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One God Many Names | Al-ʿAzīz (The Mighty)

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Those who have experienced it will testify to how a lifetime’s worth of dignity and glory can be eclipsed by a single moment of humiliation. If you have been the victim of degradation, whether at the hands of a family member, spouse, colleague, employer, or even at your very own sinful hands, then realise that Allāh is not pleased to see you in this light. After all, your Lord has given Himself the name al-ʿAzīz, which means the Mighty, and you are His. So, once and for all, plan your escape from your captors and opponents. By using this work as your vehicle, you will, insha’Allāh, be able to find your exit of honour, as intended for you by your Lord Allāh.

(1) The linguistic meaning of the name Al-ʿAzīz

This Majestic name has appeared over ninety times in the Qur’an, making it one of the most common names to be found within Allāh’s Book. This, on its own, mandates a closer inspection of this majestic name.

The name al-ʿAzīz is derived from al-ʿizzah, which is based on four key concepts: power (al-quwwah), dominance (al-ghalabah), unattainability (al-imtināʿ), and rarity (al-nudrah).

Allāh said:

إِذْ أَرْسَلْنَا إِلَيْهِمُ اثْنَيْنِ فَكَذَّبُوهُمَا فَعَزَّزْنَا بِثَالِثٍ

“When We sent to them two (Prophets) but they denied them, so We strengthened them (ʿazzaznā) with a third…” [1]

The Arabs say: “So and so ʿazzanī over the matter.” This translates to in English: “So and so defeated me in the matter.” In Allāh’s Book, a disputant says the following to Prophet Dāwūd:

وَعَزَّنِي فِي الْخِطَابِ

“…and he overpowered me (ʿazzanī) in speech.” [2]

The Arabs also say: “This jewel is ʿazīzah.” By this phrase they mean: “This jewel is rare.”

The scholars, however, have mentioned that in order for something rare to qualify as being ʿazīz, it must have three characteristics:

  1. There must be a dire need for it.
  2. It must be difficult to attain.
  3. It must have nothing similar to it.

For example, oxygen cannot be described as ʿazīz. Whilst there is a dire need for it and it has nothing similar to it, it is not difficult to attain. Subsequently, we cannot describe it as being ʿazīz. The Cherimoya fruit is difficult to attain, and it could be argued that it has no corresponding fruit to it. But there is no dire need for it, as other fruits are available. So, once again, we cannot describe it as being ʿazīz.

So, what does al-ʿAzīz mean as a name of Allāh? In light of the above, al-ʿAzīz means the Most Powerful, the Dominant, the Unattainable, and the Incomparable. Thus, when He punishes the wrongdoers, dominates the tyrants, and humbles the arrogant, He does so out of His ʿizzah. And when He conceals faults, pardons sins, and gives respite, once again He does so out of His ʿizzah.

This explanation was eloquently presented by Shaykh al-Saʿdī:

له عزة القوة، وعزة الغلبة، وعزة الامتناع، فامتنع أن يناله أحد من المخلوقات، وقهر جميع الموجودات، ودانت له الخليقة، وخضعت لعظمته

“To Him belongs the ʿizzah of power, ʿizzah of dominance, and ʿizzah of invincibility, thus no creation can reach Him. He has overcome all existing beings. All what is in creation has surrendered to Him, and they have all been humbled by His Glory.”[3]

(2) The effects of believing in this name

(a) To call upon Him using His name al-ʿAzīz

The Prophet ﷺ would say:

اللهُمَّ لَكَ أَسْلَمْتُ، وَبِكَ آمَنْتُ، وَعَلَيْكَ تَوَكَّلْتُ، وَإِلَيْكَ أَنَبْتُ، وَبِكَ خَاصَمْتُ، اللهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِعِزَّتِكَ، لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا أَنْتَ، أَنْ تُضِلَّنِي، أَنْتَ الْحَيُّ الَّذِي لَا يَمُوتُ، وَالْجِنُّ وَالْإِنْسُ يَمُوتُونَ

“O Allāh! To You I have submitted, and in You do I believe, and in You I put my trust, and to You do I turn, and for You I argue. O Allāh, I seek refuge with You through Your Might; there is none worthy of worship except You Alone; that You safeguard me against going astray. You are the Ever Living Who never dies, whereas human beings and jinn will all die.”[4]

Even during the depths of the night where he struggled to sleep and tossed and turned,  he would keep his mouth moist in the remembrance of al-ʿAzīz’s name by saying:

لا إلهَ إلَّا اللهُ الواحدُ القهَّارُ ربُّ السَّمواتِ والأرضِ وما بينَهما العزيزُ الغفَّارُ

“None has the right to be worshipped but Allāh, The One, The Subduer. Lord of the heavens, the Earth and everything within them, al-ʿAzīz, the Forgiving.”[5]

Similarly, Ibn ʿUmar and Ibn Masʿūd would say during their movement between the mounts of Ṣafā and Marwah:

ربي اغفر، وارحم، وتجاوز عما تعلم، إنك أنت الأعز الأكرم

“My Lord, forgive and have mercy, and pardon that which You know of. You are the Most Mighty, the Most Generous.”[6]

(b) To behold the conspicuous signs of al-ʿAzīz in every facet of life

A cursory glance at the world around us reveals the incomprehensible order that underpins it all. Our ability to exist depends on an incredibly finely tuned coordination between the Sun, Moon, Earth, clouds, wind, and the Earth’s resources.

The Sun and our solar system have been located in a stable orbit within our galaxy for the last 4.5 billion years. There is so much orderliness in nature that the scientists, by using the precise laws of nature, can predict the course of almost any phenomenon before it occurs. Who was the One who forced these gigantic structures to submit to such laws of precision? He is al-ʿAzīz:

وَالشَّمْسُ تَجْرِي لِمُسْتَقَرٍّ لَهَا ذَلِكَ تَقْدِيرُ الْعَزِيزِ الْعَلِيمِ

“And the sun runs [on course] toward its stopping point. That is the determination of al-ʿAzīz, the Knowing.” [7]

We see the same signs within the wombs as well. Who is the One who decides the duration, formation, appearance, and destiny of every fetus within every womb throughout the ages of all creatures? He is al-ʿAzīz:

هُوَ الَّذِي يُصَوِّرُكُمْ فِي الْأَرْحَامِ كَيْفَ يَشَاءُ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

“He is the One Who shapes you in the wombs of your mothers as He wills. There is no god except Him – al-ʿAzīz, the Wise.”[8]

We also see those signs in His mysterious method of providing. Who is it that forces the circumstances of life to shower provisions upon some, notwithstanding all the odds being against them? Who is it that limits provisions for others, despite them enjoying connections, authority, and the upper hand? He is al-ʿAzīz:

اللَّهُ لَطِيفٌ بِعِبَادِهِ يَرْزُقُ مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَهُوَ الْقَوِيُّ الْعَزِيزُ

“Allāh is Ever Kind to His servants. He provides to whoever He wills. And He is the the Powerful, al-ʿAzīz.”[9]

We see those signs in the universe’s glorification of Him. Who is it that has the entirety of creation singing in His praise in a unified chorus of tawḥīd – from the trees, to the billions of planets, the particles of dust, every minute molecule, the chair you sit on, the clothes you wear, the distant cosmos beyond our perceptions, and all that which lies beyond perception? He is al-ʿAzīz:

سَبَّحَ لِلَّهِ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

“Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the Earth glorifies Allāh, and He is al-ʿAzīz, the Wise.”[10]

The signatures of ʿizzah are etched on every canvas; within the invisible columns that carry the heavens, the DNA of every organism, the natural events that render humanity as helpless bystanders, and within your mirror reflection that you have no choice in framing. Wherever you look, you are redirected to al-ʿAzīz.

(c) Empowerment when pursuing the causes of truth and confronting evil

What can be more fortifying for the active believer than knowing that his backer, aid, and sponsor is Allāh, Who is the base of all power and source of all ʿizzah? Even during times of demotivating setbacks and daunting encounters upon the path of Islam, the believer recalls his material connection with al-ʿAzīz. He is thus sustained through his darkest hours, by recalling Allāh’s words:

فَلَا تَحْسَبَنَّ اللَّهَ مُخْلِفَ وَعْدِهِ رُسُلَهُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزِيزٌ ذُو انْتِقَامٍ

“So never think that Allāh will fail in His promise to His Messengers. Indeed, Allāh is ʿAzīz, Owner of Retribution.”[11]

He is also sustained by the many Qur’anic stories of Prophets who found al-ʿAzīz coming to their aid on every single occasion. He recalls how the Prophet Nūḥ was the first Messenger sent to call the people to monotheism. Despite gently inviting them to the true faith for 950 years, he was on the receiving end of ever mounting mockery, threats, and defiance. A dark moment it was, but one which Prophet Nūḥ was able to manage by placing his reliance upon al-ʿAzīz. His Lord did not disappoint him, as the heavens opened in torrents of rain, which met with springs that gushed from the Earth. This heralded a remorseless flood that prevailed on Earth; it climbed mountain peaks and punished Nūḥ’s people for their defiance.

وَقِيلَ بُعْدًا لِلْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ

“…and it was said, ‘Away with the wrongdoing people.’”[12]

Many years after Nūḥ, Prophet Hūd was sent to his community, ʿĀd. Again, his effort was immense, but their contempt was no less. It was a dark moment, but one which Prophet Hūd was able to manage by placing his reliance upon al-ʿAzīz, and recalling that the source of might is on his side. As always, Allāh did not disappoint him, and following their destruction, it was said:

أَلَا بُعْدًا لِعَادٍ قَوْمِ هُودٍ

“…so away with ʿĀd, the people of Hūd.”[13]

Many years after Hūd, Prophet Ṣāliḥ was sent to his community, Thamūd. Ṣāliḥ’s efforts to reform them from arrogance and disbelief in light of their physical prowess and constructional genius were awe-inspiring. However, his community’s rebellion was not short of the communities before them. It was indeed a dark moment, but one which Prophet Ṣāliḥ was able to manage by placing his reliance upon al-ʿAzīz, and recalling that the source of might is on his side. As always, Allāh did not disappoint. Thamūd was given three days’ notice of a looming punishment, and once it had arrived, the matter was as Allāh described:

كَأَنْ لَمْ يَغْنَوْا فِيهَا أَلَا إِنَّ ثَمُودَ كَفَرُوا رَبَّهُمْ أَلَا بُعْدًا لِثَمُودَ

“It became as if they had never lived there. Surely Thamūd denied their Lord. So away with Thamūd.”[14]

After Ṣāliḥ, Prophet Shuʿayb was sent to the people of Madyan, who made an example of their Prophet in ridicule and denial. He, too, would resort to the source of pure might, placing his confidence in Him. Al-ʿAzīz came to his aid, unleashing upon the people of Madyan what they deserved.

كَأَنْ لَمْ يَغْنَوْا فِيهَا أَلَا بُعْدًا لِمَدْيَنَ كَمَا بَعِدَتْ ثَمُودُ

“It became as if they had never lived there! Then, away with Madyan, just as Thamūd was taken away.” [15]

Years after Shuʿayb, attempts were made on the life of Prophet Ibrāhīm, as they catapulted him within a tower of searing fire. Ibrāhīm’s only words comprised of the phrase “sufficient for me is Allāh, and He is the best disposer of affairs”[16][17] And so al-ʿAzīz spoke to the fire:

كُونِي بَرْدًا وَسَلَامًا عَلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ

“…be cool and safe upon Ibrāhīm.” [18]

This is no matter of surprise, for Ibrāhīm’s motto in life was an incessant retreat to al-ʿAzīz, proclaiming:

إِنِّي مُهَاجِرٌ إِلَى رَبِّي إِنَّهُ هُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

“I will flee to my Lord: He is al-ʿAzīz, the All Wise.”[19]

Years after this, Firʿawn would employ all of his might to eliminate Prophet Mūsā and his followers. However, Allāh would use rivers – the very same ones which Firʿawn would boast of how they flowed from beneath him – to flow above him, sending him to his demise.

وَلَقَدْ جَاءَ آلَ فِرْعَوْنَ النُّذُرُ (41) كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا كُلِّهَا فَأَخَذْنَاهُمْ أَخْذَ عَزِيزٍ مُقْتَدِرٍ

“And indeed, the warnings came to the people of Firʿawn. They rejected all Our signs; so We seized them – a seizure of an ʿAzīz and Powerful Being.”[20]

Years after Prophet Mūsā, the Jewish contemporaries of Prophet ʿĪsā conspired to kill him, but Allāh said:

بَلْ رَفَعَهُ اللَّهُ إِلَيْهِ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَزِيزًا حَكِيمًا

“Rather, Allāh raised him to Himself. And Allāh is ever ʿAzīz and Wise.” [21]

In fact, not too long after Prophet ʿĪsā’s ascension – perhaps during the era of his contemporaries – in the year 79 CE, al-ʿAzīz would manifest His might yet again in the starkest of ways at the hands of Vesuvius.

Vesuvius is the name of a volcano and a symbol of Italy, primarily the city of Naples. Remaining silent for the last two millennia, Vesuvius is named the ‘mount of warning’. It is not without cause that Vesuvius is known as such. The volcano had gone generations without so much as a puff of steam, and it was believed to be dormant.

However, about two millennia ago, things would drastically change. The volcano erupted unexpectedly and caught the inhabitants of Pompeii by surprise. The disaster happened so suddenly that everything in the town was fossilised in the middle of everyday life, and remains today exactly as it was two millennia ago. It is as if time had been frozen.

Vesuvius blasted a vast cloud of ash and volcanic rocks into the sky. There was widespread panic and terror as it rose 19 miles into the air, reaching into the stratosphere and blotting out the midday Sun, as it turned day into night. It took about 15 minutes for all of the inhabitants of Pompeii to die, research suggests. The estimated 10,000 to 20,000 inhabitants died in the ancient Roman city when they could not escape. They were not overwhelmed by the lava, but rather asphyxiated by the gases and ashes, and later covered in volcanic debris such that they left a mark of their physical presence millennia later. The sky was covered by a lethal cloud which had “a temperature of over 100 degrees and, was composed of CO2, chlorides, particles of incandescent ash and volcanic glass.” [22] This effectively incinerated everything below it.

A recent discovery revealed that the intense heat emitted by the eruption caused one victim’s brain to turn into glass. Recent research has revealed that the hundreds of citizens who became trapped in Herculaneum’s boathouses while trying to escape would have suffered an excruciating death – literally being slow-roasted alive, while choking on noxious fumes.

One research article suggests: “It is probable that dozens of people died due to the rain of lapilli (fragments of rock that are launched from a volcano) that fell on Pompeii after the eruption.” Pompeii’s doomed residents sustained fatal head injuries, likely from collapsing structures and volcanic rocks that rained from the sky.[23] 1.5 million tons of debris and molten rock were launched every second. The total energy released from the volcano, which erupted for two days, was equivalent to 100,000 times the energy of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.[24]

A closer inspection of the historical records of Pompeii, however, is revealing. For what is more staggering than the way they died was the way they lived. Pompeii had essentially become the Roman Empire’s symbol of degeneration and the centre of its dissipation into hedonism. The city was marked by a rise in prostitution to such an extent that eventually the number of brothels became unknown. Male organs in their original sizes were hung on the doors of brothels.

Archaeologists first excavated the city during Victorian times, shocked by the unabashed sexual openness of the people. A secret museum was formed to house some of the artifacts found. These included many symbols of genitalia, images of homosexuality, and even bestiality. These artifacts were to be viewed only by a select ‘League of Gentlemen’, which Victorian society deemed to be capable of dealing with such images.

But the lava of Vesuvius wiped the whole city off the map in a single moment. The most staggering aspect of the event is that nobody escaped the hour of devastation. It is almost like they did not even notice the catastrophe, as if they were charmed. A family eating their meal was petrified right at that moment. Numerous petrified couples were found engaging in the act of intercourse, as well as couples of young boys and young girls. The appearances of some of the petrified human corpses unearthed from Pompeii were unharmed. The general expression on those faces was bewilderment, for they never dreamed that their last acts would become a window into history.

One may note how similar a fate this was to that of the people of Lūṭ, whose Prophet did not cease warning them against their homosexual appetites. Interestingly, following the carnage at Pompeii, a chilling inscription was left on one of Pompeii’s walls by an individual who picked his way through the debris. Written with a piece of charcoal, the faded Latin words read: “SODOM GOMOR[RAH]”.[25]

Today, the ruins of Pompeii are Italy’s second-most visited archaeological site, after the Colosseum in Rome. Last year, it brought in about four million tourists.[26] During these visits, most will be driven by mere curiosity, while a believer in al-ʿAzīz will see something else: inscriptions of ʿizzah on every one of its walls and every particle of debris. He will take home with him a powerful lesson of the awful experiences of those in the past.

In view of all this, I ask: when was it that a decree of al-ʿAzīz was ever resisted? Who was it whose reliance upon al-ʿAzīz went unhonoured? The conclusion is patently obvious:

وَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى ٱلْعَزِيزِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

“Rely upon al-ʿAzīz, the Merciful.”[27]

Might is Allāh’s, dominance is Allāh’s, and Supremacy is His. His control of existence is absolute, and His autonomy within His Kingdom is ultimate. So, a believer who is a witness to the endless signs of al-ʿAzīz on life’s events – both past and present – is bound to unlock enormous stores of energy, realising that the source of full might is on his side.

(d) To identify the direction to ʿizzah

The fount of honour is defined as a person, who, by virtue of his or her official position, has the exclusive right of conferring legitimate titles of nobility and orders of chivalry on other persons. The believer, however, reads something else in the Qur’an:

قُلِ ٱللَّهُمَّ مَـٰلِكَ ٱلْمُلْكِ تُؤْتِى ٱلْمُلْكَ مَن تَشَآءُ وَتَنزِعُ ٱلْمُلْكَ مِمَّن تَشَآءُ وَتُعِزُّ مَن تَشَآءُ وَتُذِلُّ مَن تَشَآءُ ۖ بِيَدِكَ ٱلْخَيْرُ ۖ إِنَّكَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىْءٍ قَدِيرٌ

“Say: ‘O Allāh, Lord of the Kingdom, You give kingdom to whom You will, and take kingdom away from whom You will; and You bestow honour on whom You will, and bring disgrace to whom You will. In your hand lies all good. You are surely powerful over everything.”[28]

And he reads:

مَن كَانَ يُرِيدُ ٱلْعِزَّةَ فَلِلَّهِ ٱلْعِزَّةُ جَمِيعًا

“Whoever desires honour, then all honour lies with Allāh alone…”[29]

Commenting on this āyah, Imam al-Qurṭubī said:

يريد -سبحانه- في هذه الآية، أن ينبِّه ذوي الأقدار والهمم، من أين تُنَال العِزَّة، ومن أين تُسْتَحق، فمَنْ طلب العِزَّة من الله- تعالى- وجدها عنده – إن شاء الله-، غير ممنوعة ولا محجوبة عنه.. ومن طلبها من غيره، وَكَلَه إلى من طلبها عنده

“Allāh is notifying the people of honour and aspiration where ʿizzah is to be sourced. Therefore, whoever searches for it with Allāh will find it with Him – inshā’ Allāh – fully accessible. As for those who search for it elsewhere, Allāh will forsake him, leaving him to the hands of whomever he goes to.”[30]

So, whilst people today do indeed award one another orders of knighthood, chivalry, and titles of honour, the supreme fountain of honour is sourced from none other than al-ʿAzīz Himself. This fountain is, Alamdulillāh, not out of reach. It is indeed available to those who:

– Live a life of patient obedience to Allāh, following up each sin with repentance

Al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī said:

الناس يطلبون العز بأبواب الملوك، ولا يجدونه إلا في طاعة الله

“People search for ʿizzah by standing at the doorsteps of kings. They, however, will not find it except through Allāh’s obedience.”[31]

– Reassess their alliances  

Speaking about those who take allies from other than the believers, Allāh asks:

أَيَبْتَغُونَ عِندَهُمُ الْعِزَّةَ فَإِنَّ العِزَّةَ لِلّهِ جَمِيعًا

“Is it ʿizzah that they seek among them? But indeed, all ʿizzah belongs to Allāh.”[32]

Lower themselves humbly in the pardoning of others

 It is a strange paradox, since most would assume pardoning is a cause of indignation. However, the Prophet ﷺ promised otherwise, saying:

وَمَا زَادَ اللَّهُ عَبْدًا بِعَفْوٍ إِلَّا عِزًّا

“And no one will humble himself for Allāh’s sake without Allāh increasing him in ʿizzah.”[33]

(e) A staunch refusal of humiliation

Imagine your father walking into your workplace on one afternoon, only to see you being demeaned and scolded at by your employer. At that second, how would you feel for the man who honoured you and raised you to be honoured to see you in the midst of such a humiliating situation? Yet, what is baffling is that this very individual may have no qualms whatsoever in having al-ʿAzīz – a Lord whom you are attributed to and were nurtured by to be dignified – see him humiliate himself for another human being, or humiliate himself at the hands of his own sins.

A suitable analogy for this can be found in those who compromise their religion for the sake of an employer, arguing: “What can I do? He is my superior and my wage is in his hands.” One may also add those who do the same for a corrupt spouse, arguing: “I must accept it. My life is nothing more without them.” Similarly, we may consider those who plunge into sin to keep up with prevailing but aberrant societal norms, arguing: “The pressure of being different is too much.” Even worse are those who commit misdeeds for the sake of their undercover work against Muslims. Are any of them dignified? Are they truly “servants of al-ʿAzīz”, or servants to their superiors, societies, and whims, whose sense of indignation eats at their very core every second of the day?

The darkness, anguish, and sense of alienation from one’s Lord following capitulation to sin is confessed by every sinner.

Al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī once said:

إِنَّهُمْ وَإِنْ طَقْطَقَتْ بِهِمُ الْبِغَالُ، وَهَمْلَجَتْ بِهِمُ الْبَرَاذِينُ، إِنَّ ذُلَّ الْمَعْصِيَةِ لَا يُفَارِقُ قُلُوبَهُمْ، أَبَى اللَّهُ إِلَّا أَنْ يُذِلَّ مَنْ عَصَاهُ

“Despite the strutting of their mules and horses which they ride on, the disgracing effects of sins do not part from their hearts for a single moment, as Allāh will humiliate those who disobey him.”[34]

Whether it is a shady relationship which causes one to make every effort to conceal it from the public eye or from their spouse, an intoxicant of any kind which demands attention from its user several times a day, an infatuation with the vile industry of pornography, or being a slave to the fashion industry which one complies obediently to its dictates, what they all have in common is a gripping sense of inner sorrow and, worse still, deep shame.

Sulaymān al-Taymī said:

 إِنَّ الرَّجُلَ لَيُصِيبُ الذَّنْبَ فِي السِّرِّ فَيُصْبِحُ وَعَلَيْهِ مَذَلَّتُهُ

“A person may commit a sin in private, yet he wakes up the next morning and people see its humiliating effects on his appearance.”[35]

Here, one may challenge the above, arguing: “Who said that dignity is only to be sourced from obedience to Allāh and abstinence from sins?” They say, “I know so many who are up to all sorts of sins, and have been doing so for a while. Yet they continue to lead both comfortable and dignified lives despite their misdeeds.” However, does this shallow assessment cover the details of their private lives? Indeed, behind closed doors, those public smiles could be but a guise for endless tears of grief, and that confident public strut could be a façade behind which one hides a mournfully humiliated spirit. Foolish is he who thinks that just because he cannot see it, it is not happening.

Consider the ruler of Egypt at the time of Prophet Yūsuf. His very title was al-ʿAzīz, as this is precisely who he was in the eyes of the people: mighty, dignified, and respected. But his private life was diametrically opposite to this mirage, as he went through the darkest episodes of degradation at the hands of his wife. Not only had she been unfaithful to him, she had made her intentions known to her circle of friends, as she said with audacity:

وَلَقَدْ رَاوَدْتُهُ عَنْ نَفْسِهِ فَاسْتَعْصَمَ وَلَئِنْ لَمْ يَفْعَلْ مَا آمُرُهُ لَيُسْجَنَنَّ وَلَيَكُونًا مِنَ الصَّاغِرِينَ

“And I certainly sought to seduce him (Yūsuf), but he firmly refused; and if he will not do what I order him, he will surely be imprisoned and will be of those debased!”[36]

In the public domain her husband was ʿAzīz, but the secrets of his family life illustrated a different picture: one of scandal and shame. In fact, the same can be said about his wife, Yūsuf’s seducer. She was a wealthy and noble celebrity in the public eye, hosting buffets within her palace. At home, however, her story was that of a crushed woman. Despite her status, freedom, and beauty, her slave was rejecting her seductive attempts again and again. Indeed, the greatest agonies of a sinner are expressed in private.

Furthermore, even if the adamant sinner does indeed lead a life of seeming comfort and worldly honour, what guarantees does he have that his end will be upon such a state? After all, “Actions are by their endings.”[37] When the last Muslim king of al-Andalus – Abū ʿAbd Allāh al-Ṣaghīr – handed over the country to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella following their successful campaign against the Muslims, he wept heavily. His mother, ʿĀ’ishah, said to him:

أجل فلتبك كالنساء ملكاً لم تستطع أن تدافع عنه كالرجال

“Yes, cry like women. This is a kingdom that you were unable to defend like a man.”[38]

Indeed, the promise of Allāh is true; ʿizzah belongs to those obedient to Allāh who patiently restrain themselves from sin, whilst shame belongs to those who live otherwise. This is regardless of their decorated fronts, as the Prophet ﷺ would supplicate:

إنه لا يذل من واليت , ولا يعز من عاديت

“You do not humiliate your allies, and you do not give dignity to your enemies.”[39]

History testifies

In our heritage, the notion of ʿizzah was precious, ever present in the decisions of our heroes, and understood as inherent to the character of a true believer.

Consider Abū Bakr’s position regarding those who refused to pay the zakah following the death of the Prophet ﷺ. At first, even ʿUmar was unsure of this decision. But since he had the closest connection to al-ʿAzīz from amongst all the Companions, Abū Bakr’s position was unwavering, and he proclaimed:

إِنَّهُ قد انقطع الوحيُ ، وتَمَّ الدِّينُ ، أَيَنْقُصُ وأنا حَيّ؟

“With the death of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, revelation has ceased and the religion is now complete. Will I allow it to diminish whilst I am still alive?!”[40]

Consider the dignified character of ʿUmar. Muslims marvel at his biography and are keen to choose his name for their children. After all, we are drawn to people of ʿizzah, and he was an embodiment of just that. ʿAbd Allāh b. Masʿūd said:

مازلنا أعزة منذ أسلم عمر

“We have remained dignified since the day ʿUmar became Muslim.”[41]

Needless to say, never was this a trait exclusive to men. Consider Sumayyah, whose ʿizzah was such that Abū Jahl himself, leader of the Quraysh of Makkah, failed in coercing her to accept his values. His failure led him to brutally kill her at the edge of a spear. Yet it remains that she met Allāh as an honoured martyr, having insisted on her beliefs. Abū Jahl died with Ibn Masʿūd’s foot on his face, with hell as his home. Who was the honoured, and who was the disgraced?

Consider Asmā’, daughter of Abū Bakr, a woman who drank from the same springs of ʿizzah that her father did. During the Prophet’s ﷺ secret migration from Makkah to Madinah, Abu Jahl knocked on her door in search for her father and the Prophet. He asked: “Where is your father?” “I don’t know,” she replied, to which he brutally slapped her face, tearing off her earring.[42] Nevertheless, she stood her ground with her head held high, causing the tyrant to turn back empty handed, with his head lowered in shame.

It seemed that as Asmā’ grew older in age, her ʿizzah too only grew in strength. Al-Ḥajjāj b. Yūsuf – the most notable governor who served the Umayyad Caliphate – wanted her son ʿAbd Allāh to be killed. Since his comrades had deserted him in combat, ʿAbd Allāh consulted his mother as to whether he should continue resisting. Her response modelled the ideals of ʿizzah, as she said:

ضربة سيف فى عز خير من ضربة سوط فى ذل

“To be struck by a sword in a state of dignity is better than being struck by a whip in disgrace.”

ʿAbd Allāh also expressed to his mother his fear of being mutilated after his killing. But his mother’s response was no less breath-taking than the first, saying:

يا بني إن الشاةَ لا يضرها سلخُها بعد ذبحها

“Son, the skinning of a sheep does not cause it harm after it is slaughtered.”[43]

After al-Ḥajjāj killed her son, he sent for his mother to speak with her, but Asmā’ refused his request. He sent for her a second time, this time threatening to drag her to him by her hair. Despite her old age and frail body, she told the messengers to tell al-Ḥajjāj to drag her by her hair. This infuriated al-Ḥajjāj, who put on his shoes and made his way to her while walking with pride. Once he arrived, he said to her tauntingly, “What do you think of what I did to your son?” She responded:

رَأَيْتُكَ أَفْسَدْتَ عَلَيْهِ دُنْيَاهُ، وَأَفْسَدَ عَلَيْكَ آخِرَتَكَ

“I think that you have ruined his life, whilst he has ruined your afterlife.”

Then she said:

بَلَغَنِي أَنَّكَ تَقُولُ لَهُ: يَا ابْنَ ذَاتِ النِّطَاقَيْنِ أَنَا، وَاللهِ ذَاتُ النِّطَاقَيْنِ، أَمَّا أَحَدُهُمَا فَكُنْتُ أَرْفَعُ بِهِ طَعَامَ رَسُولِ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ، وَطَعَامَ أَبِي بَكْرٍ مِنَ الدَّوَابِّ، وَأَمَّا الْآخَرُ فَنِطَاقُ الْمَرْأَةِ الَّتِي لَا تَسْتَغْنِي عَنْهُ

“It has been conveyed to me that you used to mock my son by calling him ‘son of the lady with two belts’ (this was her nickname). By Allāh, I am indeed the woman of two belts: one which I used to suspend the food of the Prophet ﷺ and Abū Bakr with, keeping it out of the reach of animals. As for the second belt, then it is that which no woman can do without (tying clothes together).”

She continued:

أَمَا إِنَّ رَسُولَ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ حَدَّثَنَا، «أَنَّ فِي ثَقِيفٍ كَذَّابًا وَمُبِيرًا» فَأَمَّا الْكَذَّابُ فَرَأَيْنَاهُ، وَأَمَّا الْمُبِيرُ فَلَا إِخَالُكَ إِلَّا إِيَّاهُ، قَالَ: فَقَامَ عَنْهَا وَلَمْ يُرَاجِعْهَا

“Indeed, the Prophet ﷺ told us that a great liar and a great murderer will be born in Thaqīf. As for the liar, we have already seen him. And as for the murderer, I believe he is none other than you.” Upon hearing this, al-Ḥajjāj left without responding.[44]

Staggeringly, this mountain-like steadfastness which she displayed was at an age of one hundred years. Just ten days after the killing of her son, she passed away having not lost a single tooth. Truly, her biography, our heritage at large, and above all, our belief in a Lord named al-ʿAzīz liberates the believer from the shackles of a humiliating captor. It releases him into the mountaintops of ʿizzah and the meadows of an honourable life.

A life with al-ʿAzīz renders the believer strong, even if bound to a wheelchair, and rich, even if poverty stricken, and free, even if shackled in chains, and a living legend even if put to the sword.



[1] Al-Qur’ān, 36:14.

[2] Al-Qur’ān, 38:23.

[3] Fiqh Ihṣā’ Ḥusn al-Asmā’.

[4] Muslim, on the authority of Ibn ʿAbbās.

[5] Ibn Ḥibbān, on the authority of Āʾishah.

[6] Al-Nawawī, al-Majmūʿ.

[7] Al-Qur’ān, 36: 38.

[8] Al-Qur’ān, 3:6.

[9] Al-Qur’ān, 42:19.

[10] Al-Qur’ān, 61:6.

[11] Al-Qur’ān, 14:47.

[12] Al-Qur’ān, 11:44.

[13] Al-Qur’ān, 11:60.

[14] Al-Qur’ān, 11:68.

[15] Al-Qur’ān, 11:95.

[16] The Arabic: حَسْبِيَ اللَّهُ ونِعْمَ الوَكِيلُ / “Ḥasbī Allāh wa niʿm al-wakīl

[17] As narrated by al-Bukhārī, on the authority of Ibn ʿAbbās.

[18] Al-Qur’ān, 21:69.

[19] Al-Qur’ān, 29:26.

[20] Al-Qur’ān, 54:41-42.

[21] Al-Qur’ān, 4:158.






[27] Al-Qur’ān, 26:217.

[28] Al-Qur’ān, 3:26.

[29] Al-Qur’ān, 35:10.

[30] Al-Jāmiʿ li Aḥkām al-Qur’ān.

[31] Ibn al-Qayyim, Ighāthat al-Lahfān.

[32] Al-Qur’ān, 4:139.

[33] Muslim, on the authority of Abū Hurayrah.

[34] Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Jawāb al-Kāfī.

[35] Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Jawāb al-Kāfī.

[36] Al-Qur’ān, 12:32.

[37] Al-Bukhārī, on the authority of Sahl Ibn Saʿd.

[38] ʿAbd Allāh ʿAnān, Nihāyat al-Andalus.

[39] Sunan Abī Dāwūd.

[40] Mishkāt al-Maṣābīh.

[41] Al-Bukhārī.

[42] Ibn Isḥāq, Sīrat Rasūl Allāh.

[43] Muhammad Al-Muqaddim, ʿUlū al-Himmah.

[44] Muslim.

About Shaikh Ali Hammuda

Shaikh Ali Ihsan Hammuda is a UK national of Palestinian origin. He gained bachelors and masters’ degrees in Architecture & Planning from the University of the West of England, before achieving a BA in Shari'ah from al-Azhar University in Egypt. He is currently based in Wales and is a visiting Imām at Al-Manar Centre in Cardiff, and also a senior researcher and lecturer for the Muslim Research & Development Foundation in London. Ustādh Ali is the author of several books including 'The Daily Revivals' and 'The Ten Lanterns", and continues to deliver sermons, lectures and regular classes across the country.

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