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20 - الْعَلِيمُ

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الْعَلِيمُ is translated as The All-Knowing and The Omnipotent. It comes from عَلِمَ – to know, and when it is used for Allah ta’ala it means “To know everything about all matters.” 



Allah ta’ala always knew and always will know everything that was or will be. Nothing is hidden from Him and Allah ta’ala has prior knowledge about everything that will happen i.e. Taqdeer. He knows about the Baatin (Internal) and the Dhaahir (External) and nothing can be forgotten. His knowledge is Muheet – mentioned in Aayatul Kursi;

 يَعْلَمُ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمَا خَلْفَهُمْ ۖ وَلَا يُحِيطُونَ بِشَيْءٍ

He knows what is before them and what is behind them. They cannot gain access to anything out of His knowledge except what He pleases.

His knowledge encompasses everything.


In the Qur’an 

This name is mentioned 157 times in the Qur’an. It is described in many different ways in the Qur’an.


وَخَلَقَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ ۖ وَهُوَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ

He has created everything and is aware of everything.[Surah An’aam: 101]


إِنَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُورِ  - He has full knowledge indeed of all that is in [your] hearts [Surah Mulk:13]

Allah ta’ala knows the workings of the hearts.


الْعَلِيمُ الْحَكِيمُ are often paired together i.e. He has pure and full knowledge of everything andHe also has perfect wisdom. 


سُبْحَانَكَ لَا عِلْمَ لَنَا إِلَّا مَا عَلَّمْتَنَا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْعَلِيمُ الْحَكِيمُ

“Glory be to you, we have no knowledge except what you have taught us. Verily, it is You, the All-Knower, the All-Wise” [Surah Baqarah:32]


Belief in Allah ta’ala being All-Knowing

It is part of our Aqeedah to believe that Allah ta’ala is All-Knowing. It is ingrained and embedded in us from childhood that Allah ta’ala knows everything but there are other ideologies within Islam or on the fringe of Islam where people believe that Allah ta’ala does not know or is not concerned with the detail. Some religions have the concept that Allah ta’ala made the universal laws of nature and kind of pressed the “on” button and then let it go and so is not involved now. 


Our Aqeedah is that Allah ta’ala has knowledge of every detail and He knows the intricacies of our private lives and regarding the universe. This concept is mentioned in many places in the Qur’an some of which are repeated multiple times in different variations. Some examples:


إِنَّ اللَّهَ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ وَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ - Fear Allah; surely Allah hears all and knows all. Lo! Allah is Hearer, Knower. 
[Surah Hujuraat: 1]


وَهُوَ اللَّهُ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَفِي الْأَرْضِ ۖ يَعْلَمُ سِرَّكُمْ وَجَهْرَكُمْ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا تَكْسِبُونَ

He is the same One Allah in both the heavens and the earth. He knows what you conceal, what you reveal and what you do [Surah An’aam:3]


Allah ta’ala knows what a person does outwardly and what the intention may be.


‘Ilmul Ghayb

Another concept is that of ‘Ilmul Ghayb which is the knowledge of the unseen. 


وَعِنْدَهُ مَفَاتِحُ الْغَيْبِ لَا يَعْلَمُهَا إِلَّا هُوَ ۚ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ ۚ وَمَا تَسْقُطُ مِنْ وَرَقَةٍ إِلَّا يَعْلَمُهَا وَلَا حَبَّةٍ فِي ظُلُمَاتِ الْأَرْضِ وَلَا رَطْبٍ وَلَا يَابِسٍ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مُبِينٍ

He Alone has the keys of the unseen treasures, of which no one knows except Him. He knows whatever is in the land and in the sea; there is not a single leaf that falls without His knowledge, there is neither a grain in the darkness of the earth nor anything fresh or dry which has not been recorded in a Clear Book. [Surah An’aam:59]


This concept is specific to Allah ta’ala alone and no one can share in it, not even the Prophets AS. Yes Allah ta’ala shared some knowledge with Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam i.e. regarding the signs of the end of time but it was shared like Wahy and we see in hadith certain episodes where he (salallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) was informed by Jibra’eel AS regarding certain events but the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam did not know on his own and this is not ‘Ilmul Ghayb. This knowledge is beyond human intelligence and senses. 


The problem arises when people give this trait to others. There are certain groups in parts on the world who believe that Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam had knowledge of the unseen world and that is why it is important to know the Asmaaul Husnaa which are part of our Aqeedah and we should know what our beliefs are. 


Episode:  Jibra’eel AS informed Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam about the poisoned meat which was given to him by a Jewish woman.


The Prophet sallallaahu ‘alahi wasallam said,

“You bring to me, for (judgment) your disputes, some of you perhaps being more eloquent in their plea than others, so I give judgment on their behalf according to what I hear from them. (Bear in mind, in my judgment) if I slice off anything for him from the right of his brother, he should not accept that, for I sliced off for him a portion from the Hell.” [Muslim]


If the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam had knowledge of the unseen he would have no need to say this. Therefore many Hadith contradict the belief of the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam having ‘Ilmul Ghayb. 


Allah ta’ala says in the Qur’an, 


قُلِ الرُّوحُ مِنْ أَمْرِ رَبِّي وَمَا أُوتِيتُمْ مِنَ الْعِلْمِ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا

Tell them: The Spirit is at my Rabb's command and I am not given any knowledge of it but a little. 
[Surah Isra 85]


Concept of Haadhir/Naadhir

The concept of Haadhir (to be everywhere) and Naadhir (to see everything) is attributed to the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam by some people which he (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam) never claimed and in the Qur’an and in many Hadith it is clearly mentioned he is a human being. 


قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَنَا بَشَرٌ مِثْلُكُمْ - O Muhammad, tell them: "I am but a human being like you [Surah Kahf: 110]


No one has knowledge of the unseen world and it is shown to us in many ways. We think that with science we can predict things and no matter how scientifically sound people are, with all their expertise, are often proven wrong. When the Tsunami occurred in Indonesia, it happened so quickly that even though there was a system in place they could not warn people and there was great loss and devastation. Therefore even with all the technology, we have not reached the level of knowing. Only Allah ta’ala knows.

إِنَّ اللَّهَ عِنْدَهُ عِلْمُ السَّاعَةِ وَيُنَزِّلُ الْغَيْثَ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا فِي الْأَرْحَامِ ۖ وَمَا تَدْرِي نَفْسٌ مَاذَا تَكْسِبُ غَدًا ۖ وَمَا تَدْرِي نَفْسٌ بِأَيِّ أَرْضٍ تَمُوتُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلِيمٌ خَبِيرٌ

Surely Allah Alone has the knowledge of the Hour, He is the One Who sends down the rain and He knows what is in the wombs. No one knows what he will earn the next day; and no one knows in what land he will die. Surely, Allah knows all this and is aware of everything. [Surah Luqman: 34]


With ultrasound we can now know what is in the womb, male or female and even if the child has some disease but what is his/her personality going to be like? Only Allah ta’ala has the knowledge of the unseen world. No one can know 100% about everything.


Concept of Fortune-telling

There is the concept of fortune telling and reading horoscopes which we see in all cultures and which tells people what is going to happen in the next hour, day or year. Though there may be elements of truth is these things, it is incomplete and not permissible to attribute this power to someone i.e. he/she can tell the future. This is very dangerous where sometimes people are put on an Islamic pedestal and position of power. 


Where the signs of astrology are concerned i.e. Aries. Libra, Gemini etc. which describes people’s characteristics, they are different and not really fortune telling. 


We should be careful how we word things as well. How do we know that our child will be protected if he becomes a Haafidh. Allah ta’ala preserve their Imaan, but we do not know. We should show humility and accept that we do not know everything.  Only Allah ta’ala knows.



The counsel to human beings about this is that we can share in this trait on a very limited level. We should know that our knowledge is very limited compared to the knowledge of Allah ta’ala. 


The story of Khidr AS and Musa AS, mentioned in Surah Kahf shows this. When they were both by the sea,  a bird came and dipped its beak in the sea, and Khidr AS said to Musa AS, “My knowledge and your knowledge and the knowledge of all of creation, in comparison to the knowledge of Allah, is like what this bird has taken from the sea.”


Compared to Allah ta’ala’s knowledge our knowledge cannot even really be regarded as knowledge i.e. it is ignorance, similar to a child in nursery who knows his A B C but what is his knowledge compared to a person who has a PHD. We may be knowledgeable in some fields and some may be knowledgeable in other fields. People of wisdom will see this. 


We live in the age of TMI – too much information and with education and qualifications people think they can understand everything including matters of Deen and this very dangerous. No educated person will self-diagnose his illness. He will consult a doctor who is an expert in medicine. Similarly we should realise our limitations even if we are educated. If we have questions regarding Deen then we need to consult a Scholar who is the expert in these matters. 


The story of Khidr AS and Musa AS shows that there are always other people who know more than us either in different perspectives or different fields. Khidr AS had a different relationship with Allah ta’ala and he had different types of knowledge and his duties were different to Musa AS. It is part of humility to know there are different types of knowledge and to acknowledge where we are weak. Even though we may be experts in certain fields, we may need to go to a Scholar for Tajweed or Tafseer and we learn from one another. No one has complete knowledge of any one topic or all matters.


Therefore we can share in this Sifat in a very limited way and to extend it to the future or to the other people or the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wasallam is wrong. 



There is too much information in this age and not all of it is beneficial so ask for beneficial knowledge in Du’a and ask to be able to act upon as knowledge without action is like no knowledge.


اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ عِلْمًا نَافِعًا

O Allah, I ask You for beneficial knowledge


اللهُمَّ علِّمنا مَا يَنْفَعُنا وَانْفَعْنا بِما عَلَّمتَنَا وزِدْنَا عِلما

O Allah, help us learn what is beneficial to us, help us benefit from what You have enabled us to learn, and increase to our knowledge.



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