Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18 | Part 19 | Part 20 | Part 21 | Part 22 | Part 23 | Part 24 | Part 25
Our world has become a constant feed of information and entertainment. We take our phones with us everywhere we go. We connect to the internet wirelessly from thousands of locations. We are fed messages relentlessly from advertisements from nearly every flat surface and screen. We are bombarded with a 24-hour news cycle. Each bit of information enters our minds with one objective: to gain control of our attention and resources.
Far more detrimental to our lives, however, are the subtle distractions that quietly surround us. They are not announced with blinking lights or beeping sounds. In fact, they have become so commonplace and ever-present that we hardly even notice their existence. But these distractions take residence in our mind and wreak havoc on our pursuits. And in the end, they keep us from living our lives to their greatest potential. Today, more than ever before, humanity needs to be pulled back to life’s most important dimensions, that is, to the essence of their existence and purpose: to recognise Allah, al-Aḥad/The Only One.
The fact that the name al-Aḥad only features once in the Qur’an may, in the estimation of some, render it to be of lesser importance in comparison to other names of Allah. What better way of dispelling this misunderstanding than by remembering which Surah of the Qur’an it appears in: Surah al-Ikhlāṣ. This is a chapter which the Prophet ﷺ described as being equivalent to a third of the Qur’an.
قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ
“Say, ‘He is Allah, al-Aḥad.’”
Clearly, therefore, it is yet another profound name that demands attention. So, who is Allah, al-Aḥad? He is The One who is alone in His perfection of attributes, alone in His decisions and sovereignty, alone in His right to unconditional fear, love and reliance, and alone in His right to be submitted to and worshipped.
The Prophet ﷺ said:
كَانَ اللَّهُ وَلَمْ يَكُنْ شَيْءٌ غَيْرُهُ، وَكَانَ عَرْشُهُ عَلَى المَاءِ، وَكَتَبَ فِي الذِّكْرِ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ، وَخَلَقَ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأَرْضَ
“In the beginning, there was only Allah, and no one else. His Throne was established over the water, He wrote within the Book all things, and He created the heavens and Earth.”
(1) What are the differences between the names al-Aḥad and al-Wāḥid?
Similar to the name al-Aḥad, al-Wāḥid is also a name of Allah. Allah’s name al-Wāḥid appears in twenty-two verses of the Qur’an, whilst the name al-Aḥad, as mentioned above, appears only once. Whilst both names share a common root which implies oneness, there are subtle differences between the two.
(a) The word wāḥid is simply the Arabic word for the number “one”, as opposed to ithnān (“two”) and thalāthah (“three”). As a name of Allah, it refers to Him being the one and only true God, having no partner in divinity, and communicating His right to be worshipped exclusively. It also refers to Him being the very first, with nothing existing before Him.
In contrast to this, the word aḥad is not “one” in the sense of a series of numbers. Rather, it marks the end of all numbers. In other words, when the word aḥad appears, no other number can be mentioned.
Consequently, the name al-Aḥad is more exclusive in its meaning than the name al-Wāḥid, as it refers specifically to Allah’s essence. It communicates that Allah is absolutely singular in His essence, utterly unique in His attributes, and cannot be compared with anyone else. Therefore, al-Wāḥid can be translated as The One, whilst al-Aḥad is a reference to the Only One, making Allah the One and Only.
(b) Whilst we can use the term wāḥid (one) as an attribute to describe anything, such as rajulun wāḥid (“one man”) or thawbun wāḥid (“one garment”), the term aḥad cannot be affirmed for someone or something other than Allah, Who is al-Aḥad.
(c) Some have mentioned that al-Wāḥid is a reference to Allah’s oneness with respect to His being (i.e. One God), whilst al-Aḥad is in reference to Allah’s oneness with respect to both His being and attributes. The name al-Aḥad, therefore, is more emphatic in expressing Allah’s “oneness”.
In short, when nothing existed in the distant past, Allah was the One and Only in existence. When everything perishes in the distant future, Allah is the One and Only Who will remain. When all complain of poverty and are afraid to lend a helping hand, Allah is the One and Only Whose riches never perish. When all are defeated by illness, poverty, or an enemy, Allah is the One and Only Who possesses answers, relief and victory.
(2) The effects of believing in His name al-Aḥad
To call upon Him using His name al-Aḥad
The Prophet ﷺ once heard a person saying the following words in his duʿā’:
اللَّهمَّ إنِّي أسألُكَ بأنَّكَ أنتَ اللَّهُ الأحدُ الصَّمدُ ، الَّذي لم يلِد ولم يولَدْ ، ولم يَكُن لَهُ كُفُوًا أحدٌ
“O Allah, I ask You by virtue of You being Allah, al-Aḥad, al-Ṣamad (The Eternal Refuge), Who begets not nor was begotten, and there is none comparable to Him.”
This impressed the Prophet ﷺ to the extent that he said:
لقد سألَ اللَّهَ باسمِهِ الأعظمِ ، الَّذي إذا سُئِلَ بِهِ أعطى ، وإذا دُعِيَ بِهِ أجابَ
“He has just asked Allah by His Greatest Name, which if He is asked with He gives, and if He is called upon with He answers.”
This narration further demonstrates how unique a name al-Aḥad is, appearing alongside other names of Allah, including the greatest of them all. Success, therefore, is when one finds himself inspired to beg from His Lord via this name.
In yet another narration, the Prophet ﷺ said:
مَنْ قَالَ: لاَ إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ وَحْدَهُ لاَ شَرِيكَ لَهُ، لَهُ المُلْكُ وَلَهُ الحَمْدُ، وَهُوَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ. فِي يَوْمٍ مِائَةَ مَرَّةٍ، كَانَتْ لَهُ عَدْلَ عَشْرِ رِقَابٍ، وَكُتِبَ لَهُ مِائَةُ حَسَنَةٍ، وَمُحِيَتْ عَنْهُ مِائَةُ سَيِّئَةٍ، وَكَانَتْ لَهُ حِرْزًا مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ، يَوْمَهُ ذَلِكَ حَتَّى يُمْسِيَ، وَلَمْ يَأْتِ أَحَدٌ بِأَفْضَلَ مِمَّا جَاءَ إِلَّا رَجُلٌ عَمِلَ أَكْثَرَ مِنْهُ
“Whoever says: ‘None has the right to be worshipped except Allah, He is alone without a partner. To Him belongs all the Kingdoms and all praise, and He is able to do all things’ one hundred times will be given the reward of freeing ten slaves, one hundred good deeds will be written in his accounts, one hundred sins will be deducted from his accounts, it will be a shield for him from Satan on that day till night, and nobody will be able to do a better deed except the one who does more than him.”
In a third narration, the Prophet ﷺ once entered the masjid and saw a man who had finished his prayer, and was reciting the tashahhud by saying:
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْأَلُكَ يَا اللَّهُ الأَحَدُ الصَّمَدُ الَّذِي لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ أَنْ تَغْفِرَ لِي ذُنُوبِي إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ الْغَفُورُ الرَّحِيمُ
“O Allah, I ask You, O Allah, al-Aḥad, al-Ṣamad (The Eternal Refuge), He begets not, nor was He begotten, and there is none comparable unto Him, that You forgive my sins, You are Most Forgiving, Merciful.”
The Prophet ﷺ announced:
قَدْ غُفِرَ لَهُ قَدْ غُفِرَ لَهُ
“He was forgiven! He was forgiven! He was forgiven!”
Raise your hands, recall your burdens, and unlock their shackles using His name al-Aḥad.
(b) A discovery of an unending source of power and resilience
The oneness of al-Aḥad has never been, and will never be, better expressed than the statement of lā ilāha ilā Allāh, which translates to: “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah”. This statement constitutes as a source of supreme power in the face of life’s challenges.
This was the power surge which allowed Bilāl to defy the wishes of his pagan masters. As he laid barebacked on the scorching hot sand of the Arabian desert with heavy rocks lowered onto his fatigued and battered body, he found the energy – despite the gruelling punishment – to utter in defiance: “Aḥad, Aḥad, “He is the Only One, He is the Only One.”
This was also the power surge which carried Khabāb b. al-Aratt during his ordeals. His persecutors would drag his body through heaps of live coal, with nothing putting out the fire other than his melting body fat. The source of this mountainous resilience was lā ilāha ilā Allāh, which served as an ultimate reminder that nothing sacrificed is too great for Allah.
This was also the source of strength which allowed the believing women to endure all forms of suffering in Allah’s cause, even if it costed them their children. One of these woman was in fact seen by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ during his miraculous night journey. He said:
“On the night that I was taken on the journey, a beautiful scent passed by, so I asked angel Jibrīl: ‘What is this good fragrance?’ He said: ‘This is the fragrance of the Pharaoh’s daughter’s hairdresser and her children.’ I asked: ‘What was her story?’ He said: ‘On one day as she combed the hair of the Pharaoh’s daughter, the comb fell from her hand. So she picked it up, saying, “Bismillah (In the name of Allah).” The Pharaoh’s daughter said, “You mean my father?” She said, “No. My Lord and your father’s is Allah.” The Pharaoh’s daughter said, “I will tell him of what you said.” She replied, “Do so,” which she did.
“The Pharaoh summoned the hairdresser and interrogated her by asking, ‘Do you have a Lord other than me?’ She replied, ‘Yes, my Lord and yours is Allah.’ As a result, the Pharaoh instructed that a cow-shaped structure of copper be heated and that she be thrown inside it, along with her children. She said, ‘I only have one request from you.’ He asked, ‘And what is it?’ She said, ‘That you gather my bones and those of my children in one garment and bury them together.’ He said, ‘This is a duty upon us for you.’
“Afterwards, the Pharaoh instructed that her children be inserted into the oven, one after the other. They did so till they arrived at the last of them, a breastfeeding baby. At that moment, it was as if she experienced weakness because of him. As a result, the baby was made to speak, saying, ‘Mother, enter it, for the suffering of this life is lesser than that of the hereafter.’ And so she entered.”
Realising al-Aḥad is not merely a comforting thought, but an incredibly empowering one, where the believer’s worship is focused on the One, his obsession is with the One, his hopes are hinged on the One, sacrifices diminish in his eyes to obtain the pleasure of the One, as he expects the fullest of rewards from the One.
To see the signs of His Oneness in all things
Do you see it? You are surrounded by it in your everyday life. It is in the waves of the oceans, the nerves of the leaves, the branches of the trees, and the palm of your own hand. What the godless would describe as bizarre coincidences or uncanny semblances are in actual fact the signs of al-Aḥad. These are signs of a single designer which are intertwined within every one of the infinite patterns of our universe, patterns that are repeated from the micro-atomic level to the macro-atomic realm. These include recurring numbers, events, or objects, all of which repeat themselves in a predictable manner down to their essential elements. These regularities are unmistakable indications of a wise, powerful and, above all, sole designer. Consider the following examples:
It is surprising to know that elementary particles, snail shells, whirlpools, cyclones, hurricanes, and the most vast of spiral galaxies all display similar repeating patterns and symmetry. They all orbit a hole at their centre, accelerating rapidly towards the mouth. This comes as no surprise, for the designer of it all is One. He is al-Aḥad.
Brain neurons versus the cosmic web
Take, for example, the human brain. Franco Vazza (astrophysicist at the University of Bologna) and Alberto Feletti (neurosurgeon at the University of Verona) looked at two of the most complex and fascinating structures known to science: the human network of neurons in the brain and the cosmic web of galaxies. After comparing the two, they found miraculously striking resemblances.
Your brain is made up of a complex network of nearly 100 billion neurons, which form 100 trillion neural connections. Neurons are clustered into a hierarchical network of nodes, filaments, and interconnected neural clusters; they shape the complex thoughts, feelings, and emotions you experience. But these neurons make up less than 25 percent of the overall mass of your brain, since the remaining 75 percent is just water.
Amazingly, the observable universe also contains an estimated 100 billion galaxies. The teetering balance between the pull of gravity and the accelerated expansion of the universe forms a cosmic web of string-like filaments composed of ordinary and dark matter. Clusters of galaxies form at the intersection points of the filaments, leaving desolate gaps of empty space between them. The resulting image looks strikingly similar to a network of neurons. Surprisingly, scientists estimate that only around 25 percent of the matter in the universe is visible. The remaining 75 percent is dark matter. In other words, the complex network of neurons in your cranium make a better pair with the cosmic web than the individual cells of the brain!
These results were published in Nature’s Scientific Reports on 16 November 2012. The work suggests that the growth of systems in such large and small forms – such as the electrical firing between brain cells, the growth of social networks, and even the expansion of galaxies at the solar level – may be governed by “unexpectedly similar laws”. These undiscovered laws which govern the growth of both the largest and smallest of systems amaze the Muslim. However, they do not surprise him, for the designer of it all is One. He is al-Aḥad.
Take, for example, the repeated form of fractals; much like the air you breathe, they surround you. Fractals, a term coined by the Polish-born mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot, are unique patterns that replicate at every scale, as displayed in the images below.
With that, take a look around you, and what was previously invisible to you will become vividly clear; these forms appear over and over again in tree limbs, stalks of broccoli, craggy mountain ranges, as well as our lungs, kidneys, blood vessels, and even in the rhythm of the human heart. It truly is a self-similar code that is present throughout the universe.
Mathematicians have finally begun mapping this uncharted territory of fractals, stimulating a new wave of scientific, medical, and artistic innovation ranging from the ecology of the rain forest, fashion design, filmmaking, to even calming techniques.
Indeed, the deeper one dives into the fractal geometry of nature – a topic well beyond the scope of this piece – the more one is taken aback by the sheer consistency in design, all of which point back to a single Creator, Designer, and unique imposing will.
Reason necessitates that if there were more than one creator, the universe would be in chaos in every sense of the word.
لَوْ كَانَ فِيهِمَا آلِهَةٌ إِلَّا اللَّهُ لَفَسَدَتَا
“Had there been within the heavens and earth gods besides Allah, both would have surely been corrupted… ”
“Is there a god with Allah?” This is a question which al-Aḥad poses over and over again, the answer of which is found in both the Book of revelation – the Qur’an – as well as the grand book of the universe; the unmissable signs of al-Aḥad are inscribed all throughout.
قُلِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ وَسَلَامٌ عَلَى عِبَادِهِ الَّذِينَ اصْطَفَى آللَّهُ خَيْرٌ أَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ
“Say, ‘Praise be to Allah, and peace upon His servants whom He has chosen. Is Allah better or what they associate with Him?’”
أَمَّنْ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَأَنْزَلَ لَكُمْ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَنْبَتْنَا بِهِ حَدَائِقَ ذَاتَ بَهْجَةٍ مَا كَانَ لَكُمْ أَنْ تُنْبِتُوا شَجَرَهَا أَإِلَهٌ مَعَ اللَّهِ بَلْ هُمْ قَوْمٌ يَعْدِلُونَ
“Is He [not best] who created the heavens and the earth and sent down for you rain from the sky, causing to grow by it gardens of joyful beauty which you could not otherwise have grown the trees? Is there a god with Allah? But they are a people who ascribe equals to Him.”
أَمَّنْ جَعَلَ الْأَرْضَ قَرَارًا وَجَعَلَ خِلَالَهَا أَنْهَارًا وَجَعَلَ لَهَا رَوَاسِيَ وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَ الْبَحْرَيْنِ حَاجِزًا أَإِلَهٌ مَعَ اللَّهِ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
“Is He [not best] who made the earth a stable ground and placed within it rivers and made for it firmly set mountains and placed between the two seas a barrier? Is there a god with Allah? But most of them do not know.”
أَمَّنْ يُجِيبُ الْمُضْطَرَّ إِذَا دَعَاهُ وَيَكْشِفُ السُّوءَ وَيَجْعَلُكُمْ خُلَفَاءَ الْأَرْضِ أَإِلَهٌ مَعَ اللَّهِ قَلِيلًا مَا تَذَكَّرُونَ
“Is He [not best] who responds to the desperate one when he calls upon Him and removes evil and makes you inheritors of the earth? Is there a god with Allah? Little do you remember.”
أَمَّنْ يَهْدِيكُمْ فِي ظُلُمَاتِ الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ وَمَنْ يُرْسِلُ الرِّيَاحَ بُشْرًا بَيْنَ يَدَيْ رَحْمَتِهِ أَإِلَهٌ مَعَ اللَّهِ تَعَالَى اللَّهُ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ
“Is He [not best] who guides you through the darknesses of the land and sea and who sends the winds as good news before His mercy? Is there a god with Allah? High is Allah above whatever they associate with Him.”
أَمَّنْ يَبْدَأُ الْخَلْقَ ثُمَّ يُعِيدُهُ وَمَنْ يَرْزُقُكُمْ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ أَإِلَهٌ مَعَ اللَّهِ قُلْ هَاتُوا بُرْهَانَكُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِي
“Is He [not best] who begins creation and then repeats it and who provides for you from the heaven and earth? Is there a god with Allah? Say, ‘Produce your proof, if you should be truthful.’”
We, along with the universe, from the macro to the micro dimensions, testify that Allah is The Divine Reality, and that He is al-Aḥad.
Sincerity that allows the heart to rest
ʿIkrimah b. Abī Jahl is the name of a Companion who – prior to his conversion – was an arch enemy of the Prophet ﷺ, having fought the Muslims fiercely till the very hour of Mecca’s fall to Islam. The Prophet ﷺ pardoned the entire city with the exception of a few war criminals. ʿIkrimah was in fact one of those exceptions.
ʿIkrimah fled Mecca and headed towards the direction of Yemen, and to reach his destination, opted to board a boat. He was startled, however, to see his wife Umm al-Ḥakīm, who had caught up with him. After embracing Islam, she had approached the Prophet ﷺ, asking him to pardon her husband ʿIkrimah. The Prophet ﷺ agreed, but she requested something in writing, which was granted to her.
She had arrived at the coast moments before her husband’s voyage, giving him the good news of his safety, saying:
“O son of ʿAmr! I have a pledge of peace from the Prophet ﷺ. So, if you embrace Islam and accept this pledge, then I will remain your wife. Otherwise, all connections between us will be severed.”
However, he did not even look at her and set sail. During the journey, the waves grew turbulent, causing ʿIkrimah to mutter polytheistic prayers to his idols. The boat’s captain said to him:
أخلص فإنه لن ينجيك إلا الإخلاص
“Be sincere (i.e. devote your prayers to the One God), for nothing will save you but sincerity.”
Upon hearing that, it was as if the blinkers of arrogance had finally been lifted off him. There, mid sea, ʿIkrimah was reminded of a reality that he knew too well but was too haughty to surrender to: that the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was indeed a Messenger of God, and that Allah was indeed al-Aḥad.
ʿIkrimah said: “It seems that I am fleeing from the truth.” He was finally ready to put an end to his years of internal warfare and to make peace with himself. So, at once, he would travel back to Mecca, making his way to the Prophet ﷺ, where he would embrace Islam.
Thereafter, with his newly found submission to al-Aḥad, ʿIkrimah would live his finest years of life, enjoying the blessings of īmān. He rested in the shade of faith and relished its sweetness – all of which are the immediate fruits of sincerity – till martyrdom would catch up with him in Allah’s path.
Indeed, the believer in al-Aḥad is the sincerest of all people, and the sincerest are at most peace with themselves and the world around them. That is because they have gathered their thoughts, yearnings, and ambitions upon the One, which gives them focus, purpose, and an irreplaceable sense of safety. Perhaps this is the reason why when the Prophet ﷺ experienced some of the darkest hours of his life, he was blessed with the revelation of Surah al-Sharḥ. This is a Surah which lays down the principles for happiness in eight beautiful verses, the last of which is:
وَإِلَى رَبِّكَ فَارْغَبْ
“And to your Lord direct all your longing.”
When this happens, al-Aḥad will become the sole object of your pursuit and longing. Then the breezes of serenity will blow your way, where never again will your heart shatter as people come and go in your life, and never again will the sparkle of your eye be diminished if worldly ambitions crumble. Al-Aḥad has become your number one pursuit, and the thought of pleasing Him before your eventual meeting has become your primary concern. The light of this concern is so intense that it eclipses every other concern, rendering them almost imperceivable; this is the blessing of true ikhlāṣ (sincerity).
The Prophet ﷺ said:
مَنْ جَعَلَ الْهُمُومَ هَمًّا وَاحِدًا هَمَّ آخِرَتِهِ كَفَاهُ اللَّهُ هَمَّ دُنْيَاهُ ، وَمَنْ تَشَعَّبَتْ بِهِ الْهُمُومُ فِي أَحْوَالِ الدُّنْيَا لَمْ يُبَالِ اللَّهُ فِي أَيِّ
“Whoever makes his worries one worry, namely the worry of the hereafter, Allah will suffice him of all his worldly worries. As for he whose worries branch out into the various valleys of life, then it will not matter to Allah which one of these valleys ends up destroying him.”
By virtue of this sincerity, the worshipper of al-Aḥad is liberated from the cravings of praise, mortal acknowledgement, and the opinions of people. His motto in life is, as Allah said:
قُلْ إِنَّ صَلَاتِى وَنُسُكِى وَمَحْيَاىَ وَمَمَاتِى لِلَّهِ رَبِّ ٱلْعَـٰلَمِينَ
“Say, ‘Surely my prayer, my worship, my life, and my death are all for Allah – Lord of all worlds.’”
His mind has become an echo chamber for the āyah which reads:
قُلْ أَغَيْرَ ٱللَّهِ أَتَّخِذُ وَلِيًّۭا فَاطِرِ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ وَهُوَ يُطْعِمُ وَلَا يُطْعَمُ ۗ قُلْ إِنِّىٓ أُمِرْتُ أَنْ أَكُونَ أَوَّلَ مَنْ أَسْلَمَ ۖ وَلَا تَكُونَنَّ مِنَ ٱلْمُشْرِكِينَ
“Say, ‘Will I take any protector other than Allah, the Originator of the heavens and the earth, while it is He who feeds and is not fed?’ Say, ‘I have been commanded to be the first to submit and to never be of the polytheists.’”
When up against a perplexing situation, he is quick to recall Allah’s words about a certain blessed people of the past:
فَعَلِمَ مَا فِي قُلُوبِهِمْ فَأَنْزَلَ السَّكِينَةَ عَلَيْهِمْ
“…so He knew what was in their hearts, so He sent down serenity upon them…”
Allah knew what was in their hearts: sincerity; as a result of it, serenity descended upon them. Indeed, the heavenly stores of peace are pulled down using the ropes of ikhlāṣ.
The inner rest which ikhlāṣ yields, however, is most certainly not confined to its worldly manifestations. The ultimate rest is in fact that which descends upon the believer on the Day of Reckoning, when what could have become a terrible situation – namely a disgraceful transfer to Hell – is transformed into success and eventual peace in Paradise because of this legendary saviour: ikhlāṣ.
One of the most famous and hopeful narrations in this regard is the hadith which ʿAbd Allāh b. ʿAmr narrates from the Prophet ﷺ:
“Allah will bring a man in front of all of creation on the Day of Standing. Allah will present to him 99 scrolls, each one of which will be as far as one can see, filled with sins. Then Allah will ask him, ‘Do you deny any of this?’ He will respond, ‘No.’ Allah will then ask him,
أَتُنْكِرُ مِنْ هَذَا شَيْئًا؟ أَظَلَمَتْكَ كَتَبَتِي الْحَافِظُونَ؟
“‘Did the angels who recorded your actions make any mistakes or had they oppressed you?’
“He will say, ‘No.’ Then Allah will ask him, ‘Do you have any excuse?’ The man will confess, ‘My Lord, I do not.’ Then Allah will say, ‘Yes, you do have something that could be credited to you. You have a good deed with us and there will be no oppression on you today.’ Then a card will be presented which reads, ‘I testify that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah,’ and will be registered as his only good deed. Allah will tell him, ‘Go and witness the weighing of your deeds.’ The man, however, will cry out:
يَا رَبِّ، مَا هَذِهِ الْبِطَاقَةُ مَعَ هَذِهِ السِّجِلَّاتِ؟
“‘My Lord, what is the worth of this single card in light of these many scrolls?’
“Allah will respond, ‘You will not be shown injustice.’”
The 99 scrolls will be placed on one side of the scales and the card will be placed on the other. Amazingly, the Prophet ﷺ says:
فَطَاشَتِ السِّجِلاَّتُ وَثَقُلَتِ البِطَاقَةُ، فَلاَ يَثْقُلُ مَعَ اسْمِ اللهِ شَيْءٌ
“At once, all 99 scrolls are catapulted into the sky, whilst the other side of the scale carrying the card plummets to the ground. That is because nothing can outweigh the name of Allah.”
But is this really the whole picture? We know for sure that there will be Muslims who – despite having uttered the statement of faith many times throughout their lives – will still be driven to the Fire. So why will he – and others like him – be treated differently? Imam Ibn Taymiyyah said in his commentary of this hadith:
فَهَذِهِ حَالُ مَنْ قَالَهَا بِإِخْلَاصٍ وَصِدْقٍ، كَمَا قَالَهَا هَذَا الشَّخْصُ. وَإِلَّا فَأَهْلُ الْكَبَائِرِ الَّذِينَ دَخَلُوا النَّارَ كُلُّهُمْ كَانُوا يَقُولُونَ: لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ، وَلَمْ يَتَرَجَّحْ قَوْلُهُمْ عَلَى سَيِّئَاتِهِمْ، كَمَا تَرَجَّحَ قَوْلُ صَاحِبِ الْبِطَاقَةِ
“This is the situation of a person who says lā ilāha ilā Allāh with sincerity and ṣidq (truthfulness), like how this person did. This is because many Muslims who had committed major sins will be made to enter the Hellfire despite them having said, ‘Lā ilāha ilā Allāh.’ It (i.e. the statement) did not outweigh their sins like it did for this person.”
Imam Ibn Taymiyyah had similar words when commenting on the famous narration concerning the prostitute, who had her sins forgiven by Allah due to the water which she provided for a dog:
فَهَذِهِ سَقَتِ الْكَلْبَ بِإِيمَانٍ خَالِصٍ كَانَ فِي قَلْبِهَا فَغُفِرَ لَهَا، وَإِلَّا فَلَيْسَ كُلُّ بَغِيٍّ سَقَتْ كَلْبًا يُغْفَرْ لَهَا
“This was a woman who provided water to the dog whilst possessing pure sincerity. Thus, her sins were forgiven. For not every woman like her who provides water to a dog is immediately forgiven.”
Here, one may rightfully ask: what does such high-level sincerity actually look like? The Arabic word used to denote sincerity is ikhlāṣ, which has connotations of actively purifying something. An example of how the Qur’an uses this meaning is where Allah describes milk, saying:
وَإِنَّ لَكُمْ فِي الْأَنْعَامِ لَعِبْرَةً نُسْقِيكُمْ مِمَّا فِي بُطُونِهِ مِنْ بَيْنِ فَرْثٍ وَدَمٍ لَبَنًا خَالِصًا سَائِغًا لِلشَّارِبِينَ
“And indeed, for you in grazing livestock is a lesson. We give you drink from what is in their bellies – between excretion and blood – pure (khāliṣ) milk, palatable to drinkers.”
The Arabic word used for “pure” is “khāliṣ”, which shares the same root as ikhlāṣ. This is because milk is generated within the body of cattle while running in between two impure substances, namely excretion and blood. But the product remains miraculously unblemished and pure. Similarly, since al-Aḥad is purely the One and Only, the quality of our good deeds are expected to meet a similar standard of purity. Should a drop of blood or excrement fall into a cup of milk, it would be rendered inconsumable. Similarly, should the smallest amounts of insincerity mix with a good deed, it is turned down because Allah is al-Aḥad, accepting only what is purely for Him.
The Prophet ﷺ said:
قال الله تعالى: أنا أغنى الشركاء عن الشرك من عمل عملا أشرك فيه معي غيري تركته وشركه
“Allah Almighty says, ‘I am the One Who is most free from the want of partners. He who does a thing for the sake of someone else as well as Mine, then I will discard him and his polytheism.’”
Imagine a reckoning before Allah when your actions are presented to Him, only to be taken aback as the torturous process of elimination begins:
“That ‘good’ deed was not for Me. I turn it down.”
“That ‘good’ deed had so and so in mind. I turn it down.”
“That ‘good’ deed had mixed interests. I turn it down.”
Why show people more attention than they deserve? Why complain to mortals who, by their nature, are just as helpless as you are? Why beg from beggars, whine to whiners, weep to weepers, or humiliate yourself to the innately humbled ones? The cure comes from al-Aḥad. Wealth is His. Sovereignty is His. Every success is His. Subsequently, with the heart of a believer who observes the Oneness of al-Aḥad, funnel your longing to Him, allow true sincerity to blossom in your life, and observe how the vaults of serenity will be unlocked for you.
When the seventh Umayyad Caliph Sulaymān b. ʿAbd al-Malik was breathing his last, he said:
لأعقدن عقداً ما يكون للشيطان فيه نصيب
“I am going to decide a matter in which the devil shall have no share.”
Then, he did what he knew was right, despite his fear of doing so: he appointed the young ʿUmar ibn ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz as Caliph after him.
Conflicting demands will arise during your life. Family, society, or even your employers at work may ask you to do things that contravene the commands of Allah. In such circumstances, recall the following words and decide accordingly:
“I am going to decide a matter in which the devil shall have no share. Why should he when I have a Lord who is al-Aḥad?”
 Al-Qur’an, 112:1.
 Al-Bukhārī, on the authority of ʿImrān b. Ḥuṣayn.
 Ibn Mājah, on the authority of Buraydah.
 Al-Bukhārī, on the authority of Abū Hurayrah.
 Abū Dāwūd, on the authority of Miḥjan al-Adraʿ.
 Aḥmad, on the authority of Ibn ʿAbbās.
 Al-Qur’an, 21:22.
 Al-Qur’an, 27:59-64.
 Tārīkh Dimashq.
 Al-Qur’an, 94:8.
 Ibn Mājah, on the authority of Ibn Masʿūd.
 Al-Qur’an, 6:162.
 Al-Qur’an, 6:14.
 Al-Qur’an, 48:18.
 Minhāj al-Sunnah.
 Minhāj al-Sunnah.
 Al-Qur’an, 16:66.
 Muslim, on the authority of Abū Hurayrah.
 Sīrah ʿUmar, Ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥakam.