In order to develop a close relationship with someone, one has to know him or her very well. Many of us feel distant from Allah (swt) at times, and fail to see, in every situation, the manifestations of His Names and Attributes. Sheikh Muhammad Ratib an-Nabulsi, a Syrian scholar, has done extensive research on Allah’s Names, from their linguistic meaning to examples of how these Names are relevant to us and our everyday lives.
I have translated excerpts from his research on Allah’s Name As-Siteer. This name appears in the hadith (narration) of the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him): “Verily, Allah the All-Mighty and Majestic is Forbearing, Modest and Concealing (Sitteer); and He loves modesty and concealment. Therefore, when any of you bathe, let him conceal himself (i.e. from the sight of people).”1
Linguistically, As-Sitteer (derived from the root word sitr) is one who conceals something. However, being a hyperbolic form of its root, it means the one who veils a million scandals, as well as the greatest scandals. When a name is in hyperbolic form, it aggrandizes the word qualitatively and quantitatively. A similar example would be Allah’s Name Al-Ghaffar, which indicates that He forgives the greatest of sins and an infinite number of sins.
As-Sitteer has another meaning: the one who prevents and keeps something away. `Aisha radiallahu ‘anha (may Allah be pleased with her) says in an authentic hadith:
‘A lady approached me along with her two daughters asking (for charity), but she found nothing with me except a date. I gave it to her and she divided it between her two daughters, not eating anything herself. Then, she stood up and left. When the Prophet ﷺ came in, I informed him of what happened. He said, “Whoever is entrusted with these daughters and treats them with benevolence, they will act as a shield (sitr) for him from Hell-Fire.’ [Agreed upon]
Thus, whoever raises two daughters (and in some narrations it is sufficient to raise one daughter), and takes care of her, teaches her the mannerisms of Islam, ensures that she wears hijab, and chooses for her a believing husband, it is enough for him to enter Paradise.
Therefore, sitr also means to keep something away, and raising a righteous daughter keeps one away from Hellfire.
In his dream, the Prophet ﷺ told him, “Tell your neighbor so-and-so near the mosque that he will be my companion in Paradise.” The khateeb was deeply pained, [thinking]: ‘Was this glad tiding for me or him?’ So he went to his neighbor, who was a humble vendor from among the laymen, and knocked on his door. He entered his house, greeted him, and said, “I have glad tidings for you from the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, but I won’t tell you until you tell me what you’ve done for your Lord.” The man refused, and the khateeb persisted, saying, “By Allah, I will not relay the message unless you tell me what you’ve done for your Lord.” The man finally relented and told his story:
“I had proposed to a lady and then married her. In [what was supposedly] her fifth month of pregnancy, she was nine months pregnant. This clearly meant it was not my child. I could have exposed her, divorced her, destroyed her, but I wanted her to repent to Allah (swt) through me. I brought home a midwife, and she gave birth in the darkness of the night. I took the child that was not mine, hid him under my cloak, and entered a mosque in Sanjaq Dar…”
He entered after the imam began praying fajr, put the newborn behind the door, and joined the prayer. No one noticed him. When the prayer was finished, people surrounded the child, all in shock. He came over, as if he didn’t know of the situation, and asked, “What is going on?!” They replied, “Come look.” He said, “I will look after this child. Give him to me.” So he took the child in front of everyone as if he was an abandoned child. He took on his rearing, and returned him to his mother, and indeed she repented to Allah [for her sin].
Allah, the Exalted, says:
“Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct [...]” (Qur’an, 16:90)
Justice [in this case] could have been to divorce her or hit her (strike her with a thin stick), but Allah (swt) has ordered us to treat others with benevolence. When this man did so, he saved her from humiliation and from going astray. Not every situation is resolved through justice, and more often than not, benevolence is a better alternative.
Allah, the Exalted, is Sitteer, and He loves those who conceal the faults of others. This is why the Prophet ﷺ described the believing woman as sitteera, and a woman who sits and complains about her husband to others as scandalous. Allah (swt) does not look at a woman who constantly complains about her husband, but Allah loves a woman who is sitteera. A woman who is sitteera is a believing woman. 3
Allah (swt) says:
“And to Allah belong the best names, so invoke Him by them [...]” (Qur’an, 7:180]
No doubt, we must pause at the words “so invoke Him by them,” because one of its meanings is to grow closer to Allah (swt) by embodying His Divine attributes. Thus, you can grow closer to the Most Merciful by becoming merciful yourself, and you can grow closer to the Just by becoming fair, and you can grow closer to As-Sitteer by concealing the faults of others.
- Reported by Abu Dawud, An-Nasa’i, al-Baihaqi, Ahmed, and graded as authentic. ↩
- Reported by Ahmad, Bukhari, and Tirmidhi ↩
- Complaining here does not mean seeking legitimate help from others if the situation calls for it, but is meant in the context of backbiting and revealing secrets and bad habits of one’s spouse. ↩