Allah has ninety nine names: Conceptual problems
It is no surprise that a simple name won’t attract much criticism or analysis. A complicated one does. It is the nature of things. The more attributes you mention, the more analysis and comparisons may arise between the different attributes. In Islam, the name of its divine entity, Allah, has ninety nine names. Each name raises issues of attributes on its own and in comparison with other attributes. In this article, I will show that such attributes pose difficult problems for Muslim believers on the theological level. I will also show that Allah’s name in Islam has at least a hundred names and not just ninety nine.
Allah’s list of names
Analysis of some of Allah’s attributes
Here are some of the associated problems with such a complicated concept:
1. One of Allah’s attributes is “The Inheritor” (Al-Warith). Now, to inherit is to inherit from someone, usually after his/her death. We know that Allah owns the universe and all its objects, including man. We know, also, that He has the attribute “The Eternal” (As-Samad). So, no one was before him to inherit things from. He is also “The Creator” (Al-Khaliq) of all things. Is Allah the inheritor of himself? He created every object in this universe. So, is He going to inherit what is legally His?
2. Allah is “The Eternal”(As-Samad). Many of his other attributes involve temporality, or presence in-time. I am thinking of attributes like “Inheritor”,”Patient”, “Responsive”. How to reconcile Allah’s “Eternality” and attributes that involve Allah’s “Temporality” is an issue that is very problematic. Muslim theologians will have to try to explain how Allah is Eternal (outside of time-limits) and “Does” things in the temporal world. One may think this is not a problem. In fact it is a very big problem. How can Allah act in-time when he is outside time.
3. How can Allah be “The Pardoner” and “The Avenger” at the same time? If He pardon, then He pardons to the ultimate limit. But this won’t allow him to be the Avenger. And, if he is the avenger, then He is not infinitely pardoner. Those two infinite attribute seem to cancel each other out. If one is given to Allah, the other falls short of Allah’s infinite attribute.
4. How can Allah be “The Subduer” and “The Merciful” at the same time? If Allah is infinitely Subduer, He cannot be infinitely Merciful. If Allah is infinitely Merciful, there is no way for him to be infinitely Subduer. Muslims will have to show genuine reconciliation between attributes of Allah that seem in the way of each other, instead of guaranteeing the fullness of Allah
5. How can Allah be “The Distresser” and “The Preventor” of distress at the same time? Again, this dilemma is similar to the oner I raised in points 3 and 4.
Allah’s 100th name
Allah has only 99 names according to traditional Islam. In fact this is false. Muslims need to be aware that Allah has at least a 100 names. There is an attribute of Allah in the Qur’an not included in his 99 names. Allah in the Qur’an is a Deceiver. Not only that, but He is the Best of Deceivers (Kheir-ul-Makireen). Qur’an states:
The verse came down showing that Christians lied about Jesus being crucified when he was not. The word “Makir”, in Arabic, speaks about a trickery person who tries to deceive innocent people. It is an evil verse indeed that gives to the Islamic deity a characteristic that is assigned, in our human morality, to bad people like liars and thiefs. How can Allah be the best of deceivers when He is The Noble, and The Truth. One would think that the best of deceivers should be Satan or the Devil, not Allah. Muslims have a huge conceptual dilemma here with regard to the concept of Allah as a logically consistent concept.
There are Multiplicity of issues, sometimes contradictions, sometimes very problematic, that arise from a complicated concept like “Allah”. I mentioned some of them above. There are many similar ones. Muslims will have to show us that the concept of “Allah” makes sense; if any at all.