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The Methodology of the Salaf in Aqidah
  General Principles Regarding Allaah's Names
Author: Abu Iyaad as-Salafi
Source: Based upon al-Qawaa'id ul-Muthlaa of Shaikh Ibn Uthaimeen
Article ID : AQD030007  [41109]  
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THE SECOND PRINCIPLE: The Names of Allaah are both Names/Identities and also Descriptions.

What this actually means is that when we have a Name of Allaah. It actually consists of:

1. A Name, or something which acts as an identifier. Just like a person may have a name such as Zaid, or Khaalid or whatever. So we know that this person is known by this name. And if we were to say ‘Zaid’ everyone would know who we are referring to.

2. The quality or characteristic it indicates or gives evidence to.

To illustrate, if we take the name ‘Al-Aleem’ (All-Knowing), we know from this that Allaah has the title or name of ‘al-Aleem’ firstly, and secondly that He must therefore have the quality or characteristic of ‘knowledge’.

Another example: ‘al-Baseer’, (All-Seeing)we know from this that Allaah has the title or name of ‘al-Baseer’ firstly and that He must therefore have the quality of ‘sight’.

And the same goes for all of the Names of Allaah. They are names firstly, AND they indicate certain qualities or charactersitics.

This shows that all the names of Allaah are similar in the sense that they refer back to Allaah, but they are different in the sense that they each carry a different meaning. To explain what this last sentence means. If I said: ‘al-Aleem’, ‘al-Azeez’, al-Qawiyy’ (The All-knowing, The Mighty, the Strong), then all of them refer back to Allaah, so they all refer to one thing. The essence of Allaah. However they all carry different meanings. So the meaning of ‘al-Aleem’ is not the same as that of ‘al-Azeez’ and so on for all of the other names.

To show this further, we know that the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) had different names. Messenger of Allaah, Abul-Qaasim, Muhammad, Ameen (trustworthy) etc.. So if I said to you, ‘Abul-Qaasim’, you know I am referring to Muhammad. If I said to you ‘Messenger of Allaah’, you know I am referring to Muhammad, if I said to you ‘Ameen’ you know I am referring back to Muhammad. So in this sense the different names and titles all refer back to the same person. However, they all carry different meanings because they give evidence to different qualities or attributes.

So Allaah is called al-Aleem (All-Knowing) and He has the characteristic of knowledge

Allaah is called al-Hakeem (All-Wise) and He has the characteristic of wisdom.

Allaah is called al-Ghafoor (All-Forgiving) and He has the characteristic of forgiving.

Allaah is as-Samee (All-Seeing)and He has the characteristic of hearing.

And the same for all of the Names of Allaah. They are 1)Names firstly and 2) they give evidence to the attributes or qualities behind them.

NOTE: For the creation, they might be given a name but they might not necessarily have the quality that it indicates. For example someone might be called ‘Saadiq’ (truthful), yet he could be a liar, or someone might be called ‘Ameen’ (trustworthy) yet he might not be trustworthy, or someone could be called ‘Raheem’ (merciful) yet he could be really harsh and mean. So for humans, they can be called by a name, but they do not necessarily have the quality which the name indicates.

As for Allaah, then He is called by His Names because He has the qualities that they indicate in a most perfect and complete way, with no deficiency whatsoever. So Allaah’s actions arise from His Perfect Names and Attributes. He forgives because is the All-Forgiving and He has the quality of forgiveness. With the creation however, we give them names based upon their actions. What this means that we can only call someone ‘truthful’ if he really is truthful. We can only call someone ‘generous’ if his actions prove that he is generous. So people receive these titles and descriptions when they prove in their actions that they have these qualities. So the perfection of people lies in their actions. However, for Allaah, His actions come from His Perfection, from His Names. In other words it is the other way around.

NOTE: The people of Bid’ah argue that because we affirm lots of attributes of Allaah we have claimed that there are lots of gods. This argument is so ridiculous it is not even worth discussing.

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