Imam Hussain is quoted as saying,

“O Allah, what did he find, he who lost You? And what did he lose, he who found You? Truly, he has failed who is contented with other than You.”

What did Imam Hussain know that we do not know?  Or have forgotten.  What can we take away from this observation made by this grandson of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), a grandson who knew him intimately from his childhood? If we do not always easily connect with Allah, could it be that we do not really know Him?  How can we improve this connection?

 

Knowing Who is Allah

When we think more deeply about the first pillar of Islam —which is the foundation upon which our whole faith is built— we’re reminded that it is to testify that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.  If we are to be Muslims who understand the foundations of our faith, then we must recognize that this proclamation of faith should be based on accessing the divine knowledge which is already provided for us, at our very fingertips, in the pages of the Qur’an. Hand in hand with improving our communication, the believer must first know Allah.

Allah instructs His Prophet (ﷺ) and every believer in the Holy Qur’an:

So know, [O Muhammad], that there is no deity except Allah…   [Surah Al- Muḥammad, 47:19]

It is incumbent upon every Muslim to learn and seek knowledge of Allah, the sole Creator and Lord of all, the One who has revealed to mankind Holy Books so as to lead us to Him.

Allah has sent us the Holy Qur’an which is Nûr, the light that shows us the way, and Shifâ’, cure for the hearts, and Furqân which helps us differentiate between truth and falsehood, what is permissible from what is forbidden. The Qur’an is also Huda, guidance, which leads us to our Creator and helps us know Allah better, so we can worship Allah better and ultimately be of the successful ones who will enter Paradise.

 

How does Allah Tell us Who He is?

When reading the Holy Qur’an, you will find, every few verses, mention of Allah’s Divine Names. Allah has revealed to us His Names and Attributes so that we can connect with him on a higher intellectual, emotional, and spiritual level. How many times have certain verses been concluded with statements such as:

Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful [Surah Al-Mâ’idah, 5:39]

and

 Allah is Ever Knowing and Aware [ Surah Al-Nisâ’, 4:35]

and

Indeed your Lord is Knowing and Wise [Surah Al-‘Aḥzâb, 33:1]

Allah has referred to Himself as Al-Rahîm, The All-Merciful, in the Holy Qur’an roughly 227 times, Al-Rahmân, The All-Compassionate, 170 times, and Al-Ghafûr, The Forgiver, 91 times. The Divine Names and Attributes of Allah appear again and again on almost every page of the Glorious Qur’an. With so much emphasis placed in Allah’s Holy Book on His Names and Attributes, I believe that all Muslims should take it upon themselves to memorize, understand these Names and Attributes, and more importantly to conduct themselves  in ways that are befitting to being servants of Allah, the Lord of all the worlds.

 

Learning What Allah Means by the Names which He Attributes to Himself

Jeffrey Lang has written in his book,

“The Divine Names are, for Muslims, a means of turning towards God’s infinite radiance. Through their recollection, believers attempt to unveil and reorient their souls towards the ultimate source of all. A knowledge of them is essential if one is to comprehend the relationship between God and man.”[1]

Knowledge of and belief in Allah’s Names and Attributes —as He revealed them in His Holy Book or as have been mentioned by our Prophet (ﷺ) in authentic Hadîth is fundamental to tawhîdTawhîd —Allah’s uniqueness as merciful Lord in all that exists— is the fundamental underpinning of Islam, and all else is attached to it.

Shaykh Yasir Qadhi has said that there is no knowledge or subject of study more noble, more blessed, more sacred, or more exalted than seeking knowledge of Allah’s Names and Attributes. How can we truly and unwaveringly love Allah if we do not know who He is? How can we adequately fear Allah if we do not know who He is? How can we put our complete trust in Allah if we do not know who He is? Knowledge of Allah is a central tenant of our faith.

 

Does Allah Give Us a Term for the Concept of His Names and Attributes?

There are four verses in the Holy Qur’an which mention that Allah has Al-Asmâ’ Al-Husnâ, The Beautiful Names, and we list those four here.

  • {And to Allah belong the best names [Al-Asmâ’ Al-Husnâ], so invoke Him by them} (Surah Al-A’râf, 7:180)
  • {Say, “Call upon Allah or call upon the Most Merciful (Al-Rahman). Whichever (name) you call – to Him belong the best names [Al-Asmâ’ Al-Husnâ].”} (Surah Al-‘Isrâ’, 17:110)
  • {Allah  – there is no deity except Him— to Him belong the best names [Al-Asmâ’ Al-Husnâ],.} (Surah Ṭâ Ḥâ, 20:8)
  • {He is Allah, The Creator (Al-Khâliq), The Inventor (Al-Bâri’), The Fashioner (Al-Muawwir); to Him belong the best names [Al-Asmâ’ Al-Husnâ],. Whatever is in the heavens and earth is exalting Him. And He is the Exalted in Might (Al-‘Âzîz), the Wise (Al-akîm).} [Surah Al-Ḥashr, 59:24]

 

What Are We Setting Out to Do?

As we learn every single Name of Allah, we will gain better understanding of Allah. Each Name will bring about a new experience, clarity, reverence, love, and yearning towards Allah. In our daily habits of dhik, or remembrance of Allah, we can praise and glorify Allah through His Names and Attributes. We learn to supplicate to Allah, using His Beautiful Names [Al-Asmâ’ Al-Husnâ]. For example, when ill, remember to say this supplication:

“Oh Allah! The Sustainer of Mankind! Remove the illness, cure the disease. You are the One Who Cures (Al-Shafi’). There is no cure except Your cure. Grant us a cure that leaves no illness.”

During Ramadan, the supplication which we should most frequently repeat is,

“O Allah, you are The Pardoner (Al-`Afûww) and You love to pardon, so pardon me.” (Jami` al-Tirmidhi, 3513)

 

What were the Companions of our Prophet (ﷺ) taught about Al-Asmâ’ Al-Husnâ?

Abu Huraira reported that the Messenger of Allah, (ﷺ), said,

“Allah has ninety-nine names and whoever preserves them will enter Paradise.” (Sahih Muslim 2677)

What does “preserving” the Names of Allah mean?

It means memorizing them, understanding their meaning, and acting in accordance with the meanings. So, if you know that Allah is The One, Al-Ahad, you do not “associate” or identify anything else with Him in His capacity to know or to act. If you know that Allah is The Provider (Al-Razzâq), you do not seek provision from anyone other than Him. Of course, you work hard to earn a halal income, while putting your trust in Allah, The Provider, AlRazzâq.  It includes calling upon Allah by His Beautiful Names, Al-Asmâ’ Al-Husnâ. You might say, “O Most Merciful (Ya Rahmân), have mercy on me”; “O All-Forgiving (Ya Ghafûr), forgive me.”

 

What is the Count of Allah’s Names?

One must point out that Allah’s Names are not limited to 99.  Regarding the above quoted hadîth from Abu Huraira, the scholar of Hadîth, Imam Al-Nawawi, explains in Sharh Sahîh Muslim,

“The scholars are unanimously agreed that this Hadith does not mean that Allah has only ninety-nine names, or that He does not have any other names apart from these ninety-nine. Rather what the Hadith means is that whoever learns these ninety-nine will enter Paradise. The point is that one may enter Paradise by learning them, not that the number is limited to these names.”

 

Why is Surah Al-Ikhlâ so Special in Islam?

To increase our faith and to help us comprehend more about Allah, we should read several times each day Surah Al-Ikhlâṣ and meditate on it.  Ask yourself how its verses are so central to understanding Allah:

Say, ‘He is Allah (who is) One, Allah, the Eternal Refuge, He neither begets nor is born, Nor is there to Him any equivalent.  [Surah Al-Ikhlâṣ, 112:1-4]

It is reported that the Jews had said to the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), “Describe your Lord for us.” For that reason, Allah revealed the above Surah Al-Ikhlas.

Aisha narrated the following,

 “The Prophet (ﷺ) sent a man as the commander of a war expedition and he used to lead his companions in prayer with recitation [of the Qur’an], and he would complete his recitation with the recitation of ‘Say: He is Allah, One…’ [Surah Al-Ikhlas] in each rak`ah. So when they returned they mentioned that to the Prophet (ﷺ) and he said, “Ask him why he does that.” So they asked him and he said, ‘Because it is the description of AlRahmân (Allah) and I love to recite it. So the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Inform him that Allah the Most High loves him.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Furthermore, Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) described this Surah (112) as equivalent to [the weight of] one-third of the Qur’an because it explicitly confirms the oneness and uniqueness of Allah. It also contains two of Allah’s Beautiful Names: Al-Ahad which means “The Only One” or “The Unique,” and Al-amad which means “The Satisfier of All Needs” or “The Eternal Refuge.”

 

An Invitation to Get Involved

To embark on the path to a better understanding of Al-Asmâ’ Al-Husnâ —that is, Allah’s Beautiful Names and Attributes— is truly a noble and rewarding endeavor. That is the idea behind starting a series to study the Beautiful Names of Allah. We aim to learn and explore, in-depth, the meanings of Al-Asmâ’ Al-Husnâ, and the implications in our lives which each Name has. We will be running a series of articles, an article every two weeks insha’Allah, to discuss the meaning of one or more of Allah’s Beautiful Names.

Dear Reader:  Please tell us, in the comments below, which Name you would like to learn more about in our first article.

*   *   *

For tools to enhance your family’s learning  of Allah’s Beautiful Names, please check out my website: www.faithfulkids.net.

[1] Jeffrey Lang, Even Angels Ask, 2017, pg. 43

Amal Al-Sibai

Amal Al-Sibai is a mother of three and a writer. She graduated from Clayton College of Natural Health (Alabama, USA) with a Bachelor's Degree in Holistic Nutrition. She wrote for The Saudi Gazette Newspaper on issues of health, family, and faith for over ten years. She spends the school year in Jeddah, KSA, with summers in Ohio, USA. Her greatest enthusiasm, however, is for Islamic Studies, especially the study of the Holy Quran, which she memorized at Darul-Huda Quran College for Women in Jeddah; she continues her study there in tafsîr, the exegesis of the Holy Quran. Sister Amal has been teaching Quran for over 10 years both in Saudi Arabia and in the USA. She serves as youth group mentor and youth activities coordinator. Her website offers innovative educational games that help children (or adults) learn the Beautiful Names of Allah, which can be found at www.faithfulkids.net .

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