The tawheed of Allah in His names requires the belief in each and every name He ascribed to Himself; and belief in the qualities and consequences incorporated in them. Take for example Ar-Rahmaan 'the Merciful' which was mentioned in the Qur’aan on more than one occasion. We must believe in it as one of the names of Allah, believe in the fact that mercy is one of the attributes of Allah, and also believe that Allah has mercy upon whomever He wishes. The same applies to all the other names of Allah mentioned in the Qur'aan or in the Sunnah of His Prophet (peace be upon him).
The names of Allah are those proper nouns employed in reference to Him in the Qur’aan and the Sunnah. Every one of those names refers to one or more attributes of Allah. Each name is derived from its verbal noun, such as the All-Knowing (Al-‘Aleem), the Able (Al-Qaadir), the All-Hearing (As-Samee’), the All-Seeing (Al-Baseer), and so on. The name Al-‘Aleem (the All-Knowing), for example, is derived from the attribute of 'knowledge', and the same is true of the Merciful (Ar-Rahmaan), etc.
The name that incorporates the meanings of all the other nouns and attributes is the name 'Allah'. Some scholars, such as Ibnul-Qayyim, Sibawayh and At-Tabari, contended that it is derived from the word 'Al-Ilaah', meaning the God. Others maintained that it is not derived from any other word. There is no contradiction between those names being adjectives or nouns. The name 'Merciful' (Ar-Rahmaan), for instance, is both a proper noun and an adjective. All of Allah's names are adjectives of praise as well as being references to their proper meanings. Those names were described as beautiful (husnaa in Arabic) because they describe the Most Excellent and Exalted Creator.
The Number Of Allah's Names
Al-Bukhaaree and Muslim reported on the authority of Abu Hurayrah (radiallahu anhu) that the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said:
Allah has ninety nine names, one hundred minus one; and he who counts them all will enter Al-Jannah (the Garden Of Heaven), and Allah is "witr" (One) and loves the witr (i.e. odd numbers).
[Al-Bukhaari, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasaai, Ibn Majah]
Counting Allah's ninety nine names means: knowing them, learning them by heart, understanding them, believing in them, good observance towards them, presentation of their boundaries in our dealings with Allah, and supplicating Allah through them. Thus, the hadeeth means that whoever committed those names to memory, contemplated their implications, respected their meanings, conducted himself in accordance with them, sanctified their Owner, such a person will surely be rewarded with the Gardens of Paradise.
There is a consensus among the scholars that Allah's names are not confined to the number mentioned by the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam). His (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) statement simply tells us that a Muslim who properly believes in and applies those ninety nine names will surely enter Al-Jannah. It does not negate the existence of other names for the Almighty. The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) told us about entering Al-Jannah, not about the total number of Allah's names.
The proof that there are other names which the Creator did not reveal to us, is the following hadeeth of the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam):
If any Muslim afflicted with distress or grief makes this supplication, his supplication will be accepted: 'Oh Allah, I am Your slave, son of Your slave, son of Your maidservant. My forehead is in Your hand. Your command concerning me prevails, and Your decision concerning me is just. I call upon You by every one of the beautiful names by which You have described Yourself, or which You have revealed in Your Book, or have taught any one of Your creatures, or which You have chosen to keep in the knowledge of the unseen with You, to make the Qur'aan the delight of my heart, the light of my breast, and remove of any grief, sorrows, and afflictions', Allah will remove ones affliction and replace it with joy and happiness." The Companions, then, said; "Do we have to learn these words?" The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) replied: "Yes, any one who heard them should learn them.
[Ahmed, Abu Awaana, Abu Yala, Al-Bazzar]
We reiterate the rule that the only names and attributes to be ascribed to Allah are those mentioned in the Quraan or in the authentic Sunnah; they are directly communicated to us and are not the products of opinion and interpretation. Allah is to be described only by the attributes with which He had described Himself or with which His Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) had described Him. And He is to be named only by the names with which He had named Himself or with which His Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) had named Him.
Understanding Allah's Names
There are three types of indications or senses of Allah's beautiful names:
- They essentially point to the one being described or named
- They point to attributes that are derived from them directly
- They point to necessary attributes that are not directly from the name
Let us take, for example, the names of Allah Ar-Rahmaan and Ar-Raheem.
- They point to the one being described, namely Allah
- They indicate an attribute or characteristic that can be directly derived from them. Namely rahmah (mercy)
- They point to characteristics that are not directly derived from them but are necessary for them to be actual. That is, to be Ar-Rahmaan (The Possessor of Mercy) or Ar-Raheem (the Bestower of Mercy Upon His creation), Allah must then necessarily have the quality of life (al-hayaat), and power or ability (al-qudrah).
Such is the case with all the names of Allah. This as opposed to created beings who although called wise (hakeem) may in actuality be ignorant (jaahil), or just (hakam) while really being oppressive (thaalim), or strong and respected (azeez) while in reality weak and despicable (thaleel), noble (shareef) although truly lowly (wadee'), generous (kareem) while in fact miserly (laeem), righteous (saalih) while actually wicked (taalih), joyful (saeed) when miserable (shaqiyy).
There are four classes of derivations of Names:
- The proper name that includes all of the meanings of each name and attribute or characteristic. Namely, the name Allah. This is why other names or attributes are always used to describe Allah and never the other way around.
- Those which include a characteristic of Allah's self such as the name As-Samee (The Hearer) which indicates His personal quality of possessing perfect and all-encompassing hearing of everything whether out loud and open or quiet and hidden. Also His name Al-Baseer (The Seer) which is inclusive of His sight penetrating that of all that which can be seen no matter how infinitesimal or great. Likewise His name Al-Aleem (The Knower) which indicates all-encompassing knowledge, Al-Qadeer (The Able) indicating omnipotence and power over everything in excellence and implementation or anything else
- Those which characterize Allah's actions such as Al-Khaaliq (The Creator), Ar-Raaziq (The Sustainer), Al-Baari (The Initiator), Al-Musawwir (The Fashioner) and the like
- Those which indicate nullification, negation or impossibility of any imperfection or fault such as Al-Quddoos (The Holy), As-Salaam (The Perfect and Source of Peace)
Names That Indicate A General Characteristic Of Allah
Names that can generally apply to Allah singly or along with others that indicate absolute perfection or perpetuity like Al-Hayy (The Ever-Living) / Al-Qayyoom (The Self-Subsisting), Al-Ahad (The Singular Unique) / As-Samad (The Eternal, Absolute) and so on.
Names that always appear with their opposite for if they were to be singular names it would imply a fault or shortcoming such as: Adh-Dhaar (The Harmer) / An-Naafi (The Benefitter), Al-Khaafidh (The Abaser) / Ar-Raafi (The Uplifter), Al-Mutee (The Giver) / Al-Maani (The Restrictor), Al-Muizz (The Empowerer) / Al-Mudhill (The Humiliator) and so on. There is never a singular occurrence of harm, abasement, withholding, restriction, or humiliation.
There is nothing revealed in the Quraan or the authentic Sunnah to indicate the two following types in isolation:
- His name Al-Muntaqim (The Punisher) which never comes in isolation in the Quraan but is rather tied to something such as in the aayah We are the punishers of the criminals. [Soorah As-Sajdah, aayah 22]
- When used with the prefix dhu (possessor of-) used with the derived characteristic such as in Allah is Azeez (powerful) dhu intiqaam (possessor of punishment) [Soorah Aali-Imraan, aayah 4]
Evidence For The Tawheed of Names & Attributes
There is ample evidence for this type of Tawheed in both the Qur'aan and the Sunnah. Barely is there a Soorah (chapter) or even a single page of the Qur'aan that does not include a mention of Allah's names and attributes. It recounts them, and reminds us of them, in the course of all its subjects, such as Tawheed, worship, legislation, enjoining and forbidding, promise and warning, narratives and parables. On this occasion, we will discuss a Soorah that encompasses the Tawheed of Allah's names and attributes, and a verse (Aayah) which is considered one of the greatest of the Qur'aan.
The Rules And Conditions Which Determine The Names And Attributes of Allah
The following rules and conditions are those listed by the scholar Umar Sulaiman Al-Ashqar taken from his book The Names and Attributes of Allah According to the Doctrine of Ahlus-Sunnah Wal Jamaah pgs. 84 - 102:
- Limiting their number to what is contained in the Quraan and authentic Sunnah. These names are something which the law of Islam has brought and dealt with and it is not for anyone to augment it or remove anything from it, nor is there room for personal opinion in it
- Not everything that the texts inform us concerning Allah can be included as being from His Names. Information which familiarizes us about Allah is more inclusive than His Names
- It is not permissible to derive names for Allah from His Attributes and Actions
- It is not permissible to call Allah by blameworthy and reprehensible Names of those which give the impression of blame
- It is not permissible for the number of Allah's Names to be less than ninety-nine
- Any name that cannot be used for supplication is not one of the Names of Allah
- The attributes of His Actions and the Attributes of His Names are not from the Names of Allah
- Names which have the same meaning but different wording are not excluded from being His Names It is not permitted to exclude from His Most Excellent Names those which are mentioned in the Quraan and Sunnah and whose meanings are the same but whose wording is different claming that it is repetition. In truth it is not repetition in every sense
- It is not permissible to exclude names which are used in annexation from Allah's Most Excellent Names if they have been mentioned in the Quraan and Sunnah
- The validity of using the term abd (slave) together with the Names of Allah for names of people. In fact it is not permissible for people to be called the slave of something which is not one of Allah's Names
- Primary names are not from His names. Meaning names that do not contain a meaning connected to His Most Excellent Names because His Names are both Proper Names and Attributes
- Whatever begins with Dhu (possessor of) is not included among His Names although among the greatest ways to supplicate and praise Him are by them.
These fall into three categories:
- Those that are added to one of Allah's Attributes and they are of two kinds:
- Those where dhu is added to Attributes, indicated by Names which are explicitly mentioned in the Quraan and Sunnah. i.e. dhu-ar-Rahmah (Posessor of Mercy), dhu al-Quwwah (Possessor of strength)
- Those where dhu is added to Attributes that are not indicated by Names mentioned in the Quraan and Sunnah. i.e. dhu al-Fadl (Possessor of favor), dhu al-jalaal wal-Ikraam (Possessor of majesty andhonor)
- Those where dhu is added to one of Allah's actions. i.e. dhu aliqaab al-aleem (Possessor of the painful punishment)
- Those where dhu is added to a part of His creation. i.e. dhu al-arsh (Possessor of the Throne)
- Those names that are mentioned in the superlative form that are in annexation despite being one of the greatest ways to call upon Allah i.e. Arhamur-Raahimeen (Most Merciful of the merciful), Khairur-Raaziqeen (the Best of providers)
Two Major Classifications Of Deviated Groups On This Issue
The Muattillah (The Negators)
They deny Allah's names and attributes, or some of them claiming that to affirm them necessitates making a resemblance between Allah, the Most High, and His creation. This is a false and futile claim and its futility is shown in a number of ways
- It would necessitate conclusions that are futile, such as that there is a contradiction in the Speech of Allah, the One free of all imperfections. This is because Allah, the Most high, affirmed the names and attributes for Himself, and also denied that anything is like Him. So if affirming them necessitated resemblance between Allah and His creation, this would mean there is a contradiction in Allah's speech, and that some of it negates the rest
- If two things have a name or a description that is common to them both, it does not necessitate that they are just alike. Two people share the fact that they are humans, and possess hearing, and sight and speech, but that does not mean they are just alike in their human qualities, and in their hearing, their sight, or in their speech. Furthermore, animals have hands and feet and eyes, but the fact that this is something in common between them does not mean that their hands, feet and eyes are just alike. So when it is clear to you that there is a great difference between created beings in the names or attributes common to them, the difference between the Creator and the creation will be far clearer and greater
The Mushabbihah (The Resemblers)
They affirm the names and attributes and also declare Allah, the Most High, to be like his creation. They claim that this is what is required by and in accordance with the texts of the Quraan and the hadeeth since Allah, the Most High, addressed the people with that which is understandable to them. This claim of theirs is false and futile and its futility is shown in a number of ways, for example:
- That resemblance between Allah, the Most High, and His creation is something futile and false is disproved by the intellect and the Revelation. It is, further, not possible that the texts of the Quraan and the Sunnah require and necessitate something that is false and futile
- Allah, the Most High, addressed the people with that which is in essence understandable to them. People can understand attributes that are familiar to them. However, as for the essential reality of these attributes and how that which is spoken of about them is, this is knowledge which Allah, the Most High, has kept to Himself. This is the case with regard to Allah's self and His attributes
- Allah has affirmed for Himself that He hears, and hearing is something understandable to us, as is the ability to perceive sounds. However the reality of how Allah's hearing is so, is not and cannot be known to us. Hearing differs even amongst created beings, so the difference in that regard between the Creator and the creation will be far greater
- Also Allah, the Most High, has informed us that He ascended (al-istiwaa) above His throne (al-arsh). Ascension is something that is in essence understandable to us. However, as for the reality of how Allah ascended is something that is not known to us and is indeed beyond our ability to comprehend. A persons ascending or mounting a chair is not the same as mounting a difficult and wild camel. If the created beings amongst themselves differ in this, then the difference between the Creator and the created will indeed be far greater