Al-Qabid (the Withholder) and Al-Basit (the Extender) are two inseparable Attributes of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala.
The two names are inseparable in the sense that it is not permissible to mention either one without the other. This is because if you say Allah is Al-Qabid (the Withholder), it would mean that you describe Him as being niggardly or miserly; and Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala is far above such evil qualities.
However, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala is Qabid, Basit, as being powerful and wise in the way that He withholds in order to extend, does harm in order to do good, decreases in order to increase, or abases in order to exalt in honor.
To that, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala says in the Quran, “And it is Allah that withholds or extends (your provisions for you), and unto Him you shall return.” [al-Baqarah: 245]
Linguistically, the Arabic word Qabd denotes decrease while Bast denotes increase; and these two actions embrace all things in existence, i.e. if Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala decreases something, this means that He withholds it; and if He increases something, this means that He extends it.
Different Meanings of Allah’s Names: Al-Qabid and Al-Basit
✦ People’s Provision or Sustenance
In this context, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala says, “Allah extends provision for whom He wills of His slaves, and restricts it for whom (He wills). Verily, Allah is the All-Knower of all things.” [al-’Ankabout: 62]
It is He who gives or withholds sustenance for people. It is He who makes people rich or poor. If He desires to provide you with sustenance, He inspires you and enables you to have the necessary ways and means to earn money and make your living. If for some reason or another, He desires to withhold provision from you, He blocks all ways in your face, even though you might be so smart or brilliant.
For that, we should firmly believe that Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala is the All-Provider, and that He, only He, is the one who withholds or extends provision for His slaves.
✦ Rainfall and Clouds
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala says, “It is Allah Who sends the winds so that they raise clouds and spread them along the sky as He wills, and then break them into fragments until you see rain drops come forth from their midst! Then when He has made them fall down on whom He wills of His slaves, lo, they rejoice!” [ar-Rum: 48]
Clouds are spread along the sky as Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala desires. He might withhold them from some people and provide them to others. At the same time, in some places, the rain would be much heavier than in others. This means that Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala withholds rain from some and provides it to some.
✦ Life, Death and Sleep
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala is Al-Qabid, Al-Basit in the sense that He withholds, i.e. seizes, people’s souls and causes them to die, or releases them, i.e. brings them back to life. Hence, provision, clouds, light, dark, and souls are all under Allah’s divine control; and He either withholds or extends them.
✦ Constriction and Expansion of the Heart
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala straitens and widens people’s hearts in the sense that He fills them with both fear and hope. We are always either fearful of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala or hopeful of Him. A true believer should always be in either of two states: dispirited with fear or spirited with hope.
If Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala withholds spiritual enhancement from us, we feel lonely, dispirited, unhappy, deprived, miserable, and even outcast or rejected. This is because Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala withholds spiritual enhancement from us. We read the Qur’an but do not feel responsive towards it, perform prayer, but do not enjoy any feeling of veneration or submissiveness, desire to sit down to contemplate Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala and His divine Attributes, but feel distracted from so doing. Such a state is simply called Qabd, i.e. withholding or straitening, which makes us feel dispirited or miserable.
Allah’s withholding of good feelings and conditions from His believing slave is meant to make him feel afraid and worried and in order to motivate him to turn to Him in sincere repentance mixed with good hope.
✦ Control and Power over Everything
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala being Al-Qabid, controls everything and He is All-Powerful. Sometimes, you cannot implant sadness in the heart of a happy person. If you speak to him, he does not listen to you. But Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala is powerful over all things, and He withholds or extends, as He pleases. He may withhold good thinking from you and cause you to be unable to understand a thing.
Hearts are of two kinds: one that is full of happiness, contentment, and divine enlightenment, and another that is hard, desolated, petrified, dead, senseless, and merciless. If Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala withholds happiness from someone’s heart, he is by no means happy, and if He withholds provision from someone, he will never be provided. This is because He is the All-Provider.
✦ Mental Blockage
Al-Qabid also means that He can block your mind for you, make your heart desolated and your soul melancholic and pessimistic. There are extreme cases of depression that drive people to commit suicide. However, a true believer is safe from such bad psychological disorder.
✦ Enlightenment, Knowledge and Wisdom
Another opinion proposed by Al-Qushairi, an Iranian Muslim philosopher, says that Al-Qabd’ and Al-Bast are two conditions whereby Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala educates those who are conscious of Him. In this context, Prophet Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “My Lord has educated me, and He has educated me (perfectly) well.”
Religious scholars say that Al-Qabd and Al-Bast, are two conditions whereby Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala refines His slaves who are conscious of Him, and whereby He opens to them gates of knowledge and wisdom.
✦ Reality of Things
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala is Al-Qabid (the Withholder) who, some scholars say, reveals things to you in order to protect you, and Al-Basit (the Extender) is He, (Allah), who manifests His divine beauty and Majesty to you in order to preserve you. Thus, you are either protected or preserved by Him. Also, He is Al-Qabid and Al-Basit in the sense that He extends His divine favors in abundance to His slaves and enables them to enjoy such favors.
✦ Fear and Hope
Al-Qabid is also He (Allah), who makes you feel afraid of being separated from Him, and Al-Basit is He (Allah), who makes you feel secure with His divine pardon and forgiveness.
As a true believer, one should always keep a balance between confidence in Allah’s divine mercy and despair of His Paradise. This is because despair is an illness and so is extra-ambitious desire. Yearning for Allah’s divine mercy, pardon, forgiveness, generosity, and forbearing, we should not forget about His divine punishment, torment, and chastisement.
Living by Allah’s Names: Al-Qabid and Al-Basit
Be a Source of Expansion for Others. As people, we need to be of those who offer relief to other people. Al-Ghazali states that we should expand the hearts of men by reminding them of the blessings of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala and His consolation, and if need be remind them also of His Majesty so that that form of constriction also brings us back to Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala.