By Nikhat Sattar
November 17, 2017
“WHEN I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My spirit, fall ye down in obeisance unto him” (15:29). This is one of the Mutashabihat verses of the Quran about the creation of Hazrat Adam, the reality of which is known only to God, but it implies the breathing of a spirit from Him, making humans unique to all other creations.
There are many features that are common between beasts and man — hunger, thirst, the desire for reproduction. There are emotions that animals may not experience such as greed, jealousy, pride, envy, arrogance. If humans overcome these, they could attain higher forms of purification and piety by developing further the qualities that have already been ingrained within their souls.
The 99 names of God are based on His attributes and actions and they are either mentioned or indicated in the Quran. The over-encompassing name is Allah. These names exemplify a Being who is eternal, all-knowing, omnipotent and omnipresent. Of the 99, there are a few which could be developed within humans at a much lower level and only as a likeness.
The names of God are brilliantly explained in Al Ghazali’s Al-Maqsad Al Asna, which was written in the 5th century Hijri. A small selection here demonstrates links between God’s attributes and human potential for spirituality.
The 99 Names Of God Are Based On His Attributes.
Ar-Rehman is one whose mercy is all-inclusive and who bestows it upon those who deserve it and those who do not. He fulfils the needs of all. He is the Compassionate, but without the feeling of empathy. Humans have an element of this characteristic when they feel pity for those who have strayed from the true path and view such people with mercy without censuring them.
Ar-Rahim is also derived from mercy but it is less specific. Humans may possess a part of this when they help their fellow beings who are poor and needy. In fact, this is the oft-repeated requirement for the pious in the Quran. Such a person feels for others, shares in their pain and is empathetic.
Al-Ghaffar is one who makes visible what is noble and dignified and hides what is dirty and dishonourable. God hides the sins of humans in this world and will not punish them in the next, provided one repents. Imagine how exposed we would all be if our hidden thoughts, feelings and desires become evident to others. God has shrouded our shortcomings from others. In the next world too, our sins would not be visible provided God forgives them because we were faithful and were constantly asking for forgiveness.
If one must speak of others, it must only be in good terms; otherwise it is best to remain silent. The Prophet (PBUH) said: “The one who veils the imperfections of a believer (others), his imperfections will God cover on the Day of Resurrection” (Bukhari).
Al-Lateef is God’s complete knowledge of benefits, their subtleties and His way of providing them with gentleness. It is the combination of His boundless kindness for His creations, His trust in humans by making them His vicegerents on earth and provision of blessings that are beyond their needs. Humans can benefit from this attribute by always being gentle towards others without any aspect of harshness or aggression and without imposing their own wishes upon them. Rather than preach, humans should practise piety themselves.
Al-Haleem; the one who observes how His commands and guidance are violated continuously and His blessings negated: yet, He refrains from revenge and anger, even though He is all-powerful. This is a quality that we, as humans, need to develop — the patience to listen to the most obdurate, to people who may abuse us, without responding in the same vein; in fact, being kind to them even if they do not deserve our kindness.
Al-Wadud is the loving one, who desires that humans benefit for their own sake, who does good and who praises them. While God wants humans to have honour and He wishes to favour them, He does so without the pain that accompanies the human form of love. If humans were to try to emulate this quality, they would desire for others what they want for themselves. No feeling of hatred, anger, doing harm or resentment should be allowed to overcome our love for humanity.
Al-Haqq; God is the only Being who is real and the absolute truth. Humans are true only in their relation to God and only if they believe in God’s absolute truth and their own non-reality.
Humans are, by Divine design, meant to come closer to God through consistent effort to think deeply about His attributes and adopt aspects of the same to some extent. Indeed, man is the signature of God in this world.