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Imam al-Haddad on the meaning of La hawla wala quwwata illa billah

Bismillah.

You should know that the most comprehensive and inclusive formula for expressing the repudiation of one’s own claim to power and ability is La hawla wala quwawata illa billah (there is neither power nor ability save by God).

The Proof of Islam (Imam al-Ghazali), may God be pleased with him, said:
“Power (hawl) is motion and ability (quwwa) is aptitude.”

No creature possesses either ability or power over anything save through God, Who is Able and Capable. It is incumbent upon believers to have faith in whatever God permits them to do or abstain from – as for instance, in conforming to an injunction, whether by acting or abstaining, or in seeking their provision by resorting to action in the form of crafts and professions, and so on – it is God the exalted Who creates and originates their intentions, abilities and movements, and that the acts they choose to perform will be attributed to them in the manner known as ‘acquisition’ (kasb) and ‘working’, and shall be, in consequence, liable to reward and punishment; but that they exercise volition only when God Himself does so, and can neither do nor abstain from anything unless He renders them able to. They possess not a single atom’s weight of the heaven or the earth, nor do they attain to any partnership in its governance, or become supports to Him.

It is on the ability and power to make choices, which God has granted to His servants, that commands and prohibitions are based. Things which are done intentionally and by choice are attributed to them, and they are rewarded and punished accordingly.

Hence the meaning of la hawla wala quwwata illa billah is the denial of one’s possession of autonomous power and ability, and the simultaneous confession of the existence of that (relative) power and ability to make choices that He has given His servants to be their own.

He who claims that man has no choice or ability, that the acts he selects are identical with the acts he is compelled to do, and that he is in all circumstances coerced is a deterministic (jabri) innovator whose false claim would deny that there was any purpose in sending Messengers and revealing Scriptures. By contrast, he who claims that man possesses the will and power to do whatever he does by choice is a Mu’tazili innovator. But he who believes that a responsible (mukallaf) man possess power and choice to allow him to comply with God’s commands and prohibitions, but is neither independent thereby nor the creator of his own acts, has found the Sunna, joined the majoritarian community, and become safe from reprehensible innovation. There is a lengthy explanation to this, which follows a rugged road where many have slipped and gone astray; and beyond it is the secret of Destiny, which has always perplexed intelligent minds and into which the Master of Messengers has commanded us not to delve. So let the intelligent be content with hints and let it suffice them to believe that everything was created by God, and nothing exists without His will and power. Then let them require their selves to conform to the commandments and prohibitions, and take their Lord’s side against their selves in every circumstance. A hadith says that is one of the treasures of the Garden.’ Understand the indication contained in terming it a ‘treasure’ and you will know that its meaning is among the mysteries; for reward is of the same species as the act. The Prophet s.a.w has also said ‘Two raka’ats in the depths of the night are one of the treasures of goodness.’ Their reward comprises a hidden treasure because the time of their occurence, namely the night implies this.

It is also reported that ‘La hawla wala quwwata illa billah is a remedy for 99 ailments, the least of which is sorrow.’ It is a remedy for sorrow because grief mostly occurs when one misses something one loves, or when a distressful thing occurs; and whenever either of these things occurs people perceive their helplessness and inability to achieve their desired aims; hence they feel sorrow. If at such times they repeat in their heart and with their tongues words which mean that they disavow the possession of any ability or power of their own, then this gives them certitude in their knowledge that they are helpless and weak except where God gives them power and ability, with the result that their sorrow is banished, and their knowledge of their Lord is increased. This can be clearly understood from the Prophet’s s.a.w saying: ‘When one believes in destiny, one’s sorrow departs.’ And in attributing ability and power to His Name, Allah, which is the axis of the Names and the most supreme of them, and in following it on most occasions with the two noble Names which indicate two of the attributes of the Holy Essence, namly those of Exaltation (Al-‘Ali) and Magnitude (Al-‘Azim), lies a sign that He totally transcends and is absolutely holier than the illusions of those who have strayed from the path, are blind to the evidence, and have delved without insight into the secret of destiny and the acts of God’s creatures. So take heed!

– Imam Abdullah Ibn ‘Alawi Al-Haddad
in ‘Gifts for the Seeker’
Translated from the Arabic by Mostafa Al-Badawi
Publisher credit: Fons Vitae

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  1. K.ibrahim
    March 14th, 2011 at 21:21 | #1

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    In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

    Imam Ahmad said: al-Waleed ibn Muslim related to us; that Safwaan ibn ’Amr related to us; that ‘Abdur-Rahmaan ibn Jubayr ibn Nufayr related; from his father, who said:

    “When Cyprus was conquered and its people were dispersed and they started weeping to each other, I saw Abud-Dardaa sitting alone and weeping. So I said to him: O Abud-Dardaa! What makes you weep on this day that Allaah has granted strength and honor to Islaam and its people? So he said: Woe be to you O Jubayr! How insignificant the creation becomes to Allaah when they turn away from His command. In front of us is a nation who were evidently powerful and who had dominion, yet they abandoned Allaah’s command, so look what has become of them.”
    [2] ‘Alee ibn al-Ja’d said: Shu’bah ibn ‘Amr ibn Murrah informed us; I heard Abul-Bukhtaree say:I was informed by someone, who heard the Prophet (sallalalhu alaihi wa-sallam) saying:

    “The people will not perish, until they have no excuse left for themselves.”

    [3] Imaam Ahmad reports in his Musnad, from the hadeeth of Umm Salamah, who said: I heard Allaah’s Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) saying:

    “When acts of disobedience become widespread in my ummah, then Allaah may send punishment upon them all from Himself” So I said: 0 Allaah’s Messenger! Even if there are righteous people amongst them that day? So he replied: “Indeed!” So I said: How will that be? He replied: “They will be afflicted with what afflicts the people, then they will move on to the forgiveness of Allaah and His good pleasure.” [4]                                                                              (We are living in a time where Disobedience to ALLAH is widespread in every Nation and among every People, this is the time to Seek protection in ALLAH’s Perfect words, from all that He has created, and to seek Protection in ALLAH’s Pleasure from His Anger, and to seek protection in ALLAH’s Pardon from His Punishment, and seek protectoin in the Nur(light)of ALLAH’s Gloryus Face that has illuminated All Darknesses.
    In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

    1. The Sure Reality! 2. What is the Sure Reality? 3. And what will make thee realise what the Sure Reality is?
    4. The Thamud and the ‘Ad People (branded) as false the Stunning Calamity!
    5. But the Thamud,- they were destroyed by a terrible Storm of thunder and lightning!
    6. And the ‘Ad, they were destroyed by a furious Wind, exceedingly violent;
    7. He made it rage against them seven nights and eight days in succession: so that thou couldst see the (whole) people lying prostrate in its (path), as they had been roots of hollow palm-trees tumbled down!
    8. Then seest thou any of them left surviving?                                                             

    In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
    (When there are nations in the World who are evidently powerful and dominion, but yat they turn away from the Commands of ALLAH! they become insignifcant in the Eyes of ALLAH,when there is Nations like the U.S. , Israel,Great British and France staning in Bold Defiant against the Commands of ALLAH, Becuse of Blind arrogance , Blind Ignorance ,disobedience,and injustice,these are the ingredients for their Destruction. there is no excuse for Arrogance, blind or other wise. when a people,and Nations, like these Disbelieving People who have study the working in creation,and they act as if they can do anything in this Life without restriction and they act and think that they are above the Punishment of ALLAH, And they are all reddy ignorance and have Become blind and Arrogance,and are persisten in Great Evil,inflicting injustice upon injustice,thoes people,these Nations are asking for the Punishment of ALLAH.  ALLAH has Promise and the Promise of ALLAH is the Truth, ALLAH has Promise and the Words of ALLAH is the Truth, ALLAH has Promise and ALLAH is The Truth. O ALLAH! you have promise that you would answers the Du’a (Prayers) of the Oppressed,(O ALLAH I Bag of you to Answer the Du’a (the prayers) of  the Oppressed through out the Earth,(through out the world).and O ALLAH! I bag of you to Bring about your Justice and Punishment in it entirety upon these Oppressive people whom have oppressed me for years,O ALLAH bring about your Punishment in the way that only you can.and also upon ever organization whom have sponsor and Paid these oppressors, O ALLAH Count  them all where ever they may be in this world.

  2. Anonymous
    November 27th, 2013 at 12:52 | #2

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