Allah calls Himself Al-‘Aleem— The All-Knowing, The Omniscient— on more than 150 occasions in the Quran. He is the One whose knowledge is complete and perfect. Al-‘Aleem knows the tiniest of details of all things hidden and manifest and He has recorded the properties of everything in a book that is with Him!
The All-and-Ever-Knowing, The Omniscient
‘Aleem comes from the root ‘ayn-laam-meem, which points to four main meanings. The first main meaning is to have knowledge and be aware and certain, and the second is to gather information. The third main meaning is to have deep knowledge of minute details, and the fourth main meaning is to act according to knowledge.
This root appears 854 times in the Quran in 14 derived forms. Examples of these forms are ‘ilm (knowledge), ‘alima (to know), ‘allama (to teach), and ‘aalemeen (the worlds).
Linguistically, Aleem is the intense form of ‘alim (knower). Al-‘Aleem is the All-and-Ever-Knowing. The name Al-`Allam is the most intense form of the word; it appears four times in the Quran and it points out to the perfection and totality of Allah’s knowledge. Al-‘Aleem comprehends everything with certainty; no knowledge is concealed from Him and He is intuitively aware of all things even before they take place.
Al-‘Aleem Himself says: That is the determination of the Exalted in Might, the Knowing. [Quran, 6:96] And to Him belongs that which reposes by night and by day, and He is the Hearing, the Knowing. [Quran, 6:13] and Indeed, your Lord— He is the Knowing Creator. [Quran, 15:86]
No ignorance, no learning, no forgetting
Allah’s knowledge can’t be compared to any other knowledge in creation. Our knowledge is preceded by ignorance and we gain knowledge by learning. We also forget. How many times have we studied something only to forget it the next day? Allah’s ‘ilm is neither acquired through learning nor preceded by ignorance; nothing in the heavens or on Earth escapes His notice.
Al-‘Aleem says: There falls not a leaf but He knows it, nor a grain in the darkness of the Earth, nor anything green nor withered but it is all in a clear book. [Quran, 6:59] His knowledge isn’t followed by forgetfulness, as Musa ‘alayhi salam said to Fir’awn: My Lord never errs, nor does He forget. [Quran, 20:52]
What is the most honourable knowledge?
We know of disciplines of knowledge such as physics, chemistry, math, medicine, engineering, and physiology, and we know Allah. The first kind of knowledge has to do with things created by Allah ‘azza wa jall, while the other has to do with Allah, the creator, Himself. That’s why the most honourable knowledge is to know Allah, His beautiful divine names and attributes, His religion, etc. And the way to this knowledge is through studying the Quran and the Sunnah.
How Can You Live by This Name?
1. Stick to the commands of Al-‘Aleem.
Al-‘Aleem says: And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein. [Quran, 50:16] If you know that He sees you while you’re alone and when you’re in the company of others, that He knows all of your secret thoughts and intentions, if you firmly believe that Allah ‘azza wa jall knows all things, then stick to His divine commands and know that they are the best for you.
2. Desire to learn.
Be eager to increase your knowledge, especially Islamic knowledge, since Allah loves knowledge and those who possess it just as He hates ignorance and those who are wilfully ignorant. Be patient and persevere in seeking beneficial knowledge, and recognize that learning is a form of worship; how else can you know what Allah wants from you? How else can you do what pleases Him and avoid what He dislikes? At the same time accept that there’s knowledge that He did not reveal to creation.
3. Acquire knowledge of the world.
Say: ‘Turn your regard (to ask): What is in the heavens and on Earth?’ [Quran, 10:101] Learn about the world around you with the niyyah (intention) to appreciate Allah’s creative power and wisdom even more so that it is an act of worship.
4. Be humble.
Let Allah’s perfect and detailed knowledge humble you. This is why it is said: the one who knows the most about Allah fears Him the most. Knowledge is a quality that we naturally admire in people; let the amazing ‘ilm of your creator increase your love and admiration for Him.
5. Contemplate yourself.
The human body is much more advanced than any machine; in your brains there are 140 billion cells whose function is not even known yet. It is from Allah’s generosity that He gave us the ability to think and to reason and that He gave us a natural hunger to learn. And within your own selves, do you not turn your regard? [Quran, 51:21]
6. Accept what is decreed for you.
Knowing Al-‘Aleem makes your heart able to accept what He decreed for you because you know He designed your destiny by His knowledge and wisdom. Whatever pain, stress, disappointment, and injustice you go through, Allah knows. Remind yourself of this to get closer to Him, especially during trials.
7. Ask Al-‘Aleem to increase your knowledge.
Allah Al-‘Aleem loves those who seek knowledge and teaches you to offer Him the following prayer: رَّبِّ زِدْنِى عِلْمًا- My Lord! Increase me in knowledge [Quran, 20:114]
8. Do dhikr with this name.
The Prophet salallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: Anyone who says three times in the evening:
بسم الله الذي لا يضر مع اسمه شيء في الأرض ولا في السماء وهو السميع العليم
In the name of Allah, with whose name nothing on earth or in the sky can harm. And He is the All-Hearing and All-Knowing— nothing will harm them until the morning, and anyone who says it three times in the morning, nothing will harm them until the evening. [Ahmad]
O Allah, Al-‘Aleem, we know nothing but what You teach us. Instil in us eagerness to learn, guide us to the best knowledge, increase our knowledge and make us benefit from it, and guide us to act upon our ‘ilm by doing what pleases You and staying away from what displeases You. Make us contemplate ourselves and the creation around us, and assist us in accepting your decree at all times, ameen!
And Allah knows best.