Allah knows best
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Allah knows best, in Arabic الله اعلم (Allahu A'alam), is an Islamic phrase that finds frequent use among Muslim apologists. It is often used as a reply to questions about Islam that are difficult to answer and questions that cast a doubt on the truthfulness or authenticity of Islam.
The phrase in Arabic
Allahu A'alam is grammatically similar to Allahu Akbar. In the word A'alam the root is not كبر k-b-r (big), but علم 'a-l-m (knowing). In both phrases, "A" (alif) is added to the beginning of the word and also a short "a" (fatha) after the second root letter. So from 'a-l-m become A'alam, just like from k-b-r became Akbar.
'a stands for the Arabic letter ع (ain), which cannot be properly transliterated using the English alphabet.
In the Qur'an
The Qur'an uses Allahu A'alam a lot. It is often used as "wa-Allahu A'alam" meaning "and Allah knows best" (conjunctions are prefixed to words in Arabic).
Allah knows things
He knows difference between the two genders:
He knows of the hypocrites who refuse to engage in jihad:
He knows that some Muslims secretly disbelieve and commit sins :
He knows who are the bad people:
Interestingly, this phrase does not find use when it comes to scientific realities that would have been unknown to 7th century Arabs, a domain in which one would think God could have provided insight.
Allah knows better than people
He knows that Abraham, Ishmael and Jacob were neither Jews nor Christians (though scholars Judaism consider them to have been Jews):
You might think that some people (Jews and Christians, in this case) are your friends, but they are your enemies:
Have you not considered those to whom a portion of the Book has been given? They buy error and desire that you should go astray from the way.And Allah best knows your enemies; and Allah suffices as a Guardian, and Allah suffices as a Helper.
Allah knows what is good for humans better than they can themselves know what is good for themselves:
People say "Allah knows best"
Jesus says he doesn't know what Allah knows:
Joseph believes that Allah knows that what some people said is false:
"Allah knows best" excuses
In some verses, "Allah knows best" seems to be an excuse used by Muhammad against the critics of his religion.
People wanted to get some message directly from Allah, not via Muhammad, to be sure that Muhammad is not making it all up. But Muhammad reveals, that "Allah knows best" and then threatens the people with punishment.
Jews knew some religious stories. They asked Muhammad to ask Allah to reveal to him those stories, so that they can compare them and if his stories are the same as theirs, then Muhammad is the messenger of god. One part of those stories was information about how long did dwellers of Ephesus in a cave dwell. Muhammad revealed 309, which was incorrect. So then he revealed that "Allah knows best":
Muhammad revealed a command for Muslims to use the phrase to respond to critics of Islam:
However that verse was abrogated, according to the scholars, as stated in Tafsir al-Jalalayn. Now Muslims shouldn't respond with "Allah knows best", rather they should respond by engaging in war:
In the hadith
Polytheists' dead children may go to hell:
Muslims should say "Allah knows best" whenever they don't know something:
In the tafsir
In the early tafsirs on the verse 68:1, we can read about the whale, called ن (Nun), which carries the Earth on its back . However in the tafsir Al-Jalalayn, from the 15th century, the interpretation changed (for some reason) to "Allah knows best":
Comfort in Ignorance
Saying "Allah knows best" instead of "I don't know" or "I am not sure" makes people more comfortable in their ignorance.
One of the most notable atheists in the 21th century said:
"Allah knows best" is sometimes used as a response to questions from the critics of Islam.
The phrase is also used as an "explanation" of some things in Islam which don't make sense or if they are in conflict with science. One example was already discussed, regarding the tafsir Al-Jalalayn on the verse 68:1.
- Al-Jalalayn commentary on the verse 84:23 "and God knows best what they are amassing accumulating in their scrolls in the way of disbelief denial and evil deeds."
- Tanwir Al-Miqbas: "And from his narration on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas that he said regarding the interpretation of Allah's saying (Nun): '(Nun) He says: Allah swears by the Nun, which is the whale that carries the earths on its back while in Water, and beneath which is the Bull and under the Bull is the Rock and..."