Chapter 16 : Chapter On the Meanings of the Names of Allah and Their Derivatives H 309, Ch. 16, H 1
A group of our people has narrated from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khalid from al-Qasim ibn Yahya from his grandfather al-Hassan ibn Rashid from 'Abdallah ibn Sinan who has said the following.
"I asked abu 'Abdallah (a.s.) about the interpretation of the verse of the holy Quran, 'In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.' The Imam replied, "The first letter B in the Arabic version signifies Baha 'Ullah means beauty of Allah. The second letter S' signifies Sana 'Ullah means radiance of Allah. The third letter M signifies Majdullah means the Grandeur of Allah or according to some other narrators, Mujdullah means Kingdom of Allah.
Allah means; Lord of all things. And al-Rahman means the Beneficent to all of His creatures in general. Al-Rahim means the Most Merciful to the believers in particular."
H 310, Ch. 16, h 2
Ali ibn Ibrahim has narrated from his father from an-Nadr ibn Suwayd from Hisham ibn al- Hakam who has said that he asked abu 'Abdallah (a.s.), about the names of Allah and their derivations and roots.
"What is the root from which the word Allah is derived?" The Imam replied, "O Hisham, the word Allah is derived from 'ilah, that is, the One Who is worshipped and the One who is worshipped is supposed to be worth worshipping. The name of Allah is different from His Own self.
Whoever worships the name not the meaning has become a heathen and has, in fact, worshipped nothing. Whoever worships the name and its meaning jointly, he becomes a polytheist because of worshipping two gods.
Whoever worships the meaning of the word Allah only he, in reality, has worshipped the One Allah (God). O Hisham, did you grasp it?" Hisham requested, "Kindly enlighten me more." The Imam added, "Allah has ninety-nine names. If each name had a separate meaning then each meaning would have been a god.
Allah is One only and all His names stand for just One reality and all these names are other than Allah Himself. O Hisham, bread is the name of something to eat. Water is the name of something to drink. Dress is the name of something to wear on.
Fire is the name of something that burns. O Hisham, did you fully grasp the point so you can defend your belief and contest successfully against our opponents, who, along with Allah, the Exalted, the Great, except things other than Him?" Hisham replied, "Yes, I did understand." The Imam said, "O Hisham, may Allah benefit you thereby and grant you steadfastness." Hisham (the narrator) says, "I swear by Allah, no one has ever defeated me on the issue of the Oneness of Allah until now."
H 311, Ch. 16, h 3
A group of our people has narrated from Ahmad ibn Muhammad from al-Barqi from al- Qasim ibn Yahya from his grandfather al-Hassan ibn Rashid from abul Hassan Musa ibn Ja'far (a.s.), who was questioned about the meaning of the word Allah. The Imam replied, "He (Allah) dominates all things small or big."
H 312, Ch. , h
Ali ibn Muhammad has narrated from Sahl ibn Ziyad from Ya'qub ibn Yazid from al-'Abbass ibn Hilal who has said the following.
"I asked Imam al-Rida (a.s.), about the words of Allah, 'Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth'" (24:35). The Imam replied, "Allah is the Guide for all that is in the heavens and the Guide for all that is on the earth."
According to another Hadith narrated by al-Barqi,(the Imam said), "Allah has guided everyone in the heavens and every one on the earth."
H 313, Ch. 16, h 4
Ahmad ibn Idris has narrated from Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Jabbar from Safwan ibn Yahya from Fudayl ibn 'Uthman from ibn abu Ya'fur who has said the following.
"I asked abu 'Abdallah (a.s.), about the words of Allah, The Majestic, the Glorious, 'He (Allah) is the first and the last.' (57:3) We have understood His being the first but explain for us the meaning of His being the last." The Imam said, "There is nothing in the universe, but that is subject to annihilation, alteration, change, decay, transition from one color to another, from one shape to another and from one quality to another.
They increase, decrease and change from decrease to increase, except He, Who is the Lord of the worlds. He alone is eternal and in one state. He is the first, before every thing and the last eternally. His attributes and names do not change as they do in the case of others. A man at one time is dust, at other time flesh and blood, then turns into decaying bones and finally becomes dust. A piece of date at one time is raw, at another time ripe, mature and then it dries up. With every change, the names and attributes also change. Allah, the Majestic, the Glorious is different from all such things."
H 314, Ch. 16, h 5
Ali ibn Ibrahim has narrated from his father from ibn abu 'Umayr from ibn 'Udhaynah from Muhammad ibn Hakim from Maymun al-Ban who has said the following.
"I heard abu 'Abdallah (a.s.) saying to a question about Allah being the first and the last." The Imam replied, "His being the first means there was no first before Him and no beginning preceded Him at all. His being the last means that He has no end because it is an attribute of the created and He is eternal, the first and the last. He has always been and He will always be without any beginning and any end. Nothing new happens to Him and does not change from one state to another. He is the Creator of all things."
H 315, Ch. 16, h 6
Muhammad ibn abu 'Abdallah in a marfu' manner, has narrated from abu Hashim al-Ja'fari who has said the following.
"I was in the company of abu Ja'far al-Thani, the 2nd (a.s.), when a person asked him, "The names and attributes of the Lord, the Most Holy, the Most High, mentioned in His book (the Holy Quran) are they He Himself?"
The Imam replied, "Your question has two aspects. If you say that they are His Own Self, meaning that He has plurality and multiplicity, then Allah is far exalted from being as such. If you mean that names and attributes of Allah had eternally been there, this also has a double meaning. (Firstly) if you mean, that names and attributes have eternally been in the knowledge of Allah and He eternally deserved them, it is true and quite right.
If you mean that the letters, pictures, spellings and syllables of names and attributes were eternal, then we seek refuge from Him against such belief. Allah existed but there were no creatures. He created names and attributes as a means between His Own-self and the creatures. Through these means they pray to Him and ask Him for help and names are the means to speak of Him.
Allah existed without being mentioned. The One mentioned through names is Allah the eternal, Who will be there eternally. Names and attributes are created their meaning and what they indicate is Allah, Who is far above plurality and combination, which happens only to the moving things. You can not say that Allah is compiled. He is a great deal or very little. He His Own-self is eternal. What is other than the Only One, it is divisible. Allah is not divisible.
Not even in one's imaginations He can be though of as more or less. Every divisible or being thought of as less or more, in one's imagination, is created which is the sign of the existence of the Creator. When you say Allah has power you in reality say that He does not become frustrated due to weakness. In this way you negate weakness from Him and consider it other than Him.
The same is the meaning of your saying that He is all knowing. With this, you negate ignorance from Him and have considered it other than Him. When Allah will destroy all things the form, spelling and syllables will all be destroyed. Allah is and will eternally be there."
The man then said, "Why do we call our Lord All-hearing? The Imam said, "Because every thing that can be heard is not hidden from Him. We do not ascribe to Him the hearing ability that exists in the heads. In the same way we call Him All-seeing. It is because every thing that can be seen like colors or individuals etc., are not hidden from Him. We do not call Him Allseeing because of blinking eye.
In the same way we call Him Subtle because of His knowledge of delicate things such as insects, etc., or even more delicate things. (It is because of His knowledge of) that, wherefrom such things emerge and of the intelligence, desires for reproduction, compassion for their offspring, their guarding each other, their carrying food and drink to their offspring in the mountains, wilderness, valleys and desolate places.
From this we know that their Creator is Subtle but without the condition of subtlety. Such conditions are for the creatures, who are conditioned with conditions.
We also call our Lord powerful but not because of the aggressiveness that the creatures display. If so, there a similarity would have existed as well as degrees of decrease that would involve increases. Whatever would decrease is not eternal and is weak. To our Lord, the Most Holy, the Most High, no one is similar, no contrary, no resemblance, no conditions, no end and no seeing of eyes.
It is unlawful for the hearts to analogize Him. It is unlawful for the Awham (intuitive power) to limit Him. It is unlawful for one's consciousness to contain Him. He is far Glorious and Majestic and above coming within the reach of the means of His creatures or have the sings of His servants. He is High and Great and far above such matters."
H 316, Ch. 16, h 7
Ali ibn Muhammad has narrated from Sahl ibn Ziyad from Ibn Mahbub from those he mentioned from abu 'Abdallah (a.s.) who has said the following.
"A man said, Allahu Akbar (Allah is Greatest) in his presence." The Imam asked, "Allah is Greatest than who?" The man replied, "Greatest than everything." The Imam said, "You have considered Him limited." The man asked, "Then, how should I say it?" The Imam replied, "Say, 'Allah is Greatest beyond description.'"
H 317, Ch. 16, h 8
Muhammad ibn Yahya has narrated from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn 'Isa from Marwak ibn 'Ubayd from Jumay' ibn 'Umayr who has said the following.
"Imam abu 'Abdallah (a.s.) asked me, 'What is Allah is Greatest?" I replied, "Allah is Greatest of all things." The Imam further asked, "Were there other things so Allah would be considered the greatest of them?" I then asked, "What then is the meaning thereof?"' The Imam replied, "Allah is far greater than all descriptions."
H 318, Ch. 16, h 9
Ali ibn Ibrahim has narrated from Muhammad ibn 'Isa ibn 'Ubayd from Yunus from Hisham ibn al-Hakam who has said the following.
"I asked abu 'Abdallah (a.s.) about the words Glorious is Allah." The Imam said, "It means Distinction of Allah (His being free of all shortcomings)."
H 319, Ch. 16, h 10
Ahmad ibn Mihran has narrated from 'Abd al-'Azim ibn 'Abdallah al-Hassani from Ali ibn Asbat. From Sulayman Mawla Tirbal from Hisham al-Jawaliqi who has said the following. "I asked abu 'Abdallah (a.s.) about the meaning of the words of Allah, the Majestic, the Glorious, Glorious Allah (Qur'an, 12:108, 23:91, 28:68, 37:159, 52:43, 59:23). The Imam replied, "They denote Allah's being above all things in perfection."
H 320, Ch. 16, h 11
Ali ibn Muhammad and Muhammad ibn al-Hassan has narrated from Sahl ibn Ziyad and Muhammad ibn Yahya from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn 'Isa all of them from abu Hashim al- Ja'fari who has said the following.
"I asked abu Ja'far al-Thani, the 2nd (a.s.), "What is the meaning of the One?" The Imam replied, "It means the unanimity of all tongues in speaking of Allah's Oneness. If you ask them as to who has created them, they all say it is Allah, Who has created them."
Chapter 17 : Chapter on Another Chapter (Related) to the Previous Chapter
Some additions concerning the different connotations of names (and attributes) used both for Allah, the Creator and the created.
H 321, Ch. 17, h 1
Ali ibn Ibrahim has narrated from al-Mukhtar ibn Muhammad ibn al-Mukhtar al-Hamadani and Muhammad ibn al-Hassan from 'Abdallah ibn al-Hassan al-'Alawi both of them from al- Fath ibn Yazid al-Jurjani from abu al-Hassan (a.s.) al-Thani or al-Thalith who has said the following.
"I heard the Imam saying, 'He (Allah) is the Subtle, All-aware, All-hearing, All-seeing, the One, the Self-sufficient, Who does not have any children, is not any one's child and there is no one similar to Him.
Had Allah been as those believing in similitude (al-Mushabbihah) say there would have been no distinction between the Creator and the created, the inventor and the invented but He is the Inventor.
There would have been no distinction between Allah and what He has given body and form to bring into existence. In fact, nothing is similar to Him and He is not similar to anything." I then said, "Yes, may Allah take my soul in your service, but you just said, The One the Selfsufficient, that no one is similar to Him. Allah is One and a man is one. Are the two not similar in oneness?" The Imam replied, "O Fath, you said something impossible.
May Allah grant you steadfastness. Similarity is in meaning. In the case of names they are all the same. The names refer to the nominee. When it is said a man it, at the same time, is a report about one body and not two bodies.
In fact, man is not one thing. His parts, colors and the color of his colors that consist of distinct parts, that are not equal. His blood is different from his flesh. His nerves are different from his vines, his hairs are different from his skin. The black things in him are different from the white things therein. The same is true of all other creatures. Human beings are one in name but not in meaning.
Allah, Great Whose Majesty is, is only One and no one other than Him is one. There is no difference, imbalance, increase or decrease in Him. Human beings are created, designed, compounded of different parts and various substances. Only when combined becomes one."
I then said, "May Allah take my soul in service for your cause, and grant you happiness, would you explain to me the meaning of your words "Subtle and All-aware? Explain it as you just did with the One? I know that His Subtlety or kindness is different from those of His creatures but I like more clarity." The Imam said, "O Fath, we said He is Subtle it is because of His knowledge of the delicate creatures, may Allah give you success and steadfastness, so you should consider His creation.
Consider His design in delicate and not so delicate plants and other creatures like animals, small and large such as flies and cricket and smaller ones that even eyes can not. Because of their small size no one knows which is male and which is female, which is new born and which is old.
We find tremendously delicate things with signs of His Subtlety, in their desire for reproduction, running away from death, collecting what is good for them and what is in the depth of the oceans and on the barks of trees, in the wilderness and desolate places.
We find more fastidiousness in such animals and their ability to communicate with each other, and what their offspring understand from them, their transporting food to their young and their colors, red along with yellow, white along with red so fine that our eyes are not able to catch for their very exquisite shape. Our eyes are not able to see them and our hands are not able to touch them.
All these show that the Creator of all such marvelous creatures are Subtle Who is kind to all the creatures we mentioned. He has done it without instruments and means. Every designer and manufacturer builds and manufactures some thing from something but Allah does it from nothing."
H 322, Ch. 17, h 2
It is narrated from Ali ibn Muhammad, in a mursal manner, from abu al-Hassan al-Rida (a.s.) who has said the following to one of his followers.
"May Allah, bestow up on you knowledge of the good, notice that Allah, the Most Holy, the Most High, is eternal. Eternity is that attribute which guides the wise that there was nothing before Him in eternity nor is there anything with Him eternal. That this attribute is a miraculous one has come to light from the acknowledgement of the 'Ammah (common people) that there is nothing before Allah, with and after Him.
At the same time, it invalidates the belief that there was something before or with Him. Had there been something with Him eternal He would not have been the Creator of that thing. If it was with Him how then He could have been its creator? Had there been something before Him then that thing might have been His creator because of its existing earlier.
Allah, the Most Holy, the Exalted, has ascribed certain names to Himself. He told His creatures when He created them, give them the ability to worship Him and made them responsible, to call Him with those names. He called Himself All-hearing, All-seeing, Allpowerful, Guarding, Rationalizing, Manifest, Hidden, Subtle, All-aware, Powerful, Majestic, Wise, All-knowing and with such other similar names.
When the animosity-mongers, who speak lies heard us mention such names as that there is nothing similar to Him and nothing of the creatures is like Him they began to speak out.
"When you (the Imams (a.s.) say that there is nothing like Him and no one is similar to Him then how is it that you also have those beautiful names for yourselves? This is proof that you are similar to Him or in certain conditions and not in other conditions because of having all those beautiful names." It is said to them that Allah, the Most Holy, the Most High, made it necessary for His servants to have certain names from among His names with differences in their meanings.
The difference is because one name may have two different meanings. One example is what people consider permissible and is widely used. This is the way Allah has addressed people. He has spoken to them by means of things that they understand so that they will have no excuse in their misdeeds.
A man is sometimes called a dog, a bull, sweet, bitter and a loin. All these are different from him and his conditions. The names were not used in their original meaning because man is not a loin or a dog etc. Note this carefully, may Allah grant you blessings.
Allah is called All-knowing. It is other than the created knowledge. With His knowledge of things He knows things and uses it to preserve His future commands and the process of whatever He creates of His creatures, destroys what He destroys of His creatures and without such knowledge He would have been weak and ignorant.
We see that people of knowledge among people are called knowledgeable because of the created knowledge, which they did not have at one time. Perhaps such knowledge may go away from them and they become ignorant.
Allah is called All-knowing because He is not ignorant of anything. Thus, the Creator and created are both called as having knowledge but the meaning is different as you may have noticed.
Our Lord is called All-hearing but it is not through the perforated piece and with sound so He would hear with it but would not see with it, which is the case with us. We do not see with what we hear but Allah has told us that from Him nothing of the sounds is hidden. His hearing is not in the way we are called as hearing people. We are called as hearing but the meaning is different.
In the same way is seeing not that He sees through a hole as we do and can not use it for other uses. Allah sees but not by looking to an object. We also are called as seeing but the meaning is different.
Allah is called Standing but not in the sense of standing in an upright position on the legs as is the case with the things but that He has said He is preserving as in the saying of a man, "standing for our affairs." Allah stands over every soul and what it gains. The word standing is also in the usage of people.
Words like remaining and standing also mean to suffice as in the words as you may say to a man, "Stand up over the affairs of so and so" which means deal with them in a sufficient manner. We stand on our legs, thus, the name is similar but the meaning is different.
The name, Subtle is not in the sense of fastidiousness or being infinitesimal but it is in the rarity and hard to perceive nature of things. As an example it may be said, "It has become very delicate for me and that so and so is very delicate in his manners and dealings." This means that it is profound for intelligence and difficult to find.
It has become bottomless and delicate so much that even imagination is not able to reach it. Allah, the Most Holy, the Most High, is far Subtle to be comprehended through definitions or be combined in an attribute or in the way we are subtle, small and delicate. Names are the same but different in meaning.
The name al-Khabir, meaning All-aware, is for One Who knows all things completely but not by means of experience and learning lessons from the past. Experience and learning from mistakes are of the means of learning for people. Without them there would exist no knowledge. One without experience and learning lessons is an ignorant person.
Allah is Allaware eternally of what He has created but well aware and expert among people are those who ask questions and learn. Our names are the same but they, again, are different in meaning. The name al-Zahir meaning clear and conspicuous is not because of being over and on top of all things or sitting on them at their peak but it is because of His domination and having power over all things. An example of this is when a person says, "I over came my enemies or that Allah gave me victory over my enemies."
In this there is report of the failure and victory. Also there is Allah's domination over all things. Another example is that His existence is clear for those who want (to know) Him. Nothing is hidden from Him and that He is the guardian of all that He has curved and fashioned.
In such case whose existence can be clearer than Allah, the Most Holy, the Most High? You will not live without His creatures, no matter wherever you may be. Only within your own self there is enough of His creation. His existence by far is clearer than ours. He manifest all by His Own-self and is Known by His own self. We are of the same name but the meaning is different.
The name al-Batin, means hidden. This is not in the sense of being inside of things by means of diving or so but is in the sense of His dealing, having knowledge, preserving and regulating the inside of all things. As one may say, "I tried to find the inside to learn and discover the secrets." Hidden for us is what is unseen and covered. In this case again our names are the same but different in meaning.
The name al-Qahir, means subduing. It is not in the sense of plotting, using certain devices and speaking attractive words or cunning means. It is not the way people subdue each other. The victorious among people may become subdued and vice versa. For Allah, the Most Holy, the Most High all the creatures have the garment of weakness on them.
Due to the absence of obstacles in what He wills about them, it only takes less than a blinking of the eye to say it Be and it is, comes into existence. Subduing in our case is how I mentioned and explained. Our names are alike but the meaning is different.
Thus, is the case for all the names although we have not mentioned all of them. For learning a lesson what we have mentioned for you is sufficient. May Allah be your and our helper in the matters of guidance and success."