When we think of the name Allah (glory to His name above all), we may think of it as sacred, and look no further. But looking closer at the actual letters of His name, we discover that the Arabic name has properties and meaningful relationships beyond being a name: when analyzed, it is a name deeply imbued with meaning. Allah (glory to Him in the highest) wants us to understand as much as we are able and thus filled all creation with His signs, signs of His majesty and power, as well as Presence in our lives.
For the Arabic name of Allah is no ordinary name, as intimated above, but has visual and sonic properties that both embody and give us its meaning: His presence in our hearts. Indeed, as the heartbeat itself is thikr Allah, let us see if the visual properties of his name in Arabic letters bear any symbolic relationship to this. The first letter is aleph, written as a numeral one ا , thus exemplifying the quintessential oneness of Allah. This letter does not connect to any other letters, reinforcing the truth of Allah’s having no equal or similars, entirely unique.
The next two letters are a connected pair of lam’s لل in the center of His name whose sound is identical to the letter “L”, and which connect also to the final letter “heh” ه , whose sound is like “h”, a breath, written as a circle ه (the Arabic letter for heh), representing the “breath” of life which Allah breathed into Adam, symbolically into the souls of all humanity, with the circle representing the fact that we all must return to Him. It looks like this الله
Consider the connecting letters together represent our connection to Allah in prayer (both salat and du’a), with the two lam’s لل appearing like upside-down staffs, or like ropes curved downward (Quran 3:103 “and hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided”) to form a “handle,” representing Rabbina (our Lord, the “relationship” name for Allah) reaching down and giving us a “rope” or staff to hold onto, notably in response to prayer. The lam’s form a pair, like the sound of our heartbeat in which one beat is for the “intake” of depleted blood (representing death and also our need of Allah’s presence), and the other beat is for the “outflow” of blood, representing resurrection of renewed life and the fulfillment of receiving Allah’s presence in our hearts/ place of the soul. This shows the basic “exchange” of prayer, our “connection” to Allah and the “center” of His name as Allah indeed gives life to the whole of creation, not only us. Being the Creative and Responsive is the central “dynamic” of Allah’s being and indeed is the “power” that sustains the universe (meaning all creation).
In the Bismallah (meaning “in the name of God”, the quintessential invocation) which precedes every Sura (chapter) of the Quran except one, and is significant in itself, the name Allah is followed by a pair of names, Al-Rahman, Al-Raheem, the Almighty, the All-Merciful. These two qualitative names uncannily match in this translation what in Chinese/Asian traditions is expressed as Yang—the Creative, and Yin—the Receptive. Even the sound of the names bears similarity between Arabic and Chinese, suggesting universality. Thus in His “relationship” to His creation, Allah is the “heart/ power source” of all that exists, dynamic, not static, yet in perfect balance between the complementary “poles” of might (yang) and mercy (yin), which are ideas that give us a sense of the unimaginable, all-encompassing Almighty, All-Merciful Allah. All other dynamic things are moved by imbalance within balance except Allah alone, in perfect dynamic balance and eternal, all-encompassing in power and receptivity/ mercy.
The pair of lam’s then also represents the names Al-Rahman, Al-Raheem, and their meaning as attributes He extends to us when we pray for help (from the Almighty in knowledge and capability) or forgiveness (from the All-Merciful in receptivity and compassion).
Above them is a diacritical mark called a shadda which indicates a “hold” on the letter it is placed over, to hold the sound a little longer when pronounced. This audibly creates the moment’s “hold” on the lam or “L” sound where the heartbeat marks the exchange itself between depleted blood and oxygenation, “resurrecting”/ renewing the blood to be circulated “alive” again. The shadda also looks like a second pair of tiny connected lam’s placed over the large pair; just as the upper receiving chambers of the heart, the atria, are much smaller than the lower two chambers, the ventricles, which do the power function of pumping, the right ventricle pumping incoming blood under low pressure into the lungs, which are delicate, and the re-oxygenated blood is then received by the second atrium, which is then pumped by the left ventricle using high pressure to the entire body. (Note here in this symbolic physiology, one finds the receptive [yin] chambers working symbiotically with the power [yang] chambers.) And what is the result of that heartbeat, that exchange? Breath and life! The final letter of Allah’s name, heh ه. This represents life in the Hereafter as well as in this temporal life; in fact, eternal life more emphatically because it is that life to which we will be “resurrected”, given new life, just as the depleted blood is renewed by “breath” — oxygen — and returned, thus bringing us to life again. For those who maintain and establish salat prayer, and return to Allah “with a salutary heart”, we return to His acceptance and paradise; those who did not maintain the prayer/salat connection to Allah, will return to Him rejected, and being cut off from Allah is itself hell, described as a fire and agony beyond our comprehension. How important then is salat and the connection to Allah! Four letters, like four chambers of the heart. In the very arrangement of the letters of His name is guidance for those who believe. And thikr Allah is greatest. To call upon Him, thus keeping Him in mind and ultimately, heart.