Unity of God
Islam is a Semitic religion, which has over one billion
adherents all over the world. Islam means "submission to the
will of God". Muslims accept the Qur’an, as the word of God
revealed to His last and final prophet, Mohammed (peace be
upon him). Islam states that Allah sent messengers and
prophets throughout the ages with the message of Oneness of
God, and accountability in the Hereafter. Islam thus makes
it an article of faith to believe in all the earlier
prophets, starting with Adam, and continuing with Noah,
Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, John and Jesus
amongst many others (may peace be on them all).
Concept of God in Islam
The Most Concise Definition of God:
The most concise definition of God in Islam is given in the four verses of Surah Ikhlas
which is Chapter 112 of the Quran:
"Say: He is Allah, the One and Only.
"Allah, the Eternal, Absolute.
"He begets not, nor is He begotten.
And there is none like unto Him." [Al-Quran 112:1-4]
The word Assamad is
difficult to translate. It means absolute existence, which can be attributed
only to Allah (swt), all other existence being temporal or conditional. It also means that
Allah (swt) is not dependant on any person or thing, but all persons and things are
dependant on Him.
Surah Ikhlas - the touchstone of
Surah Ikhlas (Chapter 112) of the Glorious Quran, is the touchstone of theology.
Theo in Greek means God and logy means study. Thus
Theology means study of God and to Muslims this four line definition of Almighty God
serves as the touchstone of the study of God. Any candidate to divinity must be subjected
to this acid test. Since the attributes of Allah given in this chapter are
unique, false gods and pretenders to divinity can be easily dismissed using these verses.
What does Islam say about ‘god-men’?
India is often called the land of god-men. This is due to the abundance of
so-called spiritual masters in India. Many of these babas and
saints have a large following in many countries. Islam abhors deification of
any human being. To understand the Islamic stand towards such pretenders to divinity, let
us analyze one such god-man, Osho Rajneesh.
Let us put this candidate, Bhagwan Rajneesh, to the test of Surah Ikhlas, the
touchstone of theology:
The first criterion is "Say, He is Allah, one and only". Is Rajneesh one and
only? No! Rajneesh was one among the multitude of spiritual teachers produced
by India. Some disciples of Rajneesh might still hold that Rajneesh is one and only.
ii) The second
criterion is, ‘Allah is absolute and eternal’. We know from
Rajneesh’s biography that he was suffering from diabetes,
asthma, and chronic backache. He alleged that the U.S.
Government gave him slow poison in prison. Imagine Almighty
God being poisoned! Rajneesh was thus, neither absolute nor
iii) The third
criterion is ‘He begets not, nor is He begotten’. We know
that Rajneesh was born in Jabalpur in India and had a mother
as well as a father who later became his disciples.
In May 1981 he went to U.S.A. and established a town called Rajneeshpuram. He
later fell foul of the West and was finally arrested and asked to leave the country. He
came back to India and started a commune in Pune which is now known as the
Osho commune. He died in 1990. The followers of Osho Rajneesh believe that he
is Almighty God. At the Osho commune in Pune one can find the following
epitaph on his tombstone:
"Osho never born, never died; only visited the planet Earth between
11th December 1931 to 19th January 1990."
They forget to mention that he was not granted visa for 21 countries of the
world. Can a person ever imagine God visiting the earth, and requiring a visa
to enter a country! The Archbishop of Greece said that if Rajneesh had not been deported,
they would have burnt his house and those of his disciples.
The fourth test, which is the most stringent is, "There is none like unto Him".
The moment you can imagine or compare God to anything, then he (the candidate
to divinity) is not God. It is not possible to conjure up a mental picture of the One True
God. We know that Rajneesh was a human being, having two eyes, two ears, a nose, a mouth
and a white flowing beard. Photographs and posters of Rajneesh are available in plenty.
The moment you can imagine or draw a mental picture of an entity, then that entity is not
Many are tempted to make anthropomorphic comparisons of God. Take for instance, Arnold
Schwarzenegger, the famous body builder and Hollywood actor, who won the title of
Mr. Universe, the strongest man in the world. Let us suppose that someone says
that Almighty God is a thousand times stronger than Arnold Schwarzenegger. The moment you
can compare any entity to God, whether the comparison is to Schwarzenegger or to King
Kong, whether it is a thousand times or a million times stronger, it fails the
Quranic criterion, "There is none like unto Him".
Thus, the acid
test cannot be passed by anyone except the One True God.
The following verse of the
Glorious Quran conveys a similar message:
"No vision can grasp
Him but His grasp is over all vision: He is above all comprehension,
Yet is acquainted with all things." [Al-Quran 6:103]
By what name do we call God?
The Muslims prefer calling the Supreme Creator, Allah, instead of by the English word
God. The Arabic word, Allah, is pure and unique, unlike the
English word God, which can be played around with.
If you add s to the word God, it becomes Gods, that is the plural
of God. Allah is one and singular, there is no plural of Allah. If you add
dess to the word God, it becomes Goddess that is a female God.
There is nothing like male Allah or female Allah. Allah has no gender. If you add the word
father to God it becomes God-father. God-father means
someone who is a guardian. There is no word like Allah-Abba or
Allah-father. If you add the word mother to God, it
becomes God-mother. There is nothing like Allah-Ammi, or
Allah-mother in Islam. Allah is a unique word. If you prefix tin before the
word God, it becomes tin-God i.e., fake God. Allah is a unique word, which does not
conjure up any mental picture nor can it be played around with. Therefore the Muslims
prefer using the Arabic word Allah for the Almighty. Sometimes, however, while
speaking to the non-Muslims we may have to use the inappropriate word God, for Allah.
Since the intended audience of this article is general in nature, consisting of both
Muslims as well as non-Muslims, I have used the word God instead of Allah in several
places in this article.
God does not become a human being:
Some may argue that God does not become a human being but only takes a human form. If God
only takes a human form but does not become a human being, He should not possess any human
qualities. We know that all the God-men, have human qualities and failings.
They have all the human needs such as the need to eat, sleep, etc.
The worship of God in human
form is therefore a logical fallacy and should be abhorred in all its forms and
That is the reason why the
Quran speaks against all forms of anthropomorphism. The Glorious Quran says in
the following verse:
"There is nothing
whatever like unto Him." [Al-Quran 42:11]
God does not perform ungodly acts:
The attributes of Almighty God preclude any evil since God is the source of justice, mercy
and truth. God can never be thought of as doing an ungodly act. Hence we cannot imagine
God telling a lie, being unjust, making a mistake, forgetting things, or having any such
human failings. Similarly God can do injustice if He chooses to, but He will never do it
because being unjust is an ungodly act.
The Quran says: "Allah is never unjust
In the least degree."
God can be unjust if He
chooses to be so, but the moment God does injustice, He ceases to be God.
God does not make mistakes:
make mistakes if He wants to, but He does not make mistakes because making a mistake is an
ungodly act. The Quran says:
my Lord never
errs." [Holy Quran 20:52]
The moment God makes a mistake, he ceases
to be God.
God does not forget:
God can forget if He wants to. But God does not forget anything because forgetting is an
ungodly act, which reeks of human limitations and failings. The Quran says:
my Lord never
errs, nor forgets." [Al-Quran 20:52]
God only performs Godly acts:
The Islamic concept of God is that God has power over all things. The Quran
says in several places (Al -Quran 2:106; 2:109; 2:284; 3:29; 16:77; and 35:1):
"For verily Allah has
power over all things"
Further, the Glorious
"Allah is the doer of
all that He intends."
We must keep in mind that
Allah intends only Godly acts and not ungodly acts.
Many religions at some point believe, directly or indirectly, in the philosophy
of anthropomorphism i.e. God becoming a human. Their contention is that Almighty God is so
pure and holy that He is unaware of the hardships, shortcomings and feelings of human
beings. In order to set the rules for human beings, He came down to earth as a human. This
deceptive logic has fooled countless millions through the ages. Let us now analyze this
argument and see if it stands to reason.
The Creator prepares the instruction manual:
manufacture a video cassette recorder (VCR). Do I have to become a VCR to know what is
good or what is bad for the VCR? What do I do? I write an instruction manual: "In
order to watch a video cassette, insert the cassette and press the play button. In order
to stop, press the stop button. If you want to fast forward press the FF button. Do not
drop it from a height or it will get damaged. Do not immerse it in water or it will get
spoilt". I write an instruction manual that lists the various dos and
donts for the machine.
Holy Quran is the instruction manual for the human being:
our Lord and Creator Allah (swt) need not take human form to know what is good or bad for
the human being. He chooses to reveal the instruction manual. The last and final
instruction manual of the human beings is the Glorious Quran. The dos
and donts for the human beings are mentioned in the Quran.
If you allow me to compare
human beings with machines, I would say humans are more complicated than the most complex
machines in the world. Even the most advanced computers, which are extremely complex, are
pale in comparison to the myriad physical, psychological, genetic and social factors that
affect individual and collective human life.
The more advanced the
machine, greater is the need for its instruction manual. By the same logic, dont
human beings require an instruction manual by which to govern their own lives?
Allah chooses Messengers:
Allah (swt) need not come down personally for giving the instruction manual. He
chooses a man amongst men to deliver the message and communicates with him at a higher
level through the medium of revelations. Such chosen men are called messengers and
prophets of God.
Some people are blind and deaf:
absurdity of the philosophy of anthropomorphism, followers of many religions believe in
and preach it to others. Is it not an insult to human intelligence and to the Creator who
gave us this intelligence? Such people are truly deaf and blind
despite the faculty of hearing and sight given to them by Allah. The Quran says:
"Deaf, dumb, and
They will not return (to the path)." [Al-Quran 2:18]
The Bible gives a similar
message in the Gospel of Matthew: "Seeing they see not;
and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand." [The Bible, Matthew 13:13]
A similar message is also
given in the Hindu Scriptures in the Rigveda.
"There maybe someone
who sees the words and yet indeed does not see them; may be another one who hears these
words but indeed does not hear them." [Rigveda 10:71:4]
All these scriptures are
telling their readers that though the things are made so clear yet many people divert away
from the truth.
Attributes of God:
To Allah belong the most beautiful names:
The Quran says: "Say:
call upon Allah,
or call upon Rahman, by whatever name you call upon Him, (it is well), for to Him belong
the most beautiful names." [Al-Quran 17:110]
A similar message regarding
the beautiful names of Allah (swt) is repeated in the Quran in Surah Al-Araf
(7:180), in Surah Taha (20:8) and in Surah Al-Hashr (59:24)
The Quran gives no
less than ninety-nine different attributes to Almighty Allah. The Quran refers to
Allah as Ar-Rahman (Most Gracious), Ar-Raheem (Most Merciful) and Al-Hakeem (All
Wise) among many other names. You can call Allah by any name but that name should be
beautiful and should not conjure up a mental picture.
Each attribute of God is unique and possessed by Him alone:
Not only does God possess
unique attributes, but also each attribute of Almighty God is sufficient to identify Him.
I shall clarify this point in detail. Let us take an example of a famous personality, say
Neil Armstrong. Neil Armstrong is an astronaut. The attribute of being an astronaut
possessed by Neil Armstrong is correct but not unique to Neil Armstrong alone. So when one
asks, who is an astronaut? The answer is, there are hundreds of people in the world who
are astronauts. Neil Armstrong is an American. The attribute of being American possessed
by Neil Armstrong is correct but not sufficient to identify him. So when one asks, who is
an American? The answer is, there are millions of people who are American. To identify the
person uniquely we must look for a unique attribute possessed by none except that person.
For example, Neil Armstrong was the first human to set foot on the moon. So when one asks,
who was the first man to set foot on the moon, the answer is only one, i.e. Neil
Armstrong. Similarly the attribute of Almighty God should be unique. If I say God is the
constructor of buildings, it is possible and true, but it is not unique. Thousands of
people can construct a building. But each attribute of Allah is unique and points to none
but Allah. For example, God is the creator of the universe. If someone asks who is the
creator of the universe, the answer is only one, i.e. Almighty God is the Ultimate
Creator. Similarly, following are some of the many unique attributes possessed by none
other than the Creator of the universe, Almighty Allah:
the Most Merciful
"Ar-Rahman", the Most Gracious
"Al-Hakeem", the Most Wise
So when one asks, "Who is
Ar-Raheem, (the Most Merciful)?", there can only be one answer:
One attribute of God should not contradict with other attributes:
Besides the attribute being unique, it should not contradict other attributes. To continue
with the earlier example, suppose somebody says that Neil Armstrong is an American
astronaut who was the first human to set foot on the moon and was an Indian. The attribute
possessed by Neil Armstrong of being the first man to set foot on the moon, is correct.
But its associated quality of being an Indian, is false. Similarly if someone says that
God is the Creator of the Universe and has one head, two hands, two feet, etc., the
attribute (Creator of the Universe) is correct but the associated quality (in the form of
human being) is wrong and false.
All attributes should point to the one and same God:
Since there is only one God, all the attributes should point to one and the same God. To
say that Neil Armstrong was an American astronaut who first set foot on the moon, but he
was born in 1971 is wrong. Both these unique qualities belong to one and the same person,
i.e. Neil Armstrong. Similarly to say that the Creator of the universe is one God and the
Cherisher is another God is absurd because God possesses all these attributes combined
Unity of God:
argue by saying that the existence of more than one God is not illogical. Let us point out
to them that if there were more than one God, they would dispute with one another, each
god trying to fulfill his will against the will of the other gods. This can be seen in the
mythology of the polytheistic and pantheistic religions. If a God is defeated
or unable to defeat the others, he is surely not the one true God. Also popular among
polytheistic religions is the idea of many Gods, each having different responsibilities.
Each one would be responsible for a part of mans existence e.g. a Sun-God, a
Rain-God, etc. This indicates that one God is incompetent of certain acts and
moreover he is also ignorant of the other Gods powers, duties, functions and
responsibilities. There cannot be an ignorant and incapable God. If there were more than
one God it would surely lead to confusion, disorder, chaos and destruction in the
universe. But the universe is in complete harmony. The Glorious Quran says:
"If there were, in the
heavens and the earth, other gods besides Allah, there would have been confusion in both!
But glory to Allah, The Lord of the Throne,
(High is He) above what they attribute to Him!" [Al-Quran 21:22]
If there were more than one
God, they would have taken away what they created. The Quran says:
"No son did Allah
beget, nor is there any god along with Him: (if there were many gods), behold, each god
would have taken away what he had created, and some would have lorded it over others!
Glory to Allah! (He is free) from the (sort of) things they attribute to Him!"
Thus the existence of one
True, Unique, Supreme, Almighty God, is the only logical concept of God.
Islam believes in Tawheed which is not merely
monotheism i.e. belief in one God, but much more. Tawheed literally means
unification i.e. asserting oneness and is derived from the Arabic
verb Wahhada which means to unite, unify or consolidate.
Tawheed can be
divided into three categories.
2. Tawheed al-Asmaa-was-Sifaat
3. Tawheed al-Ibaadah.
ar-Ruboobeeyah (maintaining the unity of Lordship)
The first category is ‘Tawheed
is derived from the root verb "Rabb" meaning Lord, Sustainer and
Therefore ‘Tawheed-ar-Ruboobeeyah’ means
maintaining the unity of Lordship. This category is based on the fundamental
concept that Allah (swt) alone caused all things to exist when there was
nothing. He created or originated all that exists out of nothing. He alone
is the sole Creator, Cherisher, and Sustainer of the complete universe and
all between it, without any need from it or for it.
Tawheed al-Asmaa was-Sifaat
(maintaining the unity of Allah’s name and attributes):
The second category is ‘Tawheed al Asmaa was Sifaat’
which means maintaining the unity of Allah’s name and
attributes. This category is divided into five aspects:
Allah should be referred to as described by Him and His Prophet
Allah must be referred to according to the manner in which He and His prophet have
described Him without explaining His names and attributes by giving them meanings other
than their obvious meanings.
Allah must be referred to as He has referred to Himself
Allah must be referred to without giving Him any new names or attributes. For example
Allah may not be given the name Al-Ghaadib (the Angry One), despite the fact that
He has said that He gets angry, because neither Allah nor His messenger have used this
Allah is referred to without giving Him the attributes of His creation
In a reference to God, we should strictly abstain from giving Him the attributes of those
whom He has created. For instance in the Bible, God is portrayed as repenting for His bad
thoughts in the same way as humans do when they realise their errors. This is completely
against the principle of Tawheed. God does not commit any mistakes or errors and therefore
never needs to repent.
The key principle when
dealing with Allahs attributes is given in the Quran in Surah Ash-Shura:
"There is nothing whatever like unto Him,
and He is the One that hears and sees (all things)." [Al-Quran 42:11]
Hearing and seeing are
human faculties. However, when attributed to the Divine Being they are without comparison,
in their perfection, unlike when associated with humans who require ears, eyes, etc. and
who are limited in their sight and hearing in terms of space, time, capacity, etc.
Gods creation should not be given any of His attributes
To refer to a human with the attribute of God is also against the principle of Tawheed.
For example, referring to a person as one who has no beginning or end (eternal).
Allahs name cannot be given to His creatures
Some Divine names in the indefinite form, like Raoof or Raheem
are permissible names for men as Allah has used them for Prophets; but Ar-Raoof
(the Most Pious) and Ar-Raheem (the most Merciful) can only be used if prefixed by
Abd meaning slave of or servant of i.e. Abdur-Raoof
or Abdur-Raheem. Similarly Abdur-Rasool (slave of
the Messenger) or Abdun-Nabee (slave of the Prophet) are forbidden.
Tawheed al-Ibaadah (maintaining the unity of worship):
Definition and meaning of Ibadaah:
al-Ibaadah’ means maintaining the unity of worship
or ‘Ibaadah’. Ibaadah is derived from Arabic word
‘Abd’ meaning slave or servant. Thus Ibaadah means servitude and worship.
All three categories to be followed simultaneously.
Only believing in the first two categories of Tawheed without implementing Tawheed-al-Ibaadah
is useless. The Quran gives the examples of Mushrikeens
(idolaters) of the Prophets time who confirmed the first two aspects of Tawheed.
It is mentioned in the Quran:
"Say: Who is it
that sustains you (in life) from the sky and from the earth?
Or who is it that
Has power over hearing and sight? And who is it that brings out the living from the dead
and the dead from the living?
And who is it that rules and regulates all affairs?
They will soon say, Allah.
Say, Will you not then show piety (to Him)? " [Al-Quran 10:31]
A similar example is
repeated in Surah Zukhruf of the Glorious Quran:
"If thou ask them, Who
created them, they will certainly say, Allah: how
then are they deluded away (from the Truth)?" [Al-Quran 43:87]
The pagan Meccans knew that
Allah (swt) was their Creator, Sustainer, Lord and Master. Yet they were not Muslims
because they also worshipped other gods besides Allah. Allah (swt) categorised them as
Kuffaar (disbelievers) and Mushrikeen (idol
worshippers and those who associate partners with God).
"And most of them believe not in Allah
without associating (others as partners) with Him!" [Al-Quran 12:106]
al-Ibaadah i.e. maintaining the unity of worship is the most important aspect of
Tawheed. Allah (swt) alone deserves worship and He alone can grant benefit to man
for his worship.
The omission of any of the above mentioned categories of
tawheed or deficiency in the fulfillment of any criteria of
Tawheed is referred to as 'shirk'.(Please note that the
Arabic word 'Shirk' has the same sound as in the English
word 'ship' and not as in the English word 'shirk',which
means 'to evade'
‘Shirk’ literally means sharing or associating partners. In
Islamic terms it means associating partners with Allah and
is equivalent to idolatry.
Shirk is the greatest sin that Allah will never forgive:
The Qur’an describes the greatest sin in Surah Al-Nisa’:
"Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with
Him; but He forgives anything else, to whom He pleases;
to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin most
heinous indeed." [Al-Qur’an 4:48]
The same message is repeated in Surah Al-Nisa’:
"Allah forgives not (the sin of) joining other gods With
Him; but He forgives whom He pleases other sins than
this: one who joins other gods with Allah, has strayed
far, far away (From the Right)." [Al-Qur’an 4:116]
Shirk leads to hell
The Qur’an says in Surah Ma’idah:
"They do blaspheme who say: ‘Allah is Christ the son of
Mary.’ But said Christ: ‘O Children of Israel! Worship
Allah, my Lord and your Lord’. Whoever joins other gods
with Allah – Allah will forbid him the Garden, and the
Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrongdoers be
no one to help." [Al-Qur’an 5:72]
Worship and Obedience to none but Allah:
The Qur’an mentions in Surah Ali-’Imran:
Say: "O people of the Book! Come To common terms as
between us and you, that we worship none but Allah, that
we associate no partners with Him, that we erect not,
from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than
Allah." If then they turn back, say ye: "Bear witness
that we (at least) are Muslims (bowing to Allah’s
Will)." [Al-Qur’an 3:64]
The Glorious Qur’an says:
"And if all the trees on earth were pens and the Ocean
(were ink), with seven Oceans behind it to add to its
(supply), yet would not the Words of Allah be exhausted
(In the writing): for Allah is Exalted in power, Full of
Wisdom." [Al-Qur’an 31:27]
Our analysis of Concept of God in various Religion shows
that monotheism is an integral part of every major
religion of the world. However, it is unfortunate that
some adherents of these religions violate the teachings
of their own scriptures and have set up partners to
An analysis of the scriptures of various religions,
reveals that all scriptures exhort mankind to believe
in, and submit to One God. All these scriptures condemn
the association of partners to God, or the worship of
God in the form of images. The Glorious Qur’an says:
"O men! Here is a parable set forth! Listen to it! Those
on whom, besides Allah, you call, cannot create (even) a
fly, if they all met together for the purpose! And if
the fly should snatch away anything from them, they
would have no power to release it from the fly. Feeble
are those who petition and those whom they petition!"
The basis of religion is the acceptance of Divine
guidance. A rejection of this guidance has serious
implications for society. While we have made great
strides in science and technology, true peace still
eludes us. All ‘isms’ have failed to provide the much
The scriptures of all major religions exhort mankind to
follow that which is good and eschew that which is evil.
All scriptures remind mankind that good will not go
unrewarded and evil will not go unpunished!
The question we need to address is, which of these
scriptures provides us with the correct ‘instruction
manual’ that we need to regulate our individual and
I hope and pray that Allah guides all of us towards the