The Oneness of God
Who is Allah?
Who is Allah?
‘Allah’ is the Arabic term for the One and only Creator of the universe. It is NOT a name for a tribal Arabian God or the God of Muslims. Thus, both Muslim and Christian Arabs refer to God as ‘Allah’ although their concept of God may differ.
Etymology of the word ‘Allah’
Allah ( اللَّه ) is driven from the root ‘Aleha’ (أَلِهَ) to mean ‘worshiped’. Thus, any deity – whether false or true, objects or humans – is called in Arabic ‘Elah’, whereas ‘Allah’ is a distinguished name to refer to the real Creator. The testimony of faith in Islam is expressed in Arabic as (لا إِلهَ إِلَّا اللَّه) ‘La Elaha ellAllah’ (there is no deity worthy of worship but Allah).
It is important to note that as Muslims we do not worship the name of ‘Allah’. Thus, you may refer to the reality of the One and only Creator using any good name: “To Allah belong all the most beautiful names, so call on Him by them.” (The Holy Qur’an 7:180)
However, we believe the term ‘Allah’ expresses the monotheistic concept of the Creator more accurately than the English ‘God’. Literally speaking, unlike ‘god’ there is no plurality for ‘Allah’. Similarly, the term ‘Allah’ is gender free.
Divine Beautiful Names
Although the Divine Names and Attributes are countless, the Almighty God has manifested Himself in the Qur’an with more than 200 divine names, of which 99 Names are known as ‘The Most Beautiful Names’. According to some traditions there is also a divine name that the Almighty Allah has kept to Himself often known as ‘The Greatest Name’. Each divine name introduces one of the attributes of the nature of God. For example, one of the divine names is ‘the Most Gracious’, which means His Grace is universally inclusive and infinite.
Thus Allah introduces Himself
The Almighty Allah has introduced Himself to His holy Prophet (s) in various revelations. The following are only some examples of divine names and attributes as revealed to the Prophet of Islam (s):
1. “Say (O Muhammad), He is Allah, the Unique, the Self-Sufficient to whom eventually all take their needs. He begets not, nor was He begotten. And there is none co-equal or comparable unto Him.” (Q 112:1-4)
2. “He is Allah, the Creator, the Inventor of all things, the Bestower of forms. To Him belong the Best Names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorify Him. And He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.” (Q 59:24)
3. “And when My devotees ask you (O Muhammad) concerning Me, then (answer them), I am indeed Near, I respond to the invocations of the supplicants when they call on Me. So let them obey Me and believe in Me, so that they may be led aright.” (Q 2:186)
4. Allah! (is He Who) there is no (existing) deity but Him, the Ever Living Ever Protecting (all that exists), (Who) no any slumber and (let alone) any kind of sleep overtakes Him. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is he that can intercede with Him except with His Permission? He knows what happens to them (i.e. who intercede, or His creatures) in this world and what will happen to them in the Hereafter. They (who intercede, or His creatures) will never compass anything of His information except that which He wills. His sovereignty and knowledge extends all over the heavens and the earth, and He feels no fatigue in preserving them. He is the Most High, The Most Great.” (Q 2:255)
5. “Proclaim (O Muhammad): O My Slaves who wronged themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah; verily, Allah forgives all sins. Truly He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Q 39:53)
Proofs for the Existence of God
Knowing God or Believing in God
On this page you will find a discussion of the most famous theological proofs for the existence of God. However, one must bear in mind that Islam is not about merely ‘knowing’ God. What Islam requires is ‘belief in God’. Thus, the Quran is promising Paradise for ‘those who believe in God – not those who know God- and do righteous good deeds’. Nonetheless, knowing God is the essential pre-requisite for believing in God.
Possibility of Knowing God
If humankind is absolutely ignorant about something, they cannot acquire any knowledge about it. Hence, man cannot perceive the existence of angels, save through the teachings of religion. The fact that there are debates about the existence of God proves that it is possible for humans to understand His existence. This is because although God is not physical, He has shown Himself to us through numerous physical and intellectual signs.
Why has man been searching for God? Why do we need to know God? What are the motivations for making inquiries about God? In general, there are three motivations for seeking God:
Rational Motive: From primitive man to the man of our age, man has always wondered about the magnificence of the world around him. Intrinsically, he has been interested to find out about the creator of this artistry.
Emotional Motive: As a human, I observe the fascinating life and environment around me. I know I haven’t made them myself. A power inside me, instinctually, is telling me to be grateful to the One who has created this wonderful life for me. In order for me to thank Him I ought to know Him first, and hence, I search for Him.
Instinctual Motive: Instinctual feelings are those feelings that require no reason. A beautiful landscape or a beautiful and fragrant flower is intrinsically admirable to all human beings. This is called the sense of beauty which is one of the instinctual, transcendental human driving forces. The tendency towards religion is one of the most powerful human vitalities. From the Islamic point of view, the mission of the prophets was solely to rub off the dirt of false beliefs and desires. Their mission was not to prove God, for once this dirt is cleansed, the existence of God will be apparent.
Proofs of the Existence of God
In the following, we learn some of the most famous theological proofs for the existence of God. Some of these proofs will be more scientific – such as the proof of order and design – while others more rational – such as the proof of cause and effect. In speaking of the scientific proofs we should underline that we are not speaking of empirical proofs to examine the existence of God in a lab or observatory. God is not physically perceivable and hence science must recognise its limits and its inability to observe God. Science can neither affirm nor deny the existence of God. Having said this, we must say that scientific study of the world enables us -as it has enabled many scientists – to find valid reasons and signs for admitting the existence of God.
Proof of Order
In general, there is an order and a common law prevailing the universe. The whole universe is functioning very systematically. Science is established based on this existing natural law. If modern science is correct in saying that the universe began with a big bang, then had the rate of expansion been even fractionally slower or faster, life would not have been developed. The same precise order can be observed in every organism. Such a magnificent order leads us to the following theorem:
P.1: There is a precise order ruling the world.
P.2: Every precise order needs a precise and wise regulator.
C: The world must have a precise and wise regulator; God.
The Relation Between Order & Knowledge
We can prove the relation between Order and Knowledge in three different ways:
Common Sense: Anyone who has common sense will acknowledge that order is the immediate consequence of wisdom and knowledge, whereas chaos and disorder come from ignorance.
Logical Reason: We may be able to prove this relation by logical reasoning too. A well-ordered building requires seven logical relations:
2/1: the type of material used
2/4: shape and size
2/5: harmony among the parts
2/6: the ratio between the parts
2/7: the due place of each part
3. Probability: This is a mathematical proof. Suppose a letter is to be written by chance. For example, say that we were to calculate the probability of a word which consists of only two letters. Given that the English alphabet consists of 26 letters, the chance of the word IT randomly coming up is 1/676, as a result of 1/26 x 1/26. Now, for a random writing of a word which consists of three letters, the probability drops to 1/17576.
Proof of Design
The proof of design is similar to the proof of order except that it focuses on the fact that the universe is fit for human habitation. There are many ways that the universe might have been. It may have had different laws of physics, and it may have had a different arrangement of planets and stars. The result of each would have not made our life possible. The Quran refers man to observe and appreciate numerous examples of design in the universe: the design in nature, in the human body, in rain, in the perfect social system of ants and honeybees, in the heavens above us and the splendour in the land and in the sea, etc. They are Signs for those who reflect (2:164), those who understand (6:98), those who know (6:97), those who think (13: 3), those who believe (6:99) and those who guard themselves against evil (10:6).
Proof of Movement
It is no doubt that we are living in the world of dynamics. All different types of matter – from the smallest unit to the biggest – are in constant movement. In short, each movement requires at least four things:
From this we conclude the following:
P1. Movement and changing is the property of the world.
P2. Movement needs a Mover.
C:The world has a Mover; God.
Proof of Cause & Effect
Instinctively, when we witness certain happenings we ask ourselves what caused them. While you are reading these sentences, you have no doubt that they are written by someone. This instinct is called the law of cause and effect. How can we not but ask the same question in regard to the total sum of beings and phenomena which we discover in the world? It was by the law of cause and effect that Newton could establish his theory of universal gravity, just from the falling of an apple. The same law is also applied exactly to the huge galaxies. In fact, the law of cause and effect is the basis of all experimental sciences.
The existence of the world of matter can be related to one of the following premises:
The world exists without having any cause.
The world exists for it is the cause for itself.
The world exists because of its effect.
The world exists because of indefinite causes.
The world exists because it is related to an Eternal Being.
The law of order invalidates the first assumption.
The second assumption is also invalid, because in order for something to be the reason for itself, it has to precede itself, which in other words means ‘to be and not to be’.
The third assumption is even more ridiculous than the second one.
The fourth is also invalid because it is impossible to traverse an infinite series of causes and effects, as it is impossible to count down from infinity to zero, starting from ‘infinity minus zero’. Also, modern science has told us about the beginning of the universe. Today the limits and the parameters of the universe are measured. Scientists tell us the definite and consistent age of the universe to be 16+/- 3 billion years. Thus, if there is a past, the universe cannot be infinite. Moreover, modern science has confirmed the fact mentioned in the Quran (51:47) that the universe is expanding. The expanding universe cannot be infinite. Therefore, the last assumption is the only valid one, i.e. the world exists because it is related to an Eternal Being: God.
Who Created God?
Critics of the argument of cause and effect often try to rebut it by asking, “Who created God?” Bertrand Russell in his lecture on ‘Why I am not a Christian’ says if everything must have a cause then God must have a cause too. The answer to his fallacy is that everything that has a beginning to its existence has a cause. The universe has a beginning of its existence, and hence it has a cause.
Proof of Innate
Concepts, ideas, capabilities and knowledge which we have at birth are ‘innate’. The previous proofs were rational while this one is more innate and experimental.
Based on this proof, man innately believes in a Mighty and Perpetual Being who is able to help him or her in the hardships and disasters of life. This is an innate conception of God. Although many examples can be cited proving the innate belief in God, the following are the major ones:
Historical facts: The history of human beings has always coincided with a religious belief. Although this belief has at times been mixed with superstitions, it has never been without a religious belief. This is the best example that believing in a Transcendental Being is innate in humans.
The fourth sense: Modern psychiatrists have divided man’s innate drives into four: the sense of knowing, the sense of beauty, the sense of kindness, and the sense of being religious. Einstein in his article ‘The World as I See it’ which is published in his collection of ‘Ideas & Opinions’ has spoken about this sense of religiousness.
The failure of anti-religious propaganda: The history of mankind has never presented such a harsh attack on religion as it has recorded in the early 20th Century. Marxism was one of the results of this campaign. The expression of Nietzsche in his book ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’ is well known that ‘gott ist tot’; ‘god is dead I myself buried him.’ Instead, it was these theories that were buried into the dustbin of history.
Personal Experience: When catastrophes strike, when man loses all his worldly aid and hope, at the time of absolute desperation, an inner sense of knowing God arises. It is in that moment that man hopes in a supernatural being whose intervention rescues him. The Quran has referred man to this proof in various instances.
Unity of God & His Attributes
Monotheism (Tawheed) and the unity of God is the core of the Islamic faith. The accuracy of all other beliefs and practices in Islam is examined against monotheism. The term used for God in the Quran is ‘Allah’. The Arabic term Allah has no plural, whereas the English word ‘God’ can be pluralised. Thus, Muslims usually prefer to use ‘Allah’ rather than ‘God’ to emphatically point out the unity of God.
Proofs of the Unity of God
One of the best and most simple proofs for the unity of God is the proof of ‘infinite being’ suggested by the Muslim philosopher Mulla Sadra.
P1. God is necessarily infinite.
P2. There is no plurality in an infinite being.
C: Therefore there is no possible plurality in Godhead.
Various Ayaat in the Quran prove the unity of God. For instance, see chapters 6:12-17, 21:22, 23:91, 28:88 and chapter 112.
In explaining the Unity of God,Imam Ali (as) says: “When someone says God is One, it could have four different meanings; two of which are wrong and the other two are correct. If you say: God is one in its numerical sense, then this is wrong, for, there is no second or third for God. Thus, those who said: “He is the third of the three” are blasphemous. Similarly, if one says: “He is one of the people” it is wrong for he has likened God to his creation. Glory be to Allah. The other two correct meanings of the oneness of God is either to say: He is One meaning there is none like unto Him” or to say: “He is One in that He has no divisions whether in external existence or in our mind. Such is our exalted Lord.”
Unity not Trinity
Jesus Christ was an infallible Messenger of Allah insomuch as Moses, Abraham and other Prophets were. He never called to the worship of himself. Nazorean Jewish Christians, who lived in the time of Jesus, knew nothing about the Trinity. Historically, the mysterious term of Trinity was first used in the 2nd century by the Latin theologian Tertullian and its dogma was imposed to the body of the Christian community from the 4th century after the Council of Nicaea. The Dogma of Trinity is a blasphemy. It is also illogical and hence Christians justify it by calling it a mystery which is beyond logic! Islam, whilst acknowledging Jesus Christ (P) as a great and infallible Messenger of God, explicitly condemns the dogma of Trinity.
Scopes of Monotheism
Muslim theologians have mentioned four dimensions for Monotheism.
Monotheism of Essence: This means that God in His very Essence is unique and peerless. There is none like unto Him and He has no partner.
Monotheism of Attributes: This means the attributes of God such as knowledge, might, life, etc are not distinct from His essence.
Monotheism of Worshipping: This means none other than Allah is worthy of worship. \
Monotheism of Acts: This means all that happens in the universe – including man’s actions – is eventually the act of God and is in accordance to His will. We will touch on this further when we discuss the Justice of God.
Divine Names and Attributes
Islam encourages humans to ponder on the creation of God and His attributes. God is unlimited and hence it is impossible for a limited being to comprehend the Essence of God. Thus, Muslim theologians discuss the Names and the Attributes of God rather than His Essence.
Discussions about the Divine Names and Attributes are among the most important yet complicated theological discussions in Islamic theology, philosophy and ‘Irfan (mysticism). Thus, various opinions and theological sects have emerged.
The two main fundamental principles when discussing the Attributes of God is that God is:
1) Transcendent (beyond description; Tanzih) and hence none is like unto Him (no Tashbeeh).
2) Suspension (Ta’teel) of knowing the Divine Attributes is not permitted.
The noble Quran in various chapters states that all the Beautiful Names belong only to Allah. The Beautiful Names of Allah are numerous and they all belong to Him, the Almighty. Nonetheless, several Prophetic traditions state that the Names of Allah are 99 Names and whoever counts them (believingly) shall be admitted into Paradise.
The Divine Attributes are classified into two categories:
1) the Attributes of Essence
2) the Attributes of Acts
The Attributes of Essence are also divided into:
1a) Attributes of Beauty or affirmative Attributes – such as the Attributes of knowledge, might and life
1b) Attributes of Glory or the negating Attributes – from which we exalt God (e.g. ignorance, inability, physical, component, visible, occupying time or space, needy, changing and any other insufficiency).
The Attributes of Acts are Attributes that are related to God once His action takes place, such as the Creator and the Sustainer. All Divine Attributes stem from five major ones: Unity, Knowledge, Might, Perpetuity (without beginning; Azali) and Endlessness (Abadi).
His Attributes are not distinct from His Essence
As mentioned earlier, the division of the Divine Attributes does not mean God is a compound of different attributes and characters. Glory be to Allah. The above divisions are solely for us to understand the different aspects of God’s Unique and Simple Essence with our limited minds.
Is God Visible?
Shi’a Muslim theologians agree unanimously that our vision can only grasp objects that are physical, stand within our sights, have color and upon which light can reflect. The Almighty Allah is beyond all of these and hence it is impossible to be physically seen whether in this world or the hereafter. The ambiguous Ayaat of the Qur’an which may seem to indicate that God is visible must be interpreted in light of the established Ayaat such as: “No vision can grasp Him, but He grasps all vision.” [6:103] Also see the Holy Quran: 7:143, 4:153, 25:21. The narrations about seeing God as bright as the full moon and similar narrations are all fabricated and without a real basis. The Imams of the Ahlul Bayt (a.s) have explicitly and unambiguously denounced the dogma of seeing God whether in this or in the hereafter. They have however, confirmed that God is visible both in here and in the hereafter by the reality of faith and certainty of heart.