Al-Alim / Al-Aleem

(The All-Knowing One)

Al-Alim Meaning:

The Knowledgeable, The Omniscient One, The Knower

Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ is Al-Alim (in Arabic: العليم), meaning the one whose knowledge is comprehensive and extends to all that is seen and unseen, apparent and hidden, present and future, near and far. His knowledge precedes, and He is intuitively aware of all things, even before they happen. He is the knower of all details, and nothing goes unnoticed or unrecorded. Indeed, He is the Omniscient One.

Mentions of Al-Alim:
From Quran & Hadith

Arabic Root:
From the root ayn-lam-mim (ع ل م), which has the following classical Arabic connotations: to have knowledge, be cognizant, be certain, to be aware, thoroughly informed, to find out, gather information, to have intuitive knowledge, or to be firmly rooted in knowledge, to know the minutiae, to be wise and act according to knowledge.

The word Alim means knower and is derived from the Arabic ilm meaning knowledge. Al-Alim and Al-Aleem take on the grandeur form of being The Knower, The All-Knowing, The Omniscient. This attribute helps us understand how Allah’s knowledge is complete and all-encompassing; He knows the beginning, the ending, and everything that’s kept within. He is not only aware of our outward actions but knows the state of our hearts when we make them. Nothing is kept a secret, and nothing can be hidden from His knowledge.

وَقَالَ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ لَا تَأۡتِينَا ٱلسَّاعَةُۖ قُلۡ بَلَىٰ وَرَبِّي لَتَأۡتِيَنَّكُمۡ عَٰلِمِ ٱلۡغَيۡبِۖ لَا يَعۡزُبُ عَنۡهُ مِثۡقَالُ ذَرَّةٖ فِي ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ وَلَا فِي ٱلۡأَرۡضِ وَلَآ أَصۡغَرُ مِن ذَٰلِكَ وَلَآ أَكۡبَرُ إِلَّا فِي كِتَٰبٖ مُّبِينٖ

Wa qaalal lazeena kafaroo laa taateenas Saa'ah; qul balaa wa Rabbee lataatiyannakum Aalimul Ghaib; laa ya'zubu anhu misqaalu zarratin fis samaawaati wa laa fil ardi wa laaa asgharu min zaalika wa laaa akbaru illaa fee kitaabim mubeen

English Translation:
"But those who disbelieve say, 'The Hour will not come to us.' Say, 'Yes, by my Lord, it will surely come to you. [Allah is] the Knower of the unseen.' Not absent from Him is an atom’s weight within the heavens or within the earth or [what is] smaller than that or greater, except that it is in a clear register –" — (Qur'an 34:3)

Al-Aleem appears 157 times in the Qur'an and its variations 17 times. This name is often mentioned in pairs with other names in the Qur'an quite frequently. This provides deeper insight, negates any deficiency, and shows perfection in His names.

Name Pairings # of Times
Al-Hakeem (The Wise) 36
Al-Wasi (The Vast) 7
Al-Aziz (The Eminent) 4
Al-Qadir (The Powerful) 4
Al-Khabir (The All-Aware) 4
Al-Haleem (The Indulgent) 3
Al- (The Eminent) 2
Ash-Shakur (Grateful) 2
Al-Khaliq (The Creator) 2
Al-Fattah (The Opener) 1

*These are just some of the more common pairings.

Then there exist many variants of the root word ilm, which include Allaamul, A'lam, Alim, and Aleem. Whenever these qualities are mentioned to describe Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ it is to show how His knowledge is absolute and complete. There is nothing lacking in His knowledge.

۞يَوۡمَ يَجۡمَعُ ٱللَّهُ ٱلرُّسُلَ فَيَقُولُ مَاذَآ أُجِبۡتُمۡۖ قَالُواْ لَا عِلۡمَ لَنَآۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ عَلَّـٰمُ ٱلۡغُيُوبِ

yawma yajma'ul laahur Rusula fa yaqoolu maazaaa ujibtum qaaloo laa ilma lanaa innaka Anta Allaamul Ghuyoob

English Translation:
"[Be warned of] the Day when Allah will assemble the messengers and say, 'What was the response you received?' They will say, 'We have no knowledge. Indeed, it is You who is Knower of the unseen'" — (Qur'an 5:109)

What is human knowledge:
Man's knowledge often comes through experience and failures. We learn by iterating. We accumulate this knowledge by writing books to store this information so as to not forget. We then pass down our learning from generation to generation, revising and building upon past works as we go along. We may try to describe Allah's knowledge, but we won't truly understand the extent of its vastness. As Imam al-Ghazali mentions, Allah's knowledge "is not derived from things known, rather things unknown are derived from it." Everything that is, is because Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ has willed it. He is the Creator and the source for everything, whereas we merely make observations. Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ knows and remembers the tiniest details of things, nothing happens in the universe without His knowledge, and He never forgets any of it. And this is just one layer of His infinite knowledge. What happens in this universe is just a linear timeline of events unfolding. His knowledge extends to the infinite possibilities of all the things that could've happened.

وَعِندَهُۥ مَفَاتِحُ ٱلْغَيْبِ لَا يَعْلَمُهَآ إِلَّا هُوَ ۚ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا فِى ٱلْبَرِّ وَٱلْبَحْرِ ۚ وَمَا تَسْقُطُ مِن وَرَقَةٍ إِلَّا يَعْلَمُهَا وَلَا حَبَّةٍۢ فِى ظُلُمَـٰتِ ٱلْأَرْضِ وَلَا رَطْبٍۢ وَلَا يَابِسٍ إِلَّا فِى كِتَـٰبٍۢ مُّبِينٍۢ

Wa indahoo mafaatihul ghaibi laa ya’lamuhaaa illaa Hoo; wa ya’lamu maa fil barri walbahr; wa maa tasqutu minw waraqatin illaa ya’lamuhaa wa laa habbatin fee zulumaatil ardi wa laa ratbinw wa laa yaabisin illaa fee Kitaabim Mubeen

English Translation:
"And with Him are the keys of the unseen; none knows them except Him. And He knows what is on the land and in the sea. Not a leaf falls but that He knows it. And no grain is there within the darknesses of the earth and no moist or dry [thing] but that it is [written] in a clear record." — (Qur'an 6:59)

قَالَ عِلْمُهَا عِندَ رَبِّى فِى كِتَـٰبٍۢ ۖ لَّا يَضِلُّ رَبِّى وَلَا يَنسَى

Qaala ilmuhaa inda Rabee fee kitaab, laa yadillu Rabbee wa laa yansaa

English Translation:
"[Moses] said, 'The knowledge thereof is with my Lord in a record. My Lord neither errs nor forgets.'" — (Qur'an 20:52)

Al-Aleem and Al-Hakeem:
In this next example, we explore the most frequently paired name with Al-Aleem which is Al-Hakeem (the Most Wise).

قَدْ فَرَضَ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمْ تَحِلَّةَ أَيْمَـٰنِكُمْ ۚ وَٱللَّهُ مَوْلَىٰكُمْ ۖ وَهُوَ ٱلْعَلِيمُ ٱلْحَكِيمُ

Qad faradal laahu lakum tahillata aymaanikum; wallaahu mawlaakum wa huwal aleemul hakeem

English Translation:
"Allah has already ordained for you [Muslims] the dissolution of your oaths. And Allah is your protector, and He is the Knowing, the Wise." — (Qur'an 66:2)

You've likely heard this quote before stating, "knowledge is power." But your experience or intuition may recognize that this saying is incomplete. Simply just getting more information does not directly correlate with having power. You probably know many intellectual people, but they are still prone to making very wrong decisions. They can be led astray by emotions and desires. They may have biases causing them to be blinded or tunnel-visioned. Would you call this person wise? Probably not. The issue with the quote is that it grossly downplays the importance of applying knowledge. This is what most recognize as wisdom.

It's not enough to read a book. A wise person would reflect upon what's being read and try to map all the ways it's applicable in his or her everyday life. A wise person, just like a knowledgeable one, knows what to say but, more importantly, when to say it. That makes all the difference. Similarly, Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ is the All-Knowing and the All-Wise. He knows what to do, when to do them, and with whom.

Two lessons from knowing the pair Al-Hakeem and Al-Aleem:
1. Understanding how Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ is both knowing and wise can bring peace into the believer's life. We put complete trust in Allah's plan for us and what He's decreed, as we know He makes no mistakes. When calamity strikes, if we don't get that job, if we lose something we treasure - we trust that Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ knows best. There is no point in dwelling and feeling sorry for past hardships. Often the greatest pain we experience becomes our biggest strength with time and understanding. Even if we can't see the wisdom in it in this life, we must realize the benefit must lie on the day of judgment. This is the mercy of Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
2. We should ask Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ to give us wisdom. People often give too much weight trying to find the "secret." The one thing that'll transform their life for the better. It doesn't exist, and the people purchasing the courses, books, or instructors that make these promises are taken advantage of. This is not meant to discourage seeking knowledgeable instructors or keep one from purchasing books or courses. But really it's in Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ what we should be seeking. If we don't have the intelligence or wisdom to apply our knowledge, to have the courage to take bold action when needed or to be resourceful, then it would all be for nothing.

As a person grows older, he begins to learn about different subjects and thinks of himself as knowledgeable. But if we stop to think of the vastness of Allah's knowledge, we realize we know nothing. It's a humbling experience to really ponder and ask ourselves how much we think we know. Realize and embrace the truth that we know nothing in the grand scheme of things. Letting any amount of superiority sink its way into your mind will just impede the way to further growth. A child learns the most because they are naturally curious. Everything is new and an exciting adventure. They are open, innocent and genuinely want to understand how everything works. This spurs a parent's favorite game with a child called a hundred thousand why's (sarcasm). But if you assume you already know, then the journey stops. Why explore something further if you feel you already know the outcome?

Knowledge is given by Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ
Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ tells us in Surah Baqarah, "And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, 'Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority.' They said, 'Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?' Allah said, 'Indeed, I know that which you do not know.' And He taught Adam the names – all of them. Then He showed them to the angels and said, 'Inform Me of the names of these, if you are truthful.'" (Qur'an 2:30-31) The angels then responded with the following:

قَالُواْ سُبۡحَٰنَكَ لَا عِلۡمَ لَنَآ إِلَّا مَا عَلَّمۡتَنَآۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ ٱلۡعَلِيمُ ٱلۡحَكِيمُ

Qaaloo subhaanaka laa ilma lanaaa illaa maa allamtanaaa innaka antal aleemul hakeem

English Translation:
"They said, 'Exalted are You; we have no knowledge except what You have taught us. Indeed, it is You who is the Knowing, the Wise.'" — (Qur'an 2:32)

These verses are a testament to how all creations have their limitations set by Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ, and without His permission, they could not know anything beyond what was allowed for them. Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ tell us He, "taught Adam the names – all of them." What is meant by names is left up to interpretation. Ibn Abbas understood it as names of objects for everyday discourse. Other commentators believe it to be the spoken languages on earth, or the capacity to know all things, or it could refer to Allah's Divine Names. Regardless, we see the separation between Angels' knowledge, which is limited compared to human knowledge, designed to be more comprehensive. In the tafheem ul-Quran, Maududi remarks, "It seems that the knowledge of each angel and each genre of angel is confined to its own sphere of competence. The angels appointed to administer, let us say, things relating to air have full knowledge about this subject but have no knowledge, say, about water, and so on and so forth. Man's range of knowledge, however, is comprehensive."

We don't know what we don't know – we may ask for forgiveness for things in our hearts we know we did wrong. But what about the things we are not aware of? Ask Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ to pardon all our sins, to give us a clean slate. Ask to increase our capacity to learn and to know of our shortcomings, to make us among students with great Islamic knowledge. We are blessed today to study His attributes. This is one of the most beneficial paths one can take. It will only increase a person's love for their creator and be among those who've acquired knowledge that will benefit them. Insha-Allah, this will also lead us to share this knowledge with others and help guide others toward the straight path. Narrated Zayd ibn Thabit: I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say: May Allah brighten a man who hears a tradition from us, gets it by heart and passes it on to others. Many a bearer of knowledge conveys it to one who is more versed than he is; and many a bearer of knowledge is not versed in it. [1]

It was narrated that Zirr bin Hubaish said: "I went to Safwan bin Assal Al-Muradi and he said: What brought you here? I said: I am seeking knowledge. He said: I heard the Messenger of Allah say: "There is no one who goes out of his house in order to seek knowledge, but the angels lower their wings in approval of his action." [2]

[1] Sahih (Al-Albani) Sunan Abi Dawud 3660
[2] Hasan (Darussalam) Sunan Ibn Majah 226

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