New Islamic Directions

By Imam Zaid Shakir

Allah: The Loving

Posted in notes by Imam Zaid Shakir on 2011-06-14

A family friend recently attended a lecture by one of the propagandists crisscrossing the country to inform his audience of the reasons Americans have to stop the “menace” of “Shariah” that threatens to “take over” American society. If that proposition was not being taken so seriously by so many people it would be laughable. If its political consequences were not so potentially grave it could be easily dismissed.

However, it is being taken seriously by a lot of people and it promises frightening political consequences. Therefore, we need to expose the campaign warning against “Shariah creep” for what it is. Namely, among other things, the latest installment in a long line of diversionary cultural issues that attract the demography that has been code-named the “American people” to support policies that at the end of the day only strengthen the corporate interests that are systematically destroying the American middle class and undermining its economic interests.

The speaker, preying on the ignorance, fear and gullibility of his audience proceeded to spin a preposterous tale of Islam as a menacing ideology, similar to Nazism. According to the speaker, Islam is a menacing force poised to permanently scuttle the glorious, historically exceptional American experiment, leaving in its wake a trail of severed limbs, usurped rights and enslaved women who will be flung mercilessly back into a misogynistic past, which western humanism has long left behind.

As if the shock effect of lies big enough to embarrass Goebbels was not enough, the speaker accentuated the alleged barbarism of Islam with repulsive images such as a close-up shot of the ripped-up vagina of a woman who supposedly had been forced to endure the “mandated” Muslim practice of female genital mutilation. My friend was in shock for two weeks after the presentation.

This is the type of garbage that is being fed to crowds of people in community centers, libraries, college campuses, police departments, FBI offices, military bases and at other venues all over the country. [1] The campaign it represents is well-funded and increasingly pervasive. In the face of such an onslaught, what is a Muslim to do? The answer is simple. Fight back with the truth. Allah mentions in the Qur’an, “Truth comes and falsehood perishes. Falsehood is inherently perishable” (17:81). We have to illuminate the darkness descending on this land with the truth.

Among the lies, slanders and distortions of the speaker was the following, “Allah has 99 names in the Qur’an and none of them mention love.” The balance of this essay will focus on revealing the blatant nature of this lie.

In the Qur’an, we read, “Seek the forgiveness of your Lord, then turn to him in repentance! Verily, my Lord is Most Merciful and All Loving” (11:90). In another verse, we read, “And He is Oft-forgiving, All Loving” (85:14). This name, al-Wadud, is also found in the hadiths that list the “Ninety-Nine Names of Allah.”

Allah’s name, The All Loving, manifests itself in many ways in the life of the believer and in the world. For example, “Verily, Allah loves those who do good” (2:195). “Verily, Allah loves those who are penitent and those who keep themselves pure” (2:222). “For verily, Allah loves those who are righteous” (3:76). “And Allah loves those who are patient’ (3:146). “Allah loves those who trust in Him” (3:159). “Allah loves those who are just” (5:42). “Allah loves those who foster purity” (9:108). [2] These phrases are repeated numerous times in the Qur’an. Notice the qualities they mention as being associated with the Love of Allah: Goodness, penitence, purity, righteousness, patience, trust in God and justice. These are all religious virtues that those who hate Islam consciously avoid mentioning in their twisted, defamatory presentations.

As for the prophetic hadith, the instances where the manifestations of Allah’s love are mentioned are too numerous to be recalled in this brief overview. We relate the following, by way of example: “Allah loves a servant who is magnanimous in his business dealings…” (Malik, al-Muwatta, 1376). “Divorce your heart from the world and Allah will love you…” (Ibn Majah, 4102). “Allah is gentle and loves gentleness. He gives to those displaying gentleness what he does not give to those displaying violence” (Ibn Majah, 3688). “Allah loves the righteous, pious, inconspicuous people. When they are absent they are not missed. When they are present they are not called out or noticed. Their hearts are lamps of guidance. They emerge from every place of darkness” (Ibn Majah, 3989). “Allah is beautiful, He loves beauty” (Muslim, 261). “Very, the most beloved of people to Allah on the Day of Resurrection and the one closest to Him will be a just leader…” (Tirmidhi, 1329). This is just a representative sample of such hadiths. Again, notice the qualities they emphasize.

Before returning to the Qur’an, let us consider what love is in the theological sense. We read in the American Heritage Dictionary, under the definition for Love: “6. Theology. a. God’s benevolence and mercy towards man.” Based on this and similar definitions, God’s benevolence and mercy cannot be separated from His love. In this regard, as we know, all of the 114 chapters of the Qur’an, with the exception of a single one, open with the phrase, “In the name of Allah, the All Merciful (ar-Rahman), the Mercy-Giving (ar-Rahim).” These two names of Allah, both involving mercy, occur over 170 times in the Qur’an. As for those names that imply love, benevolence or mercy, we could mention: al-Ghaffar, The Most Forgiving; al-Wahhab, The Giver of Gifts; al-Razzaq, The Provider of Sustenance; al-Lateef, The Most Gentle; al-Haleem, The Forbearing; al-Mujeeb, The Answerer; al-Wasi’, The Most Expansive in His Grace; al-Barr, The Source of Goodness; al-Tawwab, The Acceptor of Repentance; al-‘Afuww, The Pardoner; al-Ra’uf, The Compassionate; al-Mughni, The Enricher; al-Mani’, The Source of Assistance; al-Nafi’, The Benefactor, al-Hadi, The Gentle Guide; Al-Rashid, The Wise Guide. There are other names that convey other meanings associated with the terms in question. However, they do not appear on the most reliable lists of “The Ninety-Nine Names.” Hence, we leave off their mention, even though they are taken from the Qur’an and the Prophetic Hadith. 

Among the specific manifestations of His mercy mentioned in the Qur’an we list the following, again, as a representative sample: “And among His signs is that He has made for you, from yourselves, spouses, in order that you live together with them in peace and tranquility; and He has made between you love and mercy. Surely, in this are signs for people who reflect (30:21),” “Behold the effects of your Lord’s mercy; how He revives the earth after its death… (30:50),” “Were it not for the grace of Allah and His mercy you would have followed Satan, with scant exception (4:83).” Verses of this type, mentioning various manifestations of Allah’s mercy, abound in the Qur’an.  Perhaps the most moving recounting of Allah’s mercy is to be found in the chapter of the Qur’an fittingly entitled, “The All-Merciful:”

The All-Merciful! He has taught the Qur’an. He has created the human. He has taught him to clearly express himself. The sun and moon move along in a measured course. The stars and trees are prostrating themselves. The sky! He has raised it aloft and established the balance; that you not disrupt the balance. Establish weighting with justice and do not cheat in the balance. The earth! He has spread it out for all creatures. In it are fruits, date palms with fruitful clusters, husk-covered grains and flowers. Then which of the favors of your Lord will you deny? (55:1-13)

These are meanings that are well-known to a Muslim who is familiar with the message of the Qur’an. As for one who has only been exposed to the caricature of Islam being presented by deceitful propagandists who distort the beautiful message of the Qur’an for their own purposes, these passages likely come as a shock. These and the many other passages from the Qur’an and Hadith, which we could usher to give an even more comprehensive presentation of the existence and meaning of love and mercy in proper Islamic teachings are not only meant to endear Allah and His Messenger, peace upon him, to the faithful. Rather, they are also meant to encourage loving, merciful and benevolent behavior in a believer.

To emphasize this point, we present the following prophetic hadiths: Our Messenger, blessings and peace upon him, has stated that he is a gift of mercy. He declared, “O People! Verily, I am a gifted mercy” (Hakim, al-Mustadrak, 100). He further stated, “One who shows no mercy will be shown no mercy” (Bukhari, 5997; Muslim, 2318). Similarly, “Whoever shows no mercy to humanity, Allah will show him no mercy” (Bukhari, 6013; Muslim, 2319). Likewise, “The merciful people will be shown mercy by the All Merciful; be merciful to those on earth and the One in heaven will be merciful to you” (Abu Dawud, 4941; Tirmidhi, 1924). Also, “You will not believe until you are merciful to each other.” Those hearing this replied, “O Messenger of Allah! All of us are merciful [to each other].” He responded, “Not the mercy one of you displays to his companion, rather mercy to all people.” “Mercy is only removed from the heart of a Hell-bound wretch” (Abu Dawud, 4942).  During the Battle of Uhud when his enemies were on the verge of killing him, the Prophet, blessings and peace upon him, was asked to pray for their destruction. He refused, declaring, “I was sent as a mercy. I was not sent to damn people.”

This is what our religion teaches us and we have a responsibility to bring this message to humanity. If we choose to sit back and allow others to portray our religion based on their ideology of hate, we will have only ourselves to blame if the image of Islam presented by the likes of the propagandist mentioned at the outset of this article becomes the one accepted by the majority of our fellow citizens. If we continue to allow wholesale falsehoods to be fabricated about our religion, and then go unchallenged until they become entrenched in the popular imagination, our silence will be contributing to a climate that might prove extremely detrimental to not only the interests of our community, but also to the interests of our country.

[1] For an informative introduction as to the scope and impact of such presentations, see the Political Research Associates (PRA) report, Manufacturing the Muslim Menace.

[2] I have used wudd, the root of al-Wadud, synonymously with hubb. The most authoritative Arabic dictionaries, such as Lisan al-‘Arab and al-Muhit, mention these words as synonyms. For example, in Lisan al-Arab, Ibn al-Mandhur states:  al-Wadud: al-Muhibb الودود: المحب


By ammsr on June 15, 2011 at 8:48pm

Assalam Alaikum Imam, jazakAllahu khairan. I just wanted to ask of the quote from Al-Rahman, it says "The Sun! He raised it...", isn't it the sky or heaven since the word is sama' in Arabic in that ayah? thanks again

By Farah Rana on June 18, 2011 at 4:42pm

Excellent article; no doubt the pen is mightier than the sword.May Allah ST reward you for being our voice.

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Hey, that's the greeatst! So with ll this brain power AWHFY?

By W. Muhsinah Abdullah on June 23, 2011 at 5:03pm

Alhumdullilah! What a profoundly beautiful and enlightening commentary Imam Zaid. Before reading further into your article, my thoughts exploded with the very words you have presented here. It is a long held and accepted principle that love is best manifested through one's ACTIONS.. What greater demonstration of love than - as you stated Brother Imam- that which is exhibited through the attributes of Allah (swa) and bestowed upon His creation. It takes more than intellect to inform us of the beauty and complexity of this faith tradition, or to understand the spiritual depth and significance of Quran...

By W. Muhsinah Abdullah on June 23, 2011 at 5:07pm

Not sure if this posted: Alhumdullilah! What a profoundly beautiful and enlightening commentary Imam Zaid. Before reading further into your article, my thoughts exploded with the very words you have presented here. It is a long held and accepted principle that love is best manifested through one's ACTIONS.. What greater demonstration of love than - as you stated Brother Imam- that which is exhibited through the attributes of Allah (swa) and bestowed upon His creation. It takes more than intellect to inform us of the beauty and complexity of this faith tradition, or to understand the spiritual depth and significance of Quran...

By AMG on July 24, 2011 at 8:39am

assalamu alaikum Imam Zaid, what translation do you reference? I checked out a long list of translations and I still can't find which one you used. I'm just curious. thanks AMG

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