The One God Has 99 Names – OpEd


“To Allah belong the best names, so invoke Him by them” (Qur’an 7:180). Invoking Allah’s names means not just saying them in prayer, but always being aware of the many wonderful qualities and character traits of the Holy One’s personality.

The many names of God are appellations: titles and descriptions. Thus, to say that God is a King or a Judge describes two of many ways the One God acts. To say that God is The Compassionate One, or The Appreciative One, is to describe two of many character or personality traits of the One God.

Among the three Abrahamic religions, only in Islam is the word Allah both a generic name for the one God of all three of the monotheistic religions; and a special personal Islamic name when spoken with devotion and love by a Muslim believer.

In Judaism the name YHVH is the specific, unique, and not to be uttered name of the One and only God who redeemed the Jewish People from oppression in Egypt, and made an ongoing covenant with them at Mount Sinai: “But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, I WILL BE WHATEVER I WANT TO BE. He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I will be has sent me to you.'” God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this is my title for all generations.”(Exodus 3:13-15)

In Christianity the name Jesus refers to a specific Jewish man who was and is the Divine Son of God: “You are the Son of God.” (Mark 3:11): born of a human mother, a totally human man and also totally God; a Rabbi – John 1:49; a Passover Lamb – 1 Corinthians 5:7; the Light of the World – John 8:12, John 9:5; the King of Kings – 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16; and the Second Adam – 1 Corinthians 15:47. (of 102 biblical names for Jesus) 

The Holy one of Israel Kadosh Israel  Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite.”  Psalm 71:2 “I will also praise You with a harp, Even Your truth, O my God; To You I will sing praises with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel.”

Prophet Isaiah uses the title “Holy One of Israel,” 25 times in his book. Two examples being:  “For I am YHVH your God, the Holy One of Israel and your Savior…” (Isaiah 43:3) and “I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.” (Isaiah 43:15)

The title Holy One of Israel is used 34 times in the Hebrew Bible, most frequently by Isaiah, who cites it 27 times in the book of Isaiah. It also appears three times in the Psalms (71:22; 78:41; 89:18), twice in Jeremiah (50:29; 51:5), and once in Ezekiel (39:7). 

The term is used frequently in the Book of Mormon, especially in 1 and 2 Nephi and  El-Nekamot the God of retribution and revenge Psalm 94:1 an anonymous psalm of despair and desperation mixed with hope.

Most people who grow up in a monotheistic community find it hard to understand how strong the attachment to polytheism actually is. Monotheism seems so rational and natural to them. Yet for thousands of years, thousands of humanity’s tribes, nations and even empires totally resisted the success of the prophets of Allah’s monotheism.

During the many centuries between Prophet Adam and Prophet Noah, hundreds to thousands of Allah’s prophets had no success at all in establishing an ongoing monotheistic religious community within the tribe, nation, people or empire to whom they were sent. 

Some of Allah’s prophets were killed physically by the rulers of their own people or tribe who were defending polytheism; and all of Allah’s prophets were ‘killed’ spiritually when their words were rejected by their own tribal or national community during their own lifetime, or in their own monotheistic communities subsequent generations.  

This is why Allah decided to make a new beginning with the descendants of Prophet Noah in general; and Prophet Abraham and his descendants in particular. Even then the descendants of Prophet Abraham’s eldest son Prophet Ishmael, failed to remain monotheists. They slowly filled the holy Ka’ba that Prophet Abraham and Prophet Ishmael had erected; with more and more statues and pictures that they proceeded to worship.

Only the descendants of Prophet Abraham’s younger son Prophet Isaac, and especially the twelve descendants of Prophet Abraham’s grandson Prophet Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel) were successful at establishing an ongoing monotheistic religious community and people: the Banu Israel.  

Islam is a monotheistic, universal, pluralistic, religion that seeks converts among all the world’s peoples. 

Christianity is also a universal religion seeking to convert all humans, but it is not pluralistic because it requires of all peoples; a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, in order to be saved from sin and to enter heaven. 

Judaism is a monotheistic and pluralistic religion that accepts, but does not seek converts from all the world’s peoples; but it is the religion of only one people: the Banu Israel, whose name appears 43 times in the Qur’an. 

Islam and Judaism both reject the practice of using physical images to represent or symbolize the one and only God; both religions share the same beliefs about the oneness of God; and both religions use many different sacred names to describe the one and only God’s varied appellations and attributes. 

Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Allen Maller retired in 2006 after 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, Calif. He is the author of an introduction to Jewish mysticism. God. Sex and Kabbalah and editor of the Tikun series of High Holy Day prayerbooks.

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