AL-ALIM MEANING - 99 NAMES OF ALLAH:

19.

al-Alim / al-Aleem

(The All-Knowing One)

al-Alim Meaning:

The Knowledgeable; The One nothing is absent from His knowledge

Allah is Al-Alim, Allah’s 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 is the knower of all details and nothing goes unnoticed or unrecorded. Truly, He is the Omniscient One.

Mentions of al-Alim:
From Quran & Hadith

In Arabic, the word alim means knower, al-Alim takes on the more emphatic form of being the all-knowing, the omniscient. This attribute helps us understand how Allah’s knowledge is complete and all encompassing, He knows from the beginning, He knows the ending, and He knows everything that’s kept within. He is not only aware of our outwards actions but knows the state of our hearts when we made them. Nothing is kept a secret, and nothing can be hidden from his knowledge.

وَقَالَ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا۟ لَا تَأْتِينَا ٱلسَّاعَةُ ۖ قُلْ بَلَىٰ وَرَبِّى لَتَأْتِيَنَّكُمْ عَـٰلِمِ ٱلْغَيْبِ ۖ لَا يَعْزُبُ عَنْهُ مِثْقَالُ ذَرَّةٍۢ فِى ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَلَا فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ وَلَآ أَصْغَرُ مِن ذَٰلِكَ وَلَآ أَكْبَرُ إِلَّا فِى كِتَـٰبٍۢ مُّبِينٍۢ

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 it’s variations 17 times. We won't be able to cover them all in this one article but will reference a variety to illustrate the meaning behind this name.

Here's an example of one of the variations referring to Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ as Allaamul:

يَوْمَ يَجْمَعُ ٱللَّهُ ٱلرُّسُلَ فَيَقُولُ مَاذَآ أُجِبْتُمْ ۖ قَالُوا۟ لَا عِلْمَ لَنَآ ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ عَلَّـٰمُ ٱلْغُيُوبِ

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)

Man’s knowledge often comes through experience and failures, we learn by iterating. We accumulate this knowledge by writing books to store this information as to not forget. We then pass down our learning from one generation to the next, 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 are merely making 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.

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

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

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

In this next example, we see the pairing of names which provides a more holistic and comprehensive picture of who Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ is. Here we have the names al-Hakim (the Most Wise) and al-Alim (the All-Knowing) mentioned together.

قَدْ فَرَضَ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمْ تَحِلَّةَ أَيْمَـٰنِكُمْ ۚ وَٱللَّهُ مَوْلَىٰكُمْ ۖ وَهُوَ ٱلْعَلِيمُ ٱلْحَكِيمُ

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 the application of knowledge. This is what I'd refer to 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 make’s 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.

There are two lessons which can be derived from this:
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 then lie on the day of judgement. 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" information through courses, books, or instructors. 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 or be resourceful, then it would all be for nothing.

Other ways a believer benefits in knowing al-Alim: 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 to play called a hundred thousand why’s. But if you assume you already know, then the journey stops. Why explore something further if you feel you already know the outcome?

قَالُوا۟ سُبْحَـٰنَكَ لَا عِلْمَ لَنَآ إِلَّا مَا عَلَّمْتَنَآ ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ ٱلْعَلِيمُ ٱلْحَكِيمُ

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 )

This is the du'a the Angels made glorifying Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ and praising Him. It is 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. From this verse, even the Angels are limited in knowledge to a specific domain. Our range of knowledge may be narrower than the Angels on a subject, but it is more comprehensive as Allah has made us this way.

We don’t know what we don’t know – we may ask for forgiveness for things in our heart we know we did wrong. But what about the things we are not aware? 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. Ask to make us among students with great Islamic knowledge. We are blessed today to study His attributes as this is one of the most beneficial paths one can take. It will only increase a person’s love for Allah سُبْحَٰنَهُۥ وَتَعَٰلَىٰ and be among those who’ve acquired knowledge that will benefit them. Insha-Allah this will also lead us share this knowledge and teach it to others because we know it pleases our Lord. 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]

Protect us from becoming among those who weaponize their knowledge to cause harm and cheat others. And to avoid becoming among those who willfully remain ignorant and negligent.

References:
[1] Sahih (Al-Albani) Sunan Abi Dawud 3660

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