The Beautiful Names of Allaah, and Distortion in It 

The Beautiful Names of Allaah, and Distortion in It 

Author: Said Yai 

{ وَلِلَّهِ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَى فَادْعُوهُ بِهَا وَذَرُوا الَّذِينَ يُلْحِدُونَ فِي أَسْمَائِهِ سَيُجْزَوْنَ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ }

“Allah has the most excellent names. So call on Him by His names and shun those who distort them. They shall soon be requited for their deeds.” (Al A’rãf/The Height:180) 

Summary of Interpretation 

“Allaah has the most excellent names.” Al-Asmã means names, whereas Al-Husnã means the most excellent or beautiful. Al-Asmâ-ul-Husnâ are the names of Allaah that are the most excellent or beautiful. All of Allaah’s name -Glorified and Exalted be He- points out to the Allaah Himself, and the perfect qualities He has that are without any flaws or imperfections. The perfection of Al-Asmâ-ul-Husnâ doesn’t belong to anyone among His creations. 

“So call on Him by His names”, i.e., by such saying: 

اللّهُمَّ اغْفِرْ لِيْ وَارْحَمْنِيْ، إِنَّكَ أَنْتَ اْلغَفُوْرُ الرَّحِيْمُ

“O Allaah! Forgive me and Be Gracious with me! Indeed, You are Al Ghafuur  (The Most Forgiving), and Ar-Rahiim (The Most Merciful).

تُبْ عَلَيَّ يَا تَوَّابُ

“Accept my repentance, O Tawwaab (One Who Accepts Repentance)! 

اُرْزُقْنِيْ يَا رَزَّاقُ

“Please give me providence, O Bestower of All Provision! 

“and shun those who distort them.”I.e., by changing its meaning (ta’wil, tahrif), nullifying its meaning (ta’thil), or resembling it with His creations. “They shall soon be requited for their deeds.” “[1] 

Cause of Revelation 

It is narrated from Muqaatil – may Allaah have mercy on him- that he said, “Indeed, in the past, there was a man who prayed to Allaah during his prayer, and he also prayed to Ar-Rahmaan (The Most Merciful). Some of the polytheists of Mecca said, ‘Indeed, Muhammad and his companions stated that they only worship the One Lord. Then why does this person worship two lords?’. Then Allaah revealed this verse.” [2] 

The Beautiful Names of Allaah aren’t limited in 99 Names 

Many people assume that Allaah only has 99 names, based on a hadith narrated by Abu Hurairah -may Allaah be pleased with him-, in which the Messenger of Allaah -peace and prayer of Allaah be upon him- said, 

( إِنَّ لِلَّهِ تِسْعَةً وَتِسْعِينَ اسْمًا مِائَةً إِلَّا وَاحِدًا مَنْ أَحْصَاهَا دَخَلَ الْجَنَّة )

“Indeed, Allaah has ninety nine names, one hundred minus one. Whosoever able to count or memorize it, will (be rewarded with, -ed) enter the Paradise.”[3] 

Whereas Allaah has many other names that we do not know of, and it is hidden in His side. The Messenger of Allaah -peace and prayer of Allaah be upon him- said, 

( مَا أَصَابَ أَحَدًا قَطُّ هَمٌّ وَلاَ حَزَنٌ ، فَقَالَ : اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي عَبْدُكَ ، ابْنُ عَبْدِكَ ، ابْنُ أَمَتِكَ ، نَاصِيَتِي بِيَدِكَ ، مَاضٍ فِيَّ حُكْمُكَ ، عَدْلٌ فِيَّ قَضَاؤُكَ ، أَسْأَلُكَ بِكُلِّ اسْمٍ هُوَ لَكَ سَمَّيْتَ بِهِ نَفْسَكَ ، أَوْ عَلَّمْتَهُ أَحَدًا مِنْ خَلْقِكَ ، أَوْ أَنْزَلْتَهُ فِي كِتَابِكَ ، أَوِ اسْتَأْثَرْتَ بِهِ فِي عِلْمِ الْغَيْبِ عِنْدَكَ ، أَنْ تَجْعَلَ الْقُرْآنَ رَبِيعَ قَلْبِي ، وَنُورَ صَدْرِي ، وَجِلاَءَ حُزْنِي ، وَذَهَابَ هَمِّي ، إِلاَّ أَذْهَبَ اللَّهُ هَمَّهُ وَحُزْنَهُ ، وَأَبْدَلَهُ مَكَانَهُ فَرَحًا )

“No one afflicted with anxiety and sorrow, then he prays, ‘O Allaah! I am Your servant, son of Your servant, 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 named Yourself with, or revealed in Your Book, or You’ve taught to any of Your creation, or You’ve preserved in the knowledge of the unseen with You, that You make the Qur’aan the life of my heart, and the light within my chest, one that chases away my sorrow and anxiety,’ except Allaah will chase away his anxiety and sorrow and replace them with happiness.” [4] 

Through This hadith, the Messenger of Allaah clearly states that Allaah the Glorified and Exalted not only has ninety nine names, because there are others that is saved in His side. 

Suppose that someone says, “I have IDR 10,000.” Does it mean that he only possesses IDR 10,000? Of course not, and it is possible for him to have more money that the said amount. Likewise, the mentioning of Allah’s ninety nine names in the previous hadith, doesn’t mean that Allaah only has ninety nine names. 

Al Qurthubi said, “We’ve mentioned that regarding to the names of Allaah, some of it have been agreed upon by the scholars, and some haven’t. What we inferred from the books of our imams, there are more than two hundred names of Allaah.”[5] 

Ibn Katsir said, “Al-Faqîh Al-Imâm Abu Bakr bin Al-‘Arabi, one of the imam of the school of Maliki, wrote in his book, “‘Al-Ahwadzi fî Syarhi At-Tirmidzi’  that some scholars have compiled the names of Allaah from the Qur’and and the Sunnah, with the total of 1000 names. And Allaah knows best.”[6] 

The Meaning of ‘Whosoever able to count or memorize it, will (be rewarded with, -ed) enter the Paradise’

The Messenger of Allaah -peace and prayer of Allaaj be upon him said, “Indeed, Allaah has ninety nine names, one hundred minus one. Whosoever able to count or memorize it, will (be rewarded with, -ed) enter the Paradise.”[7]

Ihsha (counting or memorizing the beautiful names of Allaah that is mentioned in the hadith has four levels, namely: 

  1. Counting and memorizing the names
  2. Comprehending the meaning that it contains
  3. Praying to Allaah using those names, as mentioned in the concise interpretation earlier. 
  4. Worshipping Allaah with the meaning of those names. If we’ve known that Allaah is Ar-Rahiim (Me Most Gracious), we’ll always hope for His grace and His mercy. If we’ve known that Allaah is Al-Ghafuur (The Most Forgiving) we’ll always pray for His forgiveness. If we’ve known that Allaah is As-Samii’ (The All-Hearing)” we’ll always watch our words, to avoid angering Him. And if we’ve known that Allaah is Al-Bashiir (The All-Seeing), we’ll always be careful with our deeds, so as not to do something that He displeases of.[8] 

The Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of Allaah in Hadith 

There is no valid hadith found that mentioned or gathered all of the ninety nine names in one hadith, As for a hadith that was narrated in Sunan At Tirmidhi, Mustadrak Al-Hakim and other books of hadith, it is deemed as weak hadith by the scholars. 

In his book, after mentioning that hadith that contains the beautiful names of Allaah, At-Tirmidhi himself commented, “This is a gharib is narrated with another chain of narrators from the authority of Abu Huraira, and we don’t know, regarding those narrations, one that mentions about these names except this hadith…” [9].

Ibn Katsir said, “What is considered as the standard for the experts in hadith is that the hadith is deemed as mudraj [10].”[11] 

Is it Allowed to Name Someone with One of Allaah’s Names? 

The beautiful names of Allaah -Glorified and Exalted be He- are divided into two categories, i.e., 

  1. Names that contain certain characteristic that is the exclusive property of Allaah -the Glorified and Exalted -, such as Ar-Rahmân, Al-Khâliq, Al-Bâri, Al-Qayyûm, Al-Ilâh, Ar-Razzâq, Ash-Shamad, etc. These names belong to Allaah alone, and it is not allowed to be used for His creations. Therefore, the Messenger of Allaah -oeace and prayer of Allaah be upon him- forbade someone to be labeled as “Malikul-Amlak” (King of kings), through his saying, 

( إِنَّ أَخْنَعَ اسْمٍ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ رَجُلٌ تَسَمَّى مَلِكَ الْأَمْلَاكِ… لَا مَالِكَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ )

             “Indeed, the most despicable name in the side of Allaah is someone who is named Malikul-Amlak (King of kings)… For there is no king but Allaah -the Great and Almighty.”[12] 

The Messenger of Allaah -peace and prayer of Allaah be upon him- prohibited his followers to use those names, because in such naming, there is an element of resembling Allaah in His names and characteristics. The prohibition serves to protect tawheed, preserving Allaah’s right, and closing the doors that lead to polytheism in men’s words. It is because it is possible that by naming someone with names that is exclusive for Allaah alone, people will assume that the entity other than Allaah that uses that name also possesses similar characteristics that is in that name. And such belief is categorized as shirk/polytheism. 

Malikul-Amlak (King of the kings) is Allaah. No one deserves the name except Allaah. Therefore, the scholars agreed that it is prohibited to use this kind of names to name His creation. [13] 

In our country (Indonesia), there are many people who use such names, or are called with these names, such as: Rahmaan, Shamad, Khaaliq, Razzaaq, etc, and there is no doubt that it is prohibited in Islam. 

  1. Names that contain characteristics that are not exclusively belong to Allaah The Glorified and Exalted, such as: Al-Halîm, Ar-Rahîm, Ar-Ra-ûf, Al-‘Azîz, Al-Karîm, Al-Hakîm, Al-Hakam, Al-‘Aliy, etc. These kind of names are allowed to be used by His creations, because in the Qur’an, Allaah -The Glorified and Exalted- named His creations with it, as in the following verses: 

فَبَشَّرْنَاهُ بِغُلَامٍ حَلِيمٍ

“(In response to this prayer) We gave him the good news of a prudent boy;” (Ash-Shâffât : 101).

Allaah named Prophet Muhammad with Ra-ûf and Rahîm,

بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَءُوفٌ رَحِيمٌ

“…is tender and merciful to those that believe.” (At-Tawba/The Repentance: 128)

In the story of Prophet Yusuf -peace be upon him-, Allaah named the current ruler at that time with Al-Aziiz, 

قَالَتِ امْرَأَتُ الْعَزِيزِ

“The chief’s wife said..,” (Yusuf/Joseph: 51)

Many of the companions of th Prophet also used these names, and the Messenger of Allaah -peace and prayer of Allaah be upon him- didn’t deny their actions. Such as, ‘Ali, Karîm Ibn Al-Hârits Ibn ‘Amr As-suhami, There were at least 10 men named Hakiim, and at least 30 men named Al-Hakam.[14] 

However, we should know that the resemblance in name and characteristic between Allaah and His creations doesn’t mean that Allaah resembles His cretions, or similar with them. It is likely for someone to bear the label of Haliim (the patient and serene one), but the patience and serenity that he has isn’t similar to the patience and serenity of Allaah. Allaah possesses perfect characteristics, which has no flaws whatsoever and no rival. [15] 

Even though it is allowed to use the names in the second category, it is still suggested to add the names that contain the meaning of worshipping before it, i.e., using the word ‘Abd (عبد) for men, such as ‘Abdul-Haliim, ‘Abdul-Hakiim, etc. [16] 

The Messenger of Allaah -peace and prayer of Allaah be upon him- ever changed the name of man, whose name was ‘Aziz, into ‘Abdurrahman, as in the story of Khaitsamah Ibn ‘Abdirrahman Ibn Abi Sabrah, in which he recounted that in the past, his father – ‘Abdurrahman- went with his grandfather to visit the Messenger of Allaah -peace and prayer of Allaah be upon him-. The Messenger of Allaah -peace and prayer of Allaah be upon him- asked his grandfather, “What’s your son’s name?,”. His grandfather answered, “‘Aziiz.” The Prophet said, “Do not name him with ‘Aziiz. Instead, name him ‘Abdurrahman.” Then the Prophet said, “Verily, the best names are ‘Abdullâh, ‘Abdurrahmân and Al-Hârits.”[17]

In this hadith, there is ni prohibition to use the name ‘Aziiz, however, the Messenger of Allaah -peace and prayer of Allaah be upon him- changed the name to the better one, i.e., ‘Abdurrahman. 

Allaah’s decree,  { وَذَرُوا الَّذِينَ يُلْحِدُونَ فِي أَسْمَائِهِ }

The scholars of tafseer mentioned several meanings of the word, (يُلْحِدُونَ) in the verse above, among which are [18]: 

  1. Commiting shirk (يُشْرِكُوْن), hence the meaning of the verse is: “And shun those who commit shirk in His names.” The maning of Shirk or polytheism in this verse is resembling Allaah to His creations. 
  2. Declaring it lie (يُكَذِّبُوْن), thus the meaning of the verse is, “And shun those who declare that His names are lies.” 
  3. Deviating/distorting (يَنْحَرِفُوْنَ/يَمِيْلُوْنَ), hence the meaning of the verse is, “And shun those who deviate from the truth in (mentioning) His names.” 

The Forms of Distortion in The Beautiful Names of Allaah 

There are five kinds of distortion in the Beautiful names of Allaah, namely [19]: 

  1. Naming the statues with the names of Allaah, such as: The statue’s name Al-Lât (اللات) was derived from Allaah’s name Al-Ilâh (الإله), Al-‘Uzzâ (العزى) was derived from Allaah’s name Al-‘Azîz (العزيز), Al-Manât (مناة) was taken from Allaah’s name Al-Mannân (المنان).
  2. Naming Allaah with something that doesn’t suit Him, for example: the philosophers named Allaah with The Prime Cause, the Christians named Allaah with Al-Ab (الأب) or Father in Heaven. 
  3. Naming Allaah with flawed characteristics, for example: the Jews said that Allaah is Faqiir (poor), or that Allaah’s hand is being tied. 
  4. Refusing or nullifying the names of Allaah (ta’thil), such as the Jahmia did, who declared that the beautiful names of Allaah are merely names without meaning. They said, “Ar-Rahîm (The Most Merciful), but Allaah doesn’t have the character of Rahmah (giving mercy), Al-Hayyu (The Ever Living), but he isn’t attributed with living, As-Samî’ (The All-Hearing) and Al-Bashîr (The All-Seeing), but Allaah isn’t attributed with hearing and sight. There are also people who only set some characteristics or attributes that are contained in those names, but refusing other characteristics. They set the attribute of knowing for Allaah, because Allaah has the name of Al-’Aaliim (The All-Knowing), but they do not set the attribute of mercy (rahmah) for Allaah, whereas Allaah possesses the names Ar-Rahmân and Ar-Rahîm. People who nullify/reject Allaah’s names are divided into several groups. Among them are ones who are similar to renouncing Islam, some others aren’t, depends the degree of their digression. 
  5. Resembling or likening Allaah to His creations (tamtsil). Such as stating that the hearing and the sight of Allaah similar to the sight and hearing of mankind, or that Allaah lives like His creations live, etc.These are forbidden statement and act. Allaah has declared in the Qur’an that Allaah doesn’t resemble anything. Allaah declared, { لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ “Naught in the universe is like Him. He is All-Hearing, All-Seeing.” (Ash shuura/The Counsel: 11) 


  1. Allaah th Glorified and Exalted has beautiful and excellent names (Al-Asmâ-ul-Husnâ). We are told to know about those names, memorize them, and worship Allaah with all of their meanings. 
  2. Allaah doesn’t only have ninety-nine names. There are other names that are hidden in His side. 
  3. It is not allowed for anyone to use the names of Allaah that are exclusive for Him alone, such as: Ar-Rahmân, Al-Khâliq, Ar-Razzâq, etc. And it is allowed to use the names that aren’t exclusive for Him, such as ‘Ali, ‘Azîz, Hakîm, etc. 
  4. There are five kinds of distortion regarding The beautiful names of Allaah, namely: naming the statues with the names that are taken from Allaah’s names, naming Allaah with something that doesn’t suit Him, naming Allaah with the flawed characteristics, nullifying/rejecting Allaah’s names (ta’thil), and likening Allaah to His creations (tamtsil). 

Advice for All Muslims

It is compulsory for all muslims to know about Allaah the  Glorified and Exalted. One of the way to it is to learn about the beautiful names of Allaah, and His traits that are written in the Qur’an and sunnah of the Prophet. One will never be able to fully and correctly understand about the meaning of each name and trait of Allaah except through comprehending the Arabic language. For example: Ar-Rahmân is interpreted to The Most Gracious and Ar-Rahîm is interepreted to The Most Merciful, however, these interpretations are not totally correct, and indeed, there is no equal or proper words to express its meaning in Indonesian language. Likewise, most of the beautiful names of Allaah and His traits do not have a proper interpetation in Indonesian language. Therefore, we should spare our time to study the Arabic language properly. 

May this article bring benefit to us all. 

Prabumulih, Dzul-Hijjah 1432/November 2011


  1. Aisarut-Tafâsîr li kalâm ‘Aliyil-Kabîr. Jâbir Ibn Musa Al-Jazâiri.
  2. Al-Jâmi’ li ahkâmil-Qur’ân. Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Al-Qurthubi. 1423 H/2003 M. Riyadh: Dar ‘Âlam Al-Kutub.
  3. Al-Qaul Al-Mufîd ‘Alâ Kitâbit-Tauhîd. Muhammad Ibn Shâlih Al-‘Utsaimîn. 1424 H. KSA: Dâr Ibnil-Jauzi.
  4. At-Tadmuriyyah. Ahmad Ibn ‘Abdil-Halîm Ibn ‘Abdissalam Ibn Taimiyah. 1424 H/2003. Ar-Riyadh: Maktabah Al-‘Ubaikân.
  5. Jâmi’ul-bayân fî ta’wîlil-Qur’ân. Muhammad Ibn Jarîr Ath-Thabari. Beirut: Muassasah Ar-Risâlah.
  6. Ma’âlimut-tanzîl. Abu Muhammad Al-Husain Ibn Mas’ûd Al-Baghawi. 1417 H/1997 M. Riyâdh:Dâr Ath-Thaibah.
  7. Tafsîr Al-Qur’ân Al-‘Adzhîm. Ismâ’îl Ibn ‘Umar Ibn Katsir. 1420 H/1999 M. Riyâdh: Dâr Ath-Thaibah.
  8. Taisîr Al-‘Azîz Al-Hamîd fî Syarhi Kitabit-Tauhîd. Sulaiman Ibn ‘Abdillah. 1423 H/2002. Beirut: Al-Maktab Al-Islâmi.
  9. Taisîr Al-Karîm Ar-Rahmân. Abdurrahmân Ibn Nâshir As-Sa’di. Beirut: Muassasah Ar-Risâlah.
  10. Tasmiyatul-Maulûd. Bakr Ibn‘Abdillah Abu Zaid. 1416 H/1995. Ar-Riyadh: Dârul-‘Âshimah.
  11. And other references which mostly have been cited in the footnotes. 


[1] Tafsîr As-Sa’di page 309-310 and commentary in Aisarut-Tafâsîr, for the verse above. 

[2] Tafsîr Al-Baghawi (III/306). The author haven’t found any valid narration regarding the reason behind the revelation of this verse. Al Baghawi mentioned the said narration in his tafseer without its narrational chain. The author includes it in this article due to the fact that numerous scholars included it in their books of tafseer, as well as in their books of creed. And Allaah knows best. 

[3] Narrated by Al-Bukhâri no. 2736 and Muslim no. 6/2677.

[4] Narrated by Ahmad no. 3712, Al-Hâkim no. 1877 and the others. Sheikh Al Albani said in Ash-Shahiihah no. 199, “This is a valid hadith.” 

[5] Tafsîr Al-Qurthubi (VII/325)

[6] Tafsîr Ibni Katsîr (III/515).

[7] Narrated by Al-Bukhâri no. 2736 and Muslim no. 6/2677.

[8] See: Taisîr Al-‘Azîz Al-Hamîd page 555 and Al-Qaul Al-Mufîd (II/314-316)

[9] Sunan At-Tirmidzi hadith no. 3507

[10] i.e., a hadith which contains additional part from its narrator, that is not a part of the hadith itself. Mudraj is a kind of weak hadith. 

[11] Tafsîr Ibn Katsîr (III/515).

[12] Narrated by Muslim 20/2143.

[13] Al-Mausû’ah Al-Fiqhiyah Al-Kuwaitiyah (XI/335-336).

[14] Refer to: Al-Ishâbah fi Tamyîzish-shahâbah. Ibn Hajar Al-‘Asqalâni on those names. 

[15] At-Tadmuriyyah page 21-24.

[16] Some scholars forbade the usage of Allaah’s name in absolute, to name a person, even though the names fall into the second category. This is a weak opinion, however, we should be careful not to use such names to honor the names of Allaah, as the Messenger of Allaah once changed the name of a man who used to be called Abul Hakam, to Abu Syuraih. 

[17] Narrated by Ahmad no. 17606 and the others. Sheikh Shuhaib said, “This is a valid hadith.”

[18] See: Tafsîr Ath-Thabari (X/596-598), Tafsîr Al-Qurthubi (VII/328-329) and Tafsîr Ibn Katsîr(III/516).

[19] At-Tadmuriyah page 31-42, Tafsîr Al-Qurthubi (VII/328-329), Taisîr Al-‘Azîz Al-Hamîd page 560-561 and Al-Qaul Al-Mufîd (II/317-318).

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