By Malika Kahn
Allah has 99 names, and each and every one of them has a purpose, a meaning, and should be understood to the best of our abilities. And because there are many of them, there are some that sound very similar, but they are indeed quite different once delved into. The point of understanding the 99 names of Allah is that it is especially important to use His names when calling on Allah while making dua, because when we use a name that is relevant to our issue, we understand the weight of Allah’s power in His acceptance of our dua. His names are special, and once we create a relationship with each and every one of them, we will have the means and key to growing closer to Allah.
Al-Rahman and Al-Raheem
Two names of Allah that most people know that sound quite similar are Al-Rahman and Al-Raheem, which are generally paired together and usually translated as “The Most Compassionate and the Most Merciful.” They come together in one of the first verses of the first chapter of the Qur’an, Surah Al-Fatihah. But what is the difference between these two names? Well firstly, they come from the same root, rahima, which means to have mercy or compassion for someone. The word rahim actually refers to the womb of a woman, because the amount of love and care a mother has for her child is unfathomable. Therefore, Al-Rahman is used to describe an abundant and endless amount of merciful love, while Al-Raheem is used to denote a constant and infinite amount of merciful love. All areas are covered by Allah’s merciful love for each and every one of us.
Al-Ghaffaar and Al-Ghafoor
These two names of Allah are quite similar, but have their own nuances. Al-Ghaffaar and Al-Ghafoor are translated as “The All-Forgiving and the Ever-Forgiving.” The root they share is ghafara, which – you guessed it – means to forgive or pardon. The patterns of these two words are patterns of emphasis in Arabic, because Allah is not only forgiving. Rather, He is forgiving in both quantity and quality, just like his two names Al-Rahman and Al-Raheem. Al-Ghaffaar indicates an abundance of forgiveness, and Al-Ghafoor denotes constant forgiveness, covering both planes of the sins of humans. He forgives all the sins of his servants, if they only ask.
Al-Maajid and Al-Majeed
Al-Maajid and Al-Majeed can usually be translated as “The All-Glorious and the Magnificent.” Their similar root is majada, which means to be glorious and exalted. The word majd actually means nobility, honor, and magnificence. A description for the highest, the best, and the most exalted. Al-Maajid is He who possesses and is characterized by the attribute of majd – of glory, honor, and dignity. Al-Majeed, on the other hand, is a more intense form of the word. Al-Majeed is He who is characterized by gloriousness and nobility in terms of goodness of actions. He is generous and gives to us, His servants, bountifully. Allah’s throne, his ‘arsh, is also referred to as “majeed” because it is so exalted and magnificent.
Al-Muhyiy and Al-Hayy
These two names of Allah are translated as “The Giver of Life and the Ever-Living.” The root that they share is hayy, which means to be living or alive. The difference between these two however, is very clear. Allah is Al-Hayy, the Ever-Living. He had no beginning, and has no end. He just is – Allah. He is also Al-Muhyiy, the Giver of Life, because he gives us life. He created creation, breathed life into clay beings, and now here we are. And to this day, new lives enter into this world by the hundreds, by His grace and love alone.
Al-Mughniy and Al-Ghany
Again, two very similar-sounding names of Allah, but also very different. Al-Mughniy and Al-Ghany can be translated as “The Enricher and the All-Rich.” Their common root is ghaniya, which means to be rich and wealthy. Al-Ghany is the One who is prosperous and without need for anything, because He has it all. He is free from wanting, unlike us human beings. Al-Mughniy, on the other hand, is the One who provides us, those who need and can only be provided for by Allah. He satisfies and contents whom He wills from amongst His servants, and anyone in need of prosperity should call upon Allah using these names.
Al-Mu’izz and Al-Azeez
Al-Mu’izz and Al-Azeez are translated as “The Giver of Honor and the All-Mighty.” The root these two names of Allah share is ‘azza, which means to be powerful and extremely mighty. The word ‘izz actually means power, honor, strength, and glory. Al-Azeez is the One who is powerful, respected, mighty, and noble. He is Allah, and this attribute of Him defines His power as our God and Master. Al-Mu’izz, on the other hand, is the One who gives ‘izz, might, to whomsoever He wills of His servants. We are the creation of Allah, and our nobility, honor, and strength comes from no being except for Him.
Al-Maalik and Maalik al-Mulk
These two names of Allah are extremely similar because they both contain the same word – maalik, which means king, master, or owner. Al-Maalik and Maalik al-Mulk translate as “The King and the Owner of All Sovereignty.” The beautiful thing about these two names, like all of the names of Allah described above, is that nothing is left out. No beautiful and incredible attribute and characteristic is missing and all the bases are covered. Allah is the King of Everything. The word malaka means to possess or acquire something, while the world mulk means dominion over everything, reign, and supreme dominance. So even if there are human kings and sovereigns in this world, they are still ruled by the King of All Sovereignty.
Knowing the nuances and differences of the names of Allah that sound similar is a crucial part of being a seeker of Allah, one who aims to grow closer to Him through calling on Him by His names. He gave us this key to have our duas answered whenever we need something specific. It’s as though we have been handed a map. Anytime you have a need, a want, a desire – look up the name of Allah that is relevant to your issue, and call on Him using that name. You will see the beauty of it in the acceptance of your dua.