The Conception of God in Islam
Islam likes to contemplate the attributes of Allah through His different and adorable names by which He is invoked. The Holy Quran says: “To God belong the most beautiful names; So call on Him by them.” (Al-Arraf 7: 181).
A whole mass of theological literature exists to explain and classify His names. We often speak of ninety-nine (99) names of Allah, but these names are called differently by different writers so that there are hundreds of names that we can assign to Allah for Allah has any quality under which we want to worship Him. While we humans are limited, He is infinite. While we can only think in part, He is The Whole and He understands much more than we can imagine. We think of His mercy, His love, His wisdom, His glory and His majesty, His justice, His truth and His righteousness, His uniqueness, etc. but in doing so our minds are limited because our knowledge is limited while He knows, understands, hears and exceeds everything. Nothing is equal to Him.
We always think in relative terms such as the first and the last; the visible and the invisible. But in Allah, these opposite qualities meet and we give these same pairs of names to Allah: The First and The Last, The Visible and The Invisible. For us, the contemplation of eternity implies the rejection of two limits; the beginning and the end. Only Allah is eternal and He has neither beginning nor end. We think of Allah in relation to time and space: but time and space are the creations of our mind. Allah is independent of time and space. In reality, He is the Absolute, the Independent and everything depends on Him.
It is generally believed that the emphasis of Islam is on the oneness of Allah, but it must also be said that the emphasis is also on His mercy, kindness and love. The Holy Quran contains 114 Surahs and all except one [i.e. At-Taubah] begins with “In the name of God, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful.”
The attributes of Allah ‘Rahman’ and ‘Rahim’ are names that have no equivalence in any other language and therefore cannot be properly translated [as they are really and truly vast in meaning]. ‘Rahim’ emphasizes the pity that we seek from Allah and that will not be denied from us.
“Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim” is the sentence that a Muslim most often says: at the beginning of prayer [be it Salat & duahs], before reading the Holy Quran, before eating, before travelling, before starting anything of some consequence - sacred [spiritual] or secular [mundane].
So the actions of a Muslim are intimately linked with these sacred words. The insistence on the oneness of Allah is not only a protest against the Trinity or Duality or Polytheism. Islam believes that Allah is one, unique and without equal. A young student of religion once defined God as being all of the abstract qualities of kindness and beauty combined in one abstraction. Some may accept this definition, but for Islam it is a cold and worthless abstraction. Life is always a mystery whether for science, art, poetry and religion.
Let’s see what the Holy Quran says: “Say: He is Allah, the One, Allah, the Eternal, Absolute. He neither begets nor was He begotten. And no one is equal to Him.” (Al-Ikhlaas, Chapter 112)