I should’ve covered this earlier, I think… Who exactly is Allah? What do we know about Him? Who exactly is it that we worship?
Surah Ikhlas gives us a good place to start:
Say, “He is Allah, One,
قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ
Allah, the Eternal Refuge,
He neither begets, nor is born,
لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ
Nor is there to Him any equivalent.”
وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ
From there, we can easily learn a few things. Allah is One, alone, without any partners, and we can always return to Him and seek His assistance and provision and shelter. He is Eternal: He was not born, and He did not give birth to anything. And there is nothing else like Him anywhere…
This “nothing like Him anywhere” makes it hard for some of us visual thinkers to picture our Lord, and it’s been a problem for people since the earliest days.
And when Moses arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, “My Lord, show me [Yourself] that I may look at You.” [ Allah ] said, “You will not see Me, but look at the mountain; if it should remain in place, then you will see Me.” But when his Lord appeared to the mountain, He rendered it level, and Moses fell unconscious. And when he awoke, he said, “Exalted are You! I have repented to You, and I am the first of the believers.”
وَلَمَّا جَاءَ مُوسَىٰ لِمِيقَاتِنَا وَكَلَّمَهُ رَبُّهُ قَالَ رَبِّ أَرِنِي أَنظُرْ إِلَيْكَ ۚ قَالَ لَن تَرَانِي وَلَٰكِنِ انظُرْ إِلَى الْجَبَلِ فَإِنِ اسْتَقَرَّ مَكَانَهُ فَسَوْفَ تَرَانِي ۚ فَلَمَّا تَجَلَّىٰ رَبُّهُ لِلْجَبَلِ جَعَلَهُ دَكًّا وَخَرَّ مُوسَىٰ صَعِقًا ۚ فَلَمَّا أَفَاقَ قَالَ سُبْحَانَكَ تُبْتُ إِلَيْكَ وَأَنَا أَوَّلُ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ
So if a quick look at just a tiny bit of Allah azza wa jall—hadith suggest it was something like the tip of one finger (see Ibn Kathir’s Tafsir—can render a mountain level, turn it to dust, then maybe it’s best we don’t try to picture our Lord.
But we still need to know Who we’re worshiping, and we know Him by His Names and the ways He described Himself in His books.
In Surah Al Fath, Allah says “The hand of Allah is over their hands.” In Surah Az Zumar, He says “…the earth entirely will be [within] His grip on the Day of Resurrection, and the heavens will be folded in His right hand.” And in Surah Sad, Allah asks the accursed Satan “what prevented you from prostrating to that which I created with My hands?”
In Surah Ta Ha, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala recounts the story of the baby Moses and says “And I bestowed upon you love from Me that you would be brought up under My eye.” And in Surah Al Qasas “Everything will be destroyed except His Face.”
From these, should we assume that Allah azza wa jall has eyes, hands, and a face?
It is He who has sent down to you, [O Muhammad], the Book; in it are verses [that are] precise – they are the foundation of the Book – and others unspecific. As for those in whose hearts is deviation [from truth], they will follow that of it which is unspecific, seeking discord and seeking an interpretation [suitable to them]. And no one knows its [true] interpretation except Allah . But those firm in knowledge say, “We believe in it. All [of it] is from our Lord.” And no one will be reminded except those of understanding.
هُوَ الَّذِي أَنزَلَ عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ مِنْهُ آيَاتٌ مُّحْكَمَاتٌ هُنَّ أُمُّ الْكِتَابِ وَأُخَرُ مُتَشَابِهَاتٌ ۖ فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ زَيْغٌ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ مَا تَشَابَهَ مِنْهُ ابْتِغَاءَ الْفِتْنَةِ وَابْتِغَاءَ تَأْوِيلِهِ ۗ وَمَا يَعْلَمُ تَأْوِيلَهُ إِلَّا اللَّهُ ۗ وَالرَّاسِخُونَ فِي الْعِلْمِ يَقُولُونَ آمَنَّا بِهِ كُلٌّ مِّنْ عِندِ رَبِّنَا ۗ وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّا أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ
Verses like the above are allegorical, meant to help us relate to Allah somehow, but to ponder on all that when there are much more important things to worry about is a waste of time and energy, and isn’t befitting of the believers.
We believe that Allah has a face, eyes, hands: He says He does. But whatever they are is entirely beyond our imagining, and right here next to us are our wives and husbands, our children; outside there are birds, trees, clouds in the sky; here are hands typing, a brain coming up with things to say, and eyes looking at the words appear on the screen. All these are gifts always and only from Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, and from those alone we can learn much about Him.
So for physical descriptions of Allah, we hear and we believe, but we don’t try to imagine: He is beyond whatever we can come up with. If we want to get closer to Him, we need to rely on His Attributes.
Time is growing short, both in the day and in this blessed month, so I’m going to leave Allah’s names for tomorrow. In the mean time, InshaAllah ponder the gifts He’s bestowed on us, from the tomato plants in the garden to the bounty on the dinner table at Iftar time to the colonies of bacteria that help digest food, there is so much to be grateful to Allah about, and so much to learn about Him.
May Allah keep us moving along the clear path and help us to avoid getting to interested in the allegories and mysteries, and may He guide us closer to him in the waning of Ramadan, Ameen.