By Sadia Dehlvi
Feb 08, 2013 -
The essential name of God in Islam is “Allah”, which has no dictionary meaning. The Quran contains the other names of Allah known as the Asma ul Husna, and says, “The most beautiful names belong to Allah.” “Asma”, means name, and “husna” means beautiful.
For those who wish to connect with God, the need to describe Him with certain names is essential. It is not possible to worship that which is completely unknown. The knowledge of Asma ul Husna allows us to become acquainted with God, for it sheds light on the relationship between Allah and the world.
Be it wrath or mercy, Allah reveals Himself to us through His names.
Recitation of the divine names is a popular practice amongst Muslims. Prophet Mohammed often spoke about the blessings of invoking the 99 names of Allah, as mentioned in the Quran and taught by him. The 100th name, believed to be the greatest, is hidden. Allah, or God, is the ultimate, all encompassing reality, depending on nothing for its existence. This is the zat, essence of all the names.
An entire mystical doctrine developed around the divine names, the attributes of which the Sufis seek to realise within themselves. These attributes have no independent existence of their own, but are different aspects of Allah. They are neither identical to nor distinct from His essence.
The names are repeated using “Ya”, before them, like, “Ya Rahman Ya Rahim”, which means, “O merciful, O compassionate”. These two names are chanted the most for they invoke Allah’s limitless compassion, His primary attribute. Both these names come from the Arabic root word “rahm” meaning womb.
Of the womb and God’s attributes of mercy, Prophet Mohammed said, “Those who are merciful will be granted mercy from the most merciful; be merciful to those on the earth and those in the heavens will have mercy on you. The womb is derived from the most merciful, so whoever establishes its relations will maintain relations with Allah, and whoever cuts off its relations will be cut off from Allah.” Invoking God’s compassion brings divine mercy into human relationships.
“Ya Latif”, which means, “O subtle one”, is another divine name that is often chanted. This is invoked to understand the subtlest of unknown things without being limited by finite conditioning. The subtle mystery of “Al Latif” is within all things. This invocation is believed to help bring grace, resilience, subtle knowledge, taming of the ego and a softening of hearts.
Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam.