Monthly Archives: October 2013

Calling People by the Names of Allah

Is Calling People by the Names of Allah Regarded as Shirk?


The names of Allaah, insofar as they are applied only to Him – fall into two categories:

1. Names that only belong to Him, may He be glorified and exalted, and cannot be given to anyone but Him, such as the names Allaah, al-Rabb (the Lord or Cherisher), al-Rahmaan (the Most Gracious), al-Ahad (the Unique), al-Samad (the Self-Sufficient Master, Whom all creatures need, He neither eats nor drinks), al-Mutakabbir (the Majestic), and so on. It is not permissible to call any human being by these names, according to scholarly consensus.

2. Names which do not apply only to Him, and which may be applied to human beings, so it is permissible to call people by them, such as Samee’ (hearing), Baseer (seeing), ‘Aliy (high, exalted), Hakeem (wise), Rasheed (wise). Some of the most well known Sahaabah were called by these names, such as ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib and Hakeem ibn Hizaam (may Allaah be pleased with them).

What is forbidden is only the names which apply only to the Lord, such as Allaah and al-Rahmaan.

It says in the commentary on Asna al-Mataalib Sharh Rawd al-Taalib (4/243), which is a Shaafa’i book:

It is permissible to call people by those names of Allaah which do not apply only to Him. As for those which apply only to Him, it is haraam (to call people by them). This was clearly stated by al-Nawawi in his commentary on Muslim. End quote. Some Hanafi fuqaha’ confirmed that when they said: Calling people by names of Allaah which are found in the book of Allaah, such as al-‘Aliy (high, exalted), al-Kabeer (great), al-Rasheed (wise), al-Badee’ (innovator or originator), is permissible, because they are names that may be shared by Allaah and people, but their meaning when used for people is different from their meaning when used for Allaah, may He be glorified and exalted. See: Bareeqah Mahmoudiyyah (3/234), quoting from al-Tatarkhaaniyyah.

This is what may be understood from the words of Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) when he said:

Names which it is forbidden to give to people include the names of the Lord, may He be blessed and exalted, so it is not permissible to call people by names such as al-Ahad (the Unique), al-Samad (the Self-Sufficient Master, Whom all creatures need, He neither eats nor drinks), al-Khaaliq (the Creator) or al-Razzaaq (the Provider), or any of the other names that apply only to the Lord, may He be blessed and exalted. And it is not permissible to call kings al-Qaahir (the Subduer) or al-Zaahir (the Most High or the Manifest), or to call them al-Jabbaar (the Compeller), al-Mutakabbir (the Majestic), al-Awwal (the First), al-Aakhir (the Last), al-Baatin (the Most Near or the Hidden), or ‘Allaam al-Ghuyoob (Knower of the unseen). Tuhfat al-Mawdood (p. 125).

Based on this, there is nothing wrong with using the name Maalik and the like, and it is not necessary to add the words ‘Abd (“slave of”) before it, as the brother who asked this question thinks.

Similarly, there is nothing wrong with calling a person whose name is ‘Abd al-Hakeem by saying “Hakeem”, as it is one of the names which it is permissible to give to people, and it does not belong only to Allaah. But it is better to call him by the name that he likes and that his father called him by.

We do not know of any scholar who accused those who use these names of shirk and kufr. Our advice to the brother who asked this question is not to rush to accuse Muslims without proof, and not to fall into that which he is criticizing


J – Two Important Principles on Sifaat

1. Speaking in a certain way about some Attributes is the same as speaking about all.

2. Speaking about Allah’s Attributes is like speaking about Allah’s Essence (Dhaat).

The most ‘controversial’ Attributes of Allah are those related to His Essence – e.g. His Hand, or Face. Ash’aris and groups who make metaphorical interpretations of Allah’s Attributes are extremely inconsistent. In fact, the atheists who deny them en masse are actually more consistent and logical! It does not make sense to affirm the Knowledge of Allah, or His Life, and then say His Hand means power.

Ibn Abbas said, “There is nothing of this world present in Jannah except for the names.”

And Allah(swt) says,

And give good tidings to those who believe and do righteous deeds that they will have gardens [in Paradise] beneath which rivers flow. Whenever they are provided with a provision of fruit therefrom, they will say, “This is what we were provided with before.” And it is given to them in likeness. And they will have therein purified spouses, and they will abide therein eternally.[2:25]
It is obvious the fruits and rivers, etc. in this life are not the same as the Hereafter, however, the descriptions are there so we can understand the concepts.

As for the second principle, then it can be summarized simply. Everyone affirms that Allah exists. Do we also exist? Yes. No one takes from this that our existence is the same, however, it is a commonality.

We cannot comprehend or explain Allah.

I – Every Mu’attil is a Mujassim and every Mujassim is a Mu’attil

Ta’til means to deny and tajseem means to commit anthropomorphism (compare Allah to the creation). A mu’attil and a mujassim are, respectively, ones who commit those acts.

The gist of this rule is that the people who deny (ta’til) Allah’s Attributes do so out of a fear of commiting tajseem. They automatically conceive of the Attribute in an anthropomorphic manner and thus deny the clear, explicit meanings of the verses of Quran. In this process they compare Allah to other objects or non-existant, impossible objects and deny Allah of His perfect Attributes.

Those who actually do go so far as to commit tajseem make ta’til by denying the true meaning of the ayaat and denying Allah the Attributes He deserves.

The classical mujassimah (anthropomorphic) groups of Islam were, for the most part, Rafidah (shia) groups (although, in later times, the Shi’a are predominantly Mu’tazili). The non-Shia groups were primarily Sufis who believed that there was no existence except Allah (wahdatul wajood).

This is to contrast the Ash’aris who accuse Ahlus Sunnah now of being ‘anthropomorphic’. Note, these accusations against Ahlus Sunnah did not start until after the actual mujassimah groups died out.

H – Attribution Conveys Specification

A word can have a general meaning, but when attributes to something else it becomes more specific. For example, light has a general meaning. But when you attribute it to the sun (sunlight) or the moon (moonlight) it becomes more specific.

So for example, the creation may have aspects of rahmah (mercy), but when one refers to the Rahmah of Allah, it is much more specific.

here are 3 types of idaafah (possession)
Attribution of a characteristic to its owner, and this does not change. For example, the ‘Ilm of Allah. Sifaat Dhaatiyyah.
Attribution of an object to its owner, and this is objects that exist in and of themselves, not concepts. For example, the house of Allah, or the camel of Allah.
Attribution of a verb or action to the one who does it, and this is a concept, not an object, and it is not static. For example, “your Lord comes…” Sifaat Fi’liyyah.

These concepts were misunderstood by deviant groups. For example, the first category was denied by the Mu’tazilah and affirmed by Ash’aris. The second category was not disputed as all understood these objects separate from Allah. The third category is unique to Ahlus-Sunnah, as the groups of kalam tried to put everything into the other categories.

G – Silence Regarding Words Not Affirmed or Negated

Examples include words such as direction (jiha) and body (jism).


We stick to the texts of the Quran and Sunnah and do not speak without knowledge.


And do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – about all those [one] will be questioned. [17:36]


People of kalam immediately begin talking about things like jiha in relation to things like istiwa, so they ignore the texts and make up their own words.


If a word is not found in the Quran or Sunnah, it is examined, and if the meaning is incorrect, it is rejected. If the meaning can be good or bad, we do not use it. And if the meaning is correct, then it is accepted but only as a khabr [description].

F – Detailed Affirmation and Concise Negation

Qur’anic methodology is detailed affirmation and concise negation, in contrast to the people of kalam.

*kalam literally means speech and refers to groups who imported Greek philosophy (e.g. Aristotelian thought) into Islam and tried to mix it with the Quran.

Attributes can be divided into 2 categories, thubutiyyah (affirmed Attributes, which is the vast majority) and manfiyyah (negated Attributes).

Negation is rarer than affirmation. Usually it is done in general terms and negates something false that people may attribute to Allah. For example, “There is nothing like Him” [42:11], and “Do you know anyone that is similar to Him?” [19:65]

Allah(swt) may also affirm something and negate a false presumption, for example,

And We did certainly create the heavens and earth and what is between them in six days, and there touched Us no weariness. [50:38]


And rely upon the Ever-Living who does not die [25:58]

Negation also implies affirmation of the opposite. So for example, to say Allah does not forget (20:52) also implies that Allah always remembers what we do.

To have negation on its own is not perfection or worthy of praise. It is like saying, “The wall does not show injustice (though it is not capable of showing justice either).”

The people of kalam, however, negate in detail while affirming the opposite. So for example, they will begin describing Allah by saying things like “He does not have a body, He is neither above us, nor below us, nor to the left, nor to the right…” This methodology is not the way of the Quran, the Quran primarily affirms in details the Attributes of Allah, with succinct and concise negation.

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