The 99 names of Allah, or Asmā ul-Ḥusnā (أسماء الحسنی), are some of the names and attributes of Allah. Of course, His names are not limited to these and in some supplications and religious sources, for example, around a thousand names and attributes have been mentioned. Because He is limitless, so are His names, attributes, perfections.
The 99 Names of Allah According to Hadith
According to a narration from Abu Abdullah Ja‘far ibn Muhammad (peace be on him), which he narrates from the Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his household), the following are the 99 Names or Asma ul-Husna:
الله، إلاله، الواحد، الأحد، الصمد، الأول، الآخر، السميع، البصير، القدير، القاهر، العلي، الأعلى، الباقي، البديع، البارئ، الأكرم، الظاهر، الباطن، الحي، الحكيم، العليم، الحليم، الحفيظ، الحق، الحسيب، الحميد، الحفي، الرب، الرحمن، الرحيم، الذارئ، الرازق، الرقيب، الرؤوف، البار، السلام، المؤمن، المهيمن، العزيز، الجبار، المتكبر، السيد، السبوح، الشهيد، الصادق، الصانع، الطاهر، العدل، العفو، الغفور، الغني، الغياث، الفاطر، الفرد، الفتاح، الفالق، القديم، الملك، القدوس، القوي، القريب، القيوم، القابض، الباسط، قاضي الحاجات، المجيد، المولى، المنان، المحيط، المبين، المقيت، المصور، الكريم، الكبير، الكافي، كاشف الضر، الوتر، النور، الوهاب، الناصر، الواسع، الودود، الهادي، الوفي، الوكيل، الوارث، البر، الباعث، التواب، الجليل، الجواد، الخبير، الخالق، خير الناصرين، الديان، الشكور، العظيم، اللطيف، الشافي. 1
The Asma ul-Husna in the Quran
The Quran mentions the Good/Beautiful Names of Allah or Asma ul-Husna in the following verse, however, the number is not mentioned in verses of the Quran:
وَلِلَّـهِ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ فَادْعُوهُ بِهَا ۖ وَذَرُوا الَّذِينَ يُلْحِدُونَ فِي أَسْمَائِهِ ۚ سَيُجْزَوْنَ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ ﴿180﴾
To Allah belong the Best Names, so supplicate Him by them, and abandon those who commit sacrilege in His names. Soon they shall be requited for what they used to do. 2
99 Names of Allah: Groups of People in Relation to Allah’s Attributes
There are three groups of people in relation to Allah’s attributes. They are as follows:
- A group that believes in names for Allah and the meanings of those names are worthy of being attributed to Allah, i.e., these names describe perfections or negate defects
- A group that attribute attributes specific and particular to Allah to other than Him
- A group that believes in Allah but have gone astray in relation to His names.
The third group believes in defective traits and evil acts concerning Allah. For example, they believe Him to possess a body requiring space and also attribute oppression in actions and ignorance in judgment to Him. 3
99 Names of Allah: The Word Ism
The word ism (اِسم) is used for something through which a person finds his way to something. Apart from this denotation, it can also have a descriptive meaning. For example, a word that describes some quality that is in something or it simply refers to the essence of that thing. 4
The Beautiful 99 Names of Allah:
The 99 names are referred to as the Good or Beautiful Names. Why is the attribute of goodness attached to them? This attribute indicates that these names are of the category of descriptive names, like the names that do not refer to anyone but Allah.
If descriptive names are present among Allah’s names that have the attribute of goodness as part of their meaning and among these, the ones that are better than other attributes when considered in relation to Allah’s essence, these names are referred to as the Good Names.
Therefore, for example, even though the attributes of bravery and chastity are names that have a descriptive meaning and they have an aspect of goodness; however, they are not worthy of Allah as they describe a physical characteristic and this cannot be negated from them. However, names such as generous, just, and merciful can be attributed to Him.
In conclusion, for a name to be among the Good Names it must denote a meaning of perfection; a perfection that is not mixed with any defect or lack. 5
Types of Names
There are two types of names:
- Bad and evil names, like oppressor, ignorant, etc.
- Good names, like just, knowledgeable, etc. These names are also divided into two types:
- Names that have some aspect of perfection in them whether more or less. However, they also possess an aspect of defect and contingency, like being pretty or having curly hair, etc.
- Those that indicate absolute perfection and possess no aspect of defect or lack, like knowledgeable, powerful, etc.; provided that they are separated from the possibility of material possibility and composition.
These last types of names are the Good Names and are not limited to one or two names; rather, any name that is good and beautiful belongs to Allah. 6
Why the Number 99?
The words Asma ul-Husna actually mean good names and while all of Allah’s names are good, there are some that hold more importance and are known as the Asma ul-Husna. According to narrations, Allah has 99 names and whoever calls them by these names, his prayers will be granted and whoever counts them will be among the inhabitants of Paradise. 7
Therefore, we can conclude that while Allah has many names and all are good, perfect, and beautiful, these 99 hold more importance. The reason for this will be indicated below.
99 Names of Allah: The Reality of the Good Names Belongs Only to Allah
According to the way the sentence has been structured in the Arabic language, the first phrase of the verse indicates that all good and beautiful names that exist belong only to Allah and none is a partner to Him in their meaning. But since He attributes these meanings to other than Himself, ‘only to Allah’ means that the reality of these meanings belong only to Allah.
Therefore, the reality of every beautiful name belongs only to Allah unless He wills and intends the ownership of some extent of them to others. And other verses of the Quran confirm this. 8
99 Names of Allah: Worshipping Allah
The word daʿwah (دعوة) which is present in the verb fadʿū (فادعو) in the aforementioned verse could have any of the three possible meanings:
- To name someone
- To call out to someone
- To worship
However, according to other verses, the meaning that Allah mentions confirms the third meaning to be what He intends. For example, the following verse:
قُلِ ادْعُوا اللَّـهَ أَوِ ادْعُوا الرَّحْمَـٰنَ ۖ أَيًّا مَّا تَدْعُوا فَلَهُ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ ۚ وَلَا تَجْهَرْ بِصَلَاتِكَ وَلَا تُخَافِتْ بِهَا وَابْتَغِ بَيْنَ ذَٰلِكَ سَبِيلًا ﴿110﴾
Say, ‘Invoke ‘‘Allah’’ or invoke ‘‘the All-beneficent.’’ Whichever [of His Names] you may invoke, to Him belong the Best Names.’ Be neither loud in your prayer, nor murmur it, but follow a middle course between these. 9
Or the following:
وَقَالَ رَبُّكُمُ ادْعُونِي أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِي سَيَدْخُلُونَ جَهَنَّمَ دَاخِرِينَ ﴿60﴾
Your Lord has said, ‘Call Me, and I will hear you!’ Indeed those who are disdainful of My worship will enter hell in utter humiliation. . 10
99 Names of Allah Are Not Limited to a Number
In the Quran, about 145 names of Allah are mentioned while some narrations indicate this number to be 99. However, in some supplications like Jawshan Kabīr (جوشن کبیر), up to a thousand names have been mentioned.
This difference could indicate two things:
- Either some of the names are combined and are practically used to mean the same as each other
- Or it could indicate that Allah’s names are not limited to a number 12
Narrations about the 99 Names of Allah:
A hadith from Ali b. Musa al-Rida (peace be on him) states:
نحن والله الأسماء الحسنى التي لا يقبل الله من العباد عملا إلا بمعرفتنا
We, the Purified Household, are the Beautiful Names of Allahﷻ for which the deed of none will be accepted without comprehending us.
وَلِلَّـهِ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ فَادْعُوهُ بِهَا ۖ
To Allah belong the Best Names, so supplicate Him by them 13
Applying the 99 Names of Allah:
In one of the narrations from the Holy Prophet (peace be on him and his household) we read:
تخلقوا باخلاق اللّه
Adorn yourself with the akhlaq (ethics) of Allah 14
The goal of calling Allah or God by these names is not to simply utter them verbally; rather, the aim is to inculcate and emulate these attributes in ourselves to the extent that is within human capacity and characterize ourselves with His attributes. 15
Therefore, it is not enough to simply know the number or the word for these Names; rather, what is important is to know their meanings and implications. 16
It seems that counting these names which has been mentioned in narrations refers to this adornment. Without doubt, if one adorns themselves with the attributes of being knowledgeable, powerful, merciful, etc., and if even a ray of these attributes shines on and in his existence, he would be of the people of Heaven and his prayers would also be granted. And this is why these 99 names are important. 17
Although the number of Allah’s names and attributes are unlimited just as He is unlimited, there are some among them that have been given more importance. These are the 99 Names of Allah or the Asma ul-Husna. This could be because it is important for us to emulate these names and attributes and not simply name or count them verbally.
Although verses of the Quran speak of the Asma ul-Husna, they do not mention their number. This is something we understand from narrations.
- Al-Burhan fi Tafsir al-Quran [5 vols.], vol. 5, p. 348
- [7: 180]. Qarai.
- Tafsir al-Mizan [20 vols.]. Vol. 8, p. 446
- Ibid. p. 448
- Ibid. pp. 447-8
- Ibid. vol. 14, p. 171
- Tafsir Namuna. Vol. 13, pp. 162-3
- Ibid. vol. 8, p. 449
- [17: 110]. Qarai
- [40: 60]. Qarai
- Ibid. p. 450
- Ramadan with the Holy Quran, 30 Lessons in 30 Days. Lesson 5: Supplication.
- Sharh Usul al-Kafi [4 vols.] (Sadra’s commentary). Vol. 1, p. 227.
- An Enlightening Commentary into the Light of the Holy Quran. vol. 9. Surah Taha, verse 8.
- Al-Jibouri, Yasin T. The Ninety Nine Names of Allah
- Tafsir Namuna. Vol. 13, p. 163