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 XL|Part XLI|Part XLII | Part XLIII | Part XLIV | Part XLV | Part XLVI | Part XLVII | Part XLVIII| Part XLIX | Part L | Part LI | Part LII | Part LIII | Part LIV | Part LV | Part LVI
The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) said: “Any matter of importance which is not begun with ‘bismillah’ (in the name of Allah) remains defective.” [Ibn Hibban]
What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
That you need coffee?
The things you have to do that day?
Facebook? Your emails?
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He)?
They say that if you want to know what your priorities are, reflect on the first thing you think of in the morning. That thing (or things) which are foremost in your mind not only set the tone for your day, they also determine your destination. A person who wakes up thinking about money (whether it is because he is in financial difficulty or because he wants to become rich) will then seek out and prioritize those things that lead him to money. A person who wakes up thinking of a loved one will probably talk to him or her first thing in the morning and be connected all day if they can. Allah (swt) tells us:
“He is the First (al-Awwal) and the Last (al-ākhir), the Ascendant and the Intimate, and He is, of all things, Knowing.” (Qur’an 57:3)
Al-Ghazali explains these two Names beautifully, saying: “When you ponder the order of existence and consider the ordered chain of beings, God the most high is first with respect to it… Whenever you ponder the order of wayfaring and observe the states attained by those journeying towards Him, He is the last, for He is the final point to which the levels of the ‘knowers’ ascend…. the first beginning was from Him; and to Him is the return and destination.”
Allah (swt) is, quite literally, the First. He was before anything was. He is also the Last because He is our destination and He remains when everything else goes away. There are deeper meanings here too. We prioritize things before Allah (swt), and then we wonder why we feel a spiritual void. We may wonder why bad things happen, why we cannot seem to get something right or why nothing satisfies us despite our pursuit of material means. To know that Allah (swt) is al-Awwal (the First) is to see Allah (swt) before seeing anything else, because even the physical means start with Him.
This is why, for example, we do not simply drive to a destination, but we start with the du`a’ (supplication) for travel. Living the reality of this Name is to seek Allah (swt) first even before we seek the means, because the means can only work with His blessing. This is one of the reasons for the du`a’ of istikhara (seeking good); we are asking Allah for the best choice when embarking on something. As Ibn al-Qayyim says, worshipping Allah (swt) by this Name is to realize our complete need for Him, because we realize that He came before everything and He created the means.
And this leads us to His being al-ākhir (the Last), because as Ibn Ata’illah said: “He who is illumined at the beginning is illumined at the end.” Allah (swt) is the destination. We start with Him in everything that we do so that we can end up with Him. We praise Him at the end of every matter and seek forgiveness from Him for any shortcomings. Ibn al-Qayyim says that worshipping Allah (swt) by His Name al-ākhir is to be unattached to results, and rather to be attached to Allah (swt), Who remains no matter the results. If our intention starts with Him, then no matter the outcome, our efforts are recorded by Him and are appreciated because they were for Him. In the Qur’an, Allah (swt) asks, “So where are you going?” (Qur’an, 81:26)
So we need to ask ourselves – where are we going?
Everything leads to Him
As believers, it may be easy to conceptualize that Allah (swt) is the beginning of everything and the end. However, if we consider the example at the beginning of the article, about the first thing we think of when we wake up, living this Name requires more than just knowing.
For you to begin thinking of someone like this, every morning when you wake, there has to be something in your heart. There has to be love. Many of us may know someone who has been in love: that person talks to her beloved in the morning and the beloved is the last person she speaks to at night. Simply connecting to the beloved sets the tone for her whole day. Do we have that kind of relationship with Allah (swt), and if we do not, then how can we start one?
The secret is living the knowledge that Allah (swt) is al-Awwal and al-ākhir. It is making a conscious effort to remember Allah (swt) at the beginning and at the end of everything. The fruits of this will be immediate. Allah (swt) tells us in the Qur’an:
“Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured.” (Qur’an, 13:28)
“So remember Me; I will remember you.” (Qur’an, 2:152)
The Prophet ﷺ tells us:
“Remember Allah during times of ease and He will remember you during times of difficulty.” (Tirmidhi)
Just like a person who is in love finds comfort in the mention of his beloved, imagine the effect on your heart of remembering the absolute Source of love and peace before you do anything. Putting into practice Allah’s (swt) attributes as the First and Last brings us back to our ultimate purpose, until the meanings of these Names are truly etched into our hearts and we are confronted with true reality. We then become the person in love, and for us, Allah (swt) is the First in our hearts and the Last in our journeys.
A very famous song contains these lyrics:
“You’re my first, my last, my everything.”
Little did the songwriter know that Muslims would hear this and think of God, because truly whoever understands that God is the First and the Last, knows that Allah (swt) is everything.
Connect to Allah (swt)
- Start with Him, end with Him
Remember Allah (swt) at the beginning of everything, and praise Him and seek forgiveness at the end. This will ensure that you are always in remembrance of Him and that, for you, He is the First and the Last in all your endeavors.
- Memorize the du`a’ (supplication) for the start of a matter and its end, then incorporate them into your every day routine
This is related to the first point, but it entails memorizing those things from the Qur’an and the sunnah (tradition of the Prophet ﷺ), such as supplications for:
– The start and end of your day
– Starting a journey
– The beginning and end of a meal
– The conclusion of prayers
Many of these supplications can be found in the book Huṣn al-Muslim (Fortress of a Muslim).
- Memorize this supplication that contain Allah’s (swt) Names ‘the First’ and ‘the Last’
“اللَّهُمَّ رَبَّ السَّمَاوَاتِ السَّبْعِ وَرَبَّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ، رَبَّنَا وَرَبَّ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ، فَالِقَ الْحَبِّ وَالنَّوَى، وَمُنْزِلَ التَّوْرَاةِ وَالْإِنجِيلِ، وَالْفُرْقَانِ، أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ شَرِّ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ أّنْتَ آخِذٌ بِنَاصِيَتهِ. اللَّهُمَّ أَنْتَ الأَوَّلُ فَلَيْسَ قَبْلَكَ شَيْءٌ، وَأَنْتَ الْآخِرُ فَلَيْسَ بَعْدَكَ شَيْءٌ، وَأَنْتَ الظَّاهِرُ فَلَيْسَ فَوْقَكَ شَيْءٌ، وَأَنْتَ الْبَاطِنُ فَلَيْسَ دُونَكَ شَيْءٌ، اقْضِ عَنَّا الدَّيْنَ وَأَغْنِنَا مِنَ الْفَقْرِ”
‘O Allah! Lord of the seven heavens and Lord of the Magnificent Throne. Our Lord and the Lord of everything; Splitter of the grain and the date-stone; Revealer of the Torah and the Gospel and the Furqan (the Qur’an), I seek refuge in You from the evil of everything that You shall seize by the forelock. O Allah, You are the First and nothing has come before You, and You are the Last, and nothing may come after You. You are the Most High, nothing is above You and You are the Most Near and nothing is nearer than You. Remove our debts from us and enrich us against poverty.’ (Muslim)