The deeper one’s internalization of Allah’s name al-Laṭīf becomes, the greater its impact on one’s interaction with Allah and with His creation. The following are but a few qualities that will necessarily manifest in a believer once this blessed divine name has crystallized in his or her heart.
1) Receptiveness to Divine Messages
Due to the certainty that the knowledge and gentleness of al-Laṭīf
permeate every atom, and accompany every moment, believers live with a heightened sensitivity to Allah and His messages. They see that scientists are correct in that the scenes of nature uplift our spirits, but see through that as well; it was Allah who beautified the universe with stars and breezes and sunsets—a subtlety and kindness we often take for granted.
They see that rain does indeed follow the patterns of the water cycle, but see through that as well; it was Allah Who first started it, and Who redirects the clouds each time, and Who recreates every raindrop for His servants whose well-being He cherishes. Anas b. Mālik (Allah be pleased with him) narrates that during a rainfall, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ uncovered some of his body for the rain to reach it, and said, “It has just recently come from its Lord.”
They see that it was a strong urge to drink at an unusual hour that awakened them from sleep, but they also see through that; it was Allah who wished for them to rise and stand before Him, so they spend moments of intimate conversation on the prayer mat, before returning to bed feeling privileged that He chose to wake them.
This perceptiveness of the believer does not just allow for understanding al-Laṭīf in some austere conceptual way, but delivers us beyond that to instinctually loving Him. After all, human beings irresistibly love those who treat them kindly, so it’s only natural to love al-Laṭīf most upon realizing that nobody has actually ever been kind to us but Him. Everyone else, in reality, was but a conduit of His affection and grace. The believer never conflates the source with the medium, and hence Allah says, “And among humanity are those who take others as equals to Allah, loving them as they should love Allah. But those who believe have more intense love for Allah [than anything]” (Qur’an 2:165).
2) Unbreakable Optimism
The servants of al-Laṭīf find that as their knowledge of Him increases, the vault on their negative thoughts is gradually welded shut. This knowledge then unleashes many dormant memories, opening their eyes to the shade of luṭf that has and will continue to canopy their life story. They realize it was Him who sent them into that room moments before the child was hurt, so it will be Him who protects this child when they cannot. They realize it was Him who alerted them to the outlet sparking before the smoke got thick, so it will be Him who exposes the smokescreens that could divert them from His path. They realize that in all these instances in their past, a few seconds later would have been too late, so they welcome their future certain that al-Laṭīf will never be late—no matter what tomorrow may bring.
With the meaning of al-Laṭīf
carved into their souls, His servants carry hopes that others consider naive, but they understand that no dreams are impossible for Him to retrieve. As Luqmān the Wise said, “O my dear son, if something were [even] the weight of a mustard seed and within a rock or [anywhere] in the heavens or in the earth, Allah will bring it forth. Indeed, Allah is Laṭīf
(subtle) and Khabīr
(Acquainted)” (Qur’an 31:16). Picture a speck of dust in the next room, the next house, the next street, the next neighborhood, the next city, the next country, the next continent, the next planet, the next galaxy—and be certain if Allah wishes, He will extract it at once. Thus is the confidence of the servants of al-Laṭīf
; it is not grounded in material means, or morning words of self-affirmation, but in the fact that He Who can capture a tiny seed from the lost corners of a massive universe can direct every treasure their way, even if the factors on hand do not appear to allow for it, if they but knock on His door.
When Umm Salamah’s (Allah be pleased with her) husband passed away, she felt happiness was irretrievable after her loss. The Prophet ﷺ counseled her by saying, “Nobody is struck by a calamity, then says as Allah instructed him—‘We belong to Allah, and we are certainly returning to Him. O Allah, reward me for my calamity, and grant me better than that [which I lost]’—except that Allah will surely do so.” She admits that although she said these words, she could not overcome a question that lingered inside her: “Who could possibly be better than Abū Salamah?” But the days would soon unfold and reveal to Umm Salamah that al-Laṭīf
had secured for her the finest husband the sun has ever risen upon: the Prophet ﷺ himself.
3) A Gentle Demeanor
In contrast to human relationships, which are often high maintenance, unfulfilling, and erosive of a person’s softheartedness, a believer’s acquaintance with Allah moistens their spirit and affords them a magnanimous demeanor with His creation. For instance, a believer feels obliged to be a source of gentleness for others, not in light of their treatment of them, but in proportion to their recognition of al-Laṭīf’s
gentleness towards them. It was the Prophet ﷺ who called our attention to this correlation, saying, “Allah is Gentle and loves [seeing] gentleness.”
Nobody was ever more observant of Allah’s kind treatment than the Prophet ﷺ, and hence his kindness with Allah’s creation was unparalleled. Never once did he avenge himself, nor chastise the ignorant for their blunders, nor had two choices without choosing the option less burdensome on others. He ﷺ would hear an infant crying during the prayer and shorten it,
empathizing with its mother’s distress, and on another occasion question his army for startling a bird by seizing its hatchlings.
He ﷺ positioned being gentle as an overarching virtue that belongs everywhere, saying, “Gentleness is not found in anything except that it beautifies it, and is not plucked from anything except that it defiles it.”
Believers being laṭīf
in their charity is a fundamental concept in Quranic ethics, as Allah says, “O you who have believed, do not invalidate your charities with reminders or injury” (Qur’an 2:264). This means that being modest about one’s charity is required even after distributing it (no reminder), to not shame the recipient, as is not leveraging that charity to offend or exploit the recipient (no injury). The earliest Muslims exhibited incredible luṭf
in their philanthropy, being as discreet as they could, even concealing it from their families when possible. Only upon the death of Zayn al-ʿĀbidīn (Allah be pleased with him), the great-grandson of the Prophet ﷺ, did many homes in Madinah realize that it was him who secretly delivered sacks of flour to their doors by night. And when his family disrobed him for the pre-burial washing, they discovered dark calluses on his back from the heavy loads.
Others would overpay particular sellers in the marketplace so that for the onlooker it would appear purely transactional, while in reality it was creatively hidden financial assistance. In our times, a brother mentioned that his thoughtful mother would ask her poor neighbor for salt, while she had plenty, simply to keep the latter feeling comfortable to ask the former for her frequent needs. Such ‘givers’ are in reality the greatest recipients, because their luṭf
places them at the receiving end of Allah’s love, as the Prophet ﷺ said, “Allah certainly loves the servant who is taqī
(independent), and khafī
When seeking to better people’s profile before Allah, having a gentle demeanor is necessary to help maneuver around their defensiveness, and avoid falling into behavior that would be counterproductive towards our objective. Allah says, “So by mercy from Allah, you [O Muhammad] were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from around you” (Qur’an 3:159). Similarly, the Prophet ﷺ taught us that “Allah is Gentle, loves gentleness, and grants in light of gentleness what He does not in light of roughness, or anything else.”
This may entail amplifying good more than one combats evil, not being forceful with criticism, or aggressive in tone, or impatient with people’s pace to guidance, or otherwise. But in general, exhibiting luṭf
in the form of due consideration, and surgical care to not kill the patient, is the common denominator here. Thus is the believer, as the Prophet ﷺ said, “The example of the believer is that of the honey bee; it only consumes that which is good and pure, only produces that which is good and pure, and lands without breaking or ruining [anything].”
May we be people who land gently on the subjects of God, extract the best in them, instill the best in them, and never break a single one of them by failing to be laṭīf
in how we approach them.
4) Undeterred by Fears
Nothing can be as empowering as knowing that your guardian is al-Laṭīf, who knows your every fear, and how to render it as harmless as a summer breeze. It suffices to rely on Him for impeding these fears from reaching us, or commanding “their flames” which engulfed us to be cool and safe, just as they were on Ibrahīm (peace be upon him).
While some criminals are so crafty that hardly anyone can discover their schemes, the servant of al-Laṭīf
sleeps well knowing that his Lord already has. While some tyrants are so powerful that it’s difficult to imagine something stealthy enough to breach their defenses, the servants of al-Laṭīf
contain their fears and do not cower before them. They remember that Allah said, “And if you are patient and fear Allah, their plot will not harm you at all. Indeed, Allah is encompassing of what they do” (Qur’an 3:120). They remember that when Allah wanted to remove the Prophet ﷺ and his supporters from the ravines of Abū Ṭālib, where they had been driven by persecutors and boycotted for three agonizing years, He did not smite the Qurashites with a punishment from the sky. Instead, al-Laṭīf
simply sent termites to gnaw away at the pact that was in their possession;
a nearly invisible insect disintegrating every oppressive clause in that agreement.
During the infamous Mutazilite inquisition under the Abbasids, Imam Ahmad b. Hanbal (d. 855 CE, Allah grant him mercy) was sent to the dungeons for refusing to accept their claim that the eternal Quran is God’s created
word. His brittle age of seventy years old was irrelevant to those who lashed him mercilessly. One of the floggers said, “An elephant would have crumbled from the intensity of the blows I dealt to Ibn Hanbal. With each strike, I would say the whip would emerge from his mouth this time, due to how severely the flesh on his back was falling apart.” Ibn Hanbal’s situation was absolutely deadlocked; it was a matter of time before he caved to their demands or through martyrdom escaped their hands. But al-Laṭīf
injected His relief into the ordeal with two splendid, subtle gifts. Beyond the prison walls, the Mutazilite judges overlooked a man named ʿAbd Allāh al-Adhrumī (unbeknownst to them, a fearless erudite scholar) and debated him in front of the caliph, not realizing that this would herald the beginning of their end. Within the dungeon, the prison guards overlooked a man named Abū al-Haytham (a thief) who would replenish the Imam’s heroic spirit whenever it was flagging. Thereafter, Imam Ahmad’s son asked his father why he would constantly pray for the forgiveness of this thief. He said, “He bolstered me. He would say, ‘O Imam, the state records document that I endured being flogged eighteen thousand times—separately—while being upon falsehood, so stand firm upon the truth. O Imam, persevere, for if you live—you will live glorified and if you die, you will die martyred.”
Neither al-Adhrumī nor Abū al-Haytham were expected factors in this grand ordeal, but al-Laṭīf
employed them as the special forces necessary to ‘infiltrate sensitive areas’ and help Imam Ahmad complete his valiant mission.