I begin with the most obvious name, the name which is constantly on our tongues, in our hearts, our prayers- ‘Allah’. It is that name with which the Quran begins (بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم) and it is that which comes in the ending of the Quran (إله الناس). It is that name that you usually use to beseech to Him (اللهم- O Allah), and it is that name which strangely suffices every emotion we experience- from comfort and safety in tragedy and fear, to overwhelming joy and gratitude.
It is from the beauty and perfection of this name that it encompasses all of the other names and attributes of Allah in its mention, like He says in the ayah: و لله الأسماء الحسنى i.e. to Allah belong the names ar-Rahman, ar-Raheem etc. So, we ascribe the name to ‘Allah’. We never ascribe ‘Allah’ to the name.
So, when we say ‘Allah’, we need to know and remember that we are calling upon the One who is the Possessor of mercy, the Sustainer, the Provider, the Just, and so on. Imagine then, how much more powerful our calls and our duas would be.
‘Allah’ is a very unique name, and its usage to refer to God can be traced to very early civilizations where some variation of this noun has been used. It is the only name that is used exclusively to refer to Him alone, unlike the rest of the names which are used for humans too (without the definite article ال).
As for the meaning of this term ‘Allah’, there are several interpretations. Some of the more prominent meanings of this word are:
- The noun ‘Allah’ comes from the verb أَلَهَ which means ‘to turn to for help/protection/sanctuary’. So, Allah is the one whom the entire creation turns to for help and sanctuary.
- The term ‘Allah’ signifies the one who confounds the mind, the one whom the mind cannot comprehend. This holds true especially when we realize that the more we study about Him, the more His understanding seems to be out of our mental grasp
- The strongest interpretation of this noun is that it is derived from the verb أَلِهَ which means ‘to worship’. So Allah is the One who is worthy of being worshipped.
‘Allah’ is the primary name, out of all the 99 names because, as mentioned, it necessitates and encapsulates all other names in its meaning. For example- Allah i.e. the One who is worthy of being worshipped must be Rahman, Raheem, Quddoos, Samad, Samee’, Baseer etc. If the One who is deserving of worship does not possess the quality of justice, He doesn’t deserve to be worshipped. If the One who is deserving of worship is not all-Hearing, He doesn’t deserve to be worshipped. So, we see how the meaning of this term ‘Allah’ is the most comprehensive umbrella that affirms all of His other names that are integral to Him being Allah- deserving of worship.
The greatness of this name is such that the majority of scholars believe that ‘Allah’ is the Grand Name of Allah- اسم الله الأعظم- which the Prophet ﷺ referred to in a hadith as saying: “To Allah belongs a Grand Name, that, if you make du’a with it, it will be responded to. And if you plead or request with it, it shall be answered.” (Recorded in Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, and others)The other opinion is that this name is al-Hayy al-Qayyum.
At the end of this series, we will summarize the name ‘Allah’ again, to truly understand what this magnificent name entails. Perhaps this quote by Imam Ibn al-Qayyim will be a good precursor to the upcoming names and a good conclusion to this one:
“As for the effects of uttering this name, then how can we clarify in a list how powerful this name is. For this name combines all of His perfection and beauty. Never is this name mentioned over a small quantity except that it enlarges it, or during fear except that it removes it, or during distress except that it eliminates it, or during constriction except that it widens it. And no weak person utters the name of Allah except that he becomes strong by uttering it. No poor person utters it, except that he becomes rich. No humiliated person except that he becomes honorable, and no scared person except that he finds comfort and becomes courageous. This is the name through which difficulty is removed, through which blessings are procured, through which dua is answered, through which weaknesses are overcome, through which evil is repelled, through which good is sought. This is the name upon which the heavens and the earth have been established, and books have been revealed and the prophets sent with. This is the name through which Allah established the shariah. It is this name that divides believers from non believers. It is this name that will make the scales heavy, that will make the crossing of the bridge successful, and cause the gates of jannah to be opened. So he who knows this name and believes in it shall be successful, and he who ignores this name and rejects it will fail.”
May Allah make us from amongst the successful. Ameen.