Names of Allah Series: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX | Part X | Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII | Part XIV | Part XV | Part XVI | Part XVII | Part XVIII | Part XIX | Part XX | Part XXI | Part XXII | Part XXIII | Part XXIV | Part XXV | Part XXVI | Part XXVII | Part XXVIII | Part XXIX | Part XXX |Part XXXI | Part XXXII | Part XXXIII | Part XXXIV | Part XXXV | Part XXXVI | Part XXXVII | Part XXXVIII | Part XXXIX | Part XXXX | Part XXXXI | Part XXXXII | Part XXXXIII
When Bilal radi Allahu `anhu (may God be pleased with him), a Companion of the Prophet ﷺ, spoke a single, specific word, it infuriated his tormentors. Bilal was an Abyssinian slave who had accepted Islam without the permission of his masters. They were furious, so they tortured him – but all he would say was one word:
(The below scene contains violence and may be unsuitable for sensitive viewers.)
As he was being beaten, Bilal (ra) only said “Ahadun Ahad. Ahadun Ahad. Allahu Ahad.”
God is One.
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) is both Al-Waahid and Al-Ahad. Most linguists say that they both come from the same root but differ slightly in meaning. The root is waw-haa-dal (و-ح-د), which means ‘to be one’, ‘the only one’ or ‘to unify’.
Al-Ahad is completely unique. Al-Waahid has no partner. So we can say that Al-Waahid is the One and Al-Ahad is the Only One. So Allah (swt) is the One and Only.
Theologically, this was a response to Quraysh who said that they worshipped Allah (swt), and wanted to know what was so different about the Muslims who also worshipped Allah (swt). Surat al-Ikhlas (Qur’an 112 ‘Sincerity’) clarified the attributes of Allah (swt); that He is Al-Ahad and As-Samad (the Eternal Refuge). The differences between the two will be explored in the next section.
Back to the Essence
This Name brings us back to the essence of Islam. It brings us back to what this is really about.
It is about Allah (swt): One, Unique.
And we cannot really talk about al-Ahad without talking about the chapter which mentions this Name, the chapter on sincerity (Surat al-Ikhlas). How amazing that the Name Al-Ahad is only mentioned once in the Qur’an, yet the chapter it appears in is equal to one third of the whole Qur’an!1 It is possibly the most important name, since our profession of faith is based on it: “la ilaha ila Allah – there is no deity but God”. Some scholars have said that this chapter is equal to a third of the Qur’an because one third of the Qur’an talks about the attributes of Allah (swt). Yet if you only have this surah, you have all you need to know Allah (swt). Why?
The way the word ‘ahad’ is used in this verse is incredible. ‘Ahad’ is used in Arabic to negate, so one would say ‘la ahad’ meaning ‘there is no one’. To refer to someone, there would have to be an addition; for example, ‘ahadukum’ means ‘one of you’. However, without an addition, ‘ahad’ can only refer to Allah (swt). Al-Ahad negates anything else, and in this form can never be used to describe another – only Allah (swt). It signifies His utter uniqueness. This provides the basis for understanding His other Names, because while we as humans might possess a limited portion of His other attributes (such as mercy or knowledge), we cannot truly be compared in any way to them.
This is why, when Bilal (ra) said that one word, the Quraysh could not take it. It shattered all of their notions about their gods, as well as what they thought about Allah. That is why this chapter was so beloved to the Companions radi Allahu `anhum (may God be pleased with them all). For example, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ once sent a Companion out at the head of an expedition. During their travels, the Companion led those with him in prayer and always recited Surat al-Ikhlas. When the expedition returned, they told the Prophet ﷺ about it, and he told them to ask the man why he did always read this surah. The man replied: “It is because it this surah describes the Most Merciful, and therefore I love to recite it.” Upon hearing the man’s reply, the Prophet ﷺ said: “Tell that man that Allah loves him.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
The Name Al-Waahid, on the other hand, appears 15 times in the Qur’an, six times with His Name Al-Qahhar. Allah (swt) brings Al-Waahid al-Qahhar together because, in order to overpower others, human beings usually need to bring their armies and cannot do it alone. However, Allah (swt) is telling us that He is the One, and He overpowers all others alone. Moreover, al-Ghazali states that Al-Waahid is the one who can neither be divided nor duplicated. Theologically, this sums up the difference between Islam and other faiths; for example, those who say that God is One but is also three, or that God is One but He is in everything. The Name Al-Waahid tells us that He is just that: One, without any parts or equals.
What are the implications of knowing He is One, Unique, Unparalleled?
Can you feel what Bilal felt when he said, “Ahadun Ahad”? He felt conviction in his heart that there is nothing equal to Him, from which he was able to derive his strength. Not even torture could bring him down – and this is what the best of people were tried for. This is what the Companion, `Ammar bin Yasir (ra), was tried and tortured for. This is why Asiyah, the wife of Pharaoh, was tormented.
So we need to ask: ‘Is Allah One in my life? Do I direct everything to Him – from fears and hopes to needs?’ Realizing that He is One is to know that there is no love like His love, that there is no One who gives like Him, and that there is no One else who can fill the void – only Him, the One. His Oneness and Uniqueness force us to say to ourselves, ‘I cannot put my desires in one hand and Him in another. He is Al-Ahad.’ The weight of that knowledge should negate our lower desires and those subtle things that we worship – be it money, status or anything else. Knowing that He is al-Waahid al-Ahad reminds us that this life is about Him. He is our ultimate goal. This life is temporary; its joys and the pains will disappear, and this knowledge should negate our worldly attachments.
How else do we connect to this Name?
- Sincerity: Since He is Al-Ahad, we should direct our intentions towards His pleasure and love. The effect of this is that we do not ‘see’ people any more in terms of their praise or their criticisms. It is all about Allah (swt). This is the Name that brings everything to its essence and reminds us of the importance of sincerity. You might do things for praise but you may or may not receive it. Even if you do receive it, it will slowly wither. If you prevent yourself from doing the right thing because of what people will say or do, their reaction becomes a false idol that you worship alongside Allah. However, we know that anything done for Him in the right manner will remain. If this Oneness is realized in our hearts, that is when we actualize true freedom.
That Oneness will weigh heavily on the scales. The Prophet ﷺ said: “Allah will save a man of His community, the record of whose sins fills 99 books, each book extending as far as the eye can see. Against all this will be weighed the one good deed that he has, which is his witnessing that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His Messenger, and it will outweigh all the rest.” The Messenger of God ﷺ then said: “Nothing is of any weight compared to Allah’s Name.” (Ahmad)
- Renew your faith: The Prophet ﷺ told his Companions: “Renew your faith.” They said, “O Messenger of Allah, how can we renew our faith?” The Prophet ﷺ said: “Say often, ‘there is no God but Allah (la ilaha ill Allah)’.” (Ahmad)
Why is this important? When the dunya (this world) takes over again, we become burdened by its worries and our intentions start to mix once more, this statement will remind us what this life is really about. It will remind us of al-Waahid al-Ahad and all the implications of these Names.
- Be ‘unique’: Sheikh Hisham al-Awadhi added that another way to connect to this Name is to know that the One who is truly Unique has created you in a unique way too, and you have your own purpose to fulfill. Thus, try to leave a legacy that is specific to you.
- The Prophet ﷺ told his Companions: “Are you not able to read a third of the Qur’an in one night?” They found this very difficult and replied that nobody amongst them could do so. The Prophet ﷺ replied: “Allah, The One, the Self-Sufficient, Surah ‘Qul Huwa Allahu Ahad’, equals a third of the Qur’an.” (Bukhari) [↩]