I. CONCEPT OF GOD IN HINDUISM


One of the Rig Veda’s hymns refers to one supreme God. Most Hindu homes have their own family deity in a niche. They will awaken it with the chanting of hymns, lighting joss-sticks, daubing it with vermilion powder, they will festoon it with flowers, and offer it food and coconut milk. And at sunset, they will wave salvers full of oil lamps and smoking agar (incense), blow conch-shells, clang bells and then put it to rest.

Doctrine of Avatara

Hindus believe in avataras (incarnations) of gods. An incarnation appears in the form of a man. He comes to this world to destroy a particular evil or injustice and to restore order. Vishnu is commonly believed to incarnate ten times. Of his ten incarnations, nine have already appeared. Among them are Rama and Krishna. Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, is the ninth incarnation of Vishnu. The last incarnation named Kalki is yet to appear. He will be a man riding upon a white horse with a sword in his hand. He will purify the Kali Yuga (Kali age) and restore purity and goodness.

Unity of God

While Hindus believe in and worship many gods and goddesses, they at the same time profess to believe in one god. There is scarcely any article of faith, on which they are more agreed. ‘God is one without a second,’ is a phrase on the lips of every one who speaks about the deity. Their belief in one God is in accord with a hymn of the Rig Veda which reads like this: “They call him Indra, Mitra, Varuna, Agni, and he is heavenly noble-winged Garutman. To what is One, sages give many a title: they call it Agni, Yama, Matarisvan” (1:164.46)[2]. While professing to believe in one God, Hindus Justify polytheism saying that God is so great that He cannot be fully expressed by any one being all the gods, differing as they do in form and character, represent a part, but only a small part, of His immensity. Hindus also say that unless something symbolic is there, common people cannot express their devotion to God.

I. CONCEPT OF GOD IN ISLAM


The concept of God in Islam is absolutely perfect, clear, precise and comprehensive. Perhaps, the greatest service Islam has rendered to humanity is the exaltation and purification of this concept. Through purifying the concept of God from all imaginary ideas and beliefs Islam not only upheld the divine dignity of the real and true God but also provided human beings with the opportunity to recognize their lofty position as being superior to all other creations.

Attributes of God

In every language there is one or more terms used for God. Examples are Ishwar in Bengali, God in English and Dieu in French. These words can be made plural (Ishwargan, Gods, Dieux) or feminine (Ishwari. Goddess, Dieux). This is not the case with Allah, the personal name in Arabic of the one true God. The term has no plural or gender. It is interesting to know that Allah is the personal name of God also in Aramaic, the language of Prophet Jesus (pbuh) who preceded Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The very name of God in Islam (Allah) implies that He is unique in all His attributes. He has many attributes which are absolute, perfect and unique and do not resemble those of His creations in anyway. God is One and Unique. He has no partner. He is the Mighty, the Wise. He is the Creator, the Sustainer and the Nourisher of the entire world. His is the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. He is the First and the Last. He is the Evident (as to His obvious existence) and the Hidden (as to His nature). He is Ancient, having no beginning; He is Everlasting, having no end. He is Ever-existing without interruption or termination. He is Perpetual and Constant. He is Ever-qualified with the attributes of supreme greatness. He is the Lord, and the Guardian and Disposer of all affairs.

God has many names which are the best. He has no associate in His divinity, His names, or His attributes. He is the Forgiver of sin, the Accepter of repentance, the Terrible in retribution, the Bountiful. He is the Originator of the heavens and the earth. He is the Wise, All-hearing, and All-seeing. He sees without pupil or eyelid, and hears without ear. He is the Knower of the unseen and the visible. He is Most Gracious, Most Merciful. He is the Sovereign, the All-Holy, the Source of peace, the Guardian of faith, the Preserver of safety, the Exalted in might, the Irresistible, the Justly Proud. He is the Eternal, Absolute. He neither begets nor is He begotten.

God is not like anything that exists, neither does anything resemble Him.[3] He is not determined by dimensions, nor contained within bounds. He is not surrounded by sides, nor is He comprised within the heavens or earth. God is Living, Powerful; He neither slumbers, nor sleeps. To Him belongs the kingdom, the power and might. He is the sole Creator of beings and Producer of things and from Him everything has its beginning.

God knows all things, hidden or manifest. He knows the number of leaves of the trees, of the grains of wheat and of sand- Nothing passes in the earth or in the heavens, neither small nor great, nor good nor bad, but by determinate decree and His definite will. He is Omnipresent, and Omnipotent. He is nearer to men than their jugular veins,[4] and witness to everything. His nearness is not like the nearness of bodies; neither is His essence like the essence of bodies.

God does not exist in anything, nor does anything exist in Him; He is too exalted to be contained in any place; and He is not bound to be determined by lapse of ages or times. He existed before He created time and place. He is now as He always existed. He is distinct from the creatures by His attributes. He is too holy to be subject to any change or decay or death, or to any local motion. He is perfect and needs no addition for perfection. He is known to exist by the apprehensions of the understanding.

The attributes of God mentioned above are not at all exhaustive; there are many more. In fact, His attributes are too many to be confined in black and white.

Association with God

The doctrine of tawhid, which is the basis of Islam, implies complete denial of partnership with God. Islam considers associating any partner with God (in Arabic, ‘shirk”) as the deadliest sin which He will never forgive, despite the fact that He may forgive all other sins.[5] Islam has also made it clear that it is far beyond the dignity of God to incarnate in human or any other form. If God intends to do something, His wish is enough to have it done.[6] This is the corollary of His attribute “Almighty” and “All-sufficient”. If He needs to incarnate in the form of man or anything else in order to bring about some change. He no longer remains “Self-Sufficient”, he becomes a false god. This is absurd.

The unique usage of Allah as a personal name of God is a reflection of Islam’s emphasis on the purity of the belief in God. The essence of the message of Islam is a call to the worship of the Creator and the rejection of the practice of worshipping His creation in any form. The Qur’an in many verses reminded men of the futility of worshipping the false gods fabricated by men themselves. It frequently exhorted mankind to accept the pure and perfect concept of God and refrain from associating partner with Him.

The Islamic perspective of God is very logical. The Creator must be of a different nature from the things created because if He is of the same nature as they are, He is temporal; Himself created by someone else. This is absurd. The Creator must be eternal; nothing caused Him to come into existence or nothing causes Him to continue to exist. This means He is self-sufficient. If He does not depend on anything for continuance of his own existence, then His existence can have no end. The creator is, therefore, everlasting. The Creator not only has created all other things, He also preserves them and is the ultimate cause of whatever happens to them. He and only He, therefore, deserves to be worshipped by His creations. The creation-worship or worship of man-made objects is not only the worst type of disregard to the Creator, it is also far away from any sense of logic. Shirk or creation-worship is a heinous sin because it contradicts the very purpose of man’s creation. The purpose of the creation of man is to worship the true and only God.[7] Consequently, the worship of creation, which is the essence of paganism, is the only unforgivable sin.[8]One who dies in this state of paganism or idolatry has sealed his fate in the next life.

A Muslim’s Attitude Towards God

Belief in one God with His attributes such as the only Creator, the Preserver, the Nourisher is called Tawhid ar-Rubilbiyyah in Arabic. Many of the pagans and worshipers of idols knew and believed that only the Supreme God had these attributes but that knowledge and belief was not enough to make them Muslims. A Muslim must acknowledge that it is God alone Who deserves to be worshipped and he, therefore, must refrain  from worshipping any other thing or being- This  acknowledgement and belief is known as Tawhid al-‘Uluhiyyah in Arabic. A Muslim must also believe that the attributes exclusively possessed by God can never be possessed by any other thing or being. Similarly, he also must believe that the names of God are exclusively for Him and can never be shared by any other thing or being. This is called Tawhid Asma-was-Sifat.

Having had this knowledge about God, a Muslim must constantly have faith in Him. When faith enters a man’s heart, it causes certain changes in his attitudes. He loves his Lord and feels grateful to Him for the bounties He bestowed upon him. This feeling of gratitude (shukr in Arabic) is the essence of worship, ibadah in Arabic. He knows that God is very kind to His slaves and will reward them for any good deeds accomplished by them. He feels that leading a pious life makes him entitled to the blissful eternal life in the hereafter. He also feels that the good deeds accomplished by him are far from being commensurate with the favours he receives from his Lord. So he seeks forgiveness of God lest He should punish him. Thus expectation for bounties of God and fear of His punishment are two elements which should always be there in a believer’s heart.

Mercy and Justice

Some non-Muslims suggest that God in Islam is cruel Who punishes His slaves when they do not obey Him; He is not loving and kind. This observation is far from the truth. As indicated earlier, God is most Merciful and most Compassionate. His mercy has been focused repeatedly in the Qur’an.[9] Moreover, the Prophet has emphatically highlighted this divine attribute. He said:  “On the day of its creation God created one hundred mercy, of which ninety-nine He kept with Him and one He sent to all of His creations. If a disbeliever knew the extent of His mercy, he would not despair of attaining His paradise; and if a believer knew the extent of His punishment, he would not feel secure against the hell.[10] It is out of His mercy that He provides us with whatever we need. He provides food to a baby even before its birth. While this is true, this is also true that God is just His justice requires that the virtuous must be rewarded for their pious deeds and the evildoers must be punished for their evil deeds. People suffering throughout their lives for the sake of God and people disobeying Him throughout their lives should not be equally treated after death. If they are treated equally in the hereafter, then there does not remain any incentive for a moral and virtuous life in this world.[11]

Dignity of Man

The concept of God as given by Islam enables man to recognize his Creator, the Supreme Power, the sole Enricher and Destroyer of life in the most correct manner. Thus man becomes free from the slavery of all the fake and imaginary powers and animate and inanimate gods and goddesses fabricated by him to be worshipped by him. In this way, Islam not only upheld the divine dignity of the true God, but also the dignity of man who is, potentially, superior to all other creatures- By being free from the fear of all else except God, man becomes self-reliant, courageous, and rational being. Islam assured man of his pivotal position in the scheme of creation and made him aware of his worth and dignity. By accepting the role of servant to the One and only God, man becomes aware that he is superior to every other created being and object. He becomes aware of the exalted position allotted to him by God in the scheme of things. Islam made man recognize the fact that he was entitled to much more loving regard, respect and honour than any other creature as the rank accorded to him was next only to God.


[1] Singh, p.44.

[2]  RV, p.xi.

[3] The Qur’an, 42: 11.

[4] Ibid.. 50: 16.

[5] Ibid., 4:116.

[6] Ibid., 16: 40.

[7] Ibid., 51: 56.

[8] Ibid., 4: 48.

[9] See the verse, 39: 53.

[10] al-Albani, Muhammad Nasiruddin, Sahlh al-Jami’ al-Sagir wa Ziadatuh, (Beirut/Damascus: 1986), No. 1763, 1:363.

[11] For details, see Chapter 5.

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