With the Divine

When you are not able, ask for strength from the One who is Able

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We all have moments when we look at a seemingly insurmountable obstacle and think to ourselves: ‘How can it be overcome? It does not seem possible.’

A prophet once thought the same thing. He stood in front of a barren land to which he was sent, and asked the question, “How can Allah bring this back to life after its death?”

Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) showed him how He could. When the Prophet `Uzayr saw the town that was once razed to the ground, then a mere hundred years later filled with people and homes and markets, he exclaimed, “I know that Allah is over all things competent (qadīr)!” (Qur’an, 2:259)

Even before going into the linguistics of this name, many of us are at least theoretically aware of this attribute of Allah (swt). He is able to do all things, and we see this everyday in our very own existence. We read the Qur’an and know that Allah (swt) created this world from nothing, and He has the power to make it disappear.

For others among us, this attribute is not just an abstract notion. The knowledge that Allah (swt) is able to do anything and everything is precisely why we call on Him with so much certainty in our du`a’ (supplication). We might not call on Him with these Names specifically, but we ask Him because we know that He has the ability and power to respond to us and give us more.

Wa qadarū Allaha ḥaqqa qadrihi: And they did not appraise Allah with true appraisal.

Allah (swt) is al-Qādir (the Most Able), al-Qadīr (the Omnipotent) and al-Muqtadir (the Perfect in Ability), all from the root q-d-r (ق-د-ر). This root can mean ‘to measure something’ or ‘to make manifest the measure of something’, and thus gives rise to meanings such as ‘appraising’ and ‘power’ and ‘ability’. The horse that is aqdar is the one whose back-hoof falls exactly where his front-hoof was when running, as though perfectly measured and executed.

And thus it brings us to Allah (swt) who has the ability to decree and carry out His decree. When we talk about Laylat al-Qadr (The Night of Qadr), scholars disagree over whether it means the Night of Power or the Night of Decree, because the root may give rise to both meanings.

As Names of Allah (swt), all three words are found in the Qu’ran. Allah (swt) says:

“Do they not see that Allah, who created the heavens and earth, is [the one] Able (Qādir) to create the likes of them? And He has appointed for them a term, about which there is no doubt. But the wrongdoers refuse [anything] except disbelief.” (Qur’an, 17:99)

“And it is He who has created from water a human being and made him [a relative by] lineage and marriage. And ever is your Lord competent (Qadīr).” (Qur’an, 25:54)

“Indeed, the righteous will be among gardens and rivers, in a seat of honor near a Sovereign, Perfect in Ability (Muqtadir).” (Qur’an, 54:54-55)

Sheikh Abulrazzaq al-Badr explains the nuances between these Names. Al-Qādir is the One who is able to do everything, from causing things to exist to ceasing their existence, or causing them to change or to return them to what they were. Al-Ghazālī adds that, “God is all-powerful in that He could bring about the resurrection now, and He would bring it about were He to will it.” Al-Qadīr is the One who does what He pleases based on His decreed wisdom. Finally, Al-Muqtadir is an intensive form of the root which adds the element of absolute power that no one can stop or oppose.

I know God is capable of all things, I just know that I am not.

There are two ways of looking at these attributes of Allah (swt). We can view them in an abstract way, perhaps feeling great awe (which is a good thing) and then sit back. Sure, Allah (swt) is capable of all things, but we humans are limited.

Then there is another way of looking at these Names. Allah (swt) is able to do all things, and so whatever difficulty we face, we can overcome it if we seek strength from Him. At times, we are our own worst enemies. We stop ourselves from attempting something because of the belief that ‘there is no way this could happen’. We close doors that may have been open to us.

When you believe that Allah (swt) is capable of all things, you are open to more possibilities. It is not simply about positive thinking or hoping something will materialize out of thin air. It is knowing that because Allah (swt) is able, and He has revealed this attribute to you, you can derive strength from Allah (swt) and you have possibilities. Have you ever pondered over the du`a’ of istikhara (guidance)?

“If one of you feels inclined to do something then let that one pray two units of optional prayer, then say: ‘O Allah! I seek Your guidance by virtue of Your knowledge, and I seek ability by virtue of Your power, and I ask You of Your great bounty. You have power; I have none. And You know; I know not. You are the Knower of hidden things. O Allah! If in Your knowledge, (this matter*) is good for my religion, my livelihood and my affairs, immediate and in the future, then ordain it for me, make it easy for me, and bless it for me. And if in Your knowledge, (this matter*) is bad for my religion, my livelihood and my affairs, immediate and in the future, then turn it away from me, and turn me away from it. And ordain for me the good wherever it may be, and make me content with it.’” (Bukhari)

We say to Allah (swt), “I seek ability (أستقدرك) by virtue of Your power (بقدرتك).” We recognize that we have no power, but that does not debilitate us.

If we go back to the story of `Uzayr, Allah (swt) shows His power to both us and His prophet by bringing a dead town back to life. He showed us possibility where we could only perceive impossibility. Allah (swt) teaches us that He is able, and this has consequences for the way that we perceive things. We do not limit ourselves to one interpretation of reality, but realize that there could be multiple paths. This affects our actions.

Take the example of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him). If you had asked anyone in Makkah in the first couple of years of revelation whether they could imagine that the religion taught by the Prophet ﷺ would span the lands between China and Spain, they would have called you called crazy and delusional. You would probably have understood why – it seemed impossible at the time. But the Prophet ﷺ knew who Allah (swt) was. He was reminded in verse after verse about Allah’s (swt) ability, and he derived strength from that.

When something got difficult, he never saw the dead-end in front of him. He was able to see the whole picture and take alternative routes. When he was persecuted in Makkah, and knew it would get worse after his uncle passed away, he did not despair; he made plans to leave. When he was rejected in Ta’if, he did not tell himself that there was no use; he used the Hajj season, when all the tribes would congregate in Makkah, to seek help. When they were in Madina and an attack by the Meccans was imminent, he did not freeze up; he was open to the idea of building a trench. When the Meccans proposed a peace treaty and negotiated terms that appeared to be disadvantageous to the Muslims at the time, he did not concentrate on those terms; he focused on what this peace treaty would enable the Muslims to do.

This is the secret of all of the Prophets and the righteous. When Musa (peace be upon him) was being hunted down by Pharoah and his army, he said, “Indeed, with me is my Lord; He will guide me.” (Qur’an, 26:62). The army of Talut, when faced with the much larger army of Goliath, said: “How many a small company has overcome a large company by permission of Allah . And Allah is with the patient.” (Qur’an, 2:249) When Hajar (peace be upon her) was left in the desert with her infant son, she ran back and forth between the mountains of Safa and Marwa. A person might have seen her and thought, “What is the use?” But when you believe that Allah (swt) is capable of all things, you are able to be open to different possibilities and alternative paths. And Hajar was given the well of Zamzam.

Connecting to al-Qadīr

  • Recognize that Allah (swt) is capable of all things.
  • When you supplicate, have certainty because you know that Allah (swt) is al-Qadīr
  • Be open to possibilities.
  • Pray istikhara before starting matters of importance.

 

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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