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The Word for God in the Arabic language is ‘Allah.’ To Muslims, Allah is not just their God, but He is the Lord of the entire universe. One of the greatest misconceptions about Islam has to do with the Arabic name of God. Some non-Muslims assume that ‘Allah’ is a God other than the God of Judaism or Christianity. Interestingly, Arabic speaking Jews and Christians use the word ‘Allah’ to refer to God. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all believe in the same Creator and their roots go back to Prophet Abraham.
‘We believe in God, And what has been sent down to us,What has been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael, And Isaac and Jacob and their offspring, And what was given to Moses and to Jesus, And all other prophets by the Lord.We make no distinction among them.’
While they believe in the same God, how they think of God differs greatly. For example, Christians believe that God has a son, whereas Islam teaches that God does not have any children.
‘The disbelievers say, ‘The Lord of Mercy has a son.’ This is certainly a monstrous lie! It almost causes the heavens to be torn apart, the earth to split asunder, the mountains to crumble to pieces, That they attribute offspring to the Lord of Mercy. It does not befit the Lord of Mercy to have a son: There is no one in the heavens or earth who will not come to the Lord of Mercy as a servant.’
Arabic does not have an equivalent of ‘it.’ Therefore, in Arabic, God is referred to in the masculine form “He” or the royal plural “We.” These words have to do with the limits of human language. In Islam, Allah is neither male nor female, but the Creator of both genders.
In Islam, faith in God consists of four matters:
(1) God exists
(2) God is the Supreme Lord
(3) Only God must be worshipped
(4) We know God by His Most Beautiful Names and Attributes
God is real and His existence is true. God’s existence is recognized by the innate nature of every human being. From a castle one learns of the castle-maker, from the universe one learns of its Creator. God’s existence is also known by answers to prayers, miracles of prophets and the books God revealed. Neither is God part of His creation, nor does He dwell in it. He is separate and above what He has created.
2 . God is the Supreme Lord
God is the sole Lord and Ruler of the world. He has no sons or wife. He does not sleep or get tired. He is unique, everlasting, powerful, and eternal.
God is the ‘Lord’ means that He is the Creator, Controller, and Owner of the universe. God is the King and the Savior, a Living God, a Loving God, full of wisdom. The kingdom of the heavens and the earth belong exclusively to Him. Angels, prophets, and human beings are under His control.
“Is He not closer than the vein of your neck? You need not raise your voice, For he knows the secret whisper, And what is yet more hidden. . .He knows what is in the land and in the sea; No leaf falls but He knows it; Nor is there a grain in the darkness under the earth, Nor a thing, green or dry, but it is recorded.”
(Quran 6:12, 59)
God is also the ‘Ruler’ of human beings. Just like the physical world submits to its Lord, human beings must submit to the teaching of their Lord. God distinguishes right from wrong. God alone has the authority to determine acts of worship and set standards of human behavior.
3.Only God must be worshipped
The most fundamental teaching and core of Islam and the purpose of our creation is to worship and serve God. God must be worshipped by one’s heart and limbs. No one can be worshipped apart from Him, no one can be worshipped with Him. He has no son, daughter, helper, partner or associate in worship. Worship, in its comprehensive sense, is for God alone. A person becomes Muslim by testifying to God’s right to be worshipped.
It was the central message of all prophets of God. Moses declared, "Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord."5 Jesus repeated the same message when he said,
"The first of all the commandments is, ‘Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord.’"6 Finally, the call of Muhammad some 600 years after Jesus was, "And your God is One God: there is no god but He…"
4 .We know God by His Most Beautiful Names and Attributes
We cannot see God in this life and Islam does not allow making statues or pictures of God. So, how do we know Him? We know God by His Names and Attributes that describe Him. More than ninety-nine beautiful Names and many more Attributes come to us from the Quran and the teachings of His Prophet, Muhammad.
"And the Most Beautiful Names belong to God, so call on Him by them."
We will give example of two Names of God and one attribute. Two of the most frequently used Names of God are, "the Most Merciful." (ar-Rahman in Arabic) ad "the Most Compassionate" (ar-Raheem in Arabic). All chapters of the Quran (the Muslim scripture), except one, begin with the phrase, "I begin in the Name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate." Muslims utter this phrase to remind themselves of God’s loving grace and mercy every time they eat, drink, write a letter, or perform anything important.
One of the most beautiful attributes of God is forgiveness which defines His relationship with human beings. Human beings are weak and prone to sin, but God is willing to forgive.The Prophet Muhammad said,
"God’s mercy outweighs His wrath."
In Islam, there is no concept of original sin, children are born innocent and sinless, and you do not confess sins to any middlemen. The faith teaches that you go directly to God, acknowledge your weakness, and ask for His forgiveness. How do you do that? Here is a beautiful example – a prayer for forgiveness taught by Prophet Muhammad,
“O Allah, You are my Lord, there is none worthy of worship except You. You created me and I am Your servant. I adhere to Your covenant and Your promise as much as I am able to. I seek protection with You from the evil of what I have done. I admit to You your blessings on me and I admit to my sins. So forgive me, for there is no one who can forgive sins except You.’
The Last Day
One thing is certain in this life, and that is death. Not only does Islam explain what the purpose of life is, but it also speaks clearly about life after death and how this life and the next one are related. Our duration on this earth is short and temporary. The end of this life is the beginning of another one that will last forever. That is why it is called the ‘Last Day.’ The universe will come to an end on that day. Everything will be annihilated. The Quran describes the Day of Resurrection as follows:
“When the sky bursts open, When planets are dispersed, When the seas spill forth, When graves are turned over, Then each soul will know what it sent forward and what it left behind.”
Everyone will stand to be judged by a Fair, Just, and Merciful God about the choices they made in this life. Those who were good will be admitted into Paradise. Those who rejected faith and did evil, will be punished in Hell.
Why a Judgment Day?
Over one quarter of the Quran deals with the next life. That is understandable because for the Muslim, the real life is yet to come. Islamic stress on the life to come does not dismiss participation in affairs of this life, neither does it encourage a life of self-denial. Islam is against today’s materialism that chokes the spirit, but it is also against withdrawal from society.
To understand the reasoning behind a Judgment Day, we have to remember our purpose of life. We are here to be tested by God in our belief and actions. Through this test, we try to develop ourselves and raise our soul to the highest level of purity. We accomplish this through belief in God, seeking His guidance through Books He revealed and following the example of prophets He send, and living a life devoted to good deeds and seeking repentance when we fall short. Therefore, the logical conclusion is that there must be an end to this test and that each of us will receive our grade eventually.
Judgment is necessary. The idea that truly evil people in this world can escape punishment simply by dying is unimaginable. Can Adolph Hitler escape retribution? Think of all the abused children, war-crimes, mistreated animals, thefts, and rapes. The view of life which says we are all just intelligent animals who live only once, is an open license for irresponsible behavior. To them, you live only once and if you can get away with your crimes, so be it. Islam contends that it is not consistent with God's perfect Justice that all people be treated the same.
“On that Day will men proceed in groups sorted out, To be shown the deeds that they had done. Then shall anyone who has done an atom's weight of good, see it! And anyone who has done an atom's weight of evil shall see it.”
Every single soul that ever lived will be brought back to life for final judgment. Judgment Day will manifest divine grace and justice in their perfection. The rules of engagement have been clearly laid down in the Quran and by the Prophet of Islam:
(1) Perfect Justice
God will judge between people with perfect justice. God’s court will not discriminate based on race, color, sex, or mere verbal affiliation to a religion. No person will be treated unjustly, even as little as a ‘seed,’
‘Then every soul will be compensated for what it earned, And they will not be treated unjustly.’
(2) Each On His Own
God’s justice will judge everyone individually, no one will bear the sins of the other.
‘And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. Then to your Lord is your return, And He will inform you concerning that over which you used to differ.’
(3) Written Records
People will be handed their personal “diary” containing all their deeds, the good and the bad.
‘And the record [of deeds] will be placed [open], And you will see the criminals fearful of that within it, And they will say, "Oh, woe to us! What is this book that leaves nothing small or great except that it has enumerated it?"And they will find what they did present [before them]. And your Lord does injustice to no one.’
(4) Divine Grace
The Prophet of Islam informed us,
‘God Almighty has divided mercy into one hundred parts. He kept ninety-nine parts and sent down one part to earth. Because of that one single part, creatures are merciful to one another so that even the mare will lift its hooves away from its foal so that it does not trample on it.’
Paradise is not God’s residence or a spiritual state of everlasting communion with God as some think. The Quran describes it as a beautiful and wonderful place that awaits those who believe in God, His prophets, and do righteous good deeds. Paradise is a spiritual and sensual residence of pleasure in which all one’s senses will be gratified to the fullest. It is an abode of manifold enjoyments for the faithful, its dwellers will not feel the least pain or sadness, where every aspiration will be finally realized. It is a place of peace, with rivers and fruits, sweet smells, goblets of gold, and the shade of God Himself. The Quran tells us that the joys of Paradise are beyond our comprehension:
“No person knows what delights of the eye Are kept hidden in reserve for them, As a reward for their good deeds.”
Both men and women will live in Paradise.
“God has promised to believers, men and women, Gardens underneath which rivers flow, To dwell therein, And beautiful mansions in Gardens everlasting. But the greatest bliss is the good pleasure of God; That is the supreme felicity.”
The people of the Garden will be happy and experience true inner peace.
“The righteous will be amid gardens and fountains. Their greeting will be, ‘Enter here, in peace and security.’ And We shall remove from their hearts any lurking sense of grudge. They will be like brothers, Joyfully facing each other on thrones. There, no sense of fatigue shall touch them, Nor shall they ever be asked to leave.”
Just as the good will be rewarded for their efforts, those who rejected God and rebelled against His laws will face punishment in the life to come. The Fire of Hell is described to serve as a warning about the consequences of the choices people make in life. In Islam, Hell is depicted as a fierce fire that will burn and punish those who are caged in it. It is a place of intense heat and suffering, with boiling water, hot wind, and black smoke. In Hell people are burned and dragged in chains. They are given boiling water to drink and thorny plants to eat. There is no relief for the punished.
“So taste the results of your evil; No increase shall We give you,Except in torment.”
The only people who will be eternally punished in Hell without escape are those who disbelieve in God and associate others with Him in their worship. The Quran says,
“But those who reject God, for them will be the Fire of Hell. No term shall be appointed for them, So they should die, Nor shall its punishment be lightened for them. Thus do We reward every ungrateful one!”
Those who believe in God may spend some time in Hell for sins they fell into during their lives. Sins such as arrogance, pride, murder, lying, oppression, immorality, slander, and miserliness may be punished if they are not repented for before death. Similarly, one may be punished for being neglectful of duties owed to God.
Despite the graphic images of Hell, the overwhelming message of Islam is of God’s Mercy and Compassion as the Prophet of Mercy stated,
‘When God decreed the creation He pledged Himself by writing in His book which is laid down with Him: My mercy prevails over My wrath.’