Virtue of Monotheism

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Presented below is a selected translation of chapters (7 through to 10) from Part 8 of Kitāb al-Tawḥeed (Book of Monotheism) by Professor Muḥammad ibn Abdullah al-Mas’ari.  These chapters focus upon the virtues of Tawḥeed, the catastrophic danger of Shirk – making partners with Allah, as well as the the virtue of calling mankind to Islam and Tawḥeed.  Part 8 in Arabic covers to the divisions (or types) of Tawḥeed, and will feature in entirety within the forthcoming volume 3 of the series translating this work into English.



Some matters related to the most-beautiful names of Allah

Imām Abu Ḥāmid al-Ghazāli produced a very valuable treatise about the most beautiful names of Allah which he titled:  al-Maqad al-Asnā fi Asmā Allah al-usna.[1]  He mentioned that despite the multiplicity of most beautiful Names of Allah, they are not synonyms and each one of them has a different meaning that is not included in the others.  As he eloquently expounds:

Perhaps you will say: there are many names here, and you  have kept them from being synonymous and demanded that  each one comprise a distinct meaning, so how will you resolve all  of them to seven attributes?  You should know that if there be seven attributes, there are still many actions and many attributes, the totality of which almost exceeds enumeration. Moreover, it is possible to make a composite from the sum of two attributes, or from an attribute with something added, or from an attribute  with a negation, or from an attribute with a negation and  something added; and then posit a name corresponding to each  one so as to increase the number of names. And the totality of  them may be resolved into those which indicate (1) the essence, (2) the essence with a negation, (3) the essence with something added, (5) one of the seven attributes, an attribute with negation, (6,7,8) an attribute with something added, (9) an attribute of  action (10) with something added or negated — and these make  ten possibilities.

First: what indicates the essence, as in your saying ‘Allah.’  And the name al-Ḥaqq (the Truth) is close to it, since that means the essence in so far as it is necessary existence.[2]

Second: what indicates the essence with a negation, like al-Quddus (the Holy), al-Salām (the Flawless), al-Ghani (the Rich), al-Wāhid (the One), and those like them.  For al-Quddus is one from whom everything which occurs to one’s  mind or enters into the imagination has been negated, as al-Salām is one from whom all defects have been negated,  and al-Ghani is one devoid of need, while al-Wahid is deprived  of a similar or of divisibility.

Third: what refers to the essence with something added, like al-Ali (the Most High), al-‘Azeem (the Tremendous), al-Awwal (the First), al-‘Akhir (the Last), al-Zāhir (the Manifest), al-Bātin (the Hidden), and those like them.  So al-Ali is the essence whose degree is above the general run of essences, therefore it is in addition to them; and al-‘Azeem refers to the essence insofar as the limits of perception are transcended; while al-Awwal comes before all existing things, and al-‘Akhir is the one who is subsequent to the final end of existing things. al-Zāhir is the essence with respect to demonstrations of reason, and ‘the Hidden’ is the essence as it relates to perceptions of sense and imagination. Look for the rest in this way.

Fourth: what refers to the essence with negation and addition, like al-Malik (the King), al-Aziz (the Eminent).  Al-Malik refers to an essence which needs nothing while everything needs it, and al-Aziz is one whom nothing is like and one whose level is difficult to attain or to achieve.

Fifth: what refers to an attribute, like al-‘Alim (the Omniscient), al-Qādir (the all-Powerful), al-Ḥayy (the Living), al-Sami’ (the all-Hearing), al-Baṣir (the all-Seeing).

Sixth: what refers to knowing with something in addition, like al-Ḥakim (the Wise), al-Khabir (the Totally Aware), al-Shahid (the Universal Witness), and al-Muḥṣi (the Knower of each separate thing). For al-Khabir refers to knowledge in relation to hidden things, and al-Shahid refers to knowledge in relation to what can be seen, and al-Ḥakim refers to knowledge in relation to the most noble objects, while al-Muḥṣi refers to knowledge insofar as it comprehends objects limited to what is countable in detail.

Seventh: what refers to power with something more added, like al-Qahhār (the Dominator), al-Qawi (the Strong), al-Muqtadir (the all-Determiner), and al-Matin (the Firm).  Now strength is the perfection of power, and firmness its intensification, while dominating is its effect in being able to conquer.

Eighth: what refers to will with something added or in connection with action, like al-Raḥman (the Infinitely Good), al-Raḥim (the Merciful), al-Ra’uf (the all-Pitying) and al-Wadud (the Loving-kind).  These refer to will in relation to good deeds or fulfilling the needs of the weak, and you have come to  know what that involves.

Ninth: what refers to attributes of action, like al-Khaliq (the Creator), al-Bari (the Producer), al-Muṣawwir (the Fashioner), al-Wahhāb (the Bestower), al-Razzāq (the Provider), al-Fattāḥ (the Opener), al-Qabid (He who contracts), al-Bāsit (He who expands), al-Khafid (the Abaser), al-Rafi (the Exalter), al-Mu’izz (the Honourer), al-Mudhill (He who humbles), al-‘Adl (the Just), al-Muqit (the Nourisher), al-Muhyi (the Life Giver), al-Mu’mit (the Slayer), al-Muqaddim (the Promoter), al-Mu’akhkhir (the Postponer), al-Wali (the Ruler), al-Barr (the Doer of Good), al-Tawwab (the Ever-Relenting), al-Muntaqim (the Avenger), al-Muqsit (the Equitable), al-Jāmi’ (the Uniter), al-Mani’ (the Protector), al-Mughni (the Enricher), al-Hādi (the Guide) and those that are like them.

Tenth: what refers to an indication of action with something more, like al-Majeed (the all-Glorious), al-Kareem (the Generous) and al-Latif (the Benevolent).  For al-Majeed refers to an abundance of kindness together with nobility of essence, and likewise for al-Kareem, while al-Latif refers to gentleness in action.

Truly, al-Ghazāli presented a beautiful discourse containing diligent elaboration.

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[1] The full treatise is available in English: Al-Ghazali on the Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of God, Translated by David Burrell and Nazih Daher (1995) Islamic Texts Society, Cambridge.

[2] Ibid, pp. 159/161.  The original Arabic text has this citation in a slightly abridged format, here it is presented in full.

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