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Who is your refuge from every storm? Who is your warmth when you are chilled to the marrow? Who is your companion during your solitary voyages? Who is your ultimate compensation for your every deficiency? The believer’s answer to these questions is unified and prompt – an answer that is elaborate yet concise, thorough yet simple, and lofty yet attainable:
He is Al-Ṣamad (The Eternal Refuge).
As in our discussion on the name Al-Aḥad, the name Al-Ṣamad only features once in the Qur’ān. In the estimation of some, this may render it less important than other names of Allāh. But what better way of dispelling this misunderstanding than by remembering the chapter of the Qur’ān it is that features the name: Sūrah Al-Ikhlāṣ, a chapter that the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) described as being equivalent to one third of the Qur’ān.
قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ (1) اللَّهُ الصَّمَدُ (2)
“Say, ‘He is Allāh, The One. Allāh, Al-Ṣamad.’”
This is clearly yet another profound name that demands attention.
(1) The linguistic meaning of the name Al-Ṣamad
The name Al-Ṣamad is derived from the verb ṣa-ma-da, which means a retreat to a superior due to one’s inability of achieving a matter independently. The Arabs say, “ṣamada ilayhi”/ “He ṣamad to him” to mean “qasadahu”/ “He sought him.” Similarly, if the Arabs describe a house as being muṣammad, then it is in reference to a house that is maqṣūd/sought.
Other scholars have offered a different meaning to Al-Ṣamad, saying
المصمت الذي لا جوف له
“He who has no cavity.”
So, Al-Ṣamad is He has no cavity that needs filling, nor a reserve that requires refilling. He, unlike the rest of creation, has no need for eating or drinking.
These interpretations are two sides of the same coin; since Al-Ṣamad is the ultimately independent One, free from all needs, He has become the ultimate refuge, anxiously sought by deficient mortals.
With that said, who is Allāh, Al-Ṣamad?
Highlighting one of the most famous meanings of this Majestic name, al-Khaṭṭābi wrote:
(الصمد): هو السيد الذي يصمد إليه في الأمور ويقصد في الحوائج والنوازل
“Al-Ṣamad is Al-Sayyid/The Master Who is the refuge of all in every matter, and is sought during times of need and calamities.”
With Al-Ṣamad is the solution to every challenge, the key to every lock, and the lifeline to all those who brush with death.
Imam Ibn al-Qayyim said:
«فإن الصمد من تصمد نحوه القلوب بالرغبة والرهبة وذلك لكثرة خصال الخير فيه، وكثرة الأوصاف الحميدة له، ولهذا قال جمهور السلف منهم عبد الله بن عباس رضي الله عنهما: «الصمد: السيد الذي كمل سؤدده، الحكيم الذي كمل حكمه، الرحيم الذي كملت رحمته، الجواد الذي كمل جوده»
“Al-Ṣamad is He whom the hearts seek (taṣmudu) in hope and fear due to the many traits of goodness within Him and His many attributes of praise. This is why the majority of the predecessors, including Ibn ‘Abbās, said: ‘Al-Ṣamad is the Master, perfect in His Mastery, and the Wise, perfect in His Wisdom, and the Merciful, perfect in His Mercy, and the Generous, perfect in His Generosity.’”
(2) The effects of believing in this majestic name
To call upon Him using His name Al-Ṣamad
Never for a moment has He needed creation, yet not a moment passes by without creation’s need for Him. He has ascended beyond the need for help and above the want of advice. He outlives not only kings and dynasties, but even galaxies and universes. Indeed, He is a Lord to be beseeched.
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) once heard a person saying the following words in his du‘ā:
اللَّهمَّ إنِّي أسألُكَ بأنَّكَ أنتَ اللَّهُ الأحدُ الصَّمدُ ، الَّذي لم يلِد ولم يولَدْ ، ولم يَكُن لَهُ كُفُوًا أحدٌ
“O Allāh, I ask You by virtue of You being Allāh, Al-Aḥad, Al-Ṣamad (The Everlasting Refuge), Who begets not nor was begotten, and there is none comparable to him.”
This impressed the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), who said:
لقد سألَ اللَّهَ باسمِهِ الأعظمِ ، الَّذي إذا سُئِلَ بِهِ أعطى ، وإذا دُعِيَ بِهِ أجابَ
“He has just asked Allāh by His Greatest Name, which if He is asked with, He gives, and if He is called upon with, He answers.”
In another narration, the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) once entered the masjid and saw a man who had finished his prayer and was reciting the tashahhud, 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 Allāh, I ask you, O Allāh, Al-Aḥad, Al-Ṣamad (The Everlasting Refuge), He Who begets not, nor was He begotten, and there is none comparable unto Him, that you may forgive me my sins, you are Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.”
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) announced:
قَدْ غُفِرَ لَهُ قَدْ غُفِرَ لَهُ
“He was forgiven! He was forgiven!”
This outcome is not surprising, for such a du‘ā had emanated from a good place: a heart that had recognised that no one can erase sins but Allāh, so Al-Ṣamad did not let him down. So, do the same: call upon Him whilst realising that if it was not for Him, medicine would remain futile, food would not nourish, car journeys would be a death wish, and your every endeavour would be loss even if it was clothed in the attire of success. Call upon Al-Ṣamad whilst being absorbed by your desperation for Him and great expectations in Him.
The love of Al-Ṣamad
Whilst we do engage in the physical world, attending to our needs and carrying out the basics of life, the believer’s heart remains locked on key concepts: the assistance of every helper, the competence of every specialist, the solidarity of every supporter, and the guidance of every teacher is a direct favour of Al-Ṣamad.
Indeed, the believer does not fall short in giving gratitude where it is due, thanking people for facilitating help. It is the believer’s heart that is different; the needle of its compass only points towards Al-Ṣamad, the true facilitator of such people, the ultimate enabler of such favourable events, and the everlasting refuge. The believer never loses sight of the following verse:
وَمَا بِكُم مِّن نِّعْمَةٍ فَمِنَ اللَّهِ
“And whatever you have of favour – it is from Allāh…”
Seeing life through this lens will, sooner or later, bring about entrenched love for Al-Ṣamad as one sees the unmissable signatures of Allāh in each and every favour.
It was precisely this love that was experienced by Kulthūm b. al-Hidm, a Companion whom the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) once appointed as leader of a military unit, and who would lead his men in prayer throughout their expeditions. His men noticed that he had a habit of concluding every recitation with Sūrah Al-Ikhlāṣ—“Qul huwa Allāhu Aḥad”—the only Sūrah that mentions Allāh’s name Al-Ṣamad.
When they returned, they told the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) about that, to which he said: “Ask him why he did that.” So they asked him, to which he replied: “Because it is a description of the Most Merciful, and I love to recite it.” The Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) remarked: “Tell him that Allāh loves him.”
This is far more than merely needing Allāh. Humans are compelled to stop at God’s door for their needs, but sincerity lies in also making Allāh their ultimate ambition. Desiring from Allāh is an enormous virtue, but the real mission is desiring Allāh Himself; to want from Him whilst wanting Him. This is the frequently forgotten objective, one that is refreshed by Sūrah Al-Ikhlāṣ both by virtue of its content (which focuses purely on Allāh) and by its very title (which means sincerity).
Imam Ibn al-Qayyim said:
“In the heart, there exists an anxiousness that nothing can calm but drawing nearer to Allāh. And over it looms a loneliness that nothing can remove but experiencing His company in private. And in there exists a sadness that nothing can dispel but the joy of knowing Him and genuinely devoting oneself to Him. And in there exists a worry that nothing can reassure but focusing on Him and fleeing from Him to Him. And in there flare the flames of regret, and nothing can extinguish them but becoming content with His commands, prohibitions, decree, and patiently gripping on to all that until the time it meets Him. And in there exists a pressing demand; it will not stop until He alone becomes its greatest pursuit. And in there is a dire need; nothing will satisfy it except loving Him, constantly remembering Him, and being sincerely devoted to Him. And if a person were given this entire world and all it contains, it would never fulfil that need.”
True love does not necessarily entail being in constant contact. Rather, it is realised when, during your turbulent turns of life, you find yourself recalling that person from all people, yearning for their companionship and the solace of their nearness. With that said, the following are four benchmarks with which you can test your love for Al-Ṣamad.
The first: When going to sleep
The time before one sleeps is reserved only for that which is most important. It must mean a great deal to you if such an important thing has managed to become the focal point of your thoughts as you lay down before sleeping. When there is no one you would rather be using your last bit of wakefulness on every night but Al-Ṣamad, then it is a hopeful sign of true love and dependency.
The second: When waking up
The very first one to cross your mind when you wake up is the one whom your heart belongs to.
The third: When starting ṣalāh
What can compare to the serenity experienced by a believer the moment he raises his hands to start ṣalāh? The analogy of a sudden release from a gripping pain or liberation from incarceration fails to do justice to the joy experienced by one who stands in humility before one’s Lord in prayer. This is the true scale of īmān.
The fourth: When in the thick of a trial
When at his weakest, man tends to remember the very dearest to him. He remembers the ones who will not exploit his vulnerability nor ever use it against him. He remembers those who will tend to his injuries with precision, advise on his predicament with knowledge, and listen to his grievances with genuine care.
With the above said, let us pose a hypothetical question: If it was a human being who had (unfortunately) occupied your mind in all four of the instances listed above, what would their reaction be should they come to learn of your obsessive thought of them?
Some may be freaked out, accusing you of being excessive, or even weird. Some may depreciate you, believing that they now have you in their pocket where their wish will be your command. Some may admire you for it, but the feeling may not be mutual. Some may truly love you back just as much, but it remains that their support of you is limited by time, place, resources, and willingness.
Regardless of how people may feel with our obsessive love of them, whether approvingly or disapprovingly, it is apparent that never can any of them provide the same unbreakable, eternal, and ever-dignifying refuge as Al-Ṣamad can. No one deserves unconditional love but Him, and none is worthy of such obsessive thought but Him.
Honour and dignity
Islam is heavily invested in maintaining the honour of the Muslim, discouraging him from every matter that may diminish it. One such matter is excessive reliance on of people.
The Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
اليَدُ الْعُلْيَا خَيْرٌ مِنَ اليَدِ السُّفْلَى
“The upper (giving) hand is better than the lower (receiving) hand.”
He also said:
لاَ تَزَالُ الْمَسْأَلةُ بأَحَدِكُمْ حَتَّى يَلْقَى الله تَعَالَى وَلَيْسَ في وَجْهِهِ مُزْعَةُ لَحْمٍ
“One who continues to ask of people will end up meeting Allāh without any flesh on his face.”
He also said:
إنَّ المَسْأَلَةَ كَدٌّ يَكُدُّ بِهَا الرَّجُلُ وَجْهَهُ، إِلاَّ أَنْ يَسْأَلَ الرَّجُلُ سُلْطَانًا أَوْ في أمْرٍ لاَ بُدَّ مِنْهُ
“Begging is like a scratch one inflicts upon one’s face, unless one is asking the ruler or in the case of dire necessity.”
Humans undoubtedly need one another, and their mutual help is indeed an act of worship. However, Islam strives to keep the head of the believers raised, minimising requests from others wherever possible and seeking all refuge in Al-Ṣamad. This transforms the believer into a force to be reckoned with, as no beneficiary is ever given the upper hand over him and no worldly offering can manipulate him.
A governor once said to Imam Ibn Taymiyya: “We have heard that you are after our kingdom.” The response was an immensely dignified one, and with his voice raised to be heard by all, Imam Ibn Taymiyya said:
أنا أفعل ذلك؟! والله إنَّ ملكك وملك المغول لا يساوي عندي فلسين!
“Me?! By Allāh, your entire kingdom, along with that of the Mongols, is not worth two copper coins in my eyes.”
How could we expect a response any different from a human, any human, whose heart prostrates to Allāh, whose refuge is found in His shade, and whose needs are raised to Al-Ṣamad?
Sālim, the grandson of ‘Umar b. al-Khaṭṭāb, was one such human.
The Umayyad Caliph Hishām b. ‘Abd al-Malik once entered the Sacred Mosque and found Sālim near the Ka‘ba. The Caliph said to him: “Ask me of any favour.” Sālim responded:
إني أستحيي من الله أن أسأل في بيته غيره
“I feel shy to ask of other than Allāh as I stand in His house.”
So, when they left the mosque, Hisham approached Sālim and repeated the offer: “You can ask me of any favour now.”
من حوائج الدنيا أم من حوائج الآخرة ؟
“Are you referring to the needs of this life or the afterlife?”
Hisham said: “From the needs of life, of course,” to which Sālim responded:
والله ما سألت الدنيا من يملكها ، فكيف أسألها من لا يملكها
“By Allāh, I have never asked for the needs of life from He who possesses them (Allāh), so how can I ask from he who does not possess them?”
Such people are utterly enchanted by the all-encompassing and ultimately dignifying refuge provided by Al-Ṣamad, hence they look nowhere else. They compare His refuge to those who may offer support against weaker oppressors, but can only offer best wishes in the face of fierce tyrants or those whose doors are wide open in the morning but closed in the evening.
Indeed, how different He is to those who are perturbed by our endless requests, or those who defraud us upon delivery of a service, or leave us feeling ashamed for taking without returning the favour, or even exploit us when sensing our need.
Turn to Al-Ṣamad, who was described perfectly by the Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam), who said:
لَيْسَ شَيْءٌ أَكْرَمَ عَلَى اَللَّهِ مِنَ الدُّعَاءِ
“Nothing is more honourable before Allāh than du‘ā.”
مَنْ لَمْ يَسْأَلِ اللَّهَ يغضبْ عَلَيْهِ
“Allāh is angry at those who do not ask from Him.”
إِنَّ رَبَّكُمْ حَيِيٌّ كَرِيمٌ يَسْتَحْيِي مِنْ عَبْدِهِ إِذَا رَفَعَ يَدَيْهِ إِلَيْهِ أَنْ يَرُدَّهُمَا صِفْرًا
“Your Lord is shy and generous, One who is shy to turn away empty the hands of a servant when he raises them to Him.”
So, contrary to man, your honour in the Eyes of Al-Ṣamad only increases the more you ask of Him. His love for you increases as your persistence in du‘ā grows. Who does that but Al-Ṣamad? It is therefore clearer than daylight that nothing is more dignifying than emptying your heart from all others and filling it with Him. That way, you win twice: once by finding a reliable refuge who guarantees to never disappoint, and another as your head remains high after never again needing to pant after people nor grovel at their feet.
Just as the child of a wealthy parent is not eligible for zakāh (as Islam regards him wealthy by way of his parents whose care he is under), we as human beings have our needs. Since Allāh is our Ṣamad, we are rich by way of His wealth, strong by way of His power, and catered for by way of His refuge and care. With Al-Ṣamad, the dignified option is the only option.
Desperation is a gift that is delivered to man. The passage of time, the accumulation of successes, and years of an illness-free lifestyle tends to make man forget who he is and, more dangerously, make him forget his hopelessness without Al-Ṣamad. The trials of life are mercifully sailed in our direction, and when they arrive at our shores, crushing us to the very core, we are reintroduced to the authentic versions of ourselves: the weak, vulnerable, easily swayed, emotionally unbalanced, and desperate servants of Allāh. All of a sudden, the image we chose not to see in the mirror reflection—let alone display to the public—becomes manifestly visible.
Finally, your inner pathways are clear, your clarity of vision is restored, your tears begin to fall, and your gaze is shifted to the heavens as you bellow:
“Yā Ṣamad! Help me.”
The harvest of the farmer is delayed, rainwater is ever scarce, and his need for crops is mounting. At that hour, his tractor along with all his mechanised equipment are rendered invisible to him. Now, there is only one pathway in sight, as he calls:
“Yā Ṣamad! Help me.”
The passengers of a ship find themselves in the middle of a fierce storm, battling against enormous waves, bigger than their vessel can handle. For the first time in their lives, death is on the cards. At that moment, all ropes are severed but those from the heavens, as they scream in that direction:
“Yā Ṣamad! Rescue us.”
The pilot of a plane announces to his passengers that the landing gear of the plane is jammed and that he will need to fly around the runway a few times in the hope of releasing the wheels. At that moment, every important personality in the lives of those passengers is forgotten, every appointment evaporates from memory, and all eyes are cast to the maintainer of the heavens and the Earth—the ultimate refuge, Al-Ṣamad—as they implore:
“Yā Ṣamad! Deliver us safely to land!”
During a year of drought, Prophet Sulaymān left his home with the intention of carrying out the prayer for rain. On his way, he saw an ant lying on its back, having raised its tiny legs towards the heavens in du‘ā, saying:
اللهم إنا خلقٌ مِن خلقك، ليس بنا غنًى عن سقياك
“O Allāh, we are a creation of yours and we cannot do without your provision of rain.”
Upon hearing this, Prophet Sulaymān announced:
ارجِعوا، فقد سُقيتم بدعوة غيرِكم
“Go back, for rain is coming by way of someone else’s du‘ā.”
In short, knowing Al-Ṣamad gives you an understanding of difficulties. When you lose something, realise that it was taken away from you so that you may find Al-Ṣamad. Occupy yourself in beseeching Him, retreating to His corner and finding strength in Him. He wants you to busy yourself with Him, finding sincerity once and for all. Thus, the believer is finally able to ascribe profound meaning to the trials of life.
Needs bring about the best character in a believer: sincerity. This is perhaps why the name Al-Ṣamad appears only once in the Qur’ān, in Sūrah Al-Ikhlāṣ (the Chapter of Sincerity).
Imam Ibn Taymiyya said:
العبد قد تنزل به النازلة فيكون مقصوده طلب حاجته، وتفريج كرباته، فيسعى في ذلك بالسؤال والتضرع
“One may be afflicted with a hardship, and so his intention is focused entirely on attaining what he needs or alleviating his difficulty by way of du‘ā and beseeching Allāh.
ثم الدعاء والتضرع يفتح له من أبواب الإيمان بالله عزوجل ومعرفته ومحبته، والتنعم بذكره ودعائه، ما يكون هو أحب إليه وأعظم قدرا عنده من تلك الحاجة التي همته
However, with the passage of time, this du‘ā begins to open up for him new doors of īmān, along with a new awareness and love of Allāh, coupled with a new joy of remembering and imploring Him. This ends up becoming dearer to this person and of greater value than the original matter that was bothering him.
وهذا من رحمة الله بعباده، يسوقهم بالحاجات الدنيوية إلى المقاصد العلية الدينية
This is from the mercy of Allāh upon His servants – how He drives them via the lowly needs of life towards the higher objectives of Islam.”
Seek to understand the coded messages within your trials. Do not wait for a calamity to force you back to Al-Ṣamad. Return to Him voluntarily.
Become a refuge for people
Just as you need Al-Ṣamad in your life and seek His refuge, make yourself available for the unconditional service of others. The amount you receive from the former is directly linked to the amount you offer towards the latter.
When life seems unbearable, search for a poor person and feed him. Loan someone a sum that he needs. Console a sad person and give reassurances to those who have despaired. In fact, even something as small as making space for someone to sit next to you in a busy room plays a major role in opening up your heart with joy. Allāh said:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا قِيلَ لَكُمْ تَفَسَّحُوا فِي الْمَجَالِسِ فَافْسَحُوا يَفْسَحِ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ
“O you who believe! When you are told to make space in the assemblies, then make space, Allāh will make space for you…”
Notice how the verse does not specify what it is that space will be made in. This is left open-ended—“Allāh will make space for you”—in order to encompass space in every matter than man can possibly need: space within a constricted heart, space within limited finances, space within deteriorating health, space within your grave, space on the Day of Judgement, and space in Paradise.
How apt are the words of Ibn ‘Abbās who said:
صاحب المعروف لا يقع فإن وقع وجد متكئاً
“The one who does good to others will not fall, but should he fall, he will always find something to lean on.”
Although he may have enough on his own plate to deal with, the knower of Al-Ṣamad makes every effort to track down people who have burdens that need alleviating in the hope that Allāh will alleviate his. He provides a refuge for people when he is most in need of refuge. Never will Al-Ṣamad let down such a person, and no human can outmatch the kindness of Allāh.
The Prophet (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said:
مَنْ نَفَّسَ عَنْ مُؤْمِنٍ كُرْبَةً مِنْ كُرَبِ الدُّنْيَا نَفَّسَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ كُرْبَةً مِنْ كُرَبِ يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ
“Whoever alleviates a burned from the burdens of life from his brothers, Allāh will alleviate from him one of the burdens of the Day of Judgment.
وَمَنْ يَسَّرَ عَلَى مُعْسِرٍ، يَسَّرَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ
Whoever eases the life of the one in financial difficulty, Allāh will ease his life in this world and the Hereafter.
وَمَنْ سَتَرَ مُسْلِما سَتَرَهُ اللهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ
Whoever covers the fault of a Muslim, Allāh will cover his faults in this life and the Hereafter.
وَاَللَّهُ فِي عَوْنِ الْعَبْدِ مَا كَانَ الْعَبْدُ فِي عَوْنِ أَخِيهِ
 Al-Qur’ān, 112:1-2
 Lisān Al-‘Arab
 As was mentioned by the likes of Mujāhid, al-Ḥasan, ‘Ikrima, and others
 Sha’n Al-Du‘ā
 Al-Ṣawā‘iq Al-Mursala
 Ibn Mājah, on the authority of Buraida
 Abū Dāwūd, on the authority of Miḥjan al-Adra‘
 Al-Qur’ān, 16:53
 Al-Bukhārī and Muslim, on the authority of Abū Huraira
 Madārij Al-Sālikīn
 Al-Bukhārī and Muslim, on the authority of Ḥakīm b. Ḥizām
 Al-Bukhārī and Muslim, on the authority of Ibn ‘Umar
 Al-Tirmidhī, on the authority of Samura b. Jundub
 Al-A‘lām Al-‘Aliyya
 Siyar A‘lām Al-Nubalā’
 Al-Tirmidhī, on the authority of Abū Huraira
 Al-Tirmidhī, on the authority of Abū Huraira
 Aḥmad, on the authority of Abu Huraira
 Iqtiḍā’ Al-Ṣirāṭ Al-Mustaqīm
 Al-Qur’ān, 58:11
 ‘Uyūn Al-Akhbār
 Muslim, on the authority of Abu Huraira
 Benefit was found in Sh. Elshinawy’s works: https://yaqeeninstitute.org/mohammad-elshinawy/allahs-name-as-samad
Shaykh Ali Ihsan Hammuda is Islam21c’s Tarbiya Editor. 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. Shaykh Ali is the author of several books including ‘The Daily Revivals’, ‘The Ten Lanterns’ and ‘The Friday Reminder’. He delivers sermons, lectures and regular classes across the country.