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I heard to perform Ism-e-Azam in several places. I heard that it has a significance but don't know how or what? So,

  • What is Ism-e-Azam?
  • What it's significance and why?
2

In the sunni tradition Allah's greatest name اسْمُ اللَّهِ الأَعْظَمُ (Ism-u Allah-I al-a'dham) is quoted in several ahadith, but it is a disputable matter:

The Greatest Name of Allah, if He is called by which He will respond, is in three Surah: Al-Baqarah, Al 'Imran and Ta-Ha. (Hasan)Another chain for something similar from Al-Qasim, from Abu Umamah, from the Prophet (saas). (sunan ibn Majah)

This hadith seems to say that it is -apparently one of Allah's names (or attributes) which when we call Him by it in supplication He will respond. But doesn't Allah say he would respond His servants?

And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me - indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided. (2:186)

Therefore many scholars are of the opinion that there's no difference between any of Allah's beautiful names (see for example this sahih hadith) in this and they reject the idea of a special name among the names of Allah as Allah also says:

And to Allah belong the best names, so invoke Him by them. ... (7:180)

this opinion is held by scholars like abu Ja'afar at-Tabari, abu Hassan al-Ash'ary, abu Hatim ibn Hebban, abu Bakr al-Baqilani and imam Malik.

imam as-Suyuti quoted beside this 19 different opinions on what actually this name might be or how to interpret these ahadith in his al-Hawi lil Fatwai الحاوي للفتاوي some of these interpretations are based on ahadith like the one quoted above here some other narrations:

  • “Allah's greatest name is in these two Ayah: ‘And your deity is One deity, there is none who has the right to be worshipped but He, Ar-Raḥmān, Ar-Raḥīm.’ And the Opening of Al-`Imrān: ‘Alif. Lām. Mīm. Allah, None has the right to be worshipped but He, the Ever living, the Sustainer.’”
    (Jami' at-Tirmidhi, sunan abi Dawood and sunan ibn Majah)
  • The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) heard a man saying: O Allah, I ask Thee, I bear witness that there is no god but Thou, the One, He to Whom men repair, Who has not begotten, and has not been begotten, and to Whom no one is equal, and he said: You have supplicated Allah using His Greatest Name, when asked with this name He gives, and when supplicated by this name he answers. (Jami' at-Tirmidhi, sunan abi Dawood and sunan ibn Majah)
  • I was sitting with the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) and a man was offering prayer. He then made supplication: O Allah, I ask Thee by virtue of the fact that praise is due to Thee, there is no deity but Thou, Who showest favour and beneficence, the Originator of the Heavens and the earth, O Lord of Majesty and Splendour, O Living One, O Eternal One.
    The Prophet (ﷺ) then said: He has supplicated Allah using His Greatest Name, when supplicated by this name, He answers, and when asked by this name He gives.
    (Sunan abi Dawod]13, sunan an-Nasa'i and sunan ibn Majah)

and many othe ahdith like this one in sunan ibn Majah and many more.

In tafsir books scholars hold the opinion that in the verse:

Said one who had knowledge from the Scripture, "I will bring it to you before your glance returns to you." And when [Solomon] saw it placed before him, he said, "This is from the favor of my Lord to test me whether I will be grateful or ungrateful. And whoever is grateful - his gratitude is only for [the benefit of] himself. And whoever is ungrateful - then indeed, my Lord is Free of need and Generous." (27:40)

the knowledge from the scripture refers to knowing Allah's greatest name (Also read Throne of Sheba bring by Jinn or Human?)

One with whom was knowledge of the Scripture said: ) Ibn `Abbas said, "This was Asif, the scribe of Sulayman.'' It was also narrated by Muhammad bin Ishaq from Yazid bin Ruman that he was Asif bin Barkhiya' and he was a truthful believer who knew the Greatest Name of Allah. Qatadah said: "He was a believer among the humans, and his name was Asif.'' (qtafsir)

More sources (all in Arabic) islamqa #246203 and #146569 on Allah's greatest name and islamqa #212677 on the meaning of verse (27:40).

3

Ismul Azam, literally "the Greatest Name" is a name of Allah. Among its virtues, it is said that when a person with the proper disposition uses this name to supplicate to Allah then Allah grants whatever the supplicant asks for.

This is usually mentioned in the Tafsirs of the story of Prophet Solomon and the throne of the Queen of Sheba [27:38-40] :

قال الذي عنده علم من الكتاب أنا آتيك به قبل أن يرتد إليك طرفك

Said one who had knowledge from the Scripture, "I will bring it to you before your glance returns to you."

Quran 27:40

واختلفوا فيه فقال بعضهم هو جبريل . وقيل : هو ملك من الملائكة أيد الله به نبيه سليمان عليه السلام . وقال أكثر المفسرين : هو آصف بن برخياء ، وكان صديقا يعلم اسم الله الأعظم الذي إذا دعي به أجاب وإذا سئل به أعطى . وروى جويبر ، ومقاتل ، عن الضحاك عن ابن عباس قال : إن آصف قال لسليمان حين صلى : مد عينيك حتى ينتهي طرفك ، فمد سليمان عينيه ، فنظر نحو اليمين ، ودعا آصف فبعث الله الملائكة فحملوا السرير من تحت الأرض يخدون به خدا حتى انخرقت الأرض بالسرير بين يدي سليمان . وقال الكلبي : خر آصف ساجدا ودعا باسم الله الأعظم فغاب عرشها تحت الأرض حتى نبع عند كرسي سليمان . وقيل : كانت المسافة مقدار شهرين

There is difference in this. Some said this means Gabriel. Some said that Allah sent an angel from the angels to aid Suleman. Many exegetes said that it means Asif bin Barkhia, who knew the greatest name of Allah. When he used to supplicate with it Allah accepted his supplication and fulfilled what he asked for. Joabir and Muqatil have related from Dhihak from Ibn Abbas that after Asif had finished prayer he told Suleman to raise his sight as far as it could reach. When he did that, Asif supplicated and Allah accepted his request and sent the angels, they lifted the throne and placed it infront of Suleman. Kalbi said: Asif prostrated and supplicated with the greatest name. Immediately the throne shifted within the earth, until it was found in front of chair of Suleman. Some said this distance covered was equal to the travel of two months.

واختلفوا في الدعاء الذي دعا به آصف ، فقال مجاهد ، ومقاتل : يا ذا الجلال والإكرام . وقال الكلبي : يا حي يا قيوم . وروي ذلك عن عائشة . وروي عن الزهري قال : دعاء الذي عنده علم من الكتاب : يا إلهنا وإله كل شيء إلها واحدا لا إله إلا أنت ائتني بعرشها

There is difference on with what words Asif supplicated. Mujahid and Muqatil said: يا ذا الجلال والإكرام ( O Owner of Majesty and Honor). Kalbi said: : يا حي يا قيوم (O Ever-Living O All-Sustaining) and this is narrated from Ayesha. Zuhri said that the person with knowledge from the scripture supplicated thus: يا إلهنا وإله كل شيء إلها واحدا لا إله إلا أنت ائتني بعرشها (O our God and the God of everything there is, The One God and there is no god except you ... )

Tafsir Baghaway, Rough Translation

Similar is mentioned in the tafsirs of Jesus performing the miracle of resurrecting the dead.

Some of the hadith related to the name collected in major Sunni collections can be found here.

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