ الضُّبَعِيِّ، حَدَّثَنَا مُطَرِّفٌ، عَنْ عِمْرَانَ بْنِ حُصَيْنٍ، قَالَ قِيلَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ أَعُلِمَ أَهْلُ الْجَنَّةِ مِنْ أَهْلِ النَّارِ قَالَ فَقَالَ ” نَعَمْ ” . قَالَ قِيلَ فَفِيمَ يَعْمَلُ الْعَامِلُونَ قَالَ ” كُلٌّ مُيَسَّرٌ لِمَا خُلِقَ لَهُ ” .
‘Imran bin Husain reported that it was said to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him): Has there been drawn a distinction between the people of Paradise and the denizens of hell? He said: Yes. It was again said: (If it is so), then What is the use of doing good deeds? Thereupon he said: Everyone is facilitated in what has been created for him. [Muslim]
The Islamic way is to do the right thing and follow the commands of Allah Almighty and His Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and then you can achieve a lot with His support. Don’t let the Shaytan control your decisions. This is the recommendation of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the answer to His Companions when they asked him (peace be upon him) what was the point when everything is destined, and Allah Almighty has already given the final verdict for every single person. Allah Almighty’s knowledge is not like ours. He doesn’t need us to finish the exam to tell us what we will write. He knew already before He created us, what we would achieve and where we would fail.
Action is the execution of belief
Ghazali gives the example of a man who wants to be a great scholar and asks what he needs to do. When he is told he has to work hard, study, attend circles, ask questions, read and research, he thinks that is too hard, and if Allah Almighty destined for him to be a scholar then he will, but he does nothing. Such a man is silly. He cannot become a scholar by doing nothing. You can’t say if Allah destined for me to be a scholar I will be one and expect you will get that position without any work. Allah Almighty paired belief with action repeatedly in the Quran. In at least 53 places, He refers to ‘innallatheena ‘amalu wa ‘amilus salihaat’ ‘those who believe and do good deeds’. Imaan is linked with action. They are inseparable twins.
No one said that the journey of a scholar is an easy journey. Nor is that of a successful businessman who is earning halal and doing well in life. You have to put in effort and sleepless nights, learn your subject, and have good relations with people, establish a good network. Scholars have to study, travel and sit with the senior scholars, so they can learn from them.
Four levels of accepting destiny
There are four different levels of spiritual awareness and focus that individuals may attain, as described by Al Ghazali and Imam Qushayri. These categories highlight how people relate to their destiny, their actions, and their connection with Allah Almighty:
1. Al Khatima (The End): This is the first category, where individuals are primarily concerned with the outcome of their lives in the hereafter. They are preoccupied with whether their ultimate fate will be good or bad. In other words, they are focused on the consequences of their actions and deeds in the afterlife.
2. As-Saabiqah (The Foreordained): The second category consists of those who focus on what Allah Almighty has predestined for them even before their creation. According to the hadith, before a person is born, an angel records their provisions (rizq), lifespan (ajl), actions (aml), and whether they will be among the happy (sa’eed) or the unhappy (shaqi) in the afterlife. People in this category are deeply aware of and accepting of Allah’s divine decree.
3. Living in the Moment: The third category of individuals does not fixate on either the beginning (predestination) or the end (afterlife consequences). Instead, they live in the present moment and accept whatever comes their way as part of Allah’s divine plan. They are content with Allah’s decree as it unfolds in their lives.
4. Highest Level – Total Devotion: The fourth category represents the highest level of spiritual awareness. These individuals are not concerned with their destiny, the end result, or even the present moment. Their primary focus is on their connection with Allah Almighty. They are deeply immersed in their relationship with the divine, and their devotion to Allah is paramount. Time and worldly concerns become insignificant in comparison to their spiritual connection with Allah.
This highest level reflects a state of total submission and devotion to Allah, where the individual’s entire existence is centred on their spiritual relationship with the divine. It is considered the pinnacle of spiritual growth. For us it is like looking at the stars.
Do not judge Allah’s justice
The All Just is the One from whom ‘just’ action emanates, which is the opposite of injustice and oppression. One cannot know the one who is just, without knowing his justice. How do we understand the justice of Allah Almighty? Ghazali said you cannot know Allah’s justice without knowing His actions. We have to comprehend the actions of Allah Almighty, from the Kingdom of the Heavens to the ends of the Earth to understand His justice. Yet we cannot do this. Therefore, we are not in a position to be critical or question Allah’s justice when we don’t understand it. When there is a natural disaster or war, you cannot pick and choose it and demand ‘Where is the justice of Allah Almighty?’ The reality is that we cannot dream of comprehending Allah Almighty’s actions in His Kingdom from the Heavens to the end of the Earth when we are still exploring space, the Earth, the oceans and our own selves. We are still discovering how our cells function, no matter how much we know, we still keep discovering more details that we did not know.
Ghazali quotes an ayah from Surat al Mulk in the Quran which says
ٱلَّذِى خَلَقَ سَبْعَ سَمَـٰوَٰتٍۢ طِبَاقًۭا ۖ مَّا تَرَىٰ فِى خَلْقِ ٱلرَّحْمَـٰنِ مِن تَفَـٰوُتٍۢ ۖ فَٱرْجِعِ ٱلْبَصَرَ هَلْ تَرَىٰ مِن فُطُورٍۢ ٣
˹He is the One˺ Who created seven heavens, one above the other. You will never see any imperfection in the creation of the Most Compassionate. So look again: do you see any flaws? [67:3]
When we look at the sky we do not see any defects, any imperfection. The creation of Allah Almighty is perfect. Allah created the universe with various forms of beings. These beings can are physical and spiritual entities as Allah’s creation encompasses both the material world (the physical) and the spiritual realm. The physical includes everything tangible and observable, while the spiritual encompasses matters related to the soul and metaphysical aspects of existence.
Some aspects of creation are believed to be perfect, while others may exhibit imperfections or limitations. Everything in the universe has a purpose and place in the divine plan.
You cannot judge Allah’s justice without seeing the whole picture
Often we judge what we see around us from our limited perspective and we cannot make sense of it or comprehend Allah’s wisdom. This is why we have to look at things from a different angle, through different lenses. If something has been destined by Allah Almighty, it must be full of wisdom even if we didn’t comprehend it. Though we cannot understand the depth and all the details of the wisdom behind it, we can see part of it.
When we look at Allah Almighty’s actions we must be careful not to say it is unjust. Nor should we complain about destiny. Accept destiny while always trying to improve your situation. For instance if there is a flood, do not complain about Allah Almighty will, but be active in tackling it. You shouldn’t say ‘How could He do this to us?!’ Complaining about Allah Almighty’s actions is not allowed. So whether the destiny is in line with what pleases you or not, do not complain.
Justice is putting things in their rightful place
Putting things in their rightful place is another definition of justice. Allah Almighty did allocate a very specific location for the sun. If it was a bit closer we would not be able to exist. If it was a bit further, it would have been too cold. Ghazali gave many examples of the Justice of Allah Almighty and His wisdom. He gave the example of the body and how Allah Almighty created the body and put everything in the right place. Imagine if your eyes were on your feet, or your hands were on your hips, or your bones outside your skin? Allah put things in the right place in the right form in the right shape. And similarly the cycle of the day and night, the seasons, the planets in their orbits and the galaxies. Allah Almighty has managed everything with His ultimate wisdom, with His justice.
Allah Almighty positioned everything in its right format, in the right way, in the right positions. In order to judge if this is fair or not, you need to understand the full system. You can’t just take one piece of the jigsaw from the puzzle and pronounce judgement based on it. It is one piece of a giant, complex and multidimensional, jigsaw with moving parts and cogs. Each one impacting another.
How to show justice
How do we reflect Allah’s name Al Hakam and Al Adl in our life. Firstly you should be just towards yourself, as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) mentioned in the hadith ‘Your self has rights upon you, your wife or your spouse has rights upon you, so give everyone his rights’.
Begin with yourself and your inner circle. Then control your desire and your anger. This is a point Ghazali repeats a great deal in his books. These should be reined in by your ‘aql (intellect) and your deen. If you cannot keep them in check, you’re doomed. The more your intellect controls your desire and your anger, the closer you will be to Allah Almighty. The more your intellect is controlled by your anger and your desire, the further you will be from Allah Almighty. This is injustice. So if you want to do justice to yourself you have to control your anger and your desire. This is how you deliver justice to yourself first and to those who are around you as well.
Being just to your limbs
Beautifully Ghazali said that you should do justice to every limb Allah Almighty has given to you – your eyes, your hands, your feet, your heart and so on, by using them in the way pleases Allah Almighty. Let your eyes only look at what is halal, such as the creation of Allah Almighty, such as the oceans and the sky. This brings you closer to Him. Use your ears to only hear what is permissible to you, and your tongue to say what is good or stay silent.
Be just to your family and those under your care – if you are a parent, or an employer or a ruler, deliver justice to every single one you are responsible for. Then Ghazali says somebody might say, that delivering justice is about benefiting others, but Ghazali disagrees with this definition, because sometimes justice is causing pain to others. For example, operating on someone who needs surgery causes them pain. Medicine can be bitter and hard to swallow. However, it’s the way to cure and this is the justice. It’s not always about pleasing people.
We ask Allah Almighty to enable us to understand His wisdom and not to complain about His destiny. He is the Ultimate Judge, the Perfect Judge, and no one in His court will be mistreated or dealt with unjustly. The dunya may be filled with injustices, but Allah Almighty says ‘Laa dhulm al yawm’, ‘there is no injustice today’., on the Day of Judgement. It will be a day of complete justice for everyone.
We ask Allah Almighty to enable us to be just and to deliver justice to ourselves, to our families, to our communities and be people of justice, ameen.
Shaykh Haytham Tamim – 1st August 2023
Transcribed by S Jawaid
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