Monday, January 02, 2006
  Ninety Nine Names of Allah
As I mentioned before, my daughter memorized all nintey nine names of Allah this past week. I personally love that Allah has many names. For one, it shows that God is not uni-dimensional, but is complex, with many characteristics, some seemingly in conflict with others -- a real person as it were. More importantly, the names demonstrate important things about God's nature.

The two most repeated names of Allah are Ar-Rahman and Ar-Raheem. They are mentioned literally hundreds of times in the Qur'an, and are repeated dozens of times in the daily prayers. What do they mean? The Merciful, the Compassionate. How beautiful that Allah's most weighty names are those of compassion and mercy, of love!

The next five in frequence of mention in the Qur'an include al-Malik -- the King; al-Quddus -- the Pure; and Al-Salam -- The Maker of Peace; Al-Mumin -- the Inspirer of Faith; Al-Muhaiymin -- the Protector.

What strikes me, again, in this list is the prevalence of caring virtues -- peace, inspiration, protection, purity (as in freedom from harming others and evil impulses). Only one refers to God's majesty. Clearly, in the Qur'an, God is telling us how much He cares for us.

After this there are some that refer to His strength, majesty, and power, and then we are back to creative, bringing of good, etc.

One of the things that I find most attractive about the names of God is that they include what are traditionally considered feminine characteristics -- nurturing, maternality, creativity, compassion, humility, peacefulness, receptiveness -- in balance with what have traditionally been considered masculine characteristics -- strength, power, majesty, authority. I don't particularly subscribe to those characteristics being either masculine or feminine, but I do think that the balance between the caring, loving side and the majestic side is important. God is not male, nor is God female, but all emcompassing, as the attributes mentioned in His names indicate.

One of the more fascinating things you find in the Qur'an are references to God with the pronoun "ma." Ma literally means "that which." Not the person who does x, y, or z, but the THING that does x, y, or z. This can be found in some of the shorter surahs, near the end of the Qur'an, Surah Duha for instance: "By the sun and her glorious rising, by the moon when she follows her, by the day as she reveals her, by the night as she conceals her, by the sky and that which raised her, the earth and that which spread her wide, the soul and that which formed her, and inspired her with knowledge of evil and righteousness."

Of course, this is a very accurate translation -- in most translations you will find the wording masculinized, reinforcing patriarchal notions -- such as Yusuf Ali's "By the sun and his glorious Splendor, by the moon as she follows him." It rather makes me boil that the translators take such liberties and reinforce notions that aren't present in the Qur'an, but what can you do? It's one major reason to learn Arabic -- whoever said reading the Qur'an in translation is not the same as reading it in the original was dead right.

Incidentally, I'm working on a series of poems based on the ninety-nine names. Some of them are reflections on the meaning of an individual name, others are more commentary on human nature. Hopefully they will be finished sooner or later and then accumulated into a chapbook.
most definetly! Great post!
I would love to read that chapbook! I started reading your post with such a sense of the musicality of these words . . . so beautiful. But I finished by sharing your sentiments, once again! In my own church (Roman Catholic) beautiful aspects of the faith and the faithful have also been distorted by paternalistic church fathers. We're trying to undo the damage now, but it's slow work.

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Progressive Muslim, feminist, mom, writer, mystic, lover of the universe and Doug Schmidt, cellist, theologian and imam.

What I'm reading now

Cane River
An interesting exploration of the gradual whiting of a family through slavery to modern days.

To see an archive of all the books I've read (well the ones I've read and review since I started the blog) with comments, please click here

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This is just a short list -- a few of my favorites.

English Language Islamic Fiction. We need more of it. Lots more.
Pay a Teacher's Salary in Afghanistan. The Hunger site actually has a lot of worthwhile programs. You can find them all here .
Muslims for Progressive Values. My organization. We can always use donations, of time or money!
Human Rights Campaign for the glbt community
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
The ACLU I'm a card carrying member. Hope you'll become one too. The organization that has done the most, as far as I can tell, to pull the countries progressive side together.
Network of Spiritual Progressives. Working to reclaim religion and morality for the religious left.

Blogs Worth Reading

Wanda Campbell also known as Nochipa A very gifted poet and a gentle, compassionate soul. Nochipa and I are on the same page on sooooo many things
Writeous Sister Aminah Hernandez, she's got some excellent latino pieces and always has good writing info on her blog.
Sister Scorpion aka Leila Montour - Leila is a fount of energy, quirky humor, and bad attitude. She's also a talented poet.
Muhajabah Very interesting commentary here. I don't always agree with her, but her pieces are always thought-provoking.
Georgie Dowdell Georgie is a great writer and a good friend.
Louise Marley Another great writer. I think Louise is one of the best sf writers exploring faith themes.
Ink in My Coffee Devon Ellington (who has numerous aliases) who is also the editor of Circadian Poems. A truly inspiring woman with a seemingly endless supply of energy.
Ethnically Incorrect With a name like that, isn't a given I'm going to enjoy this writer?
Freedom from the Mundane Colin Galbraith, another excellent writer, from Scotland.
The Scruffy Dog Review This is a new e-zine with an ecclectic mix of fiction, poetry, and non-fic, some really enjoyable pieces here.
Ramblings of a Suburban Soccer Mom Lara, another gentle soul, very thoughtful.
Circadian Poems A journal of poetry, new stuff up all the time.
Ye Olde Inkwell Michelle writes romance and is one of my writing buddies.
Muhammad Michael Knight The original punk Muslim writer. Like him or love him, Mike is always coming up with the unexpected.

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