The word ‘Aleem comes from the root letters’ayn lām meem and it has the following classical Arabic connotations:
– to have knowledge, be cognizant, be certain,
– to be aware, thoroughly informed,
– to have firmly rooted knowledge of the minute particulars,
– to act according to knowledge
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala is Al-‘Aleem – the All-Knowing. He knows what is and what could be, what was and what could have been. In the words of Imam Ghazali, “Its perfection lies in comprehending everything by knowledge – manifest and hidden, small and large, first and last, inception and outcome.”
Sheikh Ratib an-Nabulsi teaches that the difference between Allah’s knowledge and human knowledge is that we must necessarily acquire our knowledge by what we see and experience around us. On the other hand, Allah’s knowledge has no beginning or end, and is not based on trial and error.
Allah’s knowledge is complete and perfect. It comprehends the past, present and future and always corresponds to reality. Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala says:
“Does He not know what He has created, and He is the Subtle, the Acquainted.” (Al-Mulk 67: 14)
In Surah al-An`aam Ayah 59, He says,
“And with Him are the keys of the unseen; none knows them except Him. And He knows what is on the land and in the sea. Not a leaf falls but that He knows it.”
If Al-‘Aleem knows every leaf that falls, He also knows what our souls whisper to us. He knows what you are going through, what you are feeling. Your Lord does not forget either; so do not think that anything you have done has gone to waste. He knows when you prevented yourself from doing bad for His sake, so just because you didn’t see the result of your choice immediately, don’t think that it went unnoticed. Some things need patience, and Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala teaches us with time.
Allah subhanahu wa ta`alaknows 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.
Indeed, Allah tells us:
“What you (O humanity) have been given of knowledge is but little.” (Al-Isra’ 17: 85)
But He also teaches to make du`a in this manner: “Say: My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” (Ta-Ha 20:114) And He assures us: “He has taught humanity what they did not know.” (Al-`Alaq 96:5)
Living by Allah’s Name: Al-‘Aleem
Be Conscious of Al-Aleem.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.
Acquire Knowledge. The word Al-‘Aleem 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 subhanahu wa ta`ala 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.” (Al-Jathiyah 45:13)
Religion did not come to obstruct people from engaging with the sciences. The very first ayah of the Qur’an that was revealed proclaims: “Read in the name of your Lord!” (Al-`Alaq 96:1)
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala 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.” (Al-`Alaq 96:3-5)
Reflect on Al-‘Aleem’s Creations. 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. Equally, He turns our attention to the earth we live upon and to distant realms of space.
Accept the Decree of Al-‘Aleem.Allah’s name Al-‘Aleem instills within 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. Everything takes place by His decree, and His decree accords with His wisdom.
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.
O Al-Aleem, we seek refuge in You from asking that of which we have no knowledge. Guide us to the best ways, increase us in knowledge and help us practice what we learn, aameen.