In reality, belief in Allah is the cornerstone of the entire faith of Islam. All of the other Islamic beliefs and all Islamic practices revolve around the proper belief in God. For this reason, perhaps more than any other religious community in the world, the belief about God in Islam has been delineated in great detail. In fact, a famous Muslim scholar, ibn Abi al-Izz al-Hanafi, once stated that it can be concluded that all of the verses of the Quran, in one way or another, touch upon the belief in God.
Thus, any earnest discussion of the religion of Islam has to begin with the concept of the belief in God. Indeed, it must be a detailed discussion of this topic for, again, everything else in Islam is firmly grounded in and based on this fundamental belief. In fact, according to Islamic teachings, it is the belief in One God alone, with no partners, that all prophets taught and which was the core message of all of their messages. It is the first step, the most important step and an invaluable step in the process of understanding one’s own reality.
How Can One Know About God?
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Before presenting the Islamic view on this question, a history of some current paradigms will be given.
Beginning in the first half of the 17th century in Christendom, as the disconnect between “scientific fact” and “Biblical truths” grew greater and greater, philosophers Edward Herbert, Voltaire and a number of American leaders such as Thomas Paine, adhered to a philosophy known as deism. These philosophers believed in God, the Creator and in morality. They believed in what they called “natural religion” that could be discovered through the use of reason. Hence, they downplayed the role of revelation and the teachings of the church.
A number of factors led to the development of this philosophy. Key among these factors was the fact that, as shall be discussed later, these scholars could not deny the rational proofs behind the existence of the Creator. Hence, they had to begin with that premise. However, due to their disappointment with what was being taught by the Church, they were driven to the conclusion that the truths of this world are known through human reasoning and are not in need of any type of revelation from God. Indeed, there was no need for God to send any further information behind what could be derived by humans themselves. Beyond that, they also argued that God had no further role to play in this creation. Thus, they looked upon God almost like a watchmaker who, after having created the watch and wound it up, would then just sit back and allow the watch to work on its own without any interference from the watchmaker.
In sum, according to this view, humankind has been left alone by the Creator—alone to find its own way of how to behave and live in this great creation. Perhaps without reference to its philosophical roots, this has become the way of life of many of the world’s inhabitants today. They do not see any need to turn to God to know how they are supposed to live their lives in this world. Indeed, as a political philosophy—known as secularism—this is the dominant philosophy in the world today. (As shall be discussed later, this view actually contradicts one of the attributes of God: that He is merciful and compassionate to His servants, that humankind should not think that they have been left without guidance and that there is no purpose directly related to God in their creation.)
The Islamic religion does not deny that humans have been endowed with great reasoning power and natural instincts. Many scientists—including those philosophers referred to above—could not deny the various signs that point to the existence of the Creator. Hence, they wholeheartedly accepted the notion of the existence of God. In the history of humankind, this notion has not been a problematic issue. In fact, the Quran states the matter in this way, quoting the words of earlier messengers: “What! Can there be a doubt about Allah, the Creator of the heavens and the earth?” (14:10). Their problem lay in their not knowing about God properly and not having access to a true and preserved revelation from God. This highlights the importance of recognizing the proper way to know about God.
Islam recognizes that God has created the human with an innate ability to recognize and understand the truth that he has a Creator and a God. In fact, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) himself said, “Every child is born on the fitrah (the natural way, the religion of Islam).”1 In other words, every child is born with the inclination and leaning toward the truth and the ability to recognize the reality of the existence of God.
The basic concept about God, therefore, is known to everyone—philosopher, thinker and layman alike. At the same time, no gracious and mature human should be willing to completely ignore and turn his back on the very foundation of his creation. There should be, then, a desire within the soul of every human to know his Lord and Creator, the one who has blessed him with his very existence. This should be an innate and automatic feeling within the soul of every human.
However, there is another important point that needs to be made about God, the Creator. God, obviously, is a distinct and separate being from His creation. Hence, God is not something within the realm of human experience, human thought or human testing. In fact, the way to know about God is not by philosophizing in a quiet room or remote part of the world—that can point one to the irrefutable fact of His existence and greatness. But to know the details about God and, in particular, to know what one’s relationship with God should be, one can only turn to God Himself and to His revelation. There is no other possible way.
The revelation from God as embodied in the Quran and the inspired words of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) have thus presented a clear and unequivocal presentation concerning God. It removes all doubts about His existence, His omnipotence and His omniscience. It also answers all the questions surrounding how one should behave toward the Almighty. In addition to that, by God’s mercy, He has provided extensive information about Himself, through His names and attributes, such that He does truly become the beloved, the soul object of worship and the main inspiration for one’s life.
In the following pages, there shall be a summary of the magnificent teachings about God as found in Islam. It cannot be claimed that this summary is anything more than the tip of the iceberg compared to the vast amount of information that is conveyed about God in the Quran and Sunnah.