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Who Is 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 (PBUH) was asked by his contemporaries about Allah the Almighty; 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:

بِسمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ
قُل هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ (1) اللَّهُ الصَّمَدُ (2) لَم يَلِد وَلَم يُولَد (3) وَلَم يَكُن لَهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ (4) سورة الإخلاص

"In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Say (O Muhammad) He is Allah the One God, the Everlasting Refuge, who has not begotten, nor has been begotten, and equal to Him is not anyone." (112)

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 Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate." In one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) we are told that "Allah is more loving and kinder than a mother to her dear child."

But Allah 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 and 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:

إِنَّ لِلمُتَّقِينَ عِندَ رَبِّهِم جَنَّاتِ النَّعِيمِ (34) أَفَنَجعَلُ المُسلِمِينَ كَالمُجرِمِينَ (35) مَا لَكُم كَيفَ تَحكُمُونَ (36) سورة القلم

"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 the 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 which 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.

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, which means that 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.

اللَّهُ خَالِقُ كُلِّ شَيءٍ وَهُوَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيءٍ وَكِيلٌ (62) لَهُ مَقَالِيدُ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأَرضِ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ أُولَئِكَ هُم الخَاسِرُونَ (63) سورة الزمر

"Allah is the Creator of everything. He is the guardian over everything. Unto Him belong the keys of the heavens and the earth." (39:62-63)

وَمَا مِن دَابَّةٍ فِي الأَرضِ إِلاَّ عَلَى اللَّهِ رِزقُهَا وَيَعلَمُ مُستَقَرَّهَا وَمُستَودَعَهَا كُلٌّ فِي كِتَابٍ مُبِينٍ (6) سورة هود

"No creature is there crawling on the earth, but its provision rests on Allah. He knows its place of dwelling and place of storage. All is in a clear register. "(11:6)

Allah's Attributes:

If the Creator is Eternal and Everlasting, then His attributes must also be eternal and everlasting. He should not lose any of His attributes nor acquire new ones. If this is so, then His attributes are absolute. Can there be more than one Creator with such absolute attributes? Can there be for example, two absolutely powerful Creators? A moment's thought shows that this is not feasible.

The Quran summarizes this argument in the following verses:

مَا اتَّخَذَ اللَّهُ مِن وَلَدٍ وَمَا كَانَ مَعَهُ مِن إِلَهٍ إِذًاً لَذَهَبَ كُلُّ إِلَهٍ بِمَا خَلَقَ وَلَعَلاَ بَعضُهُم عَلَى بَعضٍ سُبحَانَ

اللَّهِ عَمَّا يَصِفُونَ (91) سورة المؤمنون

"Allah has not taken to Himself any son, nor is there any god with Him: For then each god would have taken of that which he created and some of them would have risen up over others." (23:91) 

لَو كَانَ فِيهِمَا آلِهَةٌ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ لَفَسَدَتَا فَسُبحَانَ اللَّهِ رَبِّ العَرشِ عَمَّا يَصِفُونَ (22) سورة الأنبياء

"Had there been within them (the heavens and earth) gods besides Allah, they both (heaven and earth) would have been ruined. So exalted is Allah, Lord of the throne, above what they describe." (21:22)

The Oneness of Allah:

The Quran reminds us of the falsity of all alleged gods. To the worshippers of man-made objects, it asks:

قَالَ أَتَعبُدُونَ مَا تَنحِتُونَ (95) سورة الصافات
"Do you worship what you have carved yourself?" (37:95) 

قُل مَن رَبُّ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأَرضِ قُل اللَّهُ قُل أَفَاتَّخَذتُم مِن دُونِهِ أَولِيَاءَ لاَ يَملِكُونَ لأَنفُسِهِم نَفعًا وَلاَ ضَرًّا قُل هَل يَستَوِي الأَعمَى وَالبَصِيرُ أَم هَل تَستَوِي الظُّلُمَاتُ وَالنُّورُ أَم جَعَلُوا لِلَّهِ شُرَكَاءَ خَلَقُوا كَخَلقِهِ فَتَشَابَهَ الخَلقُ عَلَيهِم قُل اللَّهُ خَالِقُ كُلِّ شَيءٍ وَهُوَ الوَاحِدُ القَهَّارُ (16) سورة الرعد

"Say "Who is the Lord of the heavens and earth?" Say, "Allah." Say, Have you then taken beside allies not possessing (even) for themselves any benefit or any harm?" Say, "Is the blind equivalent to the seeing? Or is darkness equivalent to the light? Or have they attributed to Allah partners who created like His creation so that the creation (of each) seemed similar to them? Say He is the One, the prevailing." (13:16)

The Believer's Attitude:

In order to be a Muslim, i.e., to surrender oneself to Allah, it is necessary to believe in the oneness of Allah, in the sense of His being the only Creator, Preserver, Nourisher, etc. But this belief - later on called "Tawheed Ar-Rububiyyah" - is not enough. Many of the idolaters knew and believed that only the Supreme God could do all this, but that was not enough to make them Muslims. To tawheed ar-rububiyyah one must add tawheed al'uluhiyyah, i.e., one acknowledges the fact that is Allah alone Who deserves to be worshipped, and thus abstains from worshipping any other deity or thing or being.

Having achieved this knowledge of the one true God, man should constantly have faith in Him, and should allow nothing to induce him to deny truth.

When faith enters a person's heart, it causes certain mental states which result in certain actions. Taken together these mental states and actions are the proof for the true faith. The Prophet said, "Faith is that which resides firmly in the heart and which is proved by deeds." Foremost among those mental states is the feeling of gratitude towards Allah which could be said to be the essence of 'ebadah' (worship).

The feeling of gratitude is so important that a non-believer is called 'kafir' which means 'one who denies a truth' and also 'one who is ungrateful.'

A believer loves, and is grateful to God for the bounties He bestowed upon him, but being aware of the fact that his good deeds, whether mental or physical, are far from being commensurate with Divine favors, he is always anxious lest Allah should punish him, here or in the Hereafter. He, therefore, fears Him, surrenders himself to Him and serves Him with great humility. One cannot be in such a mental state without being almost all the time mindful of Allah. Remembering Allah is thus the life force of faith, without which it fades and withers away.

The Quran promotes this feeling of gratitude by repeating the attributes of Allah (God) very frequently. We find most of these attributes mentioned together in the following verses of the Quran:

هُوَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ عَالِمُ الغَيبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ هُوَ الرَّحمَانُ الرَّحِيمُ (22) هُوَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ المَلِكُ القُدُّوسُ السَّلاَمُ المُؤمِنُ المُهَيمِنُ العَزِيزُ الجَبَّارُ المُتَكَبِّرُ سُبحَانَ اللَّهِ عَمَّا يُشرِكُونَ (23) هُوَ اللَّهُ الخَالِقُ البَارِئُ المُصَوِّرُ لَهُ الأَسمَاءُ الحُسنَى يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأَرضِ وَهُوَ العَزِيزُ الحَكِيمُ (24) سورة الحشر

"He is Allah; there is no god but He, He is the Knower of the unseen and the visible; He is the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate. He is Allah; there is no god but He. He is the King, the All-Holy, the All-Peace, the Guardian of Faith, the All-Preserver, the All-Mighty, the All-Compeller, the All-Sublime. Glory be to Allah, above that they associate! He is Allah the Creator, the Maker, the Shaper. To Him belong the Names Most Beautiful. All that is in the heavens and the earth magnifies Him; He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise." (59:22-24) 

اللَّهُ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ الحَيُّ القَيُّومُ لاَ تأخُذُهُ سِنَةٌ وَلاَ نَومٌ لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الأَرضِ مَن ذَا الَّذِي يَشفَعُ عِندَهُ إِلاَّ بِإِذنِهِ يَعلَمُ مَا بَينَ أَيدِيهِم وَمَا خَلفَهُم وَلاَ يُحِيطُونَ بِشَيءٍ مِن عِلمِهِ إِلاَّ بِمَا شَاءَ وَسِعَ كُرسِيُّهُ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأَرضَ وَلاَ يَئُودُهُ حِفظُهُمَا وَهُوَ العَلِيُّ العَظِيمُ (255) سورة البقرة

"There is no god but He, the Living, the Everlasting. Slumber seizes Him not, neither sleep; to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. Who is there that shall intercede with Him save by His leave? He knows what lies before them and what is after them, and they comprehend not anything of His knowledge save such as He wills. His throne comprises the heavens and earth; the preserving of them oppresses Him not; He is the All-High, the All-Glorious." (2:255) 

يَا أَهلَ الكِتَابِ لاَ تَغلُوا فِي دِينِكُم وَلاَ تَقُولُوا عَلَى اللَّهِ إِلاَّ الحَقَّ إِنَّمَا المَسِيحُ عِيسَى ابنُ مَريَمَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ وَكَلِمَتُهُ أَلقَاهَا إِلَى مَريَمَ وَرُوحٌ مِنهُ فَآمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرُسُلِهِ وَلاَ تَقُولُوا ثَلاَثَةٌ انتَهُوا خَيرًا لَكُم إِنَّمَا اللَّهُ إِلَهٌ وَاحِدٌ سُبحَانَهُ أَن يَكُونَ لَهُ وَلَدٌ لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الأَرضِ وَكَفَى بِاللَّهِ وَكِيلاً (171) سورة النساء

"People of the Book, go not beyond the bounds in your religion, and say not as to God but the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only the Messenger of Allah, and His Word that He committed to Mary, and a Spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His Messengers, and say not, ' Three.' Refrain; better is it for you. Allah is only one God. Glory be to Him - (He is) above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs. " (4:171)

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