The Names and Attributes of Prophet Muhammad in Divan Literature

From the Editor

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Names and Attributes of Prophet Muhammad in Divan Literature


Asma al-Nabi, which refers to the names and attributes of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), comprises one of the rich genres of our classical literature that is in fact intertwined with religious culture. Other examples of the genre concerning the Prophet include the mawlid, sirah, hilya, mi'raj-nameh, Hijrat al-Nabi (the migration of Prophet Muhammad), shafaat-namah, forty hadiths and a hundred hadiths. Similar to "Asma al-Husna" (The Most Beautiful Names), a poetic genre in which the names of Allah are collectively given, there has risen the tradition of gathering together the names of the Prophet in separate works of either prose or poetry, as he is the most beloved human being for both Muslims and Allah the Almighty.

Besides faith, the motivation of poets to write about the Names of the Prophet include a particular well known hadith (saying of the Prophet) which states that those believers who read and write the names and attributes of Prophet Muhammad and keep them in writing in their homes will not be bothered by calamities such as diseases, malady, jealousy, trouble, witchcraft, fire, etc. According to the same hadith, big problems such as poverty, poisoning and sorrow will not touch them, either. Due to this particular hadith, the plates on which the Prophet's names are written have for centuries served as an element of decoration, just like the Hilya-i Sharifs, in the living spaces of Muslims.

On the other hand, the Prophet's names that are mentioned in the Quran and hadiths as well as his names, attributes, and nicknames that are known in Islamic culture have served as the subject of many prose works. The most of famous of these works belongs to Sulayman Jazuli titled "Dalail al-Khayrat"; this book explains the meanings of two hundred and one names of the Prophet.  Kara Davud Izmiti translated the book with a commentary into Turkish in the 16th century. The original title of the commentary was "Tawfiqu Muwaqqif al-Khayrat li Nayl al-Barakat fi Hidmat Manba al-Saadah" and has been widely read throughout Turkish history since then.  In brief, it came to be known as the "Commentary on Dalail al- Khayrat" and "Kara Davut". While this book contains only two hundred and one of the names of the Prophet, some other works contain a thousand or even up to two thousand and twenty names of Prophet Muhammad. The reason for the presence of so many names attributed to him resides in the notion that the higher the number of names and nicknames, the higher is the status and honor of a person. In this context, many names referring to various good qualities have been invented for the Prophet in order to praise him in every possible way.

Among the names of the Prophet that exceed a thousand, some of them are mentioned either in the Quran, previous sacred texts or hadiths. In addition to these, some of the names are also a part of the "Asma al-Husna" (the Beautiful Names of Allah), or attributed also to other prophets. There are, of course, some names unique to him in the Islamic literary tradition. In the light of this information, the names of the Prophet can be classified as follows:


  1. Names Mentioned in the Quran: These include Ahmad, Amin, Bashir, Burhan, Khatem, Dai, Rauf, Rahim, Rasul al-Rahmah, Siraj, Munir, Sirat al-Mustaqim, Ta-Ha, Ya-Sin, Ha-Mim, Abd, ‘Urvah al-Wusqa, Qadam al-Sidq, Muhammad, Muddaththir, Muzammil, Mustafa, Mujtaba, Nabi al-Ummi, Nadhir, Ni'matullah, Hâdî.
  2. Names Mentioned in Other Sacred Books and texts: They include,
    In the Gospel: Ahmad, Baraklit (or Faraklit), Hanbata, Ruh al-Haq, Ruh al-Quds, Sahib al-Kadib, Sali ibn al-Na'layn.
    In the Torah: Ahyad, Bidbid, Dahuk, Mutawakkil, Mukhtar.
    In Dawud's Zabur (or the Psalms of David): Iklil, Jabbar, Hamyata, Hathat, Qayyim, Muqim al-Sunna.
    In other sacred texts revealed to other Prophets: Ahunah, Tabtab, Mushaffih, Ajir, Hatam, Mazmaz, Munhaminna.
    In addition to these, according to the Sunan by Darir, there are other names in these sacred books, including Budha (in sacred texts), Midmid (in the Torah), Nura (in Dawud's Zabur), and Hura (in the Gospel).
  3. Names Mentioned in the Prophet's own Hadiths: These include Ahmad, Ahyad, Amin, Imam al-Muttaqin, Hashir, Habibullah, Rakib al-Buraq, Rasul al-Rahmah, Rasul al-Raha, Rasul al-Malahim, Sayyid al-Mursalin, Sayyid Walad Adam, Sabik, Shaff, Shafi', Mushaffa, Sahib al-Khatam, Ta-Ha, Dhahir, Akib, Abdullah, Qaid al-Ghurr al-mhajjalin, Qusham, Mahi, Muhammad, Muddaththir, Muzammil, Muktafi, Muqaffa, Nabi al-Tawba, Nabi al-Rahmah, Nabi al-Malhamah, Ya-Sin.
  4. Names that are Common to the Asma al-Husna: They include Awwal, Ahir, Jabbar, Hamid, Hamid, Haq, Habir, Ra'uf, Rahim, Shahid, Shahid, Shakur, Sadik, Aziz, Azim, Afuw, Alim, Fattah, Quddus, Qawi, Zu-Quwwa, Karim, Akram, Mubashshir, Mubin, Mahmud, Mu'min, Muhaymin, Nur, Wali, Mawla, Hadi, Ya-Sin. This commonality is sometimes referred to in the Divan Literature as well.
  5. Names that are Common to other Prophets and Religious Leaders: Such names of Prophet Muhammad as Ahmad, Muhammad, Akib, Hashir, Muqaffa, Nabi al-Malhame belong to him only. Other prophetic names, such as Rasul-Allah (the Messenger of Allah), Nabi-Allah (the Prophet of Allah), Abdullah (the Servant of Allah), Shahid, Mubashshir, Nazir, Nabi al-Rahmah, Nabi al-Tawba, etc. are also given to other prophets. In addition to these, Prophet Adam's name, Safiy-Allah; Prophet Abraham's name, Khalil-Allah; Prophet Moses' name, Kalim-Allah; and Prophet Jesus' name, Rah al-Quds; as well as the companion Ali's names, Murtaza and Mujtaba; and the great Islamic scholar Imam Ghazali's nickname, Hujjat al-Islam, are also the names (nicknames) of Prophet Muhammad.
  6. Prophet Muhammad's Unique Names and Attributes: The following names and attributes that are mentioned in religious and literary texts belong only to the Prophet: Fakhr al-Kainat, Fahr al-‘Alam, Mafhar al-‘Alam, Abu al-Mu'minin, Khayr al-Mursalin, Kan al-Shafaat, Mahbub al-Haq, Muin al-Bashar, Rasul al-Saqalayn, Sayyid al-Sadat, Sayyid al-Mursalin, Sultan al-Anbiya. Since these phrases uniquely refer to the Prophet, we are of the opinion that they should be regarded as proper nouns and thus should be written in capital letters (first letters) rather than as regular phrases.
  7. The Prophet's Names with Literary Nature: In literary texts, especially in naats (poetic praise of Prophet Muhammad ), such metaphors as sultan, sun, moon, sea, pearl, rose, nightingale, cypress, tinder, and doctor are used for the Prophet- usually in the form of a noun rather than adjective. Some of these phrases include: Mah al-Burj al-Fadhayil, Bad al-Duja, Mah al-Munir, Sadr al-Badr al-Kainat, Ayina al-Azal, Mir'at al-Huda, Jawhar al-Zat, Durra al-Bayza, Durr al-Yatim, Shams al-Kawnayn, Shams al-Subhan, Afitab al-Awj al-Din, Nayyir al-Azam, Sahab al-Rahmah, Tabib al-Mariz al-Isyan, Manba al-Abdulhamid al-Hayat, Nizam al-Alamin, Ruh al-Azam, Sar Chashma al-Karam, Sarv al-Bostan al-Din, Shahar-shah al-Asfiya, ‘Uqda al-Ghusha, etc.
  8. Miscellaneous Names: In addition to the above categories, various names given to Prophet Muhammad by different groups or communities in different times and places constitute a separate category. For example, it has been reported that the name Ahmad was given to the Prophet before he was born; the name Muhammad when he was still alive; and the name Mahmud after his body left this world.

Also according to a report from Ka'b al-Akhbar , Prophet Muhammad is known as Abd al-Karim among the people of the Paradise, as Abdul-Jabbar among the people of Hell, as Abdulhamid among the Angels of Heavens, as Abdulmajid among the poet angels, as Abdul-Wahhab among the prophets, as Abd al-Rahim among the jinn, as Abd al-Qahhar among the demons, as Abd al-Khallaq on mountains, as Abd al-Qadir in the sea, as Abd al-Quddus among the fish, as Abd al-Mughis among the insects, as Abd al-Razzaq in the wilderness, as Abd al-Salam among the predators, as Abd al-Mu'min among the quadrupled animals, and as Abd al-Ghaffar among birds etc.

As we have seen so far, Prophet Muhammad has hundreds of names and nicknames, of both religious and literary kind, that in one way or another refer to his spiritual superiority, physical qualities and model personality for his followers as well as reflecting Allah's and Muslims' love for him. These names have served as the specific topic of many books in Turkish literature as well as many poems, which constitute an important part of the Asma al-Nabi genre. Unfortunately, however, these poetic works are not very well known in literature.


In the munajat section of Süleyman Çelebi's famous Mawlid (written in 812A.H./1409C.E.), the Asma al-Husna are mentioned. In the same book, the section on naat (the praise of Prophet Muhammad) contains forty names of the Prophet which are mentioned in a total of eight couplets. Though these couplets do not constitute a separate poetic work or even a section, they reflect the typical features of the Asma al-Nabi genre.

Similarly, in the Hilya by Halimi (d. 1014A.H./1605C.E.), the 14 couplets on the Asma al-Nabi contain a hundred and six names. It also talks about the virtues and honor of writing and memorizing the names of the Prophet. The title of this section reads: "Asma al-Rasul-Allah bi al-Nazm Sall-Allah ‘Alaih wa Sallam".

The most voluminous work in the Asma al-Nabi genre that we have found in the literature is a mathnawi by Hasib al-Uskudari (1200A.H./1785C.E.), titled Durrat al-Asma, which contains 1,032 couplets. The poet also compiled a Compilation of Naat al-Nabawiyya. He says that he wanted to compile this work due to the Prophet's hadith that we mentioned at the beginning of this article. He also stated that he wanted to praise Prophet Muhammad by commenting on his beautiful names and that through this, he hoped to be saved in the World Hereafter with the help of the Prophet. Hasib also said that he wanted to focus on the 201 names mentioned in the Dalail al-Khayrat in poetic form to make it easier for the reader to memorize the Prophet's names.

عن أبي هُرَيْرَةَ ـ رضى الله عنه قَالَ:
قَبَّلَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم الْحَسَنَ بْنَ عَلِيٍّ وَعِنْدَهُ الأَقْرَعُ بْنُ حَابِسٍ التَّمِيمِيُّ جَالِسًا‏.‏ فَقَالَ الأَقْرَعُ إِنَّ لِي عَشَرَةً مِنَ الْوَلَدِ مَا قَبَّلْتُ مِنْهُمْ أَحَدًا‏.‏ فَنَظَرَ إِلَيْهِ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ثُمَّ قَالَ ‏"‏ مَنْ لاَ يَرْحَمُ لاَ يُرْحَمُ ‏"‏‏
God's Messenger kissed Al-Hasan bin Ali (his grandchild) while Al-Aqra' bin Habis At-Tamim was sitting beside him. Al-Aqra said, "I have ten children and I have never kissed anyone of them", God's Messenger cast a look at him and said, "Whoever is not merciful to others will not be treated mercifully." (Bukhari, Good Manners and Form (Al-Adab), 18)

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