The Concept of God in Islam
Every language has one or more terms that are used in reference to God and sometimes to lesser deities. This is not the case with the word ‘ALLAH’. Allah is the personal name of the One True God. Nothing else can be called Allah. The term has no plural or gender. This shows its exclusivity when compared to the word ‘god’ which can be made plural, i.e. ‘gods’ or feminine, i.e. ‘goddess’. It is interesting to note that Allah is the personal name of God in Aramaic, the language of Jesus (Peace Be Upon Him).
The word Allah is a reflection of the unique concept that Islam associates with God. To a Muslim, Allah is the Almighty, the Creator and the Sustainer of the universe, Who is similar to none and nothing is comparable to Him. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was asked by his contemporaries about Allah. The answer came directly from God Himself in the form of a short chapter of the Qur’an that is considered the essence of the Unity of God or the motto of monotheism. “Say: He is Allah, the One; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten, and there is none like unto Him.” (Al-Qur’an, chapter 112: verses 1-4)
Some non-Muslims allege that the concept of God in Islam is that of a stern and cruel God who demands to be obeyed fully. He is neither loving nor kind. Nothing can be farther from the truth than this allegation. It is enough to know that with the exception of one, each of the 114 chapters of the Qur’an begins with the verse: “In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful” In one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) we are told: “God is more loving and kinder than a mother to her dear child.”
Besides being Merciful, God is Just too. Hence evildoers and sinners must have their share of punishment and the virtuous their rightful reward. Actually, God’s attribute of Mercy has full manifestation in His attribute of Justice. People suffering throughout their lives for His sake and people oppressing and exploiting other people all their lives should not receive similar treatment from their Lord. Expecting similar treatment for them will amount to negating the very belief in the accountability in the Hereafter and thereby negating all the incentives for a moral and virtuous life in this world. The following verses from the Qur’an are very clear and straightforward: “Verily, for the righteous are Gardens of Delight, with their Lord. Shall we then treat the people of Faith like the people of Sin? What is the matter with you? How judge ye?”(Al-Qur’an, chapter 68: verses 34-36)
Islam rejects characterizing God in any human form or depicting Him as favouring certain individuals or nations on the basis of wealth, power or race. He created the human beings as equals. They may distinguish themselves and earn His favour through virtue and piety alone.
The concept that God rested on the seventh day of creation, that God wrestled with one of His soldiers, that God is an envious plotter against mankind, or that God is incarnate in any human being are considered blasphemy from the Islamic point of view.
The unique usage of Allah as the personal name of God is a reflection of Islam’s emphasis on the purity of the belief in God. This belief in the Unity of God, is the essence of the message of all the Prophets of God. Because of this, Islam considers associating any deity or personality with God as a grave sin that God will never forgive if the person dies without repenting.
The Creator must be of a different nature from the things created because if He is of the same nature as they are, He will be temporal and will therefore need a maker. It follows that nothing is like Him. If the maker is not temporal, then He must be eternal. But if He is eternal, He cannot be caused, and if nothing caused Him to come into existence, nothing outside Him causes Him to continue to exist, which means that He must be self-sufficient. And if He does not depend on anything for the continuance of His own existence, then this existence can have no end. The Creator is therefore eternal: “He is the First and the Last, the Evident and the Hidden: and He has full knowledge of all things.” (Al-Qur’an, Chapter 57: verse 3)
He is self-sufficient, self-subsistent or, to use a Qur’anic term, He is Al-Qayyum. The Creator does not create only in the sense of bringing things into existence. He also preserves them and takes them out of existence and is the ultimate cause of whatever happens to them.
“Allah is the Creator of all things, and He is the Guardian and Disposer of all affairs. To Him belong the keys of the heavens and the earth: and those who reject the Signs of Allah,- it is they who will be in loss.” (Al-Qur’an, chapter 39: verses 62-63)