Knowing Allah through His beautiful Names – Al Qabid and Al Basit
Restrict and expand
Al Qabid is one of Allah Almighty’s names, meaning He who constricts. In Arabic, qabada is frequently used in transactions when one takes possession of a product, literally you got it in your hands. It is also used in the context of grasping, gripping or holding something. Thus the fist is also known as qabda. When something is in your fist, it’s in your qabda. Therefore qabada literally is like opening and closing your fist. Al Basit, by contrast from basata, is like extending and spreading. For instance, when you lay out your prayer mat on the floor, in Arabic one says ‘basata’ the prayer mat, so Al Basit is the One who expands or extends.
Imam al Ghazali commented on these two names by saying, Al-Qabidu is the One who takes souls from dead bodies at the time of their death, this is qabada. The One who gives souls to the bodies on birth is Al Basit. Thus we have the dual nature of the One who takes and the One who gives – Qabid and Basit.
The one to whom charity passes before it reaches the recipient
In terms of charity, Allah Almighty is the Al Qabid, as He takes alms from the rich. This goes into His possession in the sense that though Allah is ultimately the Owner and Possessor of everything, what you have is on loan from Him, so when you give for Allah Almighty’s sake, He receives it from you. This is why one of the Prophet (peace be upon him)’s wives used to put perfume on money she distributed to the poor because she said it passed through Allah Almighty’s Hands, before it reached the poor or the needy person. This reflected her deep understanding of charity.
The One who gives and the One who withholds
Allah Almighty is the One who expands the provisions for the weak people. In reality, what we have is not due to muscles, or intellect or qualifications or business acumen for it is Allah Almighty who gives and contracts or prevents some people from certain things.
Imam al Ghazali says Allah Almighty is the One who extends sustenance to the rich with such abundance that no material need remains. He can extend sustenance to the rich to the point where they need nothing at all. At the same time He is Al Qabid, and He contracts or He holds back sustenance from the poor until no strength is left in them. This is very puzzling that you see some who are super rich, while others are so poor they can barely move. What’s behind this? It’s His wisdom. We don’t know why Allah Almighty is doing so, as for instance in the current scenario we have had an earthquake in Morocco and the floods in Libya that have left thousands of people dead, wounded or who have lost everything. We don’t know what the wisdom behind this. May Allah accept the deceased as martyrs.
The impact of the name on your heart, making you feel light or heavy
In different scenarios we see different attributes of Allah manifested. For instance, in where someone has been given extensive rizq, it is Al Basit who has given it to him and when someone is struggling to make ends meet, Al Qabid is the One who withholds sustenance. Apart from the material, Allah Almighty is also the One who contracts hearts and restricts them by what He discloses to them of His Exaltation and His Majesty. As a result, individuals may at times experience a sense of awe due to Allah Almighty’s majesty reflected in them and at other times a state of calmness due to His kindness and beauty.
One of my shuyukh (may Allah have mercy on him) the late and highly esteemed, Shaykh Yunus Shaghouri, used to repeat the name ‘Ya Basit, Ya Basit, Ya Basit’ as part of his daily adhkar (remembrance) of Allah. We loved to visit him and I remember one particular occasion, when we were feeling very down. We were in a very difficult situation, during our studies in Damascus, when I was in my early 20s. My two friends and I studied together and shared the same accommodation. As we were feeling our chests weighed down with our troubles, we decided to visit Shaykh Yunus, though it was hard to see him, as he was always busy, or travelling, or ill, or his family did not allow everyone in. So we turned up and knocked on his door, and alhamdulillah, out of Allah Almighty’s mercy, the shaykh received us. He himself opened the door and welcomed us in, although he was in his 80s or 90s, and we felt so happy to see the shaykh. He could tell immediately that we were sad and the moment he saw our faces he started saying ‘Ya Basit, Ya Basit, Ya Basit’, O Expander of chests and hearts, expand their chests and hearts. He made dua for us and he started joking with us, and entertaining us in his own way and we felt light as if a heavy stone had been lifted from our chests. This illustrates how the reflection of the name of Allah Almighty on someone’s heart feel uplifted or depressed.
Some shukyukh exude a majestic presence, and when you sit with them you feel in awe of them, because they reflect Allah’s Al Qabid. Other shuyukh are so serene because they reflect the name of Allah Al Basit. Shaykh Yunus, on occasion (although not typically), projected the quality of Al Qabid appearing authoritative and strong, but for the most part, he exuded lightness like a bird and exemplified the attributes of Al Basit.
Ghazali shows us how we can emulate these names in our lives, citing the example of the one who was inspired by marvels of wisdom and endowed with eloquence, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who would sometimes talk about the majesty of Allah Almighty, and His glory, His punishment and revenge, and how He defeats the enemies, which would make the audience feel their hearts contract and the name of Al Qabid, while at other times, he (peace be upon him) would talk about Allah Almighty’s mercy, and forgiveness and generosity, so their hearts would feel at ease. Thus the one with the ability can talk about Allah and evoke these feelings in others.
Ibn Abbas (may Allah have mercy on him) used to say that Allah Almighty never mentions an ayah of punishment in the Quran without following it up with an ayah of reward. And He never mentions an ayah of Hellfire without following it up with an ayah on the bliss of Jannah and the reward of the people of Jannah and so on. Then Ibn Abbas (may Allah have mercy on him) commented by saying this keeps the servant of Allah Almighty balanced between fear and hope. When you hear the verses of punishment and Hellfire, you fear that. This is important because it prevents you from jumping over the fence and doing things that displease Allah Almighty and breaking His limits. We need the penalty system, so if you were to park on the double yellow or double red lines you will be fined and this makes you think twice before you cross the limit. If there’s no limit, no punishment, no penalty, you would park on the pavement. So this fear restricts you from jumping over the fence. And hope brings you back to Allah Almighty when you have transgressed. Allah Almighty’s mercy is still there and Allah Almighty will forgive you. So you come back to Him, poised between fear and hope, and this is how you get balance.
When you lose this balance, you go astray. You may go astray even in worship when you go beyond what is allowed. This did happen to some of the companions who were fasting all day and staying up all night in qiyam, neglecting their families, neglecting their duties, neglecting their parents… Then Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was informed about this and then he (peace be upon him) went and visited one of them in the very well-known hadith and asked if it was true what he was doing. When he said that he was indeed worshipping excessively Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told him not to do that and to balance all his responsibilities not just one over all the others.
‘Abdullah bin `Amr bin Al-`As (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated:
حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ مُقَاتِلٍ، أَخْبَرَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ، أَخْبَرَنَا الأَوْزَاعِيُّ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي يَحْيَى بْنُ أَبِي كَثِيرٍ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي أَبُو سَلَمَةَ بْنُ عَبْدِ الرَّحْمَنِ، قَالَ حَدَّثَنِي عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ عَمْرِو بْنِ الْعَاصِ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ” يَا عَبْدَ اللَّهِ أَلَمْ أُخْبَرْ أَنَّكَ تَصُومُ النَّهَارَ وَتَقُومُ اللَّيْلَ ”. قُلْتُ بَلَى يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ. قَالَ ” فَلاَ تَفْعَلْ، صُمْ وَأَفْطِرْ، وَقُمْ وَنَمْ، فَإِنَّ لِجَسَدِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا، وَإِنَّ لِعَيْنِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا، وَإِنَّ لِزَوْجِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا ”.
Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, “O `Abdullah! Have I not been formed that you fast all the day and stand in prayer all night?” I said, “Yes, O Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him)!” He said, “Do not do that! Observe the fast sometimes and also leave them (the fast) at other times; stand up for the prayer at night and also sleep at night. Your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you and your wife has a right over you.” [Bukhari]
In another narration, Aisha (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) sent for Uthman ibn Mazh’un and he came.
عَنْ عَائِشَةَ أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بَعَثَ إِلَى عُثْمَانَ بْنِ مَظْعُونٍ فَجَاءَهُ فَقَالَ يَا عُثْمَانُ أَرَغِبْتَ عَنْ سُنَّتِي قَالَ لَا وَاللَّهِ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَلَكِنْ سُنَّتَكَ أَطْلُبُ قَالَ فَإِنِّي أَنَامُ وَأُصَلِّي وَأَصُومُ وَأُفْطِرُ وَأَنْكِحُ النِّسَاءَ فَاتَّقِ اللَّهَ يَا عُثْمَانُ فَإِنَّ لِأَهْلِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا وَإِنَّ لِضَيْفِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا وَإِنَّ لِنَفْسِكَ عَلَيْكَ حَقًّا فَصُمْ وَأَفْطِرْ وَصَلِّ وَنَمْ
The Prophet said, “O Uthman, do you not desire my practice?” Uthman said, “O Messenger of Allah, no by Allah. I seek your practice.” The Prophet said, “Verily, I sleep and I pray, I fast and I break my fast, and I marry women. Fear Allah, O Uthman, for your family has rights over you and your guest has rights over you. Verily, your own self has rights over you, so fast and break your fast, pray and sleep.” [Abu Dawood]
Going beyond the limits even in ibadah is wrong. For a start, it is unsustainable. What’s the point of doing 1000 rakahs for 2-3 months and then becoming bored and ceasing to pray altogether. Islam is about balance.
Ibn Abbas was observing that these alternating verses create balance in the Quran and when you look through that lens you can feel it and see it in the Quran. As the ayahs shift from punishment and reward and from Hellfire to Jannah you feel your heart tighten and release. Whenever you feel down, you can bring your heart up, by asking Allah Almighty for support and help and repenting.
We’ve seen in the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and in the Quran many times, that no matter what you have done, Allah will forgive you if you are sincere. The main ayah which gives us hope is that Allah Almighty will never forgive shirk but He will forgive other than shirk (which is taking partners with Him).
إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يَغْفِرُ أَن يُشْرَكَ بِهِۦ وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَن يَشَآءُ ۚ وَمَن يُشْرِكْ بِٱللَّهِ فَقَدِ ٱفْتَرَىٰٓ إِثْمًا عَظِيمًا ٤٨
Indeed, Allah does not forgive associating others with Him ˹in worship˺, but forgives anything else of whoever He wills. And whoever associates others with Allah has indeed committed a grave sin. [4:48]
The worst and the biggest sin is to believe that Allah Almighty has partners – it is the top of the major sins. If someone were to come back and confess the oneness of Allah Almighty and take the shahada and repent, Allah Almighty will forgive that. So Allah Almighty will forgive even that. This opens the gates of hope, but at the same time, it should not be a licence for someone to indulge in all sins thinking they can do anything what they want and then repent. Can they guarantee they will live to repent? They might die while sinning. Repent and ask Allah Almighty for acceptance.
In summary, Al Qabid is the One who contracts and and Al Basit is the One who expands. The One who takes the souls and the One who gives the souls to the bodies. The One who gives the hearts comfort, the One who makes hearts tremble in awe of His majestic attributes, and strikes fear in you, so you avoid breaking the rules. This creates balance in our lives, which is so important. Reminding people about Allah Almighty’s mercy is Al Basit – expanding our hearts, and making us feel relaxed and light as the presence of Shaykh Yunus, who used to love calling on Al Basit, made us feel. Al Qabid reminds us of punishment and makes us fearful, deterring us from going astray.
Imam Al Qushayri (may Allah be pleased with him) also commented on these names in his book At-Tahbir, saying qabid and basit are attributes of action – qabad and basat, extracting and expanding physically as well as metaphorically. So when you give your sadaqah remember that Allah Almighty is the One who accepts this, so correct your intention and observe the right etiquettes when you give, because Allah Almighty is on the receiving end. If you do it with the right intention, and the right etiquettes then inshallah Allah Almighty will accept it from you. Similarly, when we pray, acceptance of our salah, we should observe that Allah Almighty is the One who receives our salah. As the names reflect on your heart is in different modes, depending on which name is reflected on you. So at times you feel heaviness and at others you feel lightness. Heaviness is Al-Qabid, lightness is Al-Basit.
Ya Basit, spread Your Mercy and Your Forgiveness among us. Ameen
Shaykh Haytham Tamim – 12 Sept 2023 Transcribed by S Jawaid
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