This is SAFAR, the second month of the Hijra year! It is the month dedicated for journeys. In the days of old, believers set out on journeys during this month having been fortified by the faith they have built up during the sacred month of Muharram, So intertwined is the month with journeys that the traveller is called as-safarin (Q2:185).
Come then, let's set out on a journey to the loftiest place in this "month which is void" (another meaning of Safar). This journey is not for the pleasure and. vanity of watching thirty-two nations struggle to see whose eleven-man team is best at knocking one single football into the net. Truly, the World Cup' spectacle confirms Allah's revelation:
"Know you (all) that the life of this world is but play and a pastime, adornment and mutual boasting and multiplying (in rivalry) among yourselves....." (Q57:20)
This is a journey to a magnificent presence and a great abode; but it is not a journey to the great beyond to which one is accompanied by the angel of death. For
"wherever you are, death will find you out, even if you are ill towers built lip strong and high" (Q4:78).
Pity is for him 'whose death elicits joy and relief from many who have been shackled in oppression, still Allah is All-Forgiving, Ever-Merciful. Mistaken too, are those who rejoice at the death and grief of others for each soul should worry about what it has sent forth for the next world. Allah commands:
"O you who believe! Fear Allah and let every soul look to what (provision) he has sent forth for the morrow yes, fear Allah for Allah is well acquainted with (all) that you do" (Q59:18)
A NECESSARY JOURNEY
This journey is one of knowledge: It is a journey to know who Allah is and who he is not; what are the attribute of Allah, what does each of the attribute mean to us and how might our lives be shaped by this significant knowledge? Why is it necessary to proceed on this journey? Allah asks of us:
"Know Me before you worship Me; for if you do not know Me, how will you be able to worship Me?" (Hadith Qudsi).
The Qur'an confirms this command by stating that
"... those truly fear Allah, among His servants, who have knowledge: for Allah is Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving" (Q35:28).
The knowledge of the nature and attributes of Allah is necessary because Allah is the most important entity, nay the sole entity, in the whole universe. And if the thing you are the studying is important, then the knowledge of it is quite important.
The knowledge of the names and attributes of Allah is central to tawheed (the unity of Allah) and aqeedah (correct set of Islamic beliefs). Thus Allah revealed 'the knowledge of Himself to the believers so that we can have the proper idea of who He is:
Verily it is only those who are firmly grounded in knowledge of Allah that truly fear Him. For how can you fear Allah if you do not know Him? How can you love, sanctify, respect, adore and revere Allah if you do not know Him? Indeed, how can you fulfil this most important commandment:
"O you who believe! Fear Allah as He should be feared and die not except in a state of Islam" (Q3:102)?
For the first part commands you to do all that Allah has ordered and to abstain from all that He has forbidden and also to obey Him, be thankful to Him and to remember Him always; while the second is the blissful result of that obedience.
NAMES OF THE ESSENCE
The names by which God is known in Islam are divided into two broad categories: the Names of the Essence and the Names of the Qualities or Attributes. The Names of the Essence are personal names that are specific only to the Almighty. Three of these names are well-known as they are revealed in the first two verses of the Qur'an:
Allah, Ar-Rahman and Rabb. (Q1:1-2).
Allah, often translated as The God, is the personal name of God, it is gender-free and used exclusively for Him. Allah is the name by which all prophets (PBUT) had called their Lord in their original languages (Arabic, Aramaic etc.) and it refers only to the Almighty God. It is referred to as al-ism al a'zam (the Supreme Name) and it is so unique that each time Allah describes Himself in the Qur'an, the name Allah is always the preface. (See Q2:225, Q24:35&Q59:28-27). No other being bears that name, none has ever borne it nor will anyone ever bear it except Allah.
Ar-Rahman (the Most Gracious or the Beneficent or the Most Merciful) is a personal name of Allah that expresses His greatest attribute of Mercy which overcomes all things and His Grace which extends' over all things created by Allah. It is also a personal name fondly referred to by Allah: It is contained in basmallah (Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem) coming after the supreme name Allah; it is a name recommended to be used to call upon Allah (Q17:110); it is.used to describe the servants of Allah that are exalted by their pious ways (ibadur Rahman (Q25:63-70)) and it is used to rightly depict Allah as the author of the Qur'an and the fountain of all knowledge (Q55: 1-4).
Rabb, usually translated as Lord, does not have a proper equivalent in English language. Rabb means the One and only Lord for all the universe, the Creator of creation and the creatures, the Organizer, Cherisher, Sustainer, the Master Planner and the Giver of Security. It is one of the names of essence
Allah is indeed
"... Rabbil izzati amma yasifun" ("...the Lord of Honour and Power! (He is free) from what they ascribe (to Him) (Q37:180).
In addition to these three, there are indications in the sayings of the Prophet (pBUH) that there are other names that are personal to Allah that have not been revealed to mankind. Glory and Praise be to Allah Who has revealed what is sufficient unto us and exalted is He in His Majesty for the things He has kept secret with Himself.
NAMES OF THE OUALITIES
Abu Hurayrah narrated that the-Prophet (PBUH) said: "Allah has ninety-nine Names, i.e. one hundred minus one and whoever believes in their meanings and acts accordingly, will enter Paradise ..... (Bukhari). The Names consist mostly of those directly revealed in the Qur'an while others are derived from certain passages in the Book. These names' and attributes of Allah can be grouped in several ways, For instance, some 'are constant attributes while others are not constant. Allah is AI-Ahad, (the One) and so will He constantly be; He is AI-Qawiyy (The Strong) and He is constantly in a state of strength, forever powerful.
"...No sustenance do I require of them, nor do I require that they should feed Me - for Allah is He Who gives (all) sustenance ... " (Q51:57-58);
thus constantly He is Al- Qayyum (The Self-Subsistent), Allah is Al-Hayy for He is ever alive:
"And put your trust in Him Who lives and dies not; and celebrate His Praise ... " (Q25:58).
Allah is Al-Muntaqim (The Avenger) for He says;
"to those who transgressed, We meted out Retribution.." (Q30:47)
yet does He avenge all the time? No! For He also informs all:
"O my servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins; for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful" (Q39:53).
Also, Allah is Al-Khafid (The Abaser) for He says of man:
"We have created man in the best of moulds, then do We abase him (to be) the lowest of the low... " (Q95:45)
However, Allah does not constantly abase all men as He gives the exception:
Finally, Allah is Al-Warith but while He does not inherit constantly, He will eventually:
"It is We Who will inherit the earth, and all beings there-on: to us will they all be returned" (Q19:40).
Several of these names and attributes of Allah are also classified as either Attributes of Mercy or Attributes of Majesty or Rigour, It is noteworthy that about a third of the 99 names of Allah belong to the Attributes of Mercy whether in terms of Allah being merciful to His errant creatures or in terms of Allah being generous by providing for His creatures, For example, a group of ten attributes expresses Allah's merciful willingness to forgive His servants who have wronged their own souls: Ar-Rahman, Ar-Raheem, Al-Ghaffar, Al-Lateef, Al-Ghafur, As-Samad, At-Tawwab, Al-Afuwwu, Ar- Rauf and As-Sabur. Allah's Attributes of Majesty asserts Him as the only Creator, the Powerful and the One who provides and sustains His creation for He is the Eternally Besought of All.
MOST BEAUTIFUL CHARACTER: Aside from knowing Allah and properly fearing Him, the revelation of the most beautiful names confers additional benefits: perfects the faith (iman), it gives the believer the most beautiful character and also humbles him, Allah is Al-Mumin, the Giver and the Guardian of Iman (Faith). Allah is the One who entertains faith, who gives faith to others and who is never false to the faith that others place in Him, He is also Ar-Rashid,'the Guide to the Right Path; hence the true believer appreciates that
"... Allah's guidance is the (only) guidance ... "
and he responds:
"... We have been directed to submit ourselves to the Lord of the worlds, to establish regular prayers and to fear Allah ... " (Q6:71-72).
This appreciation renews the believer's dedication and he affirms:
"Verily, my Lord has guided me to a way that is straight, a religion of right ... truly my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death are (all)for Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds" (Q6:161-162).
The most beautiful names of Allah are supposed to adorn true believers with those beautiful characteristics, Some of these attributes are to be emulated by the believer so that his own nature will seek a return to jitrah, the perfect way in which he had been created, Such attributes are: Al-Khaliq (the Creator), Al-Barri (the Maker) and Al-Alim (The Knower).
Allah is Al-Haqq (The Truth), His deen -al Islam- is the truth (Q48:28), His Messengers which He sent with the true message are all true (Q23:70) and verily, the Qur'an - His revelation
"...is an absolute truth with certainty" (Q69:51),
Hence the believer shuns lies, becomes truthful and remains one of
"those who faithfully observe their trusts and their covenants" (Q23:6),
Closely tied to truth is the attribute of justice, Allah is Al-Hakam (The Judge) and when He judges, He is Al-Adl (The Just) but He is also The Clement (Al-Halim). In like manner; He has commanded the believers:
"And when you judge between people (that) you judge with justice ..." (Q4:58).
The Prophet (pBUH) explained:
"Mercy is an offshoot of Ar-Rahman, who so then shall come up to it, shall come up to Allah; and who so shall cut himself off from it, Allah will cut him off from himself" (Tirmidhi),
Indeed, the Mercy and Grace of Allah extends to all living creatures irrespective of whether they submit to Him in Islam or not. However, Allah's Mercy unto the believers is closely linked with other Attributes: Allah pardons their errors (Al-Afuwwu), He forgives them (AI-Ghaffar), and He is Compassionate tAr-Raufi and Relenting (At-Tawwab) towards them.
It is Allah's attribute of Ash-Shakur (The Appreciative or the Grateful) that is most closely intertwined with that of Mercy. The Prophet (PBUH) once told of
"an adultress who passed by a dog at a well holding out his tongue because of thirst which was near killing him. She took off her short boot and tied it to her wrapper and pulled water for the dog; so she was pardoned because of her deed" (Bukhari).
To the believers, Allah is even more grateful for your iman and amal (good deeds). The Rasul (PBUH) narrated about his Lord thus:
"Allah ordered (the appointed angels over you) that the good and the bad deeds be written, and He then showed (the way) how (to write). If somebody intends to do a good deed and he does not do it, then Allah will write for him a full good deed (in his account with Him); and if he intends to do a good deed and actually did it, then Allah will write for him (in his account) with Him (its reward equal) from ten to seven hundred times, to many more times. And if somebody intended to do a bad deed and he does not do it, then Allah will write a full good deed (in his account) with Him, but if he intended to do it (a bad deed) and actually did it, then Allah will write one bad deed (in his account) "(Bukhari).
Such is the Mercy of Allah.
Finally, Allah's names and attributes humbles the believer and makes his human inadequacies obvious to him. For example, Allah is Al-Qadir (The Powerful) Who honours (AI-Mu;zz) whoever He likes with authority and He dishonours.
whoever is in power whenever He likes. Hence, the believer in power would not behave as if all power belongs to him and he will never laps into tyrarmy and oppression. The same applies to the rich and the knowledgeable. The names imbue humility in another way: Allah is The Witness Who is Ever-Watchful and All- Aware. Thus, the believer is conscious that Allah watches his good deeds and He witnesses his evil deeds too, even when they are commited in the closed confines of the 'bedroom'. Let him who truly believe in Allah also believes in the meanings of His Names and Attributes and act accordingly: then he will enter Paradise, insha 'Allah. Yes,
Allah is A~Haqq, Who is ever true to His promise.
This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited