THE ORIGIN AND NATURE OF MUSLIM BELIEFS
The rules which Muslims obey (for example the type of food they eat) are derived from either the Quran (the Muslim Holy Book, the parallel of the Bible in Christianity), or from the Sunnah (lit, info. ‘heard’ from the Prophet Muhammed (May the Peace of God be upon him) ).
(i) The Quran is respected by Muslims so much that it is obeyed completely In all sorts of matters, whether religious (for example, the ZAKAT, or poor due), or social (for example, respect for parents), or legal (for example, divorce). This will become more clear in the next chapter, which contains details of Muslim practices. The Quran is considered as having been written by God and transmitted to the Prophet Muhammed (May the Peace of God be upon him) by the Archangel Gabriel, through revelation, over a total period of 20 years.
(ii) The Sunnah The things heard from the Prophet Muhammed (May the Peace of God be upon him) are called ‘traditions’ (Hadith). They cover an extremely wide range of subjects, and give instructions and advice which is not found in the Quran. The Hadith have been preserved by scholars since the beginning of the Prophet’s message but, even so, some are considered to be more sound (stronger In authenticity) than others It is the usual practice, when citing a Hadith, to give the name of the scholar who reported it.
I now wish to discuss the notion of ‘God’ which Muslims hold, and in doing so I will be using evidence from the above two sources.
EXTRACTS FROM THE QURAN
Anyone who wishes to consult a commentary on these and other verses of the Quran, please see: Yusuf Ali — "The Holy Quaran: text, translation and commentary", Islamic Foundation.
A. God (Allah) Is the Light of the heavens and the Earth
God is the Light of the heavens and the earth;
the likeness of His Light is as a niche
wherein is a lamp
(the lamp in a glass,
the glass as it were a glittering star)
kindled f.rom a Blessed Tree,
an olive that is neither of the East nor the West
whose oil welinigh would shine, even if no fire touched it;
Light upon Light;
God guides to this Light whom He will.
B. God is Invisible
No vision can grasp Him,
But His grasp is over
All vision; He is
Above all comprehension,
Yet is acquainted with all things.
C. God is present everywhere and knows everything
To God belong the East and the West,
whithersoever you turn, there is the Face of God;
God is All-Pervading, All-Knowing.
D. God is the Cherisher
Say: "Shall I seek
For (my) Cherisher
Other than God,
When He is the Cherisher
of all things (that exist)?
E. God is the Guardian-Lord
O ye people!
Adore your Guardian-Lord,
Who created you
And those who ëarne before you,
That ye way have the chance
To learn righteousness;
Who has made the earth your couch,
And the heavens your canopy,
And sent down rain from the heavens;
And brought forth therewith
Fruits for your sustenance,
Then set not up rivals unto God
When ye know (the truth).
F. God is the Protector
God is the Protector
Of those who have faith:
From the depths of darkness
He will lead them forth
G. God is the Helper
Surely We shall help Our Messengers
And those who have believed, in the
Present life, and upon the Day when
The Witnesses shall arise,
Upon the Day when their excuses
shall not profit the evil doers,
And theirs shall be tie curse,
And theirs the evil abode.
H. God Creates and Sustains all
Say: "Who is the Lord and Sustainer
of the heavens and the earth?"
Say: "(It is) Gods.
Say: "Do ye then take (for worship) protectors other
Than Him, such as have
No power either for good
Or for harm to themselves?
Say: "Are the blind and the seeing man
equal, or are the shadows and the light equal?
Or do they assign to God,
Partners who created as He. created,
so that the creation is all alike to them?"
Say: God is the Creator
Of all things, He is
The One, the Supreme and Irresistible.
I. God is Forgiving
Tell My servants
That I am indeed
J. God’s Bounties are open to all
Of the bounties* of thy Lord
We bestow freely on all —These as well as those:
The bounties of Thy Lord
Are not closed (to anyone).
See how We have bestowed
More on some than on others;
But verily the thereafter
Is more in rank and gradation
And more in excellence.
* e.g. iron deposits/gold/silver/fruit/ wheat/fish/sheep/etc.
K. God is the Guide
Say: "Shall we indeed
Call on others besides God —Things that can do us
Neither good nor harm -
And turn on our heels
After receiving guidance
From God? - like one
Whom the evil ones
Have made into a fool,
Through the earth, his friends
Calling ‘Come to us’,
(Vainly) guiding him to the Path".
Say: "God’s guidance *
Is the (only) guidance,
And we have been directed
To submit ourselves
To the Lord of the Worlds:
* Guidance to the right path, i.e. to believe in Him and in the Hereafter.
L. God gives Life and Death
It is God,
That gives Life and Death
And God sees well
All that ye do.
M. God is One, not one In a Trinity
They do blaspheme* who say:
"God is Christ the son
Of Mary". But said Christ:
"0 children of Israel’.
Worship God, my Lord
And your Lord". Whoever
Joins other gods with God -
God will forbid him
The Garden, and the Fire
Will be his abode. There will
For the wrong-doers
Be no—one to help.
They do blaspheme who say:
God is one of three
In a Trinity: for there is
No god except One God,
If they desist not
From their word (of blasphemy)
Verily a grievous penalty
Will befall the blasphemers
* In this case "telling lies about God"
N. God is the Best Disposer of affairs
(God is) Lord of the East
And the West: there Is
No god but He:
Take Him therefore
For (thy) Disposer of Affairs*
* The Implication here Is that man should pray to God and ask for things from Him, since He is able to do All Things. Elsewhere In the Quran is stated: "God Is sufficient as friend and God is sufficient as Helper".
0. God is the Most High, the Great
Glorify the name
of thy Guardian Lord
Who hath created,
And further given
Order and proportion;
Who hath ordained laws.
P. God is the Doer of all He intends
Truly strong is the Grip
(And Power) of thy Lord,
It Is He who creates
From the very beginning
And He can restore (life).
And He is the Oft-Forgiving,
Full of loving—kindness,
Lord of the Throne of Glory,
Doer (without let)
Of all that He intends.
Q. God is the Self-Sufficient
Thy Lord is Self~Sufficient*,
Full of Mercy: if it were
His Will, He could destroy
You, and in your place
Appoint whom He will
As your successors, even as
He raised you up
From the posterity
Of other people.
* Prayer and beseeching do not help God in any way. If a person worships His Lord (i.e. God), it is toward securing his or her own salvation. Similar is the case with all other acts of worship —e.g. fasting.
R. God is ready to appreciate service
Those who rehearse the Book
Of God, establish regular Prayer,
And spend (in Charity)
Out of what We have provided
For them, secretly and openly,
Hope for a Commerce
That will never fail.
For He will pay them
Their need, nay, He will
Guide them (even) more
Out of ills Bounty.
For He is Oft—Forgiving,
Most Ready to appreciate (service).
S. God is the Most Forbearing
God will not
Call you to account
In your oaths,
But for the intention*
In your hearts;
And He Is
*"Action depends on intention" God judges INTENTION, not action.
T. God is the Best of Judges
Then do We abase* him
(To be) the lowest
Of the low —
Except such as behave
And do righteous deeds:
For they ~ha1l have
A reward unfailing.
Then what can,
After this, contradict thee
As to the Judge~nent
The Wisest of Judges?
* "Humiliate" - on the Day of Judgement
U. God is the Best of Planners
And (the unbelievers)
Plotted and planned,
And God too planned,
And the best of planners
V. God has Wrath
Show us the straight way,
The way of those on whom
Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace,
Those whose (portion)
Is not wrath,
And who go not astray.
W. God is Swift in Taking Account
But the Unbelievers -
Their deeds are like a mirage
In sandy deserts, which
The man parched with thirst
Mistakes for water; until
When he comes up to it
He finds it to be nothing*:
But he finds God
(Ever) with him, and God
Will pay him, his account:
And God is swift
In taking account.
* God does not accept the good deeds of unbelievers.
X. God is Most Merciful of those who show mercy
Moses prayed: "0 my Lords!
Forgive me and my brother!
Admit us to Thy mercy!
For Thou art the Most Merciful
Of those who show mercy".
Y.God is the Living
God! There is no god
But He - the Living,
The Self—Subsisting, Eternal.
No slumber can seize Him
Nor sleep. His are all things
In the heavens and on earth.
Who is there can intercede
In His presence, except
As He permitteth? He knoweth
What (appeareth to His creatures
As) Before or After
Or Behind them.
Nor shall they compass
Aught of His knowledge
Except as He willeth.
His Throne doth extend
Over the heavens
And the earth, and He feeleth
No fatigue in guarding
And preserving them
For He is the Most High
The Supreme (in glory).
Z. God tests
Did ye think that ye
Would enter Heaven
Without God testing
Those of you who fought hard
(In His Cause) and
The above 26 extracts from the Quran are by no means an adequate explanation of Muslim beliefs regarding the questions "Who is God’?" and "What is God?". But they do highlight the general ideas - God’s Power, Wrath, Mercy and, of course, Might, are all obvious. Below is a list of qualities which summarise the Muslim conception of God.
* God, the Most Exalted, is One.
* God alone, and nobody else, is ‘worthy of worship and devotion.
* He has no partners or associates.
* He has knowledge of everything, so that nothing is hidden from Rim.
* He is free from all faults and imperfections.
* He possesses great power and potency (He is Able To Do All Things).
* None but He created the earth, the sky, the moon, the sun, the stars, the angels, human beings, genies, other creatures, the entire world, and He is Sovereign over the whole of the Universe.
* He gives life and death.
* He alone gives food and drink to his creatures.
* He neither eats, nor drinks, na’ sleeps. He is self—existent from eternity to eternity.
* No—one created Him.
* He has neither father, nor wife(s), nor Son(s), daughter(s) or any other relation. He is above
all such relationship.
* All depend on Him. He depends on none and is free from want.
* Unlike His creatures, He does not have a body or parts of a body (e.g. hands, legs, ears, face, etc.) or shape.
* He created angels and appointed them to specific tasks, and to manage the affairs of the world.
* He sent messengers (e.g. Moses, Jesus, Muhamined —May the Peace of God be upon him) for the guidance of His creatures, so that they could exhort people to follow true religion, do right things and acts, and to forbid them to do evil things.
(iv) How do Muslims Know God exists?
Some people In British Society today (atheists) claim that God does not exist (atheism). Marxists, for example, hold the view that religion is false consciousness and that it has been created by wan to satisfy his needs — that Is to say, to provide an ideology (a set of ideas) and to answer the question of how man has found himself on the earth. Muslims, however, reject this atheist argument as nonsense. As I, myself, have told many Marxist acquaintances, they may disbelieve in God and religion and life after death, while they are alive on this earth, but if there is a Hereafter (as there no doubt is), and Heaven and Hell do exist, then they, along with other disbelievers, are in for a Very Nasty Shock when they are raised up from their graves for judgement by God and eventually thrown into the Fire for that which they did not believe:
(a) AND THE TRIThIPET SHALL BE BLOWN: THEN BEHOLD, THEY ARE SLIDING DOWN,
FROM THEIR TOMBS UNTO THEIR LORD,
THEY SAY, ‘ALAS FOR USt WHO ROUSED US OUT OF OUR SLEEPING-PLACE?’
THIS IS WHAT THE ALL-MERCIFUL PROMISED, AND THE MESSENGERS SPOKE THE TRUTH.
(XXXVI 50, 51)
(b) Now keep yourselves apart, you sinners, upon this day!
Did I not enjoin on you, 0 you Children of Adam,
Should not serve Satan — surely he is a manifest foe to you —
And that you should serve Me? This is a straight path.
He led astray many of a throng of you; did you not unders tand?
This is Gehenna, then, the same that you were promised;
Roast well In it today, for that you were unbellevers!
Why do Muslims believe in God? How do we know that God exists even though we cannot see Him? We can see Him, not directly but through His signs.
1. God is able to Create/Make Life
No—one except God can create life. Even In the technologically— advanced society of today, "Frankenstein" is a fairy story. The closest man has got to making life is the production of robots! Where patients undergo. amputations, it is not possible to give them limbs that are not artificial.
2. God is able to Cause to Die
Do murderers not cause their victims to die? No, because murderers have no power over the souls of their victims. Only God has this power. As I have told colleagues at times, If you think that God does not exist, then try to live in this world for eternity and not to grow old*. This is impossible and is a sign of God’s existence.
* If We grant long life
To any, We cause him
To be reversed in nature+
Will they not then understand?
+The back of a man who walked proudly in his youth is bent in his old age (reversed process)
3. God alone gives food to His creatures
This is another sign of God’s existence. What do atheists eat? Bread? Chips? Pizzas? Curries? Where do the ingredients for these foods come from? Bread, for example, is made from wheat which is grown by man, but the seeds have been created by God. Moreover, the weather which determined the quality and quantity of the wheat was not controlled by man either. We were not able to alter the fact that~ there would be no rain today, or a thunderstorm tomorrow. All food is identical in one aspect — it has been produced by God and we eat of it. God merely says "Be" and there it is. How surprising, then, that the very people who deny the existence of God actually survive on His bounties?
A SIGN FOR THEM
IS THE EARTH THAT IS DEAD:
WE DO GIVE IT LIFE,
AND PRODUCE GRAIN THEREFROM,
OF WHICH YE DO EAT.
4. The Alteration of Night and day
No—one or nothing except God can cause the day and night to alternate. If a person negates the existence of God, then ask him to kindly make the night come during the daytime, or vice—versa!
WHAT! ARE YE THE MORE
DIFFICULT TO CREATE
OR THE HEAVEN (ABOVE)?
(GOD) HATH CONSTRUCTED IT.
ON HIGH HATH HE RAISED
TS CANOPY, AND HE HATH
GIVEN IT ORDER AND PERFECTION.
ITS NIGHT DOTH HE
ENDOW WITH DARKNESS,
AND ITS SPLENDOUR DOTH HE
BRING OUT (WITH LIGHT)
Believing in the existence of God wholeheartedly is crucial for Muslims. A second phenomenon which follows this is the ‘DHIKR’ or ‘remembrance’ of God. Here is an example. Imagine it is a beautifully sunny day, and you are refreshed by the sight of lush green trees and grass, magnificently coloured flowers of all hues and butterflies fluttering about gracefully. You remember God by thinking sincerely:
‘Glory be to Lord of the Worlds (God), Who has made this a glorious day’
Then reflect: ‘Who created the grass, the flowers, the trees, the butterflies, the sky, the sun?’, The answer is ‘God’!
This example is limited to the context of good weather, but remembrance of God has no limits — look at your own hands and nails and body. Did you wake yourself, did you come into being just like that, or did the Creator create you? You, yourself, have little power over your own body - you cannot tell when your hair or nails grow, you cannot avoid visiting the lavatory, you cannot help going to sleep. All these signs illustrate that you have been made and that you are subordinate to God.
(v) How do Muslims know that Islam is the corre religion and that the Prophet Muhammed (May the Peace of God be upon him) is the Messenger of God?
Firstly, the Prophet Muhammed (May the Peace of God be upon him) could not read and write (illiterate), yet he it was who passed on the Quran, with all its complexity and wisdom and eloquence. It must be the case, then, that the Quran was REVEALED to the Prophet. The Quran itself proves this to have been the case:
a) "And it is not for any mortal that God Should speak to him except by inspiration Or from behind a veil or by sending a messenger
And revealing by His permission what He pleases".
b) "And surely this Is a revelation from the Lord of The worlds — the faithful Spirit has come down With it upon thy heart that thou rnayest be of the Warners - in plain Arabic language".
Secondly, proof Is provided by the rapidity of success of Islam. Historians consider the spread of Islam to have been miraculous — because wIthin 22 years of Its revelation, Muslims obtained an Empire which stretched from India to Cordova. For Muslims, however, there is nothing surprising in this, since God it was Who made this possible:
In the Name of Allah the Beneficent the Merciful
When comes the help of God and victory and
Thou seest men entering God’s religion in throngs,
Then proclaim the praise to thy Lord, and seek His forgiveness,
For He turns again unto man.
Thirdly, the opposition the Prophet (May the Peace of God be upon him) faced from the Arabs of that time illustrates that Islam is ‘good’ in character, and that is sought to fight evil. The burying-alive of daughters (which took place because girls were not useful with regard to earning money when they grew older), and celibacy (having sexual intercourse with a father’s other wives) were forbidden by Islam, for example. Moreover, wives’ rights were to be obligatorily catered for by the husband, so the likelihood of ill—treatment was substantially reduced by Islam.
All these points show that Islam was a religion from God. Why should Muslims think that Islam is the correct religion, and not Christianity or Judaism? The reason, I feel, is very simple. Islam recognises that Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Noah, David and Muhammed (May the Peace of God be upon them all) were all messengers of God, but Christians and Jews do not obey Muhacmned (May the Peace of God be upon him) who was, indeed, the seal of the prophets, and who completed God’s message to mankind.
This day have I
Perfected your religion for you, completed
My favour upon you,
And have chosen for you
Islam as your religion.
Descriptions of God in the Quran
He is God, than Whom there Is no other god, The Knower of the Visible and the invisible. He is the Beneficent, the Merciful.
He is God, than whom there is no other god,
The Sovereign Lord, the Holy One Peace,
The keeper of Faith, the Guardian, the Majestic,
The Compellor, the Superb.
Glorified be God from all that they ascribe as partner (unto Him).
He Is God, the Creator, the Shaper out of Nought, the Fashioner,
His are the Most Beautiful Names, All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Him, And He is the Mighty, the Wise.
God, there is no god but He,
The Living, the self—subsisting Eternal,
No sleep can seize flim, nor slumber
His are all the things In Heaven and on earth.
Who is there who can Intercede in His presence, except as He pertnitteth?
He knows what (appears) to His creatures as before, or after or behind them.
Nor shall they encompass any of His knowledge except as He wills:
His throne does extend over the heavens and the earth,
And He feels no fatigue
In guiding and preserving them, For He is the Most High, the Supreme (in Glory).
The Verse of the
Glorify the name of thy Lord,
The Incomparably Great.
Blessed be the name of Thy Lord,
The Lord of Glory and Honour.
Whatsoever is in the heavens and the earth
Declares the Glory of God,
And He is the Mighty, the Wise.
Descriptions of God in Hadith
Glorified My Lord, the Subsisting, the Permanent!
Glorif led My Lord, the Living, the Lasting!
Glorified My Lord who never dies!
Glorified My Lord, the Great and Praised, the Glorious, the Holy, the Lord of Angels and the Spirit (the Archangel)’.
Glorified My Lord, the Exalted, the Glorified, the Allah, the Almighty!
All Praise is for God Almighty before whose Grandeur everything is helpless;
All Praise is for God Almighty before whose Honour everything else is insignificant;
All Praise is for God Almighty before whose Rule everything bows down;
All Praise is for God Almighty who has put everything to His Power.
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