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 | Part LVII| Part LVIII | Part LIX | Part LX | Part LXI | Part LXII | Part LXIII | Part LXIV | Part LXV | Part LXVI | Part LXVII
Previously in this series, we discussed how Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) is the First and the Last. This article will be a continuation of that as these four Names are mentioned together in the Qur’an:
“He is the First and the Last, the Ascendant (al-Ẓāhir) and the Intimate (al-Bāṭin), and He is, of all things, Knowing.” (Qur’an, 57:3)
This verse is so powerful because it comes in the context of telling you who Allah (swt) is. Imagine that you do not know who God is, or what His attributes are. This chapter starts by telling you that “Whatever is in the heavens and earth exalts Allah, and He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise. His is the dominion of the heavens and earth. He gives life and causes death, and He is over all things competent,” (Qur’an, 57:1-2).
Reciting this may make one feel that Allah (swt) is far. He is so Grand and Great, does He even understand us? Do we have a relationship with Him? Does He understand what goes on in our hearts and our world?
Then, in the following verse, Allah (swt) addresses these very thoughts: we are told that He is the First and the Last, the Ascendant and the Intimate. Seemingly divergent qualities come together in a beautiful way, as though Allah (swt) is telling you that there is nothing, not big nor small, that escapes His knowledge. He is the First and the Last, and thus He encompasses time, and He is the Ascendant and the Intimate, encompassing all forms of space.
These are the pillars of knowledge and knowing. These Names cover everything. He is First before everything, and the Last, after everything, the Manifest who is above everything and the Intimate who is close. They combine His attributes of greatness and closeness, cutting across time and space. In a du`a ‘ (supplication), the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) says:
“He is the First, nothing is before Him, the Last, nothing is after Him, the Ascendant, nothing is above Him, and the Intimate, nothing is nearer than Him.” (Muslim)
When you worship Allah (swt) through His Names al-Ẓāhir al-Bāṭin, you become more conscious of both your internal and external. We fluctuate between two extremes: one that focuses solely on the external, where we forget the spirit of the law. On the other hand, there is the trend of “only Allah knows what is in my heart” and forfeiting all forms of the external. But Allah sees our external and our internal. They are both important, and both part of our submission to Him.
That is why, in one incident, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ pointed to a man three nights in a row saying that that person was of the people of Paradise. The companion Abdullah bin Amr, radi Allahu `anhu (may God be pleased with him), was adamant to find out what was so special about that man, so he stayed over at that man’s house for a few nights. Now, when we think of a pious person, we usually think only of extra prayers, fasts and charity, which are commendable. This is what Abdullah thought, and he did not see anything special about that man, so he decided finally to ask him. The man himself said that all he did was what Abdullah saw, then added that he never allowed himself to carry any grudge in his heart against anyone, and would empty it of envy every night. Abdullah bin ‘Amr said, “This is what you have achieved and it is something we have not accomplished.” (Ahmad)
Yet that does not mean that actions are not important. Allah (swt) praises those who do over those who do not do. The Prophet ﷺ would pray long devotional prayers in the night. Indeed, the Prophet ﷺ reminds us that the prayer is the foundation of every other deed. Moreover, we are told that actions are judged according to their intention, but an intention alone does not suffice. Sincerity is doing one’s utmost to fulfill that intention.
Ibn al-Qayyim stated that when one worships Allah by His Name al-Ẓāhir (the Ascendant), the person knows where to direct his prayers, because there is no one above Allah. Worshipping Allah while knowing that He is al-Bāṭin (the Intimate) is something that you have to taste, because it is something that words cannot describe. That is why Ibn Abbas (ra) advised someone who was inflicted with paranoia with regards to the prayer to recite the verse cited, because it reminds you that Allah (swt) is the Intimate. He knows what is in your heart, so let go of the anxiety that you feel.
Connecting to the Names of Allah
1—See how Allah manifests His attributes in everything
Sheikh Abdulrazzaq al-Badr said that in order to connect to Allah’s Name al-Ẓāhir, you have to see Allah’s attributes as they reflect in this world. Al-ẓāhir also means something that is manifest, so take the time to go out to nature to see how Allah (swt) is the Creator, while contemplating His beauty and the beauty of what He created. Remind yourself of the times Allah (swt) responded to you, because He is al-Mujeeb. Reflect on the times that something was denied to you, and then you actually saw the wisdom later on. Only once you realize that Allah (swt) is with you—He is the First and the Last, the Ascendant and the Intimate—can you actually gain closeness to Him (see point 3).
2—Direct everything to Him
Ibn al-Qayyim stated that knowing that Allah (swt) is above everything means that you know where to direct yourself—your prayers, your hopes, your goals and your fears. There is nothing above Him, so why turn to what is below Him?
3—Crave intimacy with Allah
Ibn al-Qayyim said that this attribute of Allah—al-Bāṭin—cannot be described, only felt. The interesting thing is that when you start to see Allah’s attributes as they manifest in the everyday and the mundane, as well as in the extraordinary, your heart naturally moves closer to Him. You realize how close He is, and the fruit of this realization is that you work to purify your heart, as well as praying more because you know that those are your moments with Allah (swt). That is why the Prophet ﷺ would pray in the night even though it was not obligatory: he loved doing so, because he loved being with Allah (swt).