Have we ever questioned why we are required to know the names of Allah? Houses nowadays are richly decorated with beautiful calligraphy and paintings depicting the attributes of Allah, but are they something other than ornaments and objects of art?
There are many books and publications which analyse the characteristics of Allah. However, do we understand how we are to apply this information, or what these attributes mean and how they affect us in our relationship with Allah and with others?
According to one of Islam’s greatest scholars, Ibn Abbas RA, everything has pillar. The pillar of the deen (Islamic way of life) is “la ila ha ilallah” (there is no god but Allah). The pillar of “la ila ha ilallah” is the Qur’an. The pillar of the Qur’an is the chapter of Al-Fatihah, and pillar of Al-Fatihah is “bismillah” (in the name of Allah).
Another prominent scholar of Islam, Imam Shafi’i RA said that Allah has summarized all the messages revealed to mankind in His names. Ibn Qayyimah al Jawziyah RA mentioned that the key of the door of happiness and the way to seek knowledge through the strength and ability is to have steadfastness in the name of Allah, failing which one will never be a believer.
The ummah is now running into opposite directions. On the one hand, people have become so rigid in the deen of Allah and are harsh in its implementation. On the other extreme is a group who deny the message and hover at the fringes of Islam. Both groups are wrong, for we are a nation that takes the middle path. We stand in the middle between the rigidity that shatters the ummah and the laxity that leads everyone astray.
Nowadays, in Islamic education, the main emphasis appears to be on the academics, memorisation and pronunciation. However, how do we use this knowledge to call Allah? How do we use this knowledge to get closer to our Creator? The essence of the question is, how do we spend our lives in worship of Allah, if we do not even know who Allah is?
We can read textbook after textbook on the beautiful names and attributes of Allah, but the core knowledge of Allah is not academic or theoretical. Otherwise, all the academics and historians of Islamic scripture would be devout Muslims, yet in reality, there are many who have an accurate and in depth knowledge of Islam but still remain non-believers.
True knowledge and connection with Allah comes from the heart and the soul. To understand what constitutes the central pillar of our existence, we have to know Allah. How do we do that? What do we need to perform on our end, internally and externally, to attain this state of closeness and understanding of our Creator?
This does not occur through learning bullet points by rote. Comprehension stems from the state of one’s iman, and the state of belief and conviction. This has a direct correlation with having an unshakeable faith in the One that you are calling out to. Once you are strengthened by your conviction, you will find yourself getting closer to Allah, and the more you value this feeling, the keener your efforts to learn more.
To learn the knowledge of anything has many levels and it has to be at the right stage, and at the right time. How can you speak to a child about sexual knowledge? Can you explain to a baby how to drive a car? Similarly, if you are not in a state to value and comprehend the knowledge, then the knowledge does nothing to benefit you.
In the knowledge of Allah, the key to comprehending is your spiritual readiness coupled with your commitment to seek Him. For instance, if your heart has been stained and darkened by dunia, then it becomes difficult for the light and comprehension to penetrate unless you have initiated the internal cleansing of your spiritual dirt.
Taking footsteps towards Allah needs to be done with a calm heart, with focus and a goal. It needs to be done with a gradual detachment of dunia – our material pursuits and attachments. It has to be done with quality, passion and purpose. It is also done with awareness of the dangers and obstacles that line the path – our own base desires, the persuasions and temptations of Shaitan, and our distractions of our day to day lives and pressures. It is a journey in which you have to learn how to quell your arrogance and develop humility to Allah.
Only when you reach this level, will the names of Allah have true meaning, and once that happens, the aspect of worship, and the value of your relationship with All