What's in the name
Subhan is one of the most oft recited name of Allah in the muslim community, repeated several times in each of the daily prayers, oftly repeated in the Quran and recited hundreds of times on rosaries by many muslims everyday. Infact rosaries are called 'tasbeehs' by muslims, which means to mention the word 'Sabbaha', which is the root-word comprising of the letters 'Seen, ba, ha'.
Traditionally, the word Subhan is translated as 'the Pure one’, which is a correct meaning, but this, emphasized, name of the immensely resourceful, intricate knower of all knowledge, ruler and king of all, surely holds much more to its meanings.
For so many years i have been rehearsing the some meaning (the pure one) with complete reverence from my part, when, one day reading through the Quran i came across the passage where the angels were arguing with Allah upon the deputation of Adam on earth ,when they said;
"Will You make in it, one who will make corruption in it and shed blood, and we purify (sabbaha) with Thy praise and sanctify (nuqaddisu) for Thee; said (Allah) surely I know what you know not". (20:30)
For a moment i was stunned! how is it that we always use the word 'sabbaha' to describe Allah's purity and here the angels instead of calling the praise of Allah by saying 'oh Allah! You are pure’, are asserting that we (the angels) are purifying ourselves and sanctifying ourselves. That doesn’t make sense because these words are considered by us as words of praise and celebration and it is worthy of none to praise himself in front of the King of all kingdom.......curiosity led me to the lexicon.
In the dictionary we find the following set of meanings for the word 'sabbaha' (sa, ba, ha)
1.swim, course along the water
2.glide, pass, spread, the sundisk glides(sabbaha) along its path
5.occupation in task, going to and fro
6.dig(in the earth)
It is notable that the common factor in all these meanings is 'going from one medium to another' or from one reality to another, like the swimmer is constantly oscillating from the medium of air to the medium of water and back.......and like, when the sun disk enters the horizon of our earth, it is entering a new reality, a new world.
Going far (travel), dig (in the earth) also refer to, escaping fully from one set of reality to a completely different set of realization. The same goes for being occupied diligently in a task, in which a person completely cuts of from his environment and goes into a specific concentration of thoughts.
How these meanings would fit into what the angels were saying, were they not saying that, 'we go far and travel from one reality to another to purify ourselves, like passing through a sieve'. Because the reality (realization) of an atom is different from the reality (realization) of an ant, the angel appointed on the control of the atom would have to dig into its world, its body, its thought, its destiny.
So then, the angels are saying that they are constantly changing states, going through awe, wonder and toil, which purify their own thought and feelings towards their praise for their Lord. But..... what is Allah's answer to the angels in the very next iyahs. It seems that though acknowledging the ability of the angels to move in and out of different realities, Allah is putting an even bigger challenge in front of the angels; 'Do you know the names of all things?'. As if, Allah has given knowledge and power to the angels only in specific realms but not given them comprehensive knowledge, to put all the things together and to see the whole picture.
"and taught Adam the names, all of them, then affronted them to the angels and said, ‘inform Me with the names of these, if you are truthful".(2:31)
"said (the angels), 'You are pure (Subhan), we have no knowledge except what You have knowledged us, surely You are the Knower the Wise".(2:32)
"said (Allah), 'oh Adam! inform them of the names', and then he informed them of the names". (2:33)
"said (Allah), 'hadn’t I said to you that I verily am the knower of the unseen (ghaib) of the skies and the land and know what you show (tubdoon) and what you hide (taktamoon)". (2:34)
But again.......why would and how could the angels hide anything from Allah, there is something amiss here, what do these words actually mean; the base word of 'tubdoon' is badaa (ba,da, aa), meaning ; to begin, create afresh, going from one land to another, repeat from the start, experience. The base word of 'taktamoon' is katama (ka,ta,ma) meaning to conceal, keep back, hold. So, Allah must be saying 'I know what you create (by His command) and what you hold back', i.e. He knows what realms of realities they experience and how far their reach is.
These meanings fit in amazingly into the blessed name of Allah, 'the Subhan'. The One who creates and holds back all things (assigning subordinatory powers to angels). He can come in and out of all realities, realizing their states at all levels. Taking 'man', as just a single example, He knows and realizes us at the level of the cells, the nerves, the oxygen and the carbon. He is in the heart, the brain, the soul, the conscience, the subconscious.
But He is not just in me; He is in the billions upon billions living on the planet, in all the stars in the skies, in every photon, in every microwave traveling in space. He is, in and out of everything, so swiftly that He can manage all the numbers and all the variations, yet He is, all the time, totally composed in His personality; on His throne, no one ever seeing Him not on the throne. Just close your eyes and imagine someone so swift to be everywhere all the time, to be so knowledgeable to be able to break in the physical code of all things. Not only creator and sustainer but abolute realizer of all things.
That is where the meaning 'pure' comes from, if you can be in everything all the time, you overpower all situations, you are independent of them. The more you know the more you are sieved, and if 'by your knowledge', you are always 'in', but otherwise you are always out, then you are 'pure'. Because out of everything you have created, you will be ready to associate the 'good' of it to yourself but the 'bad' of it, you would rather discard and dump.
Consider one of the most revered recitation held by the ummah, proposed by the prophet(PBUH) himself: "Subhan Allah wa bi hamdihi subhan Allah hil azeem"
Meaning, He is the absolute realizer of everything, His being in and out of everything, in the way of knowledge and realization, purifies even His hymn because when He is felt by the beholder, in and out of itself, in mysteriously divine ways, the beholders realize His presence in some conscious our subconscious way and the constant recharging keeps the hymn pure.
Now, consider yet another mind blowing iyah;
"Everything in the skies and the land purifies itself for Allah...." (57:1)
What!!....does everything in the skies and the land come and go from one reality to another and back. Isn't this exactly what the modern quantum physics is purporting; that the photons and the electrons have shown a very strange property of being visible and invisible many times in the smallest amounts of time, i.e. they exist and cease to exist and come to existence again.
"The atoms and the elementary particles themselves are not real; they form a world of potentialities and possibilities rather than one of things and facts". (W.Heisenberg)
Are they not then, oscillating from one reality to another and purifying themselves to show gratitude to their Lord and to hymn His praise.
Thus are the overwhelming meanings of this single name of the Grand Majesty of this universe and many other universes and of His inconceivably spectacular throne.