Hamid Molla Djafari: God Has the most Beautiful Names

Prof. Dr. Christine Schirrmacher

Hamid Molla Djafari. Gott hat die schönsten Namen … Islamische Gottesnamen, ihre Bedeutung, Verwendung und Probleme ihrer Übersetzung [God Has the most Beautiful Names. God’s Names in Islam, their Meaning, Use, and Problems with their Translation]. Peter Lang: Frankfurt 2001, 357 S., 45.50 €.

In the Koran we read:

“The most beautiful names belong to Allah. So call on him by them” (surah 7.180).

“The most beautiful names” are understood by Muslim theologians as names and attributes of God which are used during prayer, Sufi-meditation or while saying the rosary. God’s names are important as God has not revealed himself in Islam, as Muslim theologians hold, but has only sent down his Holy Book, the Koran. In the Koran, we read about his attributes and how he dealt with mankind in history. In folkislam people believe that God has 99 names, whereas the 100th name is hidden to the believer. In the Koran we find more than 99 names; therefore Muslim theologians have composed long lists of God’s attributes differing from each other. For this reason, Molla-Djafari can give a list of about 200 names. He analyses them linguistically, describes when they are used and interprets their meanings in order to correct former “wrong” translations, as he emphasizes. He recommends his study to the Muslim mystic, as he is himself an adherent to Shiite Mysticism. By and then, Molla-Djafari leaves his scientific approach aside as he claims:

“In Christianity, the believing Christian has to leave his intellect, his desire to learn the truth and all further controlling instances outside when entering a church” (77)

– a statement which is unacceptable as it is only a prejudice (in the same way the author is apologetical as he addresses the Sunnis; s. p. 99). Nevertheless, the book is worth reading as it lists the “most beautiful names of God” like the “Merciful”, the “Gracious”, the “Forgiver”, the “Pardoner” beside names for Allah like “the Humilator”, “the Tormentor”, “the Torturer”, and “the best of Planners and Plotters”.