I converted to Islam in 1999. Just a couple of months prior to my 30th birthday. I came from a Christian (Texas Bible Belt) background and was quite familiar with Old Testament and Gospel scriptures but Christianity lacked an intimate monotheistic connection with God, that I had been unknowingly seeking. Reading the Qur’an was like reading an authenticated version of the previous books and stories I already knew. I spent hours immersed in the parallels of all three books. One “aha” moment after another. As if I had found the “Rosetta Stone” of Allah’s revelations to man. I began my journey into learning Arabic and being the multi-tasker that I am, I also spent a semester learning ancient Hebrew and a semester learning Palestinian Aramaic, seeking what I perceived to be the authentic languages of revelations. What linguists refer to as Jesus of Nazareth Aramaic versus the Syriac Aramaic that was maintained through the Eastern Roman and Persian Empires. I began drawing epiphany sized connections between the three languages. Minus the differences in the script, there are many words that sound and mean the same with variation in accent. Three letter roots, possessives, verb conjugation, and many of the basic fundamentals are much the same or similar with a variation on the definitive “the.” I point this out as we come to the most significant word and that would be God’s Name or the word for God, Elah/Ilah.
Elah, Ilah, are rooted in the Semitic but used just as the word “God.” The Children of Israel used to refer to God as The God of Abraham or of Sarah or of so and so and would refrain from using the word God, in ancient Hebrew, or “The God” which is prefixed with a soft “ha.” Just as Ilah, in Arabic, is prefixed with an “Al,” meaning “the,” thus becoming “Allah.” I would also like to point out that although God’s attributes are mentioned through out early scriptures, those attributes are connected to the “El” meaning God, but it was not the practice of the COI (Children of Israel) to call on God by those attributes as they viewed them as being too human.
This is not the case in Islam. Throughout the Quran, we are blessed to get to know Allah intimately through His Attributes and are encouraged to call upon Him using those attributes as alternative Names for Allah. As Muslims, we reject any idea that “man was created in the image of God” and therefore all His Attributes are divine and beyond comparison to some of the similar attributes we might hope to possess as human beings. Allah is Al Malik but no king’s sovereignty could ever compare to that of The King or Master of the Universe. Allah is The All Merciful, an image of His Mercy is in a hadith.
Salman Al-Farisi reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Verily, Allah has one hundred portions of mercy. From one portion the creation has been given mercy between themselves and ninety nine portions are reserved for the Day of Resurrection.”
Source: Sahih Muslim 2753
Yet, we are encouraged to be merciful to one another as stated in another hadith.
Abdullah ibn Amr reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Those who are merciful will be shown mercy by the Most Merciful. Be merciful to those on the earth and the One in the heavens will have mercy upon you.”
Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 1924
As Muslims, we are given a beautiful opportunity to develop a relationship with our Creator and to get to know Him personally through learning His Names and Attributes. Thus developing a love and appreciation for Allah by calling on Him in our private prayers by the name or attribute of His that we are seeking comfort from during the struggles in our own lives. Many examples of this practice can be made but I want to stay focused on the development of the relationship with Allah and the importance of getting to know Him personally through learning His Names and Attributes.
When I converted to Islam I was very much a baby or child, in the faith. I had to begin memorizing the same Surahs as my children learned in their pre-school years. But, in order for me to truly grasp what I was saying in my prayer, I had to study the Arabic language. The same was true when learning the Names and Attributes of Allah. Moreover, when my children began to learn the Names and Attributes of Allah, they, too were just memorizing Arabic words without the meanings of those words really affecting their hearts. I infer this to be the case with many children who don’t come from Arabic speaking backgrounds which is why I wanted to create stories that would focus on one or two similar attributes at a time. In Sha Allah.
I chose to begin with Al-Khaliq, The Creator as I felt the origin of the Name of Allah was too difficult to explain. Plus, showing children that Allah created all that exists gives them an understanding from whom all things have originated. Followed by Al-Khaliq, will be Al Ahad Allahu As Samad, In Sha Allah for the purpose of securing a foundation in Tawheed, Islamic monotheism.
Most importantly, I believe that as Muslims we’ve been blessed with the beautiful gift of getting to know Allah through His Names and Attributes and we should take full advantage of this opportunity and if possible impart that gift of knowledge to our children in a manner of which they can relate to and appreciate. Encouraging them in the development of their own relationship with Allah, The Creator of the heavens and the earth. BithmAllah.