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Islam Is Repackaged Polytheism: Documentation

A Guide To The Contents Of The Qur'an. Faruq Sherif, p 22-23, 1995, Muslim

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Islam: Truth or Myth? start page



A Guide To The Contents Of The Qur'an. Faruq Sherif, p 22-23, 1995

Chapter Two: The Creator And His Creatures:


The verses of the Qur'an make it clear that both the concept of Allah as the Supreme Being and the very name Allah existed in the Jahiliyya or pre-Islamic Arabia, not only among the Jews and the Christians, but also among certain Arab Bedouin tribes. Besides, the word occurs often in the poetry of the jahili period and also in composite pre-Islamic names such as Abdullah (servant of Allah). Certain pagan tribes believed in a god whom they called 'Allah' and whom they believed to be the creator of heaven and earth and holder of the highest rank in the hierarchy of the gods. It is well known that the Quraish as well as other tribes believed in Allah, whom they designated as the 'Lord of the House' (i.e. of the Ka'ba). The polytheists conceived of a number of divinities, goddesses, angels and even jinns as mediators between the creator and his creatures. All Arabs attached special importance to the notion of an other-worldly being interceding on their behalf on the day of judgement. Indeed their religion consisted of belief in the existence of such heavenly intercessors. Certain verses of the Qur'an state clearly that the polytheists worshipped their gods only as mediators between themselves and Allah. Verse 4 of Sura XXXIX quotes them as saying: 'We only serve them [i.e. their gods]. in order that they may bring us nearer to Allah.' Verse 27 of Sura XLVI also mentions the pagans' trust in their gods as mediators, and asks: 'Why then was no help forthcoming to them from those whom they worshipped as gods?'

The Qur'an refers in several places to the fact that the jahili Arabs believed in Allah as the possessor of greatness and supreme power, and expresses astonishment therefore at their obstinate refusal to submit to Him. Verses 61-65 of Sura XXIX say: 'If you ask them who it is that has created the heavens and the earth and subjected the sun and the moon they will say "Allah" . . . If you ask them who it is that sends down water from the sky and thereby quickens the dead earth, they will reply "Allah" . . . When they embark they pray to Allah with all fervour, but when He brings them safe to land they serve other gods besides Him.' The same remark is made in verse 32 of Sura XXXI as follows: 'When the waves, like giant shadows, envelop them, they pray to Allah with all devotion, but no sooner does He bring them safe to land than some of them falter between faith and unbelief.' Verses 86 to 92 of Sura XXIII repeat the above-quoted question and answer, and go on to ask further: 'In whose hands is the sovereignty of all things; who is it that protects all, while against him there is no protection' and then echo the answer "Allah".' Verse 37 of Sura XVI and verse 42 of Sura XXXV point to the fact that when the pagans take a solemn oath they invariably invoke the name of Allah. Thus, reiterating the absolute belief of the pagans in the greatness of Allah, the question is asked: 'Then why do they not reflect; why do they persevere in their bewitched worship of other gods?'

It is therefore clear that the Qur'anic conception of Allah is not entirely new, but it transformed the jahili conception so radically that is can be said that the two divinities have nothing in common. The jahili Allah has associates, even though inferior to him in rank; the Qur'anic stands strictly alone. The jahili Allah is a far-away object of ritual practices; the Qur'anic dominates every phase of man's life from birth to death. In the full sense of the word, Allah is a presence, a person and a living force.

The personality of Allah stands out in almost every verse of the Qur'an, but the substance of the description can be condensed into a few sentences, because the treatment of this theme in the Qur'an is characterised, more than that of any other theme, by repetition.

All the Suras of the Qur'an except one (IX: Repentance) begin with the phrase 'In the name of Allah the Most Gracious, the Merciful'. But from this it should not be inferred that Allah is all compassion and mercy. Over and over again we find Allah described in the Qur'an as revengeful, unforgiving, stern in retribution, and terrible in His wrath. His outstanding attribute is His oneness. The Prophet is quoted as having said that the Qur'anic injunction, 'Say, He is God, the One and Only', contained in Sura CXII is equal to one-third of the whole Book. In this Sura Allah commands the Prophet to describe Him to the believers in these words: 'He is eternal, absolute, He does not beget, nor is He begotten, and there is none like Him.' But in the last analysis Allah cannot be defined; His qualities include all contraries and are innumerable. The mind of man cannot encompass knowledge of the divine. Nevertheless the Qur'an effectively helps believers to form a mental image of the deity by describing His action in the universe in language which is comprehensible to man, and by calling Him by numerous names each of which represents a perceptible attribute. Verse 179 of Sura VII says: 'The most Beautiful Names belong to Allah, so call on Him by them.' The attribution of the Most Beautiful Names to Allah also appears in verses XVII.110 and XX.7, Tradition has elaborated a list of 99 Names taken mostly from the contents of the Qur'an for purposes of celebrating the praise of Allah. But what are the names by which believers should invoke Allah in their prayers and in moments of communion? Quoted below are the names and attributes which accompany the mention of Allah throughout the Qur'an:

Master of the worlds; forgiving, compassionate; Lord of the day of judgement; creator, preserver and destroyer; Lord of the East and the West; He who has no need; living, wakeful and everlasting; owner of the earth, the heavens and all that exists in between; holder of the keys to the worlds both visible and invisible; He who has no equal, no associate and no offspring; the first and the last; the manifest and the hidden; all glorious; omnipotent, omniscient and richest of the rich; He on whose will there is no constraint; watchful over His creatures; ever ready to receive man's gratitude and man's repentance; forgiver. of all sins save that of idolatry; dispenser of rewards to the virtuous and punishment to evildoers; just, swift in reckoning; stem in retribution; grievous tormentor of the wicked; exacting and revengeful; best judge; nourisher; He who guides and leads astray; friend to believers and foe to unbelievers; superlatively wise; the best of all plotters; He who hears and sees; He who causes the living to die and the dead to rise again.

Many of the attributes associated in the Qur'an with the name of Allah are equally applicable to man. The Qur'anic conception of the nature of the divinity is essentially transcendental. Allah is above and beyond all description. He resembles nothing, and nothing resembles Him. 'There is nothing whatever like Him' (XLII.9). But at the same time the Qur'an presents throughout its verses a substantial image of Allah, often in corporeal terms. The verse just quoted is completed by the words 'and He hears and sees'. Another verse (XX.46) cites Allah as saying to Moses and Aaron: 'Fear not, for I am with you: I hear and see.' Indeed the scriptures of the monotheistic religions speak so frequently of God in physical, -corporeal and moral terms that the notion of transcendence is sometimes obscured.'

There exists an apparent difficulty in the Qur'an in regard to ' references to God's knowledge. In almost every page of the Qur'an there is mention of God's omniscience. To quote a few examples from among a multitude: God's knowledge encompasses everything; He knows what is in the heavens and on earth; the visible and the invisible; the past, the present and the future; the promptings of men's souls; every word that is spoken in the heavens or on earth. Man does not embark on any action but God watches him; He knows who goes astray ,,and who follows the straight path. Nothing can be hidden from Him.


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