All of the Abrahamic religions believe in one God; however, they all refer to Him by different names and sometimes different attributes or their understanding of the reality of those attributes is different. In Islam, God is known as Allah and He is mentioned by this name more than 2000 times in Quranic verses. The discussion regarding Allah in the Quran focuses mostly on the attributes and names of Allah.Therefore, the article delves into the most often discussed and main attributes mentioned in the Quran, like Mercy, Justice, Knowledge, Power and Wisdom as well as the Beautiful Names of Allah
Belief in God and the discussion regarding God is the most important and principal belief in most religions and particularly in the monotheistic religions. As one of these religions, Islam has placed the highest importance on the discussion regarding God and His oneness and indeed, in order to enter into this religion, a person must first and foremost bear witness to the oneness of God and thereafter to the Prophet-hood of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him and his household).
Therefore, the discussion regarding God is of the utmost importance to a Muslim and as the Divine Book of Islam, the Quran describes God with various attributes and names and introduces Him to us.
Facts about Allah in the Quran
|Arabic/Islamic word for God||Allah|
|Arabic symbol for Allah||الله|
|Who gave this name to God?||God in the Quran while describing Himself: Say, He Allah, is One [112: 1]|
|Number of times Allah is mentioned in the Quran||2816|
|Number of His attributes and names in the Quran||127 (according to the author of al-Mizan)|
|The Divine attribute that is most mentioned in the Quran||Mercy|
What does Allah (الله) Mean?
Before getting into the discussion of Allah in the Quran, let us first look at what this word means and refers to. We will therefore look into its lexical meaning as well as what it refers to in the Islamic context.
The word Allah actually comes from the word al-ilah (ال اله) and due to its extensive usage, the hamza (حمزة) in the middle was dropped and it became «الله». The word اله could stem from two root words:
- Ilah (إله): which means worship
- Walaha (وله): which means bewilderment
Therefore, God is referred to as Ilah either because He is worshipped or because the intellect is bewildered in trying to know Him. 1
Greatest Name of God
«اللّه ُ» أعظَمُ اسمٍ مِنَ أسماءِ اللّه ِ عزّ و جلّ، و هُوَ الاِسمُ الَّذي لا يَنبَغي أن يُسَمّى بِهِ غَيرُ اللّه ِ، و لَم يَتَسَمَّ بِهِ مَخلوقٌ 2
«Allah» is the greatest name of God, the Almighty, and it is a name which none other than God should be called by and nor should it be given to any creation. 3
Object of Worship
اللَّهُ مَعْنَاهُ الْمَعْبُودُ الَّذِي يَأْلَهُ فِيهِ الْخَلْقُ وَ يُؤْلَهُ إِلَيْهِ وَ اللَّهُ هُوَ الْمَسْتُورُ عَنْ دَرْكِ الْأَبْصَارِ الْمَحْجُوبُ عَنِ الْأَوْهَامِ وَ الْخَطَرَاتِ. 4
«Allah» is the object of worship and deity by whom creation is bewildered and mystified; He is sought refuge in and Allah is the one who is hidden from the eyes and He is also veiled and concealed from imaginations and minds. 5
Allah means someone who has supremacy and command over the smallest and largest (of things; i.e., over everything). 6
Name Specific to God
The name Allah gradually separated from its derivative concept and came to refer and be used specifically to the Necessary Being, i.e. God, and encompasses all the Divine perfect attributes. 7
Proof that it is a Name Specific to God
God is attributed with all His names and the actions that stem from them; however, He is not described by the name Allah. For example, we would say Allah who is merciful; but not vice versa.
One can say that it implicitly refers to all His perfect attributes and it is right to say that Allah is the name for the Necessary Being who possesses all the perfect attributes and qualities. 8
Allah’s Description of Himself in the Quran
In the chapter of Tawhid (توحید) or Ikhlas (اخلاص), God introduces Himself to mankind. This chapter consists of only four verses; however, the knowledge and understanding provided in these few verses is indeed profound.
One of the principal beliefs of Islam, and all monotheistic religions, is the oneness and unity of God and the fact that there is no being or creature or anything similar or equal to Him.
Some Fundamental Qualities of Allah in the Quran
Some of the fundamental attributes of Allah in the Quran are mentioned in this chapter:
- His oneness and unity
- His needlessness and independence
- The fact that He has no origin nor does He produce anything from Himself in a way that detracts something from Him
- That there is none like Him
Some Names and Attributes of Allah in the Quran
Verses of the Quran and numerous hadith enumerate various attributes and names for God. Although we cannot discuss all the attributes and names for God in this article, we will discuss some of the main ones attributes of Allah in the Quran
Knowledge of Allah in the Quran
Allah or God’s knowledge is discussed in many verses of the Quran. we will go into a bried discussion of this attribute from the Quranic point of view.
Allah Knows Everything
إِنَّ اللَّهَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَليمٌ
Indeed Allah has knowledge of all things. 9
Allah’s Knowledge over that which is in the Hearts
وَأَسِرُّوا قَوْلَكُمْ أَوِ اجْهَرُوا بِهِ إِنَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُورِ ﴿13﴾
Speak secretly, or do so openly, indeed He knows well what is in the breasts.
أَلَا يَعْلَمُ مَنْ خَلَقَ وَهُوَ اللَّطِيفُ الْخَبِيرُ ﴿14﴾
Would He who has created not know? And He is the All-attentive, the All-aware. 10
Probabilities regarding God’s Knowledge
In regards to God’s knowledge, there are three probabilities presented by the commentators of this verse:
- Since God is the one who created our hearts, would He not then have knowledge of the secrets that reside within it?
- God is the one who created man; how then could He not have knowledge of man’s secrets?
- The last possibility of the intent of the verse regarding God’s knowledge is that, God who is the creator of everything and is aware of all the secrets of the universe, how can He not know man’s secrets as one of His creations. 11
God’s Creation is Perpetual
In order to understand the reality of God’s knowledge, one needs to be aware of the fact that God’s act of creation is perpetual, i.e. man is being blessed with the grace of existence from moment to moment and it is not that He creates us and then leaves us on our own.
Essentially, all of creation is contingent and all that is contingent depends on God for its existence and if the connection to Him is broken even momentarily, all of creation will be annihilated. This perpetual connection and continuous creation is the best proof of God’s knowledge in relation to the secrets of all of creation in all times and places. 12
Proof of God’s Knowledge over Everything
Regarding Allah’s knowledge over everything, many proofs have been provided in Islamic texts and material. A few of these are discussed in this article.
Proof of God’s Knowledge through Creation
It is not possible that the being that has created such a majestic and amazing world such as this one, would not have knowledge of even the smallest details of it.
In short, creation of all things is proof of God’s knowledge over all things. 13
Proof of God’s Knowledge through His All-Encompassing Presence
God is an unlimited being; our existence, knowledge, power and our life are all limited, whereas as God is unlimited in every aspect. Because He is unlimited, He is present everywhere, in all times and places and there is no point in creation that is empty of His presence. How is it possible that such a being be unaware of something?
One who always was and always will be and there is not place where He is not present, has and always will have all the secrets of this world. His unlimited existence necessitates His encompassment of everything and therefore, nothing is hidden from Him of which He is unaware. 14
Knowledge through Presence
There are two types of knowledge:
- Acquired knowledge or al-Ilm al-Husuli (العلم الحصولی), which is indirect knowledge
- Knowledge by Presence or al-Ilm al-Huduri (العلم الحضوری), which is direct knowledge of something without any mediators.
God’s knowledge over creation is of the second type; however, it is a complete and perfect knowledge by presence. All the creations of the world with all their secrets and without any mediators are present to God and His essence encompasses them all.
Power of Allah in the Quran
إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدير
Indeed Allah has power over all things. 15
Points to Consider in Regards to Power
When speaking of power, it is very important to consider the following points:
- Power is associated with activity not passivity; therefore, a person being hit is not said to be powerful.
- Power applies to an agent who has knowledge and free-will.
- Power is a gradational concept that has different intensities from weak to strong.
These points also apply to man’s power and therefore he is said to be powerful; however, God’s power is complete and absolute and He possesses the highest levels of power. 16
Proof of God’s Power
Since Allah is the one who has bestowed power to all existents and creation, He must have complete and absolute power Himself because one who gives cannot himself lack the thing he gives.
On the other hand, possessing absolute power is a requisite of absolute perfection and since God is absolutely perfect, He must possess absolute and unlimited power. 17
Nothing Can Disturb God’s Power
Nothing can upset God’s Omnipotence because for this to happen, only two circumstances can be imagined:
- God Himself wills an action to not happen and He Himself impedes it actualization, which is against God’s wisdom.
- Another being, apart from God, is an obstacle to the actualization of something. This too is not possible or logical because a contingent being that has no independence cannot be a hindrance to the actualization of Divine will. 18
Categories of Verses Regarding the Power of Allah in the Quran
There are 3 categories of verses regarding the power of Allah in the Quran:
- Verses that state: Allah has power over all things, like the verse mentioned above.
- Verses that state that He does whatever He wants and wills; like the following verse:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُدْخِلُ الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَ عَمِلُواْ الصَّلِحَاتِ جَنَّاتٍ تجَرِى مِن تحَتهِا الْأَنْهَارُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَفْعَلُ مَا يُرِيد
Allah will indeed admit those who have faith and do righteous deeds into gardens with streams running in them. Indeed Allah does whatever He desires. 19
- Verses which attribute different types of actions to God’s power, like the creation and continuance of human communities, guidance, sustenance, giving or withholding blessings, law-making etc. 20
God’s Power and Impossibilities
Can God create a partner for Himself? Can He destroy Himself? Can he fit the world with all its vastness into an egg?
All these questions revert to the question of whether God’s power encompasses the impossible or not. If the answer is yes then impossible things would become possible and this is a contradiction.
There are 3 types of impossibilities which we will discuss below.
These are those matters that are self-contradictory. For example, something being white and at the same time being black is impossible.
Impossibility of occurrence
These are matters that are not self-contradictory; however, their actualization necessitates contradiction and impossibility. This impossibility is impossible in a specific aspect. For example, man is essentially a contingent being; however, if we imagine a time when his cause does not exist, then man’s actualization and existence at such a time necessitates contradiction and impossibility, since if the cause does not exist, neither can the effect.
Every phenomenon has a cause from which it is normally produced; however, it is also possible that it has another cause from which it is also sometimes exceptionally produced. When we see it produced from the non-normal cause, we say it is impossible for it to exist. In such cases, we negligently apply impossibility because if it can be produced from another cause, even as an exception, it is no longer impossible; rather, it is intellectually and logically contingent.
This type of impossible is not really so and comes under God’s power and omnipotence. This type of impossible is not only possible but has also taken place and Divine miracles fall under this category; they are phenomena that are not realized through normal causes but rather through uncommon ones. 21
God’s Power is not Limited
The first two impossibilities, i.e. the essential impossibility and impossibility of occurrence do not apply to God’s power.
In case of essential impossibility, it is not that God’s power is limited and He is unable to perform something; rather, it is the nature of the impossible itself which is contradictory and it therefore does not have the capacity to be actualized.
In case of the second type of impossibility, even though it is not essentially contradictory, and therefore, in this sense, is not out of the bounds of God’s power; however, due to the inexistence of the cause, it does not have the capacity to exist and thus does not apply to Divine power. Here too, it is the inability of the impossible to be actualized, not a deficiency in God’s power. 22
God’s Power to do Evil
Even though some believe that God is unable to perform evil, the truth of the matter is that God has the power to do evil; however, because He is free from negligence, deficiency, fear, need, etc. and possesses wisdom, it is impossible that He perform such actions. 23
Mercy (رحمة) of Allah in the Quran
One of the attributes of God that has been repeated many times in the Quran is His Mercy which has been mentioned in more than 500 verses. 24
Meaning of Mercy
The word Rahmah (رحمة) refers to kindness and gentleness that necessitates favor and beneficence in relation to a dead person and is sometimes used solely for kindness or solely for favor and beneficence.
And when it is attributed to God, it only refers to favor and beneficence not tenderness and it has been narrated that mercy in relation to God means bestowing or favoring and in relation to people, refer to tenderness and benevolence. 25
The Verse of Bismillah (بسم الله) and Mercy of Allah in the Quran
The first verse that every chapter in the Quran begins with is:
بسم الله الرحمن الرجیم
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
In this verse and many other verses throughout the Quran, the attribute of mercy has been mentioned.
For the attribute of mercy, two Arabic words have been used both of which come from the same root word of mercy, i.e. Rahmat (رحمة).
The first is Rahman (رحمن). This word denotes excessive mercy as the noun form used indicates abundance and plentitude. This form of mercy envelopes and includes all existents and human beings whether they are believers or non-believers. 26
Therefore, God who attributed with the quality and name of al-Rahman is an abundantly merciful God. 27
However, there is a second attribute which also comes from the same root and is mentioned in the abovementioned verse too and that is Rahim (رحیم). This attribute refers to God’s specific mercy which encompasses God’s worthy and believing servants and is a specific and special type of mercy which is gifted to them. 28
This noun form indicates constancy, perpetuity and continuity and consequently, this attribute refers to an eternally merciful God. It is therefore more appropriate that it indicates eternal blessings and enduring mercy which He only graces and bestows upon the believers in a realm which is indestructible and that is the Hereafter. 29
Why Mercy is the Sole Attribute that we Begin Each Chapter With
The verse mentioned above is repeated 114 times in the Quran – at the beginning of each chapter, except chapter 9 and twice in chapter 16. It is the verse that’s starts each chapter and Muslims are recommended to recite this verse before performing any action.
The question is why is mercy the sole attribute used in this verse? The answer is that at the start of every action, man invokes help through an attribute which effects and encompasses all of creation and it is Divine mercy which illuminates and has penetrated through everything. 30
Justice of Allah in the Quran
One of the very important attributes of Allah is the attribute of justice or Adl (عدل). Divine justice is a topic that is much discussed in most of the religions.
Even within Islam, the different denominations have varying views regarding God’s justice.
God Judges according to One’s Actions
ذَالِكَ بِمَا قَدَّمَتْ أَيْدِيكُمْ وَ أَنَّ اللَّهَ لَيْسَ بِظَلَّامٍ لِّلْعَبِيد
This is for what your own hands have sent before and because Allah is not in the least unjust to the servants. 31
God’s Actions and Justice
On one hand, the abovementioned verse refutes the claim of the determinists who believe that human beings have no free will and on the hand, it generalizes justice in relation to God’s actions and states that injustice has no place in God’s actions.
The verse clearly states that all rewards and punishments that God gives is a result of man’s own actions in this world. It also states that God is not unjust and does not ever oppress His creatures and that the rewards and punishment system is centered on absolute justice. 32
A Claim regarding Divine Justice
One of the claims made by the Ash‘arites regarding Divine Justice is that one cannot apply or even speak of oppression and injustice in relation to God as it does not apply to Him. Whatever He does is equal to justice and even if He decides to send all the good-doers to Hell and all the evil-doers to Heaven, He is not unjust and no one can question Him in this case.
However, the verse refutes such a claim and shows that if He rewards or punishes anyone in contrast to their actions not only is He unjust but He is severely unjust (the noun form used is one that indicates severity and intensity). 33
Reasons for Injustice
إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَظْلِمُ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ وَ إِن تَكُ حَسَنَةً يُضَاعِفْهَا وَ يُؤْتِ مِن لَّدُنْهُ أَجْرًا عَظِيمًا
Surely Allah does not do injustice to the weight of an atom. And if it is a good deed He multiplies it and gives from Himself a great reward. 34
This verse also emphasizes that God does not do the least bit of injustice to His servants. But the answer as to why He does not do injustice is abundantly clear.
The reason for injustice is fear, need or mental and psychological deficiencies. However, God who has knowledge over all things is needless and has no faults or deficiencies cannot possibly be unjust. It is not that He does not have the power to do so; rather, it His knowledge and wisdom that prevents Him from doing so.
Therefore, He places everything in its proper place in this world and deals with everyone according to their actions and worthiness. 35
Wisdom of Allah in the Quran
…أَنَّ اللَّهَ عَزيزٌ حَكيمٌ
…Know that Allah is all-mighty, all-wise. 36
Meaning of Wisdom
According to Ragheb Esfahani, wisdom means arriving at the truth through knowledge and intellect. 37
Another one of the lexicologists explains wisdom as knowledge that prevents one from wrong or bad acts. 38
Relation between Wisdom, Knowledge and Power of Allah in the Quran
In multiple verses of the Quran, the attribute of wisdom is mentioned alongside knowledge.
For example, the following verse:
…وَ اللَّهُ عَليمٌ حَكيمٌ
… And Allah is all-knowing, all-wise. 39
In numerous verses, this attribute is also mentioned alongside might and power, like the first verse mentioned under the title of wisdom above.
Knowledge and power are two requisites of wisdom and wise actions and this is the Quran mentions these two alongside wisdom. 40
The Beautiful Names – Asma ul Husna (اسماء الحسنی) of Allah in the Quran
وَ لِلَّهِ الْأَسمْاءُ الحْسْنىَ فَادْعُوهُ بهِا وَ ذَرُواْ الَّذِينَ يُلْحِدُونَ فىِ أَسْمَئهِ سَيُجْزَوْنَ مَا كاَنُواْ يَعْمَلُون
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. 41
The Attributes of Jamal (جمال) and Jalal (جلال) of Allah in the Quran
وَ يَبْقى وَجْهُ رَبِّكَ ذُو الْجَلالِ وَ الْإِكْرامِ
Yet lasting is the Face of your Lord, majestic and munificent. 42
The words “ذو الجلال و الإکرام” in the verse refer to the attributes known as Jamal and Jalal.
Jalal are those attributes that indicate that God is more sublime and transcendent than those attributes, i.e. they are the Negated Attributes or Sifat al-Salbiyyah (الصفات السلبیة).
The Jamal attributes on the other hand, indicate the manifestation of the beauty and value of something, i.e. the Positive attributes or Sifat al-Thubutiyyah (الصفات الثبوتیة). 43
Both these attributes together are the Beautiful Names of God or Asma ul Husna (اسماء الحسنی), referred to in the previous verse.
What are the 99 Names of Allah?
Some scholars believe – and narrations also bear witness to this – that the Beautiful Names are 99. However, verses of the Quran and supplications show that there are more than 99 Divine Beautiful Names.
One of the scholars solves this apparent issue by explaining that 99 are the general names; however, their detailed and specific names are not countable. Therefore, according to him, the narrations refer to the generalities of these names and not the detailed names under each. 44
The Beautiful Names are not Limited to 99
According to Allamah Tabatabai, a commentator of the Holy Quran, the verses of the Quran do not indicate the number of the Beautiful Names; rather, the verses indicate that each of the names is the best of names in existence, belong to God and that the Beautiful Names are not limited in any way. 45
There are many profound meanings in the words of the Infallibles as well as verses of the Quran regarding about God. The few words written in this regard in this article do not even come close to describing even an atom’s worth of the reality of Allah in the Quran or in general and is only an introduction.
- Tabatabai, M. H. (1374). Tafsir al-Mizan. (Trans. by Muhammad Baqir Musawi Hamedani). Jamiat al-Modarresin Publications. Vol. 1, pp. 28-29.
- Ibn Babawayh, M.. (1398). Al-Tawhid. (Research and Editing by Hashim Hosseini). Jamiat al-Modarresin Publications. P. 231; Muhammadi Rayshahri, M. & et. al. (1391). Encyclopedia of Quran and Hadith. (Trans. Hamid Reza Azhir & Hamid Reza Shaykhi). Dar al-Hadith Publications. Vol. 5, p. 130.
- Muhammadi Rayshahri, M. & Et. Al. Ibid.
- (1403 AH). Bihar al-Anwar. (Research and editing by: a group of researchers). Beirut: Dar Ihya al-Turath al-‘Arabi. Vol. 3, p. 222; Rajabi, D. (n.d.). Al-Sharabal-Tahoor. N.p. P. 176.
- Muhammadi Rayshahri, Ibid. p. 131.
- Atarudi Quchani, A. A. (1390). Translation of the Masnad of Abu Ibrahim Musa bin Jaʿfar al-Kazim (peace be on him). Atarud Publications. Vol. 1, p. 392.
- Muhammadi Rayshahri, Ibid. p. 131.
- Tabatabai, M.H. Ibid. p. 29
- [29: 62]. Qarai translation
- [67: 13]. Qarai translation
- Tafsir Namuna. (1374).Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyyah Publications. Vol. 24, p. 334.
- Nasir, M. S. How to know God. Chapter: one who is present everywhere, knows everything.
- [2: 20]. Yusufali translation
- The Onmipotence of God in the Quran and Hadiths. In: A Research Journal on Quranic Knowledge. Volume 6, issue 20, pp. 7-28. DOI: 10.22054/rjqk.2016.2352.
- [22: 14]. Qarai translation
- M. T. Theology. Pp. 359-364.
- M. T. Ibid, pp. 364-366.
- Ibid, pp. 366-367.
- Shayiste Nejhad. Ibid.
- Qarashi, A. A. (1371 AP). Qamus al-Quran. Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyyah Publications. Vol. 3, p. 70.
- Tabatabai, M.H. Ibid. vol. 1, p 30.
- Rezai Esfahani, M.A. Ibid,
- [3: 182]; [8: 51] and also similar, [22: 10]. Shakir translation
- (1374). Tafsir Namuna. Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyyah Publications. Vol. 3, p. 195.
- Ibid. pp. 195-196.
- [4: 40]. Shakir translation
- Tafsir Namuna.Ibid, p. 390.
- [2: 209]. Qarai translation
- Qarashi, A. A. Ibid. Vol. 2, p. 162.
- Turayhi, F. D. (1375 AP). Majma‘ al-Bahrain. Mortazavi Publications. Vol. 6, p. 45.
- [4: 26]. Qarai translation
- Fazeli, Q. (1386). God and Man in Masnavi. Tehran: Fazilat-i Ilm. P. 114.
- [7: 180]; see also: [17: 110]; [20: 8]; [59: 24]. Qarai translation
- [55: 27]. Qarai translation
- Tafsir Namuna Ibid. vol. 23, p. 136.
- B. Babwayh, M. (1398 AH). Al-Tawhid. Jamiat al-Modarresin Publications. P. 194
- B. Ashur, M. (n.d.). Al-Tahrir wa al-Tanwir. Vol. 8, p. 362