THE CONCEPT OF GOD IN ISLAM
It is a known fact that every language has one or more terms that are used in reference to God (Allah) and sometimes to lesser deities. This is not the case with God (Allah). God (Allah) is the personal name of the One true God (Allah). Nothing else can be called God (Allah). The term has no plural or gender. This shows its uniqueness when compared with the word god which can be made into plural, gods or feminine, goddess. It is interesting to notice that God (Allah) is the personal name of God (Allah) in Aramaic, the language of Jesus and a sister language of Arabic.
The One true God (Allah) is a reflection of the unique concept that Islam associates with God (Allah). To a Muslim, God (Allah) is the Almighty, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, Who is similar to nothing to whom nothing is comparable. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was asked by his contemporaries about God (Allah); the answer came directly from God (Allah) Himself in the form of a short chapter of the Qur'an, which is considered the essence of the unity or the motto of monotheism. This is chapter 112 which reads :
In the name of God (Allah), the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Say (O Muhammad [pbuh]) He is God (Allah) the One God (Allah), the Everlasting Refuge, who has not begotten, nor has been begotten, and equal to Him is not anyone.
Some non-Muslims allege that God (Allah) in Islam is a stern and cruel God (Allah) who demands to be obeyed fully. He is not loving and kind. Nothing can be farther from 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 God (Allah), the Merciful, the Compassionate.
In one of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) we are told that "God (Allah) is more loving and kinder than a mother to her dear child.” But God (Allah) is also Just. Hence evildoers and sinners must have their share of punishment and the virtuous ones will have their share of His bounties and favors. Actually God's (Allah's) attribute of Mercy has full manifestation in His attribute of Justice. People suffering throughout their life for His sake and people oppressing and exploiting other people all their life should not receive similar treatment from their Lord. Accepting similar treatment for them amounts to negating the very belief in the accountability of man in the Hereafter and thereby negating all the incentives for a moral and virtuous life in this world. The following Qur'anic verses are very clear and straightforward in this respect.
Verily, for the righteous are Gardens of Delight, in the Presence of their Lord. Shall We then treat the People of Faith like the People of Sin? What is the matter with you? How judge ye?
(Qur'an 68 : 34-36)
Islam rejects characterizing God (Allah) in any human form or depicting Him as favoring certain individuals or nations on the basis of wealth, power or race. He created the human beings as equals. They may distinguish themselves and get His favor through virtue and piety only.
The concept that God (Allah) rested in the seventh day of creation, that God (Allah) wrestled with one of His soldiers, that God (Allah) is an envious plotter against mankind, or that God (Allah) is incarnate in any human being are considered blasphemy from the Islamic point of view.
The unique usage of God (Allah) as a personal name of God (Allah) is a reflection of Islam's emphasis on the purity of belief in God (Allah) which is the essence of the message of all God's (Allah's) messengers (pbut). Because of this, Islam considers associating any deity or personality with God (Allah) as a deadly sin which He will never forgive (unless the sinner repents), despite the fact He may forgive all other sins.
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 therefor 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 and everlasting : "He is the first and the last.” (Qur'an 57 : 3) He is self-sufficient or self-subsistent or, to use a Qur'anic term, al-Qayyum. The Creator does not create only in the sense of bringing things into being, He also preserves them and takes them out of existence and is the ultimate cause of whatever happens to them.
God (Allah) is the Creator of everything. He is the guardian over everything. Unto Him belong the keys of the heavens and the earth.
(Qur'an 39 : 62-63)
No creature is there crawling on the earth, but its provision rests on God (Allah). He knows its lodging-place and its repository.
(Qur'an 11 : 6)
GOD'S (ALLAH'S) ATTRIBUTES
If the Creator is eternal and everlasting, then His attributes must also be eternal and everlasting. He should not lose any of His attributes. If this is so, then His attributes are absolute. Can there be more than one Creator with such absolute attributes? Can there be for example, two absolutely powerful Creators? A moment's thought shows that this is not feasible.
God (Allah) summarizes this argument in the following verses :
God (Allah) has not taken to Himself any son, nor is there any god with Him: For then each god would have taken off that which He created and some of them would have risen up over others.
(Qur'an 23 : 91)
And why, were there gods in earth and heaven other than God (Allah), they (heaven and earth) would surely go to ruin.
(Qur'an 21 : 22)
THE ONENESS OF GOD (ALLAH)
God (Allah) reminds us of the falsity of all alleged gods. To the worshippers of man-made objects, God (Allah) asks: Do you worship what you have carved yourself or have you taken unto you others beside Him to be your protectors, even such as have no power to protect themselves?
To the worshippers of heavenly bodies, God (Allah) addresses the story of Abraham :
When night outspread over him he saw a star and said, "This is my Lord.” But when it set he said, "I love not the setters.” When he saw the moon rising, he said, "This is my Lord.” But when it set he said: "If my Lord does not guide me I shall surely be of the people gone astray.” When he saw the sun rising, he said, "This is my Lord; this is greater.” But when it set he said, "O my people, surely I quit what you associate. I have turned my face to Him who originated the heavens and the earth; a man of pure faith, I am not of the idolaters.”
(Qur'an 6 : 76-79)
THE BELIEVER'S ATTITUDE
In order to be a Muslim, i.e., to surrender oneself to God (Allah), it is necessary to believe in the oneness of God (Allah), in the sense of His being the only Creator, Preserver, Nourisher, etc. But this belief‹later on called Tawhid Ar-Rububiyyah is not enough. Many of the idolaters knew and believed that only the Supreme God (Allah) could do this. But this belief is not enough to make them Muslims. To tawhid ar-rububiyyah one must add tawhid al-uluhiyyah, i.e., one acknowledges the fact that it is God (Allah) alone who deserves to be worshipped, and thus abstains from worshipping any other thing or being.
Having achieved this knowledge of the one true god, man should constantly have faith in Him, and should allow nothing to induce him to deny the truth.
When faith enters a person's heart, it causes certain mental states which result in certain actions. Taken together these mental states and actions are the proof for true faith. The Prophet (pbuh) said, "Faith is that which resides firmly in the heart and which is proved by deeds."
Foremost among those mental states is the feeling of gratitude toward God (Allah), which could be said to be the essence of 'ibada (worship).
The feeling of gratitude is so important that a non-believer is called "kafir” which means "one who denies truth” and also "one who is ungrateful.”
A believer loves, and is grateful to God (Allah) for the bounties He bestowed upon him, but being aware of the fact that his good deeds, whether mental or physical, are far from being commensurate with Divine favors, he is always anxious lest God (Allah) should punish him, here or in the Hereafter. He, therefore, fears Him, surrenders himself to Him and serves Him with great humility. One cannot be in such a mental state without being almost all the time mindful of God (Allah). Remembering God (Allah) is thus the life force of faith, without which it fades and withers away.
God (Allah) promotes this feeling of gratitude by repeating His attributes very frequently. We find most of these attributes mentioned together in the following verses of the Qur'an :
God (Allah) is He; than Whom there is no other god - Who knows (all things) both secret and open; He, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. God (Allah) is He, than Whom there is no other god - the Sovereign, the Holy One, the Source of Peace (and Perfection), the Guardian of Faith, the Preserver of Safety, the Exalted in Might, the Irresistible, the Supreme: Glory be to God (Allah)! (High is He) above the partners they attribute to Him. He is God (Allah), the Creator, the Evolver, the Bestower of Forms (or Colors). To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names: Whatever is in the heavens and on earth, doth declare His Praises and Glory; and He is the Exalted in Mighty, the Wise.”
(Qur'an 59 : 22-24)
God (Allah)! There is no god but He - the Living, the Self-subsisting, the Eternal. No slumber can seize Him nor sleep. His are all things in the heavens and on earth. Who is there that can intercede in His presence except as He permitteth? He knoweth what (appeareth to His creatures as) before or after or behind them. Nor shall they compass aught of His knowledge except as He willeth. His Throne doth extend over the heavens and the earth, and He feeleth no fatigue in guarding and preserving them for He is the Most High, the Supreme (in glory).
(Qur'an 2 : 255)
People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: nor say of God (Allah) aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary, was (no more than) a Messenger (pbuh) of God (Allah), and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in God (Allah) and His Messengers (pbut). Say not, "Trinity": desist: it will be better for you: for God (Allah) is One God (Allah). Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son.
(Qur'an 4 : 171)