Al-'Aleem _ The omniscient
Now, we go on to deal with the fourteenth of Allah’s Beautiful Divine Names, “Al-‘Aleem” (the Omniscient). Allah, All Mighty, says, “And over all those endowed with knowledge is the Omniscient (Allah).” [XII; 76]
First of all, it should be noticed that all of Allah’s Divine Names are Beautiful and that each Name stands alone and does not depend on any of the other Names. Nevertheless, some of Allah’s Divine Names have more impact on people than other Names. Concerning Allah’s Beautiful Name, “Al-‘Aleem” (the Omniscient), He, Glory to Him, says, “It is Allah Who created seven heavens and of the earth the like thereof (i.e. seven). His Command descends between them (heavens and earth) that you may know that Allah has power over all things and that Allah encompasses all things in Knowledge.” [LXV; 12]
While speaking about His Divine Creation and Revelation, Allah, Praise belongs to Him, mentions only two of His Beautiful Divine Names, “Al-‘Aleem” (the Omniscient) and “Al-Qadeer” (the Omnipotent). This is because man does not obey Allah’s Divine Commands unless he firmly believes that both Allah’s Divine Knowledge and Power encompass him. Moreover, Allah’s Name, “Al-‘Aleem” (the Omniscient) plays first fiddle in regard to man’s belief in Allah. In other words, if you know that Allah, the Omniscient, knows all things, both secret and open, that He knows your publicity and secrecy, that He sees you while you are in seclusion and in other people’s company, and in your travel and settlement, that He knows all of your secret thoughts and intentions, all that you wish or desire, and all that you hope for, if you firmly believe that Allah knows all things, you stick to His Divine Commands.
Therefore, Allah’s Beautiful Divine Names “Al-‘Aleem” (the Omniscient) and “Al-Qadeer” (the Omnipotent) have the most impact on man’s uprightness and obedience. The above Quranic Verse reiterates this meaning: “It is Allah Who created seven heavens and of the earth the like thereof (i.e. seven). His Command descends between them (heavens and earth) that you may know that Allah has power over all things and that Allah encompasses all things in Knowledge.”
Knowledge can be defined in terms of a stable relationship between two things. Such stable relationship must be indisputable, i.e. definitive, provided with sufficient authentic evidence, and in conformity with the actual and real state of things. However, Allah’s Divine Knowledge differs completely from that of human beings. His Divine Knowledge encompasses all things, overt and covert, inner and outer, micro and macro, seen or unseen, …etc. It also encompasses the beginning and end of all things.
In order to make things clear, I give the following example: If a genius invents a machine, and then other following generations come to study such machine and know everything about it: its parts and the relationships between them, the laws that govern its work, and the laws on the basis of which it was made. Knowledge of the following generation differs from that of the genius who invented the machine. Knowledge of the genius brought this machine into existence, for he existed before the machine; while knowledge of later generations who study the machine came after it had been invented and brought into existence. Imam Al-Ghazali gave this example in his book Revival of Religious knowledge, showing that our human knowledge is derived from the universe and the laws that govern it, i.e. from the laws that Allah, All Mighty, has put for the universe. In other words, Human knowledge is acquired from the universe in which man lives: its laws, relationships governing its components, properties of such components, …etc, which have been brought into existence by Allah’s Divine Knowledge. It is Allah, Who has given things their properties or qualities; it is He Who has made cosmic laws. Great is the difference between Allah’s Divine Knowledge and that of human beings! Great is the difference between discovery of relationships among existing things and the creation of such things from nothing. This is the difference! Human knowledge is post-existence and acquired, while that of the Creator, Allah, All Mighty, is pre-existence and creative.
Here is another example: When man first constructed bridges or buildings, he did not realize that they would collapse as soon as iron expanded in hot weather. But later, after discovery of the property of expansion of metals, man took laws of expansion into consideration while constructing bridges or buildings. Hence, man’s knowledge is something acquired, while Allah’s Knowledge is Original and has no beginning.
Man’s acquired knowledge also led him to make a double-isolation system for oil tankers in order to prevent fire in hot weather.
Each and every fact man gets to know is acquired through experiment and by way of a miss-and-hit process. A 1912 car is by no means comparable to a 2000 one. The former has no pneumatic wheels. Its headlights are oil lamps. It has no speed gearbox but only one speed. Its engine is started manually. Just compare a car made a hundred years ago to one made only a year ago! This provides evidence that human knowledge is acquired, while Allah’s Divine Knowledge is has no beginning or end.
Once again, I reiterate that Allah’s Divine Knowledge, Power and Will are the essence of all existing things. In other words, Allah’s Divine Knowledge not only existed before all things but also caused them to exist. This fact includes human beings, whose knowledge comes later and is acquired… Mountains, rivers, lakes, …etc, helped us know properties and laws of water, such as law of Archimedes, through which we made ships, just as the atmosphere helped us know properties of the air, through which we made airplanes. Therefore, all human knowledge is derived from Allah’s Divine Laws and Norms that He, All Mighty, has decreed for the universe in which we exist. Hence, it is absolutely wrong to believe that Allah’s Divine Knowledge is similar to our human knowledge.
As a human being, you are governed by dimensions of place and time, where you move from one place to another, at some time or another. In other words, dimensions of place and time confine you. But Allah, All Mighty, is the Creator of both place and time. We should not ask, “Where is He?” because He is the One Who created place, nor should we ask, “When did He come into existence?” because He is the One Who created time. He knows what was, what is, what will be, and what is not: if it were to be, how it would be… This is one thing.
By the above-mentioned I intend to show the essential difference between human and divine knowledge. I want to show that Allah’s Divine Knowledge is infinitely old, and it caused all things to come into existence. In other words, whenever Allah’s Divine Knowledge, Will, and Power necessitate that something come into existence, it does really come into existence. If Allah’s Divine Knowledge, Will and Power necessitate that such thing assume a certain shape, it does really assume such shape. In fact, Divine Decree, in its reality, means that Allah’s Divine Knowledge necessitates that something exist, and it does exist just as Allah, All Mighty wills.
In fact, this issue is multi-sided and cannot be made clear in only a few pages. But we can say in short that the whole universe is but a manifestation of Allah’s Divine Knowledge. Consider, for example, a man-made spacecraft whereby man was able to fly to the moon. It goes without saying that all human knowledge, ever since mankind first appeared on the earth, took part in making such spacecraft. How did scientists know that the spacecraft should move at a certain speed in order to get off the earth’s gravity? How did they study the moon’s movement and the angel according to which the spacecraft should move in order to get to the moon in its new location after three days that the spacecraft needs to reach the moon? Such disciplines of knowledge as mathematics, astronomy, physics, among many others, took part in the trip of that spacecraft to the moon, in addition to a careful study of life conditions on the earth in comparison to those existing on the moon’s surface. The special suit that astronauts wore in outer space cost 16 million Dollars; and it provided them with the proper air, pressure, temperature and communication. I just desire to emphasize that if you see such spacecraft being launched into outer space and then landing on the moon’s surface, you should know for sure that all the science of mathematics, ever since it was first established, and in its most advanced form, has taken part in the sending of such spacecraft to the moon; and, similarly, the science of physics, in its most advanced form, including such notions as, “theory of relativity, the bent space theory, bent lines theory, and laws of motion, gravity and acceleration,…etc,” has also taken part in the sending of such spacecraft to the moon. Other branches of science, such as chemistry, physiology, and medicine, including such notions as, “the proper blood pressure, the proper heart-beat, the proper condition of blood vessels, how is it possible for man to live in a state of weightlessness where there is no gravity”…etc, also took part in such an enterprise, which, undoubtedly, reflects great advanced human knowledge accumulated all through human history.
Similarly, if you see an oil field in the middle of the Northern Sea discovered, you might wonder, “How was such oil field discovered?” “What instruments or methods were used?” “Did they use the laser, magnetic or wave method?” “Which principle did they use?” “And when the oil-field had been discovered, how could they reach it?” “How could they dive 5,000 meters deep into the sea?” “How could they reach the sea-bed?” “How could they dig for another 5,000 meters below the sea-bed?” “How did the sea’s salty water not get into the pipes?” “How did they insert the pipes into the sea-bed” “How did they empty sea water from these pipes?” “How did they inject molten cement?” They constructed a platform on the sea for the helicopters to land on; they built a small city with houses, offices, and headquarters, all floating on the surface of the sea. They studied the power, height and depth of waves as well as sea-currents, the rate of salt in the seawater and its relationship with metals. Nevertheless, on a stormy night, strong waves come to destroy the whole base. This is because the study was no adequate enough.
They build an airplane, but it suddenly falls down with no reason. There must be something wrong with its construction.
In fact, I put forward the above examples to incite dear readers to contemplate Allah’s Perfect Divine Knowledge and Creativity, which brought the whole universe into existence. You might also see a small watch that is programmed for two hundred years to show times for the five prayers in all countries of the world. If you are in Damascus, you set it so as to show you times of all prayers (dawn, midday, afternoon, evening and late evening prayers) in Damascus. The watch, which is of normal size, gives the times for prayer for two hundred years to come. Doesn’t such watch provide evidence of a great scientific development?
I have been shown a small computer as big as the palm of the hand. It can hold 35,000 pieces of information and 10,000 phone numbers. You can instantly retrieve any of these numbers by pressing the first letter of the person’s name. Don’t you feel the great ability of the human mind, which is one of the things that Allah, All Mighty creates? Once again, I reiterate that I give such examples not in order to draw attention to human inventors or manufacturers, but rather to Allah, All Mighty, Who creates and originates. In fact, the greatest and most developed apparatuses or machines that you might be shown or told about (examples of this are: such apparatus or machine is electronic, such apparatus is automatic, such electronic microscope magnifies things 5,000 times and helps you see an ant as big as a large elephant, pores of the skin as big as caves, and a piece of human skin as big as an Amazon jungle, such highly sophisticated computer can hold 5,000,000,000 pieces of information), show clearly greatness of the human mind and the Infinite Divine Wisdom and Power of its Creator and Maker, Allah, All Mighty.
Once, I was shown a computer on which the whole Quran is recorded. The person who showed me the computer told me, “You may ask it whatever question you like.” I asked the computer, “How many times does the word ‘Lakum’ occur?” It immediately answered, “118 times.” I asked it to display the Verses in which this word occurs, and it soon displayed them in succession and asked me if I would like to have them printed out, which can be most easily done. I asked the computer, “Which is the letter that is most repeated in Surat ‘Qaf’?” It soon replied, “The letter ‘Kaf’ and not ‘Qaf’.” It is all but a small disc as big as the palm of a hand. In front of a computer, an oil derrick, an airplane, or a spacecraft, you stand fully amazed!!
However, did you know that all such highly sophisticated machines and inventions are but simple primitive things compared to your human body? Consider the human brain: ten billion cells that have to do with mental judgment, reasoning, imagination, memory and remembrance, vision, hearing, smell, touch, feeling of pressure, among lots of other functions. If I go on talking about wonders of the human body, dear readers will certainly find out that the most developed and sophisticated man-made machine is too simple and primitive compared to the human body.
You may, sometimes, be amazed at the sight of a certain machine or instrument because of its tiny or gigantic size or amazing function. Aren’t you amazed at the sight of a galaxy that is 16 billion light-years away from the earth, or of the fact that light travels at a speed of 300,000 km/second? Aren’t you amazed when you know that in your human head there are 300,000 hairs, each of which has a nerve, an artery, a vein, a fat gland, and a dye gland? Aren’t you amazed when you know that in your brain there are 140 billion cells whose function is not known yet? Aren’t you amazed when you know that in the retina there are 130 million cells and that 900 nerves run through the optic nerve? Aren’t you amazed at the brain, the nerves, and the heart, which pumps eight cubic meters of blood a day without any cessation, the kidneys, through which the blood of the whole body runs five times a day crossing a distance of 100 km’s, the pituitary body, which, in case of any danger, gives orders to the supra-renal gland, which, in turn, gives four orders: one to the heart in order to increase its beating, another to the lungs in order to increase breathing, a third to all blood vessels in order to narrow their inner walls to provide more blood for movement and attack, and a fourth to the liver in order to send more sugar into the blood vessels?
Have you contemplated the different parts of your human body, which conforms to the most advanced up-to-date theories of mechanics? Did you know that the upper part of the thighbone can bear more than 250 kg’s on either side or that man can bear 500 kg’s before his ribs are broken? If I kept talking about the human body for hours and hours, I would never give it its due study or analysis. The same thing applies to plants. For, example, I once read amazing things about the leaves of plants. Scientists say that the most developed man-made factory is simply too primitive compared to a leaf, which is, indeed, a whole factory on its own. It takes 18 minerals from the rising sap. In the leaf there is the chlorophyll; in the leaf there is the photon of the solar energy; in the leaf there is nitrogen; and in the leaf there is iron compounds. Together with the rising sap, the leaf makes the falling sap, which, in turn makes flowers and fruits.
Does man, for example, have the ability to inject a liquid with something that turns it into wood, iron or sponge? Is this possible?! The liquid is one and the same but it gives different forms of matter. I once read that the rising sap of a tree runs along special vessels or pipes. If a tree grows wide wise, the pipes may get narrowed and the flow of the liquid becomes improper. Therefore, the pipes are provided with spiral fibers to prevent narrowness of pipes as the tree grows.
This is the case with plants, but what about birds? A bird’s vision is eight times stronger than human vision. Further more, the sense of smell is a million times stronger in dogs than in man.
What shall I say about fishes? There are more than a million kinds of fishes. What shall I say about whales, some of which weigh more than 150 tons and have more than 50 tons of flesh, 50 tons of fat, and 90 barrels of oil? A baby whale needs more than 300 kg’s of milk for one sucking, i.e. one ton of milk per day. An average small meal for a grown-up whale is more than four tons.
What shall I say about god fish that you see in aquariums?!
All of the above mentioned facts manifest clearly Allah’s Infinite Divine Knowledge: laws, relationships, and marvelous most accurate things and phenomena. Like all other liquids, water expands as temperature rises. What happens if it is cooled down below 4 º C.? It begins to expand! How does this happen? Who has made water behave like this? Certainly, it is Allah, the All Mighty, the Omniscient! It is well known that man’s survival on earth is conditional on this odd property of water. In other words, if water went on contracting down to the freezing point, human life would be impossible on the earth, simply because rivers, seas, and oceans would become solid blocks of ice, evaporation would cease to be, and so would rain, plants would die, and so would animals and human beings.
Before people talk about whether Allah, All Mighty, knows or not, there are so many things that have to be considered and contemplated. The whole universe is but a manifestation of Allah’s Infinite Divine Knowledge. Once again, I remind my dear readers of the gigantic oil derrick in the Northern Sea. If you fly there, you will see a whole integrated city: houses, offices, communication systems, an airport, …etc, all floating on the surface of the sea, pipes 5,000 meters long down to the sea-bed, and then other pipes 5,000 meters long underneath the sea-bed. How could they get to the oil there, and how could they pump such oil out? When you see all this, don’t you feel that great genius minds have designed and constructed such a site?
If you fly on board one of the biggest and most developed airplanes, don’t you feel as if the five hundred passengers on board were in a beautiful city, sitting in one of its restaurants, on luxurious comfortable chairs, and the food brought to them hot and delicious, while they are flying at a height of more than 43,000 feet? How does the air carry the plane? How can the air carry such a gigantic body? The question is so complicated, although very important. How complicated are the laws that govern an airplane? Common people might think that the plane’s wing, in which the plane’s fuel is stored, is a simple hollow structure. If it were so, the plane would dive down the moment it inclined to the right or left. In fact, the plane’s wing has a great many chambers separated with special barriers or walls with lots of openings and pumps that pump fuel to the opposite direction. Moreover, the plane’s wings had to withstand high moisture and very low temperatures in the high layers of the atmosphere, sometimes even minus 50 degrees Celsius.
Once a pilot told me about the incredible accuracy and precision with which the different parts of an airplane are made. This provides clear evidence of the great intelligence and knowledge of its makers and inventors. A gigantic ship, which can sometimes carry more than a million tons of goods or oil and the engines of whose helm or rudder are more than 4,000 horsepower, also manifests such great intelligence and knowledge of the part of its makers and inventors. What would you say about Allah’s Infinite Divine Knowledge, Which created the whole universe?! In this context, Allah, All Mighty, says, “So I swear by the settings of the stars. And verily, that is indeed a great oath, if you but know.” [LVI; 75,76]
Poor indeed are those who do not know about Allah’s Infinite Divine Knowledge except the question whether He knows or not. They know nothing, or too little, about His Great Divine Name “Al-‘Aleem” (the Omniscient), whose meanings and innumerable manifestations, most delicate as they are, can be encompassed by no human knowledge. The only thing that common people know in this respect is that Allah knows, but they never contemplate the marvelous manifestations or substantiations of His Infinite Divine Knowledge in the universe.
However, before we go into details of this Divine Name, “Al-‘Aleem” (the Omniscient), I would like to remind my dear readers that Allah’s Beautiful Divine Names are all Revelation-specific. In other words, we cannot derive a name by ourselves and then claim that it belongs to Allah. For example, Allah, All Mighty, says, “Verily, they are plotting a plot (against you, O Muhammad). And I (Allah) am planning a plan.” [LXXXVI; 15] and, “And (remember) when the disbelievers plotted against you (O Muhammad) to imprison you, or to kill you, or to get you out; they were plotting; and Allah (too) was plotting; and Allah is the Best of those who plot.” [VIII; 30]
It is not permissible to derive from the verb “plot” or “plan” a name and claim that Allah is a “Plotter” or “Planner”. I reiterate that all of Allah’s Divine Names and Attributes are Revelation-specific, i.e. we do not accept or use any of Allah’s Names except those that are mentioned in Allah’s Book, the Holy Quran or Prophetic Sunna and Tradition. For example, can we say Allah is a “Teacher”? No! Can we say that Allah is a “Scholar”? No! The whole Islamic nation does not accept the Name “Teacher” although Allah, All Mighty, says, “He has been taught by the One, Who is Mighty in power.” [LII; 5] and “He (Allah) has taught you that which you did not know…”
Is it possible to say that Allah is “’Arif” (i.e. the One Who is Able to know)? No! This is because this Arabic word means “someone who gets to know something after having been ignorant thereof”. It means that before knowledge there was ignorance, which does not befit Allah’s Divine Knowledge, which has no beginning. Allah’s Knowledge is not acquired but rather comes even before existence.
Similarly, can we say that Allah is “Fatin” (Clever) or “Thaki” (Intelligent)? No, of course not! Allah’s Divine Names are definitely Revelation-specific. No one is permitted to invent a name and then attribute it to Allah. No Name is acceptable unless it is mentioned in the Holy Quran or Prophetic Sunna and is, therefore, accepted by the whole Islamic nation.
However, there is a great difference between Allah’s Infinite Divine Knowledge and human knowledge. Allah’s Divine knowledge is not derived from things, but, the opposite is true, i.e. things are derived from His Knowledge, whereas human knowledge is derived from things and is based thereon.
I would like to tell you this: Allah honors knowledgeable humans when He attributes knowledge to them, but their human knowledge is, definitely, unlike His Infinite Divine Knowledge. In this context, Allah’s Messenger, (PBUH), says, “Allah is All-Knowing; and He loves those who are knowledgeable.”
But here we have a question: Which branch, or branches, of knowledge are the noblest and most sublime? Where does a certain branch of knowledge get its eminence and honor? What makes a certain branch of knowledge more honorable than another?
If someone has knowledge of how to break locks of shops and rob them, is such knowledge honorable? No, of course not! Such a person is a robber, and his knowledge, great as it might be, is by no means honorable!
If someone has great knowledge of forging banknotes, i.e. he has a highly sophisticated equipment, great copiers, special paper, and he has acquired great knowledge and made a lot of study and research, is his knowledge noble or honorable? No!
Is knowledge of ways of trafficking drugs, which some traffickers most intelligently acquire, an honorable or noble kind of knowledge? No, of course not!
However, if someone acquires knowledge about heart diseases because people are in bad need of it, you certainly feel that such knowledge is noble and honorable. Hence, the question is: what makes a certain branch of knowledge noble or honorable? The answer is simply: The kind of information and its importance make knowledge honorable and noble or not. In other words, the more noble and honorable the information and its uses are, the more honorable and noble knowledge of such information is.
If someone has a lot of accurate and detailed information about singers, male and female: when they get up or go to bed, their kind of food, the massages and holidays they have, …etc, do you feel that such kind of knowledge is noble or honorable?
I would like to reiterate that knowledge is not noble or honorable unless its subject matter is as such. On the basis of this principle, one may ask: what is the noblest and most honorable branch of knowledge? The answer is theology, i.e. knowledge about Allah and the foundations of religious beliefs. This is because superiority of Allah’s Words over those of His human slaves is like superiority of Allah, Himself, over His human slaves. We have known lots of disciplines of knowledge, such as physics, chemistry, math, medicine, engineering, physiology, morphology, …etc, and we have known Allah. The former kind of knowledge has to do with things created by Allah, while the latter has to do with Allah, the Creator, Himself. Therefore, the noblest and most honorable knowledge is theology, i.e. to know Allah, His Beautiful Divine Names and Attributes, His Religion, …etc. Such is the noblest and most honorable knowledge!
To know the way that leads to Allah is honorable knowledge; to know Allah’s Religion is honorable knowledge; to know Allah’s Commands and Laws, as derived from His Divine Book, the Holy Quran, is honorable knowledge; to know how to be near to Allah and how to attain spiritual enhancement is honorable knowledge. Hence, the noblest and most honorable knowledge is, first, to know Allah, and, next, to know the way that leads to Him and His Divine Love.
Make no mistake about it! There is one, only one, Truth in the whole universe, namely Allah, All Mighty, Most Gracious. Anything that leads you to Him is noblest and most honorable. To learn Arabic, for example, in order to understand Allah’s Words, is noblest and most honorable.
In this context, Imam Al-Ghazali, may Allah have mercy on him, says, “There are three kinds of knowledge: knowledge about Allah, knowledge about His Divine Commands, and knowledge about His creatures.” The second and third kinds of knowledge, i.e. those that have to do with Allah’s Commands and Creatures, need to be acquired by means of the usual methods of learning, such as reading books, attending lessons or lectures, committing pieces of information to memory, …etc.; and they are usually stored in one’s mind and memory. But the first kind of knowledge, i.e. that which has to do with Allah, All Mighty, is completely different. This kind of knowledge conduces to spiritual enhancement and moral transcendentalism, i.e. it makes one nearer and more intimate to his Lord, Allah, Most Gracious. It does not need the usual above-mentioned methods of learning but rather persistent strife to come near to Allah and attain His Divine Love. Also, it is not merely something stored in the mind but also an active spiritual and emotional state that is conducive to both spiritual and emotional transcendentalism. It is by no means easy to attain, nevertheless, its consequences are magnificent.
Once again, I reiterate that the noblest and most honorable branch of knowledge is to know Allah, His Religion, and His Beautiful Divine Names and Attributes. The noblest and most honorable thing to do is to know Allah and that He is the All Mighty, the Omnipotent, the Omniscient, the All-Wise, the Irresistible Compeller, the Sovereign, the All-Holy, the Peace Giver, the All-Forgiver, the Security Giver, the All-Preserver, and so on and so forth.
The best thing to do is to be, from the viewpoint of character and behavior, as Allah pleases: to be faithful, sincere, devoted, committed, honest, trustworthy, pious, dutiful, truthful, …etc. Such noble character and behavior are attainable only by Allah’s Divine Grace and Help.
Explanation of Allah’s Beautiful Divine Names and Attributes has to do with both Allah Himself and man’s heart. It also has to do with how man’s heart should be: aware, sincere, loving, confident, truthful, honest, straightforward, pious, dutiful, …etc. Moreover, explanation of Allah’s Beautiful Names and Attributes comprises all disciplines of knowledge.
Here are some elaborations:
First, whenever the Holy Quran speaks about knowledge, it confirms that knowledge belongs to Allah, and that human beings acquire knowledge only if Allah so wills. To this effect, Allah, the Omniscient, says, “Verily, Allah: with Him (Alone) is the knowledge of the Hour, He sends down the rain, and knows that which is in the wombs. No person knows what he will earn tomorrow, and no person knows in what land he will die. Verily, Allah is All-Knower, All-Aware (of things).” [XXXI; 34]
“And they shall never encompass anything of His Knowledge except that which He wills. His Kursi extends over the heavens and the earth, and He feels no fatigue in guarding and preserving them. And He is the Most High, the Most Great.” [II; 255]
“But Allah bears witness to that which He sent down to you; He sent it down with His Knowledge; and the angels bear witness. And Allah is All-Sufficient as a Witness.” [IV; 166]
“And Allah did create you from dust, then from a sperm drop, then He made you pairs (male and female). And no female conceives or gives birth but with His Knowledge. And no aged man is granted a length of time, nor a part is cut off from his life but is (recorded) in a Book. Surely, that is easy for Allah.” [XXXV; 11]
Therefore, lots of Quranic Verses pivot round the fact that all knowledge belongs to Allah. To the same effect, Allah’s Messenger, (PBUH), says, “Verily, Allah is All-Knowing; and He loves those who are knowledgeable.” This Prophetic Hadith is in full conformity with the above-mentioned Quranic Verse, “And they shall never encompass anything of His Knowledge except that which He wills.”
An old traditional scholar once wanted to disparage Imam As-Shafi’i in front of his students. He asked disparagingly, “Young man! We have never heard of that which you say. Where did you get it? No one, except you, claims this.” Most wisely, Imam Ash-Shafi’Ii said, “Master! Do you claim that you know all things?” If the old scholar had answered that he had known all things, it would have been foolish of him, as Allah, All Mighty, says, “And they ask you (O Muhammad) concerning the Spirit. Say, ‘The Spirit is one of the things the knowledge of which is only with my Lord. And of knowledge, you (mankind) have been given only a little.” [XVII; 85] Therefore, he soon replied, “No.” The intelligent young Imam replied, “Then, this is simply one of the things that you do not know!”
Who can encompass all knowledge?! Who knows everything?! No one, except Allah, the Omniscient, can encompass all knowledge and knows all things. That is why it is rightly said: A person is considered as knowledgeable as long as he is still learning. The moment he thinks that he is knowledgeable; this means that he is a mere ignorant person. In other words, if you claim that you are knowledgeable, you are definitely ignorant and self-conceited. Therefore, those who have an ardent desire for knowledge and strive to attend religious lectures in order to properly understand Allah’s Book, the Holy Quran, and Prophetic Hadith and Tradition, are strongly recommended to say always, “We are mere learners”, because such statement reflects politeness and modesty. In fact, I have heard such statement from great well-known scholars.
Some time ago, someone wrote a book in which he claimed to be one of the great scholars of Damascus. It seems that he forgot the fact that whenever our venerable righteous ancestors had to speak about themselves, they would simply say, “May Allah forgive me my sins,” or “I am but someone who is in bad need of his Lord, Allah, Most Gracious.”
As above mentioned, a great many Quranic Verses confirm that knowledge belongs only to Allah, and that He grants it to whomever He desires. By the way, some people claim that Allah’s Messenger, Muhammad, (PBUH), was illiterate. A highly placed person in a university was once asked to open a faculty for an M.A. post-graduate degree in religious studies. He said, “Why should we open such faculty? The Holy Prophet (Muhammad) was illiterate.” The dean of the faculty, however, most cleverly answered, “But Prophet Muhammad used to receive Divine Revelation from the Lord, Allah, All Mighty. The moment we receive Divine Revelation, we will give up learning and leave the university.” That is why religious scholars usually say: “The holy Prophet’s illiteracy reflects perfection, while illiteracy of other people reflects imperfection.” In other words, if you say that someone is illiterate, this means that he is ignorant; but if you say that Allah’s Messenger, Muhammad, (PBUH) was illiterate, this means that he was in no need of human knowledge or education, as he, (PBUH), received knowledge directly from the Lord, Allah, Most Gracious.
Sometimes, university graduates may claim boastfully that they have the highest degrees from such developed countries as America, England, or France. Others may boast of having studied under a well-known scholar or scientist. In other words, people usually feel proud of having received knowledge at one famous university or another, or under a certain famous scientist or scholar. But I would like to ask, “Who taught Allah’s Messenger, Muhammad, (PBUH)?” The answer is: Allah, the Almighty, the Omniscient, Himself, taught him; and this suffices him in honor and knowledge. To this effect, the Verse goes:
O illiterate (Prophet)! It suffices you in rank
Of knowledge that savants are indebted to you.
Moreover, quite often, a genius scholar takes some fifty or more of the Prophetic Hadiths of Allah’s Messenger, (PBUH), studies and analyzes them as regards their composition, formation, eloquence, content, denotation, connotation, ...etc; and for this he is awarded a Ph D in religious studies. All his study and research is about only fifty Prophetic Hadiths of Allah’s Messenger, Muhammad, (PBUH); yet he says boastfully, “I have a Ph D in Religious Studies!” in the hope of attaining due appreciation and respect from other fellow humans.
O illiterate (Prophet)! It suffices you in rank
Of knowledge that savants are indebted to you.
Therefore, the holy Prophet’s illiteracy is the token of perfection on his part, while illiteracy of other people reflects imperfection. To this effect, Allah, All Mighty, says, “Neither did you (O Muhammad) read any book before it (the Quran), nor did you write any book (whatsoever) with your right hand. In that case, indeed, the followers of falsehood might have doubted.” [XXIX; 48]
Other Quranic Verses confirm that Allah, All Mighty, is the All-Knower. To this effect, He, Glory to Him, says, “Say (O Muhammad), ‘I know not whether (the punishment) which you are promised is near or whether my Lord will appoint for it a distant term. (He Alone is) the All-Knower of the Unseen, and He reveals to none His Unseen, except to a Messenger whom He has chosen, and then He makes a band of watching guards (angels) to march before him and behind him.” [LXXII; 25-27]
“Verily, Allah is the All-Knower of the Unseen of the heavens and the earth. Verily, He is the All-Knower of that is in the breasts.” [XXXV; 38]
In the first place, the Verses confirm that Allah, All Mighty, is “’Aleem” (Omniscient), i.e. all knowledge belongs to Him. In the second place, they describe Him as “’Alim” (All-Knower), i.e. He knows all things, irrespective of their quantity or quality. In the third place, the Verses describe Allah as being “’Allam” (The One Whose Knowledge is Infinite), i.e. His Divine Knowledge is Absolute and Infinite. In other words, when you say that Allah is “’Allam” of the Unseen, this means that He knows all of the unseen things, i.e. His Knowledge is Absolute and All Embracing. He knows how each creature will end, He knows when and how each leaf falls off a tree. In this context, He, Glory to Him, says, “And with Him are the keys of the Unseen, none knows them but He. And He knows whatever there is in the land and in the sea; not a leaf