In the Spirit of the Gracious and Compassionate
Creator of the Heavens and the Earth
Only in English. (Or in a few other languages.) But in the language of the Qur’an, anyone and anything that exists has an ism (pronounced “iss-mun”, with the “-un” case ending). Normally, ism is translated into English as “name”. But, in English, things have names because people have named them. So, until people come along and name things, those things don’t have names.
Not so with asmaa’ (the plural of ism). Everything in the entire vastness of the cosmos — big or little, humongous or submicroscopic — has asmaa’. If it is tiny, that is one of its asmaa’. If it has a magnetic field, that is one of its asmaa’. If it is spinning rapidly, that is one of its asmaa’.
As best we can tell, the cosmos — the entire physical world — came into being over 13 billion 500 million years ago. The cosmos — along with everything in it — has asmaa’. When we study the cosmos — when we study the galaxies, the stars, the planets, the components of stars and planets, the living creatures (if any), the molecules, the atoms, and the component parts of atoms — when we study these things, we are learning their asmaa’. Then we give them names.
The one (and only) who created the entire vastness of the cosmos and everything in it has countless asmaa’ — and he has had those countless asmaa’ since before he created the cosmos, before he created time and space. But when did he get the name Allah, or God, or any of the hundreds or thousands of other names that we people call him? Only recently. Once we started speaking. At most, a hundred or two hundred thousand years ago. Only an instant compared to the over 13-billion-year age of the cosmos.
I call him Allah, but he is the Nameless One.
He has countless asmaa’, but for countless eons before he created us, there were no people around to call him by a name or to argue over what name to call him. If you want to argue over the existence — or non-existence — of Allah, then reflect on the countless eons before people, or life, or even the Earth itself came into being, and reflect on the Nameless One — alive, aware, self-sufficient — who gave us the ability to study and learn the asmaa’ of things and to give them names, so that we can talk about them.
Allah does not need us to think about him or to call him by one name or another. We are the ones in need of names and naming. So that we can speak about things, and talk to each other, and speak about Allah and talk to him. He does not need a name. He has countless asmaa’.
He is the Nameless One.