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Islam Is Repackaged Polytheism: Documentation

The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, 1997

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Islam: Truth or Myth? start page



The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, 1997, Allah, p 48

Allah: Arab. for God: if from earlier Semitic languages (e.g. Aram.. alaha), perhaps the God (Arab. al ='the'). Before the birth of Muhammad, Allah was known as a supreme, but not the sole, God. Muhammad became aware, early in his life, of conflict between religions and of contest, therefore, between 'gods'. From his experience in the cave on Mount Hira (with possible influence from banifs), Muhammad saw that if God is God, it is God that God must be: there cannot be division of God into separate or competing beings. From this absolute realization of tawbid (oneness of God), the whole of Islam is derived-as indeed is the whole of the created order. Hence the fundamental mark of Islam (allegiance to God) is the shahada, la ilaha illa Allah ... This involves Islam in necessary conflict with polytheism, idolatry, and what was taken to be the Christian understanding of the Trinity.

In the Qur'an, Allah is described by many epithets, contributing eventually to the ninety-nine beautiful names of God. Controlling all are the two descriptions (occurring in the basmala) rahman (merciful) and rahim (compassionate). In later Islam, fierce arguments developed: about the status of the attributes of God (too much status would confer ontological, or truly existent, reality on them, thus converting them into something like independent parts of God); about anthropomorphic statements (e.g. the Qur'an says that God sits on a throne: to take this literally would limit God in space. This particular issue was resolved agnostically by saying that he does so, bild kaifa wa Id tashbih, without knowing how and without comparison, sc. with our way of sitting; and also by tanzih) and about the power of God to determine all things. This last issue is focused on the term gadar. The Qur'an emphasizes the absolute power of God to determine all things, which suggests strong predestination (as held e.g. by the Jabfiya); in that case, how can humans be held accountable for their deeds and be judged accordingly (the question raised e.g. by the Mu'tazilites) The eventual solution (at least for the Ash'arites (acquisition) was formulated in the doctrine of iktisab, see AL-ASH'ARI).

Theological and rational reflection on God is complemented, in Islam, by the direct and immediate relation of the believer with God, above all in salat: to everyone, God is closer than the vein in the neck (50.16). This close and direct relation to God led into the cultivation of `the experiential awareness of God, which culminated in Sufism.

For the controlling and all-important Sura of Unity (112), which, if a Muslim says it with conviction, leads to the shedding of sins as a tree sheds its leaves in autumn, see TAWHID.

 (Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, 1997, p. 48)

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