The Concept of God In Islam

by Mikail Adil

 

 

La illaha il Allah

The phrase forms the first part of the Muslim declaration of faith. Literally:

"There is no divinity but the (one) Divinity."

 

But who, or what is the divinity? Or God? Or Allah?

Does the whole idea even make sense?

 

Modern science has discovered so much about the Universe is there even any room for a man in the sky acting as a celestial puppet master pulling all the strings attached to invisible skyhooks? Fortunately, the Islamic notion of God does not entail of any sort of 'chap,' but of the ultimate reality beyond this finite universe; unconfused, uncomplicated, undifferentiated and unitarian. To be a Muslim (literally- a person who submits to God) is to worship, adore and submit to that one ultimate reality. Allah, by the way simply means 'the divine' in Arabic and is used by Muslim, Jewish and Christian speakers of Arabic.

 

The One

 

Muslims believe that God alone has absolute being; he is totally independent and self sufficient with all existence arising from his will; he has no "partner" either in creating or sustaining the universe. God is al-Ahad. "the One", absolute unity which cannot be divided, nor diminished nor "humanised." He is not only the "First Cause" but also ultimately, the only cause, and he is himself is uncaused and necessary.

 

God cannot be described in himself, because being infinite and perfect; everything we're not, he's radically unlike ourselves. Nonetheless, he has a personal aspect, so that we can worship, love and can grow close to him. The Qur'an tells us: "Say: He is Allah. One, the utterly Self sufficient: He begets not neither is he begotten, and there is nothing that is like unto Him''

 

One of God's names (of which there are 99) is ul-Haqq, "The Truth" or "the Reality", and to deny him is to be far distant from truth at every level of experience.

 

 

Al-Kafirun

 

The Arabic word al-kafirun, (often misleadingly translated as 'unbelievers,') suggests the deliberate act of showing ingratitude and "covering", in other words, those who deny him whose name is "the Truth" have "covered" their own understanding with an opaque covering so are blind to what is ultimately self-evident, in so doing they have shut out the light, for another of his names is al-Nur "Light"

 

It must be understood that God is not a divine UFO, or large celestial creature of whose existence or non-existence is a scientific hypothesis which is open to universal empirical demonstration. People often speak sarcastically of God; seemingly imagining him, if not exactly as an impressively bearded man, certainly a fellow albeit of supersized proportion. However, classical and modern theologians have never believed that God has a spatiotemporal location either inside or outside the universe (as popularisers of atheism like Richard Dawkins think they do). His transcendence is part of what he is, which is not the case with the Zeus (assuming his worshippers literally believed he existed as a heavily muscled man impregnating thousands of women and throwing lightning bolts) or the Yeti. Believing in God, whatever pop atheist gurus suggest, is quite unlike concluding that fairies and goblins exist.

 

God and the Universe

 

God is not another material 'thing' existing outside the Universe who is destined to become smaller and unimportant as our understanding of the Universe increases; he is the ultimate reality behind the Universe and the answer to why there is something rather than nothing. The alternative is to argue that the Universe is uncaused, either popping into existence ex nihilo, or simply existing forever. I discuss in another article why both propositions are highly implausible at best.

 

Okay, so some of the things said against the idea of God are silly. But this doesn't show that he exists. Does the idea actually make sense? How can something exist yet not have a location and not be made out of any 'stuff?' Consider for a moment, your mind or consciousness. Does your mind have a location? Sure, your brain does, and its dimensions can be measured. But does your conscious mind or self have a volume, or a weight? Is it composed of any physical stuff? Assuming you believe you are conscious (a fair proposition!) we'd have to say no to the above, while maintaining that your mind is a very real entity.

 

Similarly, we can think of God as a pure consciousness or an infinite mind (though we must always remember that God is unlike anything in creation and cannot be truly comprehended by any of it). He exists, yet does not have a location; existing outside space and time (which is why, unlike the Universe, he never had a beginning), and as the Qur'an reminds us, there is nothing like him.

 

Taqwa

 

According to the Islamic concept. God demands a constant awareness of him, known as 'Taqwa'; sometimes translated as "fear of God" or more accurately as "God-consciousness." Secondly, he demands that we follow his commandments. These are in no way arbitrary, whether we know it or not, they are for our own good and are thus an aspect of the divine mercy. Their purpose is to maintain a healthy balance both within the human personality and in society and, at the same time, to provide a stable framework for human living. Contrary to a popularly head view from many of both believers and non believers, God should not be thought of as an obstacle to our autonomy and enjoyment but, as Thomas Aquinas wrote, the power that allows us to be ourselves. He is the source of our self-determination, not the negation of it. To be dependent on God, as to be dependent on our trusted friends and loved ones, is a matter of both freedom and fulfilment.

 

In conclusion, the God of Islam is transcendent, the all-powerful and all knowing creator and lawgiver, though at the same time infinitely merciful, generous and forgiving. Humankind stands before him without intermediary or intercessor (though the Muslim believes in messengers who conveyed the will of God to humankind), meeting him through worship (which in Islam is not confined to the mosque but in all good actions or restraints from bad ones) during this brief life on earth and finally when life is over. In Islam, God does not embody himself in any being, human or otherwise nor make himself accessible through idols and images. He is what he is, absolute and eternal, and it is as such that the Muslim worships him.