God in Islam

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This article is about the Islamic view of God. For the Arabic word "Allah", see Allah.

In Islamic theology, God (Arabic: اللهAllāh) is the all-powerful and all-knowing creator, sustainer, ordainer and judge of everything in existence.[1] Islam emphasizes that God is strictly singular (tawḥīd )[2] unique (wāḥid ) and inherently One (aḥad ), all-merciful and omnipotent.[3] According to Islamic teachings, God exists without place[4] and according to the Quran, "No vision can grasp him, but His grasp is over all vision: He is above all comprehension, yet is acquainted with all things."[5] God, as referenced in the Quran, is the only God.[6][7]

Definition of Allah is given in the Surat 112 Al-'Ikhlāş (The Sincerity) it says "He is Allah , [who is] One, Allah , the Eternal Refuge. He neither begets nor is born, Nor is there to Him any equivalent."[8]

In Islam, there are 99 known names of God (al-asmāʼ al-ḥusná lit. meaning: "The best names"), each of which evoke a distinct attribute of God.[9][10] All these names refer to Allah, the supreme and all-comprehensive divine name.[11] Among the 99 names of God, the most familiar and frequent of these names are "the Compassionate" (al-raḥmān) and "the Merciful" (al-raḥīm).[9][10] Creation and ordering of the universe is seen as an act of prime mercy for which all creatures sing God's glories and bear witness to God's unity and lordship. God responds to those in need or distress whenever they call. Above all, God guides humanity to the right way, "the holy ways".[4]

Islamic theology makes a distinction between the attributes of God and the divine essence.[clarification needed][12] Islam also has a concept of negative theology, known as ta'tili "negation", stating that God exists without a place and has no resemblance to his creation.[13]

Names[edit]

Main article: Names of God in Islam

Allah[edit]

Further information: Allah and El (deity)

Allah is the Arabic term used by Muslims (as well as Arabic speaking Christians and Jews) for the one God, while ilāh (Arabic: إله‎) is the term used for a deity or a god in general.[14] It is related to ʾĔlāhā in Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

Other names[edit]

God is described and referred in the Quran and hadith by certain names or attributes.[9] The Quran refers to the attributes of God as God's "most beautiful names".[15] According to Gerhard Böwering,

They are traditionally enumerated as 99 in number to which is added as the highest Name (al-ism al-ʾaʿẓam), the Supreme Name of God: Allāh. The locus classicus for listing the Divine Names in the literature of Qurʾānic commentary is 17:110[16] “Call upon God, or call upon The Merciful; whichsoever you call upon, to Him belong the most beautiful Names,” and also 59:22-24,[17] which includes a cluster of more than a dozen Divine epithets."

—Gerhard Böwering, God and his Attributes[12]

The most commonly used names for god in Islam are:

  • The Most High (al-Ala)
  • The Most Glorious (al-ʻAziz)
  • The Ever Forgiving (al-Ghaffār)
  • The Ever Providing (ar-Razzāq)
  • The Ever Living (al-Ḥayy)
  • The Self-Subsisting by Whom all Subsist (al-Qayyūm)
  • The Lord and Cherisher of the Worlds (Rabb al-ʻĀlamīn)
  • The Ultimate Truth (al-Ḥaqq)
  • The Eternal Lord (al-Bāqī)
  • The Sustainer (al-Muqsith)
  • The Source of Peace (As-Salām)

Non-Arab Muslims may or may not use different names as much as Allah, for instance "God" in English, "Tanrı" in Turkish, Khodā in Persian, Yakush in Berber, and "Zot" in Albanian.

Phrases and expressions[edit]

There are numerous conventional phrases and expressions invoking God.

Honorifics often said or written alongside Allah:

  • Subḥānahu wa ta'āla سبحانه و تعالى "May he be glorified and exalted", often abbreviated "SWT" or "swt".[19]
  • Jalla Jalālahu جل جلاله "May his glory be glorified",[20] often seen in calligraphy alongside the name Allah. The phrase is encoded as a ligature at Unicode codepoint U+FDFB[21] ﷻ.
  • ‘Azza wajall عز و جل "majesty and glory"

Attributes[edit]

Oneness[edit]

Main article: Tawhid

Islam's most fundamental concept is a strict monotheism called tawhid, affirming that God is one and incomparable (wāḥid). The basic creed of Islam, the Shahada[22] (recited under oath to enter the religion), involves لا إله إلا الله (lā ʾilāha ʾillallāh), or, "I testify there are no deities other than God alone." The Quran asserts the existence of a single and absolute truth that transcends the world; a unique and indivisible being who is independent of the entire creation.[23]

Say: He is Allah, the One and Only;
Allah, the Eternal, Absolute;
He begetteth not, nor is He begotten;
And there is none like unto Him.

—Quran, Sura 112 (Al-Ikhlas), ayat 1-4[24]

Thy Lord is self-sufficient, full of Mercy: if it were His will, He could destroy you, and in your place appoint whom He will as your successors, even as He raised you up from the posterity of other people.

—Quran, Sura 6 (Al-An'am), ayah 133[25]

Muslims reject the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and divinity of Jesus (ʿĪsā), comparing it to polytheism. In Islam, God is beyond all comprehension or equal and does not resemble any of his creations in any way. Thus, Muslims are not iconodules and are not expected to visualize God.

According to Vincent J. Cornell, the Quran also provides a monist image of God by describing the reality as a unified whole, with God being a single concept that would describe or ascribe all existing things: "He is the First and the Last, the Evident and the Immanent: and He has full knowledge of all things."[23][26] Some Muslims have however vigorously criticized interpretations that would lead to a monist view of God for what they see as blurring the distinction between the creator and the creature, and its incompatibility with the monotheism of Islam.[27]

The indivisibility of God implies the indivisibility of God's sovereignty which in turn leads to the conception of a universe as a just and coherent moral universe rather than an existential and moral chaos. Similarly the Quran rejects the binary modes of thinking such as the idea of duality of God by arguing that both good and evil generate from God's creative act and that the evil forces have no power to create anything. God in Islam is a universal god rather than a local, tribal or parochial one; an absolute who integrates all affirmative values and brooks no evil.[28]

Tawhid constitutes the foremost article of the Muslim profession.[29] To attribute divinity to a created entity is the only unpardonable sin mentioned in the Quran.[28] Muslims believe that the entirety of the Islamic teaching rests on the principle of Tawhid.[30]

Mercy[edit]

The most commonly used names in the primary sources are Al-Rahman, meaning "Most Compassionate" and Al-Rahim, meaning "Most Merciful".[9] God is said to love forgiving, with a hadith stating God would replace a sinless people with one who sinned but still asked repentance.[31]

Omniscience[edit]

The Quran describes God as being fully aware of everything that happens in the universe, including private thoughts and feelings, and asserts that one can not hide anything from God:

In whatever business thou mayest be, and whatever portion thou mayest be reciting from the Qur'an,- and whatever deed ye (mankind) may be doing,- We are witnesses thereof when ye are deeply engrossed therein. Nor is hidden from thy Lord (so much as) the weight of an atom on the earth or in heaven. And not the least and not the greatest of these things but are recorded in a clear record.

—Quran, Sura 10 (Yunus), ayat 61[32]

Relationship with creation[edit]

Further information: Salat, Taqwa and Predestination
Further information: Islamic holy books, Quran and Quranic createdness

As in the other Abrahamic religions, God is believed to communicate with his creation via revelations given to prophets. The Quran in particular is believed by Muslims to be the verbatim word of God as revealed to Muhammad. Hadith are the records of Muhammad's sayings and example, and Hadith Qudsi is a sub-category of hadith, which Muslims regard as the words of God repeated by Muhammad. According to Ali ibn Mohammed al-Jurjani, the Hadith Qudsi differ from the Quran in that the former are "expressed in Muhammad's words", whereas the latter are the "direct words of God".[citation needed]

Muslims believe that creation of everything in the universe is brought into being by God’s sheer command, "..."Be," and it is.",[3][33] and that the purpose of existence is to worship God.[34][35] He is viewed as a personal God who responds whenever a person in need or distress calls him.[3][36] There are no intermediaries, such as clergy, to contact God who states in the Quran, "It was We Who created man, and We know what dark suggestions his soul makes to him: for We are nearer to him than (his) jugular vein."[37] Muhammad al-Bukhari, in his Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī, narrates a ḥadīth qudsī' that God says, "I am as My servant thinks (expects) I am."[38][39]

Comparative theology[edit]

Further information: Comparative theology and Abrahamic religions

Islamic theology identifies God as described in the Quran as the same god of Israel who covenanted with Abraham.[40] Islam and Judaism alike reject the Trinity of Nicaean Christianity, which was a development peculiar to questions of Christology in Early Christianity. This has led to the medieval Christian view of early Islam as one of several non-Trinitarian Christian heresies.

The identification of God both in Islam and in Christianity with the God of Abraham has been used to argue for a limited amount of mutual recognition among the Abrahamic religions on the part of Ludovico Marracci, the confessor of Pope Innocent XI, who wrote in 1734:[41]

That both Mohammed and those among his followers who are reckoned orthodox, had and continue to have just and true notions of God and his attributes, appears so plain from the Koran itself and all the Muslim laws, that it would be loss of time to refute those who suppose the God of Mohammed to be different from the true God.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Gerhard Böwering God and his Attributes, Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān Quran.com, Islam: The Straight Path, Oxford University Press, 1998, p.22
  2. ^ John L. Esposito, Islam: The Straight Path, Oxford University Press, 1998, p.88
  3. ^ a b c "Allah." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica
  4. ^ a b Britannica Encyclopedia, Islam, p. 3
  5. ^ Quran 6:103
  6. ^ Quran 29:46
  7. ^ F.E. Peters, Islam, p.4, Princeton University Press, 2003
  8. ^ "The Noble Qur'an". 
  9. ^ a b c d Bentley, David (September 1999). The 99 Beautiful Names for God for All the People of the Book. William Carey Library. ISBN 0-87808-299-9. 
  10. ^ a b Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa, Allah
  11. ^ Annemarie Schimmel,The Tao of Islam: A Sourcebook on Gender Relationships in Islamic, SUNY Press, p.206
  12. ^ a b Böwering, Gerhard. "God and his Attributes". Encyclopaedia of the Qurʾān.
  13. ^ often invoked in this context[according to whom?] is Sura 42:11, reading "there is nothing whatever like unto Him" Quran 42:11
  14. ^ "God". Islam: Empire of Faith. PBS. Retrieved 2010-12-18.  "Islam and Christianity", Encyclopedia of Christianity (2001): Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews also refer to God as Allāh. L. Gardet. "Allah". Encyclopaedia of Islam Online. 
  15. ^ Quran 7:180, Quran 17:110, Quran 20:8, Quran 59:24
  16. ^ Quran 17:110
  17. ^ Quran 59:22–24
  18. ^ تعوّذ (AlMaany.com) It is often recited by Muslims before reciting the Qur'an and before beginning a task. It is often followed by the Basmala.
  19. ^ "Meaning of Subhanahu wa ta'ala". Islamicdictionary.com. Retrieved 1 November 2012.  "Surat 2. Al-Baqarah, Ayah 4.". The Noble Qur'an In The English Language Summarized In One Volume. 1996. p. 13. 
  20. ^ "Glossary of Islamic Terms". Google site. Retrieved 25 October 2012. 
  21. ^ Jalla Jalaluhu, arabic ligature. "Details of Unicode for Jalla Jalaluhu". Graphemica. Retrieved 28 October 2012. 
  22. ^ Hossein Nasr The Heart of Islam, Enduring Values for Humanity (April., 2003), pp 3, 39, 85, 27–272
  23. ^ a b Vincent J. Cornell, Encyclopedia of Religion, Vol 5, pp.3561-3562
  24. ^ Quran 112:1–4
  25. ^ Quran 6:133
  26. ^ Quran 57:3
  27. ^ Roger S. Gottlie (2006), p.210
  28. ^ a b Asma Barlas (2002), p.96
  29. ^ D. Gimaret, Tawhid, Encyclopaedia of Islam
  30. ^ Tariq Ramadan (2005), p.203
  31. ^ "Allah would replace you with a people who sin". islamtoday.net. Retrieved July 23, 2012. 
  32. ^ Quran 10:61
  33. ^ Quran 2:117
  34. ^ "Human Nature and the Purpose of Existence". Patheos.com. Retrieved 2011-01-29. 
  35. ^ Quran 51:56
  36. ^ Quran 2:186
  37. ^ Quran 50:16
  38. ^ "I am as My Servant Thinks (expects) I am". hadithaday.org. Retrieved 2014-07-31. 
  39. ^ Hadith Qudsi 15
  40. ^ According to Francis Edwards Peters, "The Quran insists, Muslims believe, and historians affirm that Muhammad and his followers worship the same God as the Jews [see Quran 29:46]. The Quran's Allah is the same Creator God who covenanted with Abraham".
  41. ^ William Montgomery Watt, Islam and Christianity today: A Contribution to Dialogue, Routledge, 1983, p.45

Bibliography[edit]

  • Al-Bayhaqi (1999), Allah's Names and Attributes, ISCA, ISBN 1-930409-03-6
  • Hulusi, Ahmed (1999), "Allah" as introduced by Mohammed, Kitsan, 10th ed., ISBN 975-7557-41-2
  • Muhaiyaddeen, M. R. Bawa (1976), Asmāʼul-Husnā: the 99 beautiful names of Allah, The Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship, ISBN 0-914390-13-9
  • Netton, Ian Richard (1994), Allah Transcendent: Studies in the Structure and Semiotics of Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Cosmology, Routledge, ISBN 0-7007-0287-3

External links[edit]