Knowing Allah through His Beautiful Names – Al Hafidh


Allah’s names bring us close to Him

Just as you need do an MOT for your car every year, you need an MOT for your understanding of Allah so you can be safe and roadworthy in your journey through life. You need to know the basics of Islam in your relationship with Allah Almighty or your relationships with people around you, ranging from your parents to your spouse, your siblings to your friends. You need to be aware of what is halal or haram when it comes to how you earn your money, conduct your transactions and business, where you spend your money, and how you spend your money so that it pleases Allah Almighty.

When it comes to our relationship with Allah Almighty, we come to know Him through His attributes as indicated by His Beautiful Names, Asma ullahil Husna.

Al Hafidh – The Protector and Preserver

One of Allah Almighty’s name is Al Hafidh which is derived from the word hifdh, hafidha, yahfidhu, meaning to preserve and to protect. From this word we also derive the meaning memorising (hifdh) as the one who has memorised the Quran or the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), is called a ‘haafidh’, as he or she has protected these by retaining them in his or her memory.

Imam Ghazali in his book, Al-Maqsid Al-Asna Fi Sharh Asma’ Allah Al-Husna commented on this name beautifully. He said one can’t understand the name, the Preserver unless one understands what hifdh (preservation) is. Ghazali known for his outstanding philosophical writings, said preservation has two parts. The first is perpetuating the existence of existing things and sustaining them, the second is protecting them from each other. We will explore these two concepts in more detail.

The preservation of the whole universe rests in the Hands of Allah Almighty. He is Al Hafidh, the One who protects everything and is preserving the existence of everything that exists – from the galaxies and planets to beyond. Every facet of existence is sustained by Him, and He is the ultimate Preserver. If He were to stop preservation, everything would collapse. We see this meaning in the Ayat ul Kursi which states wa laa yaudhuhu hifdhuma, ‘He doesn’t feel tired from preserving them [the Heavens and the Earth]’.

Indeed, Allah Almighty is the One perpetuating the existence of all things, and beyond that, He is the sustainer of everything. As beings that exist, we are completely dependent on Him for our preservation and sustenance. For instance, without oxygen, we would die. He is the sole source of life and the provider of existence to all things.

Moreover, the opposite of existence is non-existence. So, if Allah were to cease His sustenance, everything would go into non-existence – humans would die, and the universe, with its meticulously designed systems would collapse. Beyond the physical realm which we perceive, is the realm of the Unseen which contains angels and all that is contained within the Heavens would also cease to exist.

Protecting opposites from erasing each other out of existence

Furthermore, Allah Almighty safeguards every entity in existence one from the other. To understand this, look at fire and water, they are opposites. Fire is extinguished by water, while water is turned to vapour by fire. These opposites are prevalent all around us, in the human kingdom, in the animal kingdom, in the planets, in the plants, seas and oceans. Although they are opposites they do not cancel each other out. Rather they co-exist and create balance and harmony and thus we have  opposing forces like cold and heat or humidity and dryness.

I recently watched a documentary about our planet and it always fills me with awe at the intricacy of the Allah’s design and it evokes tasbeeh from my heart. It is clear evidence of Allah’s Handiwork when we see the incredible system He created, from the formation of oxygen, or the development of the first cell and bacteria which took place billions of years ago. This whole system is relying on Allah Almighty for its existence and sustenance and Allah Almighty is maintaining it.

The link between preservation and belief

When you call on Al Hafidh, you know that He preserves everything and protects everything, including all of us, who are being protected and sustained by Him, regardless of whether we obey or disobey Him. He does not link His sustenance to our obedience. He is Ar-Razzaq, the Sustainer for everyone. Of course Allah Almighty will put more barakah in your sustenance and provision (rizq) when you’re obedient to Him, and He will take the barakah out of your rizq when you’re disobedient to Him, but He will not cease His sustenance from the disobedient and the disbelievers among His creation, out of His rahma, mercy.

Allah Almighty told us clearly in the Quran not to corrupt it as it had been perfected.

وَلَا تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ بَعْدَ إِصْلَاحِهَا وَادْعُوهُ خَوْفًا وَطَمَعًا ۚ إِنَّ رَحْمَتَ اللَّهِ قَرِيبٌ مِّنَ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

And do not corrupt on earth after Allah’s reformation, and pray to Him with fear and hope. God’s mercy is close to the doers of good. (7:56)

He created the system, perfected it and warned us not to tamper with the system. Allah Almighty established guidelines on how to safeguard the system, ourselves and our planet. When we exceed these limits, we mess up. The formula outlined by Allah Almighty is “Do not tamper with it.” However we have been unable to stop meddling. We have tinkered and removed nuts and bolts and caused the system to malfunction.  

Caring for the planet

Allah left us to care for the planet, but with deforestation and pollution, etc our actions damaged the system, causing global warming. Allah Almighty, in His wisdom, has allowed us to face the consequences of our own actions, as we are ultimately responsible for the choices we make. Despite this He is still Al-Hafidh. If Allah had not maintained a degree of protection against our own corruption, the entire system could have collapsed in an instant. Yet, He has allowed us to witness the consequences of our actions to emphasise our accountability for them.

Let’s see if we can change and improve our own actions to fix what we have corrupted as much as possible. When you do something with good intentions, Allah Almighty will support you to complete it. Sadly, we have seen many conferences on global warming and offsetting carbon emissions, but every year we see that greed, short sightedness and neglect of our responsibility get in the way of rectifying our mistakes. No one is committed to fulfil their promises.

One day the whole system will collapse, but that will be when Allah Almighty decides. This does not mean that we should continue corrupting the Earth until that time, but that there is a specific time that Allah Almighty has destined for the system to collapse. No one can speed this up and no one can delay this. However in the meantime we are suffering from devastation caused by floods, wild fires and severe winters and summers, not just in remote areas of the world but on our doorstep – in Greece and Italy. So we have to be responsible for our actions.

Meanwhile, Allah has enabled the preservation of humans and the beasts and wild animals which are a threat to each other.

Allah has put mechanisms of protection in place for all of creation

When we look at the concept of preservation deeper, we can look at the human body itself – the eyes, the ears, the senses, which protect us. At a macro level of the universe and micro level of the body and its cells, the system whether it’s internal or external, is designed to preserve and protect every species.

Each one has a special mechanism for survival, for instance the turtle has a shell, roses have thorns, cats have claws, porcupines have spikes and Allah Almighty created fear in us to flee from danger. It’s a very sophisticated and hugely complex system that Allah Almighty created. Every single atom in Allah Almighty’s Kingdom is under His preservation and protection.

How do we emulate the name Al Hafidh in our lives?

Bringing the beautiful names of Allah into our lives takes knowing Him one step further and brings blessings into our life. We cannot emulate all His names as some are exclusively His, as they pertain to His majesty and might, however divine attributes such as mercy and generosity are qualities that bring huge benefit to our lives when we practice.  Thus personal and spiritual success comes when we protect our limbs and our heart and our deen from anger, and from desires and from the delusions of the self and the temptations of the Shaytan. Otherwise we are dangerously vulnerable and on the edge of a cliff, from where we may fall to our detriment.

Prophet Muhammad (peace upon him) was once riding on his mule with Ibn Abbas (may Allah have mercy on him), and he said ‘Be mindful of Allah Almighty and Allah Almighty will protect you.’[1]

Protect yourself by staying within the limits set by Allah

The word used ihfadh (be mindful) which is from the same root as hafidh, hafidha, yahfadhu, meaning that if you are conscious of the limits Allah Almighty set and you stay within them, preserving His limits then Allah Almighty will protect you. You will find His protection envelop you.  In your personal experience, you can witness this. Every time you preserve and protect the limits of Allah Almighty, you remain within His boundaries, you will find immediately Allah Almighty’s protection surround you. Whenever you put Allah Almighty’s preference before everything else, Allah Almighty will give you preference over others. If you have any doubt then try it and you will see.

Ghazali here is saying that we can reflect the name The Preserver by implementing its essence in our life by preserving the limits of Allah Almighty in our life, and acting upon the commands of Allah Almighty in our life. We can also recite His name, Ya Hafidh, when we feel afraid, because He is our Protector. In the Quran Allah Almighty says fallahhu khayran haafidhan, He is the best protector:

قَالَ هَلْ ءَامَنُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ إِلَّا كَمَآ أَمِنتُكُمْ عَلَىٰٓ أَخِيهِ مِن قَبْلُ ۖ فَٱللَّهُ خَيْرٌ حَـٰفِظًۭا ۖ وَهُوَ أَرْحَمُ ٱلرَّٰحِمِينَ

Allah is the best guardian, and He is the Most-Merciful of all the merciful. [12:64]

So seek refuge in Him and He will give you and provide you with protection. And as Ghazali mentioned this protection has another dimension which is sustenance, so He protects and He preserves and He provides.

The servant who reflects upon the name Al Hafidh, the Preserver, is the one who preserves his limbs from haram, his eyes from haram, his ears from haram, and his tongue doesn’t utter the haram. His hands don’t with the haram and his feet walk away from haram. His mouth doesn’t eat the haram or drink the haram.

Protect the heart

Ghazali says, the one who applies this name in his life, protects his heart, taking us to the inward dimension, as he always links the inward and outward. So, the internal aspect – the spiritual heart is the most important faculty Allah Almighty has given us. In the hadith Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that the state of the heart governs the state of the entire body:

وَإِنَّ فِي الْجَسَدِ مُضْغَةً إِذَا صَلَحَتْ صَلَحَ الْجَسَدُ كُلُّهُ وَإِذَا فَسَدَتْ فَسَدَ الْجَسَدُ كُلُّهُ أَلاَ وَهِيَ الْقَلْبُ‏.‏

Beware, in the body there is a piece of flesh; if it is sound, the whole body is sound and if it is corrupt the whole body is corrupt, and hearken it is the heart. [Muslim]

If you want your body to be healthy, then you need to have a healthy heart. If the heart is diseased, then the body will be diseased. The preservation of the heart is covered in a full section by Ghazali in his book Ihya Ullum ad-Deen which investigates the diseases of the heart in depth with their cure.

The one who preserves his heart from the diseases that displease Allah Almighty, like envy, like rancour, like arrogance which is the most hated disease is the one who truly reflects the name Al-Hafidh in his life.  

Dua for protection

In the dua, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to ask Allah Almighty to protect us from all directions:

اللَّهُمَّ احْفَظْنِي مِنْ بَينِ يَدَيَّ, وَمِنْ خَلْفِي, وَعَنْ يَمِينِي, وَعَنْ شِمَالِي وَمِنْ فَوْقِي, وَأَعُوذُ بِعَظَمَتِكَ أَن أُْغْتَالَ مِنْ تَحْتِي

Allahummah-fazni min baini yadaiya, wa min khalfi, wa ‘an yameeni, wa ‘an syimali wa min fauqi, wa a’uzu bi’azomatika an ughtala min tahti

O Allah protect me from my front, behind me, from my right and my left, and from above me, and I seek refuge in Your Magnificence from being taken unaware from beneath me. [Sunan Ibn Majah]

In this comprehensive dua Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to ask for protection from Allah Almighty.

Protect yourself from anger

Ghazali also commented that the one who reflects upon the name of Allah Almighty, Al-Hafidh, is the one who preserves his deen from anger. This is a very interesting point, as managing anger is a universal challenge. We all get angry, no-one is immune against anger, but the key lies in not letting anger to control us – our words and our behaviour and our choices. We have to learn to control our anger, as it is so destructive. Ghazali has a full section on anger, how to deal with anger and how to treat anger as anger is such a dangerous disease of the heart – mentally and physically. The constant flood of stress chemicals and associated metabolic changes that go with ongoing unmanaged anger can eventually cause harm to many different systems of the body. These can vary from headaches, to insomnia, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, skin problems, such as eczema, to even heart attacks and strokes. Anger also causes the release of the stress hormone, cortisol. The release of this hormone gives the body bursts of energy. However, too much of this hormone can cause a multitude of adverse effects on the body. Excess cortisol can disrupt blood sugar levels, potentially leading to imbalances and complications for individuals with conditions like diabetes. It can also negatively impact thyroid function and contribute to a decrease in bone density, which can be particularly concerning for long-term health. Furthermore, chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to illnesses and infections.

A person came to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and he said Ya Rasoolallah, give me a piece of advice and he replied la taghdab, “Don’t be angry.” Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:

عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ أَنَّ رَجُلًا قَالَ لِلنَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَوْصِنِي قَالَ لَا تَغْضَبْ فَرَدَّدَ مِرَارًا قَالَ لَا تَغْضَبْ

A man came to the Prophet and he said, “Advise me.” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Do not be angry.” The man repeated his request and the Prophet said, “Do not be angry.” [Bukhari]

Though the hadith is brief, between the words we see that the man who sought advice was not happy with it. So he asked again, and again the Prophet repeated his advice, which made the man angry. The Prophet (peace be upon him) could tell that anger was an issue that was affecting his life. This is the wasiyyah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), his will and advice to us: don’t be angry. Because when you are angry you lose control – over yourself, over your heart, over your tongue, and your perception, as well as your body – as you may hurt someone or break something. Your ability to make rational decisions is compromised. You can end up doing things that you shouldn’t and wouldn’t have done in a calmer state. Look at those who are in prison, many of their crimes were committed out of anger. When they woke up from the intoxication of anger, it was too late. In anger one can become unrecognisable, lose control, and make terrible decisions like divorcing their spouse or even committing murder. I came across the story of a woman who has a life sentence in prison. When the interviewer asked her about her story, she said she killed her husband. She became angry, took a wooden log and bashed his head with it.

Protect yourself from desire

Apart from anger, Ghazali mentioned that protecting oneself against temptations of desire is also important. It is about regulating the system Allah Almighty created. Just as He created fire, He created water. The two forces of anger and desire need to be tempered by their opposite force to keep us balanced. We need anger and desire, they have their place in our make up, but we need to keep them in check, for our system to function properly. Otherwise we are under spell and the control of anger or desire and overall you’re under the control of the Shaytan.

Therefore we have to protect ourself against the temptations of desire. We are given the outlet of fulfilling desire through halal channels but desire must not rule our lives. Ghazali elaborated on this in his Ihya ulum ad-Deen and The Forty Principles of the Faith.

Protect yourself from Shaytan

The mission of Shaytan is to delude us. In the first encounter between Shaytan and Adam, Shaytan deluded Adam and Eve when he said

فَوَسۡوَسَ إِلَيۡهِ ٱلشَّيۡطَٰنُ قَالَ يَـٰٓـَٔادَمُ هَلۡ أَدُلُّكَ عَلَىٰ شَجَرَةِ ٱلۡخُلۡدِ وَمُلۡكٖ لَّا يَبۡلَىٰ

Then Satan whispered to him; he said, “O Adam, shall I direct you to the tree of eternity and possession that will not deteriorate?” [20:120]

He tricked them into eating the forbidden fruit and he is continuing to plays these tricks on us. He tells us that engaging in the haram will be good for us and we buy it. Sometimes we are not convinced, but we go along with his suggestions anyway, just to try it and see. However we still end up making the same mistakes and committing the same sins. Why do you allow him to deceive you? Just close this file and delete it and open a new page. Every time Shaytan comes, he plays the same old tricks and sometimes he upgrades them, but deep down, you know it is shayatanic, but even then you go along with it, and then you are left with regrets and feel frustrated and wish you had not accepted these delusions. Don’t keep falling into the same trap again and again.

We ask Allah Almighty to preserve us from the delusion of the Shaytan, from the control of our desires, and from anger. And we ask Allah Almighty to enable us to be His obedient servants, those who protect their deen, protect their faculties, protect their hearts. Ameen.

Shaykh Haytham Tamim 15th August 2023 Transcribed by S Javaid

[1] On the authority of Abu Abbas Abdullah bin Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) who said:

عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَبَّاسٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا قَالَ: “كُنْت خَلْفَ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه و سلم يَوْمًا، فَقَالَ: يَا غُلَامِ! إنِّي أُعَلِّمُك كَلِمَاتٍ: احْفَظْ اللَّهَ يَحْفَظْك، احْفَظْ اللَّهَ تَجِدْهُ تُجَاهَك، إذَا سَأَلْت فَاسْأَلْ اللَّهَ، وَإِذَا اسْتَعَنْت فَاسْتَعِنْ بِاَللَّهِ، وَاعْلَمْ أَنَّ الْأُمَّةَ لَوْ اجْتَمَعَتْ عَلَى أَنْ يَنْفَعُوك بِشَيْءٍ لَمْ يَنْفَعُوك إلَّا بِشَيْءٍ قَدْ كَتَبَهُ اللَّهُ لَك، وَإِنْ اجْتَمَعُوا عَلَى أَنْ يَضُرُّوك بِشَيْءٍ لَمْ يَضُرُّوك إلَّا بِشَيْءٍ قَدْ كَتَبَهُ اللَّهُ عَلَيْك؛ رُفِعَتْ الْأَقْلَامُ، وَجَفَّتْ الصُّحُفُ” . رَوَاهُ التِّرْمِذِيُّ [رقم:2516] وَقَالَ: حَدِيثٌ حَسَنٌ صَحِيحٌ. وَفِي رِوَايَةِ غَيْرِ التِّرْمِذِيِّ: “احْفَظْ اللَّهَ تَجِدْهُ أمامك، تَعَرَّفْ إلَى اللَّهِ فِي الرَّخَاءِ يَعْرِفُك فِي الشِّدَّةِ، وَاعْلَمْ أَنَّ مَا أَخْطَأَك لَمْ يَكُنْ لِيُصِيبَك، وَمَا أَصَابَك لَمْ يَكُنْ لِيُخْطِئَك، وَاعْلَمْ أَنَّ النَّصْرَ مَعَ الصَّبْرِ، وَأَنْ الْفَرَجَ مَعَ الْكَرْبِ، وَأَنَّ مَعَ الْعُسْرِ يُسْرًا”.

One day I was behind the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) [riding on the same mount] and he said, “O young man, I shall teach you some words [of advice]: Be mindful of Allah and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, then ask Allah [alone]; and if you seek help, then seek help from Allah [alone]. And know that if the nation were to gather together to benefit you with anything, they would not benefit you except with what Allah had already prescribed for you. And if they were to gather together to harm you with anything, they would not harm you except with what Allah had already prescribed against you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.” It was related by at-Tirmidhi, who said it was a good and sound hadeeth. Another narration, other than that of Tirmidhi, reads: Be mindful of Allah, and you will find Him in front of you. Recognize and acknowledge Allah in times of ease and prosperity, and He will remember you in times of adversity. And know that what has passed you by [and you have failed to attain] was not going to befall you, and what has befallen you was not going to pass you by. And know that victory comes with patience, relief with affliction, and hardship with ease. [Nawawi]


Shaykh Haytham Tamim is the founder and main teacher of the Utrujj Foundation. He has provided a leading vision for Islamic learning in the UK, which has influenced the way Islamic knowledge is disseminated. He has orchestrated the design and delivery of over 200 unique courses since Utrujj started in 2001. His extensive expertise spans over 30 years across the main Islamic jurisprudence schools of thought. He has studied with some of the foremost scholars in their expertise; he holds some of the highest Ijazahs (certificates) in Quran, Hadith (the Prophetic traditions) and Fiqh (Islamic rulings). His own gift for teaching was evident when he gave his first sermon to a large audience at the age of 17 and went on to serve as a senior lecturer of Islamic transactions and comparative jurisprudence at the Islamic University of Beirut (Shariah College). He has continued to teach; travelling around the UK, Europe and wider afield, and won the 2015 BISCA award (British Imams & Scholars Contributions & Achievements Awards) for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Teaching.