Islam

Name of God and His attributes

Name of God and His attributes

By what name do we call God?

The Muslims prefer calling the Supreme Creator, Allah, instead of by the English word 'God'. The Arabic word, 'Allah', is pure and unique, unlike the English word 'God', which can be played around with.

If you add 's' to the word God, it becomes 'Gods', that is the plural of God. Allah is one and singular, there is no plural of Allah. If you add 'dess' to the word God, it becomes 'Goddess' that is a female God. There is nothing like male Allah or female Allah. Allah has no gender. If you add the word 'father' to 'God' it becomes 'God-father'. God-father means someone who is a guardian. There is no word like 'Allah-Abba' or 'Allah-father'. If you add the word 'mother' to 'God', it becomes 'God-mother'. There is nothing like 'Allah-Ammi', or 'Allah-mother' in Islam. Allah is a unique word. If you prefix tin before the word God, it becomes tin-God i.e., fake God. Allah is a unique word, which does not conjure up any mental picture nor can it be played around with. Therefore the Muslims prefer using the Arabic word 'Allah' for the Almighty. Sometimes, however, while speaking to the non-Muslims we may have to use the inappropriate word God, for Allah. Since the intended audience of this article is general in nature, consisting of both Muslims as well as non-Muslims, I have used the word God instead of Allah in several places in this article.

Attributes of God

To Allah belong the most beautiful names. The Qur'an says:

Say, "Call upon Allah or call upon the Most Merciful. Whichever [name] you call - to Him belong the best names. ..."

[Al-Qur'an 17:110]

A similar message regarding the beautiful names of Allah (swt) is repeated in the Qur'an in Surah Al-A'raf (7:180), in Surah Taha (20:8) and in Surah Al-Hashr (59:24).

The Qur'an gives no less than ninety-nine different attributes to Almighty Allah. The Qur'an refers to Allah as Ar-Rahman (Most Gracious), Ar-Raheem (Most Merciful) and Al-Hakeem (All Wise) among many other names. You can call Allah by any name but that name should be beautiful and should not conjure up a mental picture.

Each attribute of God is unique and possessed by Him alone

Not only does God possess unique attributes, but also each attribute of Almighty God is sufficient to identify Him. I shall clarify this point in detail. Let us take an example of a famous personality, say Neil Armstrong. Neil Armstrong is an astronaut. The attribute of being an astronaut possessed by Neil Armstrong is correct but not unique to Neil Armstrong alone. So when one asks, who is an astronaut? The answer is, there are hundreds of people in the world who are astronauts. Neil Armstrong is an American. The attribute of being American possessed by Neil Armstrong is correct but not sufficient to identify him. So when one asks, who is an American? The answer is, there are millions of people who are American. To identify the person uniquely we must look for a unique attribute possessed by none except that person. For example, Neil Armstrong was the first human to set foot on the moon. So when one asks, who was the first man to set foot on the moon, the answer is only one, i.e. Neil Armstrong. Similarly the attribute of Almighty God should be unique. If I say God is the constructor of buildings, it is possible and true, but it is not unique. Thousands of people can construct a building. But each attribute of Allah is unique and points to none but Allah. For example, God is the creator of the universe. If someone asks who is the creator of the universe, the answer is only one, i.e. Almighty God is the Ultimate Creator. Similarly, following are some of the many unique attributes possessed by none other than the Creator of the universe, Almighty Allah:

"Ar-Raheem", the Most Merciful
"Ar-Rahman", the Most Gracious
"Al-Hakeem", the Most Wise

So when one asks, "Who is 'Ar-Raheem', (the Most Merciful)?", there can only be one answer: "Almighty Allah".

One attribute of God should not contradict with other attributes

Besides the attribute being unique, it should not contradict other attributes. To continue with the earlier example, suppose somebody says that Neil Armstrong is an American astronaut who was the first human to set foot on the moon and was an Indian. The attribute possessed by Neil Armstrong of being the first man to set foot on the moon, is correct. But its associated quality of being an Indian, is false. Similarly if someone says that God is the Creator of the Universe and has one head, two hands, two feet, etc., the attribute (Creator of the Universe) is correct but the associated quality (in the form of human being) is wrong and false.

All attributes should point to the one and same God

Since there is only one God, all the attributes should point to one and the same God. To say that Neil Armstrong was an American astronaut who first set foot on the moon, but he was born in 1971 is wrong. Both these unique qualities belong to one and the same person, i.e. Neil Armstrong. Similarly to say that the Creator of the universe is one God and the Cherisher is another God is absurd because God possesses all these attributes combined together.

Unity of God: Some polytheists argue by saying that the existence of more than one God is not illogical. Let us point out to them that if there were more than one God, they would dispute with one another, each god trying to fulfill his will against the will of the other gods. This can be seen in the mythology of the polytheistic and pantheistic religions. If a 'God' is defeated or unable to defeat the others, he is surely not the one true God. Also popular among polytheistic religions is the idea of many Gods, each having different responsibilities. Each one would be responsible for a part of man's existence e.g. a Sun-God, a Rain-God, etc. This indicates that one 'God' is incompetent of certain acts and moreover he is also ignorant of the other Gods' powers, duties, functions and responsibilities. There cannot be an ignorant and incapable God. If there were more than one God it would surely lead to confusion, disorder, chaos and destruction in the universe. But the universe is in complete harmony. The Glorious Qur'an says:

"No son did Allah beget, Nor is there any god along with Him: (if there were many gods), behold, each god would have taken away what he had created, and some would have lorded it over others! Glory to Allah! (He is free) from the (sort of) things they attribute to Him!"

[Al-Qur'an 23:91]

If there were more than one God, they would have taken away what they created. The Qur'an says:

Had there been within the heavens and earth gods besides Allah , they both would have been ruined. So exalted is Allah , Lord of the Throne, above what they describe.

[Al-Qur'an 21:22]

Thus the existence of one True, Unique, Supreme, Almighty God, is the only logical concept of God.

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