Names of Allah Series: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX | Part X | Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII | Part XIV | Part XV | Part XVI | Part XVII | Part XVIII | Part XIX | Part XX | Part XXI | Part XXII | Part XXIII |Part XXIV | Part XXV | Part XXVI | Part XXVII | Part XXVIII | Part XXXIV | Part XXXV
Sometimes we just don’t know where to turn. We have needs and we also have aspirations, wants and hopes. We get confused. Sometimes we just need someone to talk to. Sometimes we need shelter from the storm. And this is why Allah is as-Samad (the Eternal).
Some Names of Allah contain meanings that acknowledge His other attributes. For example, when we say Allah is al-Mujeeb (the One who responds), it is implicit that He is as-Samee` (the all-Hearing), al-Baseer (the all-Seeing) and al-Qawiyy (the Strong). Other Names seem to be very similar in meaning, but the context reveals the nuances. For example, al-Ghafur (the Forgiving) and at-Tawwab (the One who accepts repentance): They both have to do with repentance. Al-Ghafur refers to Allah covering up our sin and forgiving the sin, whereas at-Tawwab is more. He is the One that accepts the servant when he turns back. He listens to our excuses and reasons and still accepts us.
Today’s Name is similar in that regard. As-Samad has many meanings but what it is important is how we relate to Him. Al-Ghazali states that as-Samad is “the One to whom one turns to in need and the One who one is intended in our desires, for ultimate dominion culminates in Him.”
In the dictionary Samad is defined as the eternal; to remain unaffected or unchanged; to intend or turn to; something that is solid, with no holes or emptiness inside; and the ultimate Master who is obeyed. We say sumood (from the same root s-m-d), which is to remain firm and steadfast. Ali bin Abi Talib radi allahu `anhu (may God be please with him) said:
فصمدا صمدا حتى يَتَجلى لكم عمود الحق
“So stay firm, stay firm (samdan samdan) so that you may reach the pillars of truth.”
Thus Allah is the One who we turn to for both our needs and desires and who is our ultimate goal, because fundamentally He is the Master, the Eternal, the One who remains firm and unchanged – so who else can we turn to?
This Name has been mentioned in the Qur’an once, in Surat al-Ikhlas:
Say, “He is Allah, [who is] One,
Allah, the Eternal Refuge.
He neither begets nor is born,
Nor is there to Him any equivalent.”
Surat al-Ikhlas was revealed when the people of Mecca asked the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) to describe to them His Lord. This Surah answers their question and tells them (and us) about Allah. So when the people of Mecca were being told who Allah was, His being as-Samad was mentioned. Why would this be mentioned out of all His attributes? Because essentially what you need to know is that Allah is One and Unique (Ahad), and also that He is as-Samad, the Eternal Refuge, that One who is our means and our end. We go to Him for our desires but we should also ultimately desire Him—this is sincerity (ikhlas). The Prophet ﷺ told us that Surat al-Ikhlas is equal to the a third of the Qur’an (Muslim). And the reason is that if you want to know Allah, Surat al-Ikhlas summarizes His attributes. Thus knowing that He is as-Samad is crucial.
We all have hopes—marriage, sustenance, good kids, peace of mind. And we ask Allah for them. We turn to Him in good and bad, for needs and for desires. And don’t think that the One who has named himself as-Samad will let you down. At Ta’if, when the Prophet ﷺ went to seek refuge with the people, they pelted him with rocks in return. So he turned to Allah as-Samad for his needs—even if it was just for Allah to provide him with some peace at that moment. “If you are not angry with me, I do not care,” he ﷺ said, “only that Your favor is a more expansive relief to me.” When the Prophet ﷺ migrated to Medina with the companions, they were not used to the conditions there. Many companions (ra) fell ill. Bilal (ra) even recited poetry about returning to valley of Mecca. And the Prophet ﷺ turned to Allah for that need, and indeed Medina became as beloved as Mecca, if not more.
When we think of du`a’ (supplication), we tend to think of material or physical things that we need or want. “I want a house, I want a car, I want a job, I want to be healthy…” and so we ask al-Mujeeb, the One who responds to His servants. But as-Samad is slightly different because you turn to Him with all the needs of your heart, body and soul. And you can, because as-Samad is unshakeable. You can be confident and assured, because the One you are turning to is the Master, unaffected by the changes around us. Sheikh Ratib an-Nabulsi gives an example for this. In fiqh (jurisprudence), the child of a wealthy person is not eligible for zakaat. While he may be technically in need and poor in that he does not possess anything himself, his parents are wealthy and so he is regarded as being wealthy because he is taken care of by them. Now switch this to our relationship with Allah. We may be in need, but in actual fact, because we have Allah to turn to for our needs, we are not really in need at all (in terms of in this dunya). Rest assured because you have as-Samad.
There are many sayings of the Prophet ﷺ that encourage us to turn to Allah for all of our needs. The Prophet ﷺ said: “You should ask Allah for all of your needs, even if the strap of your sandal breaks,” [Tirmidhi, Ibn Hibban]. Sheikh Ratib an-Nabulsi says that implicit in this is that Allah wants you to turn to Him for your needs. He quotes al-Ghazali who said that Allah has chosen this Name so that His servants would turn to Him, because they know that He is the One who does not waver and is there for His servants to turn to, for ALL of their needs. Indeed, the Prophet ﷺ said that “Allah descends during the last third of the night asking: ‘Is there a person asking, or a person turning back, or a person seeking forgiveness from sin?’ And this continues until the sun rises.” [Muslim] A beautiful verse of poetry reads:
Do not ask the son of Adam for your needs
But ask the One whose doors do not close
Allah is angry when you do not ask
And the son of Adam, if asked, is angry
We need both dunya (this life) and akhirah (the hereafter), so we shouldn’t be ashamed when we feel we have worldly needs. The Prophet ﷺ makes a beautiful du`a’ where he asks for both dunya and akhirah:
اللَّهُمَّ أَصْلِحْ لِي دِينِي الَّذِي هُوَ عِصْمَةُ أَمْرِي ، وَأَصْلِحْ لِي دُنْيَايَ الَّتِي فِيهَا مَعَاشِي ، وَأَصْلِحْ لِي آخِرَتِي الَّتِي فِيهَا مَعَادِي
وَاجْعَلِ الْحَيَاةَ زِيَادَةً لِي فِي كُلِّ خَيْرٍ وَاجْعَلِ الْمَوْتَ رَاحَةً لِي مِنْ كُلِّ شَرٍّ
Allahumma aṣliḥ lī dīn al-lathi huwa `iṣmatu amrī, wa aṣliḥ lī dunya-ya al-lati fīhā ma`āshī, wa aṣlih lī ākhirati al-lati fīhā ma`ādī, wa-j`al al-ḥayāta ziyādatan lī fī kuli khayr, wa-j`al al-mawta rāḥatan lī min kuli sharr.
“O God, set right for me my religion which is the safeguard of my affairs. And set right for me the affairs of my world wherein is my living. And set right for me my Hereafter to which is my return. And make the life for me (a source) of abundance for every good and make my death a source of comfort for me protecting me against every evil.” [Muslim]1
So we need to ask, what is our relationship to as-Samad? Do we really turn to Him for all of our needs?
A final point with regards to as-Samad—some may ask whether turning to Allah with all our needs negates striving and using the physical means around us. This is obviously not true because Allah commands us to strive. But turning to as-Samad is recognizing where all these physical means come from, and that they can only work with the help of God. When Musa `alayhi as-salaam (peace be upon him) felt that he couldn’t go to Pharoah because he wasn’t as eloquent as his brother Harun (as), he went to Allah first and said, “And appoint for me a minister from my family—Aaron, my brother. Increase through him my strength and let him share my task,” [Qur’an, 30:29-32]. So he asked Allah for his need to have someone with him, and ultimately he was reliant on Allah, not his brother.
Being with As-Samad
First, go to Allah with every need. Rely on Him only. Don’t ever think that a need or a want is too small or too great to go to Allah with. As the Prophet ﷺ said, go to Him even if the strap of your sandal breaks.
Secondly, be there for people. Allow people to turn to you and offer them your help. The Prophet ﷺ told us that “The best of people are those that bring most benefit to the rest of mankind,” [Tabarani]; and “If Allah wants good for a person then He uses him,” [Ahmad]. Al-Ghazali says: “The one whom God has appointed to be a model for His servants in fulfilling their worldly and religious duties, and who secures the needs of His creatures by his word and action—to that one God bestows a share in His attribute. But the absolutely eternal is the One to whom one turns to in every need, and He is God—may He be praised and exalted.”
May we always turn to as-Samad for all of our needs.
- Translation and transliteration can be found here: http://www.tayyibaat.com/2011/08/25/ramadan-supplication-series-deen-dunya-and-akhirah/ [↩]