The Importance of Knowing Allah’s Names
Before we start, it is primordial to understand some of the important reasons for studying Allah’s Names. These reasons are many:
Enumeration (Ihsah) of Allah’s Names is a means to enter Paradise, as mentioned in the hadith of Abu Hurayrah.
The study of Allah’s Names is the most noble of all sciences. This is because the nobility of a science is connected to the nobility of its subject, and there is NO SUBJECT in that world that one can study MORE NOBLE THAN ALLAH, as indicated by some of His Names such as Al-`Aziz and Al-Majid.
Because of the nobility and great importance of this subject, Allah’s Messenger (sal-Allahu ‘alayhi was-Sallam) gave greater attention to explaining it than he did any other matter. For this reason, we find that the Companions did not disagree concerning any of these matters while there was some disagreement amongst them concerning some of the legal ordinances (ahkam).
Knowledge of the Names of Allah is the basis for all other knowledge. Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said: “Knowledge of the Most Beautiful Names of Allah is the basis of all other kinds of knowledge, for all of these other branches of knowledge are devoted to either a command or a creation of His.” ([Badaa’i’ al-Fawaa’id (1/163)].
It is one of the purposes of our creation. Allah (Subhanau wa Ta’ala) says:
“It is Allah who has created seven heavens and of the earth, the like thereof. [His] command descends between them so you may know that Allah is Powerful over all things and that Allah has encompassed all things in (His) Knowledge.” [65:12]
Thus it is that the Prophet (sal-Allahu ‘alayhi was-Sallam) stressed that all teaching and da`wah should begin with teaching mankind about Allah. When he sent Mu’adh to Yemen, he instructed him, saying:
“You shall come to a people of scripture, so of all things, first call them to the worship of Allah. Then, when they come to know Allah, then inform them that Allah has obligated upon them five prayers…” [Agreed Upon]
Ibn al-Qayyim, may Allah have mercy on him, said: “The key to the call of the Messengers, the essence of their Message, is knowing Allah through His Names, His Attributes, and His Actions, because this is the foundation on which the rest of the Message, from beginning to end, is built.” [Al-Sawaa’iq al-Mursalah `Ala al-Jahm?yyah wa’l-Mu`attilah by Ibn al-Qayyim, (1/150-151)]
Therefore, when a person occupies himself with learning about Allah, he is fulfilling the purpose for which he was created, but if he ignores this matter, he is neglecting what he was created for. The meaning of faith is not merely to utter words without knowing Allah, because true faith in Allah means that the slave knows the Lord in Whom he believes, and he makes the effort to learn about Allah through His Names and Attributes. The more he learns about his Lord, the more he increases in faith.
Thus it is that we have been commanded to know them. For example, Allah says:
“Know that Allah is of all things Knowing (`Alim).” [2:231]
“Know that Allah is severe in punishment and that Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” [5:98]
If you truly understood who Allah is, you would never worship anyone else. This is because knowledge of Allah’s Greatness, His Vast Mercy, and all of His Beautiful Names and Attributes would instill in the worshipper a great love and fear of Allah (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala). He would realize that Allah is worthy of all worship because of the great Qualities of Majesty He possesses and that anyone who does not possess such qualities is not worthy of worship. Thus, we see that there is a reciprocal relationship between Tawhid al-Asma’ wa’l-Sifat and Tawhid al-Uluhiyyah.
Calling upon Allah & praising Him by these names is one of the greatest deeds and best forms of dhikr. Allah says:
“And to Allah belong the Most Beautiful Names, so call upon Him by them.” [7:180]
And Allah has ordered us in the Qur’an to engage in frequent dhikr:
“O you who believe, remember Allah with frequent remembrance.” [33:41]
How can you love Allah if you do not know Him?
A’ishah relates that the Prophet (sal-Allahu ‘alayhi was-Sallam) placed a man in command of an expedition. Whenever he would lead his companions in prayer, he would finish his recitation with Qul Huwa Allahu Ahad [Surah al-Ikhlas]. When they returned, they mentioned this to the Prophet, so he said, “Ask him why he does that?”
He said, “Because it is the Description of the Most Merciful (Sifat al-Rahman), and I love to recite it.”
The Prophet (sal-Allahu ‘alayhi was-Sallam) said, “Inform him that Allah loves Him.” [Agreed Upon]
Without a doubt, the most important of all subjects in the Qur’an is al-Asma’ al-Husnah, as Ibn Taymiyyah, may Allah have mercy on him, states in Dar’ Ta`aarud al-`Aql wa’l-Naql (5/310-312),
The Qur’an makes mention of Allah’s Names, His Attributes, and His Actions more than it does of eating, drinking, and marital relations in Paradise. The verses that mention Allah’s Attributes and Names are greater in importance than the verses concerning the Hereafter. Thus, the greatest verse in the Qur’an is Ayat al-Kursi as established in the authentic hadeeth reported by Muslim from the Prophet (sal-Allahu ‘alayhi was-Sallam) that he said to Ubayy b. Ka`b, “Do you know which verse in the Book of Allah is greatest?”
He said, “Laa Ilaha Illa Huwa al-Hayy al-Qayyum” [2:255]
He struck him on the chest with his hand and he said, “May knowledge be easy and pleasant for you, O Abu’l-Mundhir.”
The best surah in the Qur’an is Umm al-Qur’an (al-Fatihah) as mentioned in the hadith of Abu Sa’eed b. al-Mu`alla in the Sahih: The Prophet (sal-Allahu ‘alayhi was-Sallam) said to him, “The likes of it has not been revealed in the Tawrah, the Injil, the Zabur, or the Qur’an, and it is the Seven Oft-Recited [Verses] (al-Sab` al-Mathani) and the Great Recital (al-Qur’an al-’Azim) which I have been given,” and it makes more mention of Allah’s Names and Attributes than it does of the Hereafter.
Furthermore, it has been established from him (sal-Allahu ‘alayhi was-Sallam) in the Sahih from numerous routes that “Qul Huwa Allahu Ahad” [112:1] equals one-third of the Qur’an.
It is also established in the Sahih that he gave glad tidings to the one who used to recite it and would say, “I love it because it is the description (Sifah) of al-Rahman,” that Allah loves him. Thus, he clarified that Allah loves anyone who loves the mention of His Attributes (Sifaat), Glorified and Exalted is He, and this is a vast topic.