Rizwan Khan, Missionary, USA
105. Yā Awwal – O First! – يا اوّل
106. Yā Ākhir – O Last! – يا آخر
Al-Awwal (the First) means that there was nothing before God. It signifies that He created everything and He is the First Cause of all things. Al-Ākhir (the Last) means that there will be nothing after Him. Whereas everything is subject to death and destruction, He alone will remain after all things have ceased to exist. (The Holy Quran with English Translation and Commentary, 57:4, p. 3093)
Al-Awwal (The First) and al-Ākhir (The Last) are opposites.
This name is also mentioned under al-Bāqī (The Everlasting) and al-Wāhid (The One).
Use in prayer
The Holy Prophetsa said as part of a prayer:
“You are the First (al-Awwal) and there is nothing before You; You are the Last (al-Ākhir) and there is nothing after You.” (Sahih Muslim, Kitab adh-dhikri wa d-du‘a’i wa t-tawbati wa l-istighfar, Bab ma yaqulu ‘inda n-nawmi wa akhdhi l-madja’)
In the same way, everything came from nothing, it will return to nothing. Realising everything we love is temporary causes an existential crisis that makes our hearts turn away from temporary attachments. When we say Yā Awwal (O First!) and Yā Ākhir (O Last!), we pray that our hearts be attached to the only One who is permanent. Remembering how brief our world is gives us perspective on how it is ultimately meaningless without Allah Almighty.
107. Yā Bāqī – O Everlasting! – يا باقي
The root of bāqī means to remain or continue, or to exist permanently or endlessly. The name al-Bāqī means The Everlasting Whose existence will have no end. (Lane’s Lexicon, Root: بقى Entry: بقى، بَاقٍ)
Al-Ākhir (The Last) and al-Bāqī (The Everlasting) are synonymous. (Lisan al-‘Arab, Ibn Manzur, Root: أخر, See “فالآخِرُ هو الباقي بعد فناء خلقِه كله”) The difference is that the names al-Awwal (The First) and al-Ākhir (The Last) describe the permanence of Allah Almighty within the confines of our understanding of time. The words First and Last are relative to what comes after or before them. However, the word Everlasting is not relative to anything; it is independent.
The name al-Bāqī (The Everlasting) describes permanence that is independent of time. Since time is the creation of Allah Almighty and He transcends it, He is not bound by it. (The Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of God, al-Ghazali, p. 146-7)
This name is also mentioned under al-Wārith (The Inheritor), al-Hayy (The Living), and al-Haqq (The Truth).
Use in prayer
The opposite of the word baqā (everlasting existence) is the word fanā (non-existence). (Lisan al-‘Arab, Ibn Manzur, Root: بقي) Allah Almighty says, “All that is on the earth will perish (fān), And only that will survive (yabqā) which is under the care of your Lord.” (Holy Quran, Surah ar-Rahman 55:27-28) Although everything perishes, those who die after they have given themselves up entirely to God are made to live again because their life is a shadow of the “life” of God. (Chashma-e-Ma‘rifat, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 23, pp. 165-6) The people who completely submit to Allah Almighty experience a death called fanā (extinction of the self). After this death, they are revived into a new life called baqā (revival and everlasting existence). (Aina-e-Kamalat-e-Islam, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 5, pp. 63-72)
The name al-Bāqī (The Everlasting) reminds us that, while only Allah Almighty is truly everlasting, we can be given a type of everlasting life by becoming a shadow of Him. When we say Yā Bāqī (O Everlasting!), we pray that we lose ourselves in Him (fanā) so that we may be revived to a new life that is everlasting (baqā).
108. Yā Wārith – O Inheritor! – يا وارث
The root of wārith means to inherit, and the word wārith means an heir. Al-Wārith means He who remains after everything has perished, and thus, the property of mankind returns to Him. (Lane’s Lexicon, Root: ورث Entry: ورث، وَارِثٌ)
Al-Bāqī (The Everlasting) and al-Wārith (The Inheritor) are synonymous in their meaning of “remaining after creation ceases to exist.” (Lisan al-‘Arab, Ibn Manzur, Root: ورث) Al-Wārith has the additional meaning of all ownership of everything returning to Allah Almighty.
Use in prayer
Al-Wārith (The Inheritor) is the One to whom possessions return after their possessors disappear. (The Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of God, al-Ghazali, p. 148) We only own our possessions for as long as we are alive; after that, we have no control over them. The Pharaohs were buried with their wealth, thinking they could take it with them. However, we all leave this world empty-handed. The name al-Wārith (The Inheritor) reminds us that all this wealth we give importance to will be left behind in this world. After we have all vanished, only Allah Almighty remains as the sole possessor. When we say Yā Wārith (O Inheritor!), we pray that we are able to use our wealth for the sake of Allah Almighty by our own will before that wealth is eventually returned to Him.
109. Yā Hayy – O Living! – يا حيّ
110. Yā Qayyūm – O Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining! – يا قيّوم
The root of hayy means life, and al-Hayy means The Ever-Living. The root of qayyūm means to stand up or to establish, and al-Qayyūm means the Self-Subsisting by Whom all things subsist. (Lane’s Lexicon, Root: حى Entry: حىّ، حَىٌّ; Root: قوم Entry: قوم; Root: شره Entry: أَشَرْ)
Al-Hayy (The Living) and al-Bāqī (The Everlasting) are synonymous. (Al-Bahr al-Muhit, Abu Hayyan, al-Baqarah 2:256, See “الحَيُّ الباقِي الَّذِي لا سَبِيلَ لِلْفَناءِ عَلَيْهِ”) The emphasis in al-Hayy is on how, while every other life needs an initial cause for it to begin, it is only Allah Almighty Who is Living as an independent Being in His own right. (Malfuzat, Vol. 1, p. 99; Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol. 2, pp. 577-8) When contrasted, al-Hayy (The Living) emphasises Allah Almighty being eternally living without the need for any beginning, and al-Bāqī emphasises Allah Almighty being eternally living without end.
Al-Muhyī (The Giver of Life) and al-Hayy (The Living) come from the same root and are synonymous in their meaning of giving life, (Chashma-e-Masihi, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 20, p. 362) but al-Hayy has the primary meaning of Allah Almighty being living.
Al-Hayy (The Living) and al-Qayyūm (The Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining) refer to giving life and then sustaining that life. These two names are interrelated and are thus inseparable. (Tafsir Hazrat Masih-e-Maudas, 2:256, Vol. 2, p. 413)
This name is also mentioned under al-Haqq (The Truth).
Use in prayer
Al-Hayy (The Living) demands that Allah Almighty be worshipped, and this name is connected to the prayer in Surah al-Fatihah, “You alone do we worship.” Al-Qayyūm (The Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining) demands that His support should be sought, and this name is connected to the prayer, “You alone do we implore for help.” (Tafsir Hazrat Masih Maudas, 2:256, Vol. 2, pp. 413-4) The concept of sustenance in al-Qayyūm (The Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining) implies that everything would cease to exist if His sustenance was withdrawn. (Chashma-e-Masihi, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 20, p. 362)
The name al-Hayy (The Living) reminds us that there is no concept of life without Allah Almighty. The name al-Qayyūm (The Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining) reminds us that every moment we continue to live, it is only because Allah Almighty continues to sustain us. Whenever a matter would distress the Holy Prophetsa, he would say, يَا حَىُّ يَا قَيُّومُ بِرَحْمَتِكَ أَسْتَغِيثُ “O Living! O Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining! I seek relief in Your mercy.” (Jami‘ at-Tirmidhi, Kitab ad-da‘wat ‘an rasulillahsa) We should observe this prayer repeatedly in prostration. (Tafsir Hazrat Masih Maudas, Vol. 1, p. 27)
111. Yā Haqq – O Truth! – يا حقّ
The word haqq means truth and is the opposite of falsehood. It means conformity to the requirements of truth and reality. It also means existence, or existing as an established fact so as to be undeniable. When applied to Allah Almighty, it means everlasting existence, or necessarily existing by His own essence. Al-Haqq means the Truly-Existing, Whose existence and divinity are proven to be true. (Lane’s Lexicon, Root: حق Entry: حَقٌّ)
Al-Haqq (The Truth) is similar to al-Hayy (The Living) in its meaning of existing by His own essence, and it is similar to al-Bāqī (The Everlasting) in its meaning of everlasting existence.
Al-Haqq (The Truth) is similar to al-Qayyūm in that it can also mean The Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining. (Translation of al-Haqq from Tafsir-e-Saghir, pp. 423, 430, 537)
Use in prayer
The name al-Haqq (The Truth) reminds us that it is only Allah Almighty who is the absolute reality. Everything we perceive with our senses is relative. For example, the colours we see are how our eyes interpret those frequencies of light. The sounds we hear are how our ears interpret those frequencies of sound. Even the matter we observe is subject to laws of nature that are not absolute because they have only existed since the Big Bang. There could have been entirely different laws of nature that governed matter in a different universe. The name al-Haqq (The Truth) reminds us that it is only Allah Almighty who is the unchanging reality. When we say Yā Haqq (O Truth!), we grasp onto the only permanent and objective reality there is and let go of everything else.
When we stand for prayer, the first question we should ask ourselves is, “Does God exist?” If we have experienced His existence and our heart says, ‘Yes,’ we should continue our prayer. If our heart is unsure, we should pray that He gives us certainty. The name al-Haqq (The Truth) means The Truly Existing; it reminds us that when He shows us His existence through our spiritual senses, we know Him to exist with greater certainty than anything we have ever experienced through our physical senses. When we say Yā Haqq (O Truth!), we pray that Allah Almighty shows us the truth.
The Holy Prophetsa said as part of a prayer, “You are The Truth (al-Haqq), and Your promise is the truth, and to meet You is true, and Your word is the truth, and Paradise is true and Hell is true, And all the prophets are true and Muhammad is true, and the Day of Resurrection is true.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab at-tahajjud, Bab at-tahajjudi bil-layl) When Allah Almighty shows us something Himself, it becomes an undeniable truth that we know through more refined senses and with greater certainty than anything else.
112. Yā Wāhid – O One! – يا واحد
The word wāhid means one, and the first of the numbers. (Lane’s Lexicon, Root: وحد Entry: وَاحِدٌ) Al-Wāhid means The One or The First.
Al-Wāhid (The One) combines the meanings of al-Ahad (The Unique) and al-Awwal (The First) because it describes Allah Almighty as The One and The First.
When al-Ahad (The Unique) and al-Wāhid (The One) are contrasted, al-Wāhid emphasises the meaning of The First. The Quran uses two words to express the Unity of God, Ahad and Wāhid. Whereas Ahad denotes the absolute Unity of God without relation to any other being, Wāhid means “the first” or “the starting point” and requires a second and a third to follow it. The name Wāhid (One) is thus intended to show that God is the real “source” from which all creation springs. Everything points to Him, just as a second or a third thing necessarily points to the first. (The Holy Quran with English Translation and Commentary, 13:17, p. 1499)
Al-Wāhid (The One) is related to al-Khāliq (The Creator) because if the name al-Wāhid (The One) is denied, it would mean there could be other creators before Him. Thus, al-Wāhid (The One) is evidence of Allah being not just the Creator, but also the Sole Creator. (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol. 3, p. 403)
This name is also mentioned under al-Ahad (The Unique).
Use in prayer
We can pray using the name al-Wāhid (The One) to remind ourselves that everything is connected to Allah Almighty. For example, if we start thinking about the weather while we’re praying, we can say Yā Wāhid (O One!) and pray to the One who is its source. Step by step, we bring those thoughts of nature back to their singular Creator, the cause of all causes. Or, we might start thinking about what we need to put on our grocery list. We can instead take that thought and be grateful to Allah Almighty who is al-Wāhid (The One) and is the ultimate source of those provisions. Rather than fighting against our distractions, we can work with our distractions. This exercise gradually becomes more intuitive. Eventually, what was a distraction away from Allah Almighty becomes a reminder of Allah Almighty. Even if our mind wanders in ten different directions, all of those paths lead back to al-Wāhid (The One), He who is both The First and The One.
113. Yā Ahad – O Unique! – يا أحد
Al-Ahad means the One, the Sole, the Indivisible, and He who has no second. (Lane’s Lexicon, Root: احد – Entry: أَحَدٌ)
While the word wāhid can be used about a person or object, ahad is unique because it is used only for Allah Almighty and not for any person or object. (Lisan al-‘Arab, Ibn Manzur, Root: وحد)
Al-Ahad (The Unique) signifies the Oneness of Allah in His essence, the idea of a second being inconceivable. Al-Wāhid (The One) signifies the uniqueness of Allah in His attributes. Allahu Wāhid means that Allah is that Supreme Being Who is the Source and Fountainhead from Whom all creation has emanated. Allahu Ahad means that Allah is that Being Who is One and Alone in that when we think of Him, the very idea that there is any other being or thing is absent from our minds. He is One and Alone in every sense. He is neither the starting link of any chain, nor its last link. Nothing is like Him nor is He like anything else. (The Holy Quran with English Translation and Commentary, 112:2, p. 3469)
Use in prayer
For us to connect with Allah Almighty, His manifestations are brought down to our level. For this reason, any name that describes Allah Almighty’s interactions with us does not manifest His true glory. For example, Allah’s manifestations of ar-Rahīm (The Merciful) are limited to the mercy that we, as humans, are capable of receiving from Him. The true reality of ar-Rahīm (The Merciful), which is independent of us and related to His being al-Ahad (The Unique), is beyond our comprehension. The name al-Ahad (The Unique) is different from other names because it describes Allah Almighty as being unique and alone in a way that is completely independent of our limitations. (Tafsir-e-Kabir, Vol. 10, p. 529)
When we think of all the names of Allah Almighty and everything we know about Him, the name al-Ahad (The Unique) reminds us that we have not begun to comprehend His essence. When we say Yā Ahad (O Unique!) in prayer, we stand dumbfounded in the presence of the One who is beyond our understanding.
114. Yā Allāh – O Allāh! – يا اللّٰه
The word Allāh is a proper name that is not derived, the “al” being inseparable from it. It is applied to the Being who exists necessarily, by Himself, comprising all the attributes of perfection and all the beautiful names. (Lane’s Lexicon, Entry: اللّٰهُ)
In the Arabic language, this word is never used for any other being or thing. No other language has a distinctive name for the Supreme Being. The names found in other languages are attributive or descriptive. Allah is always used in the singular. (Dictionary of the Holy Quran, Malik Ghulam Farid, p. 28)
In the Holy Quran, Allah Almighty has described His name, Allah, as combining in itself the attributes of all other names and qualities. No other name has been given this rank. Thus, the name Allah comprehends all other perfect attributes. (Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya Part 4, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 1, pp. 435-6)
Use in prayer
Any name is meaningless to us if we don’t know someone with that name. For example, if we don’t know anybody named Zaid, Zaid is a meaningless word to us. However, if someone close to us is named Zaid, that person comes to mind when we hear their name. We picture his face along with who he is. The name Allah can only be meaningful to us if we know Him. The degree to which we are familiar with Allah is the degree to which this name will carry meaning for us.
There is, however, a difference between how we recognise people and how we recognise Allah Almighty. We see people’s beauty first, and we see their characteristics after. The beauty of a person is visible, but their characteristics are hidden. However, with Allah Almighty, we see His characteristics first and His beauty after. His beauty is more hidden than His characteristics. (Ta‘lluq Billah, Anwarul-ul-Ulum, Vol. 23, p. 208)
When we hear the name of someone we are barely acquainted with, only their face comes to mind, but when we hear the name of someone we are close to, their characteristics come to mind. In the initial stages of spirituality, when Allah is only an acquaintance, hearing His name brings to mind the attributes we know or have interacted with. As we increasingly experience His favours, we start to understand the Being behind those favours. The more we get to know Allah Almighty through understanding and experiencing His attributes, the more we see His beauty. Eventually, when we hear the name of Allah, it is His “face”, or beauty, that comes to mind.
When we say Yā Allāh (O Allāh!), it should bring with it a spontaneous recognition of who we are addressing. Allah Almighty says, “True believers are only those whose hearts tremble when the name of Allah is mentioned.” (Holy Quran, Surah al-Anfāl 8:3) There should be a flow of thoughts and emotions based on our experiences with Him. When we recognise who we are addressing, then the words Yā Allāh (O Allāh!) carry a feeling of intimacy.
The Holy Prophetsa said that if Allah Almighty is called on by His greatest name, He answers. (Jami‘ at-Tirmidhi, Kitab ad-da’wat ‘an Rasulillahsa) The greatest name of God Almighty is Allah. All His other names refer to the name Allah, and He has kept all other names subordinate to this name. (Malfuzat, Vol. 1, p. 154; Vol. 2, p. 88)
The name Allah is covered last in this series of articles because, after we have covered His other names, we have a new familiarity with and recognition of Him. The word Allah now means something new to us.
When we say Yā Allāh (O Allāh!), we bring to mind that Being Whom we have come to recognize, and we pray to Him with a feeling of familiarity.