Allah (SwT) has said,
“... the One Who knows the unseen! So He does not reveal His secrets to any...” (Qur’an, 72:26).
Linguistically speaking, al-Zahir is derived from zuhoor, manifestation, appearance, sighting, etc. It means something hidden coming to appearance. It also conveys the meaning of”victor”. This meaning occurs in this verse:
“... and they became the uppermost” (Qur’an, 61:14),
that is, in a higher status and rank. Zahr also means back, the opposite of batn, stomach or belly; so, what is Zahir is the opposite of what is Batin. It also means: animals used to transport people and luggage on their backs, their zahrs, backs, that is, beasts of burden, whether it is used as a figure of speech or literally. Something zaheer is very strong.
According to hadith,”There is no verse in the Holy Qur’an except that it has an apparent meaning and a hidden one.” What is apparent may be the wording, and what is hidden may is the meaning, or it may mean recitation or reading versus comprehension and learning.
The meaning of the Attribute of the Almighty al-Zahir permits more than one interpretation:
1) He subdues His creation.
2) He knows everything apparent, just as the Attribute al-Batin means He knows everything hidden.
3) He is al-Zahir due to the abundance of dazzling proofs and the enlightening evidence testifying to His Glory.
Suppose someone says that if He is al-Zahir, the Apparent or the Evident One, the One about Whom there can be no doubt entertained, well, most people seem to doubt His existence nevertheless; so, how can He still be Apparent or Evident?
Allah (SwT) is al-Batin, the Obscure, if sought through the senses and the imagination. He is al-Zahir, the Apparent One, if sought by the treasure of reason by way of deduction. His being obscure to many minds, despite His being so Apparent, is due to the intensity of such evidence. His being Evident is the reason why He is Obscure, and His light is the same that obscures His glow: whatever exceeds its limit turns into its own antithesis.
He is Obscure if one seeks to know Him by applying his own physical senses. The senses are related to what is apparent, such as one’s complexion, physique, etc..In fact, a person is a human being not only on account of his complexion, for even if such complexion or the rest of his parts are altered, he still remains one and the same person.
Actually, a person’s parts at the time when he ages are not the same when he was young. They would have suffered a great deal of change due to the passage of time and were replaced by ones similar to them through food intake. His identity, nevertheless, has not changed. Such an identity is obscure from the senses, quite clear to the mind by way of deduction.