Praise be to Allaah.
There is no doubt
that the attributes of Allah are different with regard to their meanings.
The attribute of power is not the same as the attribute of might, which is
not the same as the attribute of knowledge. No rational person would say
that they are similar to one another in terms of meanings. We will explain
that further below.
The belief of Ahl
as-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa‘ah concerning the names of Allah is that they are the
same in that they refer to His Essence, may He be glorified and exalted, and
are different with regard to their meanings.
To explain that
further, we say: His names al-Qadeer (the Powerful), al-‘Aleem (The
All-Knowing), al-‘Azeez (the Almighty), al-Hakeem (the Wise) – for example –
all point to one Essence, which is the holy Essence of Allah. So in this
regard they are the same and not different. But at the same time, the
attributes of power, knowledge, might and wisdom differ from one another. So
in this sense they differ from one another.
So the beautiful
names of Allah are synonymous in that they refer to one Essence, but the
attributes referred to in those names differ from one another.
Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
Allah, may He be
glorified, has told us that He is All-Knowing, Powerful, All-Hearing,
All-Seeing, Forgiving, Most Merciful, and other names and attributes. We
understand the meaning of that, and we can differentiate between knowledge
and power, between mercy and hearing and vision; we know that all the names
agree in that they refer to the Essence of Allah. Even though they have
different meanings, they are in agreement and are the same with regard to
His Essence, different with regard to His Attributes.
ibn Saalih al-‘Uthaymeen (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
The names and
attributes of Allah, may He be exalted, are names in that they refer to His
Essence and they are attributes with regard to the meanings contained in
these words. In the first regard they are the same because they refer to one
Essence, namely Allah, may He be exalted and glorified, and in the second
regard they are different because each one has a different meaning.
So al-Hayy (the
Ever-Living), al-‘Aleem (the All-Knowing), al-Qadeer (the Powerful),
as-Samee‘ (the All-Hearing), al-Baseer (the All-Seeing), ar-Rahmaan (the
Most Merciful), ar-Raheem (the Most Compassionate), al-‘Azeez (the
Almighty), al-Hakeem (the All Wise) are all names of one named entity, who
is Allah, may He be exalted, but the meaning of al-Hayy (the Ever-Living) is
different from the meaning of al-‘Aleem (the All-Knowing), and the meaning
of al-‘Aleem (the All-Knowing) is different from the meaning of al-Qadeer
(the Powerful), and so on.
Rather we say that
they are names and attributes because the Qur’aan refers to that, as Allah,
may He be exalted, says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And He is the
Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful”
[Yoonus 10: 10]
“And your Lord
is Most Forgiving, Owner of Mercy”
The second verse
indicates that the Most Merciful is the One Who has the characteristic of
mercy. There is consensus among linguists and the way people understand the
language that no one can be called ‘aleem (knowing) except one who has
knowledge; no one can be called samee‘ (hearing) except one who has hearing;
no one can be called baseer (seeing) except one who has sight. This matter
is too clear to need any proof.
al-Mathla fi Sifaat Allah wa Asma’ihi al-Husna,
The same may be
said about the names of the Qur’aan, the names of the Prophet (blessings and
peace of Allah be upon him) and the names of the Last Day. In each case they
all refer to one thing – the Qur’aan or the Messenger or the Last Day – but
at the same time they differ in that each of these names refers to an
attribute that is different from others, so the names carry different
The belief of Ahl
as-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa‘ah concerning the beautiful names of Allah – according
to the correct view – is that they are not limited to a specific number and
the same may be said concerning His attributes. Allah, may He be exalted,
has names that He has kept to Himself in the knowledge of the unseen with
Him, and these names refer to attributes. So His names and attributes are
not limited to a specific number.
Among the evidence
for this belief is the following:
It was narrated
that ‘Abd-Allaah ibn Mas’ood said: The Messenger of Allaah (peace and
blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “There is no-one who is afflicted by
distress and grief, and says: ‘Allaahumma inni ‘abduka ibn ‘abdika ibn
amatija naasyati bi yadika, maada fiyya hukmuka, ‘adlun fiyya qadaa’uka.
As’aluka bi kulli ismin huwa laka sammayta bihi nafsaka aw anzaltahu fi
kitaabika aw ‘allamtahu ahadan min khalqika aw ista’tharta bihi fi ‘ilm
il-ghayb ‘indaka an taj’al al-Qur’aana rabee’ qalbi wa noor sadri wa jalaa’
huzni wa dhihaab hammi (O Allaah, I am Your slave, son of Your slave,
son of Your maidservant; my forelock is in Your hand, Your command over me
is forever executed and Your decree over me is just. I ask You by every name
belonging to You which You have named Yourself with, or revealed in Your
Book, or You taught to any of Your creation, or You have preserved in the
knowledge of the Unseen with You, that You make the Qur’aan the life of my
heart and the light of my breast, and a departure for my sorrow and a
release for my anxiety),’ but Allaah will take away his distress and grief,
and replace it with joy.” He was asked: “O Messenger of Allaah, should we
learn this?” He said: “Of course; everyone who hears it should learn it.”
Narrated by Ahmad,
3704; classed as saheeh by Shaykh al-Albaani in as-Silsilah al-Saheehah,
Ibn al-Qayyim (may
Allah have mercy on him) said:
names of Allah are not limited and are innumerable. Allah, may He be
glorified and exalted, has names and attributes that He has kept to Himself
in the knowledge of the unseen with Him. They are not known to any Angel who
is close to him or any Prophet who was sent, as it says in the saheeh
hadeeth: “…. I ask You by every name belonging to You which You have named
Yourself with, or revealed in Your Book, or You taught to any of Your
creation, or You have preserved in the knowledge of the Unseen with You…”
So His names may
be divided into three types:
Those by which he called Himself and taught them to whomever
He willed of His Angels or others, but He did not reveal them in His Book.
Those that He revealed in His Book and taught them to His
Those that He kept to Himself in the knowledge of the unseen,
so none of His creation knows them. Hence the du‘aa’ says: “You have
preserved” i.e., only You know them; it does not mean that He is the only
one who is called by them, because the names that are proven to be only for
Him include names that Allah revealed in His Book.
Ibn Katheer (may
Allah have mercy on him) said:
It should be noted
that the beautiful names of Allah are not limited to ninety-nine.
Majmoo‘ al-Fataawa by Ibn Taymiyah, 22/482-486
It was narrated
that ‘Aa’ishah said: I noticed that the Messenger of Allaah (blessings and
peace of Allah be upon him) was not in the bed one night, so I looked for
him, and my hand fell on the sole of his foot. He was in the mosque, with
his feet held upright, and he was saying, “O Allaah, I seek refuge in Your
pleasure from Your wrath, in Your forgiveness from Your punishment. I seek
refuge in You from You. I cannot praise You enough; You are as You have
Narrated by Muslim,
The attributes – as
we have mentioned – are connected to the names. Every name that is proven to
be a name of Allah refers to an attribute as befits His Majesty, may He be
glorified and exalted.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn
Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
He (the Prophet
(blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) stated that praise of Allah
cannot be limited; if he knew all His names he would know all His attributes
and thus be able to praise Him sufficiently, because His attributes are only
expressed through His names.
al-‘Aql wa’n-Naql, 3/332, 333
Some of them
thought that the names of Allah, may He be exalted, were limited to a
specific number, which is ninety-nine! An-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on
him) narrated that the scholars are unanimously agreed that the names of
Allah are not limited to this number. In the answer to question no. 41003 we
have quoted the evidence to show that they are not limited to this number,
as well as quoting the opinions of the scholars in refutation of those who
thought that the names of Allah, may He be exalted, were limited to this
To sum up: the
names, attributes and actions of Allah, may He be exalted, have no limit. No
one will doubt this who studies the evidence of the Qur’aan and Sunnah,
examines the belief of Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jamaa‘ah, and bases his belief in
the names and attributes of Allah on proper rules and guidelines.
And Allah knows best.