Al-Khaafidh (the Abaser) comes from the root kh-f-dh. It was used to refer to the camel when he lowers his head. When referring to Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), Ibn Atheer said, “It is He who lowers the oppressors and humiliates them.”
When we look around, the signs of Allah (swt) are apparent. Look at Hitler who was unbelievably powerful at his time, who, despite all odds, was able to make his country a world power. But his power was based on oppression. He was humiliated, brought down, and debased—he ended up committing suicide. And we have more recent examples. The Arab Spring in Egypt saw Mubarak—who had a hold on power for 30 years and profited from his position while the people lived in poverty—removed from his place. There is a beautiful verse in the Qur’an:
“And these days [of varying conditions] We alternate among the people so that Allah may make evident those who believe and [may] take to Himself from among you martyrs – and Allah does not like the wrongdoers.” [Qur’an, 3:140]
This is the sunnah (path) of life. At times we see tyrants with so much power, but slowly they are toppled down. And this is not just for rulers who are oppressive. When Iblees said:
“I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay.” [Qur’an, 38:76]
Allah (swt) expelled him from Paradise.
When Pharoah said, “I am your most exalted lord.” [Qur’an, 79:24]
He was drowned.
And this should scare us. We may not have the worldly status of Pharoah, but how many of us have a little Pharoah in us, or a little Iblees, justifying our arrogance? So the lesson for us is to be humble before Allah (swt) lowers us. As the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) told us:
من تواضع رفعه الله
“Whoever humbles himself to God, Allah will raise him.” (Muslim)
And this brings us to Allah ar-Raafi`—He who raises and exalts. Allah (swt) says to the Prophet ﷺ in the Qur’an:
“And We raised high (rafa`na) for you your repute.” [Qur’an, 94:4]
He says that He has exalted the Prophet ﷺ. And this is important for us to remember during these times when vicious lies are being spread about the Prophet ﷺ. It is not so different to what was being said about him when he started inviting people to Islam. However, Allah (swt) said that He raised high his repute; so no matter how many cartoons or films are made about him, Allah (swt) has raised him and no one can humiliate him. While some people will do disrespectful things out of ignorance, some people use it as an opportunity to spread light. The 1 Billion Salawat initiative was launched on November 4th in which Muslims all over the world pledged to send prayers upon the Prophet ﷺ. As of today, the pledge count is 80 million—subhan Allah (glory be to God). More than 1400 years after his death, people are still exalting his remembrance.
And when it comes to us, we must remember that there is a never a moment when we are obeying Allah (swt) except that we are elevated, and this should comfort us when we encounter opposition from other people. However, sometimes people act in a contradictory way. Their obedience to Allah (swt) causes them to be arrogant—is this a person that Allah (swt) raises? Remember that we are told that a person will not enter Paradise if he has an atom’s worth of arrogance in his heart. So even our obedience to God should come with humility and a feeling of gratefulness. This is perfectly illustrated in the words of the people of Paradise:
“Praise to Allah, who has guided us to this; and we would never have been guided if Allah had not guided us.” [Qur’an, 7:43]
So understanding that Allah’s Names, al-Khaafidh ar-Raafi`, relate to us greatly is crucial. By humbling ourselves before Allah (swt) and striving to serve Him and help His creation, we are elevated to the rank of the Angels. Al-Ghazaali states:
“Whoever elevates his vision above tangible and imagined things, and his intention above blameworthy desires, God has raised him to the horizon of the angels close to Him [muqarrabun]; while whoever restricts his vision to tangible things and his aspiration to the passions the beasts share with him, God will reduce him to the lowest of ranks. None but God most high does this, for He is the Abaser and the Exalter.”
May Allah make us of those whom He loves and elevates!
Our Internal States
Allah’s Names al-Khaafidh ar-Raafi` also have to do with our internal state. When we do something wrong, we sometimes feel debased, uncomfortable, and down. But when we do good, we feel uplifted. And that is Allah (swt) raising our spirits. So we should even understand these feelings as signs from Allah (swt), and we should turn to Him as a cure.
Relationship to Other Names
Another pair of Allah’s Names has a very similar meaning—Al-Mu’izz al-Muthil, the Honorer, He who humbles. While I will not be expanding on these Names too much here, I will say that they are related to dominion; He is the One who gives dominion to whomever He wills and removes it from whomever He wills. These Names are also related to dignity—that it is Allah (swt) who honors and dignifies, and it is He who humbles and shames. As al-Ghazali states, “true dominion consists in deliverance from the shame of need, the dominance of passion, and the disgrace of ignorance.” May we all be of those whom Allah elevates.