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Most religions have a preferred name by which they refer to the god they worship. This is the case even in the Abrahamic religions, which technically worship a common higher being. In Christianity, this supreme being is usually referred to simply as God. However, this name may vary from denomination to denomination. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, for example, He is generally referred to as Heavenly Father, while Jehovah's Witnesses unsurprisingly prefer the name Jehovah. In Judaism, He is sometimes given the anglicized title of Yahweh. Orthodox Jews predominantly consider this name too sacred to pronounce or even write. As such, it is often replaced by the word Adonai and spelled as YHWH. In Islam, the supreme being is, of course, known as Allah. However, Muslims have been known to use names such as God or Jehovah interchangeably. Throughout the Quran, Allah is given a variety of additional names, most of which reference a character trait, such as His mercy or intelligence. In total, Islam recognizes 99 Names of Allah. This article is the first in a series in which we will endeavor to provide a definitive compilation and commentary of each of these names.
Many of the names used by Muslims to describe Allah are exclusive to Islam. There are a few, however, which are utilized by other religions for the same purpose. Al-Azeez is one of them. Translating to "The All Mighty", it refers to a trait of God recognized by virtually all monotheistic religions. Allah, The All Mighty, is the most powerful being in existence. Neither man nor beast can topple Him. Even nature itself, with its tsunamis and earthquakes, is helpless against Allah.
The fact that a seemingly simple title such as Al-Mu'Min can be translated to "The One Who Gives Emaan and Security" is a testament to the beauty of Arabic. Of course, Al-Mu'Min is anything but simple. It refers to one of the most important characteristics of Allah. He provides the foundation for belief, also known as "emaan", and protects all those who display faith in Him and His messenger
The Mecca of Muhammad's time was a society awash with leaders. People were split into tribes, with each tribe being controlled by one or two dominant voices. Farther from the city, other societies were led by kings, most of whom considered themselves to be above all other authorities. The name Al-Malik, translating literally to "The King", was a reminder to the early Muslims that while they were surrounded by so-called "rulers", the only leader they were obligated to follow was Allah. This message is equally valuable today, as flamboyant political leaders seek to create a "them versus us" mentality and secure the blind devotion of the most impressionable voters.
English translations of the name Al-Quddus tend to vary. We have seen it interpreted as "The Most Holy", "The Absolutely Pure", and a dozen or so slight variations. We chose to split the difference for this article and go with "The Most Pure", a decision many contemporary Islamic scholars have made before us. However you choose to translate it, the meaning of Al-Quddus remains the same. It tells us that Allah is incapable of error. While we may be prone to poor decision making, self-consciousness, and unclean thoughts, Allah does not suffer from such afflictions. He is pure as pure can be and invulnerable to corruption.
Throughout the Quran, we are reminded again and again of Allah's forgiving nature. It should come as no surprise that Allah has displayed such a capacity for mercy throughout the centuries. After all, He created Paradise intending it to be a home for all of His creations. As such, He wants to grant admission to as many human beings as possible. Given that we are flawed by our very nature, this requires a great deal of mercy on the behalf of Allah. So noteworthy is the mercy of Allah that the 55th surah of the Quran is titled "Ar-Rahman".
Allah's capacity for mercy is so great that it could not accurately be described by a single name. For this reason, the Quran refers to Him both as Ar-Rahman and as Ar-Raheem. The latter of these names translates to "The Bestower of Mercy". It serves to remind us all that while we human beings are capable of mercy, it can only truly be doled out by our creator. Allah is the supreme bestower of mercy and His compassion simply cannot be rivaled.
As both the Quran and the Bible tell us, Allah created the world in just six days and rested on the seventh.However, His work did not stop there. In Islam, Allah is revered as a being just as dedicated to maintenance as He is to creation. A bush is cut and Allah ensures it grows again. A cat scrapes its owner's hand and Allah ensures the wound heals. A person passes away and Allah prepares them to be raised on the Day of Judgment. In celebration of this, Muslims often refer to Him as Al-Jabbar, or "The Restorer".
Much like the name Al-Quddus, As-Salam is a testament to the unwavering flawlessness of Allah. Translating to "The Perfect" or "The Perfection", it reminds us that Allah is incapable of sin or error. He created and controls all that is in the Heavens and on the Earth. As such, He cannot possibly fall victim to the vices which have claimed even the strongest men.
Al-Muhaymin is another name of Allah which has multiple translations in English. Type it into Google and you will be greeted by a variety of English interpretations, including "The Protector" (as listed here), "The Corrector", and even "The Supervisor". We feel The Supervisor feels a little cold and unemotional to describe a being as wondrous as Allah. The same can be said of the term The Corrector. While both are certainly accurate translations of Al-Muhaymin, only The Protector conveys the devotion Allah has toward his creations. It is His mission to keep us safe from pain and suffering. While this may not always seem like the case on this planet, we can be certain that even with the misery often experienced in this life, Allah will grant us everlasting joy in the next world.
The Quran contains so many references to Allah's forgiving nature that some may come to view Him as something of a pushover; a being who is so merciful that He can be manipulated into allowing anybody into Paradise whether they are truly sorry for their sins or not. This, of course, could not be further from the truth. Allah is the most powerful being in the universe. He is Al-Mutakabbir; known in English as "The Supreme". He knows all the designs of our hearts and sees our true motives for every act we commit. He cannot be fooled or taken advantage of. His vengeance, when enacted, is every bit as supreme as His mercy.
A surprising number of sources have been thrown-off by Al-Musawwir, confusing "The Fashioner" for "The Fashionable". While we don't doubt Allah's dress sense, it is not described by the title Al-Musawwir. A testament to the detail and care Allah dedicated to producing everything we see around us, this name can best be translated to "The Fashioner" or "The Bestower of Form". It reminds us that everything we come into contact with in our daily lives was designed according to Allah's infinite wisdom. No matter how insignificant a creature or object may appear, we can be confident that its purpose and form were divinely ordained by The Fashioner.
Also regularly translated as "The Inventor" and "The Originator", the title Al-Baari' proclaims Allah to be "The Maker". In a way, this is quite similar to Al-Musawwir, which praises Allah as "The Fashioner". However, most Islamic scholars agree that Al-Baari' speaks more to Allah's role in the very foundation of the universe. While The Fashioner may have moulded the world and everything in it out of clay, it was The Maker who produced the clay to begin with.
When Allah created humankind, He gave us the greatest gift of all. This was, of course, the gift of life. Such an act of generosity alone deserves the title The Giver of a Gift. However, Al-Wahhaab translates to "The Giver of Gifts". Note the plurality of this name. Allah did not merely give us one gift and leave us to our own devices. He gave us gift after gift after gift and continues to do so to this day. The gifts of Allah can be seemingly insignificant, such as a hot drink on a cold day, or they can be truly monumental, such as the gift of the Quran.
Similar to Al-Baari' and Al-Musawwir, Al-Khaaliq is another name given to Allah to denote His role in the origin of the universe. Translating to "The Creator", Al-Khaaliq can be considered to focus on the work performed by Allah once the universe was brought into existence. Having invented the perfect foundation for His vision, Allah set about creating the world and everything within it. The trees, the rivers, the mountains, and all other wonders of the natural world are the work of Al-Khaaliq.
We encounter judges in all facets of society. A parent can act as a judge. A teacher can act as a judge. An employer can act as a judge. A judge, obviously, can act as a judge. However, the judgment of these people will mean absolutely nothing when the Day of Judgment arrives. On that glorious day, all decisions will be made by the one and only supreme judge, Al-Fattaah, Allah. Allah alone will review the faith and works of each human being and decide, without prejudice or error, who is deserving of admission to Paradise and who must suffer the unthinkable horror of eternal damnation.
This is one of the most unique names of Allah, largely because even English speakers struggle to understand its English translation. "Munificent" is a word not every English speaker is familiar with. Used to describe an individual who is willing to extend great generosity, it is very rarely used in the English language as so few people are deserving of it. Allah, however, most certainly is. Always willing to help His creations, even during the most trying of times, Allah is undoubtedly Al-Baasit.
Again and again in the Quran, we are reminded of the uselessness of obeying the commands of Allah simply to secure one's place in Paradise. The book stresses that Allah is indeed Al-'Aleem or "The All-Knowing". He knows everything that we do and our motivation for doing it. As such, He can discern when a Muslim is acting righteously for the good of the world and those within it or if they are cynically attempting to ensure more riches for themselves. Likewise, Allah knows when we perform charitable acts solely so others will praise us for our generosity or heroic acts so others will praise us for our courage. When we are dealing with Al-'Aleem, nothing less than the purest of intentions is acceptable.
As well as being the Giver of Gifts (Al-Wahaabb), Allah is Ar-Razzaaq. Translating to "The Provider", Ar-Razzaaq reminds us that Allah does not only concern himself with doling out creature comforts and other luxuries which could be considered as "gifts". He also works to provide us with everything we need to live healthy lives. He has provided us with trees bearing fruit and vegetables for nourishment. He has provided us with the sun for warmth. He has provided us with the stars to light our way at night. Even the Quran, which we previously discussed as a gift, could be considered a basic human need in many respects. Through the Quran, Allah has provided us with the knowledge and tools we need to live a blissful existence in this life and enter Paradise in the next one.
Al-Qahhar is often translated as "The Ever-Dominating". While this is not exactly an inaccurate interpretation of the title, many Islamic commentators find it to be somewhat abrasive and not entirely becoming of a benevolent being such as Allah. We are among them. Instead, we choose the alternative translation of "The Subduer". This interpretation of Al-Qahhar serves to reassure Muslims that they can always turn to Allah when they are in times of need. Rather than fearing Allah dominating their life with an iron fist, a person in distress can be confident that Allah will subdue their feelings of anxiety and help them overcome the obstacles ahead of them.
The Quran bestows multiple titles upon Allah in praise of His generosity. However, it is not always expedient for Him to give to His people. In some occasions, Allah has deemed it better to deny human beings the things that they seek. As such, the Quran also aptly dubs Him Al-Qaabid or "The Withholder". Since the dawn of man, Allah has withheld access to the Heavens so that we may fully experience their glory on the Day of Judgment. Likewise, He has withheld indisputable confirmation as to the truthfulness of the Quran. While this may seem counterproductive at first, it allows us to decide for ourselves if we have faith in Allah and His messenger. If we decided to follow the message of the Quran despite Allah withholding confirmation of its accuracy, we can be confident He will bestow greater rewards upon us in the next world.
Al-Ghaffar is one of the most popular of the 99 names of Allah. This shouldn't come as any surprise. After all, it reminds us of Allah's most glorious character trait: His boundless capacity for forgiveness. As Al-Ghaffar, Allah is always willing to forgive somebody who is truly sorry. This is providing, of course, that they repent before the Day of Judgment. Should they choose to follow the message of the Quran only after being cast into the Hellfire, Allah is almost certain to exercise his role as Al-'Adl, which we will be outlining in the following entry.
There are some who believe mercy and justice cannot co-exist. In Islam, however, it is often argued that one can only exist because of the existence of the other. Without mercy there can be no justice and without justice there can be no mercy. For example, if Allah shows mercy to an individual who repents in this life and to an individual who repents only on the Day of Judgment, there is no justice. The former shunned the pleasures of this world for the remainder of his time on Earth while the latter fully indulged in them throughout his life. If both were to receive the same degree of clemency, mercy would be unjust. It is a difficult concept, but one which Allah understands fully. As such, He justly casts the unrepentant sinners into the Hellfire while comforting those who sought His forgiveness before it was convenient for them to do so.
Within Islam and outside of it, scripture is full of stories of people who believed themselves to be above the authority of Allah. One of the most famous of these tales is that of the people of Babel. Driven by hubris, they banded together to build the Tower of Babel, which they intended to build so tall it reached Heaven, in an affront to Allah. Of course, they did not get far before Allah tore their tower asunder and scattered their people across the globe. Similarly, the people of Sodom and Gomorrah displayed great pride in themselves and brazen disregard for the law of Allah before He was forced to humble them. To this day, Allah continues to drag those who defy His rule back to Earth, often kicking and screaming.
Just as Allah sometimes deems it necessary to drag an arrogant ruler back to Earth, it is on occasion expedient for Him to elevate an individual above all others. Only by doing this was He able to spread His message throughout the world for so many centuries. Even all the way back in the ancient world, Allah chose to elevate Abraham so that he may spread the message of monotheism. This began a chain of exaltation, which led through many great prophets before finally arriving at Muhammad. Muhammad was chosen over everybody else in the world at that time to help bring forth the Quran. Had he not been exalted, Allah's message would have been lost and the Quran - and, subsequently, Islam itself - never would have come into being.
Most monotheistic religions spend a great deal of time discussing Allah's status as an all-seeing being. Naturally, Islam is one of them. However, Islam is also one of the few monotheistic religions to give any thought to Allah's superior listening abilities. Describing Him as As-Samee', the Quran reminds us that Allah is "The All-Hearing" and "The Ever-Listening". Yes, He hears us when we pray to Him and is always grateful of such supplication and praise. It is important to remember, however, that He also hears us when we are not directly addressing Him. Everything we say is heard by Allah, even the things we may not want Him to hear. Thankfully, Allah will always listen attentively to a prayer from an individual seeking forgiveness. Furthermore, He is always willing to forgive those who are truly sorry for anything they may have said or done.