6. GOD IN THE BIBLE AND IN THE QUR’AN
Is God = God? This is, of course, a silly question. How can God not be God! Well, let us think for a moment. G-O-D is a three-letter word. Meaning is not given by words, but by people. Ever thought about that? When a sincere Hindu prays to ‘god,’ he will think of Krishna, or Rama, or Vishnu, or Kali, or Hanumansamy etc. A Buddhist will think of Buddha— although that depends on what sect of Buddhism he belongs to). And a Muslim will think of Allah, and a Jew or Christian of Yahweh Elohim. Are they all the same? Remember: there is only one God!
The concepts of the word ‘god’ are so varied, that they cannot possibly all mean that one God. Let us look at the Old Testament. The Hebrew word for Lord is ‘Yahweh.’ The Moabite word for Lord is ‘Baal.’ Were they the same?
Let us look at 1 Kings 18:21b: “You have abandoned the Lord’s (Yahweh) commands and have followed the Lord (Baal)” or vs. 21b: “If the Lord (Yahweh) is God, follow Him, but if the Lord (Baal) is God, follow him!” That does not make sense. The context makes that quite clear. While the name means in both cases ‘Lord,’ they are not the same at all. Both represent a different authority.
Would it make more sense to say that Yahweh = Allah? An Arab Christian will not hesitate to reply ‘Yes, of course!’ In his Bible, the word ‘God’ is translated as ‘Allah.’ The word Allah dates back to the time before Muhammad.
Do you feel uneasy about this? I do. We are mixing the word for God with the concept of God. The Arabic word for God is Allah! There are no two ways about it. But the Quranic concept of God differs widely from that of the Bible.
Let us compare some fundamental Bible passages about God with the Islamic version:
God is the creator of the universe:
Bible: God created all things well. To angels (spirit beings) and man he imparted a (limited) free will. Hence, Lucifer, the ‘Angel of Light’ could choose to rebel against God and consequently became Satan and his followers (demons). Man (Adam and we) chose to be disobedient and sin came into the world.
Islam: Allah most high is alone to be adored. He has neither associate nor equal. Everything, good or evil in this world, exists by His will.” (Imam al-Barqawi, died AD 1132).
“All things, Himself only excepted, genii (spirits), men, the devil, angels, etc. were all created originally by Him.” (Imam al-Gazzali, AD 1058 – 1111).
The essence and nature of God:
Bible: God is love. He created mankind vis-a-vis for Himself. By imparting man with the power of choice, He gave him the chance to love God in return. When man fell and sinned, He communicated with man (by the Holy Spirit) and provided a way of reconciliation through atonement. This was ultimately and once and for all affected by Himself in Jesus Christ becoming man and by taking the sin of all mankind on Himself and dying on the cross. By that He provided the grace of salvation to every person on earth.
Islam: Allah is power. “He created all things in the beginning for the manifestation of His power… He had no need of them, nor wanted them … He sent messengers to carry to men His commands, and promises, and threats… men are obliged to give credit to them in those things they relate.” (Imam al-Gazzali)
“His existence has neither beginning nor end. If He so wills, He can annihilate the world in a moment of time. He receives neither profit nor loss from whatever may happen. If all infidels became believers, He would gain no advantage. If all believers became infidels, He would suffer no loss. He wills the faith of the believers… and also the unbelief of the unbelievers.” (Imam al-Barqawi)
We note: They obviously act in unison of purpose. While one may not understand divine, eternal realities on a human level, God nevertheless has revealed this in His word.
Islam: “He is Allah, the One and only. Allah, the eternal, absolute, He begetteth not, nor is He begotten. And there is none like unto him” (Surah 112).
“Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, was (no more) than a messenger of Allah…” (Surah 4:171).
“They do blaspheme who say: ‘Allah is one of three in a Trinity” (Surah 5: 76).
God is love:
Bible: “I have loved you with an everlasting love… ” (Jer. 31: 3).
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends”. “I am the good shepherd… I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 15:12; 10: 14- 15).
Islam: Allah loves those who do good, who turn to Him constantly, who keep themselves pure and clean, those who believe and are righteous, who love Him and fight for Him in battle, the just and the kind (Surahs 2:195; 3:134; 5:90; 2:222; 9:108; 19:96; 3:31; 5:57; 61:4; 49:9; 60:8; 5:45; 9:4,7; 5:14).
But Allah does not love transgressors, the mischievous, ungrateful and wicked, the treacherous, wasters, trespassers, wrong-doers, the arrogant and boasters etc. (Surahs 2:190; 2:205; 28:77; 5:6; 2:276; 8:58; 6:141; 7:31; 5:90; 7:55; 3:140; 42:40; 4:36; 31:18; 57:23).
Little wonder then that Imam al-Gazzali writes: “Love is to sense a need of the beloved. And since Allah cannot be said to have a need or an experience of a need, it is therefore impossible that Allah should love.”
God is merciful and gracious:
Bible: The Bible is full of expressions of God’s mercy and grace, culminating in His display of compassion in Jesus in His life on earth and His death for us.
Islam: Equally the Qur’an abounds in assurances of Allah’s mercy. Almost every chapter of it begins with the words in ‘In the name of Allah, the most merciful and gracious.’ We fail to read of evidences thereof, however. This made Ibn Hazm, an Islamic theologian of the 11th century, conclude that “while the Qur’an uses the name Allah, which means ‘the most merciful of all those who show mercy,’ this cannot mean that He is merciful in the way that we understand the word, for Allah is evidently not merciful… What then does the Qur’an mean? It simply means that ‘merciful’ is one of Allah’s names. A name which is not in any way descriptive of Allah or means to throw light on His nature”.
God’s righteousness and holiness in correspondence with his mercy:
Bible: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to purify’ us from all unrighteousness “ (1 Jn. 1: 9).
“By grace you have been saved, through faith, this not from yourselves. It is the gift of God. Not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2: 8-9).
Islam: “The balance that day will be true. Those, whose scale (of good) will be heavy, will prosper…” (Surah 7: 8 and 9). “Why then does He (Allah) punish you for your sins? Nay, you are but men— of the men He has created. He forgives whom He pleases, and lie punishes who He pleases” (Surah 5:20). “He leads astray whom He pleases and He guides whom He pleases. But you shall certainly be called to account for all your actions” (Surah 16:93).
We could fill pages with more evidence of the fundamentally differing natures of the God of the Bible and Allah of the Qur’an.
Let us return to our first question: Is God = God? Both Christians and Muslims believe in one God. The Qur’an even states ‘your god and our god are the same'(Surah 29:46). However, consider Surah 109 for another aspect of Allah in the Qur’an. Yet they differ fundamentally in their very nature. I really see no other option, but to conclude that they can hardly be the same. I think we have to conclude two things here:
- Who is the One you would like to belong to, the One you can rely upon and trust, the one who offers you the “best deal,” so to speak?
- Who is the One who is evidently the true God, whose revelation bears the undeniable evidences of His revelation (we think e.g. of fulfilled prophecies!)?
I think we made the same choice! Now let us make a sincere plan how we can best convey the offer of salvation by God’s love and grace to those who are unaware of the above and sincerely go into a lost eternity— who go simply because you did not tell and convince them of God’s plan.