Allah: The Origin of Love
Allah is the Creator of the universe and the light of the heavens and the earth. He is the one absolute, transcendent Reality that unites all differences in the ocean of His love. He is the light that inspires flowers to bloom. He is the breath of love behind the wind that undresses the trees in winter and adorns them with blossoms in spring. He is the power causing mountains to rise. He is the artist painting color into the cones of your eyes. He is the life behind all of nature. He is the One who squeezes a seed to create a tree, the One whose love changes stones into gold. “It is Allah who brought you out of your mothers’ wombs knowing nothing, and gave you hearing and sight and minds, so that you might be thankful” (16:78). Allah is the creator of every scientific law, He is the One ‘who gave everything its form and function” and then guided it into the embrace of His perfect plan (20:50).
Allah is As-Samad, which does not just mean “self-sufficient,” but comes from a root that means “solid, impenetrable, non-hollow?’ Allah is the One with no holes, no parts, no separation. Where Allah is metaphorically whole, we are nothing but holes. We are made of atoms, which are 99.99999 percent made of empty space. In essence, when we reach for anything in existence other than Allah, we are reaching for emptiness Nothing in this world can fill us because everything in this existence is also made of empty atoms. It is only when we reach for God that we are spiritually filled and content because He is Al-Ahad, the one, the complete, the indivisible essence that transcends numbers or parts.
Allah is the forger of time, the molder of space, the weaver of souls, the turner of hearts, the One who creates everything in stages yet is beyond the limits of time. Life is created from His breath, the cosmos forms from the vibration of His speech, and love is birthed from the womb of His mercy. He is the One who said, “Be!” to the vast nothingness, and existence sprouted into being. His words inspire light to break the darkness of nothing into the dawn of life.
When the sun sets, when the stars become shy, when the moon hides behind clouds, He is the light that never dies. He is not the universe, He is the breath behind the expansion of space and time. God is not what the eyes see, but He is that which gives seeing to your eyes. He is not what hands can touch, He is that which inspires you to reach. God is the power behind all movement for “All in the heavens and the earth call upon Him, at every interval He is acting” (55:29). He is the One who “created everything in pairs” (51:49), so that you would come to realize that He alone is one. He is the One who is independent and yet everything is dependent upon Him. God is the One that never dies, but deals death; the One that was never created, but creates life; the One that never gives birth, but “knows what is in the wombs” (31:34).
He is the One that has no beginning, but that everything begins from; the One with no end, but that everything returns to.
God did not just create you, He perpetually re-creates and sustains you (10:4). He wraps His love like the arms of a galaxy around every soul who comes and seeks; He sings your cells into harmony and drums your heart into a beat. He is the One that created you from water and earth (23:12), the One that preferred you to His angels (7:11), the One that planted reflection of His entire universe into the soil of your spirit. Everything in existence is between His fingers of mercy. “He knows all that enters the earth, all that comes out of it, all that descends from the sky and all that ascends to it. He is All-Merciful and All-Forgiving” (34:2).
Whether you are in a plane in the sky, in the heart of a desert, or in the depths of a sea where no light can reach, God is with you. Everyone else may leave, everything else may break, but Allah will forever be your most faithful and intimate friend.
Allah is the inspiration at the heart of every lover, the beauty behind the song of a nightingale, the mathematician behind the symmetrical perfection in the fractals of nature, and the light reflected in the heart of the Prophet Muhammad. It is through God’s majesty that the words of Jesus raised the dead (5:110). It is through His power that the Red Sea was parted for Moses (20:77-78). Even though we are often not aware of it, God is always blessing us with His miracles and answering our prayers.
You do not need cell towers to reach God, you just need to plug into your heart because “He is with you wherever you are” (57:4), from the closest atom to the farthest star. God’s love makes the ocean shy with its depth and His mercy makes room for every sinner that comes repentant to His door. When the world goes to sleep, God is the One who is awake with you. God sees the tears you hide with smiles and He embraces the pain you think no one would understand. “Not even an atom’s weight in the heavens or the earth remains hidden from Him” (34:3). As one unnamed mystic poetically said, “God sees the black ant on a black stone in the darkest night, so how could He not see the pain of a faithful seeker?”
Allah sees you and everything else in existence with His perfect vision. The Qur’an says, “And with Him are the keys of the unseen treasures—none knows them but He; and He knows what is in the land and the sea. Not even a leaf falls without His knowledge, nor a grain in the darkness of the earth, or anything green nor dry but (it is all) in a clear book” (6:59). Tell me, if a single leaf cannot fall on the entire Earth without God’s knowledge, how could your heart break without His healing presence embracing you?
“God sends hope in the most desperate moments. Don’t forget, the heaviest rain comes out of the darkest clouds.”
God’s mercy is greater than your sins or circumstances. His compassionate love embraces the cactus parts of you that you swear no one could hug. His grace celebrates the parts of you that nobody claps for. God loved you before you were even created, before you even knew of Him. As the Qur’an says, “It is He who sent down tranquility into the hearts of the believers, that they may add faith to their faith for to Allah belong the force, of the heavens and the earth and Allah is full of Knowledge and Wisdom” (48:4).
The Mystery of “Allah”
There are countless veils between us and God, but no veils between Him and us. The veils we experience between us and God are often created from misperceptions formed during our childhood that result in a distorted vision of reality. When something happens to us, good or bad, as human beings we are inclined to frame that experience with an interpretation. How we interpret events in our life will in turn affect how we see our reality. Since our interpretations come from us and are totally subjective, if they were changed, it would change how we saw the world and God. Our experience of the world has little to do with what happens to us and everything to do with how we subconsciously or consciously choose to interpret our experiences.
Therefore, our interpretations and beliefs associated with them become a barrier to fully witnessing God. Nothing, however, is veiled from God’s perception. God has no blind spots or boundaries. We are not veiled due to God’s distance from us, but veiled due to His proximity. Just as the life that gives us breath is so close to us that we cannot see it or touch it, the Qur’an declares that despite the transcendence of His essence, God is closer to us than our “jugular vein” (50:16).
God’s love is intimately woven within every beat of our hearts. In fact, the Arabic word for God, Allah, begins with an “Ahh” sound, which in theories of sacred sound is the sound of manifestation, the sound we allegedly make when our hearts open. Symbolically, this sound represents the human being bursting forth from the nothingness of silence into manifested existence through God’s speech.
The word “Allah” can be seen as the same singular God that is referred to in the Torah in Hebrew as Elohim, or spoken by Jesus in Aramaic as the strikingly similar Allaha. Allah is neither female nor male, for He is beyond anything in creation and transcends all the limits that the human mind can create. Since in Arabic there is not a gender-neutral pronoun such as “it” Allah uses huwa or “He” in reference to Himself because in Arabic the male gender form is inclusive of the female, not exclusive.
You will also find in the Qur’an that Allah speaks in the first-person plural, referring to Himself as “We”. This does not imply that God is more than one; rather, in Arabic and many other languages this denotes majesty, i.e. the “royal We” that kings use when referring to their subjects. For example, a king may say, “We have decreed the following order” even if he is referring only to himself. Some commentators have also suggested that when Allah says, “We created” He is pointing to how He ordered the angels to create, all together. Regardless, when God uses the word “We” in the Qur’an, He often then uses a singular word to refer to Himself, as a means of reiterating His oneness.
Allah is the meeting point of all duality and differences, for He is a singular reality. Some scholars say the word “Allah” is a proper name God has given Himself and thus the word cannot be linguistically broken down. Other scholars say the word “Allah” is derived from ilah, which in Arabic means “god”; and that when the definite article al is added to ilah it creates al-ilah, and translates to “The God”
Regardless of the linguistic origin of the word, Allah is that which unites yes with no, for in His singularity all duality is mysteriously united. Allah is both the bridge between the unseen and seen realms and the meeting point between existence and nonexistence. However, paradoxically, Allah is also the ground of polarity, both fully the manifestation of the inner (Al-Batin) and fully the manifestation of the outer (Az-Zahir).
“God is outside of things, but not in the sense of being alien to them; and He is inside of things, but not in the sense of being identical with them.”
it is as a result of these seemingly contradicting statements that Allah is, by definition, that which breaks the mind. As the Mystics say, “Only God can know God” because “there is none comparable to Him” (112:4). Therefore, by definition, Allah has no opposites, and since the human mind understands the world through association and comparison, it is rendered incapable of understanding a singular God who cannot be divided into parts and is unlike any other thing known to man.
“Vision does not encompass Him; He encompasses vision. He is above all comprehension, yet is acquainted with all things.”
We cannot express Allah’s eternal and transcendent nature with mortal tongues. We cannot shove infinity into the finite arms of 26 letters. This is why the follower of the Prophet Muhammad. Abu Bakr, said, “Our inability to understand God is our understanding of God.” Our inability to comprehend God’s infinite nature does not mean we cannot have a relationship with God; rather, it means our experience of God begins through admitting our ignorance before His all-encompassing knowledge.
It is only from a place of humility that we can begin to experience a connection with God. Like the famous novelist Leo Tolstoy said in War and Peace, “All we can know is that we know nothing. And that’s the height of human wisdom”. It is only when we put our ego aside and see the limited nature of our intellect that we can begin to walk on the path of faith. As Rumi beautifully says, “Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment”—for at the end of all you know is the beginning of your journey to Allah.
The Divine Door Is Always Open
Allah is not an old man in the sky; He is not Zeus sitting in a cloud waiting to punish you. Allah is not Santa Claus, with a naughty list from which you cannot be redeemed. Allah is the Creator of the cosmos, the One whose mercy embraces all things, whose love embraces all hearts, whose hands heal all wounds, whose face is everywhere you turn—for He is with you wherever you are.
“Take one step toward Me, I will take ten steps toward you. Walk toward Me, I will run toward you.”
We may be slow in repentance, but God is swift in His mercy, generosity, forgiveness, and grace. The following interaction between two great mystical masters beautifully articulates God’s mercy:
The eighth-century sage Salih of Qaswin said to his students, “Keep knocking on the door of Allah and never stop, for by His mercy, Allah will eventually open His door for those who sincerely seek Him.” The mystic Rabia Al-Adawiyya overheard this statement as she was walking by the mosque and said, “Oh Salih, who said Allah’s door is closed to begin with?”
Rabia understood that Allah’s love is not dependent on our actions, but that it is His love that inspires us to knock to begin with. Like the sun draws the plants to turn their face in submission to its light, God calls us to turn to Him so that we may grow through Him. Allah is the One whose speech lifts the dead from their graves, the One who can part the seas with a staff, the One who uses your hopeless situations as a platform to perform His next miracle. He is the One that transforms your mess into a message, the One that transforms your trials into a triumph, the One who takes the victim and makes them a victor (30:5). God is with you in the beginning, in the end, and in every moment in between. This is why the beloved grandson of the Prophet, Imam Hussein, said, “Oh Allah, What did he find who lost You and what did he lose who found You?”
We do not worship God because God needs it, we worship God because we need it. Prayer is not you reaching out for God, it is you responding to God, who first reached out to you. It is only when our seedling hearts submit to God’s light that we can harvest the hidden fruits of love that He planted within our spirit. As the Qur’an says, “Whoever strives, strives only for his own soul, for Allah is entirely independent of all worlds” (29:06). No matter how many hundreds of millions of steps we take away from God, it takes just a single thought to return.
As Rumi says, “Each moment contains a hundred messages from God, To every cry of, ‘Oh God? He answers a hundred times, ‘I am here.” Do not ever think that because you cannot see God that He cannot see you, “Do not lose heart or grieve” (3:139), because even in the depths of your darkest nights your Lord is with you always, saying, “I am near” (2:186).
He is only one, yet we always forget Him; whereas He has billions upon billions of creatures and never forgets a single one of us. God’s love has no fences or borders. His love has no conditions. His love is not in a faraway Heaven, but with you in the holiness of this very moment.
Whereas we break our promises a thousand times, God is always faithful.
It is only through knowing how much God loves us that we can break free from our anxiety and fear around the uncontrollable and unknown future. The more we trust God’s perfect wisdom, the more harmony we begin to feel in our lives. The all-encompassing peace that comes from relying entirely on God is beautifully illustrated in the following Japanese story:
A samurai and the love of his life had just gotten married and were traveling by boat to their honeymoon, when a huge storm hit. The samurai’s wife began to tremble with fear; there was no shore in sight and their boat looked like it would capsize at any moment. When she ran to find her husband, she found him peacefully looking out at the sea, as if the sun was out and the waves were calm. She ran up to him and yelled, “How can you be so calm when we are about to die! Do you not value your life?” When the samurai heard her say this, he pulled out his sword and put it to his wife’s neck. His wife started laughing. He said, “Why are you laughing? Are you not afraid?” She said, “Because I know you love me and would never hurt me” The samurai smiled and said, “Well, I too am in the hands of the One who loves me, so how can I be afraid?”
When we realize that Allah loves us beyond what can be fathomed and that He always knows what is best for us, our fear of the unknown transforms into faith. After all, as the Qur’an says, “To Him belong the keys of the heavens and the earth” (39:63). When we surrender to God’s will even when things do not go as planned, we are still grateful, because we know that God’s plan will always be greater than our greatest dreams. So long as we remain chained to this world and everything in it, including our own desires, we can never truly feel liberated. It is only in trusting the Divine and becoming a servant of Allah that the soul experiences true freedom.
Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim: The Spiritual Secrets of God’s Mercy
“Call upon Allah or call upon the Most Merciful (ArRahman), by whatever name you call upon Him, to Him belong the most beautiful names.”
Allah calls us toward Himself through boundless mercy and grace, which embraces all of creation without discrimination. This divine compassion transcends time and space, providing for the good, the bad and everything in between. In the 114 chapters of the Qur’an, 114 times Allah says Bismillahi Ar-Rahman Ar-Rahim, which can be translated as “In the name of God, the Lord of Mercy, the Bestower of Mercy.’ In Arabic, these words do not just denote mercy, but also carry the qualities of love forgiveness, aid, compassion, passion, assistance, protection, concern tenderness, and forgiveness.
Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim are both derived from the verb rahima, which refers to “being merciful, loving, and caring in a way that benefits the object of the affection” In other words, God is making us, the creation, the emphasis of His infinite grace and most loving qualities. While Ar. Rahim is seen as God’s qualities of love and mercy in action, Ar-Rahman, is God’s nature of mercy, love, and grace. Ar-Rahim is a specified form of mercy that is given to those who open their hearts to God, longing for the light of His love, whereas Ar-Rahman shines upon all of creation without discrimination.
Both Ar-Rahim and Ar-Rahman originate from the Arabic word rahm meaning “womb. This implies that we can only experience the truth of God’s message from the all-embracing womb of His mercy, love, compassion, and grace.
Ar-Rahman is seen as the mother of all the divine names, for it is through the all-encompassing womb of God’s Rahman that the universe was manifested into being.
In Arabic, the word Rahman is known as a sigatul mubaalagha or hyperbole, which refers to a word that is excessive and extraordinary. For example, a’tash is a word you would use to say you are thirsty, but the form a’tshan means you are desperately thirsty. Another example would be the word ghadhib, which is used to say you are angry, but the form ghadhban means you are infuriated with anger. In this case, rahma means mercy, but the form Rahman is an extreme, infinite form of mercy that is beyond what can be understood by the human mind. Some grammarians also have said that the word Rahman linguistically implies that it is happening in the here and now. In other words, Allah is loving, caring, and merciful not just in a general sense, but in this very moment right now.
Allah emphasizes His name, The Most Merciful (Ar-Rahman), over His name, The Most Loving (Al-Wadud) because Rahman is all-encompassing and present in all places and times. Love is not separate from but enfolded into the meaning of Rahman.
“Limitless is your Lord in His Mercy”
Allah’s Rahman is like the sky, it covers everything in existence, including us and the worst of our sins. We were created from Allah’s mercy, and the Qur’an was sent like a ladder from Heaven to Earth, so that we could get closer to the Divine. Allah has opened the door for us; it is up to us whether we walk into the palace of His mercy and love.
The Importance of Divine Justice
It is important to understand that God’s mercy and justice go hand in hand. The word for justice in Arabic is ‘adl, which at its root means “to proportion, to create symmetry, to be equitable.” In other words, harmony and balance are dependent on justice. Jewish mystics metaphorically describe God’s justice as scolding hot water that, if poured on its own into a clay vessel, would break it. God’s mercy is described as freezing cold water; if poured on its own into a clay vessel, it would also break it. But if you pour them together, a neutralizing balance is created, preventing the vessel from breaking.
The clay vessel in this story is a metaphor for the human heart, which is unable to contain only God’s mercy or only God’s justice. If God was only merciful there would be chaos on Earth because there would be no accountability; however, if God was only just there would be no one on Earth because no human being is perfect. As the Qur’an says, “If God were to punish people for their deeds immediately, not one creature would have survived on Earth. However, He has given them a respite for an appointed time and when their term comes to an end, let it be known that God watches over His servants” (35:45). It is in bringing together God’s justice and mercy that the possibility for harmony is created.