99 Names of Allah in the Quran
The 99 Names of Allah are important to Muslim piety because the Quran says,
And (all) the Most Beautiful Names belong to Allah, so call on Him by them, and leave the company of those who belie or deny (or utter impious speech against) His Names. They will be requited for what they used to do. (Quran 7:180).
The Quran also encourages Muslims to call upon Allah by the 99 names,
- Say (O Muhammad SAW): “Invoke Allah or invoke the Most Beneficent (Allah), by whatever name you invoke Him (it is the same), for to Him belong the Best Names. And offer your Salat (prayer) neither aloud nor in a low voice, but follow a way between. (Quran 17:110)
- Allah! La ilahla illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He)! To Him belong the Best Names. (Quran 20:8)
- He is Allah, the Creator, the Inventor of all things, the Bestower of forms. To Him belong the Best Names . All that is in the heavens and the earth glorify Him. And He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise. (Quran 59:24)
99 Names of Allah in the Hadith
While the Quran does not explicitly use the phrase “99 names of Allah”, Muhammad is reported to have said Allah has 99 names,
There are ninety-nine names of Allah; he who commits them to memory would get into Paradise. Verily, Allah is Odd (He is one, and it is an odd number) and He loves odd number. And in the narration of Ibn ‘Umar (the words are):” He who enumerated them.” (Sahih Muslim 35:6475).
The 99 names of Allah express Muhammad’s personal experience. The Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾan says,
“The divine names of the Qur’an may best be understood as multifarious expressions in praise of God rather than as doctrinal expositions concerning the nature of God. They give expression to Muhammad’s rich and multi-faceted perception of that ultimate reality which he personally experienced as the only God. This experience filled him with awe before the transcendent God, who could not be known in his very self, yet could be glorified in his names. Filled with knowledge of God as “the lord of the heavens and the earth” (Quran 19:65), the Prophet also was aware of God’s nearness, nearer to a person than his own “jugular vein” (Quran 50:16). This overpowering transcendence and intimate immanence of Allah in Muḥammad’s religious experience was transformed in his qurʾanic proclamation into the praise of the most beautiful names. They are landmarks of his prayer rather than tenets of his theology” (Gerhard Böwering, “God and his Attributes”).
99 Names of Allah in Muslim piety
The supreme name in Muslim piety, Allah, is expounded by the the 99 names. The Encyclopaedia of Islam says of the 99 Names of Allah,
“The meditated recitation of these Names became one of the most diligent devotions in Islam. The pious Muslim repeats them and meditates on them, usually with the help of the 99 beads of the subha (“rosary”) except for the Wahhabis, who object to this custom as being a reprehensible bid’a (“innovation”)…[T]he traditional 99 “most Beautiful Names” do not exhaust the list of all the Kuranic Names; on the other hand, some of them do not occur ad litteram in the Kuran. As a result, the list was not always absolutely fixed and was liable to contain variants. It does not suffice, therefore, to settle the entire question of the divine Names. But the place held by this recitation in Muslim piety gives it an outstanding importance. It expresses clearly enough the pious Muslim’s faith in God, and what the supreme Name Allah, which, in itself, recapitulates all the others, means for him” (L Gardet, Encyclopaedia of Islam, “The Most Beautiful Names”).
99 Names of Allah and Christianity
The importance of the 99 Names of Allah to Muslim piety provides many opportunities for Christians to talk with Muslims about Allah’s Name and the Name that is above every other name (Philippians 2:9-11).
The Muslim view of God’s name(s) highlights a major difference with Christianity. In biblical religion, God’s Name is connected with God’s works,
“All that which can be known of God by virtue of his revelation is called by Scripture: God’s name…There is a very close connection between God and his name….God’s name is, therefore, most of all God’s revelation of himself whereby he actively and objectively makes himself known” (Bavinck, The Doctrine of God, 83,84).
You may be interested to read:
Learn more about the 99 Names of Allah
References for the 99 Most Beautiful Names of Allah
“Names of God in Islam” – Wikipedia Entry
The Beautiful Names of Allah – Alphabetically Sorted Index of 99 Beautiful Names of Allah with pronunciation
ArtHafez.com – Arabic calligraphy with 99 beautiful names
Gerhard Böwering, “God and his Attributes.” Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān. General Editor: Jane Dammen McAuliffe . Brill (Leiden and Boston), 2005. CD-ROM version
J.W. Redhouse, The most comely names, in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 12 (1880), 1-69