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Asmaa was-Sifaat
  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  


All praise is due to Allaah, the Lord of all the Worlds and Prayers and Peace upon His Messenger Muhammad.

Continuing with our discussion of Tawheed, we will look at how to believe in the Names of Allaah. As with the Attributes of Allaah (Lesson 2), there are certain principles that we have to adhere to in order to believe and understand the Names of Allaah correctly. - This is because the Names of Allaah and His Attributes are the basis of our worship of Allaah. We come to know Him by His Names and Attributes, the more we know, the better our worship. Today’s lesson is taken and adapted from a book by Shaikh Ibn Uthaimeen ‘Qawaa’id ul-Muthlaa Fee Sifaat iLlaah wa Asmaa’ihil-Husnaa’ - (roughly, the Perfect Principles Regarding the Attributes of Allaah and His Beatiful Names).

THE FIRST PRINCIPLE: All the Names of Allaah are Beautiful/Excellent/Perfect

This means that the Names of Allaah reach the extreme of perfection. They are perfect and complete in every single aspect. As Allaah said:

"And to Allaah belong the most-beautiful/excellent of Names" [7:180]

This is because these names represent the qualities/characteristics that Allaah has and in which there is absolutely no deficiency or shortcoming whatsoever.

An example: ‘Al-Hayy’ the EverLiving - is a name of Allaah, and this gives evidence to the perfect life of Allaah, a life which was not preceded by death or non-existence and which will not be followed by death or non-existence.This is unlike the ‘life’ of created things, who are born and die and then no longer exist. Also their life depends on other created things such as food and water etc. But the life of Allaah is free and independent of all of these things. Therefore His life is the most perfect and most complete.

Another example: ‘Al-Aleem’ - the All Knowing - is a name of Allaah and this gives evidence to the perfect knowledge of Allaah, knowledge which was not preceded by ignorance and which will not be followed by forgetfulness. Allaah’s knowledge is free from all of that. As Moses said to Pharoah;

"The Knowledge of of it (i.e. the state of the people of past) is with My Lord in a Book. My Lord does not err, nor is He forgetful" [20;52]

So Allaah’s knowledge encompasses everything. He knows what the hearts contain and what the wombs contain. He knows what is in the depths of the oceans and what is in the heights of the heavens. Nothing is hidden from him, not even the weight of an atom or what is less than that. So the Name of Allaah ‘al-Aleem’ gives evidence to perfect and complete knowledge.

Another example: ‘ar-Rahmaan’ - the One Full of Mercy - is a name of Allaah and this gives evidence to the overflowing mercy of Allaah, which is perfect and complete and about which the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) said: "Allaah is more merciful to His servants than this (i.e. a female animal) to her child". And Allaah’s mercy encompasses everything i.e. it covers everything, Allaahs’mercy reaches everything.

"And My mercy encompasses every single thing" [7:156]

NOTE: There are some names which are common between Allaah and the Creation. But this does not mean that the reality behind them is the same. For example Allaah has described Himself as ‘hearing, seeing’ [4:58] but He also described man as ‘hearing, seeing’ [76:2]. However, the hearing and seeing of Allaah is one thing, but the hearing and seeing of mankind is something else. Allaah’s hearing and seeing is the most-complete and most perfect, without any limitations or restrictions whatsoever, as opposed to that of humans.

This is an important point because the people of innovation claim, that just because we affirm these Names and Attributes for Allaah, we are likening Him to his creation and this is false because of the following principle:

"Agreement in the name does not necessarily mean agreement of the reality behind them".

So Allaah’s life is different from our life. His is perfect, ours is not. So there is a big difference. The same can be said about all those Names or attributes that seem to be common between the creation and Allaah. Ibn Taymiyyah in ‘at-Tadmuriyyah’ gives a list of all those attributes/names that He has named Himself with and also with which He has named the creation. By this Ibn Taymiyyah says that this is proof that although the names are the same, the realities are different. Some of the names that Allaah mentions about the creation in the Qur’aan and which are common between the creation and Allaah are:

  • knowing [aleem] 37:101 - so the knowledge of the creation is not like that of Allaah

  • hearing, seeing [samee, baseer] 76:2 - the hearing and sight of the creation is not like that of Allaah

  • kind, merciful [ra’oof, raheem] 7:128 - the kindness and mercy of the creation is not like that of Allaah

  • proud, arrogant [mutakabbir, jabbaar] 40:35 - so the pride and arrogance of the creation is not like that of Allaah’s

and there are many others…so the point here is that: "resemblance in name, does not mean resemblance in reality and modality".

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.

THE THIRD PRINCIPLE: The Names of Allaah can be Transitive or Non-Transitive.

Before we go any further, let us understand what is ‘transitive’ and ‘non-transitive’. This is not difficult to understand, in fact it is very easy. We know that a language consists mainly of verbs and nouns. Nouns are objects, like a table, cat, planet, car, a person. Etc… In school you were probably told that a noun ‘is a place, person, or thing’. As for verbs, then they are ‘doing words’ as you were probably told in school. In other words, verbs represent actions. It is verbs that we will discuss in a bit more detail.

Verbs are of two types.

1. Verbs which require another object to complete the meaning, or to give a meaningful sentence. For example, the verb ‘to meet’. If I want to use this word I must also mention that thing or object which my action relates to. If I said ‘I met’ and then stopped my sentence there, it does not make sense and it does not give a meaningful sentence. I must add something to the end to complete the meaning. For example: ‘I met the Sultan of Brunei’, or ‘I met the local postman’.

2. Verbs which give a complete meaning in themselves. For example ‘to sleep’. If I said ‘I slept’. That’s all I need to say, because to sleep I don’t need another object or thing to do this action.

Can you see the difference? Lets give plenty of examples to illustrate this.

to make - If I said ‘I made’ would that be a complete sentence? No. Because the verb requires another object to complete its meaning. ‘I made apple crumble.’ So in other words, my act of making relates to something else.

to hate - If I said ‘I hate’ would that be complete, meaningful sentence? No. Because the verb requires another object to complete its meaning. ‘I hate that lowly and despised innovating Jahmee, Nuh Ha Mim Keller’. So there must be something that I hate. Again my act of hating, has to be related to something else.

to sleep - If I said ‘I slept’ would that be a meaningful sentence? Yes, because this action does not require another object.

to blush - If I said ‘I blushed’, that is a complete sentence, I don’t need another object to blush.

to reject - If I said ‘I rejected’ and stopped there, that would not be a meaningful and complete sentence. I have to say ‘I rejected the offer’, or ‘I rejected the invitation’ or something like that. In other words there must be something, an object or thing that I reject.

I cried - If I said ‘I cried’ that is a complete sentence, I don’t need another object to complete the sentence.

So by now you should be able to work out which verb is a ‘transitive’ one (i.e it relates to something, an object or thing, and needs it to complete the meaning) and a ‘non-transitive’ one (it does not need anything else and has a complete meaning in itself).

So how does this relate to Allaah’s Names? This is because some of Allaah’s Names are from verbs which are transitive and others which are non-transitive. So the third principle then is:

If a Name of Allaah is transitive then we affirm three things:

1. The Name itself

2. The attribute or quality it gives evidence to

3. How this quality or attribute relates to the creation and its ruling and what it necessitates

And if a Name of Allaah is non-transitive then we only affirm two things:

1. The Name itself

2. The attribute or quality it gives evidence to

To illustrate this, lets look at some ‘transitive’ and ‘non-transitive’ examples in the following table.

Transitive Names
The Name

1. To affirm the name:

2. To affirm the quality

3. Its ruling and implication

Al-Aleem (All-Knowing)

‘Al-Aleem’

Allaah has ‘knowledge’

Allaah’s knowledge covers every single thing. Nothing is hidden from Him etc…

Ar-Razzaaq (The Provider)

‘Ar-Razzaaq’

Allaah ‘provides’

Allaah provides for and sustains the whole of creation. He sends the rain, splits the seed and causes the herbage to grow etc….and by all this, He feeds and clothes the whole of creation.

As-Samee’

(All-Hearing)

‘As-Samee’

Allaah ‘hears’

Allaah hears all of the creation, nothing is hidden from His hearing.

Al-Mujeeb

(The Responder)

‘Al-Mujeeb’

Allaah ‘responds’

Allaah responds to His creation when they call upon Him and when they are in distress and when they submit their needs to Him.

Al-Khaaliq (The Creator)

‘Al-Khaaliq’

Allaah ‘creates’

Allaah is the Creator of everything, He created the universe and He continues to add to His creation as He wills

Ash-Shaafi’

(The Healer)

‘Ash-Shaafi’’

Allaah ‘heals’

Allaah heals the creation and removes their ills and diseases, whether they are physical, or related to the soul and the heart….

Al-Musawwir (The Fashioner)

‘Al-Musawwir’

Allaah ‘fashions, forms, shapes’

Allaah is the one who forms us in our wombs and gives us our shape….

Non-Transitive Names

The Name

1. To affirm the name:

2. To affirm the quality

 

Al-Ahad

(The Unique)

‘Al-Ahad’

Allaah is ‘unique’

 

Al-Hayy

(The Ever-Living)

‘Al-Hayy’

Allaah has ‘perfect life’

 

As-Samad (The Self-Sufficient)

‘As-Samad’

Allaah has the quality of being ‘self-sufficient, independent of everythinig else’

 

Al-Awwal (The First)

‘Al-Awwal’

Allaah is the ‘first’ before everything.

 

Al-Quddoos

‘Al-Quddoos’

Allaah is ‘clear of imperfections and evil things’

 

So these are some examples. Notice how the ‘transitive’ ones mostly involve actions whereas the ‘non-transitive’ ones mostly describe states or qualities.

THE FOURTH PRINCIPLE: The Names of Allaah are ‘Tawqeefiyyah’ and there is no place for the intellect regarding them.

What this means is that the Names of Allaah are restricted to proof from the Qur’aan and the Sunnah and no one from his own mind and thinking can start to give names for Allaah. So when we say, such and such is a name of Allaah, then it must be from the Qur’aan or the Sunnah. No one can invent a name or think of a name.

This is like the acts of worship. They are restricted to a text from the Book or the Sunnah. No one is allowed to come up with an act of worship which the Qur’aan and the Sunnah have not covered.

Allaah said:

"Do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge…" [17:36]

"Say: My Lord has forbidden…. and that you say about Allaah that of which you have no knowledge" [7:33]

THE FIFTH PRINCPLE: There is no specific number for Allaah’s Names

The proof for this is the saying of the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) in the well-known du’a:

"I ask you by every Name that you have named Yourself with, or which You revealed in Your Book, or which you taught to anyone from amongst Your creation, OR WHICH YOU KEPT TO YOURSELF IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE UNSEEN" [Ahmad, Ibn Hibbaan and it is saheeh]

So whatever Allaah has kept to Himself of His Names, it is not possible for anyone to count their exact number.

As for the hadeeth, "To Allaah belong 99 Names, whoever enumerates them will enter Paradise", then this is not a proof that Allaah only has 99 names. The hadeeth says that there are 99 specific Names of Allaah which if enumerated, memorised acted upon etc.. will cause a person to enter Paradise. It did not say; "The Names of Allaah are 99, whoever enumerates them will enter Paradise."

To illustrate this, If I said: "I have 100 pounds which I have kept aside for charity." This does not prevent the fact that I also have other pounds which I did not keep aside for charity.

It is not established either from the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) that he listed the 99 names mentioned in the above hadeeth. In fact all the hadeeths which have the above wording, but then go on to list the names are all da’eef, as explained by Ibn Taymiyyah in Majmoo ul-Fataawaa (vol 6).

THE SIXTH PRINCIPLE: That we do not do Ilhaad (deviate) in the matter of Allaah’s Names

Allaah said:

"And to Allaah belong the most-beautiful of Names, therefore call upon Him by them, and leave alone those who deviate in Allaah’s Names. They will soon be recompensed for what they used to do." [7:180]

Deviating can take place in a number of different ways:

1. To reject anything that the Names of Allaah indicate or give evidence to, such as the Attributes or Qualities behind them, as the Jahmees do, and the Ash’arees and other straying innovators.

2. To claim that the Names of Allaah give evidence to attributes which are similar to the creation. (This is Tashbeeh that we covered in Lesson 2)

3. To call Allaah by a name that He did not call Himself such as ‘Father’ as the Christians do or ‘The First Cause’ as the philosophers and the People of Kalaam do.

4. To derive other names from the Names of Allaah and then to name idols with them. For example al-Uzzaa, one of the gods of the pagans in the time of the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) was derived from Allaah’s Name, al-Azeez. Likewise, al-Laat was taken from Allaah. However, these names are unique for Allaah and no one else deserves them, just as He is unique in deserving the worship of the whole of creation.

Comprehension Questions:

1. Why is the topic of Allaah’s Names important?

2. Quote the verse in the Qur;’an in which reference is given to Allaah’s Names and give the reference.

3. Answer the following objections:

A. There are some names that are common between Allaah and the creation and if we affirm them for Him aren’t we likening Him to the creation/

B. If we affirm all these names for Allaah and the qualities behind them aren’t we creating lots of different gods?

3. Give some examples to illustrate how the Names of Allaah consist of two things: the Name, and the quality or characterstic behind it.

4. What is the difference between Allaah being called by something and the creation being called by something? (Hint, end of Second Principle).

5. Explain what is a transitive verb and a non-transitive verb.

6. Give examples of Allaah’s Names which are transitive and which are non-transitive.

7. What do we have to affirm for:

A. a Name that is transitive?

B. a Name that is non-transitive?

8. Quote two verses to prove that we cannot speak about Allaah without knowledge, learn them and memorise their references.

9. Is there is a limit to Allaah’s names and do we know the exact number? Answer this question with proof from the Qur’aan or the Sunnah.

10. Give some examples of how a person can deviate in the issue of Allaah’s Names (there is some link here to Lesson 2, on the Attributes of Allaah).

14th December 1997


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