"To gain everything except Allah is to gain nothing at all."*
Asma ul Husna
The essential name of the Almighty Creator, which is confirmed by the religion of Islam, "Allah" has no dictionary meaning. With the exception of this name, all other names that describe Allah in the Holy Quran are known as the Asma ul Husna following the revelation: "The most beautiful names belong to Him (Allah)." (Surah Al-Hashr, verse 24). The phrase Asma ul Husna, made up of the word asma, the plural for "name", and husna, meaning beautiful or most beautiful, means "Allah's most beautiful names." The names which are attributes of Allah can be found in the Holy Quran and the sunnah.
Abu Bakr Ibn'ul Arabi lists the reasons why these attributes of Allah are revealed to us as follows:
The Asma ul Husna awakens respect in servants toward Allah, connoting Allah's sublimity and transcendence.
These names, when used in dhikr - remembering Allah - and in supplication, lead to the acceptance of prayers and result in the accumulation of good deeds.
These names fill the heart with a peace of mind and tranquility, as well as an awareness of Allah's mercy and bounty, which affirms hope.
Because the value of knowledge is dependent on the value of those who possess knowledge and the most honorable of those with knowledge is Allah, those who know the Asma ul Husna have greater honor and virtue.
Because the Asma ul Husna comprise adjectives such as wajib, jaiz and mumtani ( that which is true for Allah that which can or cannot be true for Allah and that which can never be associated with Allah) they provide us with sufficient and correct information about Allah.
It is not possible to delineate the names of Allah or divide them into sections; like a circles that have been linked together, they are all connected and related to one another.
The importance of learning the Asma ul Husna
First and foremost, for those who believe and want to worship Allah, the need to describe Him with certain names is essential. It is not possible to worship that which is unknown. The knowledge of the Asma ul Husna is important in that it allows servants to become acquainted with Allah and it sheds light on the realm of the relationship between Allah and the world
The correct knowledge of Allah will release a person from all worries and superstitions, as well as from groundless assumptions. A person who bases their knowledge of Allah on information that emanates directly from the Creator instead of their own assumptions will be able to attain mental and spiritual clarity. A person will feel the need to make a connection and establish a relationship with Him in their heart and not just with their mind. The role played by the Asma ul Husna is very great in this respect. It has been observed that in the prayers that have been related through Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the Asma ul Husna are frequently mentioned. The human soul seeks perfection. When it learns of the perfection of something, it is drawn there and experiences joy parallel to the level of perfection found. Just as knowing Allah is possible through learning His name and attributes, loving Him is only possible through knowing that all perfection lies with Him.
In short, learning the Asma ul Husna will provide knowledge of Allah. The knowledge of Allah is the seed of love for Allah. When a seed falls onto the heart, it sprouts, growing into a tree of eagerness and love. The fruits of this tree appear and ripen in the heart, the soul, the hands, feet, eyes and ears - in both our physical and spiritual existence. These fruit are sincere virtues, such as respect for the Creator, mercy for creation, liberation from bad habits, acquisition of good habits and enduring all kinds of hardships in the way of Allah.
According to a hadith narrated in Bukhari and Muslim, Prophet Muhammad said the following about the Asma ul Husna: "Allah has 99 names. Whoever memorizes and embraces (ihsa) these qualities will enter heaven."
The meaning of the world ihsa is emphasized, with the view that this word means more than the mere dictionary meaning of "counting, memorization and understanding". In this context the word ihsa includes the meaning "Understanding Islam's belief in the Divine by resorting to evidence from holy verses, espousing these beliefs and attaining a level of spiritual perfection that is befitting to this belief."
Ninety-three of the names that are mentioned in the hadiths are also in the Holy Quran, while the meanings of the other six names have been attributed to Allah with different words. This list [of names] has become popular in the Islamic world, and is read as a prayer and supplication; the Asma ul Husna have also become a subject for Islamic calligraphy.
In one of his prayers to Allah Prophet Muhammad, while mentioning the level of appearance and knowledge of the names of Allah, stated "...or your names which you left to the science of the unknown and chose for yourself," thus informing us that there are other names belonging to Allah which are not known or apparent to us.
The 99 names of the Asma ul Husna, if examined with love and respect, joy and sorrow, can be its inability to be understood merely in terms of love and blessing . Nor would it be right to describe the Almighty Creator, Who forms a part of the large mechanism that is visible in both animate and inanimate nature and Who is in a constant state of action and reaction, in terms of fear or sorrow.
The Asma ul Husna in the Quran
The Asma ul Husna, the most beautiful names of Allah, are mentioned in the Quran in Surah Al -A'raf, verse 180, Surah Al-Isra, verse 110; Surah At-Taha, verse 8 and Surah Al-Hashr, verse 22-24. The Holy Quran tells us to pray to Allah by using His most beautiful names in Surah Al-A'raf, verse 180 and Surah Al-Isra, verse 110.
The verse "The most beautiful names belong to Allah: so call on Him by them; but shun such men as use profanity in His names: for what they do, they will soon be requited" (Surah Al-A'raf, verse 180) warns us that attaching meanings that are not befitting to the Creator and comparing other things with Allah or giving attributes which describe Him or His names to anything other than Him is seen as "going down the wrong path with regard to the Asma ul Husna."
The names of Allah lead to the discovery of perceiving His existence. That is to say, only the names which are mentioned in the verses of the Quran and hadiths can be used for Allah. One can not randomly assign names to Him. Allah has given Himself His own names. A name other than those found in the verses of the Holy Quran cannot be associated with Allah. For example, it can be said that Allah is Al-Alim (All-Knowing); however, one cannot say that Allah is "Wise" or "Knowledgeable", as these do not appear among the 99 names.
Some of the attributes of Allah found in the Holy Quran are names that consist of a single word, whereas others are a combination of names. The one-worded names total 99 in number. These names have been divided into three: the Jalal, Jamal and Kamal. The attributes of Allah that fall under the name of Jalal are known to us through His infinite and divine Majesty which are apparent through His creation throughout the universe. The attributes of Jamal, on the other hand, become evident with their plentiful blessings, which we respond to with gratitude. The Kamal names reveal works of art that have been created with perfection and wisdom and invite people to contemplate on this.
Allah has hidden the Ismi Azam (the greatest of all His names) within His names. The wisdom behind this is to maintain His servants' desire for the Asma ul Husna and allow prayer to be made by using all of His names.
Islamic scholars hold differing opinions about which of Allah's name is the Ismi Azam from the Asma ul Husna. The opinion of most scholars is that if any name has the attribute of being the "greatest name of all" this would have to be "Allah", due to the scope of its meaning.
According to a hadith, a person made the following supplication next to the Messenger of Allah: "Oh Allah, You are Allah, of which there is no other worthy of worship. You are one, yaSamad. You have not begotten, nor were you born. There is nothing equal or like you." Prophet Muhammad, hearing this supplication said: "I swear on the entity Who holds my life in His hands, this person asked from Allah with the name of the Ismi Azam. Know that whoever prays with the Ismi Azam, Allah will answer him. Whatever you request with it, Allah will certainly Grant this wish." From this, we gather that the Ismi Azam is in fact in the Surah Al-Ikhlas.
In Islam, the Prophet Muhammad is known as al-Insān al-Kāmil (the perfect human) and uswa hasana (an excellent model of conduct).
Many Muslims and non-Muslims alike, often attempt to excuse away Muhammad's immoral behavior using moral relativism and/or a "tu quoque" defense against the actions of other religious figures from various faiths. They claim he was a “product of his time” and that he should not be judged by modern standards, but what they fail to mention is that this particular Islamic doctrine, the belief that Muhammad is the uswa hasana, leaves those defenses redundant.
Muhammad repeatedly told his followers to follow his Sunnah (example) and in the Qur'an we see that Allah even asserts his morality as being “sublime” (Qur'an 68:4), therefore Muhammad cannot be seen as simply a product of his time. To do so, would mean to also concede the fact that the Qur'an is outdated and not relevant to the modern world. From an Islamic perspective, this is unthinkable. The Qur'an is beyond the constraints of time. It is not simply 'inspired' but the very words of Allah, uttered through the lips of his final messenger. Hence, Muhammad's actions are (and always will be) morally acceptable to the Muslim.
Text from the Qur'an
Transliteration: Laqad kana lakum fee rasooli Allahi oswatun hasanatun liman kana yarjoo Allaha waalyawma al-akhira wathakara Allaha katheeranLiteral: (It) had been for you in God's messenger a good example/model to who was hoping/expecting God, and the Day the Last/Resurrection Day, and remembered/mentioned God much.
Qur'an Text/Transliteration 33:21
Transliteration: Qad kanat lakum oswatun hasanatun fee ibraheema waallatheena maAAahu ith qaloo liqawmihim inna buraao minkum wamimma taAAbudoona min dooni Allahi kafarna bikum wabada baynana wabaynakumu alAAadawatu waalbaghdao abadan hatta tu/minoo biAllahi wahdahu illa qawla ibraheema li-abeehi laastaghfiranna laka wama amliku laka mina Allahi min shay-in rabbana AAalayka tawakkalna wa-ilayka anabna wa-ilayka almaseeruLiteral: A good example/model (to follow) had been for you in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their nation: "We are innocent/separating from you, and from what you worship from other than God, we disbelieved with you, and the animosity and the intense hatred appeared between us and between you (for) ever (E), until you believe with (in) God alone." Except Abraham's word/statement to his father: "I will ask for forgiveness for you, and I do not own/possess for you from God from a thing, our Lord, on You we relied depended (on) , and to You we returned/repented , and to You (is) the end/destination."
Qur'an Text/Transliteration 60:4
Transliteration: Laqad kana lakum feehim oswatun hasanatun liman kana yarjoo Allaha waalyawma al-akhira waman yatawalla fa-inna Allaha huwa alghanniyyu alhameeduLiteral: A good example/model (to follow) had been for you in them, to who was hoping/expecting God, and the Day the Last/Resurrection Day; and who turns away, so then God, He is the rich, the praiseworthy/commendable.
Qur'an Text/Transliteration 60:6
See related: Islamic Theology/Hadith and Sunnah
Effect on Islamic Morality
As we have already seen, Muslims today are encouraged to emulate Muhammad and his 7th century actions as closely as they can, as a form of devotion to Allah. Due to this, no other historical figures actions have effected the modern world more potently or negatively than those of Muhammad. Lets take a look at a few of the example he has set for his pious followers to emulate:
Muhammad was a pedophile:
Sahih Muslim 8:3310
The effect: Religiously sanctioned pedophilia.
Muhammad was a mass-murdering child-killer:
The effect: Religiously sanctioned slaughter of innocents (including children) whose only crime were being a non-Muslim.
Muhammad was a Slaver:
These are the names of Muhammad's male slaves: Yakan Abu Sharh, Aflah, 'Ubayd, Dhakwan, Tahman, Mirwan, Hunayn, Sanad, Fadala Yamamin, Anjasha al-Hadi, Mad'am, Karkara, Abu Rafi', Thawban, Ab Kabsha, Salih, Rabah, Yara Nubyan, Fadila, Waqid, Mabur, Abu Waqid, Kasam, Abu 'Ayb, Abu Muwayhiba, Zayd Ibn Haritha, and also a black slave called Mahran, who was re-named (by Muhammad) Safina (`ship').
Muhammed's Maid Slaves "are Salma Um Rafi', Maymuna daughter of Abu Asib, Maymuna daughter of Sa'd, Khadra, Radwa, Razina, Um Damira, Rayhana, Mary the Coptic, in addition to two other maid-slaves, one of them given to him as a present by his cousin, Zaynab, and the other one captured in a war.
The effect: Religiously sanctioned Slavery which continues to this day.
Muhammad was a homophobe:
The effect: Religiously sanctioned executions of homosexuals.
Muhammad was a wife-beater:
Sahih Muslim 4:2127
The effect: Religiously sanctioned violence against women.
Of course, most “moderates” (as witnessed by their overwhelming silence and indifference) cannot speak-out against such things. To do so, would be to condemn Muhammad and (in-turn) their very faith. Also, as the “Prophet of peace” himself had said: “A man will not be asked as to why he beat his wife.”
Responses to Apologetics
- "Muhammad is rebuked in surah 80, so Muslims don't believe he is perfect!"
True. Muhammad is rebuked in the Qur'an for turning away from a blind man, but this only highlights an ignorance of Islamic theology and beliefs. In Islam, prophets are masoom (infallible/sinless). They may err (Zallat "slip"), but this is not the same as committing a sin. Sin in Islam is doing something against Allah's prescribed teachings. Muhammad did not sin because the incident involving the blind man occurred prior to Allah admonishing him. An act becomes a sin only after Allah ordains it as such. For example, Muhammad and the early Muslims drank alcohol, but this allowance was abrogated by a later Qur'anic revelation.
- "The Qur'an also says Abraham is a good example to follow, but there are no hadith collections for him!"
True. But if all prophets are a good model to follow, then by following Muhammad's sunnah, you're essentially following the sunnah of the prophets who preceded him. If there were Hadith collections for other prophets then they would be rendered obsolete.