What is Hamd?
As Muslims, the phrase “alhamdulillah” اَلحَمْدُ لِله is an integral part of our deen; we are taught to say it from both the Qur’an and Sunnah and most of us have this phrase in our everyday vocabulary, not to mention we read it every day in Suratul Faatihah. ‘Alhamdulillah’ is an amazingly deep word, which would take pages upon pages to explain properly in English (which has been done by the scholars) but the explanation that follows is very brief so that we can convey the core of what this phrase really contains.
Linguistically, Hamd is from ha-meem-daal ( حمد or ح م د) and hamd to mention the good attribute of a person, such an attribute that is the at the level of perfection. Hamd is based on mahabbah (love) and ta’dheem (honor). Hamd is not a ‘fake’ praise, meaning it is not done to please the person or without significance, rather Hamd is always true. Hamd implies admiration, love and magnifying the praise of the mahmood (one who is praised). Hamd can only be done for a living being who has an intellect. Hamd is a sincere and true praise, a praise that the mahmood (one who is praised) deserves. The one doing hamd is doing submission to the one being praised out of humility. Hamd also includes sincere gratitude and mentioning the kamaal (best) traits of someone.
When we say ‘alhamdulillah’, it implies exclusivity and entirety, meaning that praise is entirely and only for Allah. How do we know this? The ‘al’ (ال) before ‘hamd’ is called “istighraaq” in Arabic, and when “al” comes before this phrase its means that the entire praise, all kinds of praise and at all times, is due to Allah. The “li” ( لِ in lillah, meaning, for Allah) implies limitation which is known as “ikhtisaas” in Arabic and it means that Allah is the only One who deserves the hamd.
Now with this concrete definition in mind, what does ‘Alhamdulillah’ really mean? A more suitable definition would be: The perfect, most beautiful praise is only for Allah. We say ‘alhamdulillah’ out of love, honor, with humility, complete submission and sincere gratitude to Allah azza wa jal. In the Qur’an we learn that ‘alhamdulillah’ will be the last call of the believers in Jannah, Allah tells us:
وَآخِرُ دَعْوَاهُمْ أَنِ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
“and the last of their call will be Alhamdulillah, Rabb of all that exists!” (Surah Yunus, verse 10)
‘Alhamdulillah’ appears 38 times in the Qur’an.
How will the dwellers of Jannah thank Allah for guiding them to Jannah? Imagine…you’re seeing the doors of Jannah, wide open for you, you enter it and see all its delight…in THAT emotional moment, what is it they say?
الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي هَدَانَا لِهَذَا وَمَا كُنَّا لِنَهْتَدِيَ لَوْلا أَنْ هَدَانَا اللَّهُ
Alhamdulillah, Who has guided us to this, never could we have found guidance, were it not that Allah had guided us! (7:43)
Sincere gratitude. Total humility. True love. They don’t even ascribe one thing to themselves. Now we can see the translation of: the most perfect praise is only for Allah. Truly THE Perfect Praise. So perfect that it completely captures this moment.
When a surah begins with hamd, it implies three interpretations:
- Firstly, to tell and to make it known that: alhamdulillah. As if to announce it.
- Secondly, it teaches us that when we open something, we begin with hamd. (like a khutbah)
- Thirdly, it teaches us how to praise Allah (by saying alhamdulillah) and we also learn that we must praise Him.
A Name of Allah that coincides with Hamd is Al-Hameed. Allah ta’ala is Al-Hameed, The Most Praiseworthy. How is Al-Hameed different from mahmood (one who is praised)? Mahmood is one who is praised only when they are praised by someone. Hameed is One who is ALWAYS deserving of praise, NO MATTER if He is praised or not. So Allah ta’ala is THE Most Praiseworthy, if we do hamd of Him or not.
Such a short phrase, such a deep meaning. For a more scholarly and concise analysis of hamd, check out br Nouman Ali Khan’s article here.