Monday, June 6, 2011

lâ hawla wa lâ quwwata illâ bi Allâh

The magnificent phrase hawla wa lâ quwwata illâ bi Allâh is mentioned numerous times in the hadith (sayings of Muhammad, (saaws) ) as being highly regarded and highly recommended by the Prophet Muhammad,(saaws).

The phrase is a part of daily prayers for many Muslims, and is a common phrase in ceremony and dhikr.

It is not uncommon to find the phrase 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 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.

 All mistakes are my own and all praises are for Allah swt.

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