Who is Allah? Do Muslims worship a different Allah?
Some people believe that Muslims worship a Allah that is different from the one worshipped by Christians and Jews. This might be due to the fact that Muslims often refer to Allah as “Allah”. This concept is false, since “Allah” is simply the Arabic word for the One true “Allah” Who created the universe and all humanity. Let there be no doubt – Muslims worship the Allah of Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus (AS). However, it is certainly true that Jews, Christians and Muslims all have different concepts of Almighty Allah. For example, Muslims – like Jews – reject the Christian beliefs of the Trinity and the Divine Incarnation. This, however, does not mean that each of these three religions worships a different Allah – because, as we have already said, there is only One True Allah. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all claim to be “Abrahamic Faiths”, and all of them are also classified as “monotheistic.” However, Islam teaches that other religions have, in one way or another, distorted and nullified a pure and proper belief in Almighty Allah by neglecting His true teachings and mixing them with man-made ideas. Islam calls upon people to return to the one true Allah and to worship and obey Him alone. Islam teaches that Allah should be approached without intermediaries. That is because the merciful all-knowing Allah is completely in control of everything that exists and that He can bestow His grace and mercy on His creatures as He pleases; therefore, no intercession, atonement or incarnation is necessary.
Arabic speaking people of all religions refer to Allah as “Allah”. For example, if you pick up an Arabic translation of the Christian Bible you will see the word “Allah” where “Allah” is used in English. Therefore, Allah is not the Allah of only the Muslims, but the same Allah worshipped by all monotheistic faiths. This idea that “Allah” is different from “Allah” is illogical since it is tantamount to saying that the French worship a different “Allah” because they use the word “Dieu”, that Spaniards worship a different “Allah” because they say “Dios” or that the Hebrews worshipped a different “Allah” because they called Him “Yahweh”!
The Qur’an, which is the divine scripture of Muslims, was revealed in the Arabic language, so Muslims use the word “Allah” for “Allah”, even when they are speaking other languages. A more literal translation of “Allah” into English might be “the one-and-only Allah” or “the one true Allah”.
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It should be clearly understood that what Islam is primarily concerned with is correcting humankind’s concept of Almighty Allah. What people are ultimately going to be held accountable for at the end of their lives is not whether they preferred the word “Allah” or the word “Allah”, but what their concept of Him is. The true concept of Allah is clarified only within the message revealed by Him. The last message sent by Allah, or Allah, is the Qur’an.
The Qur’an uses the word ‘We’ when quoting Allah. Does that mean that Muslims believe in more than one Allah?
Islam adheres to uncompromising monotheism. It teaches that Allah is One and indivisible. In the Qur’an, Allah often refers to Himself as “We”. But it does not mean that there is more than one Allah. The reference of Allah to Himself as “We” in many Qur’anic verses is necessarily understood in the Arabic language to denote power and grandeur, as opposed to the more intimate singular form, “I”, used in specific instances.
In some languages there are two types of plural form. One is related to quantity and used to refer to two or more persons, places or things. The other kind of plural is one of majesty, power and distinction. For example, in proper English, the Queen of England refers to herself as ‘we’. This is known as the ‘royal plural’. Rajeev Gandhi, the ex-Prime Minister of India used to say in Hindi, “Hum dekhna chahte hain”. “We want to see.” ‘Hum’ means ‘we’, which is again a royal plural in Hindi language. Similarly, when Allah refers to Himself in the Qur’an, He sometimes uses the Arabic word ‘nahnu’, meaning ‘We’. It does not indicate a plurality of number but the plurality of power and majesty.
The oneness of Allah is stressed throughout the Qur’an. A clear example is in this short chapter:
(Say: He is Allah [who is] One; Allah is He on Whom all depend. He neither begets nor is born, nor is there to Him any equivalent.) [112:1-4]
The Qur’an says that Allah is merciful and that He gives severe punishment. So is He forgiving or is He vengeful?
The Qur’an mentions many times that Allah is the Most Merciful. In fact, all except one of the 114 chapters of the Qur’an begin with Bismillaahir-Rahmaanir-Raheem, which means, “I begin with the name of Allah, the Entirely Merciful and the Especially Merciful”. These two descriptions of Allah are sometimes translated as “The Compassionate, the Merciful”; however, in Arabic grammar, both names are an intensive form of the word “merciful”. Rahmaan means merciful to all creation, and justice is part of this mercy. Raheem means merciful especially to the believers and forgiveness is part of this mercy. A complimentary and comprehensive meaning is intended by the use of both of them together. In addition, Allah speaks of His forgiveness throughout the Qur’an. In fact, Allah’s mercy and forgiveness have been mentioned together more than 70 times in the Qur’an. Allah repeatedly reminds us saying:
(And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful)
But He also gives severe punishment to those who deserve it. Allah told Prophet Muhammad (SA):
(Inform My slaves that it is I Who am the Forgiving, the Merciful, and that it is My punishment which is the [most] painful punishment.) [15:49-50]
Allah is just, and His justice necessitates that He reward those who obey and serve Him and punish those who disobey and rebel against Him. If Allah did not punish the sinful, wicked and evil people who deserve to be punished, it would not be justice. When punishment for wrongdoing is certain, it serves to deter potential offenders. In contrast, if Allah forgave everyone and punished no one, there would be no reason for legislation, ethics or even morality. Life on earth would be chaotic and nothing short of anarchy. True justice, with its true rewards and just penalties can only be found with Allah, and that is what He has promised in the Qur’an:
(We shall place the scales of justice for the Day of Judgment, so no soul will be dealt with unjustly at all. And if there is [even] the weight of a mustard seed, We will bring it forth. And sufficient are We to take account.) [21:47]
Allah forgives all those who repent and correct themselves at any stage in their lives, and He has invited all people to His abundant forgiveness and mercy:
(Say: ‘O My slaves who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful. And return [in repentance] to your Lord and submit to Him before the punishment comes upon you; then you will not be helped. And follow the best of what was revealed to you from your Lord before the punishment comes upon you suddenly, while you do not perceive.) [39:53-5]