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J. Kashi


Allāh is the Arabic term used in the Quran to denote the God of monotheistic belief. The most basis tenet in Islam is the declaration of divine unity (tawḥīd) together with its primary implication: God alone must be worshipped to the exclusion of any other supposed deities.

God in the Quran

The Quranic worldview is one on which God is the centre of all, God of both heaven and earth (43:48); all things are the product of His creative act (khalq) and all affairs regulated by His command (amr) (7:54). At the heart of Quranic teachings about God is the insistence on the principle of absolute monotheism, such that any type of belief posting more than one deity is rejected in the strongest terms. The prevailing tone of the Quran may be said to be one of strict monotheism and rejection of false gods. Moreover the idea that God may ‘beget or be begotten’ is strongly denied (112:3), criticism being directed in particular at the beliefs in the concept of Jesus as the son of God (5:116).

All things in the heavens and the earth submit, willingly or otherwise, to His command (3:83). According to the Quran, man’s ability to know God is dependent on knowledge of His signs (āyāt), given that it is impossible to know God directly; He is unlike anything man knows (42:11) and above all description (6:100). Even human free will is dependent upon God’s will to carry out any act (81:29). The Quran says that whoever approaches God with a pure heart can know Him, but whoever suffers from blindness of heart cannot know Him (see 2:7, 10; 26:89; 37:84). The Quran describes God as being the light of the heavens and the earth (24:35), without indicating the nature of this light. It’s humans’ experience of the natural realm they use to compare God to light which illuminates all things in the world (reference to other verses clarifies this comparison). In drawing near to God, man leaves darkness and enters into light; in moving away from God, man leaves the light and enters darkness (see 2:257; 5:16). This inborn human disposition to seek God is by Muslims called the fiṭra, following verse 30:30.

The Quran’s theological concerns centre on providing religious guidance to the God-fearing (2:2), not on providing a philosophical analysis of God’s nature, attributes or actions. An examination of Quranic verses on the subject indicates that the primary concern is to establish the nature of God in relation to man; references to God as He is in Himself are limited to a few allusions. Nor is the Quran concerned to provide proofs for God’s existence (i.e. ontology), its point of departure is instead epistemological, that is, the knowledge of God.

Generally speaking, the most common Quranic symbol for divine-human relationship is that of servanthood (‘ūbudiyya). Human beings are described as God’s servants (‘ibād Allāh), where the ideal human behaviour is being that of servitude (‘ibāda) toward God. This principle is embodied in the following verse I have not created jinn and mankind except to serve Me (51:56). More specifically, the Quranic image for the divine-human relationship is that of man as God’s vicegerent (khalīfa) on earth. Mankind is distinguished from both jinn and angles by being designated ‘khalīfat Allāh’ (2:30). Although not all mankind attain this status, a number of privileged individuals have been chosen to hold this office (38:26). This relationship has been stated clearly in the verse God has promised those of you who believe and do righteous deeds that He will surely make you successors in the land (6:156).

The names of God in the Quran

The names of God have a fundamental connection with the monotheistic worldview of the religion of Islam. According to the verses ‘He said, “O Adam, tell them their names”’ (2:31) and ‘He taught Adam the names of all things’ (2:31). God first taught the names to Adam, and He enlightened him with all the sciences, which are derived from the names, and it was because of knowing the names that he was elevated even over the angles. At four different instances the Quran clearly states that God possesses the most excellent names, which is expressed by the phrase ‘li’llāhi al-asmā’ al-ḥusnā’ (see 7:180, 17:110, 20:8, 59:24), and in various places highlights the relationship between the names and the Named (asmā’ and musammā).

God’s name is invoked as a formula of consecration for all legitimate activities. It is uttered to sanctify the work being undertaken, and to seek divine assistance and blessings. In a verse in the Quran, the unbelievers are described as ‘those who profane the names of God’ (7:180), indicating that faith in God’s most excellent names is considered to be a requisite for professing His unity (tawḥīd). Those which are known in the Quran as the most beautiful names (al-asmā’ al-ḥusnā) refer to Allāh and al-Raḥmān (the Compassionate), and names referring to particular qualities of God, such as the King (al-Malik), the Most Holy (al-Quddūs), the source of Peace (al-Salām), the Protector (al-Mu’min), the Guardian (al-Muhaymin), the Mighty (al-‘Azīz), the Omnipotent (al-Jabbār), the Exalted (al-Mutakabbir), the Creator (al-Khāliq), the Maker (al-Bāri’), and the Fashioner (al-Muṣawwir) (59:23-4), which in terminology of theologians are also called attributes (ṣifāt).

The Quran most frequently describes God using the two names al-Raḥmān (the Compassionate) and al-Raḥīm (the Merciful). While descriptions expressive of divine wrath, such as ‘the most terrible chastisement’ (ashadd al-‘adhāb) (2:85; 40:46), occurs often, descriptions expressive of divine mercy and compassion are far more numerous.