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 | Part XXXI
In late February, the government building she frequents came under attack, killing one of her colleagues. When I began writing this a couple of weeks ago, she had just called me to tell me about another ordeal. She was woken up in the middle of the night to the sound of bomb blasts, and the electricity was cut off. She had never been so afraid. She is a beautiful, brave human being who wants to help her homeland—so despite the great risk to her life, she stays.
When I was alerted about the first attack, there was nothing I could do. I tried calling, but her phone was switched off. So I turned to the One who sees and hears all. I called Allah subhanahu wa ta `ala (exalted is He) by His Names and made a desperate supplication:
“Ya Hafidh, ya Maani’, ya Qawwiy, Allahumma ihfadha, Allahumma imna’ al-sharr, ya Qawiyy, ya ‘Azeez.”
“O Guardian, O Preventer of Harm, O Strong One, O God protect her, O God prevent harm, O Strong One, O All-Powerful.”
At that moment of helplessness I could not remember any of the du`a’ (supplications) I had memorized. But I remembered Allah’s name and attributes. No one could protect her but Him.
When you are in the depth of helplessness, when you feel overpowered, when you feel unsafe, call on the All-Preserver, the Protector, the Strong.
Al-Hafidh, Al-Maani`, Al-Qawiyy
Al-Hafidh is The Guard (al-haaris, الحارس) and it comes from the root H-F-Dh (ح-ف-ظ). When the brothers of the Prophet Yusuf `alayhi as-salam (peace be upon him) asked their father to send with them their youngest brother, Prophet Jacob (as) said:
“He said, ‘Should I entrust you with him except [under coercion] as I entrusted you with his brother before? But Allah is the best guardian, and He is the most merciful of the merciful.’” (Qur’an, 12:64)
He said that Allah (swt) is the best guardian (khayrun hafidha – خير حافظا). Despite knowing that his sons had something to do with the disappearance of his son Yusuf, he knew who the ultimate protector was. And Allah (swt) guarded both Yusuf and his younger brother and returned them to him. And Yusuf underwent extreme hardship: from being thrown into a well by his brothers and sold into slavery to being seduced by a powerful woman and then wrongfully accused and thrown into jail. But Allah (swt) protected him in protecting his morals and character from corruption, and from any serious bodily harm, and finally he was made a minister and reunited with his family. Such is His protection even in the most difficult circumstances!
Al-Maani` comes from the root m-n-a’ (م-ن-ع), and it means to prevent, restrain or deny. Allah (swt) is the One who prevents harmful actions from coming to you. When a lifeguard rescues a drowning child, it is Allah (swt) who prevents the drowning. In Bukhari, Abu Bakr radi Allahu `anhu (may God be pleased with him) narrated the story of when he and the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) were on the journey from Makkah to Madina and being hunted down by Suraqa bin Malik. Abu Bakr (ra) exclaimed, “We have been discovered, O Messenger of Allah!” And the Prophet ﷺ replied, “Do not grieve, for Allah is with us.” The Prophet ﷺ made a du`a’ to Allah, and the legs of his horse sank into the earth up to its belly.
Al-Qawiyy indicates “perfect power” according to Imam al-Ghazali. This Name is mentioned numerous times in the Qur’an, as we are told over and over:
“Indeed, Allah is Powerful (Qawiyy) and Exalted in Might.” (Qur’an, 57:25)
The first battle the Muslims were confronted with was the battle of Badr. They were few in number (three hundred and thirteen, according to the narration) and faced with the more powerful army of Quraish of about nine hundred and fifty strong men. But Allah (swt) tells us:
“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.” (Qur’an, 3:123)
This is the other meaning of al-Qawiyy: you may not be powerful yourself but are made powerful because your protector is the Most Powerful. Relying on the Most Powerful also means doing our due diligence. The Prophet ﷺ did not go to battle unprepared. He did as much as he could with what was given to him, was frequently innovative and always asked the opinions of his companions radi Allahu `anhum (may God be pleased with them).
Can you think of a time when you were protected?
Think back to your childhood: the time when you escaped a major accident with minor bruises. When you broke your bones, but Allah al-Jabbar healed you. When you said goodbye to your child as they went away for college, worried. When you just barely avoided that major accident.
We do not often remember that most of our life is spent under the protection of Allah (swt); accidents and harm are usually an anomaly. In the 24 hours that we have in a day, we are under protection for most or all of it. Because we take it for granted, we are often unaware that this protection of Allah (swt) is an active act and is constant. The Prophet ﷺ reminds us:
“Whoever wakes up safely in his home and is healthy in his body and has provisions for his day, would have acquired all the worldly possessions he is in need of.” (Tirmidhi)
Sometimes we may be harmed and experience pain. The Prophet ﷺ tells us in that case:
“No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.” (Bukhari)
In situations of war, it may seem that Allah’s protection is absent. But this is why the rules of our religion command us to protect the weak and establish justice. In essence, the true application of Islam brings about the very visible manifestation of all of Allah’s Names and attributes. When you build a shelter for battered women, like Sister Asma Hanif of Muslimat Al-Nisaa, you are embodying this characteristic of God, which we are commanded to do. When you follow the example of Muhammad Ali, who was not only a world famous boxer but an outspoken critic of the Vietnam war, you are actively trying to protect the lives of innocent. When, like Sister Ameena Mathews, you work to stop violence in your community, you are that shining light that our faith commands us to be. After all, what else were the Quraish so angry with when the Prophet ﷺ commanded that the weak be protected and justice be served? You may suffer hardship as these roles are not easy, but there is no strength like the inner strength that comes with conviction of purpose and faith in God.
Some other meanings
Another meaning of al-Haafidh is also that Allah (swt) has guarded and preserved the Qur’an. Allah (swt) says:
“Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian.” (Qur’an, 15:9)
It is a great honor and gift to be able to memorize the Qur’an. The Prophet ﷺ tells us:
“It will be said to the companion of the Qur’an after he has entered Paradise, ‘Recite, and rise!’ For every verse he recites he will rise one level (in Paradise), until he recites the last verse with him [i.e. in his memory].” (Abu Dawud)
You become a haafidh—in essence, a preserver or a guardian of the Qur’an—with your memory. May Allah (swt) make us of them.
Al-Maani’ on the other hand, not only prevents physical harm but spiritual harm as well. So ask Him to protect your soul and your faith.
Finally, al-Ghazali pairs Allah’s Name al-Qawiyy (the Strong) with al-Mateen (the Firm) in his book, as Allah does in this verse:
Al-Ghazali says that “strength indicates perfect power, while firmness indicates firmness of strength.” So Allah does not waiver in His strength.
So whenever you feel helpless, weak or afraid, call on the One whose strength does not waiver and the One who can protect you both spiritually and physically. Please make du`a’ for my friend. Thank you.