What does Allah’s names being eternal mean?

The Details of the Question

a) When I looked at the Attributes of Allah on the website of Sorularlaislamiyet.com, I saw this: “The Essence of God Almighty is one, but He has hundreds of, thousands of, and according to some, infinite Attributes.”
- What does that mean?
- The quality of the attribute can be infinite. For example, there is the attribute of ilm (knowledge); its quality can be infinite. His sight may be infinite; His power may be infinite. However, should He not have a definite and clear number of attributes?
- What is meant by saying that there are thousands, even infinite attributes of Allah other than 99 attributes? Is there a number but they say it is infinite because its exact number is not known?
- So, what does it mean to say that He has an infinite number of names and attributes? Does this situation not cause things like succession and chain in attributes?
b) And they use the following phrase about His attributes, which confused me:
“The attributes of Allah look at one another like concentric circles. Allah’s will and other attributes are intertwined like concentric circles.”
- So, is likening Allah’s attributes to circles an example or is it really like that?
- We do not yet know the nature of Allah’s essence. Why do you confuse people by giving such a shape to His attributes?
- Now, the thing that confuses people the most: It is said that Allah’s attributes are intertwined, concentric circles. Or, they are intertwined like chain links. Since, according to some people, Allah’s attributes are infinite, the following comes to my mind: This circle or chain has neither a beginning nor an end. In other words, is there a chain of succession in Allah’s attributes? It was said that there was no chain of succession; it was said that there was no succession and that it was wrong. These articles paralyzed my mind. Can you explain it to me for the sake of Allah?
- My brain stopped. Will you please write the words in a way that I can understand?
- Do not fill my mind with words whose meanings I do not know.

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

a) Some Islamic scholars say that Allah has infinite attributes. The phrase “even according to some people, His attributes are infinite” on our site refers to those scholars without giving their names.

Let us establish this fact first:

- The title of one of the subheadings that Imam Fakhruddin ar-Razi used in a long chapter he wrote about asma al-husna is as follows: “The declaration that Allah’s names are infinite.” (see Razi, Mafatihul-Ghayb, 1/141)

- After a brief but deep scientific analysis, Fakhruddin ar-Razi states the following especially on the issue of sifat-thubutiyya and sifat-salbiyya:

“Allah’s knowledge is infinite, and His power is endless / Allah is capable of doing infinite things. In that case, there is no obstacle for Allah to have a name for each of them (these infinite beings with which His knowledge and power are related)… As a matter of fact, some scholars say that Allah has a thousand names (along with the famous 99 names) while others say that He has four thousand names.” (see Ibn Hajar, Fathul-Bari, 11/220)

As far as we understand from the explanations above, it is useful to pay attention to two points here:

First: A separate divine name is possible for every being - material and spiritual - with which Allah’s infinite knowledge is related.

Second: There is no rational or religious obstacle to the existence of a different divine name for every being - material and spiritual - with which Allah’s infinite power is related.

For example; although they are all about creation, the name Khaliq means creating with insha, the name Fatir means creating with ibda, the name Bari means creating with itqan (design in a solid way).

Likewise, it is not rationally and religiously impossible for elements, atoms, molecules, organs, bodies, species and the nuances they have and for each of those in different fields of imagination and contemplation to have a divine name that becomes manifest separately.

There is no drawback to interpreting this concept of “infinity” used for names as a number far above and beyond the human imagination and expressing a great number metaphorically.

- In the hadith whose full text we will quote below, the phrase “by every Name that you have named Yourself with, revealed in Your Book, taught any one of Your creation or kept unto Yourself in the knowledge of the unseen that is with You...” gives the impression that His names are too many to be expressed by certain numbers.

“O Allah! I am your slave, the son of your male slave and the son of your female slave. My forehead is in Your Hand. Your Judgment upon me is assured and Your Decree concerning me is just. I ask You by every Name that you have named Yourself with, revealed in Your Book, taught any one of Your creation or kept unto Yourself in the knowledge of the unseen that is with You, to make the Quran the spring of my heart, and the light of my chest, the banisher of my sadness and the reliever of my distress.”

“Allah removed the sorrow and distress of every servant who said this prayer, and gave them relief.” (See Ahmad b. Hanbal, 7/341; Hakim / Mustadrak, 1/690; Majmauz- Zawaid, 10,136)

- Acting upon this hadith, Sheykh Ibn Usaymin said, “The names of Allah cannot be limited to a certain number because something hidden in the treasury of Allah’s knowledge of the unseen is something unknown. What is unknown cannot be expressed with a certain number.” (See Majmuu Fatawa, Ibn Usaymin, 1/122)

b) “The Attributes of Allah looking at each other like concentric circles”:

It is a simile. Otherwise, no shape is drawn for the names and attributes of Allah.

The attributes’ being intertwined “like concentric circles” means that where one of them is manifested, the manifestations of the other -related- attributes are also in question.

For example, when Allah creates something with His attribute of power, His knowledge, wisdom, sight (basar) attributes are also present there. In other words, His knowledge and wisdom exist in His power.

That is the point that is difficult to grasp.

Let us listen to this issue from the master of the issue, Badiuzzaman Said Nursi:

It is exactly the same for the Sustainer of All the Worlds, Who is the Ruler of Pre-Eternity and Post-Eternity; in the degrees of His dominicality He has attributes and designations which are all different but which look to each other; and in the spheres of His Godhead He has names and marks which are all different but which are one within the other; and in His magnificent activities He has representations and appellations which are all different but which resemble each other; and in the disposals of His power He has titles which are all different but which hint of one another; and in the manifestations of His attributes He has sacred appearances which are all different but which show one another; and in the displays of His acts He has wise disposals which are of numerous sorts but which complete one another; and in His multicoloured art and varieties of creatures, He has splendid aspects of dominicality which are all different but which look to one another. And together with this, in every world, in every realm of beings, the title of one of the Most Beautiful Names is manifested. In each sphere one Name is dominant and the other Names are subordinate to it, rather, they are there on account of it....”

“The veils have windows which look to one another, and the Names appear one within the other, and the acts look to one another, and the similitudes enter one within the other, and the titles hint of one another, and the manifestations resemble each other, and the disposals assist and complete one another, and the various dispositions of dominicality help and assist one another. It surely therefore necessitates not denying the other titles, acts, and degrees of dominicality when Almighty God is known through one of His Names, titles, or degrees of dominicality. Indeed, it is harmful if a transition is not made from the manifestation of any one Name to the others.

For example:
- The works of the Names of All-Powerful and Creator are seen, and not the Name of All-Knowing, a person may fall into heedlessness and the misguidance of nature.

- He should always keep in view and recite, هُوَ هُوَ اللّٰهُ.
- He should listen, and hear from everything, قُلْ هُوَ اللّٰهُ اَحَدٌ.
- His tongue should utter and proclaim, لاَ اِلهَ اِلاّ هُو بَرَابَرْ مِيزَنَدْ عَالَمْ.

“Thus, through the decree of God اَلّٰهُ لاَ اِلهَ اِلاّ هُوَ لَهُ اْلاَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَى, the Quran points to these truths we have mentioned. (see Sözler, pp. 332-333)

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