The Second Principle Regarding the Names of Allah سبحانه وتعالى


The Second Principle:

Allah’s Names are both proper names and attributes. They are proper names in the sense that they refer to a being, names, Allah سبحانه وتعالى, and they are attributes in the sense that they signify important meanings.

  •  as proper names, they are synonymous, with each one referring to the same being – Allah سبحانه وتعالى.
  • as attributes, they are distinct and varying, with each one conveying a specific meaning.

The Ever-Living, the All-Knowing, the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing, the Most Merciful, the Almighty, the All-Wise – these are all names that refer to the same being, namely Allah سبحانه وتعالى . But the meaning of the Ever-Living is not the same as the meaning of the All-Knowing, and the meaning of the All-Knowing is not the same as the meaning of the All-Seeing, and so on and so forth.

Allah’s Names are both proper names and attributes, as clearly indicated in the Quran. Allah سبحانه وتعالى said:

وَهُوَ الْغَفُورُ‌ الرَّ‌حِيمُ

“And He is the Oft-Forgiving, the Most Merciful.” [Quran. 10:107]

And in another verse, سبحانه وتعالى said:

وَرَ‌بُّكَ الْغَفُورُ‌ ذُو الرَّ‌حْمَةِ

“And your Lord is Most Forgiving, Owner of mercy.” [Quran, 18:58]

The second verse establishes the fact that the Most Merciful One possesses the quality of mercy. Scholars of the Arabic language unanimously agree that the word, ‘scholar’, can refer only to a person who has knowledge, that the word, ‘hearer’ can refer only to a person who possesses the faculty of hearing, that the word, ‘seer’ can refer only to a person who possesses the faculty of sight, and so on.

This is something that is so logical and clear that it requires no proof. Yet, there are misguided people who dissociate the names of Allah سبحانه وتعالى from their meanings. They say that Allah is called “All-Hearing”, but He has no sense of hearing; that Allah سبحانه وتعالى is called “All-Seeing”, but He has no sense of sight; that Allah سبحانه وتعالى is the “Al-mighty”, but He has neither might nor power. This is ludicrous, but is made even more ridiculous by their reasoning. They argue that if you accept the many attributes and qualities (of Allah), then they must refer to more than one being. This argument is refuted by revealed texts and common sense.

As for revealed texts, Allah سبحانه وتعالى described Himself with many attributes and qualities, even though He is the One. Allah سبحانه وتعالى said:

إِنَّ بَطْشَ رَ‌بِّكَ لَشَدِيدٌ ﴿١٢﴾ إِنَّهُ هُوَ يُبْدِئُ وَيُعِيدُ ﴿١٣﴾ وَهُوَ الْغَفُورُ‌ الْوَدُودُ ﴿١٤﴾ ذُو الْعَرْ‌شِ الْمَجِيدُ ﴿١٥﴾ فَعَّالٌ لِّمَا يُرِ‌يدُ١٦

Verily, (O Muhammad صلى الله على وسلم) the Grip (Punishment) of your Lord is severe. Verily, He it is Who begins (punishment) and repeats (punishment in the Hereafter) (or originates the creation of everything, and then repeats it on the Day of Resurrection).  And He is Oft-Forgiving, full of love (towards the pious who are real true believers of Islamic Monotheism), Owner of the throne, the Glorious, (He is the) doer of whatsoever He intends (or wills).”

[Quran, 85: 12-16]

In another chapter of the Qur’an, He سبحانه وتعالى said:

سَبِّحِ اسْمَ رَ‌بِّكَ الْأَعْلَى ﴿١﴾ الَّذِي خَلَقَ فَسَوَّىٰ ﴿٢﴾ وَالَّذِي قَدَّرَ‌ فَهَدَىٰ ﴿٣﴾ وَالَّذِي أَخْرَ‌جَ الْمَرْ‌عَىٰ ﴿٤﴾ فَجَعَلَهُ غُثَاءً أَحْوَىٰ ٥

Glorify the Name of your Lord, the Most High, Who has created (everything), and then proportioned it; And Who has measured (preordainments for each and everything even to be blessed or wretched); then guided (i.e. showed mankind the right as well as wrong paths, and guided the animals to pasture); And Who brings out the pasturage, And then makes it dark stubble.” [Quran, 87: 1-5]

In these verses, many attributes are mentioned, still they all refer to the same single being – to Allah سبحانه وتعالى . Obviously, it does not follow that many attributes must refer to different beings.

Logical Argument:

The argument put forward by those who wish to dissociate Allah’s Names from their meanings is refuted by logic as well. Attributes are not separate beings from the being they describe; they are simple qualities of that being. Furthermore, every existing thing or being possesses various qualities.

Based on what has preceded, we know that, ‘ad-dahar’ or ‘the time’ is not one of Allah’s Names. It is a stagnant, lifeless name, conveying none of the meanings we find conveyed by the beautiful Names of Allah سبحانه وتعالى. It is simply a word that is used to describe the passage of time. Allah سبحانه وتعالى said to those who deny the resurrection:

وَقَالُوا مَا هِيَ إِلَّا حَيَاتُنَا الدُّنْيَا نَمُوتُ وَنَحْيَا وَمَا يُهْلِكُنَا إِلَّا الدَّهْرُ‌

“And they say: There is nothing but our life of this world; we die and we live and nothing destroys us except ad-dahar (the time).” [Quran, 45:24]

What they mean is, nothing destroys us, except the passing of days and nights – the inevitability of growing old and of dying as a result of the natural aging process that takes place with the passage of time.

Some people argue that, ‘the time’ is one of Allah’s Names, since the Messenger of Allah صلى الله على وسلم said, Allah – the Possessor of Might and Majesty said:

يُؤْذِينِي ابْنُ آدَمَ يَسُبُّ الدَّهْرَ وَأَنَا الدَّهْرُ، بِيَدِي الأَمْرُ أُقَلِّبُ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ

“The son of Adam annoys me: He curses ‘the time’, and I am ‘the time’. The matter is in My Hand: I rotate the night and the day.” [Al- Bukhari, the Book of Tafseer (4826); Muslim, the Book of Well-Mannered Words (2246)]

       This, however, in no way proves that ‘the time’ is one of Allah’s Names. Those who curse time refer to the span of time during which tragedies take place; they do not refer to Allah سبحانه وتعالى. Allah explained the meaning of “I am the time” with His saying, “The matter is in My Hand: I rotate the night and the day.” Allah is the Creator of time and of what takes place during time. He rotates between day and night. Hence, time means the passage of day and night. It becomes clear, therefore, that, in the aforementioned Hadith, it is not possible that ‘the time’ refers to Allah.


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