With the Divine

Unimagining God: al-Quddūs, the Holy, the Pure

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 XXIXPart 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 XLVIIIPart XLIX | Part L | Part LI | Part LII | Part LIII | Part LIV | Part LV

https://stocksnap.io/photo/1A05NM0NZKThere are many misunderstandings about God. Without realizing, we anthropomorphize God. When we sin, we treat Him like a human being who cannot forgive completely. When we see evil in the world, we use human logic to conclude that God must not be merciful, or that He does not have full knowledge or power, or to deny His existence completely. When we misunderstand God, we are pushed away from Him and the path that leads to Him. When we see Him as a human being, we also attribute to Him the flaws and imperfections of a human being.

Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) is the Most Merciful, the Forbearing and the Generous – and these are attributes of which we have an idea because they manifest themselves in human forms. We see one dimension of these different attributes: mercy in the acts of kindness around us; forbearance when we are given a second chance; generosity when we are given much more than expected. We understand these attributes at a very basic level because we experience them, and they give us a glimpse into the attributes of God.

But the Qur’an tells us, “Nothing is like Him,” (Qur’an, 42:11). Whatever mercy, forbearance or generosity we experience in this world, it is not even a fraction of God’s mercy, forbearance and generosity. It is important to keep this in mind. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal said that whatever comes to your mind in terms of conceptualizing Allah (swt), know that He is not that.

Our occasional conflation of divine attributes with human imperfections is what leads us to attribute negative human qualities to Allah (swt). This is why Allah (swt) invites us to know Him via His 99 Names. There are Names that introduce us to His Mercy and Beauty, and the fact that we have experienced the human dimension of these attributes makes them easier for us to comprehend. There are also Names that show us the attributes of Majesty, which should fill us with awe. However, it is some of these attributes, if not properly understood, which may cause us confusion about God. Then there are the Names that, in their essence, teach us that Allah’s (swt) attributes are nothing like human attributes. They serve as a reminder that, for example, His mercy is not affected by a lack of wisdom, nor is His overpowering a result of irrational rage.

Here, we come to Allah’s (swt) Name Al-Quddūs (the Pure). Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:

“Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth is exalting Allah, the Sovereign, the Pure (Al-Quddūs), the Exalted in Might, the Wise.” (Qur’an, 62:1)

In rukū` (bowing) in prayer, the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) would occasionally say:

سبوح قدوس رب الملائكة والروح

Subūhun Quddūs, Rabb al-Malā’ikati wa al-Rūh

“Exalted, Pure, Lord of the Angels and the Spirit” (Muslim)

After the witr prayer (the last prayer of the night), the Prophet ﷺ would also say, “Subhān al-Malik al-Quddūs,” (“Exalted is the Sovereign, the Pure”) three times (Bukhari).

Quddūs is an aggrandizement of the root word q-d-s (ق-د-س), and can mean ‘pure’, ‘holy’ or ‘blessed’. It tells us that Allah (swt) is pure from any defect and purified from anything blameworthy. Another meaning of Quddūs is that Allah (swt) purifies the hearts and souls of His worshippers, but what Allah (swt) Himself is purified from may be something that is necessary for humans. A person who does not sleep is an insomniac and most likely needs treatment. With Allah (swt), His non-sleep shows His self-sufficiency. And according to Imam al-Qurtubi, the name al-Quddūs also describes the One who is glorified and revered by the angels.

At its core, this Name teaches us that that Allah’s (swt) essence and actions are pure and untainted. Imam al-Ghazali tells us:

Al-Quddūs is the One who is free from every attribute which a sense might perceive, or imagination may conceive, or to which imagination may instinctively turn or by which the conscience may be moved, or which thinking demands. I do not say: free from defects and imperfections, for the mere mention of that borders on insult… I will rather say, the Holy (al-Quddūs) is the one who transcends every one of the attributes of perfection which the majority of creatures think of as perfection.”

Sheikh Ratib an-Nabulsi also tells us that al-Quddūs “is free from all anthropomorphic qualities of perfection that man attributes to himself or imagines. In other words, whatever qualities of perfection you might think of do not apply to Allah (swt), for He is far above them.”

If our conception of perfect qualities is still imperfect when it comes to Allah (swt), what about when we attribute to Him qualities that are negative? As Ibn al-Qayyim reminds us, al-Quddūs is too pure and holy to ever act with oppression. This is important to keep in mind and comprehend, so that we do not attribute blameworthy human attributes to Allah (swt). Sheikh Abdulrazzaq al-Badr shows that the Name al-Quddūs comes with the Name al-Malik in the Qur’an, which means the Sovereign or King. When people hear that Allah is King, that could be a neutral attribute, or it could even be a negative one if they have had bad experiences with oppressive kings. Hence, Allah (swt) tells us that He is “Al-Malik al-Quddūs”, reminding us not to get confused. He is the King, but He is Pure and so He acts with ultimate justice. There is no oppression under Him.

In further explaining this Name, Ibn al-Qayyim points to the word Bayt al-Maqdis (بيت المقدس), which refers to the whole area encompassing al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. This is the “Holy House”, because people go there to be purified of sins, and whoever visits it for the sole reason of praying there will return from it completely cleansed of his sins.

Remember these beautiful attributes, and remember that Allah (swt) is Pure in His essence and actions, and thus only mercy and wisdom can come from Him.

Connect to al-Quddūs:

  • Purify yourself

Sheikh Ratib an-Nabulsi said: “He who knows this Name purifies his time from wrong-doing, his heart from the way of heedlessness and his soul from idle life.”

  • Sanctify that which Allah (swt) has sanctified

Al-Quddūs has taught us which things are holy and thus He has sanctified certain things. We are commanded to value life, to protect people’s honor and to respect our own places of worship, as well as the places of worship of others. Let us learn the things that Allah (swt) has sanctified and give them their proper respect.

About the author

Jinan Yousef

Jinan Yousef

Jinan's main interests within the field of Islamic Studies are the Names of Allah, the life and character of the Prophet ﷺ, tazkiya and Muslim personalities.


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