Islamic Research Foundation Replies...

By Tanvir Shaikh

It is with great trepidation and alarm and not a little grief that I read the article that you published in your magazine written by Dr. Zakir Naik declaring that Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala may be called by any name that a person finds to his liking.

Mirza Yawar Baig, leadtrain@yahoo.com

Dr. Zakir Naik has never claimed in any of his articles or talks that it is permissible for people to call Allah (swt) by any name of their choice or liking. Neither has he ever passed a blanket rule to invent or import names for Allah (swt). In his talks, he quotes the verse of the Glorious Qur’an from Surah Al-Isra 17:110, which says:

Say: “Call upon Allah, or Call upon Rahman; By whatever name ye call Upon Him, (it is well): For to Him belong the Most Beautiful Names”. [Al Qur’an 17:110]

Dr. Zakir simply explains the verse that Allah (swt)'s name should be beautiful and it should not conjure up a mental picture. He has never stated that a person can call Allah (swt) with any name he or she desires. It is understood that Allah (swt) should be only referred to according to the manner in which He and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) have described Him.

One cannot deduce a ruling just on the basis of one or two verses of the Glorious Qur’an unless one has analyzed the Qur’an as a whole. For example, it will be erroneous for someone to say that Muslims are allowed to gamble and drink wine because in them there is some profit for men, simply because Allah (swt) has mentioned in the Glorious Qur’an:

“They ask thee concerning wine and gambling. Say: "In them is great sin and some profit for men; but the sin is greater than the profit." [Al-Qur’an 2:219]

However, if one studies the Qur’an completely then he will conclude that intoxicants and gambling are prohibited in the Qur’an beyond any doubt. Says Allah (swt) in the Glorious Qur’an:

“O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling (dedication of) stones and (divination by) arrows are an abomination of Satan's handiwork: eschew such (abomination) that ye may prosper.” [Al-Qur’an 5:90]

Similarly, if we read the complete article/book of Dr. Zakir Naik, where he explains the definition and different categories of Tawheed, he makes it very clear that one cannot call Allah (swt) with any new names or attributes which neither Allah (swt) nor His Messenger have used.

Moreover, the verse that illustrates the complete prohibition of intoxicants and gambling, does not contradict the verse of Surah Al-Baqarah 2:219, but rather gives more specific information on the subject. Likewise, the explanation of the verse of Surah Al-Isra 17:110 by Dr. Zakir Naik does not conflict with the elucidation of the second category of Tawheed by him, but throws additional light on the matter.

Following is the part of the article in which Dr. Zakir Naik expounded the second category of Tawheed i.e. Tawheed Al-Asma Was-Sifaat.


Tawheed al-Asmaa was-Sifaat (maintaining the unity of Allah’s name and attributes):

The second category is Tawheed al Asmaa was Sifaat which means maintaining the unity of Allah’s name and attributes. This category is divided into five aspects:

(i) Allah should be referred to as described by Him and His Prophet:  

Allah must be referred to according to the manner in which He and His prophet have described Him without explaining His names and attributes by giving them meanings other than their obvious meanings.

(ii) Allah must be referred to as He has referred to Himself:

Allah must be referred to without giving Him any new names or attributes. For example Allah may not be given the name Al-Ghaadib (the Angry One), despite the fact that He has said that He gets angry, because neither Allah nor His messenger have used this name.

(iii) Allah is referred to without giving Him the attributes of His creation:

In a reference to God, we should strictly abstain from giving Him the attributes of those whom He has created. For instance in the Bible, God is portrayed as repenting for His bad thoughts in the same way as humans do when they realise their errors. This is completely against the principle of Tawheed. God does not commit any mistakes or errors and therefore never needs to repent. The key principle when dealing with Allah's attributes is given in the Qur'an in Surah Ash-Shura:

"There is nothing whatever like unto Him, and He is the One That hears and sees (all things)." [Al-Qur'an 42:11]

Hearing and seeing are human faculties. However, when attributed to the Divine Being they are without comparison, in their perfection, unlike when associated with humans who require ears, eyes, etc. and who are limited in their sight and hearing in terms of space, time, capacity, etc.

(iv) God’s creation should not be given any of His attributes:

To refer to a human with the attribute of God is also against the principle of Tawheed. For example, referring to a person as one who has no beginning or end (eternal).

(v) Allah’s name cannot be given to His creatures:

Some Divine names in the indefinite form, like Raoof or Raheem are permissible names for men as Allah has used them for Prophets; but Ar-Raoof (the Most Pious) and Ar-Raheem (the most Merciful) can only be used if prefixed by Abd meaning slave of or servant of i.e. Abdur-Raoof or Abdur-Raheem. Similarly Abdur-Rasool (slave of the Messenger) or Abdun-Nabee (slave of the Prophet) are forbidden.


Mr. Mirza Yawar Ali Baig mentions in his article against Dr. Zakir Naik that Dr. Zakir Naik claims:


“By whatever name you call upon Him (it is well)” is not a blanket permission to invent or import names to call Allah by. It means, whichever of the names that He or His Prophet have permitted may be used to call upon Him and this is acceptable. Nothing else.”

“In his speech on Thursday, April 15, 2004 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Dr. Zakir Naik said, “If someone calls Allah Subhanahu wa ta'ala the Creator in English, or Khaliq in Arabic or Brahma in Sanskrit we have no objection. But if they say Brahma and mean the image sitting on the lotus and so on, we have a serious objection. Similarly if someone calls Allah Subhanahu wa ta'ala the Sustainer in English or Rabb in Arabic or Vishnu in Sanskrit we have no objection. But when they say Vishnu, if they mean the image with the many hands and the Chakra in one hand, traveling on the Garuda and so on, we have a serious problem.”


I assume that either Mr. Baig may have either attended the talk or heard the video-cassette and has alleged this statement for Dr. Zakir Naik based on his memory. I am reproducing a portion of Dr. Zakir Naik’s book which he (Dr. Zakir Naik) also repeats in his lectures.


To Allah belong the most beautiful names:

The Qur’an says:

"Say: Call upon Allah, or Call upon Rahman: By whatever name you call Upon Him, (it is well): For to Him belong The Most Beautiful Names." [Al-Qur’an 17:110]

A similar message regarding the beautiful names of Allah (swt) is repeated in the Qur’an in Surah Al-Araf (7:180), in Surah Taha (20:8) and in Surah Al-Hashr (59:24).

The Qur’an gives no less than ninety-nine different attributes to Almighty Allah. The Qur’an refers to Allah as Ar-Rahman (Most Gracious), Ar-Raheem (Most Merciful) and Al-Hakeem (All Wise) among many other names. You can call Allah by any name but that name should be beautiful and should not conjure up a mental picture. 


i)      The oldest of all the vedas is Rigveda. It is also the one considered most sacred by the Hindus. The Rigveda states in Book 1, hymn 164 and verse 46:

Sages (learned Priests) call one God by many names. [Rigveda 1:164:46]

ii)     The Rigveda gives several different attributes to Almighty God. Many of these are mentioned in Rigveda Book 2 hymn 1.

Among the various attributes of God, one of the beautiful attributes mentioned in the Rigveda Book II hymn 1 verse 3, is Brahma. Brahma means The Creator. Translated into Arabic it means Khaliq. Muslims can have no objection if Almighty God is referred to as Khaliq or Creator or Brahma.  However if it is said that Brahma is Almighty God who has four heads with each head having a crown, Muslims take strong exception to it.

Describing Almighty God in anthropomorphic terms also goes against the following verse of Yajurveda:

Na tasya Pratima asti

There is no image of Him.    [Yajurveda 32:3]

Another beautiful attribute of God mentioned in the Rigveda Book II hymn 1 verse 3 is Vishnu. Vishnu means The Sustainer. Translated into Arabic it means Rabb. Again, Muslims can have no objection if Almighty God is referred to as Rabb or 'Sustainer' or Vishnu. But the popular image of Vishnu among Hindus, is that of a God  who has four arms, with  one of  the right arms holding the Chakra, i.e. a discus and one of the left arms holding a conch shell, or riding a bird or reclining on a snake couch. Muslims can never accept any image of God. As mentioned earlier this also goes against Svetasvatara Upanishad Chapter 4 verse 19.

Na tasya pratima asti

‘There is no likeness of Him’


Brahma in Sanskrit has got several meanings. One of the many meanings is Creator. Similarly, for the English word ‘Creator’, many Sanskrit words can be used like ‘Janak’, ‘Utpadak’, ‘Dhata’ ‘Vidhata’ ‘Vishwvidhayee’ ‘Jagat Srishta’ and ‘Shrishti Karta’ as well as ‘Brahma’. If Mr. Yawar Baig knows only one meaning of Brahma, it is his lack of knowledge. Similarly, there are various meanings of the Sanskrit word ‘Vishnu’, one of which is Sustainer or Cherisher. Likewise, Sustainer can be translated into different Sanskrit words including ‘Stithi Karta’ as well as ‘Vishnu’.

If you read the complete context of Dr. Zakir Naik’s book, he is actually not permitting people to call Allah as Brahma or Vishnu, even though it means Creator and Sustainer, but objects to it since it goes against the criteria of Tawheed al-Asmaa was-Sifaat, because they are giving qualities of His creation to Allah (i.e. qualities of human beings i.e. human hands, human body etc.).

In the same article Mr. Yawar Baig writes that you can call Allah by the name God or Khuda. He says:


“Referring to Allah by generic terms like god, khuda (Urdu & Farsi), and avane (Tamil) and so on is different as there is no personality concept attached to that. Words like khuda are used exclusively for Allah in the Urdu and Farsi languages. However even in this case it is far better to say Allah rather than khuda.”


Even though I personally do not mind Mr. Baig’s statement but if critically analyzed, it is seriously objectionable as compared to Dr. Zakir Naik’s statement where he objects, calling Allah as Brahma having four heads and arms.

Khuda may be exclusively used for Allah by some Muslims only, but there are many Hindus who use the word Khuda for Ram, Krishna, Brahma, Vishnu etc. Similarly Parsis use the word ‘Khuda’ to refer to their god ‘Ahura Mazda’. Mr. Baig also gives permission to call Allah as ‘god’. Calling Allah by ‘god’ with a small ‘g’ is 100% wrong. Even if capital ‘G’ is used for God, some Muslims may use God exclusively for Allah, but most of the Christians when they use the word God with a capital ‘G’, they are referring to Jesus (peace be upon him).

God according to the Oxford dictionary means

(a) “A super human being or spirit worshipped as having power over nature.

(b) An image, idol, animal or other objects symbolizing a God. An adored, admired or influential person”.

I would like to ask Mr. Baig, which of the attributes of Allah mentioned in the Qur’an matches with the meaning of the English word God.

Infact, Dr. Zakir Naik writes in his book:


By what name do we call God?
The Muslims prefer calling the Supreme Creator, Allah, instead of by the English word God. The Arabic word, Allah, is pure and unique, unlike the English word God, which can be played around with.

If you add s to the word God, it becomes Gods, that is the plural of God. Allah is one and singular, there is no plural of Allah. If you add 'dess' to the word God, it becomes Goddess that is a female God. There is nothing like male Allah or female Allah. Allah has no gender. If you add the word father to God it becomes God-father. God-father means someone who is a guardian. There is no word like Allah-Abba or Allah-father. If you add the word mother to God, it becomes God-mother. There is nothing like Allah-Ammi, or Allah-mother in Islam. Allah is a unique word. If you prefix tin before the word God, it becomes tin-God i.e., fake God. Allah is a unique word, which does not conjure up any mental picture nor can it be played around with. Therefore the Muslims prefer using the Arabic word Allah for the Almighty. Sometimes, however, while speaking to the non-Muslims we may have to use the inappropriate word God, for Allah.


I as a da’ee understand both Mr. Baig and Dr. Naik, but if you critically analyze all of the above, Mr. Baig gives permission to call Allah as god (God) or Khuda, even though he says Allah is better. Dr. Zakir Naik says only for Da’wah if some Muslims use the word God for Allah while speaking to Non-Muslims who do not understand the meaning of Allah he will not object. But yet he says that God is not the appropriate word for Allah. He is clear that in normal circumstances Allah cannot be translated as God.

Mr. Baig has said that Dr. Zakir Naik’s articles should be checked by Aalims who have passed from Islamic Universities. Unfortunately, Mr. Mirza Baig does not know that there are several Aalims in Dr. Zakir Naik’s organization the Islamic Research Foundation, many of whom are graduates from the Islamic University of Madeenah, which is one of the most reputed Islamic Universities of the world. Almost all the talks, articles and books by Dr. Zakir Naik are checked and verified by these scholars. It is Mr. Mirza Baig who should verify and check up his Islamic knowledge.

Now let us see what Mr. Baig himself does when it comes to his own articles. In his article “Leadership, A Journey of Self Discovery” that appeared in an issue “Here & Now”, the quarterly newsletter of ISABS he gives parables and tales of Hindu gods from Hindu mythology to prove his contentions.
Et tu Brutus, Mr. Baig?