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The Concept of God in Islam

5. Oneness of GodIs there a God?

There are many rational reasons for believing in God. Three simple reasons are described below:

1. Order of the Universe

Imagine walking along the beach and finding a watch in the sand. Would you believe that the watch came together by itself? You would not conclude that the watch just happened to emerge from the sand by random chance. All the intricate working parts could not simply develop from the materials that lay buried in the earth. The watch must have a manufacturer. And if the watch tells accurate time we expect the manufacturer must be intelligent. Natural coincidences cannot produce a working watch. Consider the planet earth. Its timing is so strictly regulated around the sun that scientists can publish in advance the sunrise and sunset times. Just as a watch has an intelligent maker to keep accurate time, so too must the earth have an intelligent maker to keep accurate time around the sun. Could this occur by itself? In the same way, when we see the order, precise laws and systems within ourselves and throughout the entire universe, is it not rational that the universe has an organiser? This ‘organiser’ is best explained by the existence of God – the one who brought about the order in the universe.

2. Beginning of the Universe

Modern science concludes that the universe has a beginning. This is based on a recent discovery that the universe is expanding, and if we go back in time, the universe converges – which points to a beginning. There are three possible explanations for the beginning of the universe, either:

  • The Universe came from nothing,
  • The Universe created itself, or
  • The Universe was created.

As for the second explanation, simple logic tells us that something cannot do anything before having existed. This leaves the third point as the only rational explanation: a higher and intelligent being, God, created the universe.

Some people may ask, “Who created God”? God, The Creator, is different to His creation. If He was the same as creation, He would also need a creator, leading to an infinite amount of creators, which is impossible. He is beyond time and the physical matter of this universe. God has always existed and has no beginning; therefore the question of who created God is irrational.

3. Revelation from God

If God revealed a book of guidance to humanity, we would expect that such a book would contain clear evidence of the existence of God.

There are clear signs that the book of Islam, the Quran, is the word of God. Below is a very brief summary of reasons that support this claim:

  • The Quran was revealed over 1400 years ago and contains many scientific facts that were unknown to the people of that time which have only been discovered recently by contemporary science. Examples include: water being the origin of all living things (Quran 21:30);
  • the expanding universe (Quran 51:47); and the individual orbits of the sun and moon (Quran 21:33).
  • The Quran contains many historical facts that were unknown to the people of that time as well as numerous predictions which have both proven to be correct.
  • The Quran is free from any errors or contradictions.
  • The Quran has been preserved, word-for-word, since it was revealed in its original Arabic language, unlike other scriptures which no longer exist in their original form.
  • The simple, pure and universal message of the Quran appeals to Man’s inherent beliefs about Almighty God.
  • The Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was known in history to be illiterate. Yet, the Quran contains a unique style of language that is universally known as the pinnacle of Arabic eloquence and linguistic beauty.

The most rational explanation for the many unique and miraculous aspects of the Quran is that it is from God.

Who is God?

And your god is One God. There is no god but He.”Quran 2:163

“Allah” is the personal name of the One True God. Nothing else can be called Allah. The term has no plural or gender unlike the English word “God” which can be made both plural and feminine (i.e. gods/goddess). The unique usage of “Allah” is a reflection of Islam’s emphasis on the purity of the belief in One God.

The main beauty of Islam is that it acknowledges the complete perfection, greatness and uniqueness of God with absolutely no compromises. This is reflected in Islam’s pure teachings of the attributes of God.

God is One & Unique

  • God has no partners, no equals and no rivals.
  • God has no father, mother, sons, daughters or wives.
  • God alone is worthy of all worship.
  • Had there been more than one God, it would reflect deficiency in His power or authority as this would involve God having rivalry, making compromises or needing agreement with other gods.

God is All-Powerful

  • God has full authority and power over all things.
  • Everything is completely subservient and dependent on Him.
  • Obedience to God does not increase His Power, nor does disobedience decrease His power in any way.

God is The Most High

  • There is nothing above or comparable to God.
  • The attributes of God do not resemble that of His creation.
  • No part of God is present in anyone or anything.
  • God is perfect and does not have any human limitations, such as resting on the seventh day after he created the universe, as claimed by some other religions.

God is The All-Just & All-Merciful

  • God does not need to sacrifice himself to forgive sins nor is anyone “born into sin”.
  • God judges everyone based on their own deeds and everyone is accountable for their own actions.
  • Humans may distinguish themselves and earn God’s favour through belief, virtue and piety only – not through race, wealth or social class.

The Nature of Jesus

When explaining the concept of God in Islam it is important to discuss the status of Jesus, given the widespread confusion and claims about the nature of Jesus.

Some Christians claim that “Jesus is God” – that is, he is the incarnation of God on earth and that God took on a human form. However, according to the Bible, Jesus was born, ate, slept, prayed and had limited knowledge – all attributes not befitting God. God has attributes of perfection whereas Man is the opposite and lacks such perfection. So how can anything be two complete opposites both at the same time? This is not rational.

However, some people may ask, “If God can do anything, why can’t he become a man?” By definition, God does not do ungodly acts, so if God became man and took on human attributes, he would, necessarily, no longer be God.

Furthermore, the Bible contains many verses in which Jesus speaks and behaves as if God is a separate being to himself. For example, Jesus “fell on his face and prayed” (Matthew 26:39). If Jesus was God, then would a God fall on his face and pray? And, who would he be praying to?

Some Christians also claim that “Jesus is the Son of God” but we should ask ourselves, what does this actually mean? Surely God is far removed from having a physical and literal son. Rather, we find that the term “Son of God” is symbolically used in the earliest biblical languages for a “righteous person”. It is used throughout the Old Testament for many righteous people such as David, Solomon and Israel – not exclusively for Jesus. “…Israel is my firstborn son,” (Exodus 4:22) is one such example.

The Islamic belief about Jesus explains who the real Jesus was, whilst maintaining the pure belief about God and His Greatness. Jesus was as an honourable Prophet sent by God to call to the worship of God alone.

It is not befitting for Allah to take a son; He is perfect and flawless.”Quran 19:35

God Alone is Worthy of Worship
And worship Allah and associate none with Him.”Quran 4:36
 Islam teaches that all prayer and acts of worship should be exclusively to God. Nothing else is worthy of worship: not statues, graves, the sun, the moon, animals, Prophets, saints, angels, priests or religious scholars. All of these things are created and limited, hence imperfect, whereas Allah is perfect.

God is Worshipped Directly

God does not need any partners or intermediaries. Everyone always has direct access to worship God, as He hears all who praise and call upon Him. Worshipping Allah indirectly (e.g. through idols, statues or other intermediaries) is viewed as compromising Allah’s Oneness and purity of worship that He alone, is worthy of.

All Prophets Called to the Worship of God

And We (God) certainly sent into every nation a Messenger, saying, ‘Worship Allah and avoid false gods.’ “Quran 16:36

Muslims believe in all the Prophets that Allah sent. These prophets include Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. They all came with the same message – to call their people to the belief and worship of the One True God.

The Purpose of Life is to Worship God

The ultimate purpose of life is to acknowledge the greatness of God, establish a direct connection with him, and worship Him alone. The concept of worship in Islam is not limited to rituals such as praying and fasting, it includes all actions that are pleasing to God such as having good manners, being honest, establishing justice, being patient and helping the needy.

In conclusion, the foundation of Islam is belief in the Oneness and Uniqueness of Almighty God, who is the Creator and Lord of all, perfect in all His attributes. He alone deserves all worship. Therein lies our success in this life and the next.

The Mercy of Allah (God)

“Limitless is your Lord in His mercy…” Qur’an 6:147

God Almighty is full of love and kindness to His creation. All blessings and goodness in this world and the next are clear proofs of His Mercy. Indeed, Islam teaches that God is more merciful toward us than our own mothers. How can it be otherwise, when some of God’s names and attributes include:

  • The Acceptor of Repentance;
  • The Compassionate;
  • The Loving;
  • The Forbearing One;
  • The Most Gracious;
  • The Most Merciful;
  • The Source of Goodness;
  • The Most Generous;
  • The Bestower

These names all indicate that God is characterised by mercy, goodness and generosity. They testify to the vastness and perfection of His Mercy, which He blesses all of His creation. This same creation is addressed by God, when He says, “O son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as the earth.”

Examples of Allah’s Mercy & blessings

“Then which of the Blessings of your Lord will you deny?” Qur’an 55:13

Throughout life, people continually receive Allah’s blessings, be it good health, sight, hearing, nourishment, clean air, children, wealth and countless others. Some use their God-given gifts of intelligence and reasoning to acknowledge these blessings, grasp the purpose of their existence, and thereby submit themselves to Allah. Others, however, do not appreciate the Mercy of Allah toward their own selves, even though He feeds and sustains them despite their disobedience toward Him. They are given mobility, enjoyment, freedom of thought and action, despite their outright denial of Him. Their very existence would not be, were it not for the Mercy of Allah.

Ultimately, everyone has the free will to acknowledge their blessings, use them in a manner ordained by Allah (the Lord of mankind) and worship Him alone. Below, we have outlined a glimpse of such blessings, because “… if you were to try and count the favours of Allah, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” Qur’an 16:18

Guidance Through Divine Scriptures & Prophets

“It is He Who has sent down the Book (the Qur’an) to you (Muhammad) with truth, confirming what came before it. And He sent down the Taurah and the Injeel (the original revelations revealed to Prophets Moses and Jesus respectively).” Qur’an 3:3

From the beginning of creation, man was not left to face the struggles of life alone. Due to God’s Mercy, man received revelation through Prophets, who conveyed and taught it to their people to guide and protect them. The most perfect and merciful of revelations was the Qur’an and the last of the prophets was Muhammad (peace be upon him).The Qur’an – the final revelation – superseded and abrogated previous revelations, and is the ultimate mercy and guidance for mankind. Just as God sent Messengers in the past, He also sent mankind a living, perfect and practical example of how the Qur’an’s teachings of mercy and justice should be practically applied in our daily lives. This example was Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) – a mercy to mankind.

“And We (God) have not sent you (Muhammad) except as a mercy for mankind.” Qur’an 21:107

Following are just some of the Prophet’s sayings which are indicative of his mercy, kindness, tolerance and beautiful teachings:

  • “Kindness is not found in anything except that it adds to its beauty, and is not withdrawn from anything except that it makes it deficient.”
  • “The most perfect of believers in belief is the best of them in character.”
  • “He is not a perfect Muslim who eats his fill while his neighbour goes hungry.”
  • “Allah will not show mercy to him who does not show mercy to others.”

How desperately do we, as a society, and in these times, need such beautiful advice?

Mercy Towards The Creation

TThe creation of human beings and all their faculties is a great mercy in itself. The fact that we can get out of bed, work, eat, play and sleep should make us grateful.
“And out of His Mercy He made for you the night and the day that you may rest therein and [by day] seek from His Bounty and [that] perhaps you will be grateful.” Qur’an 28:73
A spouse is one of the greatest of mercies, a means to tranquillity and affection.
“And of His signs is that He created for you, from yourselves, mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.”Qur’an 30:21

Another mercy is the fact that He created us sinless and will not hold us to account until the age of maturity and decision making. This is in stark contrast to the “Original Sin” concept in Christianity.

Forgiveness of sins is another example of Allah’s Mercy, as Allah knows we are imperfect and commit mistakes. The fact that believers commit sins does not mean that we should lose hope of Allah’s Mercy or that we have exhausted Allah’s Forgiveness.

“O My servants who have transgressed against their souls! Do not despair of the Mercy of God: for God forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” Qur’an 39:53
Even animals are not exempt from Allah’s Mercy. They have faculties of hearing and sight, are provided with sustenance and offspring, and are granted many other blessings. Allah’s Mercy envelops them to the point that because of one single portion of Allah’s Mercy sent to earth, “…His creatures are merciful to each other, so that even the mare lifts up its hoof away from its baby animal, lest it should trample on it.”
The Merciful Creator ensures that every creation is looked after – from the fish in the depths of the ocean, to the insects in the earth, and the birds in the skies – all are sustained by Him.

How to increase Allah’s Mercy upon us

“Indeed, the mercy of Allah is near to the doers of good.” Qur’an 7:56

Due to God’s Mercy, He has promised to forgive and pardon whosoever follows the appropriate means as mentioned in the following verse:

“And surely, I am indeed forgiving to him who repents, believes (in My Oneness, and associates none in worship with Me) and does righteous good deeds, and then remains constant in doing them.” Qur’an 20:82

Part and parcel of having the correct belief is believing and obeying the final Messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him).In short, the people who receive more of Allah’s Mercy are those who have acknowledged His blessings and favours; used them in a way which pleases God; spent their God-given wealth in charity and to look after the needy; employed their hands to care for orphans; utilised their gift of speech to speak good; and performed other honourable acts ordained by God.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Allah will show mercy to those who show mercy to people. Show mercy to those who are on earth – the One Who is in Heaven will show mercy to you.”

Below, are some ways to attain God’s Mercy.

“Obey Allah and the Messenger that you may obtain mercy.”Qur’an 3:132
By following the teachings of mercy and justice found in the Qur’an: “And this is a blessed Book We have revealed; therefore follow it and protect yourself (against evil), that mercy may be shown to you.”Qur’an 6:155
“Keep up prayer and pay the compulsory charity (to the needy) and obey the Messenger, so that mercy may be shown to you.”Qur’an 24:56
Sincerely asking for Mercy from God. “Our Lord! Make not our hearts to deviate after you have guided us aright, and grant us mercy from Yourself; surely You are The Bestower.”Qur’an 3:8

Mercy & Accountability

Alongside Allah’s attribute of Mercy is His attribute of Justice.
“Verily, for the Righteous, are Gardens of Delight, in the Presence of their Lord. Shall We then treat the People of Faith like those who do not believe? What is the matter with you? How do you judge? ”Qur’an 68:34-36
Allah is the Most-Merciful, however, He is also Swift in Reckoning. One cannot try to deceive Allah and take advantage of His Mercy by constantly committing the same sins without sincere repentance or resolving never to go back to the sin again.
“And of no effect is the repentance of those who continue to do evil deeds until death faces one of them and he says: ‘Now I repent;’ nor of those who die while they are disbelievers.” Qur’an 4:18
Muslims are encouraged to have hope of reward for good deeds, while being concerned about sins they may perform. When they commit sins, they repent sincerely, and are hopeful of being forgiven.
And finally, they feel content with the words of their Creator, and keep it close to their heart:
“Surely Allah is Most Gentle, Ever Compassionate to people.”Qur’an 22:6

God Alone Is Entitled To Worship

Islam lays much greater emphasis on how belief in God translates into righteous, obedient life and good morals rather than proving His existence through theological intricacies.  Hence, the Islamic motto is that the primary message preached by the prophets was surrender to God’s will and His worship and not so much the proof of God’s existence:

 

“And We never sent any Messenger before you (O Muhammad) without having revealed to Him: none has the right to be worshipped but I, therefore you shall worship Me (Alone).” (Quran 21:25)

God has the exclusive right to be worshipped inwardly and outwardly, by one’s heart and limbs.  Not only can no one be worshipped apart from Him, absolutely no one else can be worshipped along with Him.  He has no partners or associates in worship.  Worship, in its comprehensive sense and in all its aspects, is for Him alone.

“There is no true god worthy of worship but He, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate.” (Quran 2:163)

God’s right to be worshipped can not be over emphasized.  It is the essential meaning of Islam’s testimony of faith: La ilah illa Allah.  A person becomes Muslim by testifying to the divine right to worship.  It is the crux of Islamic belief in God, even all of Islam.  It

 

“And We never sent any Messenger before you (O Muhammad) without having revealed to Him: none has the right to be worshipped but I, therefore you shall worship Me (Alone).” (Quran 21:25)

God has the exclusive right to be worshipped inwardly and outwardly, by one’s heart and limbs.  Not only can no one be worshipped apart from Him, absolutely no one else can be worshipped along with Him.  He has no partners or associates in worship.  Worship, in its comprehensive sense and in all its aspects, is for Him alone.

“There is no true god worthy of worship but He, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate.” (Quran 2:163)

God’s right to be worshipped can not be over emphasized.  It is the essential meaning of Islam’s testimony of faith: La ilah illa Allah.  A person becomes Muslim by testifying to the divine right to worship.  It is the crux of Islamic belief in God, even all of Islam.  It was the central message of all prophets and messengers sent by God – the message of Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Moses, the Hebrew prophets, Jesus, and Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him. For instance, Moses declared:

“Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord.” (Deuteronomy 6:4)

Jesus repeated the same message 1500 years later when he said:

“The first of all the commandments is, ‘Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord.’” (Mark 12:29)

And reminded Satan:

“Away from me, Satan!  For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” (Matthew 4:10)

Finally, the call of Muhammad some 600 years after Jesus reverberated across the hills of Mecca:

“And your God is One God: there is no god but He…” (Quran 2:163)

They all declared clearly:

“…Worship God!  You have no other god but Him…” (Quran 7:59, 7:65, 7:73, 7:85; 11:50, 11:61, 11:84; 23:23)

What Is Worship?

Worship in Islam consists of every act, belief, statement, or sentiment of the heart which God approves and loves; everything that brings a person closer to His Creator.  It includes ‘external’ worship like the daily ritual prayers, fasting, charity, and pilgrimage as well as ‘internal’ worship such as faith in the six articles of faith, reverence, adoration, love, gratitude, and reliance.  God is entitled to worship by the body, soul, and heart, and this worship remains incomplete unless it is done out of four essential elements: reverential fear of God, divine love and adoration, hope in divine reward, and extreme humility.

One of the greatest acts of worship is prayer, invoking the Divine Being for aid.  Islam specifies that prayer should only be directed to God.  He is deemed in total control of every man’s destiny and able to grant his needs and remove distress.  God, in Islam, reserves the right of prayer for Himself:

“And do not invoke, along with God, anything that can neither benefit you nor harm you, for behold, if you do it, you will surely be among the evildoers!” (Quran 10:106)

Giving anyone else – prophets, angels, Jesus, Mary, idols, or nature- a portion of one’s worship, which is essentially due only to God, such as  prayer, is called Shirk and is the most enormous of sins in Islam.  Shirk is the only unforgivable sin if not repented from, and it denies the very purpose of creation.

(IV) God Is Known By His Most Beautiful Names and Attributes

God is known in Islam by His beautiful Names and Attributes as they appear in revealed Islamic texts without the corruption or denial of their obvious meanings, picturing them, or thinking of them in human terms.

“And the Most Beautiful Names belong to God, so call on Him by them…” (Quran 7:180)

Therefore, it is inappropriate to use First Cause, Author, Substance, Pure Ego, Absolute, Pure Idea, Logical Concept, Unknown, Unconscious, Ego, Idea, or Big Guy as divine Names.  They simply lack beauty and that’s not how God has described Himself.  Instead, Names of God indicate His majestic beauty and perfection.  God does not forget, sleep, or get tired.  He is not unjust, and has no son, mother, father, brother, associate, or helper.  He was not born, and does not give birth.  He stands in need of none as He is perfect.  He does not become human to “understand” our suffering.  God is The Almighty (Al-Qawee), The One Incomparable (Al-‘Ahad), The Acceptor of Repentance (At-Tawwaab), The Compassionate (Ar-Raheem), The Ever-Living (Al-Hayy), The All-Sustaining (Al-Qayyum), The All-Knowing (Al-‘Aleem), The All-Hearing (As-Samee’), The All-Seeing (al-Baseer), The Pardoner (al-‘Afuw), The Helper (al-Naseer), The Healer of the Sick (al-Shaafee).

The two most frequently invoked Names are “The Compassionate” and “The Merciful.”  All but one of the chapters of Muslim scripture begin with the phrase, “In the Name of God, the Most-Merciful, the Most Gracious.” The phrase is used, one might say, by Muslims more commonly than the namesFather, Son, and Holy Spirit are heard in Christian invocations.  Muslims begin in the Name of God and remind themselves of God’s Compassion and Mercy every time they eat, drink, write a letter, or perform anything of importance.

Forgiveness is an important dimension of human relationship with God.  Human beings are realized to be weak and prone to sin, but God in His tender mercy is willing to forgive.  The Prophet Muhammad said:

“God’s mercy outweighs His wrath.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)

Along with the divine names “The Compassionate” and “The Merciful,” the names “The Forgiver” (Al-Ghafur), “The Oft-Forgiving” (Al-Ghaf-faar), “The Acceptor of Repentance ” (At-Tawwaab) and “The Pardoner” (Al-‘Afuw) are among the most used in Muslim prayer.

 

Belief in God

At the heart of Islam lies belief in God.

The core of the Islamic creed is bearing witness to the phrase, La illaha illa Allah, “There is no true deity deserving worship but God.”  The testimony to this belief, calledtawhid, is the axis around which all Islam revolves.  Moreover, it is the first of the two testimonies by which a person becomes a Muslim.  Striving after the realization of that oneness, or tawhid, is the core of Islamic life.

For many non-Muslims, the term Allah, the Arabic name of God, refers to some distant and strange deity worshipped by the Arabs.  Some even think it to be some pagan “moon-god”.  However, in Arabic, the word Allah means the One True God. Even, Arabic speaking Jews and Christians refer to the Supreme Being as Allah.

Finding God

Western philosophers, Eastern mystics as well as today’s scientists attempt to reach God in their own way.  Mystics teach of a God who is found through spiritual  experiences, a God who is part of the world and resides within His creation.  The philosophers seek God through pure reason and often speak of a God as a detached Watch-Maker with no interest in His creation.  A group of philosophers teach agnosticism, an ideology that holds that one can neither prove nor disprove God’s existence. Practically speaking, an agnostic asserts he must be able to perceive God directly in order to have faith. God has said:

“And those who are devoid of knowledge say: ‘Why does not God speak unto us or why is not a [miraculous] sign shown to us?’  So said the people before them words of similar import.  Their hearts are all alike…” (Quran 2:118)

The argument is nothing new; people in the past and present have raised the same objection.

According to Islam, the correct way of finding God is through the preserved teachings of the prophets.  Islam maintains that the prophets were sent by God Himself throughout the ages to guide human beings to Him.  God says in the Holy Quran that the correct path to belief is to reflect upon His signs, which point to Him:

“…Indeed, We have made all the signs manifest unto people who are endowed with inner certainty.” (Quran 2:118)

Mention of God’s handiwork occurs often in the Quran as the locus of divine revelation.  Anyone who sees the natural world in all its wonder with open eyes and an open heart will see the unmistakable signs of the Creator.

“Say: Go all over the earth and behold how [wondrously] He has created [man] in the first instance: and thus, too, will God bring into being your second life – for, verily, God has power to will anything.” (Quran 20:29)

God’s handiwork is also present within the individual:

“And on earth there are signs [of God’s existence, visible] to all who are endowed with inner certainty, just as [there are signs thereof] within your own selves: can you not, then see?” (Quran 51:20-21)

 

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