The word lauh means plank, as in Koran (54:13), and also a tablet for writing, and mahfuz means that which is guarded. The expression lauh mahfuz (guarded tablet) occurs but once in the Koran: “Nay, it is a glorious Koran in a guarded tablet” (85:21-22). The word lauh in its plural form alwah is used in connection with the books of Moses: “And We ordained for him in the tablets (alwah) admonition of every kind and clear explanation of all things” (7:145). The alwah of Moses and the lauh of the Koran are the same; only in the case of the Koran the lauh is stated to be mahfuz or guarded, for which the explanation is given “that the Koran is protected against change and alteration.”
So far as the Koran is concerned, there is no mention in it of a lauh mahfuz in which the decrees of God are written. Raghib says that “the nature of it has not been disclosed to us.” One thing is clear that God’s writing is not of the same nature as man’s writing; for man stands in need of pen, ink and paper, while God does not. This point has been explained in connection with the Divine attributes, where it has been shown that though speaking, seeing, hearing and other deeds are ascribed to God, yet the nature of these deeds is quite different from that of man’s deeds, for God does not stand in need of means for the doing of an act, while man does. The writing of God therefore does not stand in need of a tablet or ink or pen, and if lauh mahfuz is spoken of in certain hadith, it stands only for the great and all-comprehensive knowledge of God, before which everything is as clear as a writing before man.