Seeking the Source of Peace through Allah’s Name As-Salām – Part 1

We all gravitate towards peace or what appears to give us tranquillity and calm, even without realizing it. Some may do the obvious things, such as walk in a park or by the sea. Some may attempt to seek a state of inner peace through meditative practices or physical activities such as exercise or yoga. Others, however, seek a state of inner peace through prayer and their spiritual connection with Allah. And others still may gravitate towards destructive behaviour in order to forget about or escape the lack of internal peace. While the external practices may vary, in essence, we are all seeking the same thing.

Though this is a state that most of us desire to be in, it may be hard to understand what it is exactly (a feeling? a state of mind? a journey?). This is part of the reason we seek peace in so many different ways and may, at times, get disappointed. We may work towards something in order to gain internal peace but once we get it, that peace is fleeting and temporary.

True peace can only come from its source. We seek peace because something in our soul recognizes the divine nature of this attribute. As Allah knows us better than we know ourselves and is intimately aware of our needs as our Creator, He tells us that He is al-Salām; the Flawless, the Source of Peace. So when we seek peace, we should know exactly where we need to turn.

The word ‘flawless’ is important. The reason why the things of this world disturb our peace is precisely because they are not perfect: they contain flaws and defects and blemishes. When we seek peace, we sometimes try to seek that ‘flawlessness’ in what contains many flaws. And so, peace becomes elusive.

But Allah, al-Salām, shows us where to look and what to seek: He is the Flawless Source of Peace, teaching us where to turn when we are faced with both internal and external stressors in this world, and He guides us to the abode of peace in the next world. Allah tells us:

…And peace (salām) will be upon whoever follows the guidance.Holy Qur’an 20:47.

[4] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 831.

[5]

Al-Salām in the Qur’an and Hadith

This name of Allah is mentioned once in the Qur’an, in Sūrat al-Ḥashr:

He is Allah, besides Whom there is no god; the King, the Holy, the Giver of peace, the Granter of security, Guardian over all, the Mighty, the Supreme, the Possessor of every greatness. Glory be to Allah from what they set up (with Him). Holy Qur’an, 59:23.

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) affirmed this name when he corrected the companions (ra) who would say, “Salām upon Allah.” He said to them, “Allah is al-Salām,” meaning we do not say Salām upon Allah because He is al-Salām and from Him is Salām.

Other than these direct references to His name, the Qur’an and Hadith are replete with references to spreading peace—salām—as well as the Home of Peace: Paradise.

Therefore, for all of us seeking to connect to Allah and worship Him by knowing His names, it is important to understand the many dimensions of this beautiful name.

Flawless Peace

The word salām comes from the three-letter root sīn-lām-mīm, which means to be faultless, safe, and secure.Salām in particular means peace, soundness, safety, and security. Salāmah means to be free from impairment and harm. What do faultlessness and safety have to do with peace as we understand it?

In Muʿjam al-Ghanī, it is stated that Allah al-Salām is free of any deficiency and defect and, therefore, the one who is with Him experiences tranquility and reassurance. Indeed, when we feel safe and secure with the Only One who can grant complete safety and security, we feel a sense of internal peace. And Allah is al-Salām since He is truly free of all the impairments and defects that affect His creation. Thus, we can say that al-Salām gives rise to the following meanings and implications:

1- Perfection, free from fault: His essence, His attributes, and His actions are all free of any deficiency.

2- Remembering al-Salām and living in His way brings peace, and He gives safety and reassurance from worry and anxiety to everyone who turns to Him.

3- Al-Salām has made His Paradise the true Abode of Peace for His servants, where He greets them with the greeting of peace.

4- Al-Salām wants peace for His servants and in the relationships between them.

Remember al-Salām

Remembrance of Him is one of those things that can give us rest and tranquility. With Him, we can be in a state of stillness and serenity. And remembrance is not just about remembering with the tongue, though that is important. The definition of internal peace is possessing that internal calm despite the stressors around us. Therefore, we need to cultivate a relationship with the Flawless, the Source and Giver of Peace. We do so by understanding His names and the manifestations of His names in our lives, by connecting to Him in our ritual prayers and supplications, by pondering over the Qur’an, and by turning to Him during times of both ease and difficulty.

Some of the companions, upon seeing the Kaʿbah, say, “O Allah, you are Peace and from You is peace, so grant us life, our Lord, with peace.”

This supplication was not recorded from the Prophet, but it was reportedly what some of the companions and tābiʿīn themselves said when they saw the Kaʿbah—they remembered Allah by His name al-Salām. One can imagine that when they saw the purity and magnificence of the House of God, they could only be in awe of His Flawlessness, their hearts overcome by His Peace and His Security. Indeed, it is al-Bayt al-Ḥarām—the Sacred House—and whoever enters it is given safety and security. Being in that sacred space reminds us truly that peace is from Him, and hence the supplication to allow us to live in a state of peace and security.

After understanding this name, what reminds you of al-Salām? Is it being in solitude, reflecting upon the beauty that He has created? Is it in the middle of hardship, unexpectedly feeling reassurance from Him? Is it after completing the prayer, being reminded that true tranquillity is only with Him?

One way to remind ourselves of al-Salām daily is by memorizing and truly understanding the aforementioned supplication that the Prophet would make after prayer:

O Allah, You are Peace and from You is peace. Blessed are you, the Majestic and the Noble.

The question to ask ourselves here is: When I say these words, am I actually connecting to them? Do I feel a sense of peace with the conclusion of prayer, this direct conversation between me and Allah? And if the answer is no, this does not mean that we should give up and despair. The One who has named Himself al-Salām is inviting us to turn to Him for peace, and not to turn away in distress. Our shortcomings in prayer are an opportunity to connect to Allah’s name al-Salām by learning how to be truly devoted in our prayers and gain peace and strength through them. And every effort that we put into finding peace through prayer is rewarded in a multitude of ways through al-Salām Himself.

Cultivate peace in your heart

Another way to live with this name is to try and cultivate a sound heart. Much of our internal disconcertment and how we behave subsequently is directly correlated with the diseases we allow to seep into and spread in our hearts. Have we ever met a person who is greedy and peaceful? Or hateful and peaceful? These are natural opposites. No one whose heart is overwhelmed by spiritual diseases can be at peace. We have to remember that from the flawlessness of al-Salām, and the fact that He is the Giver of peace, all of His commands are also perfect and by their very nature lead to both internal and external peace.[58] So, when Allah and His Messenger tell us to free our hearts of arrogance and envy, for example, it is because that is the path to salām and al-Salām. He grants peace to those who work on the state of their hearts and those who strive to cleanse their hearts of these flaws. We are told in the Qur’an:

The Day when there will not benefit [anyone] wealth or children, but only one who comes to Allah with a sound heart (qalbinsalīm). Holy Qur’an 26:88–89.

And what is a sound heart?

Many of the Qur’anic exegetes specified that, among other things, it is a heart free of associating anything with Allah. al-Qurṭubī, reviewing the different statements and interpretations of this phrase, stated that it is the heart that is free from blameworthy traits and that is characterized by praiseworthy traits.[60] Imam al-Ghazālī similarly stated, “Every servant whose heart is free from deceit, hatred, envy and evil intent, and whose limbs are unblemished by sins and forbidden actions, and whose attributes are not affected by inversion and reversal,[61] will be one who comes to God the Most High with a flawless heart.”[62] The Prophet ﷺ also emphasized the importance of the state of our hearts. He ﷺ was asked, “O Messenger of Allah, who is the best of people?” The Prophet ﷺ replied, “One with a heart swept clean and truthful in speech.”

The companion inquired further about “a heart swept clean.” The Prophet ﷺ replied, “One that is mindful of Allah and pure, in which there is no sin, nor aggression, nor envy.”[63]

There are numerous sayings of the Prophet ﷺ instructing us to cleanse our hearts of various diseases, such as ostentation,[64] arrogance,[65] rancor,[66] envy,[67] greed,[68] miserliness, bad character,[69] and heedlessness.[70] Part of attaining internal peace is to reflect upon the state of our hearts to know to what degree we have these diseases and work on freeing our hearts from them.[71]

Moreover, the Qur’an describes to us someone who had such a heart: “…Ibrāhīm, when he came to his Lord with a sound heart.”[72] It is almost like Allah is telling us that if we want to achieve this sound heart, we need to look to the story and character of the Prophet Ibrāhīmعليه السلام. What we find is that his heart was completely free of anything other than Allah. When his father threatened to stone him for calling to God’s way, he said, “Peace be on you, I will pray to my Lord to forgive you; surely He is ever Affectionate to me.”[73] When he was catapulted into a raging fire, he was in a state of complete calm and trust. As Ibn ʿAbbās narrates, his last words were, “Sufficient is Allah for me, and He is the Best Disposer of Affairs.”[74]

Another equally important way to purify our hearts is through seeking forgiveness. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:

Verily, when the servant commits a sin, a black mark appears upon his heart. If he abandons the sin, seeks forgiveness, and repents, then his heart will be polished. If he returns to the sin, the blackness will be increased until it overcomes his heart. It is the covering that Allah has mentioned [in the ayah]:[75] No, rather a covering is over their hearts from what they have earned.[76]

The steps described in this hadith are important for anyone who is serious about becoming close to God and attaining peace. Sin and disobedience to Allah naturally affect the state of our hearts. The effect need not be permanent because when we stop the sin, ask forgiveness from Allah, and pledge to never return to it, the negative effect will vanish; not only will it vanish, we can become even better than we ever were before. The link with seeking forgiveness is important. The Prophet ﷺ taught us,

Whoever increases his prayers for forgiveness, Allah will grant him relief from every worry, a way out from every hardship, and provide for him in ways he does not expect.[77]

Why would seeking forgiveness have this effect? We need to remember that seeking forgiveness does not simply mean uttering the words “astaghfirullāh” (I seek forgiveness from Allah) or “Rabbīighfirlī” (My Lord, forgive me). Truly seeking forgiveness means we are reflecting upon our actions and our hearts, identifying our mistakes and sins, and then seeking forgiveness. At a spiritual level, Allah is guaranteeing that a person who does this will be granted relief. At the material level, because it is easy to get stuck on a problem or a difficulty, the reflection that leads to seeking forgiveness enables us to get ‘unstuck’ because we are focusing on what we have control over—our actions. We take responsibility for our mistake, seek forgiveness from Allah, try to do better and move on.

Spread peace and keep people safe from harm

The Prophet ﷺ instructed us to spread peace. Famously, the first thing the Prophet ﷺ said to the people of Madīnah was, “O people, spread peace, feed the hungry, and pray at night when people are sleeping and you will enter Paradise in peace.”[78] He ﷺ also said, “Spread peace and you will receive peace.”[79] Indeed, one of the ways to be guaranteed forgiveness is to spread peace, as the Prophet ﷺ said, “Verily, among the deeds that must result in forgiveness are offering peace and good words.”[80]

As Muslims, our greeting to each other is one of peace. When one says “al-salāmʿalaykum” or “Peace be upon you,” part of the meaning is that you are praying for the person to be protected from every harm, such as physical and mental illness, the evil acts of people, from sin and spiritual diseases, and the hellfire.[81] Moreover, it is also a declaration to the person you are greeting that you will not harm them; i.e., you are guaranteeing them safety from you and peace.[82] Furthermore, because al-Salām is one of the names of Allah, this greeting has another meaning: we are saying, “I place you in the security of God’s name al-Salām.”[83] Since we are with al-Salām and we are the servants of al-Salām, then we are at peace with others, and this peace comes from God Himself. Indeed, this is directly related to the Prophet’s ﷺ statement that, “The Muslim is the one from whose tongue and hand the people are safe (man salima al-nās min yadihiwalisānihi).”[84] When you truly submit to al-Salām, you become a conduit for peace and safety.

This point is related to the previous one regarding purifying our hearts of various diseases. We cannot truly keep people safe from our harm and be in a relationship of peace with them if we are prisoners of our lower selves.[85] In this sense, well-being and peace in society are dependent upon our individual efforts to purify our hearts.[86]

Strive for excellence

As servants of al-Salām, the Flawless, we should strive for excellence in all our deeds and ‘flawlessness’ to the degree that is humanly possible. The Prophet ﷺ said, “When one of you does something, Allah loves that you do it with proficiency.”[87] We should strive for excellence and for good because we are servants of the Perfect One, and realize that all and any good comes from Him.

[1] Collected by al-Bukhārī in al-Adab al-Mufrad, no. 989, declared authentic by al-Albānī in Ṣaḥīh al-jāmiʿ, no. 1638.

[2] Qur’an 20:47.

[3] Qur’an 59:23.

[4] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 831.

[5] Qur’an 6:126–27.

[6] Hans Wehr, A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic (New York: Spoken Language Services, 1976), 442.

[7] Wehr, 443.

[8] Aḥmad ibn Fāris al-Rāzī, Maqāyīs al-lughah (Damascus: Dār al-Fikr, 1979), 3:90.

[9] Abdel-Ghanī Abu al-‘Azm, Mu’jam al-Ghanī al-zāhir, entry no. 14932.

[10] Ibn Fāris, Maqāyīs al-Lughah, 3:90.

[11] ʿUmarSulaymān al-Ashqar, Sharḥ Ibn al-Qayyim li-asmāʾAllāh al-ḥusná (Amman: Dār al-Nafāʾis, 2008), 54–58.

[12] ṢafwānMaḥmūdḤanūf, al-Ism al-Rabbānīwaatharuhūfī al-sulūk al-insānī, 1st ed. (Beirut: Dār al-Maʿrifah, 2004), 89; Salmān al-ʿAwdah, In the Company of God: Closeness to Allah through the Beauty of His Names and Attributes, 2nd ed. (n.p: Islam Today, 2011), 40.

[13] ʿAbd al-Razzāq ibn ʿAbd al-Muḥsin al-Badr, Fiqh al-asmāʾ al-ḥusná, 3rd ed. (Riyadh: Dār Ibn al-Jawzī, 1441 AH), 233.

[14] Ḥanūf, al-Ism al-Rabbānī, 90.

[15] al-Ashqar, Sharḥ Ibn al-Qayyim li-asmāʾAllāh al-ḥusná, 56.

[16] Qur’an 4:40.

[17] Qur’an 95:4.

[18] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 2577.

[19] Qur’an 5:8.

[20] Sunan al-Tirmidhī, no. 3970.

[21] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 2999.

[22] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 2877, https://sunnah.com/muslim/53/98.

[23] Sunan al-Tirmidhī, no. 2346.

[24] Ibn al-Qayyim, Madārij al-sālikīnbaynmanāziliyyākanaʿbuduwaiyyākanastaʿīn, trans. Justin Parrott (Beirut: Dār al-Kitāb al-’Arabī, 1996), 3:156, https://abuaminaelias.com/dailyhadithonline/2014/08/28/ibn-qayyim-void-heart/.

[25] Qur’an 20:45.

[26] Qur’an 20:67.

[27] Qur’an 26:62.

[28] Qur’an 27:59.

[29] Qur’an 37:79.

[30] Qur’an 37:109.

[31] Qur’an 37:120.

[32] Qur’an 37:130.

[33] Qur’an 37:181.

[34] al-ʿAwdah, In the Company of God, 40.

[35] Qur’an 21:47.

[36] Sunan AbīDāwūd, no. 4986 and graded authentic by al-Albānī.

[37] Sunan al-Nasā’ī, no. 3939 and graded authentic by Ibn al-Qayyim in Zād al-Maʿād (Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Risālah, 1994), 1:45.

[38] Sunan AbīDāwūd, no. 2041 and graded fair by al-Albānī.

[39] The companions would make hand gestures when saying the salām at the end of prayer, so the Prophet ﷺ corrected them and said, “One should place one’s hand on one’s thigh and then pronounce salutation upon one’s brother on the right side and then on the left.” Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 431.

[40] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 592.

[41] Qur’an 20:14.

[42] Qur’an 13:28.

[43] Qur’an 5:15–16.

[44] Qur’an 6:126–27.

[45] al-Husayn ibn Masʿūd al-Baghawī, Maʿālim al-Tafsīr (Tafsīr al-Baghawī), accessed July 17, 2020, http://quran.ksu.edu.sa/tafseer/baghawy/sura6-aya127.html.

[46] al-Baghawi.

[47] Qur’an 15:46.

[48] Qur’an 13:23–24.

[49] Qur’an 56:26.

[50] Qur’an 10:10.

[51] An elevated station from the stations of Paradise, or the highest chamber in Paradise.

[52] Qur’an 25:75.

[53] Qur’an 10:10, 14:23, 33:44, 39:73, 56:90–91.

[54] Qur’an 56:25–26.

[55] It was reported in different narrations that ʿUmar bin al-Khaṭṭāb would say this, as well as the tābiʿīSaʿīd ibn al-Musayyib. See: Ibn AbīShaybah, al-Kitāb al-muṣannaffī al-aḥādīthwa-al-āthār (Muṣannaf Ibn AbīShaybah), nos. 18787, 18789.

[56] Allah says in the Qur’an, “And [mention] when We made the House a place of return for the people and [a place of] security.” Qur’an 2:125.

[57] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 592.

[58] On the concepts of war and peace in Islam, see: Justin Parrott, “​Jihad in Islam: Just-War Theory in the Qur’an and Sunnah,”Yaqeen, May 15, 2020, particularly p. 17 for the relationship with Allah’s name al-Salām.

[59] Qur’an 26:88–89.

[60] al-Qurtubi, Tafsīr al-Qurṭubī: al-Jāmiʿ li-aḥkām al-Qurān (Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Risālah, 2006), 16:44.

[61] In this context, al-Ghazālī explains that “inversion of attributes” means that one’s reason is subjugated to his passion and anger, instead of the other way around.

[62] AbūḤāmid al-Ghazālī, The Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of God: Al-Maqṣad al-AsnáFīSharḥAsmā’ Allāh al-Ḥusná, trans. David Burrell and NazihDaher, The Ghazali Series (Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 1992), 61.

[63] Sunan Ibn Majah, no. 4216, https://sunnah.com/urn/1343550, graded authentic by al-ʿIrāqī in Takhrīj al-iḥyāʾ (Beirut: Dār Ibn Ḥazm, 2006), 1575, and al-Albānī.

[64] The Prophet ﷺ said that what he feared most for his ummah was “hidden idolatry, that a man stands for prayer and beautifies his prayer when he sees another man looking at him.” Sunan Ibn Mājah, no. 4204.

[65] The Prophet ﷺ said, “No one who has the weight of a seed of arrogance in his heart will enter Paradise.” Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 91.

[66] The Prophet ﷺ said, “If you are able every morning and evening to remove any rancor from your heart towards anyone, do so.” Sunan al-Tirmidhī, no. 2678.

[67] The Prophet ﷺ said, “Faith and envy are never combined in the heart of a servant.” Sunan al-Nasaʾī, no. 3109.

[68] The Prophet ﷺ said, “Greed and faith are never combined in the heart of a servant.” Sunan al-Nasaʾī, no. 3110.

[69] The Prophet ﷺ said, “Two qualities are never combined in a believer: miserliness and bad character.” Sunan at-Tirmidhī, no. 1962.

[70] The Prophet ﷺ said, “Do not speak too much without remembering Allah. Verily, too much talking without remembering Allah hardens the heart.” Sunan al-Tirmidhī, no. 2411.

[71] A good book in this regard is: Hamza Yusuf, Purification of the Heart: Signs, Symptoms and Cures of the Spiritual Diseases of the Heart, 5th ed. (Chicago: Starlatch, 2004).

[72] Qur’an 37:83–84.

[73] Qur’an 19:47.

[74] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 4564.

[75] Qur’an 83:14.

[76] Sunan al-Tirmidhī,  no. 3334, graded fair by al-Albānī.

[77] SunanAbūDāwūd, no. 1518; Sunan Ibn Mājah, no. 3819; al-Ḥākim, al-Mustadrak (Cairo: Dār al-Taʾṣīl, 2014), 7:479, who graded it authentic, though there is some dispute among the scholars of hadith about its authenticity.

[78] Sunan al-Tirmidhī, no. 2485.

[79] MusnadAḥmad, no. 18509; al-Bukhārī, al-Adab al-mufrad, no. 787, https://sunnah.com/adab/33/34, and graded fair by al-Albānī.

[80] al-Muʿjam al-kabīr, no. 17950, and graded fair by al-Iraqi, Takhrīj al-iḥyāʾ (Beirut: Dār Ibn Hazm, 2006), 656.

[81] Maḥmūd al-Maṣrī, Laylah fībayt al-nabī (n.p: KTAB, 2011), 514.

[82] Ṣafwān ibn Aḥmad al-Azdī, al-Imām al-Nawawīwa-manhajuhufīasmāʾAllāh al-ḥusná min khilālsharḥihi li-Ṣaḥīh Muslim (Alexandria: Dar al-Eman, 2005), 224.

[83] Joe Bradford, “Praise, Glory, and Peace, Prayer as the Path to Knowing Allah: Finding Greater Meaning,” accessed June 28, 2020,  https://www.subscribepage.com/prayerpath.

[84] Sunan al-Nasaʾī, no. 4998.

[85] al-Ghazālī, Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of God, 62.

[86] Ḥanūf, al-Ism al-Rabbānī, 90.

[87] al-Ṭabarānī, al-Muʿjam al-kabīr, 24:306; graded fair by al-Albānī in Ṣaḥīḥ al-jāmiʿ, no. 1880.

[88] Bradford, Praise, Glory, and Peace.

[89] Qur’an 36:55–58.

 

To be continued next week….

1 reply
  1. Festus Masajuwa
    Festus Masajuwa says:

    Follow peace with all men without which no man shall see God. The peace of God is very crucial and should be part of our daily living. May we all find peace that surpasses all human understanding.

    Reply

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