In the name of Allah, the Inspirer of truth.
In the Qur’an, Allah Most High has revealed one surah which He makes us read over and over again. In every salat, we recite Surat-ul Fatiha. We even recite this surah in other situations, e.g. when we want to gain barakah (His blessing) or shifa (remedy).
Let us consider the first verse of this surah:
Al ḥamdulillāhi rabbi l-ʿālamīn (All praise is to Allah, Lord of the Worlds) [Qur’an 1:1]
The word ālam (plural: ālameen) translates as ‘world’ and encompasses all that exists, including humankind, jinns, animals, angels etc.
It can also refer to various periods of time – there is ālam al-arwah which is realm of the spirits, the souls, before we come into this world, which is ālam al-dunya, followed by ālam al-barzakh which is the intermediate stage between this world and next world. Then comes the next world, which is the standing on the Day of Judgment, the reckoning, Qiyamah. Finally, there is the world of either jannah (paradise) or jahannam (hellfire)may Allah grant us all jannah without any reckoning.
He is the absolute creator and administrator of these realms. Imam Muslim relates from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) that our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said: “Allah Most High will fold the Heavens on the Day of Judgment and He will place them on His right hand and say: I am the Lord; where are the haughty and where are the proud (today)? He will then fold the Earth placing it on the left hand and say: I am the Lord; where are the haughty and where are the proud (today)?”
This demonstrates the power of Allah, something we all know about but of which we should remind ourselves constantly. As Allah has said: “Remind, for reminders are beneficial for believers”(51:55).
Allah explains in the Qur’an how He created the heavens and the Earth and He said to them “Come together, both of you, willingly or unwillingly”. Both said “we will come together willingly” (41:11). The heaven referred to here is likely to be the atmosphere of the Earth, our nearest ‘heaven’. Scientists will tell you how difficult it is for any planet to retain a viable atmosphere due to a clash of natural forces. Amongst other factors, gravity seeks to pull the atoms of the atmosphere down to the ground and the vacuum of ‘outer space’ seeks to suck those same atoms away into outer space i.e. the atoms are unable or unwilling to remain suspended and create an atmosphere without there being a perfect harmony of these (and other) forces. It is therefore quite extraordinary that they have been able to come together and stay together on Earth. They come together, willingly, in servitude and obedience of Allah Most High.
Another example is that of the prophet Yunus, who had left his community after they dismissed his call to Allah. Allah wanted to test Yunus, as He has tested his other messengers and, as the famous story goes, Yunus was swallowed by a whale at sea. Anybody with even the most basic biological knowledge will know that as soon as food goes down the throat, what happens to it is beyond the control of the creature eating it as it is digested automatically without any thought or intention.
This was a test for Yunus and the whale’s body was acting on the command of Allah. Yunus found himself in the stomach of the whale and called out to Allah: “There is no god but You, Pure are You, Indeed I was among the wrongdoers”(21:87).
Some philosophers have said that Allah is now passive i.e. He has created some necessary associations between things and those things have to take place but Allah can intervene or stop it sometimes if He wants to. They would explain Yunus’ story of how he went in stomach of the whale and came out of it totally unharmed as an intervention of Allah.
Others believe that although Allah is the Creator of everything, now He is no longer able to even intervene. Both of those opinions are limiting Allah’s omnipotence.
Imam Ghazali explains that we (the Ahl al-Sunnah wa ’l-Jama’ah) are ‘occasionalists’ – we believe that when Allah creates something, He gives it certain properties which are released or permitted by Allah on an individual basis. For example, if you have a morsel to eat and you want to chew it, Allah is permitting you to chew; every time that you want to move your finger, your muscles are being permitted to move by Allah Most High; every time a knife is being used to cut something, it is being permitted by Allah to cut. We do not believe that Allah put an intrinsic ability within the knife or the fire to be able to cut and burn as it pleases, rather Allah plays a part in all of it.
If Allah wanted to create an automated world, it is within His power to do so, but He has no need for automation. Allah’s abilities are beyond our limited imagination. He is able to multitask in a way we cannot imagine, able to give permission to every single fire burning at any given moment, to every knife cutting, to every muscle moving etc.
The power of Allah is so mighty; we must not underestimate His powers. We believe Allah’s powers are supreme. He is able to hear, simultaneously, everything that is going on in this world. Some scholars even say that Allah can see sounds. Neil Harbisson, a colour-blind artist, has created this gadget which enables him to transform colours into sound. Using this sound, he can then recognise the colour (http://www.ted.com/talks/neil_harbisson_i_listen_to_color.html). If man can hear colours through this basic camera and microchip set-up, then it clearly is not difficult to believe that Almighty Allah can hear and see sounds.
So Allah knows, absolutely, everything we do. He does not need to wait for us to commit an act and then find out about it. Rather, He knows our actions in advance of them being committed because He is the one who has decreed what we do and when we do it. Of course, we have our free will. If we want to do something virtuous, He gives us the ability to do it. In the same way, if we want to use the same ability to do something sinful, He gives us the ability to do that too. However, we will be called to account for the actions committed using the ability He has given us.
As He Himself says: “With Him are the keys of the Unseen. No one knows them but He. He knows what is in the land and the sea. No leaf ever falls but that He knows about it, and there is no grain in the dark layers of the earth, or anything fresh or dry that is not recorded in a manifest book” (6:59). Imagine all the huge swathes of farmland around the world – Allah is aware of every single seed, exactly what’s going to come off it, when it’s going to germinate, what it’s going to produce. He knows everything exactly as it is.
“Hidden from your Lord is nothing even to the measure of a particle on the earth or in the heavens. And there is nothing smaller or greater that is not in the clear Book” (10:61).
Whether it’s the size of an atom or smaller, it cannot be missed by Allah. Atoms were regarded as the smallest particles at one time. However, Allah Most High is aware of human nature. Science is always sub-dividing particles and the atom was split into neutrons, protons and electrons; now they are searching for even smaller particles so Allah mentions that even anything smaller is not beyond His knowledge, be it in the heavens or the earth.
Conversely, you can magnify things to whatever scale and it still cannot be beyond Allah’s knowledge. There are things so great and things so minute around us and of all of this Allah says is in a ‘clear book’ which will be laid open clearly in the hereafter. Allah says “they have not regarded Allah as much as is His right to be regarded…whereas the whole earth will be under His command on the day of judgment” (39:67).
Allah occasionally demonstrates his power by changing the customary ways of things in this world. Imam Muslim relates a hadith that our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said ‘I can still recognize that stone in Makkah that used to make salaam on me before I was even a prophet’. Allah is able to make a normal stone speak and make salam to our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). He doesn’t do this all the time because this is not a world in which magic and miracles are customary.
What are miracles and magic? They are events which go against normal expectations. The moon being split in two, a staff becoming a snake, a man being consumed by a whale and emerging intact…these are not normal occurrences but Allah sometimes goes against the norm and we see these ‘miracles’. Allah is merely demonstrating his power to show that, if He wills, things CAN be different to what is normally expected.
There is a story in which ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) is in the masjid in Madinah giving his sermon from the minbar (pulpit) when suddenly, he starts to repeat ‘Ya Sariya, al-jabal, Ya Sariya, al-jabal’ meaning ‘O Sariya (the name of a Companion), the mountain! O Sariya, the mountain!’ Sariya (may Allah be pleased with him) was actually participating in a war in Persia at the time so the Companions were startled as to why ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) suddenly called out to him.
When this army returned from Persia, some of the Companions related this episode back to Sariya (may Allah be pleased with him) who explained that the army was gathered in a way which left them vulnerable to attack from the mountain behind us. Sariya (may Allah be pleased with him) continued: ‘I suddenly heard ‘Umar’s voice telling us to be careful of the mountain. We quickly turned and were able to protect ourselves; otherwise (without turning around to the mountain) we would have been overcome’.
There were other situations when the Muslims were attacked in similar circumstances such as the battle of Uhud. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had left 50 archers there with instructions not to move but when the archers thought the battle had been won they moved away. In that case no miracle took place yet Allah enabled the Muslims to compose themselves again in that situation. But in this battle (in Persia) Allah decided to do something extraordinary, because He wants us to rely solely on Him.
Allah says ”There will be many a small groups that will win over larger groups” (2:249).
The Muslim army numbered only 313 in the battle of Badr yet they managed to overcome an army of one thousand who were well equipped. When the conquest of Makkah took place, people were very confident and thought the battle of Hunayn would be a walkover because, until that point, despite being small in numbers they had been able to overcome enemies much greater. Now, with a huge army, they were bound to win…
Allah demonstrated to them that this was not the case. It is the power of Allah that He can do things as He wants as long as you have your tawakkul and reliance on Him. Initially, the Muslim army were trapped in a valley under a shower of arrows and then they were totally scattered. The situation was such that our Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) was literally left in the middle on his mount with just a few Companions around him. This attack caused great destruction and created much turbulence among the Muslims forces. But Allah mentions in the Qur’an that “when your great number pleased you, but it did not avail you at all, and the earth was confining for you with its vastness; then you turned back, fleeing.” (9:25) Those numbers could not do anything for them in the same way opposing forces with large numbers could not overcome the smaller Muslim armies previously. It is only Allah who has power over all things. And our reliance should be on Him only.
Ibn Kathir and others relate a story of a man who was lying down when he saw a scorpion which was moving very fast, seemingly with a purpose as opposed to a scorpion’s normal movement which is very random and aimless. Having seen the scorpion, the man decides to follow it. After following the scorpion for a while, the man sees in the distance this young man, who was known to be a drunkard, sleeping. This man initially thought the scorpion was going to attack the man, but he wondered why the scorpion would travel so far to attack him in the forest. The youth was not visible from the point where the man had started to follow it so how could the scorpion have known that the young man would be there?
As the man and the scorpion drew nearer to this sleeping person, the man noticed that the young man was about to be attacked by a snake but the scorpion headed towards the snake and attacked it and the snake fell to the side.
The man quickly awakens the youth and tells him what has just happened, and advises him ‘Allah has protected you from such a distance, Allah wills good for you, you could have been bitten by a snake but look what Allah has done for you’. From that day the young man repented to Allah and mended his ways. He (the young man) thought that ‘if Allah will protect even a drunkard and a wasted individual like me, one who doesn’t care about his life, then what will happen if I was really good?’ That is the power of Allah. He does many things for us, too, and sometimes we can explain those things and sometimes we can’t.
In the Quran Allah says in Surah Ya-Sin (36:82): “kun, fayakun” (Be, and it is). When Allah wills something all He has to do is say “Kun” and ”fayakun” – it happens. Some scholars have interpreted this verse literally that whenever Allah wants to create something He just says ‘Kun’ and the thing is created. However, other scholars have gone beyond this and suggest that Allah is not even in need of saying the word ‘kun’ but uses it to help us comprehend how His will instantly comes to be reality, faster than saying the word ”kun” would allow.
If the throne of Queen of Sheba can be delivered to the Prophet Sulayman (upon him be peace) in the blink of an eye, which is faster than saying kun, then the second opinion of the scholars mentioned above is totally feasible. Sulayman (upon him be peace) wanted to know if anybody could bring her throne to him before she arrived to meet him so one jinn volunteered ‘I will bring it to you before you can stand up from your place’. Another person said ‘I can bring it to you faster than that, in the blink of an eye’ and there it was. If the jinns and humans, creations of Allah, can do this, then why does Allah even need to say ”kun”?
However, a third group of scholars say that this is a part of the mutashabihaath (ambiguity) of the Qur’an. It is one of the aspects of the Qur’an which we don’t really understand fully, but Allah mentioned it and so we believe in it. This is probably the best opinion to follow.
The main thing is that we must recognize the power of Allah Most High. It says in a hadith that sadaqah (charity) calms the anger of the Lord and also repels an evil death. Whenever we have done wrong, Allah could be angry with us, and that’s why Hasan al Basri says in his collection of Prayers of Forgiveness ‘O Allah, I seek forgiveness from you for every sin that has prevented good things happening to me, that has prevented my sustenance being increased, that has caused problems to occur in my life, that has taken away the barakah from me’. So, if we want barakah, one of the most powerful ways to gain it is to give sadaqah.
May Allah grant us all the guidance to increase our tawakkul and recognise his supreme power. Ameen.
Transcribed by Noorain Fathima
Edited by Ahmed Limbada