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al-Suyūṭī - al-Durr al-Muntazam fi al-ism al-a`zam


The above mentioned Rasā’il or short treatise of the famous,  polymathic  and erudite Sunnī  Qur'an commentator and wide-ranging thinker Jalāl a-Dīn `Abd al-Raḥman al-Suyūṭī,  (d. 911/1505) has recently been published as Pt.1 within the collection Rasā’il al-Suyūṭī  No. 17  edited and annotated by Sa`īd Muhammad al-Liḥām  (Beirut: `Ālam al-Kutub, 1417/1996),  pp. 3-15. This text is translated below. It is an excellent summary of the Sunni position regarding the al-ism al-a`zam of God.


جلال الدين عبد الرحمن السيوطي

الدر المنتظم في الاسم الأعظم

 "The Well-strung  Pearls on the Mightiest Name [of God]")

Praised be to God  unto whom belong  the al-asmā’ al-ḥusnā (The Most Beautiful Names) and the Most Elevated Attributes (al-ṣifāt al-ulyā’). And blessings and peace be upon our Master [Sayyid] Muhammad one allotted a mighty intercessory power (al-shafa`a). May his family and his companions possess an exalted station.

And now regarding the fact that you had asked about the al-ism al-a`ẓam (the Mightiest Name [of God]) and what has been mentioned about it. Wherefore shall I set forth what will enable you to follow what is mentioned about this matter in the traditions (aḥādīth), the writings (al-āthār) and the statements (al-aqwāl). Thus do I say, regarding the  al-ism al-a`ẓam (the Mightiest Name [of God]), that there exist [the following] stated positions:

Firstly [about the Mightiest Name].

This [Mightiest Name concept] is [for some] something which has no [real] existence (lā wujūd lahu) in the sense that the Names of God (asmā’ Allāh) are all Mighty (`aẓimat). He [it is held] does not sanction any hierarchical distinction (tafṣīl) of some [divine Names] above others. He  distances [Himself] from such people [as advocate this] among them Abū Ja`far [Muhammad ibn Jarir] al-Ṭabarī [d. 310/923], Abū al-Ḥasan  [Alī ibn Ismā'īl] al-Ash'arī [d. 324/936], Abū Ḥatam ibn Ḥibbān [prominent  Shafi`ī Hadith  specialist  d. 382/995] and Qaḍī Abū Bakr [Muhammad ibn al-Tayyib] al-Bāqillānī  [d. 413/1013]  while He negates the statement of Mālik and others besides him [to the effect that], `He does not sanction any hierarchical distinction (tafṣīl) of some [of the divine] Names (al-asmā’) above others’.

 Rather, He supports such as reckon that the mention of the Mightiest Name [of God] goes beyond the mere assertion of mightyness (al-`aẓīm). The opinion of al-Ṭabarī is [based on the fact] that the sources (al-āthār) are varied regarding the [specific] nomination (ta`yīn) of the al-ism al-a`ẓam (the Mightiest Name [of God]). And whomsoever goes along with me holds that all of the [various] statements [identifying the Mightiest Name] are sound (ṣaḥīḥa). This since it is not the intention by identifying them to assert that this is the al-ism al-a`ẓam (the Mightiest Name [of God]) and that nothing is mightier than this [specific identification]. Thus He, exalted be He, says, `Every Name from among My Names (ism min asmā’ī) that expresses His nature [description] (waṣf-hū) in relating to His Being is the Mightiest [Name of God] (a`ẓam). The issues [in this respect] thus returns unto the [question of] the meaning of [a Name being] `aẓīm (Mighty).

[Muhammad] Ibn Ḥibbān [al-Busti d. 354/965] states, `By the mightyness (al-a`ẓamiyya) that is expressed in the [prophetic] traditions (al-akhbār) is intended the superlative nature of the merit of the petitioner (mazīd thawāb al-dā`ī) [who supplicates] by means thereof [through the Mightiest Name of God]. The like of this is established in the Qur’ān and the intention of it  is  the superlative nature of the merit of the petitioner and the recitor (mazīd thawāb al-dā`ī wa’l-qāri’) [who supplicate  through the Mightiest Name of God].   

The Second proposition [about the Mightiest Name].

 Has it that [the Mightiest Name is] among those things that God has appropriated for Himself alone within His own knowledge. No single individual among His creatures can fathom the matter just as was said with respect to the [date of the Ramaḍan] Laylat al-Qadr (“Night of Destiny”) [Q.97:1ff], the hour of giving assent (sa`at al-ijāba) or with respect to the [exact time of the] Middle [Afternoon?] Salāt (ṣalāt al-wusṭā)  [of the Islamic Obligatory Prayers].

The Third proposition [about the Mightiest Name].

        Has it that [the Mightiest Name is expressed in the] هُوَ (“Huwa” ) [the Ipseity or the “He is” expressive of the Self Identity of the Godhead) as transmitted by Imam [Muhammad ibn `Umar, Abū  al-Su`ud Muhammad ibn Muhammad] Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī,  (d. 606/1209 ) as [believed by] some among the people of unveiling [deeper meanings] (ahl al-kashf). Some have alleged in justification of this that whosoever desires to pass, by means of a Mighty Word (kalām `aẓīm), into His Presence would best refrain from such an assertion. I comment though in this connection that whoso says  هُو  Huwa (“He is”) is one well-meaning (tā’addub an) before Him.

The Fourth proposition [about the Mightiest Name].

Has it that [the Mightiest Name is expressed in]  اللَّهُ  Allāh. This because this [personal] Name [of God] is not allotted to other than Him. And this since it is the original [foundation, basis] (al-aṣl) of the Most Beautiful Names (al-asmā’ al-ḥusnā) [of God] which in fact are annexed [subordinate] before Him.

Ibn Abī Ḥātim (d. 382/995) said in his Tafsīr (Qur’ān Commentary)`al-Ḥasan ibn Muhammad ibn Ṣubbāḥ transmitted through Ismā’īl ibn `Aliyya from Abī Rijā’ [who]  transmitted from a man [who] transmitted from Jābir ibn `Abd-Allāh ibn Zayd that he said, `The Mightiest Name of God (ism Allāh al-a`ẓam) is Allāh (God). Have you not heard that He said,      

هُوَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لا إِلَهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ عَالِمُ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ هُوَ الرَّحْمَنُ الرَّحِيمُ

“He is God, there is no God except Him (lā ilāha ilā huwa), the All-Knower of the  unseen and the seen. He is the Merciful, the Compassionate (Q. 59 Sūrat al-Ḥashr, 22)

 Ibn Abī al-Dunyā said in the Kitāb al-Du`ā (Book of the Supplication): “Isḥāq ibn Ismā’īl related from Sufyān ibn `Abiyya from Mis`ar who stated that al-Sha`bī said, `The ism Allāh al-a`ẓam (Mightiest Name of God) is [the exclamation]  `Yā Allāh (“O God!”).

The Fifth proposition [about the Mightiest Name].

 Has it that [the Mightiest Name is expressed in]  اللَّهُ الرَّحْمَنُ الرَّحِيمُ  (“God, the Merciful, the Compassionate”). Ḥafiẓ ibn Ḥajar stated in his Sharḥ al-Bukharī (Commentary on al-Bukharī)  ADD HERE  reported by Ibn Māja from `A'isha to the effect that she asked the Prophet [Muhammad] to teach her the al-ism al-a`ẓam (`The Mightiest Name [of God]') but he did not respond. So she prayed and supplicated [saying] "O my God! I, supplicate Thee Allah (God), I supplicate Thee al-Raḥman (the Merciful) and I supplicate Thee al-Raḥīm (The Compassionate). And I supplicate Thee by all of Thy al-asmā' al-ḥusnā (`Most Beautiful Names') that Thou inform me about them and about what I do not know". It is also reproted in the Hadith that he --peace and blessings be upon him -- said to her [`A'isha] `It [the al-ism al-a`zam, `Mightiest Name of God') is assuredly  among the Names  with which you supplicated'.  He stated that its isnad (chain of transmission) is weak. In this connection one should consult the evidence.

 I comment [on the above] by saying that the strongest evidence [in support of this hadith] is found within the al-Istidlal (the Testimony) [wherein it is related] that the wise one (al-ḥakim) [Ibn Majja / Hajar?] extracted [the following] from the al-Mustadarak (`the Supplementary Collection'), the sound veracity (saḥīḥ) of which is evident in view of its [being relayed by] Ibn `Abbās. He [related that] `Uthmān ibn `Affān [d. 35 /656] asked the Messenger of God about the بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم . And he [Muhammad] replied saying that it is one of the Names of God (ism min asmā' Allāh), exalted be He! There is nothing differentiating it from the Greatest Name [of God] al-ism al-akbar] for this [the basmala] is even as the proximity of the black of the eye and its white."

        In the Musnad al-Firdaws al-Daylamī [ ADD] a ḥadith is [again] brought forth from Ibn `Abbās [ to the effect that] al-ism al-a`zam (`Mightiest Name [of God]') is found in six verses at the end of the [Qur'anic] Sūrat al-Ḥashr (Q. 59 verses, 19-24).


Not cited by al-al-Suyūṭī himself these last six verses of Q. 59: 19-24 are -- with select divine Names-Attributes highlighted:

وَلا تَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ نَسُوا اللَّهَ فَأَنسَاهُمْ أَنفُسَهُمْ أُوْلَئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ

لا يَسْتَوِي أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ وَأَصْحَابُ الْجَنَّةِ أَصْحَابُ الْجَنَّةِ هُمُ الْفَائِزُونَ

لَوْ أَنزَلْنَا هَذَا الْقُرْآنَ عَلَى جَبَلٍ لَّرَأَيْتَهُ خَاشِعًا مُّتَصَدِّعًا مِّنْ خَشْيَةِ اللَّهِ وَتِلْكَ الأَمْثَالُ نَضْرِبُهَا لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

هُوَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لا إِلَهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ عَالِمُ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ هُوَ الرَّحْمَنُ الرَّحِيمُ

هُوَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لا إِلَهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ الْمَلِكُ الْقُدُّوسُ السَّلامُ الْمُؤْمِنُ الْمُهَيْمِنُ الْعَزِيزُ الْجَبَّارُ الْمُتَكَبِّرُ سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ

هُوَ اللَّهُ الْخَالِقُ الْبَارِئُ الْمُصَوِّرُ لَهُ الأَسْمَاء الْحُسْنَى يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ



The Sixth proposition [about the Mightiest Name].

     الرَّحْمَنُ الرَّحِيم الْحَيُّ الْقَيُّومُ 

= al-Rahman (the Merciful) al-Rahim (the Compassionate) al-Ḥayy (the Living One) al-Qayyūm (the Self-Subsisting] 

It is thus implied in the Ḥadīth [reported by Abū `Īsā' Muhammad ibn `Īsā' ibn Sawra [al-Sulamī] ] al-Tirmidhī [d. 279/892] and others,  relative to the names of the daughter of  Yazīd  [that] he [Muhammad] -- upon him be blessings and peace -- said: `The ism Allah al-a`zam (Mightiest  Name of God] is the two [Qur'anic] verses, (1)  [Surat al-Baqara, Q. 2 verse 255]

 اللَّهُ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ الْحَيُّ الْقَيُّومُ لاَ تَأْخُذُهُ سِنَةٌ وَلاَ نَوْمٌ لَّهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الأَرْضِ مَن ذَا الَّذِي يَشْفَعُ عِندَهُ إِلاَّ بِإِذْنِهِ يَعْلَمُ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمَا خَلْفَهُمْ وَلاَ يُحِيطُونَ بِشَيْءٍ مِّنْ عِلْمِهِ إِلاَّ بِمَا شَاء وَسِعَ كُرْسِيُّهُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضَ وَلاَ يَؤُودُهُ حِفْظُهُمَا وَهُوَ الْعَلِيُّ الْعَظِيمُ

 and (2) the opening (al-Fatiha) of the Surat al-`Imrān  [Q. 3 verse 2]  اللَّهُ لا إِلَهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ الْحَيُّ الْقَيُّومُ  = "God, no God is there except Him, the Living One (al-Hayy), the Self-Subsisting (al-Qayyūm)

The Seventh proposition [about the Mightiest Name].

الْحَيُّ الْقَيُّوم

= al-Ḥayy (the Living One), al-Qayyūm (the Self-Subsisting)] 

        It is thus implied in the Ḥadīth [reported by Abū `Abd-Allāh Muhammad ibn Yazīd al-Qurayshi] Ibn Mājja [d. 273/886] and the Ḥakīm (sage) as reported from Abī Imāma, may God, exalted be He, give him repose, "The al-ism al-a`zam (Mightiest Name [of God] is [contained] in three Surahs [of the Qur'an]  [Surat] al-Baqara (= Q.2) [= Q. 2:255 = `the Throne Verse'], [Surat al `Imran (=Q.3) and in Sura Ṭā-Hā (Q. 20) [see verse 111 =   وَعَنَتِ الْوُجُوهُ لِلْحَيِّ الْقَيُّومِ وَقَدْ خَابَ مَنْ حَمَلَ ظُلْمًا    "Faces shall be humbled before the Living One (al-Ḥayy), the Self-Subsisting (al-Qayyūm)".

 al-Qāsim said `It has been transmitted from Abī Imāma `I urgently implored him [Muhammad] with respect to it [the Mightiest Name] so he informed me that it is "the Living One (al-Ḥayy), the Self-Subsisting (al-Qayyūm)". And al-Fakhr al-Razī [d. 606/1210] affirmed the same and he justified [this by stating that] these two [Names as the Mightiest Name is  evident]  by asserting that they are attributes (ṣifāt) of Majesty (al-`aẓama) and Lordship (al-rubūbiyya) he [added] that nothing further than this is required to prove the applicability of these two [Names] being the [Mightiest Name of God]; nothing, that is,  other than these two [Names].

The Eighth proposition [about the Mightiest Name].

[al-Hannān al-Mannān badī` al-samawāt wa'l-ard Dhu'l-Jalāl wa'l-Ikrām].

 Relates to the Ḥadīth of [relayed through] Aḥmad [ibn Hanbal] [d. 241/853], Abī Dāwūd [Sulaymān ibn Ash`ath] [d. 275/889], [Abū Ḥatam] ibn Ḥibbān [d. 382/995] and al-Ḥākim [ Add] from al-Anas [ibn Mālik] [ d. 91/709] : `He was sitting with the Messenger of God [Muhammad]- peace be upon him --  when a man came along and saluted him then supplicated [God] saying, `O my God! I, verily ask Thee for Thine is the Praise! No God is there except Thee  the  Bounteous (al-hannān), the Benevolent (al-mannān), the  Generator of the heavens and of the earth (badī` al-samawāt wa'l-ard), the Possessor of Majesty and  Honour (dhu'l-jalāl wa'l-ikrām). O Living One (al-ḥayy)! O Self-Subsisting (al-qayyūm)!' [On hearing this] the Prophet [Muhammad] said: `He indeed supplicated God through His Mighty Name (bi-ismihu al-`azim) which, when one supplicates thereby, one is answered  and when he asks for something it is bestowed.'

The Ninth proposition [about the Mightiest Name].

[Badī` al-samawāt wa'l-ard Dhu'l-Jalāl wa'l-Ikrām].

The Tenth proposition [about the Mightiest Name].

The Eleventh proposition [about the Mightiest Name].

The Twelfth proposition [about the Mightiest Name].

The Thirteenth proposition [about the Mightiest Name].

The Fourteenth proposition [about the Mightiest Name].

The Fifteenth proposition [about the Mightiest Name].

The Sixteenth proposition [about the Mightiest Name].

The Seventeenth proposition [about the Mightiest Name].

The Eighteenth proposition [about the Mightiest Name].

The Nineteenth proposition [about the Mightiest Name].

The Twentieth proposition [about the Mightiest Name].