5. Allah versus God - Merciful and Mighty
Welcome to ‘Exploring Islam’. We are now starting to look at some of the beliefs of Islam and see how they are similar or different to those of Christianity. For this session we shall examine the concept of Allah, which is simply the Arabic word for God and existed before Islam. These words are the same linguistically, but what about the characteristics behind them between the Islamic Allah and the Christian God? Two of the most important attributes of Allah repeated many times in the Qur’an is that of his mercy and his greatness.
The opening verses in the Qur’an begin; Quran 1:1-4 – ‘In the name of Allah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful. [All] praise is [due] to Allah, Lord of the worlds - The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful, Sovereign of the Day of Recompense.’ Allah is seen as the source of all benefits in life through his merciful will and action. Allah forgives sins and allows followers into Paradise all in accordance with his great mercy. Much on the surface seems similar to that of Christianity’s God. God is revealed as full of compassion and mercy (James 5:11), and the culmination of these attributes is seen in the saving work of Jesus; Ephesians 2:4-5 – ‘But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.’
Within Islam, Allah operates his mercy and indeed all action in accordance to his will. This is not dissimilar to God in Christianity. However, in Islam as Allah is essentially unknowable it is difficult if not impossible to actually know or even predict how Allah is going to act. Muslims however do demonstrate great faith in their commitment during adversity believing that Allah’s will resides in every experience of life, positive or negative.
However, as we have seen previously, that there is a level of uncertainty and lack of control on the part of the follower. As a result some turn to alternative means like Folk Islam in an attempt to influence their situation. It would be unfair to claim the opposite for Christianity, that God’s will and plans for us are so crystal clear that we do not experience times of doubt or fear. However, speaking as a Christian, God reveals his nature to be unchanging in the Bible, and through the personal relationship which I have cultivated with Him I feel I can draw solace in difficult times knowing that Jesus is with me (Hebrews 13:5).