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 XXIX | Part XXX
Today’s Name is one that has been expressed over 95 times in the Qur’an. It is a Name that gives us strength. Today’s Name is al-‘Azeez.
To be truthful, I had difficulty writing an article on this Name. It’s one of these Names that has to be felt rather than explained. Of course this is true for all of Allah’s Names, and this is the purpose of the series- to understand, feel and live by these Names. But because this Name denotes power, dignity and uniqueness, I felt that I could explain it best through stories. I pray that everyone who reads this article truly internalizes the meaning of this Name, and may Allah forgive me for my mistakes and shortcomings in getting the meanings across.
العَزِيزُ: من صفات الله عز وجل وأَسمائه الحسنى؛ قال الزجاج: هو الممتنع فلا يغلبه شيء، وقال غيره: هو القوي الغالب كل شيء، وقيل: هو الذي ليس كمثله شيء.
ومن أَسمائه عز وجل المُعِزُّ، وهو الذي يَهَبُ العِزَّ لمن يشاء من عباده.
والعِزُّ: خلاف الذُّلِّ.
In Lisaan al-Arab, al-Azeez is defined as: From the attributes of Allah and His Glorious Names; al-Zajaaj said: He is the Invincible that no one can overpower, and others said: He is the All-Powerful who is able to overpower everything, and it is also said: There is nothing like Him. And of His Names are al-Mu’izz, meaning He gives ‘izza to whomever He wishes. And ‘izz is the opposite of humiliation.
Sheikh Ratib an-Nabulsi states that because Allah is al-Azeez, He gives honor, dignity and strength to whomever He wills.
The Servants of al’-Azeez
The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) taught us the concept of ‘izza. He said:
اطلبوا الحوائج بعزة الأنفس فإن الأمور تجري بالمقادير
“Seek the things you need with self-respect and dignity (bi ‘izzati anfus), for all matters run according to Divine Ordainment.”1
The true servants of al-’Azeez are those who derive their dignity from Him, and thus respect themselves and have an inner strength. One such person was Asmaa bint Abu Bakr.
When Asmaa radi Allahu anha (may God be pleased with her) was young, she protected the Prophet ﷺ and her father when they had escaped to go to Madina. As they hid in the cave from Quriesh, who wanted the Prophet ﷺ killed, she took food to them. Abu Jahl, who was so angered and frustrated that they had not caught them, asked Asmaa where her father and the Prophet ﷺ were. She did not tell him. He then slapped her so hard that she bled, but still she did not tell him. Abu Sufyan even came later to her to apologize. She carried this trait with her even when she was old. Her son, Abdullah bin az-Zubayr (ra), was being besieged in Makkah by al-Hajjaj bin Yusuf. So Abdullah (ra) said to his mother “I am afraid that they will mutilate my body after I die”, to which she responded, “And what difference does it make to a sheep that its skin is taken off after it is killed?” And Abdullah bin az-Zubayr (ra) was indeed martyred. Al-Hajjaj bin Yusuf went to Asmaa bin Abu Bakr after her son’s death and said sneeringly “Did you see what I did to your son?” And she replied, “Yes. I see that you ruined for him his dunya (the physical universe), but he ruined for you your akhira (Hereafter).”
Another example is the scholar al-’Izz bin ‘Abdelsalaam. He said to the ruler of Cairo, “Fear Allah with regards to your flock and rule them with justice,” to which he responded “Yes O ‘Izz, we will do that”. Later, the daughter of al-’Izz said to him “Weren’t you afraid when you said that to him?” and he said, “When I thought of the might of God he seemed like a kitten to me.”
Allah is al-’Azeez, and so He gives ‘izza to His righteous servants. In the Qur’an, we are told of the two Prophets who were sent to a people in Surat Yaseen:
“When We sent to them two but they denied them, so We strengthened them with a third, and they said, “Indeed, we are messengers to you” (Qur’an, 36:14).
The word for strengthened that is used is “‘azazna”, from the same root of Allah’s Name al-’Azeez. When you do something for Allah, and you behave with dignity and strength, then Allah strengthens you. He gives you ‘izza, because only He can. He is the Invincible. During the Battle of Badr, when the Muslims were a mere 313 against 1000 of their enemies, Allah recounts to us how He helped the Muslims:
“And already had Allah given you victory at [the battle of] Badr while you were few in number. Then fear Allah ; perhaps you will be grateful. [Remember] when you said to the believers, “Is it not sufficient for you that your Lord should reinforce you with three thousand angels sent down?. Yes, if you remain patient and conscious of Allah and the enemy come upon you [attacking] in rage, your Lord will reinforce you with five thousand angels having marks [of distinction]. And Allah made it not except as [a sign of] good tidings for you and to reassure your hearts thereby. And victory is not except from Allah, the Exalted in Might, the Wise” (Qur’an, 3:123-126).
The verse ends by telling us that Allah is the One Exalted in Might (al-’Azeez) and the Wise (al-Hakeem). Al-’Azeez always comes with either Allah’s Names al-Hakeem (the Wise) or ar-Raheem (the Merciful), because some people might interpret ‘izza to simply be defiance- whether justified or not. But ‘izza is always tempered by wisdom and mercy. And thus when we attempt to be servants of al-’Azeez, we must remember that it is Allah who gives strength, and that can be internal or external. For us to have ‘izza, it should not turn into arrogance or harshness, rather it should be accompanied by wisdom and mercy.
Amr Khaled gives some points on how to live by Allah’s Name al-Azeez:
1— Strengthen people:
The Prophet ﷺ said, “Whoever a believer is humiliated before him and he does not help him when he is able to do so, Allah will humiliate him before the creation on the day of judgment” (Reported by Ahmad).
2— Go to Allah with humility:
Because He is al-‘Azeez and true ‘izza belongs to Him. A man was once walking around the ka’ba saying “O Allah, my clothes are simple as you can see. My daughter is weak as you can see. My wife is poor as you can see. O You who sees what is in us and cannot be seen!” A scholar heard this and tried to give the man money. The man was surprised and said, “No no, I am wealthy, I own this and that, I come from so-and –so place.” So the scholar asked, “So why do you say what you say?” And he replied, “O Imam, God loves those who go to Him in humility”.
3— Be dignified and give something for Islam
Anyone who truly feels this Name will want to give something for Islam, because he is confident in Himself and in his Lord. As humans, we sometimes derive our strength and dignity from material things such as wealth, status or even ethnicity/nationality. But if we do that, those are the things that we will pursue, and without them, we will feel a sense of inferiority. Yet Allah is the One who strengthens. True dignity comes in servitude to Him. When our pursuits become in the Name of Him, we will feel an empowerment that cannot come when our sense of worth comes from solely from worldly things. And that is when we will surprise even ourselves, because we do not hold back based on a limited perception of the difficulties around us. Remember that the Prophet ﷺ said with confidence to Suraqa bin Malik – as he was being hunted down by him!- “What about a day when you will be wearing the bracelets of Kisra?”2 At that point when, from the outside, he could be seen that he was at his lowest point- he was, after all, being chased by a bounty hunter and wanted by an entire city- he had absolutely no doubt in what was to come from God. ‘Umar bin al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) sums this up in this oft-quoted statement, “We were indeed a very lowly people. Allah raised us to honor and greatness through Islam. If we forget who we are and wish other than Islam, which elevated us, the One who raised us surely will debase us.” So our role is to strive, with dignity, and Allah will give us the strength needed.
4— Fear only Allah, and derive your strength from Him
Allah cannot be overpowered. We sometimes fear people because of what we perceive to be their strength over us. But Allah is al-‘Azeez, and we should always remember this when we are faced with tyrants. When the Prophet ﷺ and Abu Bakr were hiding in the cave of Thawr, and all that the disbelievers had to do was look down and they would see them, Allah sent down His tranquility upon them:
“If you do not aid the Prophet – Allah has already aided him when those who disbelieved had driven him out [of Makkah] as one of two, when they were in the cave and he said to his companion, “Do not grieve; indeed Allah is with us.” And Allah sent down his tranquility upon him and supported him with angels you did not see and made the word of those who disbelieved the lowest, while the word of Allah – that is the highest. And Allah is Exalted in Might (al-‘Azeez) and Wise (al-Hakeem).” (Qur’an, 9:40)
We do not necessarily need to be afraid in order to recognize danger. Just like the Prophet ﷺ knew that the disbelievers would be able to see them if they looked down- that was a real danger- he also knew that al-‘Azeez was with them.
May Allah make us true servants of al-‘Azeez.