Knowing Allah through His Beautiful Names: Al-Muqaddim and Al-Mu’akhkhir
Al-Muqaddim and Al-Mu’akhkhir mean the Promoter and the Postponer. They go together as other pairs, such Al-Awal wal-Akhir, Az-Zaahir wal-Baatin. Not all the names of Allah Almighty are pairs, but in the sunnah, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), mentioned these two names together in the beautiful hadith which Abu Musa (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:
The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to recite the following du`a:
وعن أبي موسى، رضي الله عنه، عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم، أنه كان يدعو بهذا الدعاء: “اللهم اغفر لي خطيئتي وجهلي، وإسرافي في أمري، وما أنت أعلم به مني، اللهم اغفر لي جدي وهزلي، وخطئي وعمدي، وكل ذلك عندي، اللهم اغفر لي ما قدمت وما أخرت، وما أسررت وما أعلنت، وما أنت أعلم به مني، أنت المقدم، وأنت المؤخر، وأنت على كل شيء قدير” ((متفق عليه)).
Allah, forgive me for my sin. My ignorance and my transgression (in keeping my duty to You), and whatever You know about me better than I do. O Allah, forgive me for sins committed in earnest and in jest, by mistake and deliberately, and I have done all of that. O Allah, forgive me for what I have done in the past and what I will do in the future, what I have done in secret and what I have done openly, and whatever You know about me better than I do. You are the One Who raises and lowers people’s status, and You are Able to do all things).” (Bukhari and Muslim)
In this dua, we see that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) called Allah Almighty with His name Al-Muqaddim wal-Mu’akhkhir.
What does the name Al-Muqaddim wal-Mu’akhkhir mean?
Literally the linguistic meaning of muqaddim is to promote something or put it forward and mu’akhkhir is to delay something, and push it back. How do we see the functionality of this name in our reality? Allah Almighty promotes those whom He loves to become closer to Him, starting from the prophets, messengers, angels, awliya ullah, and so on. Allah Almighty promotes them, and puts them forward while those whom He dislikes He pushes away, like those who disbelieve in Him, evil people, those who promote evil and corruption and spread it. It is mentioned clearly in the Qur’an that He doesn’t love people of corruption or those who perpetrate evil.
Al-Muqaddim is the One who brings forward and promotes those who are full of goodness and He pushes back those who are full of evil. This is the simplistic way of putting it. However, the named have different dimensions which scholars have explored and commented on at length. In His wisdom, Allah put things in their rightful places, this is known as taqdeem, which is also putting things in the right timeframe, whereas humans are hasty. We want things to happen instantly, but Allah Almighty decree that certain things will not happen today, they will happen after a year, or three years or five years. Had it been in our hands, we would cause it to happen now, unaware that the consequences of doing it now may be detrimental. Therefore Allah Almighty chooses what is right for you in the present moment and postpones for you what is better later. After a few years you might realise the wisdom in His timing and that what you wanted would not have suited you if you had received it when you wanted it; indeed it would have been disastrous and you feel grateful that Allah postponed it.
Time, status and position
This is because of Allah Almighty’s wisdom is beyond our comprehension. Imam Bayhaqi (may Allah have mercy on him) commented that the name Al-Muqaddim can be related to time or position. Imam Al-Ghazali has given this example in his book of the King – he promotes two people to sit with him and stay close to him. The one who is very close to him has a very special status. Allah mentioned that He selected certain families out of His wisdom, and favoured them, just as He favoured certain months over others (such as Ramadan), certain days over others (such as Jumuah), certain times (like the last third of the night) and certain lands over others (such as Makkah), and He favoured some people over others (the prophets). He selected certain prophets over others and gave them a special status.
“God chooses Messengers from angels and from men. Verily, God is All-Hearer, All-Seer” (22:75)
“Those Messengers! We preferred some of them to others; to some of them God spoke (directly); others He raised to degrees (of honour)” (2:253)
“And also some of their fathers and their progeny and their brethren, We chose them, and We guided them to the Straight Path” (6:87).
“And God has preferred some of you above others in wealth and properties” (16:71)
Thus, though we believe in all the prophets and messengers, they have been given different stations and different statuses, they are not all on the same level. The best of Allah Almighty’s creation, and the master of all humanity and prophets and messengers is Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). This is made very clear in the very authentic hadith.
Abu Sa’eed (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
عَنْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم “ أَنَا سَيِّدُ وَلَدِ آدَمَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَلاَ فَخْرَ وَبِيَدِي لِوَاءُ الْحَمْدِ وَلاَ فَخْرَ وَمَا مِنْ نَبِيٍّ يَوْمَئِذٍ آدَمُ فَمَنْ سِوَاهُ إِلاَّ تَحْتَ لِوَائِي وَأَنَا أَوَّلُ مَنْ تَنْشَقُّ عَنْهُ الأَرْضُ وَلاَ فَخْرَ
“I am the master of the children of Adam on the Day of Judgement, and I am not boasting. The Banner of Praise will be in my hand, and I am not boasting. There will not be a Prophet on that day, not Adam nor anyone other than him, except that he will be under my banner. And I am the first one for whom the earth will be opened for, and I am not bragging.” (Tirmidhi)
Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the master of humanity (peace be upon him) and all prophets and messengers are under his authority. In terms of status, Allah Almighty also said in Surat Waqiah:
وَٱلسَّـٰبِقُونَ ٱلسَّـٰبِقُونَ ١٠
and the foremost ˹in faith˺ will be the foremost ˹in Paradise˺. (56:10)
أُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ ٱلْمُقَرَّبُونَ ١١
They are the ones nearest ˹to Allah˺, (56:11)
This reflects levels of closeness to Allah Almighty. Those who are in very advanced levels are the closest to Allah Almighty. How do we become among those who are close to Allah Almighty? Allah Almighty has given the answer in the hadith Qudsi
Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said that Allah (mighty and sublime be He) said:
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: ” إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ قَالَ: مَنْ عَادَى لِي وَلِيًّا، فَقَدْ آذَنْتُهُ بِالْحَرْبِ، وَمَا تَقَرَّبَ إِلَيَّ عَبْدِي بِشَيْءٍ أَحَبَّ إِلَيَّ مِمَّا افْتَرَضْتُ عَلَيْهِ، وَمَا يَزَالُ عَبْدِي يَتَقَرَّبُ إِلَيَّ بِالنَّوَافِلِ حَتَّى أُحِبَّهُ، فَإِذَا أَحْبَبْتُهُ، كُنْتُ سَمْعَهُ الَّذِي يَسْمَعُ بِهِ، وَبَصَرَهُ الَّذِي يُبْصِرُ بِهِ، وَيَدَهُ الَّتِي يَبْطِشُ بِهَا، وَرِجْلَهُ الَّتِي يَمْشِي بِهَا، وَإِنْ سَأَلَنِي لَأُعْطِيَنَّهُ، وَلَئِنْ اسْتَعَاذَنِي لَأُعِيذَنَّهُ، وَمَا تَرَدَّدْتُ عَنْ شَيْءٍ أَنَا فَاعِلُهُ تَرَدُّدِي عَنْ نَفْسِ عَبْدِي الْمُؤْمِنِ، يَكْرَهُ الْمَوْتَ وَأَنَا أَكْرَهُ مَسَاءَتَهُ
My servant continues to draw near to Me with supererogatory works so that I shall love him. When I love him I am his hearing with which he hears, his seeing with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask [something] of Me, I would surely give it to him, and were he to ask Me for refuge, I would surely grant him it. I do not hesitate about anything as much as I hesitate about [seizing] the soul of My faithful servant: he hates death and I hate hurting him. (Bukhari) “
What makes us close to Allah Almighty is doing the obligations and following the commands of Allah Almighty and His Messenger (peace be upon him), refraining from everything He prohibited as well as disliked and doubtful matters. Then Allah Almighty stated that you draw closer to Allah by doing additional and voluntary actions (nawaafil) such as extra prayers, fasts or charity. But the voluntary cannot replace the obligations, they are in addition to them, as the obligations form the foundation level. The second level is the nawafil. This means closeness comes when one is not slapdash, irregular and non committal in fulfilling their obligations, but continuously doing them, with commitment and dedication. It is not being a part time Muslim, who does some salah and neglects others. It is being a full time Muslim, and servant of Allah Almighty, who is devoted to Him. Once you reach this state, voluntary actions, perfect your obligations. Of course one does not give extra charity if one is in debt. If you are sinking in debt, you have to repay that debt first because this is the obligation for you.
For instance, if you have a £10,000 debt, giving £10, £20 as charity is fine, but giving £5000 in charity would not be wise; you shouldn’t do this. This is not acceptable.
When it comes to the voluntary, people vary. Some people love to give sadaqah, others hearts are into qiyam ul-layl, some people love helping and supporting the needy in the community and upskilling them and others like to fast. It depends which voluntary actions your heart is drawn to and which you find easy to do and maintain long term. This is part of becoming close to Allah Almighty.
One might wonder if someone wants to come closer to Allah Almighty could Allah Almighty prevent them? Allah Almighty will never push away anyone who is sincere in seeking His guidance. This is a crucial point to understand. It is impossible that Allah Almighty will push somebody away if they are very sincere and seeking the truth. However there are evil people who dress up and pretend to be righteous. Their viciousness is concealed beneath their smart, kind and understanding exterior. Their eloquence is misleading. However Allah Almighty knows the reality of what is their heart. He knows they are lying, He knows that they are evil, and He will push them away. By contrast, someone sincerely seeking God, will be promoted and brought closer to Him. We see clearly on social media, a huge wave of new Muslims coming to Islam, from all walks of life, all different nationalities and races and colours and languages, all coming to Islam. Why do you think this is happening? Because they have very pure, sincere hearts. As simple as that – although they might have done many sins, or many mistakes, their hearts are not corrupt; they are still pure, pumping with sincerity and purity, and this is what matters. When they have seen footage of events in Palestine, they have seen the truth and wanted to discover the strength of the faith of the resilient people in Gaza. They are intrigued by what is keeping their spirit alive and strong and they have turned to the Quran to find out. Allah Almighty has brought them forward, He is Al Muqaddim. He has promoted them. Why? Because of their hearts, because of their sincerity, because of their efforts. These are the three factors you need: purity of intention, sincerity, efforts. It may be that someone has the second but not the third – they might have sincerity, but not be bothered to act upon it. They are just spectators. That is not enough, guidance requires effort and action, then Allah Almighty opens the way.
When we look back over history, we see the example of Umar (may Allah have mercy on him). He was a sworn enemy of Islam, and also Khalid bin al Walid. However Umar (may Allah have mercy on him) had a big, soft heart beneath his muscles. He was a strong personality with the heart of a baby. He did not accept Islam very early, but about the fifth or sixth year, as cultural issues prevented him. Sometimes you go along with culture, even though it’s the wrong decision, and you need some time to figure it out. When Umar confronted his sister, upon hearing she had become Muslim, he slapped her but when he heard her recite the Quran, he felt its sweetness penetrate his heart and the realisation dawned on him that he shouldn’t be fighting it. It was the truth. Without any hesitation, he went to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and accepted Islam. He had felt the light of imaan in his heart, and Allah Almighty promoted Umar and made him close to Him.
There are two kinds of those who come forward. Those who put in a lot of effort to strive and struggle to keep themselves on the path. And there are those like prophets and messengers and special awliya’ of Allah Almighty, whom Allah Almighty has selected out of His ultimate wisdom. We don’t know what’s behind this but we trust Allah Almighty’s wisdom. One of our shuyukh, Shaykh Adeeb al Kallaas (may Allah have mercy on him) used to ask us, when we were studying aqeedah and theology with him, what did the Prophet (peace be upon him) do to deserve messenger-hood? It was not his efforts. If you look at the biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him) he did not attain the level of messengerhood through his efforts. It was purely Allah’s selection. You cannot earn prophethood. He was selected for this mission by Allah, who knew who was best to convey His divine message.
When we understand these two names of Allah Almighty, we know that Allah’s timing and selection are based on His wisdom and that we need to put in the effort, and work on ourselves as Allah Almighty stated in the previous hadith of the obligations, and we need to continuously improve and perfect our good actions. This will elevate us to the level of the sabiqoon as sabiqoon – those close to Allah.
Ibn Ata ‘Allah al Iskandari (may Allah be pleased with him) said in his Al Hikam , that when Allah wants to favour you, He will create things and attach your name to them:
When Allah Almighty wants to show His favours upon you,
He will create things and give it your name. (Al Hikam 123)
We become overwhelmed by our achievements and attribute them to ourselves, when in reality, our promotion or award, or recognition was a gift from Allah. Therefore in the midst of your joy at this achievement, remember that this was facilitated by Allah Almighty. Had it not been for Him, you could never have done attained that success or achievement. Behind the scenes, Allah Almighty is the One who creates the accomplishments to which your name is attached. It may be a book you authored or a project you were part of, but had Allah given you dementia, you would not have been able to complete it. Without his support, your muscles, your degrees, your reputation alone could not have brought it to fruition. I’m not dismissing the importance of our effort as humans – of course we have to do our planning and execution, but do not be deluded by the whispers of the shaytan into thinking you deserve all the credit. You did your bit but Allah enabled you in the first place to be able to do it.
Sometimes we see somebody is not in the first row, or the first selection, he’s number 2, number 10 etc. It is wisdom that Allah Almighty has. We don’t know. Sometimes you are in the second row and Allah Almighty promotes you to the first row. Or you might be in the third class Allah Almighty sends you to the first class. It all depends on the purity of your heart, your intentions and your efforts.
We are seeing people come to Islam as they witness the atrocities against Muslims in Gaza. Though it pains us deeply to witness their injuries, deaths and suffering, it has been a means of bringing people forwards. Allah Almighty stated in the Quran that He brings life from death and it is fascinating that His way is beyond our comprehension.
Reflecting Allah’s names in our lives
As servants of Allah Almighty, how do we reflect the names Al-Muqaddim and Al-Mu’akhkhir in our lives?
It can be in different ways. One of these ways is prioritisation. What is the first priority? It is Allah. Then comes your family. Then comes your work. This is reflecting the attribute of Al-Muqaddim and Al-Mu’akhkhir of putting things in the right position. You can keep revisiting it, especially when you have more than 5 or 6 priorities. They may need to shuffled depending on the scenario and situation. During covid, we were made to revisit out priorities in life. Work slid down the list of priorities and health and family were put above it. We also have to priorities our relationships – between us and Allah Almighty and between us and the people around us. Sometimes we give more time to certain relationships, when others deserve our time and care more. You may need to cut back time you spend on certain people because it’s just a waste of time. Revisit your connections. Analyse and check how you prioritise your time and your spending. These are ways to reflect upon the name of Allah Almighty, Al-Muqaddim and Al-Mu’akhkhir.
We ask Allah Almighty to make us from those who are promoted to the best stations and the best levels and close to Allah Almighty. Ameen
Shaykh Haytham Tamim – 21s Nov 2023 Transcribed S Jawaid
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