Allah (God)

The Institute of Islamic Information and Education

photo courtesy of omani via C.C. License at FlickrIt is a known fact that 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 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 uniqueness when compared with the word "god," which can be made plural, "gods," or feminine, "goddess." It is interesting to notice that Allah is the personal name of God in Aramaic, the language of Jesus and a sister language of Arabic.

The One true God is a reflection of the unique concept that Islam associates with God. To a Muslim, Allah is the Almighty, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, Who is similar to nothing, and nothing is comparable to Him. The Prophet Muhammad was asked by his contemporaries about Allah; the answer came directly from God Himself in the form of a short chapter of the Quran, which is considered the essence of the unity or the motto of monotheism. This is chapter 112, which reads:

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.  Say (O Muhammad) He is God the One God, the Everlasting Refuge, who has not begotten, nor has been begotten, and equal to Him is not anyone.

Some non-Muslims allege that God in Islam is a stern and cruel God 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 Quran begins with the verse: "In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate." In one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), we are told that "God is more loving and kinder than a mother to her dear child."

But God is also Just. Hence evildoers and sinners must have their share of punishment and the virtuous, His bounties and favors. 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 of man in the Hereafter, thereby negating all the incentives for a moral and virtuous life in this world. The following Quranic 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 you? (68:34-36)

Islam rejects characterizing God in any human form or depicting Him as favoring certain individuals or nations on the basis of wealth, power, or race. He created human beings as equals. They may distinguish themselves and get His favor through virtue and piety only.

The concept that God rested in 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 a personal name of God is a reflection of Islam's emphasis on the purity of the belief in God, which is the essence of the message of all God's messengers. Because of this, Islam considers associating any deity or personality with God as a deadly sin that God will never forgive, despite the fact He may forgive all other sins.

[Note that what is meant above applies only to those people who die in a state wherein they are associating others with God. The repentance of those who yet live is acceptable to God if He wills. -- MSA of USC]

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 outside Him causes Him to continue to exist, 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."

He is Self-Sufficient or Self-Subsistent or, to use a Quranic 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.