وَلِلَّهِ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ فَادْعُوهُ بِهَا ۖ وَذَرُوا الَّذِينَ يُلْحِدُونَ فِي أَسْمَائِهِ
“Allah’s are the most beautiful Names, so call Him by them, and avoid those who are heretical with His Names.” – (Al-A’raf: 180)
Knowledge of the beautiful names and attributes of Allah is the starting point for every Muslim who wants to know about his or her Lord. Understanding the names of Allah also enables us to learn about the connection between Allah’s names and how they play a role in the implications for our actions.
Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di, rahimahullah, in his explanation of Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Abdul Wahhab’s canonical work Kitab Al-Tawhid, gave an insightful commentary on the chapter on Allah’s beautiful Names.
“So every matter that the worshiper seeks from His Lord – whether related to this life or religion – then he seeks it by the beautiful Names of Allah related to that.”
Upon studying the Names of Allah, the Names He has affirmed for Himself, and the Names that the Prophet (SalAllahu ‘alayhi waSallam) has taught us, we find that there is a Name of Allah that we can call upon regardless of our situation. Happy, sad, scared, worried, sick, etc., whatever the emotion/state, we will find a Name of Allah to call upon. Such is the Perfection of Allah, Subhanahu wa ta’ala.
Calling upon Allah by His Names and attributes is actually a form of worship if we realise the meanings of the Names, and internalise them in our hearts, such that we are motivated as a result of this awareness of Allah’s Names.
In his commentary on this chapter of Kitab Al-Tawhid, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di gives several examples of how calling upon the Names of Allah leads to greater awareness of Allah and His Lordship:
“The Names al-Ghani, and al-Latif make the hearts realise their need and dependence upon Him, making them rely upon Him all of the time and in every situation.”
Similarly, the Names with the meanings of beauty, righteousness, beneficence, mercy and kindness – all of these motivate the heart to love Allah, longing for Him, praising Him, and feeling grateful to Him.
Of course, as Muslims we are taught to worship Allah with fear and hope.
Allah, Subhanahu wa ta’ala says:
وَادْعُوهُ خَوْفًا وَطَمَعًا
“Call upon Him with fear and hope.” – (Al-A’raf:56)
The Prophet (SalAllahu ‘alayhi waSallam) said:
للَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَسْلَمْتُ وَجْهِي إِلَيْكَ وَفَوَّضْتُ أَمْرِي إِلَيْكَ وَأَلْجَأْتُ ظَهْرِي إِلَيْكَ رَغْبَةً وَرَهْبَةً إِلَيْكَ
“Oh Allah, I submit my face to you and entrust my affair to you. I commit myself out of hope and fear of you.” – (Sahih Muslim, 2710)
Ibn al-Qayyim rahimahullah gave this stunning analogy:
“The heart on its journey towards Allah is like that of a bird. Love is its head, and fear and hope are its two wings.”
In light of this, just as we pay attention to Allah’s Names relating to His mercy, kindness, love, and generosity; we should also call upon Allah with the Names of greatness, pride, majesty, and grandeur and the Names that inspire fear – this will motivate us to honour Allah and recognise His Majesty.
3 Practical ways to connect with the Names of Allah:
Du’a is one of the most effective ways to reflect and ponder upon the names of Allah. Increasing our use of Allah’s beautiful Names in our ad’iya is a way to attain closeness to Allah. This is because we are confirming the Names that Allah has affirmed for Himself, and what the Prophet (SalAllahu ‘alayhi waSallam) affirmed of His beautiful Names. In addition, du’a allows us to contextualise the Names of Allah and relate to them within a particular situation. This is so powerful! Imagine that you’re in a very difficult situation and see no way out, call upon Al-Qaadir – the One who is All-Capable, the One Who promised those with taqwa a way out of their troubles and provision from means they did not expect! (Qur’an, 65:4).
2. The Qur’an
The Qur’an is THE primary source we should go to in finding the Names of Allah. Some Names are mentioned more than others and this alone prompts us to think about why? The Names ‘Al-Aleem’ and ‘Al-Hakeem’ come in conjunction with one another often in the Qur’an. This settles the heart because we learn that Allah’s infinite knowledge is underpinned by his infinite and all-encompassing wisdom. Effectively, we feel reassured because there is not a thing that is hidden from Allah’s knowledge, He knows what was, what is, and what will be.
وَسِعَ رَبِّي كُلَّ شَيْءٍ عِلْمًا ۗ أَفَلَا تَتَذَكَّرُونَ
“…My Lord has encompassed everything in His knowledge. Will you not then remember?” – [Al-An’am:80]
Positive psychologists argue that journaling has life-changing effects. Although I love writing, I have always been sceptical of keeping journals and frankly found it too time-consuming to have one. Subhan’Allah I couldn’t have been more wrong. I found keeping a reflective journal on the Names and Attributes of Allah a powerful way to really internalise what these Names mean. It also helped me to be more mindful and intentional in my usage of them.
Of course, there are so many ways to connect with the Names and Attributes of Allah, like reading the Seerah and Ahadith and finding ways that the Prophet Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayi waSallam and the Companions radhiyAllahu ‘anhum implemented these names and truly lived by them. The above is just a rudimentary insight on how to start connecting with the Names and Attributes of Allah on a daily basis.
This is a beautiful series on the Names of Allah by Ustadh Muhammad Tim Humble:
*This post is based on ‘An Explanation of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab’s Kitab Al-Tawhid’ by Shaykh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di, Chapter 51