Knowing Your Rabb (Part 1)
To fulfill the true form of worship and servitude and attain the proper direction in our worship, we have to know the One Whom we are worshipping and directing our worship toward – we have to know the Attributes that He has. Allah has described Himself in His Noble Book with Attributes that He wants us to know and attribute Him with, so that our worship of Him can be proper and as complete as we can make it. If we have correct knowledge and understanding of Allah’s Names and Attributes, then we will never turn to anyone else or direct any form of worship to anyone other than Allah.
The reliable and safe way that will lead us to knowledge of Allah is through Revelation. There is no one more knowledgeable about Allah than Allah Himself, just as no one in creation is more knowledgeable about Allah than His Messenger Muhammad sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam. If we want to know our Rabb (Lord) and increase our knowledge about Him, then we have no option other than to do so through those authentic texts that describe Him and speak about His Actions and Names. This is because He is hidden and cannot be seen in the life of this world.
The more we know about Allah and the verses of His Book, the more we increase in faith. Whoever believes in the Names and Attributes of Allah, understands their meaning and acts according to them, will have his faith increased enormously.
The importance of knowing Allah’s Names and Attributes
The most honored and best knowledge is to know Allah’s Beautiful Names and Qualities, because they concern and belong to the Most Honored, and Blessed One, Allah.
There are numerous verses in the Noble Qur’an that mention Allah’s Qualities and His Beautiful Names. The verses which comprise (include) Allah’s Names and Attributes are higher in status and greater in value than the verses that mention the Resurrection or Paradise, etc. This is why the greatest verse in the Qur’an is Ayatul-Kursi (Al-Baqarah 2:255), and the greatest Surah is Surat-al-Fatiha (the opening chapter of the Qur’an), and Surat-al-Ikhlas (chapter 112) is considered one third of the Qur’an.
Knowing Allah’s Names and Attributes and believing in their meanings will bring fear into the heart of the slave. The one who knows that Allah is the All-Knower and All-Aware of everything and that nothing is hidden from Him of the actions (deeds) of the slaves, lives in awe of fear (more fearful) of Allah (and His punishment), more than the one who does not know this.
The one who knows that Allah is able to do everything and that nothing can stop Him or make Him fail to do anything, will be more pious and righteous than the person who does not know this. This is why Allah said:
“It is only those who have knowledge among His slaves that fear Allah.” [Fatir 35:28]
Knowing Allah leads to loving Him, fearing Him, having hope in Him, putting trust in Him, and returning unto Him; accordingly, the person will achieve success and happiness in this world and in the Hereafter.
Knowing Allah, His Names and His Attributes, is one of the articles of faith. True faith or belief is not only to say, “I believe in Allah”, but also to know Him well; hence one must exert his utmost effort to know Allah’s Names and Attributes. The degree of faith will be according to one’s knowledge of his Lord; his faith will increase, as he knows his Lord better. The legal way to know Allah, His Names and Attributes is by contemplating the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and understanding the meaning of the verses of the Qur’an.
Allah created the Jinn and Mankind to worship Him as He stated in Surat Adh-Dhariyat:
“And I (Allah) created not the Jinn and Men except they should worship Me (Alone).” [Adh-Dhariyat 51:56]
And they (Jinn and Mankind) will not be able to worship Him without knowing Him. They should know Him in order to accomplish the purpose and the wisdom of their creation.
Occupying oneself with other than what the slaves are created for is considered negligence and ingratitude towards one’s Lord, whose Grace and Bounty (Blessings) are bestowed upon him continuously.
Abdul-Qasim at-Taymiy al-Isbahani said regarding the importance of knowing Allah’s Beautiful Names: – “Some scholars said, ‘The first obligation that Allah obliged His creation with is knowing Him. If the people know Him, they will worship Him accordingly.’ Allah said:
“So know (O Muhammad) that ‘La Ilaha illa Allah’ (None has the right to be worshiped but Allah).” [Muhammad 47:19]
It is incumbent on the Muslims to know Allah’s Names and their meanings and magnify Allah as He truly deserves.” Then he added: “If a man intends to get married, people will ask about his name, his father’s and grandfather’s names, and about details of his life. Is not Allah, Who created us, is sustaining us, Whose Mercy we are hoping for and Whose Wrath and Anger we fear, more deserving to be known, including His Names?” [Al-Hujjah Fil-Mahajjah]
Some basic principles:
When we have proof from the Qur’an and Sunnah regarding the Names and Attributes of Allah, we have to accept them literally, without changing their meaning. Changing it from its literal meaning is speaking about Allah without knowledge, and this is forbidden:
“Say: ‘The things that my Lord has indeed forbidden are the great evil sins, whether committed openly or secretly, sins (of all kinds), unrighteous oppression, joining partners (in worship) with Allahf or which He has given no authority, and saying things about Allah of which you have no knowledge.’” [Al-A’raf 7:33]
An example of this principle is found in the statement of Allah:
“Nay, both His hands are widely outstretched.” [Al-Ma’idah 5:64].
What is literally clear from this Ayah is that Allah has two actual Hands, and that is what we have to accept and believe. If someone were to say that the meaning of His hands is ‘power’, then we must say to him that this is changing the word from its literal meaning (Ta’weel). And this saying is not allowed, because it is speaking about Allah without knowledge.
The Names and Attributes of Allah are the best and are perfect, and there are no deficiencies to be found in them in any way whatsoever, for Allah says, “To Him belong the Best Names.” [Taha 20:8], and “To Allah belongs the highest description.” [An-Nahl 16:60]
The Names and Attributes of Allah cannot be restricted to a fixed and definite number. This is based on the Hadith narrated by Ahmad, Ibn Hibbaan and al-Hakim: “I ask You, O Allah, by each of Your Names by which You have named Yourself or revealed in Your Book. Or (those which You have) taught to one of Your creatures or You have preserved in the knowledge of the Ghaib (Unseen) that is with You.” We don’t have any knowledge of what Allah has appropriated for Himself in the knowledge of the Unseen.
The meaning of the Hadith narrated by Bukhari and Muslim, that Allah has 99 Names, (by which) whoever takes account of them (memorizes, learns and supplicates by them) will enter Paradise, should be understood that from among all the Names of Allah are 99 Names, by which if someone takes account of them, he will enter Paradise. It does not mean that the Names of Allah are restricted to 99.
This can be understood by the example that if someone says, “I have 100 dollars which I have set aside to give in charity.” This doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have other dollars that he will use for something else.
We can only know the Names and Attributes of Allah from Revelation, and nothing can be added to that or taken away from that. We cannot name Allah with that which He did not name Himself, and we cannot reject what He did not name Himself with [Ta’teel].
We are not allowed to describe how an Attribute is [Takyeef], because Allah said in Surah Taha [20:110]: ‘But they will never encompass anything of His Knowledge.” Our minds cannot comprehend the nature of Allah’s Attributes.
We are not allowed to compare the Attributes of Allah to the creation’s attributes [Tamtheel], because Allah said in Surat Ash-Shura [42:11]: “There is nothing whatsoever like Him.”
Allah is the Most Perfect, so it is impossible to compare Him to His creation, because that is something deficient and imperfect.
1. The Names & Attributes of Allah according to the doctorine of Ahl-us-Sunnah wal Jama’ah by Shaikh ‘Umar Sulaiman Al-Ashqar
2. Sharh Lum’atul-I’tiqaad by Imam Muhammad Ibn Salih Al-‘Uthaimeen
3. An-Nahj al-Asmaa Fii Sharh Asmaa; Allah-ul-Husna by Shaikh Muhammad Al-Humood