A few months ago, I had the opportunity to attend Shaykh Ammar Al-Shukry’s AlMaghrib single weekend degree seminar on Unlocking the Names of Allah. Here are some notes I took. May it benefit!
What’s in a name?
A God with many names – all of which when invoked, would still be powerful and sweet.
The greatest knowledge is knowledge of the names of Allah. Allah is in the beginning of over 33 verses in the Qur’an. He is the One who creates us, the One whom we love. But how do we truly love and worship Allah if we don’t know who He is?
Learning His multitude of names and their meanings is one of the ways we can deepen our love for Him. We get to know His names so that we may invoke them in our du’as. When we think about the secret to success, we think about hustling, winning, toiling. But what we often forget is that du’a is one of the ways to success. It is action. Hence, we need to approach du’a like going for a job interview. You didn’t ask from Him except that He inspires you to do it, so know that He truly wants to give you.
Another question we might ask is, why does Allah have so many names? The reason for that is so that we can use them accordingly to call upon Him, based on what we are praying for.
“And to Allah belong the beautiful names, so invoke Him by them. And leave [the company of] those who practice deviation concerning His names. They will be recompensed for what they have been doing.” – Al-A’raf, 7:180
Many times, the names of Allah that appear at the end of the verse, is the point of the verse itself.
The multiplicity of names does not mean the multiplicity of objects. All of His names go back to one entity – Allah SWT. We also know that the more names something has, the more important, the more significant it is.
We also know that Allah SWT created mankind to be in a state of problems, of trials and tribulations. Accessing Allah’s names will help us through this. Knowing the names of Allah brings about love, causes longing for Him, repels sadness, brings about fear, dissolves evil thoughts about Him, corrects character, is a means of getting closer to Him and is a cause of entering paradise.
I will share some of the knowledge I’ve gained on His names. These are not the exhaustive list – I’ve missed some parts of the session so I’ll share some pointers I managed to take note of from the lecture.
His Beautiful Names
- Al-Hayy (The Ever-Living)
Al-Hayy is mentioned in the Qur’an 5 times. It means the Ever-Living. He commands us to call on Him and depend on Him because He is the Ever-Living. Some fruits of calling upon Al-Hayy are:
1. Focus. We have to remember that this world is not meant to last forever, hence, we need to always learn to practise detachment. Our attempts to make this life perfect will be futile as this life is never meant to be perfect. We will enter the summer of our life but our parents would enter the winter of theirs. It is human nature to see that the grass always seems greener on the other side. There is absolutely no place on earth that will make us content – we simply need to be learn to be more grateful. And be focused.
2. Reliance. (tawakkul). By calling on Al-Hayy, we do not rely on other people, we rely only on Allah SWT. We don’t rely on other people because one day, they will leave this world. Instead, we rely solely on Allah as He does not die.
3. Alive. He gives life to everything else on this earth. Allah SWT’s life has no deficiency; it is perfect and unimpaired by fatigue, illness, sleep, and it is not preceded by birth or death.
There is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of [all] existence. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. (al-Baqarah, 2:255)
- Al-Mujib (The One Who Responds)
Al-Mujib is mentioned in the Qur’an in the following verse:
So ask forgiveness of Him and then repent to Him. Indeed, my Lord is near and responsive. (Hud, 11:61)
Al-Mujib means the One who responds. We have a Lord who responds, but the question is: do we ask? The response is guaranteed automatic, but do we bother to ask? As narrated by Umar al-Khattab,
I do not concern myself with the response, but I concern myself with making supplication, for I know that the response will come with it!
- Al-Qarib (The One Who is Near)
Al-Qarib means the One who is near.
In verse 2:186, notice that Allah SWT did not say “qul”, He simply mentioned “fa’innii qarib”, which goes to show that there is no intermediary between you & Allah. This verse is also situated right in the middle of the verses that talk about fasting, which highlights the importance of making du’a in the month of Ramadan.
So what are some of the things we can do to get closer to Allah?
- Do the obligatory five prayers, for these are the most beloved to Allah.
- Do the recommended sunnah.
- Do a lot of sujood (prostration) as it puts us in a state of nearness to Him.
- Take advantage of the last quarter of the night for tahajjud.
- Al-Razzaq (The One who Perpetually Provides)
Al-Razzaq means the One who perpetually provides.
Indeed, it is Allah who is the [continual] Provider, the firm possessor of strength. (al-Dhariyat, 51:58)
There are two types of Rizq (provision):
- General Rizq
- Allah provides for all His creatures, regardless
- Specific Rizq
- Imaan (faith)
- Memorising a surah
- Guidance, faith & good deeds
We are blessed with an abundance of rizq that we sometimes take for granted.
The Messenger of Allah SAW said, “Whoever among you wakes up in the morning secured in his dwelling, healthy in his body, having his food for the day, then it is as if the world has been gathered for him.” (Tirmidhi)
Richness isn’t credit cards, condominiums and cars, but a healthy body, food on the table, security of a home, and free time. Sometimes we need to take a pause and reflect on all the blessings we often take for granted, give thanks to Al-Razzaq and to constantly bless us with what’s best for us.
- Al-Fattah (The Opener)
What exactly does Al-Fattah, our Lord, open for us?
- He is the One who opens the hearts to guidance and iman (faith).
- He is the One who relieves darkness from his slaves, eases their burdens, removes hardships and harm, envelopes in Mercy and opens the door of blessings.
- He is the One who opens for His slaves the doors of knowledge and wisdom, understanding and insight.
- He is the One who opens the gates of access to this world.
- He is the One who judges between his slaves in the hereafter; yaftah baynahum ya yahkum baynahum as what was stated on the tongue of Shuayb.
Here is a du’a we can recite when we call upon Al-Fattah:
Oh Al-Fattah, open every locked door that benefits us, remove our hardships, ease our burdens, illuminate our path, forgive our sins, and open the doors of mercy, bounty, benevolence, you are the best of those who facilitate.
Shaykh Ammar mentioned that Al-Fattah should be the name creatives, writers, artists seek and invoke as we need the Opener to grant access and unlock for us understanding and goodness so that our path is cleared and we may gain inspiration easier.
- Al-Wahhab (The One Who Always Gives us Gifts)
Our lord, let not our hearts deviate after You have guided us and grant us from Yourself mercy. Indeed, You are the Bestower. (Ali-Imran, 3:8)
Allah SWT is the One who never fails to give us gifts that we often overlook. Gifts over here may refer to a spouse or children. How poorly do we reflect on the blessings of Allah. When we genuinely do, we would be in utter appreciation and gratefulness for these blessings. And do know that Allah has a right on every blessing He gives you.
The poor have a right regarding your wealth.
The weak have a right regarding your strength.
The inable have a right regarding your ability.
The ignorant have a right regarding your knowledge.
It struck me how no man is an island, and how we are all interdependent in our communities – we must remember the rights of other people with regards to our uniquely blessed gifts. We must remember that nothing in this world is really ours; ultimately it belongs to Him. And so we need to share our gift with those Allah SWT did not give that particular gift to, for it is the right of others.
So here’s something to ponder on and implement: What is a du’a that we can make in our life as of current, by using the name al-Wahhab?
- Al-Qadir (The Able)
This name of Allah should inspire us to ask Him because we believe that Allah is able to do all things. We must make du’a constantly and have presence of heart when we do. When we invoke His name ‘Al-Qadir’ in our du’a, we must be certain that He will grant us the du’a for He is ever able to provide us with what we are asking for.
- Al-Mu’min (The Giver of Security)
The meaning of this name means ‘the One who believes and is trusted’, and ‘the One who grants safety and security’. When we call upon Al-Mu’min, we ask Him for security and safety on this earth and on the Day of Judgement.
- Al-Rahman & Al-Rahim
These are the most common names often associated to Allah SWT. Al-Rahman is mentioned in the Qur’an 57 times, while Al-Rahim is mentioned 114 times. Our Lord is overwhelmingly merciful. He divides His mercy to 100 parts – 1 sent down to earth, while the 99 is reserved for the Day of Judgement and the afterlife. There are two types of mercy which Allah showers:
- The mercy He gives on this earth for everyone, regardless
- Linguistic sense: highest level of mercy
- The mercy He gives to the believers in the hereafter
- Linguistic sense: consistently merciful
There are many places in the Qur’an which tells us how we can acquire the mercy of Allah, for example:
- Surah Al-An’am, 6:155
- Surah Al-A’raf, 7:204
- Surah An-Naml, 27:46,
- Surah Al-A’raf, 7:56
If we ever think we are not deserving of His infinite mercy, then think about Abu Nawwas, the classical Arab poet who was famous for his hedonistic views but still clung to Allah and begged for His mercy, as He wrote in a piece of paper he had hidden under his pillow:
My Lord, my sins have become so great
But I know that your forgiveness is greater
I call upon you humbly as you have commanded
So if you reject me, then who will show me mercy?
If only the righteous are allowed to call upon you
Then who does the criminal retreat to?
I have nothing to hold onto except my hopes in you
And onto your pardoning.
After all, I am a Muslim.
Allah, as we are all familiar with, is the most oft-repeated name in both the Qur’an and the Sunnah. In other words, Allah is the default name of God. A little fun fact: The name ‘Allah’ is made up of all light letters to be pronounced easily by a person who is foreign to the Arabic tongue.
As Shaykh Ammar wrote in this poem,
Allah is the lord that is loved by the hearts, and
whose solace is found in remembering Him, and
long for Him, and is loved.
Also from the meanings of Allah, He who
is grandiose in His essence and attributes.
Unimaginable, incomparable, incomprehensible,
He is the First and the Last.
Allah is the lord that is worshipped, who the
believers give their heats and worship to.
Allah is the name that is the default, every other
Name is a description of Allah.
- Al-Rabb (The Lord)
Al-Rabb simply means the Lord. Our Lord. Many of our Qur’anic prayers start with ‘Rabb’, invoking the One who takes care of us. Our Master. This is the name that our prophets used throughout the Qur’an to call upon Allah during times of need. Here are some fruits of Al-Rabb when we invoke Him with this name:
- Pleasure. The feeling of happiness that Allah is our Lord.
- Al-Hafiz (The Preserver)
Al-Hafiz is our Preserver who will grant us preservation and protection from forgetfulness and loss. The types of protection that He provides us are two:
- General (He guides everything to their self-preservation through instincts)
- Specific (He guides us to what would protect our religion)
We should get to know and remember Allah SWT during our good times, so that He may know and remember us during our times of hardship.
Preserve the commandments of Allah, and Allah will preserve you. (Tirmidhi)
- Al-Shakur, Al-Shakir (The Appreciative, The Grateful)
This name should inspire us to not belittle the smallest good deed that we an do, for Allah may reward us with goodness. He gives us a lot for the little that we offer for He is Al-Shakur, and Al-Shakir.
Al-Shakur is mentioned in the Qur’an 4 times while Al-Shakir is mentioned twice. The opposite of shakir (grateful), is kafur (ungrateful). Over here, Shaykh Ammar explained how we human beings are always in either basic gratitude, or exceptional ingratitude. Our basic gratitude consists of doing the obligatory (e.g. prayers, etc), while exceptional gratitude would consist of doing voluntary prayers, or basically doing more than required by God. In life, we need to accept the fact that we do not seek appreciation – paradise is the ultimate reward. We do not wait for thanks and gratitude by other people because our audience is Allah SWT. We must train ourselves to not seek it from people. Some fruits of invoking this name are as follows:
- We show appreciation to people.
- Those who don’t show their appreciation to people, they aren’t being grateful to Allah SWT.
- He will increase us.
- As mentioned in Surah Ibrahim, “If you are grateful, I will surely increase you (14:7)”. And in Surah Saba, 34:13, Allah mentioned “…Oh family of David… do gratitude”. This shows that gratitude is beyond words. Gratitude is action. For example, to show gratitude for our wealth, we must spend it in a way that Allah would love for us to spend it on. To show gratitude for our health, we must take care of ourselves in a way that Allah would love for us to take care of it. This is the same for strength, beauty, etc. Showing gratitude truly benefits no one else but ourselves.
Someone who is grateful is able to see Allah’s hand behind every amazing thing that happens – He sees that Allah SWT is the one who facilitated that.
So keep invoking Al-Shakur, Al-Shakir, and ask Him to make us of those who are grateful.
- Al-Jabbar (The One who repeatedly compels)
Here are a few meanings of Al-Jabbar, as taken from the notes:
- The CompellerHe compels His creation as He wishes in how He fashions them, their shape, look, characteristics, the actions of their bodies; their breaths and heartbeats, their nerves, their blood, all under the control of Allah in their wakefulness and their sleep.
- The FixerHe fixes their brokenness, takes care of them, and conceals their mistakes. He is the one who fixes.
- The One Who OverpowersAl-Qahir, the overpowering, means that everything submits to and all of creation submits to His Might and Power.
- The One Who Has GreatnessThe possessor of Mulk (Dominion), ‘Athama (Greatness) and Majd (Glory). The prophet used to say in His ruku’ and sujud: “Glory be to the One who has all power, sovereignty, mangnificence and might.” (Al-Nasa’i).
- Al-Shafi (The Healer)
Interesting to note, there is no mention in the Qur’an of this name except by Prophet Ibrahim in the following verse:
And when I am ill, it is He who cures me. (al-Shu’ara, 26:80)
We must call upon Al-Shafi whenever we have either physical or spiritual ailments. We call upon Al-Shafi to heal our every envy or doubt that resides in our hearts.
The Prophet SAW, upon visiting a sick person, would say:
Oh Allah, the Lord of the people! Remove the trouble and heal the patient, for You are the Healer. No healing is of any avail but Yours; healing that will leave behind no ailment. (Bukhari)
While we invoke Al-Shafi, we should also recognise the benefit of the illness that’s been given to us. One of its benefits is surely so that we may recognise our own mortality and the fleetingness of this life. The sooner the person realises this, the better the life will be in preparing for the afterlife.
- Al-Wahid & Al-Ahad (The One, & The One and Only)
Al-Wahid is mentioned in the Qur’an 12 times, while Al-Ahad is mentioned only once in surat Al-Ikhlas, one of the greatest chapters in the Qur’an – it is one-third of it as it talks exclusively about Allah SWT.
Say, “He is Allah, [who is] One. (Al-Ikhlas, 112:1)
The fruit of invoking Allah by his name Al-Wahid & Al-Ahad is surely a stronger grasp on the concept of Tauheed, the oneness of God.
And who knew that building our own house in Jannah requires no physical effort – all we ever need to do is to remember Allah by reciting Al-Ikhlas ten times to build one house, twenty times to build two houses, and so on.
- Al-Ghaffur, Al-Ghaffar, Al-Ghaffir
Mention Al-Ghaffur and we know immediately that we invoke this name to forgive our sins. Al-Ghaffur is mentioned in the Qur’an 91 times, while Al-Ghaffar is mentioned in five. Here are some beautiful name pairings:
- Al-Ghaffur Al-RahimForgiveness with Mercy, is as if the cause and effect are paired together, and so forgiveness is the cause to experience the Mercy of Allah.
- Al-Aziz Al-GhaffurForgiveness with Strength, to show that it is not out of weakness or inability to exact revenge but with total capability and power.
- Al Ghaffur Al-WadudForgiveness with Love, that Allah forgives and the effects of that sin disappear. Some forgive but don’t forget, and so there is still a distance or a caution there.
And here are some ways to obtain Allah’s forgiveness, as extracted from the notes:
- Show goodness to God’s creation.
The Prophet SAW said, “While a dog was going round a well and was about to die of thirst, a prostitute from the children of Israel saw it and took off her shoe and watered it. So Allah forgave her because of that good deed. (Bukhari)
2. Be forgiving towards others.
The prophet SAW said, “There was a merchant who used to lend the people, and whenever his debtor was in straitened circumstances, he would say to his employees, ‘Forgive him so that Allah may forgive us.’ So Allah forgave him. (Bukhari & Muslim)
3. Do good deeds.
And establish prayer at the two ends of the day and at the approach of the night. Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds. That is a reminder for those who remember. (Hud, 11:114)
I will end my sharing with this hadith which highlights all at once how merciful, how loving, and how forgiving our Lord is.
On the authority of Anas (ra) who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah SAW say, “Allah the Almighty has said: ‘O son of Adam, as long as you invoke Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O Son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and you then asked forgiveness from Me, I would forgive you. O Son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the Earth, and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it too.” (Tirmidhi)
As I reflect on His names, the secrets of invoking our Lord through them, what crossed my mind was this: if we really think about it, all our Lord wants from us is so simple. Our Lord wants to give. He loves to give. He is ever ready to simply give. All we, in all our flaws, brokenness, and weaknesses, ever need to do, is ask. So ask and call upon His beautiful names. He is waiting.