Major Principles of Islam 2 – Knowing Allah through His beautiful names
The major principles of Islam (kulliyaat al Kubra) are the main principles which we cannot live without. The first main principle is to know Allah Almighty, but it is hard to do justice to this topic because Allah Almighty is beyond our comprehension. What we know about Him is from the Quran and what we learnt from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Allah Almighty mentioned in the Quran:
فَٱعْلَمْ أَنَّهُۥ لَآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا ٱللَّهُ
You should know there is no God but Allah Almighty. [47:19]
Ibn Raslaan, a Palestinian Shafi’i scholar of 9th century Hijri, wrote many books, and one of his very famous books contained a poem on aqeedah (theology), in which he said the first obligation for every human being is to know Allah Almighty with certainty. It was common practice for scholars to compose poems which summarise branches of Islamic science. In tajweed there is a very famous poem for beginners and another for advanced students. We also have poems in Usul and Fiqh, with 3-4 poems which summarise the whole topic. In Arabic, al fiya means one thousand lines and various scholars have written one thousand line poems, for instance in the field of hadith there is al-fiyat-as-Suyuti and Imam al-Iraaqi, wrote a thousand lines on the sciences of hadith before him. Al-fiyat-ibn-malik is a poem on the Arabic language which is well known as the al-fiya, which students divide into 3-4 sections and usually memorise over four consecutive years.
Our first and foremost obligation is to know Allah Almighty. How do we do this? We get to know Him from His attributes, as reflected by His beautiful names. These are mentioned in the Quran and also in the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
وَلِلَّهِ ٱلۡأَسۡمَاۤءُ ٱلۡحُسۡنَىٰ فَٱدۡعُوهُ بِهَاۖ وَذَرُوا۟ ٱلَّذِینَ یُلۡحِدُونَ فِیۤ أَسۡمَـٰۤىِٕهِۦۚ سَیُجۡزَوۡنَ مَا كَانُوا۟ یَعۡمَلُونَ ١
The Most Beautiful Names belong to Allah: So call on Him by them; [7:180}
Al-Izz bin Abdus Salam, a scholar from the 7th century Hijri, known as Sultan al Ulama as he was such a gifted scholar, wrote Shijaratul ma’arif wal ihwal, ‘The Tree of Knowledge and Different Levels’, in which he devoted a very lengthy chapter on how to emulate the beautiful attributes of Allah. We cannot emulate all of Allah’s attributes as some are exclusive to Him, but this book is the most detailed on this topic.
Allah’s names are not limited to 99. He has more than 300 names and even beyond as mentioned in the Quran and the Sunnah, however it is due to the efforts of some scholars, rather than prophetic narrations, that we popularly know 99.
One of the great teachers, when he was asked after 60-70 years of studying and learning and teaching and researching etc, said the whole universe is based on Jamal, jalal and kamal – beauty, majesty and perfection.
Scholars divide the names of Allah Almighty into jamali names and jalali names. Jamali names are about beauty, for example Ar-Rahmaan and Ar-Raheem. These are the jamIali names of beauty, for example Al-Lateef, yes, most kind and so on. The jalali names, for example Al-Qadeer, Al-Jabbar, are majestic names.
Al Aleem – All Knowing
One of Allah’s attributes that He is Aleem (All Knowing). From this attribute we understand that we have to acquire knowledge (ilm), so we should learn about our obligations towards Him, His rights upon us, as well as what is halal and haram and how to get closer to Him. These are all part of ilm. The Sunnah is full of ahadith (narrations) that encourage believers to learn and improve their education and improve their knowledge. We are told of the high status of the true scholars of Islam, as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), as narrated by Abu Darda (may Allah be pleased with him) said:
عَنْ أَبِي الدَّرْدَاءِ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ الْعُلَمَاءُ خُلَفَاءُ الأَنْبِيَاءِ إِنَّ الأَنْبِيَاءَ لَمْ يُوَرِّثُوا دِينَارًا وَلا دِرْهَمًا إِنَّمَا وَرَّثُوا الْعِلْمَ
“The scholars are the successors of the prophets. Verily, the prophets do not pass on gold and silver coins, but rather they only impart knowledge.” [Musnad al-Bazzaar]
As Sam’aa – Al Hearing
Allah Almighty is As Samee, the All Hearing. How do we emulate this? We need to listen to the word of Allah Almighty and listen to what pleases Allah Almighty, so don’t engage in any discussion or listen to anything that is prohibited (haram) such as backbiting or what Allah Almighty disapproves of.
Al-Baseer – All Seeing
Allah Almighty is Al Baseer, All Seeing. How do we emulate this? We need to look at the creation of Allah Almighty and reflect on it and this makes us closer to Allah Almighty. If you watch documentaries about nature – the weather, seas and oceans, and animals, you often hear the presenters say ‘This has been designed in this way, this has been designed in that way, the magnificent design..’ they point to the of this design, but they do not mention the One who designed it in the first place.
It is not only reciting that Quran which makes you closer to Allah Almighty, but looking at what is in the heavens and what is on the Earth, using your faculties. There are two kinds of ayaat – the verses of the Quran and then there is the evidence for the universe. The ayaat can be heard or seen. Whether your scrutinise the sky or the palm of your hand, or hair or eyes, it makes you closer to Allah Almighty. Using your senses – your hearing, your sight. On no
Allah Almighty talks about His words. He spoke to Musa (peace be upon him). The Quran is His words (Allah Almighty) and all the books which He revealed to the messengers are His words. How do we emulate this? By saying what pleases Allah Almighty, reciting His words, reflecting upon them, and when we do not have good things to say, by staying silent. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ مُحَمَّدٍ، حَدَّثَنَا ابْنُ مَهْدِيٍّ، حَدَّثَنَا سُفْيَانُ، عَنْ أَبِي حَصِينٍ، عَنْ أَبِي صَالِحٍ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ “ مَنْ كَانَ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ فَلاَ يُؤْذِ جَارَهُ، وَمَنْ كَانَ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ فَلْيُكْرِمْ ضَيْفَهُ، وَمَنْ كَانَ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ فَلْيَقُلْ خَيْرًا أَوْ لِيَصْمُتْ ”.
“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should not hurt his neighbour and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should serve his guest generously and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should speak what is good or keep silent.” [Bukhari]
Allah Almighty says, ‘Tell My servants to say what is best’, so choose your words when you speak. Make your words healing, not knives that chop hands and dignity.
Al Adl – the All Just
One of the names of Allah Almighty is Al-Adl, the All Just. So we can express this in our lives by not oppressing anyone and doing our best to rectify things when we oppress anyone. We emulate it by being just.
Al-Muhsin – the one who give excellence
“Verily, Allah has prescribed excellence in all things. Thus, if you kill, kill in a good manner. If you slaughter, slaughter in a good manner. Each of you should sharpen his blade and spare suffering to the animal he is slaughtering”. [Muslim]
As-Salaam – the One who gives peace
We can reflect this name by being a person who spreads peace and greetings – saluting everyone and spreading salam everywhere.
Al-Mu’min – the One who gives tranquillity and safety to people
Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ عَنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ الْمُسْلِمُ مَنْ سَلِمَ النَّاسُ مِنْ لِسَانِهِ وَيَدِهِ وَالْمُؤْمِنُ مَنْ أَمِنَهُ النَّاسُ عَلَى دِمَائِهِمْ وَأَمْوَالِهِمْ
“The Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hand people are safe, and the believer is the one people trust with their lives and wealth.” [Sunan al-Nasaa’i]
Therefore the true believer is the one whom people entrust with their property and their life. They are trustworthy, provide safety and support people.
Al-Aziz and Al ‘Izzah – the one whom no one can defeat
We can emulate this by being a person of dignity. This means not humiliating ourself.
One of the jalali names we cannot emulate is Al Muttakabbir, as Allah Almighty is the only one entitled to have pride kibriyyah. If we think we are better than others, this arrogance is punishable. This is we you cannot imitate this attribute from a Sharia point of view. But this is not one of them.
Al-Lateef – the most kind
In Surat Al-Mulk, Allah Almighty says, Huwal-lateef ul khabeer ‘He is the most kind’.
Khalid ibn Ma’dan reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
عَنْ خَالِدِ بْنِ مَعْدَانَ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ رَفِيقٌ يُحِبُّ الرِّفْقَ وَيَرْضَاهُ وَيُعِينُ عَلَيْهِ مَا لا يُعِينُ عَلَى الْعُنْفِ
“Verily, Allah Almighty is kind. He loves kindness and is pleased by it. He offers support for it, that which is not offered for harshness.” [Tabarani]
Allah Almighty is kind and loves kindness and His reward for kindness is what He doesn’t reward for anything else. This is a huge incentive to be kind.
Ash-Shakoor – the One who accepts gratitude from His servants
We can be a person of gratitude by expressing our thanks to Allah Almighty for our blessings and His favours .
Al-Wadood – the Most Loving
One of the beautiful jamali names of Allah Almighty is Al-Wadood, which comes from wudd, which is deep love or mahabba. We can be a person of love by wishing goodness for others, and sharing goodness with others. By being a person of softness and kindness.
Allah Almighty says:
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قال تَهَادُوا تَحَابُّوا
“Give each other gifts and you will love each other.” [Bukhari – al-Adab al-Mufrad]
People who love others are very close to Allah Almighty, because He loves them for their good actions and intentions and efforts. Love comes with sacrifice. When you love somebody you have to make sacrifices, and loving Allah Almighty also comes with sacrifices. For instance, doing what pleases Him, such as waking up to pray at Fajr time and praying on time. When fajr is at 3am or 4am, we have to disrupt our sleep, to wake up, make wudu, pray or go to the mosque. When we pay zakah we have to give away money although this decreases on paper, but increases in our Jannah-account. sacrifices, you sacrifice things that you love, if it’s not compliant with what He Almighty loves. Sacrifice is part of the package.
Al-Qawi – the Powerful
We have to use our power to do what pleases Allah Almighty. Not to harm or oppress others. Use your power to help and support people, this increases your closeness to Allah Almighty.
Al-Ghani – free from all wants and Ar-Razaaq, the Provider
One of the translations of Al Ghani is the Most Rich. The opposite of ghani is faqeer (poor). Allah is Ghani, and therefore needs no one. Whereas we are in need of Him. The one who asks no one but Allah Almighty is dignified, because he’s asking the Giver in the first place. If you are well off financially, and if Allah Almighty has provided for you, then share this rizq (provision) with others. Begin with those whom you are responsible for – your family, your parents, your spouse, your siblings, your children and so on. They are your priority list and then help those in your wider circle – your neighbours and your community. If Allah Almighty provided for you, then don’t be miserly. The more you give, the more Allah Almighty will increase your provision. And you have mainly two forms which we see through the Quran and the sunnah.
Sharing your wealth with others through the zakah is compulsory while sadaqah general charity is recommended. The more you charity you give, the more Allah Almighty will increase your reward and your wealth.
Al-Hakeem – the All Wise
Being wise means to say the right thing at the right time with the right tone with the right intention and doing the right thing, at the right time with the right manners. This is wisdom. And sometimes doing the right thing is to say nothing. For instance, when somebody is so angry and you say something (even if it is right) at that moment which increases their fury is not wisdom. Wisdom would be to say nothing. It would be wiser to leave them to calm down. Unfortunately, sometimes some people don’t understand this and provoke them. It’s stupidity to confront a raging bull. You will escalate matters and then they retaliate exacerbating the issue. The problem is made worse.
Al-Wahhab – the One who gifts with many favours
Hiba is a gift. To demonstrate this in our lives, we can give gifts to our parents gifts, spouse, children, siblings and friends. This increases bondship. Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قال تَهَادُوا تَحَابُّوا
“Give each other gifts and you will love each other.” [Bukhari – al-Adab al-Mufrad]
When you inculcate these qualities in your life, it changes your perspective, your practice, and your experience. It gives you a feeling and flavour which you have never tasted before.
Al-Kareem and Al Jawad – the most generous and All Giving
Kareem is the opposite of bakheel (miserliness), it means being generous, and this is one of the positive attributes of great leaders. Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) reported:
عن ابن عباس رضى الله عنهما قَالَ كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَجْوَدَ النَّاسِ وَكَانَ أَجْوَدُ مَا يَكُونُ فِي رَمَضَانَ حِينَ يَلْقَاهُ جِبْرِيلُ وَكَانَ يَلْقَاهُ فِي كُلِّ لَيْلَةٍ مِنْ رَمَضَانَ فَيُدَارِسُهُ القُرْآنَ فَلَرَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَجْوَدُ بِالخَيْرِ مِنَ الرِّيحِ المُرْسَلَةِ
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was the most generous of people and he was even more generous in Ramadan when Gabriel would meet him. He would meet him every night of Ramadan to study the Quran. Thus, the Prophet would be more generous than a refreshing wind. [Bukhari and Muslim]
This hadith, which is demonstrated by the biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was a very generous person (peace be upon him). We should train ourselves to be generous. Even in times of financial difficulties and globally we are experiencing rocky times economically, with inflation, austerity and a cost of living crisis. the like. Yet we can still do as much as possible within our means. No one is saying to donate all your money or hundreds and thousands, just donate whatever you can. Doing this keeps us from becoming hoarders and misers.
Ar-Rahman – the Merciful
Before every surah, we recite ‘bismillahi-rahmaanir-raheem’, which repeatedly draws our attention the concept of rahma (mercy). Allah Almighty is Ar-Ra’uf and Ar-Raheem, the most kind, the most compassionate. These are jamali names, which we can emulate by being people who show mercy to others. By reaching out to those who need are suffering with physical, emotional or financial support. If you see someone afflicted by a calamity, try to help. If they need advice and you can listen to them, advise them or connect them with others who can help, do not turn your back on them as if you’re unaware of their situation, because it is not your business. Don’t be cold hearted. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a soft-hearted person – this was rahma from Allah Almighty.
مَا رَحۡمَةٖ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ لِنتَ لَهُمۡۖ وَلَوۡ كُنتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ ٱلۡقَلۡبِ لَٱنفَضُّواْ مِنۡ حَوۡلِكَۖ فَٱعۡفُ عَنۡهُمۡ وَٱسۡتَغۡفِرۡ لَهُمۡ وَشَاوِرۡهُمۡ فِي ٱلۡأَمۡرِۖ فَإِذَا عَزَمۡتَ فَتَوَكَّلۡ عَلَى ٱللَّهِۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يُحِبُّ ٱلۡمُتَوَكِّلِينَ
“So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah . Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].” [3:159]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was bil mu’mineen ar-raoof ar-raheem, kind and merciful. So we need to be merciful. As in the hadith, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) says
Abdullah ibn Amr (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
عَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عَمْرٍو قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ الرَّاحِمُونَ يَرْحَمُهُمْ الرَّحْمَنُ ارْحَمُوا مَنْ فِي الْأَرْضِ يَرْحَمْكُمْ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاءِ
“The merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth, and the One in the heavens will have mercy upon you.” [Tirmidhi]
Allah Almighty is merciful towards those who show mercy. When we are merciful to others, a far greater mercy is extended to us. The concept of rahma is very important and we need to double check, every now and then, whether we are really merciful or whether we have a stone in our heart, as we say in Arabic. You might find yourself duped by someone you thought was in need, only to discover they had conned you. This bad experience might make you hesitate in being generous with others. This can gradually develop into a barrier between you and those who are needy. As long as you gave someone money with the right intention with the right approach, you will get the reward from Allah Almighty and bring them relief, even if they lied. It is miserliness to withhold money because you assume they might be deceiving you.
As-Sattaar / As-Sitteer – the One who conceals the sins of His servants
When we sin or make mistakes, Allah Almighty conceals this from people. Imagine if Allah Almighty exposed all our sins to people, it would be so embarrassing. No one would talk to anyone. Out of His mercy, Allah Almighty has screened us and covered our sins, so when we ask Him for forgiveness He will forgive us inshallah. Therefore if you see someone making a mistake or committing a sin, don’t go and expose him, cover his sin and try to advise him privately and kindly to stop this sin and repent. Encourage him to repent. Don’t share his sins and mistakes on social media. This is haram. This is the opposite of As-Sitteer or As-Sattaar. By concealing his sins, you keep the possibility of his coming back to Allah Almighty open, whereas if his sin becomes public, he will be known and labelled, so he it will be harder for him to disassociate with and stop that sin.
Al-Haleem – the Clement
Al-Haleem is close to As-Saboor, the Patient. Allah Almighty does not punish us when we deserve punishment. Instead He gives us a chance to repent and to come back. He gives us a chance to reflect and change. Reflect this in your actions by not being hasty in your judgement, your actions and your words. Have sabr (patience) and hilm (clemency).
Al Qawi – the Powerful One
Al Qawi is the All Powerful. How can someone emulate this name? By being strong in your faith and in your character and in your worship of Allah Almighty. Don’t compromise on your principles.
Al-Ghafoor and Al-Ghaffar – the One who forgives sins and mistakes
Know that Allah is the one who forgives, and approach Him with your sins. Say, ‘Ya Allah I have too many sins, and have made too many mistakes, and I have many shortcomings, so forgive me and my mistakes, my shortcomings, and accept me and make me better.’ If somebody has wronged you and he asks for forgiveness, don’t refuse to forgive him and stop talking to him. If he really shows regret and remorse, accept his repentance. Put yourself in his shoes – if you wronged somebody and woke up and realised it so wrong, and you shouldn’t have said or done this, and asked for his forgiveness but he did not forgive you, how would you feel? Release yourself from grudges and ill feeling, and forgive. This is how you reflect Allah Almighty’s names Al-Ghafoor or Al-Ghaffaar in your life.
At-Tawwaab – the One who accepts repentance
At Tawwad is the one who accepts repentance or facilitates repentance. We inculcate this quality in ourselves by encouraging people to repent, of course starting with ourselves. Encourage people to repent and come back to Allah Almighty. Remind people when something requires repentance, we should repent to Allah Almighty and turn back to Him. He is All Forgiving, All Merciful.
As At-Tawwaab is the One who accepts repentance, then we should also emulate this by accepting the apology of someone who has wronged you. When you see that he/she regrets what they did, then accept it. For some it is very difficult for them to forgive or accept an apology from somebody who hurt them and they cannot forget the hurt. I have come across different personalities and different people. Some people are very easy going and they forgive quickly. Others, you wish you never met them because they’re so difficult. If you wronged them accidentally it’s a disaster, because they will never forgive you. We are not angels at the end of the day; we all make mistakes. Apologise once and if it is not accepted, twice, and if you are genuine and you really regret what you did ask for forgiveness three times. When you ask, use the right tone, ask at the appropriate time, using your words carefully and sensitively and wisely. If after that they still refuse to forgive you, then you will be forgiven and they will carry the sin themselves. There are many narrations on this. It was narrated from Judan that the Messenger of Allah(ﷺ) said in a weak narration:
“If a man makes an excuse to his brother and he does not accept it, he will bear a burden of sin like that of the tax-collector.” [Ibn Majah]
وروي عن عائشة رضي الله تعالى عنها مرفوعا : ” من اعتذر إلى أخيه المسلم فلم يقبل عذره، لم يرد علي الحوض ” . رواه الطبراني في الأوسط
And it was narrated on the authority of Aisha ( may Allah be pleased with her) from the Prophet (peace be upon him):
“Whoever apologises to his Muslim brother and his excuse is not accepted, he will not come down to me on the Hawd.” [Tabarani Al-Awsat]
وروي عن ابن عباس رضي الله تعالى عنهما قال : قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : ” ألا أنبئكم بشراركم ؟ قال : الذين لا يُقيلون عثرة، ولا يقبلون معذرة، ولا يغفرون ذنباً”. رواه الطبراني.ضعيف.
And it was narrated on the authority of Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him)that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said in a weak narration:
“Should I not inform you of the worst of you?” He said: Those who do not help out in difficulty, do not accept an apology, and do not forgive a sin”. [Tabarani]
وعن أبي هريرة عن النبي صلى الله عليه
وسلم قال : ” عفوا عن نساء الناس تعف نساؤكم ، وبروا آباءكم يبركم أبناؤكم ، ومن أتاه أخوه متنصلا فليقبل ذلك محقا كان أو مبطلا ، فإن لم يفعل لم يرد على الحوض ” . رواه الحاكم وقال : صحيح الإسناد.
والتنصل : الاعتذار .
On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) in an authentic hadith that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“Refrain from people’s women, your women will be chaste, and be good to your parents and your children will be good to you. And whoever his brother comes to him apologising, let him accept it, whether it is right or wrong, and if he does not do so, he will not come down to me on the Hawd”. [Al-Hakim]
When we reflect on the names and attributes of Allah Almighty and put them into practice in our lives, we can experience success in our life and relationships and Hereafter.
Shaykh Haytham Tamim 31st Jan 2023 Transcribed by S Jawaid
- Growing up as a young Muslim (part 2)
- Growing up as a young Muslim (part 1)
- Being good neighbours
- Mirroring the Prophet (peace be upon him)
- Knowing Allah through His Beautiful Names – Al Jameel, Al Jaleel, Al Kareem
September 22, 2023
September 21, 2023