The name “Allah” originates from the arabic word “ilah” (deity); ilah is combined with the word “al,” which is equivalent to “the” in English. So the meaning of “al-ilah,” or Allah, is The Only One worthy of worship.
قال الله تعالى: وما أمروا إلا ليعبدوا إلها واحدا لا إله إلا هو سبحانه عما يشركون
While they (Jews and Christians) were commanded [in the Torah and the Injeel] to worship none but one ilah (God – Allah), laa ilaaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He). Praise and glory be to Him, far above is He from having the partners they associate with Him.
Surah At-Tawbah [9:31]
Allah created us for one noble purpose: to worship Him alone and to live according to His guidance and commandments. All the prophets, from Adam to Nuh (Noah), Idris (Enoch), Ibrahim (Abraham), Yaʿqub (Jacob), Musa (Moses), Dawud (David), Sulayman (Solomon), ‘Isa (Jesus) and Muhammad, peace be upon them all, were sent by Allah with the same message: Worship Allah and do not associate anything with Him.
Each Prophet conveyed this consistent divine message of worshiping one God alone, Allah.
قال الله تعالى: أم كنتم شهداء إذ حضر يعقوب الموت إذ قال لبنيه ما تعبدون من بعدي قالوا نعبد إلهك وإله أبائك إبراهيم وإسماعيل وإسحاق إلها واحدا ونحن له مسلمون
Or were you witnesses when death approached Ya’qub (Jacob)? When he said unto his sons, “Who will you worship after I die?” They said, “We shall worship your Ilah (God – Allah), the Ilah (God) of your fathers, Ibrahim (Abraham), Isma′il (Ishmael), Ishaaq (Isaac); one Ilah (God), and to Him we submit in Islam.
Surah al-Baqarah [2:133]
The most comprehensive and best meaning of “Allah” is what has been attributed to Abdullah Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him and his father) when he said:
“Allah is The Possessor of Divinity and Worship over all creation.” (1)
This explanation combines between two affairs:
- The first description that is attached with this noble name is that of Divinity. Divinity is attached to the word “Allah”, just as knowledge is attached to al-‘Aleem (the all-Knowing), might and power is attached to al-’Azeez (the Almighty), wisdom is attached to al-Hakeem (the all-Wise), mercy is attached to ar-Raheem (the Merciful to the believers), and other attributes which show and are attached to His Essence. Allah is the Possessor of Divinity, and this is a tremendous description which He is deserving of. Rather, none has a share in this tremendous attribute.
- The second description that is attached to this noble name is that of servitude. The slaves worship and single out Him alone with every act of worship.
Allah the Most High said:
قال الله تعالى: وَهُوَ الَّذِي فِي السَّمَاءِ إِلَٰهٌ وَفِي الْأَرْضِ إِلَٰهٌ
It is He Who is the only God (to be worshipped) in the heaven and the only God (to be worshipped) on the earth (…)
Surah az-Zukhruf [43:84]
Meaning, the inhabitants of the heaven and earth are subjugated to Him. Everything is submissive to His Greatness, obedient to His Command, Will, and Might. The slaves of Ar-Rahman (The Possessor of Vast Mercy) single Him out in worship and exert themselves in worshipping Him in their hearts, thoughts, statements and actions.
Allah combined the two meanings of Divinity and Servitude in numerous places in the Quran; for instance, in His statement:
قال الله تعالى: إِنَّنِىٓ أَنَا ٱللَّهُ لَآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّآ أَنَا۟ فَٱعۡبُدۡنِى وَأَقِمِ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ لِذِڪۡرِىٓ
Verily! I am Allah! Laa ilaaha illa Ana (none has the right to be worshipped but I), so worship Me, and perform as-Salah for My Remembrance.
Surah Ta-ha [20:14]
This great attribute of Divinity is due to His perfect and complete names, attributes and actions, by which He deserves to be worshipped alone, without any partners being associated with him.(2)
قال الله تعالى: وَمَآ أَرۡسَلۡنَا مِن قَبۡلِكَ مِن رَّسُولٍ إِلَّا نُوحِىٓ إِلَيۡهِ أَنَّهُ ۥ لَآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّآ أَنَا۟ فَٱعۡبُدُونِ
And We did not send any messenger before you (O Muhammad) but We revealed to him (saying): “None has the right to be worshiped but I (Allah), so worship Me (Alone and none else).”
Surah al-Anbiyaa [21:25]
The name Allah is the origin of all of the beautiful names of Allah and this name necessitates all the other perfect names and attributes because, in order to be “Allah,” He has to be The Creator, The Sustainer, The Ever Living, The All-Knowing, The King, The All-Powerful, The All-Seeing, The All-Hearing, The All-Forgiving, The All-Wise and so on. (2)
قال الله تعالى:الله لا إله إلا هو له الأسماء الحسنى
Allah! None has the right to be worshipped but Him; to Him belong the perfect names.
Surah Ta-ha [20:8]
So why is Allah The Only One Who deserves to be worshipped? Because Allah is the Only Creator and there is no Creator but Him; He is The All-Strong and Almighty and no one is stronger than Him; He is The Conquerer and everyone submits to Him; He is The King and we are slaves to Him; He provides for and sustains the entire creation and we are all in need of Him. To be Allah, He has to be Self-Sufficient (Al-Ghaniyy), as He does not need any of His creation.
قال الله تعالى: رب السماوات والأرض وما بينهما فاعبده و اصطبر لعبادته، هل تعلم له سميا
Lord of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, so worship Him (Alone) and be constant and patient in His worship. Do you know of any who is similar to Him? (Of course none is similar, equal or comparable to Him, and He has none as partner with Him).
Surah Maryam [19:65]
The arabic term “al-Uluhiyyah” has a beautiful meaning: It means to perform acts of worship only for Allah, lovingly seeking His closeness and His pleasure. Worship is based on love, hope and fear; our love of Allah should precede our hope and fear.
Allah deserves to be worshipped lovingly due to His beautiful and perfect attributes and actions. To understand this, imagine you don’t yet know about Allah and you are told that you were created to worship Him: What would you hope His attributes would be? Try to ponder over the attributes that you would wish Allah – The One Who controls all your affairs and Who will recompense you – would have.
It is safe to say that everyone would hope that Allah was merciful and forgiving, otherwise we would all be punished for every mistake we make, and who could tolerate this in reality? Everyone would hope that Allah can hear him, that He would know the needs of His slaves and would be able to meet them. We would all wish for Allah to be just and appreciative of our good efforts, strong and mighty to protect us from our enemies; we would expect Him to have vast wisdom and knowledge.
All the beautiful and perfect attributes you can think of and you hope to find in Allah, you will find them and much, much more. What can be found in Allah is even beyond what the mind can comprehend.
This is what you should feel whenever you say al hamdu lillah (all praise is due to Allah): The will to praise Him with a lot of love and gratitude, because of what we know of His names, attributes and actions and the awe they inspire. For the believer, Allah’s names and attributes are a source of love and happiness.
Imam Ibn al-Qayyim said:
As for the particular virtues of the meaning of the name “Allah”, the most knowledgeable of the creation himself (Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him) said:
“I could not praise You enough as You deserve. You are as You have praised Yourself”. (4)
How can we enumerate the special virtues of the name that comprises every perfection unrestrictedly? How can we mention every praise and commendation, every honour and exaltation, all splendour, all perfection and glory, all beauty, all good, all eminence and all generosity? Excellence and goodness are for Him and are from Him.
The name “Allah” is not mentioned upon a small amount of something, except that it causes it to increase; nor is it mentioned in a state of fear, except that it removes it; nor is it mentioned on any misfortune, except that it relieves it; nor is it mentioned in any state of anxiety and distress except that it brings relief; nor is it mentioned in any state of difficulty, except that it brings ease. None that is weak resorts to it except that it brings strength to him; nor anyone in a state of humiliation, except that it brings honour to him; nor anyone in poverty, except that he is enriched; nor anyone who feels estranged and uneasy, except that it causes him to feel at ease; nor is it mentioned by one who is overcome, except that it brings aid and victory to him; nor is it mentioned by someone who seeks refuge, except that he finds refuge.
It is the name ”Allah”, through which distress is removed, through which the descent of blessings is sought, and through which supplications are answered. Through it, slips are corrected, sins are warded away and good deeds are brought closer.
It is the name with which the heavens and earth were established, with which the revealed Books were sent down and with which the Messengers were sent. With it, the legislated laws were prescribed. Through it the prescribed punishments were established and, with it, striving against unbelief was prescribed. Through this name the creation will become divided into the fortunate and the wretched. With it, the true and tremendous Day (the Day of Judgement) will be established. With it, the Scales of Justice are set up, the bridge laid down and the Paradise and the Fire are established. With it, The Lord of all creation is worshipped and praised. It is for the rights that this name entails that the Messengers were sent. It is a name about which we will be asked in the grave and, for it, the Resurrection will take place. Judgement is to it, and alliance and enmity are for it. Through it, those who know it and establish its rights will be the fortunate ones. Through it, those who are ignorant of it and leave its rights will be the wretched ones.
This name, “Allah”, is the reason for creation and commands: through it they are established and confirmed and to it they arrive at a conclusion. The creation comes about through it, returns to it, and exists because of it. (5)
قال الله تعالى: رَبَّنَا مَا خَلَقْتَ هَٰذَا بَاطِلًا سُبْحَانَكَ فَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ
Our Lord, You have not created all of this without purpose, glory to You (exalted are You above all that they associate with You as partners). Give us salvation from the punishment of the Fire.
Surah Al-Imran [3: 191]
Allah, exalted is He, is the “ilah” in the heavens and in the earth. All the creation submits to His power and His will. Willingly or unwillingly, each and everyone of us is under His power and subject to His will. He can do with us whatever He wills, whenever He wishes. Both believers and non believers are slaves to Allah and both are subject to His will.
قال الله تعالى: وَهُوَ الَّذِي فِي السَّمَاءِ إِلَٰهٌ وَفِي الْأَرْضِ إِلَٰهٌ ۚ وَهُوَ الْحَكِيمُ الْعَلِيمُ
It is He (Allah) Who is the only Ilah (Deity to be worshipped) in the heaven and the Only ilah (Deity to be worshipped) on the earth. And He is the All-Wise, the All-Knower.
Surah Az-Zhukhruf [43: 84]
The true believers, the true slaves of Ar-Rahman (The Possessor of Vast Mercy), are those who choose to be slaves to Allah willingly and submissively. They eagerly do their utmost to please Allah with their hearts, souls and actions according to their level of Iman (faith). They know why they were created and they are working towards the fulfillment of the purpose of their creation. (6)
Above is a transcription of a class given by teacher Zaynab El-Kateb based on the book Fiqh Al-Asmaa Al-Husnaa by Shaikh Abdur-Razzaaq Al-Badr.
- Tafsir ibn Jarir At-Tabari
- Fiqh Al-Asma Al-Husna – Sheikh Abdur-Razzaq Al-Badr
- Fiqh Al-Asma Al-Husna – Sheikh Abdur-Razzaq Al-Badr
- Reported by Muslim
- Reported in Taysir Al-Aziz Al-Hamid Book – Shaykh Sulayman Ali Sheikh
- Fiqh Al-Asma Al-Husna – Shaykh Abdur-Razzaq Al-Badr