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 | XLIV
A few years ago, I took my little nephew to a public park for the first time. While we have a garden at home, it was his first time to see such vast open space. He almost immediately started running, in awe of the vastness and beauty, not even sure what to do with it. It was so big to him, and the possibilities were endless. He then came back and hugged me, saying, “Thank you, Aunty! Thank you!” My heart was warmed of course, but I was also amused at this kid’s first experience with open spaces.
But as I started reflecting, I realized that we are all my little nephew in relation to Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He). Most of us are not familiar with Allah’s vastness—that He named Himself al-Waasi` (the Vast)—and once we get a little taste of it, we are left in awe; humbled and grateful.
Al-Waasi` comes from the root w-s-` (و-س-ع), and it is the opposite of constriction and difficulty. It means to be vast, spacious without limit, and all-encompassing. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:
“And to Allah belongs the east and the west. So wherever you [might] turn, there is the Face of Allah. Indeed, Allah is all-Encompassing (waasi`) and Knowing.” (Qur’an, 2:115)
In the verse above we are told that wherever we turn, Allah (swt) is there. He is vast and cannot be contained in space. Al-Ghazali stated that “Al-Waasi` —the Vast—derives from expansiveness, and expansiveness is sometimes linked to knowledge, when it extends to and comprehends a multitude of objects; and at other times it is linked to charity and widespread blessings, extending as far as possible to whatever they descend upon”.
So what does this mean for you and me?
It means there is room for us. There is room for me and you. There is room for us, with all of our struggles and our mistakes and our faults: Allah is vast. No matter how broken we are. No matter where we have been. No matter how many times we have messed up. There is room for everyone. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:
“My punishment – I afflict with it whom I will, but My mercy encompasses (wasi`at) all things.” (Qur’an, 7:156)
The word used here for ‘encompasses’ is from the same root of Allah’s Name al-Waasi`. His mercy encompasses everything. Every. single. thing. Allah (swt) also says:
“Indeed, your Lord is vast (waasi’) in forgiveness.” (Qur’an, 53:32)
Do you feel so as though your sins are too heavy? Allah’s forgiveness is also all-encompassing. The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) said: “Allah, Blessed and Exalted is He, says, ‘O son of Adam, as long as you call on Me, I shall forgive you of what you have done, and think nothing of it. O son of Adam, even if your sins were to reach up to the clouds in the sky, and then you were to ask for My forgiveness, I would forgive you and think nothing of it. O son of Adam, even if you were to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth, and then you were to meet Me after death, not worshiping anything besides Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as the earth.’” [Tirmidhi]
Allah (swt) tells us in Surat at-Tawba:
“And [He also forgave] the three who were left behind [and regretted their error] to the point that the earth closed in on them in spite of its vastness and their souls confined them and they were certain that there is no refuge from Allah except in Him. Then He turned to them so they could repent. Indeed, Allah is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.” (Qur’an, 9:118)
The description in this verse is so apt. It speaks about the three companions who abandoned the Muslims in their time of need, how they regretted it and how they felt like the earth was closing in on them, and that their souls were confined. But what happened? There is no refuge from God except to Him. And Allah (swt) accepted them. That constriction that they felt was released. They could breathe. Allah’s vastness allows you to breathe.
Allah (swt) is all-encompassing when you ask Him. Sheikh Akram Nadwi once said (paraphrased): “If you were to ask me for a penny, how hard would it be for me to give it you? It would be like giving nothing. When you ask Allah (swt), what you are asking of Him is even less to Him than that one penny is to me.” So do not confine Allah to what you think He can give. Remember that He is limitless.
And there is another meaning here. Allah’s religion is vast. We all have things that are obligatory upon us—such prayer, fasting and good character—but beyond that, we have all been given different talents and passions. We are told of so many different ways to come to Allah (swt): smiling,1 helping others,2 being an honest business person,3 even simply having good intentions.4 This religion is for you. You can contribute in your own way.
Once, Imam Malik was rebuked in a letter for wearing nice clothes. He was told that he should spend his time fasting during the day and praying during the night. Aside from the fact that wearing nice clothes does not preclude one from extra praying and fasting, Imam Malik responded in the most beautiful way. He wrote back to the person that Allah (swt) has apportioned acts of worship like He apportioned sustenance. And Allah may have put a deep love of voluntary fasting and prayers in the heart of the author of the letter, but Allah (swt) had also put love in Imam Malik’s heart for learning and teaching. And in all is good.
So connect to Allah (swt) with the obligatory, and then use what inspires you from the permissible to go deeper into that love. Just remember that He is vast, and so is His religion. He will accept you. In His mercy, there is enough space for you, with all of your mistakes. There is enough space for your talent. We all have things that are required of us, such as prayer. But Allah is all-encompassing and boundless, He accepts our own journey to Him. You do not have to be the scholar, but you can if you want. You can be the honored cleaner of the mosque. You can be the one in your family that always brings people together. You can be the person known for his or her integrity. You can be like Uways al-Qarni, who was “unknown to the people on earth, but well-known to those in the heavens” because of his sincerity. Those are all beautiful paths to God.
So what is your way to Allah (swt)?
Breathe. You are with Al-Waasi`. And His Vastness will embrace you.
- “Your smile for your brother is charity.” Tirmidhi [↩]
- “Allah will aid a servant [of His] so long as the servant aids his brother.” Muslim [↩]
- “May Allah’s mercy be on him who is lenient in his buying, selling, and in demanding back his money.” Bukhari [↩]
- “A person to whom Allah grants knowledge but He does not grant him wealth, but he is sincere in his intention and says: If I had wealth, I would do the same as So and so does. He will be rewarded according to his intention and their reward will be the same.” Ahmad [↩]