Ascribing power and Ability
We 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 wa-la quwwata illa bi’Llah (‘there is neither power nor ability save by God’).
Meaning of ( lâ hawla wa lâ quwwata illâ bi Allâh):
The magnificent phrase: ( lâ hawla wa lâ quwwata illâ bi Allâh) is mentioned numerous times in the hadith (sayings of Muhammad) as being highly regarded and highly recommended by the Prophet Muhammad. The phrase is a part of daily prayers for many Muslims, and is a common phrase in ceremony and dhikr.
It is uncommon to find the phrase (lâ hawla wa lâ quwwata illâ bi Allâh) translated simply as there is no power or strength except through Allâh. However that translation fails to capture the grandeur and deeper significance of this magnificent phrase.
Translating the word (hawla) simply as power is an over-simplification. The Arabic root h-w-l depicts all manner of change and transformation. The root h-w-l has led to a wide variety of words, but they all share this common thread of change and transformation. Certainly it is true that transformation and change require power, but power alone is not an adequate translation…. change and transformation are the keys to this magnificent phrase.
The phrase may be translated word-by-word as:
lâ = no, not, none, neither
hawla = change, alteration, transformation, movement, motion
wa = and
lâ = no, not, none, neither
quwwata = strength, power, potency, force, might, vigor
illâ = but, except, if not
bi = with, to, for, in, through, by means of
Allâh = Arabic name for the Supreme Being
Progress is only achieved through change and transformation… and spiritual progress requires the highest degree of change and transformation. We may wish to change, but we alone do not have the power to make such changes.
Such change and transformation can only occur through the tahwîl (transformation) of Allâh. That is to say, true change and transformation can arise only through the awesome and glorious powers of Allâh.
Here are some literal translations of the phrase lâ hawla wa lâ quwwata illâ billâh that incorporate the idea of change and transformation:
There is neither change nor power except by means of Allâh.
There is no transformation or strength except through Allâh.
There is neither progress nor might except through Allâh.
“‘Power” [hawl] is motion, and “ability” [quwwa] is aptitude”‘.
The virtue of saying “La hawla wala quwwata illa billaah
The virtue of saying “La hawla wala quwwata illa billaah (There is no might and power but that of Allaah).” For instance, the Prophet , said to Abu Moosa Al-Ash‘ari : “Should I guide you to a word which is one of the treasures of Paradise?” He replied in the affirmative. The Prophet , said, “La hawla wala quwwata illa billaah.” [Al-Bukhaari and Muslim]
(1) Narrated Yahya as above (586) and added: “Some of my companions told me that Hisham had said, “When the Mu’adhdhin said, “Haiya aLas-saLa(t) (come for the prayer).” Muawiya said, “La hawLa waLa quwata ilLabilLah (There is neither might nor any power except with AlLah)” and added, “We heard your Prophet saying the same.” (Book #11, Hadith #587)
(2) Narrated ‘Ubada bin As-Samit: The Prophet “Whoever gets up at night and says: — ‘La iLaha il-LalLah Wahdahu LaSharika Lahu Lahu-l-mulk, waLahu-l-hamd wahuwa ‘aLa kullishai’in Qadir. Alhamdu lil-Lahi wa subhanal-Lahi wa La-iLaha il-Lal-Lah wa-l-Lahu akbar wa La hawLa WaLa Quwata il-La-bil-Lah.’ (None has the right to be worshipped but AlLah. He is the Only One and has no partners . For Him is the Kingdom and all the praises are due for Him. He is Omnipotent. All the praises are for AlLah. All the glories are for AlLah. And none has the right to be worshipped but AlLah, And AlLah is Great And there is neither Might nor Power Except with AlLah). And then says: — AlLahumma, Ighfir li(O AlLah! Forgive me). Or invokes (AlLah), he will be responded to and if he performs ablution (and prays), his prayer will be accepted.” (Book #21, Hadith #253)
(3) Narrated Abu Musa: We were with the Prophet on a journey, and whenever we ascended a high pLace, we used to say, “AlLahu Akbar.” The Prophet said, “Don’t trouble yourselves too much! You are not calling a deaf or an absent person, but you are calling One Who Hears, Sees, and is very near.” Then he came to me while I was saying in my heart, “La hawLa waLa quwwatta ilLa bilLah (There is neither might nor power but with AlLah).” He said, to me, “O ‘AbdulLah bin Qais! Say, ‘La hawLa waLaquwwata ilLa bilLah (There is neither might nor power but with AlLah), for it is one of the treasures of Paradise.” Or said, “Shall I tell you of it?” (Book #93, Hadith #484)
(4) Narrated Ibn Abbas: When the Prophet got up at night to offer the Tahajjud prayer, he used to say: Allahumma lakal-hamd. Anta qaiyimus-samawati wal-ard wa man fihinna. Walakal-hamd, Laka mulkus-samawati wal-ard wa man fihinna. Walakal-hamd, anta nurus-samawati wal-ard. Walakalhamd, anta-l-haq wa wa’duka-l-haq, wa liqa’uka Haq, wa qualuka Haq, wal-jannatu Han wan-naru Haq wannabiyuna Haq. Wa Muhammadun, sallal-lahu’alaihi wasallam, Haq, was-sa’atu Haq. Allahumma aslamtu Laka wabika amantu, wa ‘Alaika tawakkaltu, wa ilaika anabtu wa bika khasamtu, wa ilaika hakamtu faghfir li ma qaddamtu wama akh-khartu wama as-rartu wama’a lantu, anta-l-muqaddim wa anta-l-mu akh-khir, la ilaha illa anta (or la ilaha ghairuka). (O Allah! All the praises are for you, You are the Holder of the Heavens and the Earth, And whatever is in them. All the praises are for You; You have the possession of the Heavens and the Earth And whatever is in them. All the praises are for You; You are the Light of the Heavens and the Earth And all the praises are for You; You are the King of the Heavens and the Earth; And all the praises are for You; You are the Truth and Your Promise is the truth, And to meet You is true, Your Word is the truth And Paradise is true And Hell is true And all the Prophets (Peace be upon them) are true; And Muhammad is true, And the Day of Resurrection is true. O Allah ! I surrender (my will) to You; I believe in You and depend on You. And repent to You, And with Your help I argue (with my opponents, the non-believers) And I take You as a judge (to judge between us). Please forgive me my previous And future sins; And whatever I concealed or revealed And You are the One who make (some people) forward And (some) backward. There is none to be worshipped but you . Sufyan said that ‘Abdul Karim Abu Umaiya added to the above, ‘Wala haula Wala quwata illa billah‘ (There is neither might nor power except with Allah). (Book #21, Hadith #221)
Imam Malik ( Al Mwatta:
Yahya related to me from Malik that Umara ibn Sayyad had heard Said ibn al Musayyab say about abiding good deeds that they were a slave’s saying ‘Allah is greater’ (Allahu akbar) and ‘Glory be to Allah’ (Subahana’llah) and ‘Praise be to Allah’ (al-hamdu lillah) and ‘There is no god but Allah and there is no power and no strength except by Allah.’ la ilaha illa‘llah wa lahawla wa la quwwata illa bi’llah. (Book #15, Hadith#15.7.23)
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 that 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 or punished accordingly.
Hence the meaning of la Qawla wa-la quwwata ilIa bi’Llah 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 possesses power and choice to allow him to comply with God’s commands and prohibitions, but is neither in dependant 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, La hawla wa-la quwwata illa bi’Llah 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 has also said, may blessings and peace be upon him:
Two rakas in the depths of the night are one of the treasures of goodness.’
Their reward comprises a hidden treasure because the time of their occurrence, namely the night, implies this.
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, namely, those of Exaltation and Magnitude, 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!
Also, we did not find the narration which combines between saying “La hawla wala quwwata illa billaah” and invoking blessing upon the Prophet , one hundred times before and after it.
May Allaah Facilitate your affairs and Alleviate your worries – Indeed, He is Hearing and Responsive. Allaah Knows best.