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Al-Asma' al-Husna

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Al-Asmāʾ al-Ḥusnā (Arabic: اَسماءُالحُسنیٰ) or the Best Names, is a Quranic phrase, referring to God’s best names. It appears in four Quranic suras, where in one case people are recommended to supplicate God by these names. According to Muslim scholars, God’s Best Names are His attributes, all of which are good.

Moreover, the verse is said to imply that the Best Names are exclusive to God. In some hadiths, the Prophet's Household (a) is characterized as an instance of God’s Best Names, by which people should supplicate God and seek proximity towards Him.

God’s Best Names

“Al-Asmaʾ al-Husna” is a Quranic phrase, referring to God’s Best Names.[1] The phrase appears in four Quranic verses: verse 8 of Quran 20, verse 24 of Quran 59, verse 180 of Quran 7, and verse 110 of Quran 17. All these verses say that “to Allah belong the best names.”[2] In Quran 7, people are recommended to supplicate God by these names.[3]

Interpretations of the Best Names

Muslim exegetes of the Quran have offered various interpretations of the Best Names. According to al-Tabrisi, the author of Majma' al-bayan, God’s names are characterized as best because God’s names have good meanings, such as all-giving, all-merciful, all-provider, and all-generous.[4] In his al-Tibyan, al-Shaykh al-Tusi interprets God’s “Names” as His attributes, all of which are good.[5] The same interpretation is espoused by the authors of Tafsir-i nimuna as well.[6]

According to 'Allama Tabataba'i, the Best Names are indeed those of God’s names that have an attributive meaning; that is, those denoting a property or characteristic of God, such as all-giving, all-just, and all-merciful, rather than the names that only denote His essence (if there are such names), similar to personal names such as Zayd and ʿAmr, which do not denote any attribute or property in their referents, and merely refer to the persons in question.[7]

The Best Names being Exclusive to God

Some Shia and Sunni exegetes believe that the verse “to Allah belong the best names”[8] implies that the Best Names are exclusive to God, since “to Allah” figures at the opening of the sentence, which is an Arabic structure signifying exclusiveness. Moreover, “al-asmaʾ” in the verse appears with the definite article, which implies inclusiveness about all the names.[9] For 'Allama Tabataba'i, the verse implies that any best names in the world belong to God, without being shared by another other entity. Nevertheless, this is not in conflict with the fact that God has ascribed some of His attributes, such as knowledge and mercy to others as well, since the idea is that the ultimate reality of these names belongs to God.[10]

The Prophet's Household as an Instance of the Best Names

In some hadiths, the Prophet's Household (a) is characterized as an instance of the Best Names. For example, there is a hadith cited by al-Kulayni concerning the Quranic verse “To Allah belong the Best Names, so supplicate Him by them” according to which Imam al-Sadiq (a) says: “I swear to God that we are the Best Names, without knowledge of which God does not accept any of His servant’s deeds.”[11] A Shia exegete, al-'Ayyashi (d. 320/932), cites another hadith from Imam al-Rida (a) concerning the same verse: “during hardships, seek our aid, which is God’s word ‘To Allah belong the Best Names, so supplicate Him by them’”.[12]

Given these hadiths, some people have interpreted the notion of “supplicating God” in verse 180 of Quran 7 as making recourse to the Prophet's Household (a).[13]

Notes

  1. Makārim Shīrāzī, Payām-i Qurʾān, vol. 4, p. 40.
  2. Fakhr al-Rāzī, al-Tafsīr al-Kabīr, vol. 15, p. 412.
  3. Quran 7:180.
  4. Ṭabrisī, Majmaʿ al-bayān, vol. 4, p. 773.
  5. Ṭūsī, al-Tibyān, vol. 5, p. 39-40.
  6. Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 7, p. 23.
  7. Ṭabāṭabāʾī, al-Mīzān, vol. 8, p. 342-343.
  8. Quran 7:180.
  9. Fakhr al-Rāzī, al-Tafsīr al-Kabīr, vol. 15, p. 414; Ṭabāṭabāʾī, al-Mīzān, vol. 8, p. 343; Al-Zuhaylī, al-Tafsīr al-munīr, vol. 9, p. 175.
  10. Ṭabāṭabāʾī, al-Mīzān, vol. 8, p. 449.
  11. Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 1, p. 143-144.
  12. ʿAyyāshī, Tafsīr al-ʿAyyāshī, vol. 2, p. 42.
  13. Dihkurdī Iṣfahānī, Lumaʿāt dar sharḥ-i duʿāy-i Samāt, p. 28-35.

References

  • Al-Zuhaylī, Wahbah. Al-Tafsīr al-munīr fī al-'aqīda wa al-sharī'a wa al-manhaj. Beirut: Dār al-Fikr al-Muʿāṣir, 1418 AH.
  • ʿAyyāshī, Muḥammad b. Masʿūd al-. Tafsīr al-ʿAyyāshī. Edited by Rasūlī Maḥallātī. Tehran: al-Maktaba al-ʿIlmiyya al-Islāmiyya, 1380 Sh.
  • Dihkurdī Iṣfahānī, Sayyid Abū l-Qāsim and Jalālī Dihkurdī, Majīd. Lumaʿāt dar sharḥ-i duʿāy-i Samāt. Qom: Būstān-i kitāb, 1385 sh.
  • Fakhr al-Rāzī, Muḥammad b. al-ʿUmar al-. Mafātīḥ al-ghayb (al-Tafsīr al-Kabīr). Third edition. Beirut: Dār Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth al-ʿArabī, 1420 AH.
  • Kulaynī, Muḥammad b. Yaʿqūb al-. Al-Kāfī. Tehran: Dār al-Kutub al-Islāmīyya, 1407 AH.
  • Makārim Shīrāzī, Nāṣir. Payām-i Qurʾān; rawish-i tāza-ī dar tafsīr muḍuʿī-yi Qurʾān.Qom: Madrisa Amīr al-Muʾminīn, 1369 Sh.
  • Makārim Shīrāzī, Nāṣir. Tafsīr-i nimūna. Tehran: Dār al-Kutub al-Islāmiyya, 1374 Sh.
  • Ṭabāṭabāʾī, Sayyid Muḥammad Ḥusayn al-. Al-Mīzān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān. Qom: Daftar-i Intishārāt-i Islāmī, 1417 AH.
  • Ṭabrisī, Faḍl b. al-Ḥasan al-. Majmaʿ al-bayān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān. Tehran: Naṣir Khusruw, 1372 Sh.
  • Ṭūsī, Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan al-. Al-Tibyān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān. Edited by Aḥmad Qaṣīr al-ʿĀmilī. Beirut: Dār Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth al-ʿArabī, [n.d].