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Names of the Prophet

September 17, 2011


From ar-Rassā`’s masterwork Tadhkirah al-Muhibbīn


«AL MĀHĪ», may Allah send payers of blessing and salutations of peace on him, and may He ennoble, honour, extol and magnify him

Al-Māhī: One of his names, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam.
This name, and its ascription to him, has occurred in transmitted reports and well-known accounts.
We have previously set out the narration from the Messenger of Allah, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, to the effect that he said: “I have five names. I am Muhammad. I am Ahmad. I am al-Māhī (= the effacer) by whom Allāh effaces kufr …”.
This hadīth has been narrated through a varied multiplicity of transmission chains, all of them authentic and widely reported.

Al-Māhī is a noun derived from the Arabic word al-mahwu (= effacement, obliteration, erasure, the act of wiping or blotting out, rubbing off, etc). Al-Māhī is a noun of the agent (ism fā`il), the noun, that is, of the one who carries out the action of the verb, which is morphologically structured as follows: Mahā yamhū mahwan fa-huwa (i.e. the agent) hin. Mamhuwwun is the noun of the patient (ism maf`ūl) from this verb, i.e. the effaced thing.
The root meaning of the original al-mahwu (= the masdar standing for the action denoted by the verb, without reference to the time of its occurrence, or to the active or passive status of the agent / patient involved in such occurrence) is “the removal”. Branching out from it is the statement mahawtu al-harfa wa al-lawh, i.e. I have scratched out the letter and wiped the tablet, which is uttered in the event that you have erased the writing that was earlier etched on the tablet.

The transposed use of the word al-māhī (the effacer) from the realm of sensorial, tangibly concrete objects to the different realm of conceptual realities and abstract meanings is an example of metaphorical use which occurs through the medium of a metonymical allusion.
It has been stated earlier in this work that, as the transmitted reports have mentioned to us, al-Māhī is his [Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam] name in the seas.
What  our intellectual grasp was able to discern as regards the secret of such correlation, and Allah knows His hidden world best, is that the seas encompass cleansing, elimination of impurities and filth, and expulsion of unwholesome squalors found in the regions of the earth, according to what people have laid down in their books on the secret behind the existence of water expanses in the seas, and the presence in them both of a vast and magnificent benefit for creation and wondrous secrets emanating from the King, the Real [In this regard, I have read a presentation of such aspects, authored by the teacher and friend of Allah, Sidi ‘Abd al ‘Azīz al Mahdawī, may Allah have mercy on him, wherein he mentioned the secrets which sprang out of a spiritual opening granted to him, may Allah be pleased with him  and may He grant benefit through him].
Once you have come to realize that sea waters represent the most splendid element by which purification is attained, it is as though the following explanation had been verbalized to you:
If sea waters wash out filths, tracts of land and dirty objects, Allah, glory to Him, has purified through Muhammad the locus where intimately confidential communication takes place with the Justly Ruling King [= the heart]. Put it differently, if waterways expurgate dirt from persons and physical objects, then by Muhammad Allah, glory to Him, has rid souls and spirits of defiling stains left by inward contaminants and pollutants; and if waters represents the life of the bodies, Muhammad is the lifeblood of the people of gnosis.

There is a further dimension to the secret ensconced in the truth that al-Māhī is his name in the seas, and Allah knows His hidden kingdom best, namely, that at the time of the occurrence of the Universal Flood, Allah drowned the worshippers of idols by the seas, and He startled thereby the people of immoderateness wherever they happened to be. Such an event was indeed an act of assistance extended by Allah, glory to Him, to His Prophet Nūh, peace be upon him, after he was acquainted with the fact that no one of those whom He was to destroy by drowning was ever going to develop īmān. Thereupon, having clued him about the said foreordained destiny, Allah, Lofty is His Majesty, submerged the wrongdoers by the inundation, and cleansed the earth of their presence. Insofar as the presence of our Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, was a guarantee of safety given to the inhabitants of the earth, to the effect that punishment would not include all of them without exception, the entire human race did not experience drowning by the Flood and unconditional destruction. Quite the reverse, as he [Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam] was the instrument by which safety would endure on the face of the earth, since Allah, glory to Him, knew that, from the loins of the survivors of the Flood, there would emerge descendants who will bring īmān in Allah and in His Messenger, as well as that our Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, would be the Prophet with the largest number of followers on the Day of Rising. Accordingly, He named him al-Māhī in the seas, for it to be an allusion to the fact that it is by him that Allah will obliterate kufr, purify hearts, and bring about nearness to the All-knower of hidden realities.
The seas, therefore, can find no way to destroy the totality of this Muhammadan nation, nor can they be given power over the whole of its collective entity, or pass it onto some third force, since the proclamation of His Oneness and the īmān which is embedded in the hearts of the members of such nation precludes the seas from occasioning their (mass) drowning. A further cause of the selfsame prohibition lies in the fact that the members of such nation activate truth and lend support to the cause of the King, the Creator, to which one should add their steadfast adherence to the Straight Path and their jealous safeguarding of the one who brought the Jum`ah and the congregational prayer (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam), and who said about them:
A group of my nation will not cease to be victorious on the truth until the Hour sets in” [It has been reported by al Bukhārī and by Muslim in their respective sound collections], may Allah send payers of blessing and mercy and greetings of peace upon his person, and may He ennoble him and extol his magnificent honour.


The Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, has explained his name al-Māhī as meaning “the one by whom Allah wipes out kufr”.
The people of knowledge, may Allah be pleased with them, have said the following:
What one might envisage in this connection is that, by him, Allah erases kufr from the city of Makkah and the land of the Arabs, as well as all the regions of the earth which were specially set aside for his authority, and those concerning which he was given the Divine promise that the king of his nation shall rule them.
Another legitimate interpretation is that the effacement occasioned through him is general in its scope, in the sense that it denotes manifest victory and supremacy, that is, Allah, glory to Him, confers on His Dīn triumphant ascendancy over any other dīn, and exalts it above it, as it has been mentioned in His Book [For instance, in Sūrah al Fath: 28, and in Sūrah as-Saff: 9]. He has indeed made him [Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam] a vanquishing master, and He has bestowed on him support, by perfecting His blessing to him and guiding him to a Straight Path, and by making him most gentle and merciful towards the believers.

Contemplate, therefore, may Allah have mercy on you, the excellence of the clarification provided by the Prophet of Allah to whom Allah has imparted direct knowledge of His sciences, and whom He has regaled with Lordly openings; ponder, moreover, the manner in which he taught his nation the spiritual Path and the Reality, and the fact that his Master named him al-Māhī, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, for that is his usual wonderful method of instruction.
Allah then elucidated what such naming signified in terms of the Reality, from the standpoint of His statement, Exalted is He: «You did not throw, when you threw; it was Allah Who threw» [Sūrah al-Anfāl: 17]. In other words: “I did not throw, if heed is paid to the creation and origination of such an act. Rather, I threw in the sense of earning the consequence of the Divine creation of that act, through the instrumentality of intermediate causation, for Allah, glory to Him, is the One Who threw in terms of creating and bringing forth into existence. Likewise with His statement, may He be exalted: «Truly you are guiding to a Straight Path» [Sūrah ash-Shūrā: 52].
He, may He be Exalted, said: «You cannot guide those you would like to get guidance, but Allah guides those He wills» [Sūrah al-Qasas: 56].
The same consideration holds true here: He (Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam) is the Effacer, al-Māhī, from the dual viewpoint of indirect causation and the acquisition of the (effect resulting from the) act of Allah’s creation, but the creator of such effacement is the Creator of īmān in the hearts and the One Who draws them close to the All-Knower of invisible things.
As Allah made the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, a causative medium of the vivification of His Dīn and the extolment of His Word, he, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam , said “[I am the effacer] by whom Allāh effaces kufr” [Reported by Muslim, and by al Tirmidhī in a similar variant. It has further been mentioned with this wording by al Haythamī in Majma` al Zawā’id].
He also said, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam: “I have been commanded to fight people until they say, ‘There is no god but Allah’” [It has been reported by al Bukhārī, Muslim and Abū Dāwud], hence his fighting, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, is a causative tool of uttering the testimony of faith and endorsing the truth by attesting its veracity and gaining knowledge of it.
The Creator of such declaration of faith in the tongue and the heart is the Great, the Most High Who created the essences of persons, attributes, languages, deeds and sayings.
This is one of the root beliefs of Ahl al Sunnah, may Allah be pleased with them, as regards the creation of actions, namely, that there is no Creator but Allah, the one Endowed with Generosity and Majesty, and that He is the Lord of the slaves and the Lord of their acts, as well as the One Who decrees their motions and the appointed terms of their earthly extinction.


It is possible that his name al-Māhī, the one by whom Allah rubs off kufr, means that kufr did not utter anything save that Allah commanded him to erase any such utterance, because of the universality of his message and the manifestation of his miracle in every epoch, region and country. Allah has indeed said in His Noble Book: «We only sent you for the whole of mankind» [Sūrah Saba’: 28].
The noun “world” refers to every existent except Allah. Allah has sent to all the people of the world the Prophet of mercy and the lifter of distressing grief, sorrowful anxiety and affliction.
{Prayers you should send on the best of mankind as a whole *,
of all those summoned to the Day of Standing the most majestic
The intercessor he is for him whose sins in piles and heaps amassed *
For him by long and serious ailments struck he is the healing
On him send blessings, remember him abundantly: *
In the noblest station you’ll see him as light blazing
He, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, sold his own self in the Essence of Allah, and effaced the entirety of kufr from Allah’s earth. He keeps on saying: “I have been commanded to fight people until they say, ‘There is no god but Allah’”. He is the healing of the hearts, and the beloved of the All-Knower of the Unseen. Allah has gathered in him all the meritorious virtues, and made him a vehicle for the means of intercession to set in. How capably excellent was the one who declaimed the following:
{The flags of every virtue for him were gathered, *
as leader to the noble Messengers he had been chosen
Solicitude and guidance, with that the hearts he’s cured, *
with purity love and happiness that is attested
On him send blessings, remember him abundantly: *
Can repetition tire you, recurrent iteration?
Prayer on him bequeaths to those thus praising, *
on the Day extolled, in darkness scintillation
Slaves of Allah, abound therefore in prayers on the effacer of your sins, the one who brings you near to your Lord, your solacing companion in your loneliness, the grantor to you of safety from your fear; and make him the shoring prop in your lives.
{Mercy bestowed and laud Allah on Āminah’s son has lavished *.
With the generous one she came, the noble who is honoured.
Above the shining moon that rises he is effulgent *
Thereby his lover meets a full pristine enchantment
Oh those who hope from him a gracious intercession, *
request his peace and blessings with faithful resolution

Soon to come:
The remainder of this chapter;
Al-Harrālī and as-Suyūtī gift us further coruscating pearls about this noble name



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