by Dr. Zakir
The Most Concise Definition of God:
concise definition of God in Islam is given in the four
verses of Surah Ikhlas which is Chapter 112 of the Qur’an:
"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."
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 theology:
Surah Ikhlas (Chapter 112) of the Glorious Qur’an, 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.
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 eternal.
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.
never born, never died; only visited the planet Earth between
11th December 1931 to 19th January 1990."
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.
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:
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 God.
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 Qur’anic criterion, "There is none like
Thus, the ‘acid
test’ cannot be passed by anyone except the One True God.
verse of the Glorious Qur’an conveys a similar message:
"No vision can
But His grasp is over
All vision: He is
Above all comprehension,
Yet is acquainted with all things."
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
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:
God does not take human form:
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,
The worship of
God in human form is therefore a logical fallacy and should be
abhorred in all its forms and manifestations.
That is the
reason why the Qur’an speaks against all forms of
anthropomorphism. The Glorious Qur’an says in the following
"There is nothing
whatever like unto Him."
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 Qur’an 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
God can make
mistakes if He wants to, but He does not make mistakes because
making a mistake is an ungodly act. The Qur’an says:
"…my Lord never
[Holy Qur’an 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 Qur’an says:
"…my Lord never
errs, nor forgets."
God only performs Godly acts:
Islamic concept of God is that God has power over all things.
The Qur’an says in several places (Al -Qur’an 2:106; 2:109;
2:284; 3:29; 16:77; and 35:1):
"For verily Allah
has power over all things"
Glorious Qur’an says:
"Allah is the
doer of all that He intends."
We must keep in
mind that Allah intends only Godly acts and not ungodly acts.
PHILOSOPHY OF ANTHROPOMORPHISM
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
do’s and don’ts for the machine.
Holy Qur’an is the instruction manual for the human being:
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 Qur’an. The ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’
for the human beings are mentioned in the Qur’an.
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
The more advanced
the machine, greater is the need for its instruction manual. By
the same logic, don’t human beings require an instruction manual
by which to govern their own lives?
Allah chooses Messengers:
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
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
"Deaf, dumb, and
They will not return (to the path)."
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.
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
scriptures are telling their readers that though the things are
made so clear yet many people divert away from the truth.
Attributes of God:
Allah belong the most beautiful names:
"Say: Call upon
Call upon Rahman:
By whatever name you call
Upon Him, (it is well):
For to Him belong
The Most Beautiful Names."
A similar message
regarding the beautiful names of Allah (swt) is repeated in the
Qur’an in Surah Al-A’raf (7:180), in Surah Taha (20:8) and in
Surah Al-Hashr (59:24).
The Qur’an gives
no less than ninety-nine different attributes to Almighty Allah.
The Qur’an 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: "Almighty
One attribute of God should not contradict with other
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
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
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 man’s 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
"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!"
If there were
more than one God, they would have taken away what they created.
The Qur’an says:
"No son did Allah
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!"
existence of one True, Unique, Supreme, Almighty God, is the
only logical concept of God.
Definition and Categories:
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
can be divided into three categories.
2. Tawheed al-Asmaa-was-Sifaat
3. Tawheed al-Ibaadah.
Tawheed ar-Ruboobeeyah (maintaining the unity of Lordship)
The first category is ‘Tawheed ar-Ruboobeeyah’. ‘Ruboobeeyah’
is derived from the root verb "Rabb" meaning Lord,
Sustainer and Cherisher.
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
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
Allah is referred to without giving Him the attributes of His
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
The key principle
when dealing with Allah’s attributes is given in the Qur’an in
"There is nothing
Whatever like unto Him,
And He is the One
That hears and sees (all things)."
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.
God’s 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).
Allah’s 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)
Tawheed al-Ibaadah (maintaining the unity of worship):
Definition and meaning of ‘Ibadaah’:
‘Tawheed 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
Qur’an gives the examples of ‘Mushrikeens’ (idolaters) of
the Prophet’s time who confirmed the first two aspects of
Tawheed. It is mentioned in the Qur’an:
"Say: ‘Who is it
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)?’ "
A similar example
is repeated in Surah Zukhruf of the Glorious Qur’an:
"If thou ask
Created them, they will
Certainly say, ‘Allah’: how
Then are they deluded
Away (from the Truth)?"
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-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
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’:
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."
The same message
is repeated in Surah Al-Nisa’:
(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)."
Shirk leads to hell fire:
The Qur’an says in Surah Ma’idah:
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."
Worship and Obedience to none but Allah:
The Qur’an mentions in Surah Ali-’Imran:
Say: "O people of
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)."
"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."
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 Almighty God.
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
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 collective lives?
I hope and pray
that Allah guides all of us towards the Truth (Aameen).
NOTE on abbreviations
used in the article:
swt = "Subhanahu
Wa T'ala" is an Arabic phrase used with Allah and means "the
Glorious and High"