Allah – 101: An Introduction to God

  قُلِ ادْعُوا اللَّهَ أَوِ ادْعُوا الرَّحْمَنَ أَيًّا مَا تَدْعُوا فَلَهُ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَى – الإسراء, القران

Call Him Allah or call Him The (Outrageously) Merciful; for whichever way you call – (know) – to Him belong only the beautiful names!

I begin with the name of Allah, the supreme and sublime in mercy.

Allah is the name of God in Islam. To correctly pronounce it, the word should have been written as ‘Allaah’ in English. But since I’m no linguist, so may be, the Anglicized version demanded this spelling. Moreover, English is a language in which phonetics and not the spellings, declare the correct pronunciation of any word. Allah is written as الله in Arabic. It is used, pretty much, as a Proper Noun for God. But just like Yahweh, i.e. name given to God in Mosaic tradition, the absolutely assured meaning of the word hasn’t trickled down to us, or so is my perception. It seems to be a portmanteau or a contraction of the two words ال and إله, meaning ‘The’ and ‘god’ respectively, thus God. The syntax of the word, by itself, claims to negate the possibility of any other god. This has been achieved by fusing ال and إله together in an inseparable form.

Islam is insistent that Allah is the only true God. It is also insistent that He is the same one called upon by Jews and Christians as Yahweh. He is the one whom all the Prophets mentioned in the Bible called upon; and all those not mentioned. He is the one whom people through the ages have called by different names. In the verse cited above, Allah Himself endorses that He may be called upon by any name, in any language. The only condition is that the name should not have any smidgen of contamination in it. So if one is not comfortable with the name Allah, or any other Arabic versions of His names, please know that one can and should call Him by any name that one feels comfortable with.

Allah has stated at many places in the Holy Quran, and the Bible, that He knows that ‘some’ people do not believe in Him. And ‘many’, although believe in Him, but believe in others alongside Him. But according to Him, whether people believe in Him or not, they obey Him or not, they pray to Him or not – He is the only One True Deity. All the prayers, may that they have been directed towards any other false deities – get automatically routed to Him. To introduce Him, I shall resort to His own words. When people asked His last messenger Muhammad, as we Muslims believe, as to who Allah was, instead of narrating lengthy stories, He replied in 4 short sentences:

قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ  اللَّهُ الصَّمَدُ  لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ  وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ  – الإخلاص, القران

Say! He, Allah, is one – Allah is the refuge – He begetteth not nor is He begotten – and neither hath He equal, any . (112, Quran)

Scholars have known to call this chapter as the definition of God. But His reply is more of a remark, rather than a definition. Definition or Remark – what is obvious is that every single word is exuding pride and oozing with confidence. I mean, He seems more focused on debunking some prevalent misconceptions, rather than giving some new information. Out of 4 sentences, 2 are merely negations. And the only 2 that may be taken as some sort of a definition, are uttered in a manner as if they are already known by the questioner. And if you ponder more closely, they are also, in fact, negations. One negates the possibility of any other of His kind, while the other quells the doubt that had historically risen from the first one, that is, He, despite of His Singularity and Haughtiness, is the ‘One’ offering sanctuary to every creation; His exalted stature is not to be mistaken for ‘Distance’. To actually admire the literary beauty with which all this has been spelt out, one needs to be a maven in Arabic literature. Emulation in any other language is not possible. However, I’ve made an effort to translate it with some literary essence intact.

Allah, therefore, is no new God. So when you hear that muslims believe in Allah as their God, please understand that by Allah we mean the same God who’s the creator of the Heavens and the Earth. We believe in the same God as did Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus (عليهم السلام – which means ‘Peace unto all of them’). We believe in the same one that our last messenger, Muhammad (صل الله عليه و سلم – which means ‘May Allah increase his closeness unto Him, and peace upon him’) instructed us to worship. But if still someone wants to know, how a human is supposed to recognize Him – Abraham and Moses have introduced Him in the most lovely and succinct manner, respectively.

Starting with Moses (عليه السلام), who whence approached Pharaoh for the first time after his appointment. And after some initial back and forth, Pharaoh addressed Moses and……

قَالَ فِرْعَوْنُ وَمَا رَبُّ الْعَالَمِينَ – قَالَ رَبُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُوقِنِينَ – قَالَ لِمَنْ حَوْلَهُ أَلَا تَسْتَمِعُونَ – قَالَ رَبُّكُمْ وَرَبُّ آَبَائِكُمُ الْأَوَّلِينَ – قَالَ إِنَّ رَسُولَكُمُ الَّذِي أُرْسِلَ إِلَيْكُمْ لَمَجْنُونٌ – قَالَ رَبُّ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ – قَالَ لَئِنِ اتَّخَذْتَ إِلَهًا غَيْرِي لَأَجْعَلَنَّكَ مِنَ الْمَسْجُونِينَ

Pharaoh said, “(Ok then,) So what is (this Lord you’re referring as) Lord of the Worlds!”. He (Moses) said, “Lord of the Heavens and the Earth and whatever is betwixt them (who else?)- if ye but are indeed certain!” He (Pharaoh) said unto those around him, “Aren’t but ye all listening!” He (Moses) said, “Your Lord and the Lord of all your forefathers!” He (Pharaoh) said, “Truly, your apostle, who has been sent to you, is a veritable madman!” He (Moses) said, “Lord of the East and the West and whatever is betwixt them – if ye but are indeed sane!” He (Pharaoh) said, “If thou dost put forward any god other than me, I will certainly put thee in prison!”…… (The Poets, Surah 26, Verses: 23-29)

And when Abraham (عليه السلام) addresses his father and ‘country men’ in order to separate his Lord from theirs, saying:

قَالَ أَفَرَأَيْتُمْ مَا كُنْتُمْ تَعْبُدُونَ – أَنْتُمْ وَآَبَاؤُكُمُ الْأَقْدَمُونَ – فَإِنَّهُمْ عَدُوٌّ لِي إِلَّا رَبَّ الْعَالَمِينَ – الَّذِي خَلَقَنِي فَهُوَ يَهْدِينِ – وَالَّذِي هُوَ يُطْعِمُنِي وَيَسْقِينِ – وَإِذَا مَرِضْتُ فَهُوَ يَشْفِينِ – وَالَّذِي يُمِيتُنِي ثُمَّ يُحْيِينِ – وَالَّذِي أَطْمَعُ أَنْ يَغْفِرَ لِي خَطِيئَتِي يَوْمَ الدِّينِ – رَبِّ هَبْ لِي حُكْمًا وَأَلْحِقْنِي بِالصَّالِحِينَ – وَاجْعَلْ لِي لِسَانَ صِدْقٍ فِي الْآَخِرِينَ – وَاجْعَلْنِي مِنْ وَرَثَةِ جَنَّةِ النَّعِيمِ – وَاغْفِرْ لِأَبِي إِنَّهُ كَانَ مِنَ الضَّالِّينَ – وَلَا تُخْزِنِي يَوْمَ يُبْعَثُونَ – يَوْمَ لَا يَنْفَعُ مَالٌ وَلَا بَنُونَ – إِلَّا مَنْ أَتَى اللَّهَ بِقَلْبٍ سَلِيمٍ

He said: “Have ye then seen those whom ye have been worshiping – ye and your preceding forefathers? For verily, they are enemies to me; except Lord of the Worlds – one who created me, then guides me, He! – and He who feeds and gives to drink, me! – and when i am ill, it is He who cures me! – and who shall cause to die, and then raise to live, me! – and He who I greed shall forgive my faults the day of reckoning – Lord! bestow wisdom to me and join with the righteous, me! – and leave an honorable mention among the posterity for me!- and make from among the inheritors of garden of all blessings, me! – and forgive my father; verily from among those astray is he! – and the day of resurrection, disgrace not me! – Day, that neither wealth nor sons shall benefit – but only who bringeth to Allah a sound heart”……(The Poets, Surah 26, Verses: 75-89)

I think these introductions by two of the greatest Prophets of Allah are enough to whet your senses, as far as this post is concerned. Please do check out other posts in this category, i.e. Allah.


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