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Victor M. Eskew
The word “Muslim” means “one who submits to God.” The basic confession of Islam is known as the “Shahadah.” The first testimony of the Shahadah is: “There is no God, but Allah.” The name “Allah” appears over 2500 times in the Qur’an. Surah 112 states: “Say: He, Allah, is One. God, Eternal. Allah is He one upon whom all depend. He begets not, nor is He begotten. And none is like Him.” All of these points show that Allah is very important to the Muslim faith. Thus, it is important for us to study Allah is we desire to understand Islam.
“Muslims claim that Allah is the same God as the God of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, thus affirming that Islam stands in continuity with Judaism and Christianity” (Isalm for Dummies, Malcom Clark, p. 40). Islam claims to play a unique role in this continuity. Islam teaches that the Jewish religion believed in one God, but their religion was restricted to one nation, Israel. Christianity, we are told, came forth from Judaism, but Christians corrupted the concept of God by viewing Jesus as the Son of God. Islam, therefore, does two things. First, it restores the true concept of God. Second, it is a religion for all people of all nations.
In this article, we want to come to an understanding of Allah as the Muslims view him. One point that needs to be understood at the outset is that Muslims do not believe that anyone can truly know Allah. “Allah is the unique, unexplainable and inexplicable one – the remote, vast and unknown God. Everything we think about him is incomplete, if not wrong. Allah cannot be comprehended. He comprehends us” (a quote from B.J. Clarke, Islam – From God or Man?, David Brown, ed., p. 524). How can a person possess true faith in Allah, if the information that he has about him is completely false?
One of the primary doctrines concerning Allah is called “tawhid.” This means “Allah is one.” Allah is one being. Allah possesses an absolute and indivisible unity. Five understandings encircle this particular doctrine.
1. The denial of polytheism, a belief in many gods.
2. The denial of absolute loyalty to anything other than Allah.
3. The internal unity of Allah, no multiplicity exists within Allah.
4. The denial of the permanent reality of self. Self is to be lost in Allah.
5. The assertion of the uniqueness of Allah.
The third understanding causes Islam and Christianity to part ways. Muslims deny the deity of Jesus Christ. They also deny the doctrine of the Trinity, that is, God in three persons. “They believe that the Christian doctrine of ‘the Trinity’ is tantamount to worshipping three gods” (Islam – From God or Man?, p. 522). Islam teaches that the concept of the Trinity involves the doctrine of “association,” associating partners with God. In Islam this is called “shirk,” or “ishrak.” According to Islam, shirk is a sin that is so serious that God will not forgive it. In his book, What Everybody Needs to Know about Islam, John L. Esposito writes: “The first part of this proclamation affirms Islam’s absolute monotheism, the uncompromising belief in the oneness or unity of God, as well as the doctrine of association of anything else with God is idolatry and the one unforgiveable sin. As we see in the Quran 4:48: ‘God does not forgive anyone for associating something with Him, while He does forgive whomever He wishes from anything else. Anyone who gives God associates [partners] has involved an awful sin’” (pp. 17-18). Herein lies a problem in Islam’s evangelization of Christians. If Christians have committed the “unforgiveable sin”, how can they ever be converted to Islam and be saved?
The name Allah is the Arabic word for God. If our present English translations were translated into the Arabic language, God would read “Allah.” Allah is a combination of two words: Al (the) and ilah (God). Therefore, Allah means “the God.” One of the hadiths tells us that Allah has ninety-nine names. It also states that those who know these names will go to Paradise. The names are found in the 177th Hadith. Invoking these names is important to Muslims. Muhammad said: “Let your tongue stay moist with the remembrance of God” Abdullah bin Busr, Book 16, Hadith 31, see also Qur’an 17:110). To practice this Hadith, many Muslims will say the names of Allah using a rosary. “Muslims often use a string of prayer beads or rosary (subhal) when reciting the name of God. Three larger beads separate the groups. The beads are used to keep count as one recites the 99 names…” (Islam for Dummies, 45).
In addition to Allah’s oneness, there are seven essential attributes of Allah.
1. Allah is alive. He is not dead matter. “Allah! There is no God but He,
the Ever Living. The Self-subsisting, Eternal…” (Qur’an 2:255).
2. Allah possesses all knowledge. “With Him are the keys of the Unseen,
none knows but He. And He knows whatever there is on the earth
and in the sea…” (Qur’an 6:59).
3. Allah wills everything. “Verily, when He intends a thing, His Com-
mand is, “Be,” and it is!” (Qur’an 36:82).
4. Allah is has all power. He can do all things. “And it is He who
has the power over all things” (Qur’an 5:120).
5. Hearing is another attribute of Allah. He hears all.
6. Seeing is still another quality of Allah. Nothing is hidden from His eyes.
7. The last essential quality is speech. Allah’s eternal speech is found in the Qur’an.
These are not the only attributes of Allah. They are the main attributes. Other attributes are implied by these seven (e.g., Allah’s power includes His being the Creator).
As we close this article, let’s note three interesting points involving Allah and Muslims. One, most Westerners view Allah as a “god” of wrath. Muslims see the Qur’an emphasizing Allah’s mercy more than his wrath. Two, Muslims are to love God. No other motive is to prompt them to serve Allah. They are not to serve out of fear, nor are they to serve him for rewards. Three, submission to Allah is paramount. In every division of the Islamic religion, submission to Allah is first and foremost.
Remember, it is asserted that Allah is the same God worshipped by the Jews and perverted by Christians. Is Allah and Jehovah the same God? We will cover this question in upcoming articles.