Who is Allah in Islam?

II. ALLAH IN THE LIGHT OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH

Islam has recovered much ground and expanded in the last ten years, making a substantial thrust into the cultures of Christianity, Hinduism, communism and the African cults. When we, as Christians, meet Muslims and try to understand them, we should not forget that many of them are genuine worshippers, who serve their God with dedication within the limitation of their religion. A Christian should not despise their deep aspirations, but should love and respect every Muslim who sincerely worships Allah.

This, however, does not absolve us of the obligation to seek the truth about Islam. Our respect for Muslims leads us to a pertinent comparison of the Qur'an with the New Testament, which is for us the only standard of truth. If one compares the 99 names of Allah in Islam with the names of God in the Bible, one must acknowledge that the Allah of the Muslims is not in harmony with our God. Therefore, if a Muslim says, "Your God and our God is the same," either he does not understand who Allah and Christ really are, or he intentionally glosses over the deeply rooted differences.

1. Allah - No Trinity

It is unthinkable and impossible for a Muslim to believe in the existence of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the New Testament sense. Whoever says that God has a partner, companion or an equal God beside him will, from an Islamic point of view, fall into an unforgivable sin (like the sin against the Holy Spirit in Christianity). Consequently, the Islamic confession of faith declares not just the uniqueness of Allah but at the same time firmly rejects the deity of Christ and the deity of the Holy Spirit.

In the Arabic language, the name Allah is a study in itself. The word can be understood as a sentence: al-el-hu. "El" is an old Semitic name for God meaning "the strong and mighty". The Islamic name, Allah, corresponds to the Hebrew name Elohim, which can also be understood as a statement: Al-el-hum. Although the Hebrew name Elohim contains the possibility of a plural (hum), the name of Allah (hu) can only be singular. Thus, Allah in Islam is always only one and never a unity of three, even if such a unity was complete in itself. When Christians claim that their Trinity does not mean three different, separated persons, but a unity in a Trinity, Muslims must repudiate this concept. For them Allah is never a triune God, but one person alone.

2. Allah - No Father

In conversations with Muslims and Jews it is important that we scrutinise anew statements of Jesus in the New Testament concerning the name Father for God. We find this name mentioned at least 164 times in the gospels. So we can speak in terms of a "theological revolution" that Jesus brought about in answer to the rigid Semitic belief in one God. Christ did not preach about a distant, mighty, unfamiliar God whom no one can know or comprehend, nor did he teach us to have cringing and trembling fear before him as the unapproachable holy Judge. Instead he gently moved the veil from before the God of the Old Testament and revealed him to us as he really is - the Father. He did not teach us to pray to Elohim, Yahweh, Jehovah, the Lord almighty or to the holy Trinity, but placed on our lips the loving name - our Father. Christ thus shared his own privilege with us, the unworthy ones. Through him we have become children of God, a relationship which Muhammad emphatically rejects (Sura al-Ma'ida 5:18).

Anyone who takes the time to check the context of the occasions when Christ used the name "God" and compares it with the occasions when he used the name "Father" will be in for a surprise. When Jesus spoke to outsiders, demons or his enemies, he spoke of the hidden God, the great and powerful Lord, by whom all creatures were created. But when Jesus prayed or talked in the intimate circle of his followers, he revealed to them the innermost secret of God - his Fatherhood. For this claim Jesus was convicted of blasphemy when the high priest Caiaphas asked him, "I adjure you by the living God, that you tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God" (Matthew 26:63). Caiaphas was unable and unwilling to name God "Father" because to the Jews it would have been slanderous talk. Therefore, he asked Jesus if he considered himself to be the "Son of God", implying the Fatherhood of God. Christ confirmed the validity of his confession. His first words on the cross were, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." But as the Father veiled his face in his function as a punishing Judge the Son cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Yet the crucified One held on to the reality of God's Fatherhood in the midst of his suffering and died with the words: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."

The name Father, the revelation of God's innermost reality, is an indispensable element of the Christian faith. God has bound himself to us in the New Testament as our eternal Father. John stated, "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God" (1 John 3:1).

One of the reasons Islam has rejected the Holy Trinity along with the Fatherhood of God is because of a complete misunderstanding of its true nature. In Muhammad's day a certain Arab sect taught that the Trinity consisted of God the Father, Jesus and Mary. Every Christian, together with Muhammad, will refute this error. It is regrettable that the birth of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit in the virgin Mary is understood not spiritually but carnally, in Islam. For a Muslim it is blasphemy to think or say that Allah had a son through Mary. God's spiritual Fatherhood remains incomprehensible to their minds. For them, Allah is the exalted, distant and mysterious God. They do not know and appreciate the nearness of God, who in his love as our Father revealed himself in Christ.