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Al-`Alīm – Allah is All-Knowing

Allah’s name al-`Alīm (the All-Knowing) is an emphatic form of the word ālim (knower). It appears 157 times in the Qur’an. For example: “Indeed You are the All-Knowing, the Wise.” [Sūrah al-Baqarah: 32] “And He is the All-Knowing, the All-Powerful.” [Sūrah Rūm: 54] and “That is the determination of the Mighty, the All-Knowing.” [Sūrah al-An`ām: 96]

The general form of the name, al-`Ālim, appears thirteen times in the Qur’an with reference to Allah. For instance: “Knower of the unseen and the seen.” [Sūrah al-An`ām: 73] and “Knower of the unseen, from whom not an atom’s weight is hidden.” [Sūrah Saba`: 3]

The name al-`Allām appears four times in the Qur’an. This is the most emphatic form of the word, emphasizing the perfection and totality of Allah’s knowledge. For instance: “Surely You have full knowledge of all that is unseen.” [Sūrah al-Mā’idah: 109]

Allah’s knowledge is complete and perfect. It comprehends the past, present and future and always corresponds to reality. Allah says: “Does He not know what He has created, and He is the Most Kind, the All-Aware.” [Sūrah al-Mulk: 14]

Allah’s knowledge is neither acquired through learning nor preceded by ignorance. Allah’s knowledge compasses all things, as does His mercy and wisdom. Nothing in the heavens or on Earth escapes His notice. Allah says: “There falls not a leaf but He knows it, nor a grain in the darkness of the Earth, nor anything green nor withered but it is all in a clear book.” [Sūrah al-An`ām: 59]

Just as His knowledge is not preceded by ignorance, likewise it is not followed by forgetfulness. As Moses (peace be upon him) told Pharaoh: “My Lord never errs, nor does He forget.” [Sūrah TāHā: 52]

Allah says: “And verily, We shall recount their whole story with knowledge, for We have never absent.” [Sūrah al-A`rāf: 7]

Allah knows the minutest of details of all things hidden and manifest. He knows every generality and every particular, from the most abstract of concepts to the most concrete object. He has recorded the properties of everything in a book that is with Him.

Indeed, Allah tells us: “What you (O humanity) have been given of knowledge is but little.” [Sūrah al-Isrā: 85] But He also teaches to offer Him the following prayer: “Say: My Lord! Increase me in knowledge” [Sūrah Tāhā: 114] And He assures us: “He has taught humanity what they did not know.” [Sūrah al-`Alaq: 5]

When we recognize something of the vastness of Allah’s knowledge, it should inspire us to be humble. When we realize the completeness of Allah’s knowledge and that nothing escapes His notice, it should make us more cautious about our actions and inspire us to self-assessment. This is why it is said: The one who knows the most about Allah, fears Him the most.

Our awareness of the vastness of Allah’s knowledge should also inspire within us love and admiration for Allah, since knowledge is a quality that we naturally admire.

It should make us desire to learn, since Allah loves knowledge and those who possess it, as He hates ignorance and those who are willfully ignorant. We should be patient and persevere in the acquisition of knowledge and recognize that learning is a form of worship.

Religious knowledge is especially beloved, since it increases our knowledge of our Lord, which in turn draws us closer to Him. Religious knowledge also teaches us what Allah wants from us, so we can do what pleases Him, and also what He detests so we can shun what displeases Him.

Acquiring knowledge of the world around us is also beloved to Allah. Such knowledge increases our appreciation of Allah’s creative power and His wisdom. It also helps us to derive benefit from the world. Allah says: “And He has made of service unto you all that is in the heavens and on Earth; it is all from Him. Most surely there are signs in this for those who reflect.” [Sūrah al-Jāthiyah: 13]

So-called secular knowledge is not incompatible with religious knowledge. Religion did not come to obstruct people from engaging with the sciences. The very first verse of the Qur’an that was revealed proclaims: “Read in the name of your Lord!” [Sūrah al`Alaq: 1]

Allah then continues on with the revelation to link our ability to acquire knowledge with His generosity. He says: “Read! And your Lord is Most Generous. He who taught by way of the pen. He has taught humanity what they did not know.” [Sūrah al-`Alaq: 3-5]

It is from Allah’s generosity that He gave us the ability to think and to reason, and furthermore, that He gave us a natural hunger to learn. He encourages us to turn our attention to the study of the world around us, even to learn the secrets about our own biology and our nature: “He created the human being from a thing congealed.” [Sūrah al-`Alaq: 2] and: “And within your own selves, do you not turn your regard?” [Sūrah al-Dhāriyāt: 21]

Equally, he turns our attention to the Earth we live upon and to distant realms of space: “Say: Turn your regard (to ask): What is in the heavens and on Earth?” [Sūrah Yūnus: 101]

Allah’s name al-`Alīm instills within in our hearts the ability to accept what Allah has decreed for His creation. We know that what he does is by His knowledge and wisdom. Allah’s will and power are always in accordance with His knowledge and wisdom. They are always in harmony: “He is the All Knowing, the Wise” [Sūrah al-Tahrīm: 2] “He is the All Knowing, the All-Powerful.” [Sūrah al-Rūm: 45]

Everything takes place by His decree, and His decree accords with His wisdom: “No kind of calamity can occur except by the leave of Allah: and whoever believes in Allah, then Allah guides their hearts aright, for Allah knows all things.” [Sūrah al-Taghābun: 11]

When faced with hardship or sorrow, it reassures a believer to know that it is by Allah’s design, and it becomes easier for the believer to come to terms with it and accept it. Our faith that Allah is All-Knowing brings us closer to our Lord and makes us feel more strongly that He is with us.
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