Having already discussed the unlimited number of Allah’s names and attributes, we turn now to an authentic hadith that seems to clash with what we said before.
The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said:
Translation: Indeed, Allah has 99 names (one hundred minus one); whoever memorizes them will enter Jannah. [Saheeh Bukhari and Saheeh Muslim]
This hadith is talking about the elite 99 names of Allah. Although all of Allah’s names are husna, some of them stand out above others.
So which names are the elite 99? Virtually every single scholar of Islam has a different opinion on this. And realize that the common version that we know–like the one in this nasheed–is da’eef.
Why is it da’eef? It comes from the same hadith as we stated above–except at, at some point, one narrator added “And this is what I think those names are.” So it’s someone’s opinion.
And realize that most of the names they’ve mentioned there are ok–but some are definitely negative (which goes against Allah’s names being husna), and some are definitely not Allah’s names.
But the good thing is, about 80-90% of the names there are ok. And even among the scholars of Islam, they agree on the vast majority of which names are THE elite 99–but they differ in a few names.
And why is this important to know–aside from for tawassul? Because this is your key to jannah! Another wording of this hadith, instead of using hadifha (to memorize, to protect), uses the word “hisaa” (with saad). The root word has something to do with intelligence and intellect; the meaning is that whoever knows and acts upon these names will enter Jannah.
Having said all that–if these 99 names are so important, why didn’t Allah just tell us which are His 99 names?
But think about it–if He (سبحانه وتعالى) told us–would anyone bother with the other names? Probably not. Would anyone try to investigate the meanings of and learn the names? Not really–we’d just have a common list of names passed around, and nobody would do more than memorize.
Instead, by not telling us, He (سبحانه وتعالى) has created a situation like Laylatul-Qadr. Nobody knows when Laylatutl-Qadr is, except Allah–so people strive the last ten days of Ramadan, doing extra nawafil acts, in the hopes that it’s Laylatul-Qadr.
And these elite 99 names are like that–you have to work hard, and strive above and beyond just learning 99, if you want to know them for sure.
So learn these names–with their meanings! Subhanallah, nothing will increase your eman quite like this will.
To start you off, you can check our List of Allah’s Names post, and also check God Names, a site that details 99 names, with a great explanation of meaning.
May Allah (سبحانه وتعالى) help us to learn and memorize and act upon His 99 names, and become those of Jannah by it–ameen ya rabbi!
Yasir Qadhi. Lecture. AlMaghrib. Light Upon Light: Fundamentals of Faith 102. Metro Toronto Convention Center, July 2007.