Names of Allah
QUESTIONER: I have recently read a book in which it was mentioned that Allah has ninety-nine names. What is the exact number of the names of Allah?
Allah has so many names that we cannot know them all but given the five senses that we possess, He manifests Himself in a way that we are able to understand. Allah is not limited-our understanding is limited. Hence, if the names are ninety-nine or one hundred and one it is irrelevant. The fact is that God has manifested Himself to man who has limited faculties. It should be the faculties of man that determine how God can make Himself manifest to a person. God cannot manifest Himself to mankind beyond their capacity to understand.
For instance, if you begin to show your face to a blind person and say to him, ‘look, how beautiful I am – look at my nose, look at my face and my eyes’-what can the blind person do? Nothing! You have all those attributes of your figure, the shape, the colour, the birth marks, the strength or weakness of your body-there are hundreds of possibilities that are related just to sight but you cannot display yourself to a person who does not possess sight.
Similarly, Allah does not display Himself meaninglessly-He does not manifest those of His attributes that are not perceivable by beings that possess only the limited faculties of five senses. However, after death, the senses will be sharpened and we may be gifted with some new senses and Allah may then appear to possess new attributes-new manifestations will in fact be showered upon us in a manner that we cannot even dream of now.
Questioner: In the same book it is stated that certain names of Allah can be recited repeatedly to ward off certain evils and remove problems. Should we believe in this??
Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad:
Repetition of any name cannot, by itself, ward off evil but the repetition of certain names can give you the strength to concentrate on the meaning of those names. Each attribute of Allah is apparently single but when you concentrate on it and repeat it, new meanings may appear before your vision, just as when you move the kaleidoscope and by giving it a different twist new figures appear before your eyes.
Similarly, repetition of the names or attributes of Allah is in fact designed to create that effect on your minds as, for instance, the attribute of Rahman (the Beneficent) being repeated in the sense that Rahman covers the whole of the universe. The word ‘Rahman’ is apparently a single attribute but it covers the whole history of mankind, the whole history of creation, the whole history of God’s relationship with man and so on. You cannot exhaust even just this attribute alone if you were to go on repeating it throughout your life.
Hence the purpose of repeating Allah’s names is to gain a deeper understanding of their meanings. Although the vastness of the meanings they already contain goes far beyond our imagination, we should still reflect upon the meanings of those attributes and enlarge them before our vision by repeating them and, with the Grace of Allah, the more we know of Rahman, the more contact with Rahman we can attain.
In short, when we repeat an attribute of Allah when we face a specific problem or difficulty, this has to be the true purpose and this is the only useful purpose [i.e., reflect upon the deeper meanings of the attribute]. Otherwise, the repetition of God’s attributes like a parrot does not serve any cause.