The Most Critical Area of Understanding with Regards to Allah

What is the most critical aspect in our understanding with regards to Allah?

اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ عِلْمٍ لاَ يَنْفَعُ وَمِنْ قَلْبٍ لاَ يَخْشَعُ وَمِنْ نَفْسٍ لاَ تَشْبَعُ وَمِنْ دَعْوَةٍ لاَ يُسْتَجَابُ لَهَا" ‏.‏"

Zaid bin Alqam reported he used to supplicate,

"O Allah, I seek refuge in Thee from the knowledge which does not benefit, from the heart that does not entertain the fear (of Allah), from the soul that does not feel contented and the supplication that is not responded.[1]

The most critical area to understand with respect to Allah is to know who Allah is and to acquire that knowledge. Prophet (ﷺ) said,

“Seeking knowledge is compulsory on every Muslim.”[2]

The knowledge which we are supposed to seek, which is the very first question, which we will be asked by Munkar and Nakeer. So, that is the first thing that you need to know. Much of the Qur'an, in fact 1/3rd of Qur'an focuses on who is Allah. That is why the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said,

Seeking knowledge is obligatory upon every Muslim.”

Some people have taken it to mean that you recite the Surah Ikhlaas three times and you have recited the entire Qur'an. That is not what was meant here. Surah Ikhlas is describing who is Allah. The very first verse of the Surah Al Ikhlas describes who Allah is and the rest of the verses only give details of the rest of the verses and the final verse only repeats the first verse. But it is all about who is Allah. The Surah is also well known amongst the Salaf as Surah Tawheed.

Anyway, the point is that approximately a third of Qur'an focuses on describing who Allah is. For sure if we don’t know who Allah is then we are going to end up worshipping someone else, where we are living in world where we judge things according to what we can see, touch, see and perceive, from our five senses. We tend to describe things and understand things according to what our senses tell us. Allah is not amongst those things, which our five senses can tell us. Therefore He revealed the Qur'an and the books, which were previous and clarified to human beings who He was.

Now, those descriptions, which came in the Qur'an came in Arabic language. It was the Arabic language which people used. It was a communication between Allah and humankind. Conveyed to us by Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). When we look at the understanding of the Qur'an, of course that understanding should be in accordance with Prophet (ﷺ) and that of his companions. This is the starting point because the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet (ﷺ) as Allah said,

"وَأَنزَلۡنَآ إِلَيۡكَ ٱلذِّڪۡرَ لِتُبَيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ مَا نُزِّلَ إِلَيۡہِمۡ وَلَعَلَّهُمۡ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ..."

"With clear signs and Books (We sent the Messengers). And We have also sent down unto you (O Muhammad SAW) the Dhikr [the reminder and the advice (the Qur'ân)], that you may explain clearly to men what is sent down to them, and that they may give thought." [3]

Prophet (ﷺ) was the bearer and revealed first to him (ﷺ), applicable to himself and convey to the world. The Qur'an revealed to Muhammad (ﷺ) and he (ﷺ) being an Arab understood what was revealed to him was Allah’s clarification, what was conveyed to the companions, what was not clear to them, they would ask him (ﷺ). They applied the Qur'an, that first generations, their understanding of Allah, most certainly is the best of understanding. When Prophet (ﷺ) said “The best of ... Best,” what way? They have the most money? They were the most powerful? Certainly not, they were the best because they best understood the revelation and applied it best.

We have to be conscious of the opinions of the companions and what they agreed upon and what they all understood, is what Islam is. What contradicts their understanding, is not Islam, it is misinterpretation of Islam, or what I call it ‘mislam’. Where we go, now to understand who Allah is, as mentioned in Qur'an and clarified by Rasoolullah (ﷺ) in the Sunnah. There are three basic principles, which the early generation followed, and the later generations, the Khalaf, those who come after, khaleefah comes from same root. These three principles, basically, the Salaf and the Khalaf differed. Of course the best of generations are the Sahabah, the beginning of the Salaf. As we look at differences, these should be clear:

  1. Reason and revelation.
  2. Allegorical and literal.
  3. Pre-requisites for evidence.

These are the main three points which are sufficient for us to reflect on and which are sufficient for us and which have direct application in our own times.


[1] [Sunan an-Nasa'i, hadeeth number 5458.]

[2] [Sunan ibn Maajah, hadeeth number 224.]

[3] [Qur'an 16:44]

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