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)
The whole universe is creation [the creation of Allah]. However, man has a special position because he is the representative of God on earth: “Khalifa” (Al-Baqara 2: 31). The spiritual nature of man is a blessing from Allah and then man is above the barriers of race or language or any other difference and thus the brotherhood of Islam becomes a practical concept, concept that was recommended by the Holy Prophet (pbuh).
In sublime verses from the Holy Quran (Al-Baqara, 2:256) the majesty and greatness of the attributes of Allah are thus referred: “Allah: there is no god but Him, the Ever Living, the Ever Watchful. Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. All that is in the heavens and in the earth belongs to Him. Who is there that can intercede with Him except by His leave? He knows what is before them and what is behind them, but they do not comprehend any of His knowledge except what He wills. His throne extends over the heavens and the earth; it does not weary Him to preserve them both. He is the Most High, the Tremendous.” (Al-Baqara, 2: 256)
Allah is eternal and not an abstraction. He is independent while all creation depends on Him. As everything is exhausted and disappear, He alone [Allah] remains eternal. He has or need neither rest nor sleep, because He is existence and the absolute.
Man can take lawyers and intercessors in this world to defend him, but who is big enough to come before Allah without His mercy and forgiveness? [Nobody!!!]
No intercession or lawyer is necessary because His knowledge surpasses everything. The concept of time and space is applicable for His creatures and not for Him. He is everywhere at the same time and although the whole universe depends on Him, He requires no effort or pain. If we consider majesty in terms of space, His is the highest [Allah is Highest as well as His Majesty].
According to our conceptions of morality, we think of Allah as The Good (Barr), The Truth (Haqq), The Generous (Karim) - the opposite of a miser. Goodness cannot be measured by relative qualities or by reference to a person or a benefit that has increased and poured over the one who does good. It is absolute goodness, which is measured by the permanent profits that are paid to those who are destined for it according to the great plan of Allah. The truth in our lives is not just the probability, the weight of the evidence, and finding something based on our concepts of truth. The truth of Allah is absolute. It does not depend on the evidence or the probability. Allah is the absolute reality, and it is only Him who deserves this name.
Peace is spiritually associated with Islam because it is based on the basic concept of social and individual life. The first greeting that the “fortunate ones” will receive in paradise will be “peace”. Islam is a religion of peace; not an external peace, because it can conflict (or fight) with evil on the outside, but an internal peace, peace in the soul where all the inconsistencies are removed and where pain, sorrow and disappointment disappear.
The only firm and unalterable support is our eternal hope in Allah. His kindness is limitless. His kindness exceeds our needs. Very often we want things that are harmful to ourselves and we are not aware of the things that our spiritual nature demands. The goodness of Allah comes without being asked for and it comes to us in abundance.
The Holy Quran says: “He is Allah, other than whom there is no deity, the Sovereign, the Pure, the Perfection, the Bestower of Faith, the Overseer, the Exalted in Might, the Compeller, the Superior. Exalted is Allah above whatever they associate with Him. He is Allah: the Creator, the Originator, the Shaper. The best names belong to Him. Everything in the heavens and earth glorifies Him: He is the Almighty, the Wise.” (Al-Hashr, 59: 24-25).
Allah - All the magnificent names belong to Him. He is our Protector and our Hope. As His attributes are vast and eternal, it is difficult for anyone to pinpoint all of these infinite qualities, but Insha-Allah, by His guidance, I will make a humble effort to explain it to you in my next sermons. May Allah give me the grace and the power to do so, so that you, His servants can understand His attributes and approach Him through the remembrance of His attributes. Insha-Allah, Ameen.
---Friday Sermon of 14 February 2020~ 19 Jamadi’ul Aakhir 1441 AH delivered by Imam- Jamaat Ul Sahih Al Islam Hadhrat Khalifatullah Munir A. Azim (atba) of Mauritius.