Concept of Asma-ul-Husna

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 وَلِلَّهِ الْمَثَلُ الْأَعْلَى وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

(And for Allah is the highest attribute and He is exalted in Might, The Wise)  [An-Nahl; 16:60]

Allah Almighty in the Nobel Quran has mentioned in different places that there is nothing at all that bears the likeness or resemblance of Allah Almighty; there is nothing that is His مَثَلُ in anyway. When we talk about this notion about Asma-ul-Husna, many people have this misconception that in some way the attributes that we have are in some way a mithl or bear a likeness to the attributes of Allah Almighty Himself. In fact, to make this clear, Allah Almighty Mentions in the Nobel Qur’an:

لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ

(There is nothing like unto Him) [Surah Shura; 42:11]

There is nothing at all in the universe; nothing at all in existence – that is the مثل or even the likeness of Allah Almighty

And in another verse, Allah Almighty Explained this by Saying that:

وَلِلَّهِ الْمَثَلُ الْأَعْلَى

(And for Allah is the Highest attribute) [An-Nahl; 16:60]

And to Allah swt belongs Sublimity;  Lutf that He is Al-Lateef- that only and only Allah Almighty Alone can have anything that has likeness or resemblance to Him.

Misconception About the 99 Names of Allah Almighty: Asma-ul-Husna

In two three different places, Allah Almighty Mentions His Asma-ul-Husna that He has these 99 names. And one thing that we must do is we must try to learn about Allah Almighty – to know Him as He has Revealed Himself to be; to know Him as He Wishes Himself to be known. And the problem that many of us have, especially the Muslims in any part of the world, whether the Muslims who live in the Western world who are educated in “Western Sciences” and specially in Liberal Arts and Social Sciences – is that we start to think about Allah Almighty based on our own rationality; based on our own personality instead of first diving deep into the pearls of revelation and thinking about Allah Almighty as He Wants us to Think about Him; knowing Allah Almighty as He Wishes to be Known as He has Revealed Himself to be!

And, the best starting point for that is to look at that Asma-ul-Husna. Different scholars in the history of Islam have written books on this topic. Particularly for tonight’s talk, is this book written by Imam-al-Ghazali rah explaining and explicating these 99 names of Allah Almighty. This book is available in Arabic, Urdu and English. In this book, Imam Al-Ghazali mentions some really incredible things. At some point, he also quotes this person – who is widely believed to be a Shaykh because he quotes this person in several of his writings i.e. Hazrat Khuwaja Abu Ali Farmadi rahimahumullah; who is a Shaykh (spiritual teacher) from our own spiritual lineage. In this Imam-al-Ghazali talks about this notion that Prophet (peace and Blessings be upon Him) said in a hadith that:

 تخلق باخلاق الله  (that we should characterize ourselves; adorn ourselves, with the  Khulq of Allah Almighty; with the Characteristics of Allah Almighty.

And, a lot of commentary has been done on this. That what exactly does this mean? And how, the spiritual Teachers of Tasawwuf train a person to do this.

– So, the first thing to understand is that: we can never really understand Allah Almighty as Allah Almighty Knows Himself to be – To comprehend; to understand; to imagine; to visualize Allah Almighty as He Himself Knows Himself to be – is not possible for us ever! And it is far from being possible in this world.

The True Reality of Allah Almighty is known only and only to Allah Almighty

An example of this is that – there are somethings that you can know by experiencing their reality and there are somethings that you can know just by imagining it or comparing it with something that is like it. And we can never know or experience the reality of Allah Almighty as only He Himself Knows what His haqeeqat is. So, the absolute true Haqeeqat of Allah Almighty is known only and only to Allah Almighty . What, at best, we can do is to develop tasawwur e ilahi ; a concept of Allah Almighty   in ourselves – our heart and our mind – that is imagining; conceptualizing; comparing Him.

Example of Jahannum

And, the way we can understand this – is by lets take the example of  jahannam– A person can never really understand the  haqeeqat of jahannam unless they experience it. Now, what Allah Almighty has Done in the Qur’an-e-Karim is to Describe that jahannam by using a likeness. so, for example if we were to say that its a place of heat and suffering; Now we will never know the  haqeeqat of the heat of jahannam and may Allah Almighty save each and every one of us from ever experiencing it even for the fraction of a second.

But, unless somebody experiences its reality, just by description although they will be able to imagine it and have some concept of it, they will not be able to know the reality of it. Heat; Suffering; sadness; sorrow – none of these words can capture the haqeeqat of jahannam. They can just capture an approximation of that.

Nonetheless, Allah Almighty has Used those descriptions because Allah Almighty Wants us by analogy/comparison/inference to have a concept of .

Example of  Jannah

We can use another example and that is the more optimistic – i.e of jannah . Allah Almighty Says in the Qur’an that it has wonders that no one can imagine; the like of which no eye has ever seen and no mind has ever imagined but nonetheless Allah  Almighty Describes jannah to us in different ways. Now, if I were to use such words to describe jannah that it would be bliss; there would be pleasure; there would be contentment – all of these words are descriptions but they can’t capture the haqeeqat of jannah , only the ehl e jannah when they enter into jannah ; when they will exist in jannah ; when they will experience that falah; suroor; that bliss; that happiness; that itmenaan; that sukoon ; that contentment; that serenity – its only when they experience it that they will really understand what it is. But for the time being these are descriptions; placeholders; markers.

So, just like that are the Asma-ul-Husna and that’s why Allah Almighty  even Calls them Asma- as every  ism is a name and a name is actually a pointer; marker; indicator; representative of an attribute of Allah Almighty. Now, because we cannot completely understand His Sifaat; just like we can’t completely understand His Zaat or His Essence – so Allah Almighty has Used an ism a name as a notation to Guide us to some approximation; some way of imagining and understanding it.

So, this is why we also sometimes say that we understand Allah Almighty through negation and affirmation – through  nafi and isbaat; through tasbeeh and tanzeeh– that He is the Likeness of something but at the same time He is free of any imagination – He is free from all flaws, all defects.

Now, this way of imagining Allah Almighty  is obviously naqis– it is inadequate. The kaamil way of understanding Allah Almighty is closed to us, because we cannot understand Him as He Understands Himself to be. So, the only way that is open to us is some type of naaqis; inadequate; or partial understanding of Allah Almighty.

And, the mistake that people make, sometimes, is that they try to understand Allah Almighty attributes as a likeness of our attributes. And they think that we can only Allah swt by way of knowing ourselves.

For example: People say that when we hear that He is Al-Aleem; All-Knowing, so we look at ourselves and we think that well what is human knowledge and what would it mean for us to be All-knowing. so, instead of trying to understand that in the way Allah Almighty Revealed in different verses in Qur’an and the way Prophet (peace and blessings be upon Him) has described that in different ahadith- instead what we do is that we look at ourselves first. And, we try to understand Allah Almighty by way of Analogy of our own selves and we think that we know Him by way of knowing ourselves. E.g. we think that if we were to know everything then we would know the past, present and future and if Allah  Almighty Knows everything it means that Allah Almighty  Knows the past, present and future. And that ends up in people having all types of misconceptions which make them think that there is no such thing as freewill.

But, the reality is that Allah Almighty’s attributes are too exalted to be likened to ours in anyway and all these imaginings and resemblances always remain inadequate – so what we need to do – And this is where tasawwuf comes in and adds to the ‘ilm– that what we need to do is we have to complement and add and supplement to whatever our knowledge is about Allah Almighty  – this knowledge that Allah Almighty  Denies any likeness; He Denies any resemblance -we reject any grounds of analogy between us and Allah Almighty. And this is what Imam-al-Ghazali has mentioned in another one of his works ”  بيان معرفت الله”  that it is impossible for anyone other than Allah Almighty to truly know Allah Almighty. And in fact it is impossible for anyone other than a  Nabi to know truly what nabuwwat is…

…to be continued inshaAllah.

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  1. anam says:


  2. nousheen says:

    MashAllah nice explaination

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