An Overview of the Concept of God
There are, quite literally, thousands of different religions that exist in the world today, each with its own God or definition of God. There is no single, unified concept of God; it is a definition that is highly individual to each religion, including the five oldest (and largest) religions of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. As such, in the context of a singular religious philosophy, it is important to understand the alternative concepts of God and the religious significance of those specific divine attributes.
For this reason, and for the purposes of this commentary, we will explore the concept of God as proclaimed in the original doctrine of Islam – “لا إله إلا الله” “There is no god Except God,” a convenient and critical starting point in this endeavor.
Reflecting on these four divine words (translated as “there is no god except God”), it appears that the essential and exclusive message is to explain “One True God” to mankind. In Islamic teachings these words are “Kalemah Tayyebah” (كلمة طيبه ). In the Arabic language, these four words are chanted as “La Ilaha Illa Allah” (لا إله إلا الله), again translated as (There is no God Except Allah). These four words are conjugated from Three Root Letters (ا ل ه) and God sent the same message to all His Messengers (21:25 of The Quran).
Quraanic study teaches us that all messengers asked their nations the same question “Who do you worship?” This question is repeated several times in Ayahs (verses) 7:59, 65, 73, and 85; “مَا لَكُم مِّنْ إِلَـٰهٍ غَيْرُهُۥٓ” (“No god for you, except Allah”) and is repeated several times within each doctrine. I believe this is the fundamental message to the mankind. These “four words” describe purpose of our life and define the concept of God. It is therefore extremely important for all human beings to understand these “Four Words” “لا إله إلا الله”.
“قولوا : لا إله إلا الله تفلحوا”
Say, “there is no god, but Allah, you will receive Salvation”
Allah’s Testimony is Validated:
With these four words, God provided confirmation of His own reality and divineness (Surah Ale-Imran, Ayah 18). The literal translation of these words (“لا إله إلا الله”) is “No god, except Allah.” Thus, to understand God, we must understand these four words clearly and thoroughly.
Let’s look at the stamen more closely – La Ilaha Illa Allah. In Qur’anic language and style, a text that needs to be emphasized starts with the word “La” (No). In addition, the text contains the word “Illa,” an indication that the statement is likewise a conditional (or dependent) statement. More importantly, these four words have a built-in direction or roadmap, traveling from the negative (“La”) and moving towards the positive (“Illa”). These two structural components, the condition and direction, must be considered when studying this statement, as both the condition and the direction point to the ultimate destination.
So, with this in mind, let’s consider the statement from a secular perspective, that is, let’s try to more deeply understand the meaning by using a mathematical frame of reference.
Consider the following. In an arithmetical sequence, when moving from the negative to the positive, zero is unavoidably crossed.
-5, -4, -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
In essence, zero provides, what I will call, a “Gateway” from the negative to the positive. We will understand why this is so important to note later. Also note that in an arithmetical series, zero is always followed by 1, traditionally thought of and treated as a number but, in the language of mathematics, 1 is more correctly defined as “unity.”
- When traveling from the Negative Direction to the Positive direction, you will unavoidably travel through Zero (“0”). Zero is the gateway to the positive.
- Before “0” is all negative, think of the negative as who reject God’s existence.
- Soon after passing through “0”, you hit 1, known as “Unity”. Don’t think about one as a number; the numbers start from 2.
- These four words are a conditional statement and we cannot ignore the negative part (La). The negative contextualizes a very critical component part of this discussion.
- That is, before passing through the gateway and entering the positive, we must travel the on the negative. In other words, as with most of life’s journeys, we can’t ever reach a summit, without traveling through some valleys. We cannot reach Allah without “La Ilaha.”
This is, effectively, a condition. We must clean our heart and mind from all false gods, idols and authorities before we can accept the Oneness of one True God.
In point of fact, with this statement Allah acknowledges, in a subtle way, there may be other false gods that must be rejected. Perhaps even earthly creatures would claim to be gods, but they are not true gods and must be treated and rejected as other false gods would be.
Allah acknowledges that there would be “atheists” in this world. Perhaps each of us first walks the path of an “atheist” in our earliest evolution, before we truly grasp the oneness of Allah. But eventually, to reach understanding, we must reject all created things, all observable things, and all animate or inanimate things that others might worship as much as gods. Including prophets, saints, dictators, presidents, ambassadors, kings, superpowers or anyone who has elevated themselves (or has been elevated by others) to the level of Godhood. For example, the Holy Quraan reminds us that the Pharaohs declared themselves as the highest gods. In scripture 79:24, the Pharaoh told his people “I am your Lord; most high.” Moses, of course, challenged Pharaoh, as we all must do to rulers who represent themselves as gods.
As mentioned before about the ‘Gateway’, zero is extremely important. We learned in mathematics that:
(A)0 = 1 (unity)
In this entity, “A” is anything unknown. In mathematics when “A” is raised to power zero, it is always Unity or 1.
(Universe)0 = 1 (unity)
The question is, when we allocate zero power to the entire Universe, it reduces to Unity. If God is part of the Universe, He will not be destroyed. The presence of God still remains in this universe, it does not vanish. And (1)0 = 1 and so it continues. Science cannot explain this identity fully. This indirectly demonstrates that to reach unity or oneness of God, we must give zero power to the entire universe or universes.
In this context, independent of religion, the concept of God can be summarized briefly in four words. “Four Words” that provide a remarkable insight for a global understanding of all forms of religion on this earth.
Dr. Kaleemullah is an interfaith advocate, religious thought leader and award-winning nuclear scientist, with years of teaching and industry experience. He has Ph.D. in Thermodynamics from University of Leeds and can be reached at email@example.com