Question: What is the creed of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah in regard to Allaah’s Names and Attributes? And what is the difference between a Name and an Attribute? And does affirmation of a Name necessitate affirmation of an Attribute, and (likewise) does affrimation of an Attribute necessitate affirmation of a Name?
Answer: The creed of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa’ah in regard to Allaah’s Names and His Attributes is affriming that which Allaah has affirmed for himself from the Names and Attributes, without:
1) tahreef (changing/distorting a Name and/or Attribute of Allaah to other than its true meaning, i.e. from Allaah to al-Laat, and al-‘Azeez to al-‘Uzzah);
2) ta’teel (denying some or all of Allaah’s Names and Attributes);
3) takyeef (questioning as to “how” (Allaah’s Name or Attribute is), i.e. How does Allaah descend, etc.?);
4) tamtheel (to imply a similarity between Allaah’s Names and Attributes and that of His creation).
And the difference between a Name and an Attribute is that a Name is that which Allaah has named Himself by; and an Attribute is that which Allaah has described Himself by. And between them is a clear difference.
So a Name is that which is considered a Name of Allaah (Subhaanahu wa Ta’aala), (and that) which incorporates an Attribute.
And affirmation of a Name necessitates affirmation of an Attribute. For example:
al-Ghafoor (the Most Forgiving) is a Name, and (its affirmation) necessitates the (affirmation of the) Attribute of Maghfirah (Forgiveness);
And ar-Raheem (the Most Merciful) is a Name and (its affirmation) necessitates the affirmation of ar-Rahmah (Mercy).
And the affirmation of an Attribute does not necessitate the affirmation of a Name. For example: al-Kalaam (Speech) does not necessitate the affirmation of the Name al-Mutakallim (the Speaker) for Allaah.
So, based upon this, the Names are more wider (in scope), since every Name encompasses an Attribute, however, every Attribute does not encompass a Name.
[Shaykh Ibn ‘Uthaymeen, Fataawa Arkaan al-Islaam – Page 73, Fatwa No.30]