Knowing Allah through His Beautiful Names – Al Jameel, Al Jaleel, Al Kareem
It’s a pleasure to reflect upon the names and attributes of Allah Almighty, to delve into the meanings and to try our best to live by His names and attributes and to fulfil our roles and responsibilities as His servants. There is a very famous narration that circulates in some Sufi books which says ‘Emulate the attributes of Allah Almighty’. The meaning of this is very true, but it’s not an authentic hadith. For the sake of accuracy, if you come across it, be aware that though this is a good thing to do, the words are not prophetic.
The sublime vs the beautiful
The names Al Jaleel and Al Jameel are related to Allah’s majesty and beauty. Al Jaleel is the Majestic or Sublime, and Al Jameel is the Beautiful. Jalaal is majesty and Jamal is beauty. Dhul Jalaal means the One to whom Majesty belongs. Though they appear to be similar, and they are interlinked they are distinct qualities. We often hear that some shuyukh are called jalali, as they have an authoritative and at times intimidating teaching style and demeanor. On the other hand, there are jamali shuyukh who appear softer, more relaxed, and radiate kindness and compassion. Some shuyukh may adapt their approach depending on the situation, sometimes alternating between jamali and jalali characteristics. The jalali shuyukh have a majestic aura that makes you feel cautious when asking a question, in contrast, the jamali shuyukh make you feel relaxed. Both types of shuyukh are highly respected.
Alhamdulillah I’ve been fortunate enough to witness both types of shuyukh. Some of our teachers were very jalaali like Shaykh Abdur Razzaq al Halabi (rahimahullah), who was our Fiqh teacher, and fondly called Abu Hanifah Sagheer – mini Abu Hanifah. He was very jalali. Other teachers were jamali – relaxed, and even very funny.
William Wordsworth (1770-1850) the Romantic poet explored the difference between the sublime and the beautiful and how they evoke different responses within us:
- The sublime is associated with feelings of awe, grandeur, and overwhelming magnitude. It often refers to things that are vast, powerful, or awe-inspiring in a way that transcends ordinary beauty.
- Sublime experiences can evoke a sense of fear or wonder in the observer. It’s not just about visual beauty but also about the emotional and intellectual response to something immense or profound.
- Examples of the sublime might include towering mountains, tumultuous oceans, or celestial phenomena like a solar eclipse. These are natural wonders that can leave people feeling small and insignificant in the face of nature’s power.
- Beauty is a more straightforward concept and is often associated with harmony, proportion, and aesthetic pleasure. Beautiful objects or scenes are typically visually pleasing and evoke positive emotions.
- Beauty can be found in symmetry, balance, and the pleasing arrangement of elements. It’s often linked to ideas of symmetry, simplicity, and elegance.
What is majesty?
Ghazali said that the attributes of majesty are in fact the combination of several attributes, not just one. Majesty comes from possessing might, dominion, sanctification, knowledge, supremacy, and being free from all wants. The one who has all these is Al Jaleel. In reality no one has these attributes except Allah Almighty. He has them all and this collection of attributes together bring forth majesty. Those who appear majestic in this world, do not have true majesty, but metaphorical majesty such as a king, because only Allah Almighty has might, knowledge, freedom from all wants, and is invincible.
Though we try our best to understand these names, we cannot truly comprehend the meaning of Allah’s attributes and names because no one knows the true meaning except Him. Ghazali adds that the attributes of majesty are recognised by insight and intellectual perception. Thus the perception of majesty is internal, rather than through external senses, such as sight. By contrast, perception of jamal, beauty, is through the eyes. Beauty can be physical, for instance we usually think of a rose, a fruit, the sky, as beautiful. However beyond the material, we also refer to someone as having a beautiful character, or beautiful soul, which are not something you can see but you get to know through your connection and communication with them, or their actions.
Ghazali says the absolute and truly Beautiful One is Allah Almighty alone. He explained that all the beauty, perfection, splendour and attractiveness in the whole world comes from the lights of His essence and the traces of His attributes. Thus true beauty belongs to Allah Almighty, so He is Al Jameel. In the hadith, narrated in Sahih Muslim, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) says, “Allah Almighty is Beautiful and loves beauty.” He is Jameel, and loves everything that is beautiful, and He created beautiful things. Allah Almighty is Jameel, and everything you see of beauty in this world stems from His beauty. The light of His attributes shines on existing beings and it makes them beautiful. If He were to turn off this light, everything would become dull, and this will happen on the Day of Judgment. Allah Almighty will switch off this light and then Qiyamah will start and we will have the collapse of the sky, the planets, the system, and beauty will be no more. True beauty is from Allah Almighty. Ghazali says no existing being has perfection.
The one who is acquainted with Allah Almighty looks at beauty and feels a pleasure that is incomparable to anything, a happiness which no one can comprehend, and a joy which people will envy him for. Indeed better than the pleasures of Jannah will be the satisfaction they get from gazing at their Lord. Suhayb ar-Rumi narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
When the people of Paradise enter Paradise, Allah will say: “Do you want anything more?” They will say, “Have You not illuminated our faces? Have You not admitted us to Paradise and saved us from the Fire?” Then the veil will be lifted, and they will never have been given anything more dear to them than looking at their Rabb, may He be Blessed and Exalted.” [Muslim and Tirmidhi]
Inshallah all of us will be among all those who see Allah Almighty in Jannah. As Allah Almighty stated in the Quran “Some faces that Day will be Nadhirah [shining, radiant], Looking at their Rabb.” [75:22-23]. Inshallah it will be all of us and our families and our loved ones among them. Thus the joy of looking at Allah Almighty is better than Jannah itself. Nothing will be compared to this. The Jalaali or the Jamaali reflection fills your heart. And if your character is more relaxed, you have the reflection of the Jamaali attributes in you. If you’re a bit more majestic, then you have the reflection of the majestic attributes on you.
Jamal and Jalal
As the jalal and jamal are interlinked, they make you come to appreciate and understand the other quality more. For instance, as you notice the majesty (Jalal) of Allah, His greatness and authority, it naturally leads you to acknowledge the beauty (Jamal) in His perfection and attributes. Conversely, when you contemplate Allah’s beauty (Jamal) and reflect on His perfect attributes, it can deepen your understanding of His majesty (Jalal) by revealing how His greatness is inherently tied to His perfect and beautiful qualities.
The more you understand, the more you can apply and implement in your life. Ghazali mentioned that he has a special chapter, called The Book of Love, Kitab al Mahabbah in his great work, Ihya ulum ad-Din. He commented that the majestic and beautiful among men is the one who’s interior attributes are attractive and gives pleasure to discerning hearts. Exterior beauty is of lesser worth. This means the internal attributes are more important than the external attributes like physical beauty. What can one do with physical beauty if someone has a bad character? You don’t want to talk to him, or communicate with him, or to see him even if he’s dashingly handsome and attractive. Whereas someone with inner beauty will be more charming.
It is narrated in Tirmidhi’s Shamail, as well as by Bazzar, Baghawai and Tabarani that there was a companion of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) called Zahir who used to live in the desert and from time to time go to visit Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Madinah. But he did not live in Madinah. He would come with some gifts for Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) – sometimes plants, or vegetation, and sometimes crops which they had in the desert. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would use some of them as herbal medicines. He would also return these gifts with better gifts and reward for these gifts with better gifts. In his description, in his biography, he was called – kana dameeman, meaning he was not a very attractive person. Yet Zahir likes to crack jokes and so on. One day, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) went to the market and saw Zahir in the market selling some of his wares as he would earn his living by selling what he brought from the desert. The Prophet (peace be upon him) saw Zahir in the market one day, so he crept up behind him and placing his hands over Zahir’s ‘Guess, who am I’. Zahir didn’t recognise the Prophet (peace be upon him) and told him to let go. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not leave him. When Zahir realised that the one playing a joke was Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) he did not want him to let go. So he kept his back against the Prophet’s chest, enjoying the close proximity of his body, and the barakah of being near the Prophet. Meanwhile, the Prophet (peace be upon him) began teasing him by calling in the market ‘Who will buy this slave?’ Of course everyone knew that Zahir was not a slave. Zahir said to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) aware of his unattractive looks said ‘By Allah, O Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), you will find me unsellable, no one will buy me’. People would buy slaves who looked strong and attractive. No one wanted to buy unattractive slaves. The Prophet (peace be upon him) realised that Zahir was insecure about his looks. So he told him he was valuable and precious to Allah Almighty’. He (peace be upon him) shifted Zahir’s attention, and our attention, from external beauty to internal beauty. As in the hadith,
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَنْظُرُ إِلَى صُوَرِكُمْ وَأَمْوَالِكُمْ وَلَكِنْ يَنْظُرُ إِلَى قُلُوبِكُمْ وَأَعْمَالِكُمْ
“Verily, Allah does not look at your appearance or wealth, but rather He looks at your hearts and actions.” [Muslim]
Therefore do not care about peoples’ opinions. We have these filters online and offline, plastic surgery and beautification because we want to be attractive. Your worth is not your external beauty. Your inner beauty is your worth. Your real worth is your imaan, and your connection with Allah Almighty.
Someone may not be good looking, but they may still be precious to Allah Almighty, as in the hadith, Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“A person who is dishevelled, dusty and driven away from doors (maybe so close to Allah) that if he swears by Allah, He will definitely fulfill it for him.” [Muslim]
This means that one whom no one cares about because their appearance is not impressive, may be so beloved to Allah, that He would respond to their dua.
A man used to go to work every day. On his way back he would stop at an old lady’s fruit and vegetable stall. One day he asked her “Aunty do you want a lift?” She asked him where he was going, so he told her and she was delighted and since that time he collected her every day. One day he had a case, it was very critical for him and it caused him sadness that it was blocked. He had tried all sorts of things to resolve this case but couldn’t. Now he had 24 hours to sort it, and if he didn’t it would be a disaster for him and his family. As he collected the old lady, she noticed straight away that he was sad and asked “What’s wrong with you, my son?” He explained he had a very important case which was stuck. At that moment she raised her hands and looked at the sky and began talking to Allah Almighty. She called on him, saying “Ya Allah resolve his case. I swear on you to resolve his case.” He wondered how she had the audacity to give Allah orders. And then he remembered the hadith where Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said there’s a dusty or dishevelled person if he was to swear by Allah Almighty, then Allah Almighty will fulfil his promise. The man dropped her off and went back home. The moment he reached home, though it was the evening his friend called and said his case had been resolved. He was surprised and said there is no way this case could have been resolved, but Allah Almighty made it happen. This lady, the vegetable seller if you want, had a close connection with Allah Almighty. She asked Allah Almighty to resolve the case of this man because he was nice and good to her and Allah Almighty fulfilled her promise. She said to Allah Almighty “I swear by You, that You resolve his case.” And Allah Almighty did fulfil her promise.
This is a true story these people, the awliya’ of Allah Almighty, those very close to Allah Almighty, are very special people. They are everywhere around us. So we should be careful not to look down at anyone as they might be one of them. They might be a very close person to Allah Almighty.
Wherever you look in this universe you see majesty and the beauty. The whole system Allah created is perfect and majestic and a reflection of His attributes.
How do we emulate this attribute of Allah? By beautifying your actions and your words.
Al-Kareem is another name of Allah, which means the Generous. Al-Kareem is the One who Forgives. He delivers what He promises, and is so generous that what He gives exceeds what one could hope for. When He gives He’s not concerned how much He gives or to whom He gives. If a need is brought before someone else, He is unhappy because He is Kareem. So bring your needs to Him, don’t bring them to anyone else. He will be happy to give it you. If He is treated badly, He reproves but He does not pursue it because He is Al-Kareem. Whoever seeks refuge and support from Him is not lost, this is Al Kareem. Put your case before Him. Ask Him for forgiveness and He will forgive you. Be sincere and Allah Almighty will give it you. He will give you forgiveness, He will give you knowledge, He will give you goodness, grace, blessings, you name it. Ask. For He will not let you down. If you seek refuge in Him, if you seek His support, He will not let you down. This only belongs to Allah Almighty. Of course people have some of this, but not all of this. So the truly Generous is Allah Almighty. And the others are metaphorically generous.
Ghazali says we can endeavour to acquire these qualities, and we have to try our best to acquire these qualities and this is why someone will be called a generous person but this is metaphorically, the true Generous is Allah Almighty. And when you look at Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) you see that he (peace be upon him) was so generous, as Aisha (may Allah have mercy on her) described and He is most generous in Ramadan (peace be upon him). He (peace be upon him) is like the wind in Ramadan which brings forth rain without any discrimination.
“Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) was the most generous person, even more generous (faster) than the strong uncontrollable wind (in readiness and haste to do charitable deeds).” [Bukhari and Muslim]
Rain cannot discriminate, it just showers people with water. So Allah (peace be upon him) showers people with his generosity. Therefore we should seek to emulate these attributes, so we can be amongst those whom Allah Almighty will make them closer to Him, ameen.
Shaykh Haytham Tamim 29th August 2023 – Transcribed by S Javaid
- The reality behind the curtain: How the story of Musa and Al Khidr helps us bear the pain of Palestine
- What happens when humanity loses its humanity?
- How to edit your Book of Deeds
- The symbolism of Isra wal Miraj
- Silence is complicity
The reality behind the curtain: How the story of Musa and Al Khidr helps us bear the pain of Palestine
February 16, 2024
February 16, 2024
February 15, 2024