All praises be to Allah s.w.t.
Every abled Muslims, also termed as the Mukallaf, is obliged to learn and know about Allah s.w.t. to arrive at a sound belief with reason and a faithful heart. It is considered to be our most important responsibility. In fact, our very soul and being longs deeply to know about our Sublime Creator. Imam Al-Ghazali mentions:
“The special property of the human soul is knowledge of reality; and the more honourable the object of knowledge is, the more delightful the knowledge of it is. There is nothing more honourable than Allah s.w.t, nor anything more majestic”
(The Forty Principles of The Religion)
Amongst the many guiding messages of the Quran is the encouragement for us to think and contemplate upon the wonders of the ‘fine-tuned’ universe and the events that happen in our daily life. Through deep reflection, the universe and all of creation act as signposts that lead us to The Creator, Allah s.w.t.
إِنَّ فِى خَلْقِ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ وَٱخْتِلَـٰفِ ٱلَّيْلِ وَٱلنَّهَارِ لَـَٔايَـٰتٍۢ لِّأُو۟لِى ٱلْأَلْبَـٰبِ
“Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the day and night, there are signs for people of reason”
(Surah Aal-’Imran, 3:190)
The limited human perceptions, however, are not able to reach the true realities of our Creator in this world. How then can we know about Allah s.w.t? Does He love us? Is Allah aware of the afflictions that we went through?
Allah s.w.t. guides us in the path of knowing Him by revealing His Divine Names and Attributes. He introduces Himself through these Names to help us know Him and draw us closer. In other words, He did not leave us to wander aimlessly in existence. An example would be the verse:
لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِۦ شَىْءٌۭ ۖ وَهُوَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلْبَصِيرُ
“Nothing is like Him. And He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing”
(Surah Ash-Shura, 42:11)
As seen in this verse, Allah is completely dissimilar with all of creation. Although we can’t even imagine Him, considering that all we know and perceive is part of or bear some similarities with creation, He is All-Hearing and All-Seeing of our affairs. He sees the struggle we go through every day and hears the unspoken words of the heart. These two attributes are part of His Divine Names.
More commonly known as Asma-ul Husna (the Most Beautiful Names), it signifies the perfection, majesty and beauty of Allah s.w.t. The Quran tells us
ٱللَّهُ لَآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۖ لَهُ ٱلْأَسْمَآءُ ٱلْحُسْنَىٰ
“Allah - there is no god except Him. He has the Most Beautiful Names.”
(Surah Ta-Ha, 20:8)
The two names mentioned above, All-Hearing and All-Seeing, are a part of the Most Beautiful Names. So what are these Names? And how many are there?
They are a part of the whole 99 Divine Names of Allah s.w.t. that can be found in the hadith reported by the companion Abu Hurairah r.a.
إِنَّ لِلَّهِ تَعَالَى تِسْعَةً وَتِسْعِينَ اسْمًا مِائَةً غَيْرَ وَاحِدَةٍ مَنْ أَحْصَاهَا دَخَلَ الْجَنَّةَ هُوَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ الرَّحْمَنُ الرَّحِيمُ الْمَلِكُ الْقُدُّوسُ السَّلاَمُ الْمُؤْمِنُ الْمُهَيْمِنُ الْعَزِيزُ الْجَبَّارُ الْمُتَكَبِّرُ الْخَالِقُ الْبَارِئُ الْمُصَوِّرُ الْغَفَّارُ الْقَهَّارُ الْوَهَّابُ الرَّزَّاقُ الْفَتَّاحُ الْعَلِيمُ الْقَابِضُ الْبَاسِطُ الْخَافِضُ الرَّافِعُ الْمُعِزُّ الْمُذِلُّ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ الْحَكَمُ الْعَدْلُ اللَّطِيفُ الْخَبِيرُ الْحَلِيمُ الْعَظِيمُ الْغَفُورُ الشَّكُورُ الْعَلِيُّ الْكَبِيرُ الْحَفِيظُ الْمُقِيتُ الْحَسِيبُ الْجَلِيلُ الْكَرِيمُ الرَّقِيبُ الْمُجِيبُ الْوَاسِعُ الْحَكِيمُ الْوَدُودُ الْمَجِيدُ الْبَاعِثُ الشَّهِيدُ الْحَقُّ الْوَكِيلُ الْقَوِيُّ الْمَتِينُ الْوَلِيُّ الْحَمِيدُ الْمُحْصِي الْمُبْدِئُ الْمُعِيدُ الْمُحْيِي الْمُمِيتُ الْحَىُّ الْقَيُّومُ الْوَاجِدُ الْمَاجِدُ الْوَاحِدُ الصَّمَدُ الْقَادِرُ الْمُقْتَدِرُ الْمُقَدِّمُ الْمُؤَخِّرُ الأَوَّلُ الآخِرُ الظَّاهِرُ الْبَاطِنُ الْوَالِي الْمُتَعَالِي الْبَرُّ التَّوَّابُ الْمُنْتَقِمُ الْعَفُوُّ الرَّءُوفُ مَالِكُ الْمُلْكِ ذُو الْجَلاَلِ وَالإِكْرَامِ الْمُقْسِطُ الْجَامِعُ الْغَنِيُّ الْمُغْنِي الْمَانِعُ الضَّارُّ النَّافِعُ النُّورُ الْهَادِي الْبَدِيعُ الْبَاقِي الْوَارِثُ الرَّشِيدُ الصَّبُورُ
“Indeed Allah has ninety-nine names, i.e. one-hundred minus one, whoever commits them to memory shall enter Paradise. He is Allah, The One whom there is none worthy of worship except for Him: The Most Compassionate, The Most Merciful, The King, All-Pure (Free from deficiency), The Source of Serenity, The Granter of Security, The Almighty, The Compeller, The Supreme, The Creator, The Inventor, The Fashioner, The Pardoner, The All-Dominant, The Bestower, The Provider, The Opener, The All-Knowing (Omniscient), The Withholder, The Expander, The Abaser (Humiliator), The Exalter, The Granter of Honour, The Giver of Disgrace, The All-Hearing, The All-Seeing, The Judge, The Just, The Most Subtle, The All-Aware, The Most Forbearing, The Magnificent, The Forgiving, The Most Appreciative, The Most High, The All-Great, The Guardian, The Nourisher, The Bringer of Judgement, The Majestic, The Generous, The Ever-Watchful, The All-Responsive, The All-Encompassing, The Wise, The Loving, The Glorious, The Reserructor, The Ever-Witnessing, The Truth, The Ultimate Trustee, The Strong, The Firm, The Guardian Ally, The All-Praiseworthy, The Encompasser, The Originator, The Restorer, The Giver of Life, The Bringer of Death, The Living, The Self-Sufficient, The Perceiver, The Illustrious, The One, The Sustainer (needed by all), The All-Capable, The All-Powerful, The Expediter (One Who Brings Forward), The (One Who) Delays, The First, The Last, The Evident, The Hidden, The Protector, The Supremely Exalted, The Most Kind, The Acceptor of Repentance, The Giver of Retribution, The Pardoner, The Most Gracious, The Owner of All Sovereignty, The Possessor of Majesty and Honour, The Maintainer of Justice, The Gatherer (Unifier), The Independent, The Enricher, The Preventor, The Afflictor, The Propitious, The Light, The Guide, The Incomparable Originator, The Everlasting, The Ultimate Inheritor, The One Who Directs, The All Patient”
Such are the Beautiful Names that describe to us about Allah s.w.t. The explanation to each these Names can be found in many books and commentaries. Scholars such as Imam Al-Bayhaqi, Imam Al-Ghazali and Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim have all written books that became sources of reference for many. More recent books such as 'Reflecting on the Names of Allah' by Jinan Yousef is also a must-read.
Although there are 99 Names mentioned here, it doesn't mean that Allah s.w.t. has only 99 Names. Imam An-Nawawi commented:
“Scholars have agreed that this hadith does not signify the total number of His Names - The Most High, and it does not mean that He has no other names than the mentioned ninety-nine (names) here. What is meant here is that whoever internalized these ninety-nine Names will enter paradise.
He has many other Names. Which is why it is mentioned in another hadith: I call upon You by every single Beautiful Names with which You have described Yourself with, or which You have revealed in Your Book, or You have taught to any of Your creations, or which You have chosen to keep in the knowledge of the unseen with You.. (Musnad Ahmad)”
The Maliki-jurist Imam Abu Bakr Ibn Arabi, in his book 'Aridhatul-Ahwazi the commentary to Sunan At-Tirmizi, says that some scholars have compiled these Divine Names from the Quran and Sunnah and found that there are a thousand Names. And Allah knows best.
Even though there are many Names that are not mentioned, in summary, Allah s.w.t. possess all Names that signify Perfection, Majesty and Beauty. It is also important to note that these names, however, are verbatim (tawqeefi), as viewed by many scholars.
Apart from learning about it, here are 4 benefits to know about these 99 Divine Names of Allah s.w.t:
1. To Enter Paradise
This is based on the hadith of the Prophet s.a.w.
إِنَّ لِلَّهِ تِسْعَةً وَتِسْعِينَ اسْمَا مِائَةً إِلاَّ وَاحِدًا مَنْ أَحْصَاهَا دَخَلَ الْجَنَّةَ
“Allah has ninety-nine names - one hundred minus one - and whoever knows them will enter Paradise”
Scholars differ regarding the meaning of ‘ahsoha’ translated as ‘know’ above. Sheikh Hasanain Makhluf wrote a book entitled ‘The Beautiful Names of Allah’, mentioning three views.
The first is the view held by the majority of scholars, which is to memorise it by heart. The second view is to preserve it, internalise its meanings and to express it through actions. The third view is to reflect upon its meanings as the Names are uttered by the tongue, to ponder upon its significance in deep contemplation and reflection with devotion and reverence for the Divine Essence.
These different views do not necessarily contradict with one another. In fact, they complement each other’s meanings.
2. To Recite as Invocations
These Names can be recited as daily invocations which instil in us a deeper sense of realisation for His Divine presence.
In fact, the Prophet s.a.w. also informed us a specific merit for whoever recites the following set of daily invocations which includes the Names of Allah:
مَنْ قَالَ حِينَ يُصْبِحُ ثَلاَثَ مَرَّاتٍ أَعُوذُ بِاللَّهِ السَّمِيعِ الْعَلِيمِ مِنَ الشَّيْطَانِ الرَّجِيمِ وَقَرَأَ ثَلاَثَ آيَاتٍ مِنْ آخِرِ سُورَةِ الْحَشْرِ وَكَّلَ اللَّهُ بِهِ سَبْعِينَ أَلْفَ مَلَكٍ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَيْهِ حَتَّى يُمْسِيَ وَإِنْ مَاتَ فِي ذَلِكَ الْيَوْمِ مَاتَ شَهِيدًا وَمَنْ قَالَهَا حِينَ يُمْسِي كَانَ بِتِلْكَ الْمَنْزِلَةِ
"Whoever invokes three times when he gets up in the morning: I seek refuge in Allah from the cursed satan, and he recites three verses from the end of Surah Al-Hashr, Allah appoints seventy thousand angels who say pray forgiveness for him until the evening. If he dies on that day, he dies a martyr, and whoever reaches the evening, he holds the same status”
The three verses from the end of Surah Al-Hashr are:
هُوَ ٱللَّهُ ٱلَّذِى لَآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۖ عَـٰلِمُ ٱلْغَيْبِ وَٱلشَّهَـٰدَةِ ۖ هُوَ ٱلرَّحْمَـٰنُ ٱلرَّحِيمُ. هُوَ ٱللَّهُ ٱلَّذِى لَآ إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ٱلْمَلِكُ ٱلْقُدُّوسُ ٱلسَّلَـٰمُ ٱلْمُؤْمِنُ ٱلْمُهَيْمِنُ ٱلْعَزِيزُ ٱلْجَبَّارُ ٱلْمُتَكَبِّرُ ۚ سُبْحَـٰنَ ٱللَّهِ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ. هُوَ ٱللَّهُ ٱلْخَـٰلِقُ ٱلْبَارِئُ ٱلْمُصَوِّرُ ۖ لَهُ ٱلْأَسْمَآءُ ٱلْحُسْنَىٰ ۚ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُۥ مَا فِى ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ ۖ وَهُوَ ٱلْعَزِيزُ ٱلْحَكِيمُ
“He is Allah—there is no god except Him: Knower of the seen and unseen. He is the Most Compassionate, The Most Merciful. He is Allah—there is no god except Him, the King, the Most Holy, the All-Perfect, the Source of Serenity, the Watcher (of all), the Almighty, the Compeller, the Majestic. Glorified is Allah far above what they associate with Him (in worship). He is Allah, the Creator, the Inventor, the Fashioner. He (alone) has the Most Beautiful Names. Whatever is in the heavens and the earth (constantly) glorifies Him. And He is the Almighty, the All-Wise.”
(Surah Al-Hashr, 59:22-24)
Therefore, whoever recites these names as per the verse, along with the mentioned invocations in the hadith above, will receive its merit accordingly.
3. To Call Upon In Our Dua
Apart from reciting it as invocations, we are also encouraged to call upon Allah s.w.t. in our Dua by His Beautiful Names. Allah says in the Quran:
وَلِلَّهِ ٱلْأَسْمَآءُ ٱلْحُسْنَىٰ فَٱدْعُوهُ بِهَا ۖ وَذَرُوا۟ ٱلَّذِينَ يُلْحِدُونَ فِىٓ أَسْمَـٰٓئِهِۦ ۚ سَيُجْزَوْنَ مَا كَانُوا۟ يَعْمَلُونَ
“Allah has the Most Beautiful Names. So call upon Him by them, and keep away from those who abuse His Names. They will be punished for what they used to do.”
(Surah Al-A’raf, 7:180)
It is to acknowledge our imperfect nature before the Perfect and Divine Essence to ask for all our hopes and prayers. In fact, the Quran also teaches us this method of praying:
رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّآ ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلْعَلِيمُ
“Our Lord! Accept from us. You are indeed the All-Hearing, All-Knowing.”
(Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:127)
4. To Reflect Upon His Names
The remembrance of Allah and His Names is very much emphasised in our tradition. Allah s.w.t. says in the Quran
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ ٱذْكُرُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ ذِكْرًۭا كَثِيرًۭا
“O those who believe! Always remember Allah often,”
(Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:41)
Zikir or the act of remembrance does not only mean to utter it through the tongue. It also means to ponder and contemplate upon it. This means to reflect on the Names as described in the Quran. The more we read and learn, the clearer the picture is of these virtuous and beautiful Names.
Aside from the Quran, we are also encouraged to contemplate over the wonders of the universe and the events of our respective lives. The majesty and beauty of creation tell us about The Illustrious Creator. This is because Allah s.w.t. manifests His Names in His Creations.
For example, through marriage, spouses develop a better understanding of comfort, love and kindness. Understanding these qualities will give us better insights to know about Allah s.w.t.
وَمِنْ ءَايَـٰتِهِۦٓ أَنْ خَلَقَ لَكُم مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ أَزْوَٰجًۭا لِّتَسْكُنُوٓا۟ إِلَيْهَا وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَكُم مَّوَدَّةًۭ وَرَحْمَةً ۚ إِنَّ فِى ذَٰلِكَ لَـَٔايَـٰتٍۢ لِّقَوْمٍۢ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ
“And it is among His signs that He has created for you spouses from among yourselves, so that you may find comfort in them, and He has created love and kindness between you. Surely in this, there are signs for a people who reflect.”
(Surah Ar-Rum, 30:21)
The act of remembrance calls us to not only limit it in our contemplation but to also express it through actions. What it means here is to internalise the virtue and beauty to embody it in our actions where it is due. An example is the hadith of mercy mentioned by the Prophet s.a.w.
الرَّاحِمُونَ يَرْحَمُهُمُ الرَّحْمَنُ ارْحَمُوا مَنْ فِي الأَرْضِ يَرْحَمْكُمْ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاءِ
“The merciful are shown mercy by The Most Merciful. Be merciful on the earth, and you will be shown mercy from The One in the heavens.”
This hadith tells us that the path of mercy will lead us to The Most Merciful. This path is paved by the Prophet s.a.w. Allah s.w.t. Himself attested to this fact in the Quran and describes the Prophet s.a.w. to be sent as a mercy in all the worlds.
In order for us to emulate such virtuous and beautiful qualities, we must tread in the path (Sunnah) of the Prophet s.a.w.
And Allah knows best.