Imam al-Bayhaqi: The Greatest Name of Allah

There is some controversy amongst the scholars of Sharī‘ah regarding the etymology of the name “Allāh.” Some scholars assert that the name “Allāh” is a derived noun, consisting of the definite particle al (the) and the noun, ilāh (god) – meaning, “The God” –, while other scholars argued that it is a non-derived proper name for the Creator of all things. Imām al-Bayhaqī (384 – 458 H) – the great Shāfi‘ī Ash‘arī jurist, hadīth-master and theologian – enumerated the different opinions and the evidences supporting each of them in his unparalleled masterpiece on the names and attributes of Allāh, Kitāb al-Asmā wa l-Sifāt. In closing his discussion, he concludes with his preference that Allāh is a proper name and is not derived. He writes:

The most beloved of these views to me is the statement of the one who inclined towards [the view] that it is a proper name, and it is not derived like other derived names. Proof that the alif and lām are from the [original] structure of this name and do not enter [upon it] for making [it] definite is the [validity of] prefixing the vocative particle to it, like your saying, ‘yā Allāh,’ whereas vocative particles do not come together with the definite [particle], alif and lām. Do you not see that you do not say ‘yā al-Rahmān’ and ‘yā al-Rahīm,’ as you say ‘yā Allāh’? This proves that it is from the [original] structure of the name. And Allāh knows best.

Al-Asmā’ wa l-Sifāt, p. 28[1]

Imām Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybānī (132 – 189 H), one of the independent mujtahid imāms from the students of Imām Abū Hanīfah – and also a recognised authority in the Arabic language – also held the opinion that “Allāh” is a non-derived proper name. Imām al-Tahāwī (239 – 321 H) reports in his Sharh Mushkil al-Athār with his chain to Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Shaybānī that he said in explaining the view of Imām Abū Hanīfah that “Allāh” is the “greatest name of Allāh” (ismullāh al-a‘zam):

“Do you not see that al-Rahmān is derived from rahmah, Rabb from rubūbiyyah,” and he mentioned other examples akin to these, and then he said: “Allāh is not derived from anything.”

Sharh Mushkil al-Āthār, Mu’assasat al-Risālah, 1:262[2]



وأحب هذه الأقاويل إلي قول من ذهب إلى أنه اسم علم، وليس بمشتق كسائر الأسماء المشتقة والدليل على أن الألف واللام من بنية هذا الاسم ولن تدخلا للتعرف دخول حروف النداء عليه كقولك يا الله، وحروف النداء لا تجتمع مع الألف واللام للتعريف، ألا ترى أنك لا تقول يا الرحمن ويا الرحيم كما تقول يا الله، فدل على أنه من بنية الاسم والله أعلم (كتاب الأسماء والصفات، المكتبة الأزهرية للتراث، ص.٢٨)


أجاز لنا محمد بن أحمد بن العباس الرازي وأعلمنا أنه سمعه من موسى بن نصر الرازي [قال ابن حبان: من عقلاء أهل الرأي، صدوق فى الحديث…مات ٢٦٣] وأن موسى بن نصر حدثنا به عن هشام بن عبيد الله الرازي [قال: أبو حاتم: صدوق؛ مات ٢٢١] قال: حدثنا محمد بن الحسن عن أبي حنيفة قال: اسم الله عز وجل الأكبر هو الله. قال محمد: ألا ترى أن الرحمن اشتق من الرحمة، والرب من الربوبية وذكر أشياء نحو هذا، والله غير مشتق من شيء (شرح مشكل الآثار، مؤسسة الرسالة، ج.١ ص.٢٦٢)

Mawlana Zameelur Rahman

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