99 Names Series: Al-Latif (The Gentle, The Subtle)
Muzlimbuzz is starting a series called “The 99 Names of Allah” where writers & readers reflect on one Name from the 99 Beautiful Names of Allah and talk about why that particular Name is significant to them, or how they have seen that Name manifest in their lives. If you would like to submit your writing for this series, please send it to [email protected].
Does He who created not know, while He is the Subtle, the Acquainted?
Surah Al Mulk, Verse 14
When I was younger, I was taught by my mother that whenever I encountered times of difficulty, I was to call upon Allah, making remembrance of His Name, “Al-Latif”. So as the years passed and final exams turned to job interviews, I recited “Ya Latif” repeatedly, hoping to gain Allah’s favour in whatever situation I was facing. I was told that in Malay, “Al Latif” was “Yang Maha Lembut”, (The Most Gentle) but I never understood what that really meant or why I should call on that particular name of Allah in times of distress.
I would learn later that Al Latif, besides meaning the Most Gentle, also meant the Most Subtle. Humans, as the creations of Allah and whose perceptions are governed by their five senses and limited by the boundaries of the human intellect, are often unable to comprehend or perceive the true extent of Allah’s Generosity and Mercy to His creation. As an oft-quoted Christian hymn puts it, “God moves in mysterious ways”.
Reflecting on my life, I know that there are reasons why I didn’t get into that class or why I didn’t get that job. Why the best friendships came and went, why even the best-made plans didn’t go through, and why the ups and downs of my life happened. I know these things didn’t happen because Al Latif was not gentle to me. If I didn’t understand then, and even if I don’t completely understand it now, I know that what Allah wills is for the best. Allah is, after all, the best of planners.
By making dhikr of Allah’s name Al-Latif, I wasn’t just asking for Allah’s blessings. Instead I was recognising my own status as a slave of Allah, recognising that Allah truly knew what was best for me in every situation I was faced with. Knowledge that only Allah; the Most Subtle, the Most Gentle, could have.
And what of the many millions of Allah’s Mercies that my mind can barely comprehend? Every heartbeat and every breath I take without being conscious of it. The earth’s atmosphere, the warmth of the sun . These are all subtle things, barely noticeable for the heedless, but allowing me to live each and every single day.
And I come to realise as well that Allah is Most Gentle with me, not punishing me for every sin and every transgression I commit whether openly or secretly, instead allowing me every breath I take every day of my life as a means of seeking repentance with Him.
Even as I sin, Allah still allows me to benefit from His Bounty, granting me the gift of life every day I wake up. Greater still is His gift of the religion of Islam, and allowing me to be of the ummah of our Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alaihi wasallam. I pray that He never take that gift away from me.
Surah Ar-Rahman’s repeated refrain comes to mind “Which of your Lord’s favours, then, will you deny?”
In truth, I cannot deny the favours of Allah, nor can I truly separate the Names of Allah. All I can say is “Alhamdulillah” for all the gentleness and the subtle mercies and bounties of Allah, Al Latif. I pray that I too can be gentle with Allah’s creation, and that I always be in a state of taqwa towards Al Latif, who is aware of all my affairs, whether subtle or obvious.[divider]
Ahmad Zhaki Abdullah
Ahmad Zhaki holds a degree in English Literature from the University of London. He is a full-time executive at a local research institute and a part-time writer.