4. Allah versus God – Essentially Unknowable
Welcome to ‘Exploring Islam’. We are now starting to look at some of the beliefs of Islam and see how they are similar or different to those of Christianity. For this session we shall examine the concept of Allah, which is simply the Arabic word for God and existed before Islam. These words are the same linguistically, but what about the characteristics behind them between the Islamic Allah and the Christian God?
This may seem a rather negative launch point but it is an important concept to realise within Islam. The Qur’an does not reveal Allah rather it shows how people should live in accordance to his will. He is essentially transcendent to all, he is above and beyond everything we do know or could possibly understand.
Qur’an 16:74 – ‘So do not assert similarities to Allah. Indeed, Allah knows and you do not know.’
Humanity’s position in regard to its creator is that of a slave with a master. There is no possibility for a personal relationship like that found in Christianity where the analogy is a divine Father with His children. However, this is not to say that Allah is disinterested in his creation, humanity, or his Muslim followers, far from it.
In fact the Qur’an describes Allah as being exceptionally close:
Qur’an 50:16 – ‘And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein.’
This description of Allah is understood to be more of an awareness of everything that is happening in creation. Allah is all knowing and all powerful, just as Christianity’s God is.
The most significant difference between them is that in orthodox Islam Allah makes no attempt to personally reveal himself or to reach out to humanity in the same way as God does.
In Christianity, God loves his creation to such a degree that he becomes a man in the person of Jesus Christ in order to fully reveal to us his nature (Colossians 2:9), how we are to live, and ultimately provide the route for our forgiveness – Hebrews 1:3 – ‘The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.’
However, just a cursory glance through the Qur’an and you will notice there are many adjectives used to describe Allah and so Muslims are given some concepts which to form their beliefs and service, the 99 names of Allah.