Allah’s Names From Beginning To End – OpEd


The difference between three and four is not as great as the difference between one and two; but the difference between one and zero is infinite. Before the beginning there was no body, no gender, no energy, no time and no space, no gravity, no charity, no evolution, no emotions,  no choice, no biology and no chemistry. There was no Word, no Yin and Yang, no curiosity, and no creation. Only the Holy One existed; a solitary singularity, loveless, nameless, religionless, and kindless. 

Then the Holy One decided to evolve the entire universe; from neutrinos to galaxies, from the tiny seed that grows a giant Redwood, to the tiny damaged gene that dooms a baby’s life. 

The Holy One was nameless because there were no minds or religions to become consciously aware of the Divine Presence and react with love, awe and gratitude until the Holy One’s Prophets came to Humans and Jinn. “The Most Beautiful Names Belong To Allah, So Call On Him By Them.” (Qur’an 7:180)

 “One of the 99 names of Allah in Islamic tradition is Al Shakur; “The Appreciative One.” There are several verses of the Qur’an which speak of God as “appreciative”: “If anyone willingly does what is good, God is appreciative and cognizant. (Quran 2:158) And “Why would God punish you if you are grateful and faithful, since God is most appreciative, most cognizant? (Quran 4:147)

“As God will pay them their due and more, from the bounty divine, for God is most forgiving, most appreciative.” (Quran 35:30) “And for anyone who brings about good, We will add goodness to it, for God is forgiving, appreciative.” (Quran 42:23) This is truly amazing. The Lord God – Originator of  heavens and earth, Creator of all that exists, Giver of Life, the Most Powerful of all beings, the King of all kings – is al Shakur, “the appreciative One.”

The Holy One has a Holy name. An ancient tablet discovered near the Palestinian city of Nablus may contain the earliest known mention of the Biblical name of God, YHVH “Yahweh” in proto-alphabetic Hebrew writing; according to Scott Stripling, director of the Archaeological Studies Institute at The Bible Seminary in Texas, who announced the discovery of the lead tablet on March 24, 2022.

He said it could push back the written record of the name “Yahweh” to 1300-1200 B.C.E. The inscription reads: “Cursed, cursed, cursed — cursed by the God YHW. You will die cursed. Cursed you will surely die. Cursed by YHW – cursed, cursed, cursed.“ 

The words El, Elah, Elohei and Elohim are pre Abrahamic west Semitic generic terms for a God or for many Gods. In these various forms they appear almost 3,000 times in the Hebrew Bible. 

But for Jews the most important name of the one God, the name that God himself reveals to Moses at the burning bush, is YHVH: which appears more than 6,800 times in the Hebrew Bible. 

As the Qur’an states: “He is Allah, the Creator, the Inventor, the Fashioner; to Him belong the best names.” (59:24) and for the Hebrew Bible, the best name is the one that God told Prophet Moses in Exodus 3:13-15 when Moses asked God, “If I go to the Israelites and tell them, ‘The God of your fathers sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’—what should I say to them?” And God said to Moses, “Ehyeh asher Ehyeh”.

Ehyeh is the verb “to be” future tense singular and means I will/could/might/may be/become Who I may/could/will/might be/become i.e. Ehyeh is The God of Potentialities, The God of Possibilities, The Living God of Becoming and Transforming, the One who can liberate Israel from bondage in Egypt. 

Unfortunately, the Greek and Latin translations of this verse were influenced by the Greek philosophical idea that God was similar to a permanent ideal form (like an equilateral triangle) or Aristotle’s unmoved mover; and is not like a living personality. 

Since they thought God must be a static unchanging being. they mistranslated “Ehyeh asher Ehyeh’ as ‘I am who I am’ rather than its plain dynamic meaning of ‘I will be whatever I should be to redeem you” i.e. God Almighty

The Torah continues, “And God said, “You must say this to the Israelites, “I am” (the usual false translation for God’s self revealed name) has sent me to you.'” God also said to Moses, “You must say this to the Israelites, Ehyeh, the God of your fathers, 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 memorial from generation to generation.’ (Exodus 3:13-15)

When Jews speak of God in the third person, God’s name is YHVH– “the One who causes being and becoming, the One who brings potentials into existence.” 

This name was spoken publicly from the time of Moses and throughout the centuries of the 1st Temple of Solomon, but it was replaced by Adonai (Lord) before the beginning of the 3rd century B.C.E., because God’s actual Holy name was eventually considered too holy to utter audibly.

In later centuries even the substitution was considered too holy to utter; and the custom among pious Jews till this day is not to use any name for God at all (except in prayer); but to say HaShem–the name (of God) when speaking about God.

 The first century Jewish historian Josephus also states (War of the Jews 5.235) that the Jerusalem Temple High Priest wore a golden crown engraved with the four letter YHVH name of God; which only the High Priest was permitted to utter once a year on the Day of Atonement. 

YHVH replaced a much older name of God: El Shaddai [Al-Qayyoom];. Exodus (6:2-3) relates: God also said to Moses, “I am YHVH. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as El Shaddai, but by my name YHVH I did not make myself fully known to them.” 

In the whole Hebrew Bible the full appellation ‘El Shaddai’—The Sufficient One [Al-Qayyoom] is used only in connection with Prophet Abraham, Prophet Isaac and Prophet Jacob. Shaddai by itself appears 31 times in the ancient book of Prophet Job, who was not a Jewish Prophet, and in a few other poetic passages.

One of the 99 names of God in Islamic tradition that I think is most beautiful is Al-Ahad: The One who is unique in both essence and attributes. There is no one or nothing like the unique One who was, is and will forever be the unequaled and indivisible One. I do not know why neither the Hebrew Bible nor the Post Biblical rabbis used this title, but I wish they had used it.

Most of the names of Allah also appear in one form or another in the Hebrew Bible, or in the prayers recited in Jewish synagogues to this very day. One name that I treasure is Al-Quddus: The Holy One who is Taahir (Pure).

To be holy, sacred, pure inside and outside is to be spiritually exalted: “Whatever is in the heavens, and whatever is on the earth, is exalting Allah, the Sovereign, the Holy, Exalted in Might, the Wise One.” (Qur’an 62:1)

Allah’s holiness requires human righteousness and purity:  “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying,  “Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.'” (Torah Leviticus 19:1-2) 

And Prophet Isaiah states: “The LORD of hosts is exalted in justice, and the Holy God shows Himself holy in righteousness. (Isaiah 5:16)

“And for anyone who brings about good, We will add goodness to it, for God is forgiving, appreciative. (Quran 42:23)

“For this is what the high and exalted One says—He who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and humble in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” (Isaiah 57:15) 

And the Qur’an states: “Righteous is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but  righteous is [in] one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, the Prophets; and gives wealth in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [who] establishes prayer and gives Zakah; fulfilling their promise when they promise; and are patient in poverty, hardship and during battle. These are those who have been true, and it is these who are the righteous.” (2:177)

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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