Author's note: As you read this article the words he, his and him are used only in reference to God out of respect and dignity. It does not imply gender, as this would contradict the teachings of Islam.
The most frequent question I get asked by my fellow Americans is to explain how Muslims believe in God. They ask, who or what is Allah? Unfortunately, in the United States the Islamic concept of God is often misunderstood and lost in the language barriers that exist between Arabic and English speakers. Often people think that Allah is a special God of Muslims or a different God than they worship. Allah is the Arabic name of God, the same God of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad.
The first and most important teaching of Islam is the oneness or uniqueness of God (Allah). This teaching is the first part of the first pillar of Islam and the first article of faith that Muslims must believe. Islam teaches a oneness of God that goes beyond the English term "one."
In the 112th chapter of the Quran, Surah Al-Iklhas, God explains to humanity how to believe in him. This chapter is so important that some narrations of the Prophet Mohammed say, if the Quran were to be divided into three sections, the meaning of Surah Al-Iklhas would represent 1/3 of the overall content of the Quran.
The Meaning of Surah Al-Ikhlas
Say, Allah is ahad (unique/one).
Allah is He on Whom all depend.
He begets not, nor is He begotten.
And none is like unto Him.
"Say, Allah is ahad (Unique/One)"
Let's start with the Arabic name of God: Allah. The Arabic word for god is ilah, this word like the English word god can be made plural by saying gods, or can be made feminine by saying goddess. The word god can also be joined to other aspects of the creation such as godmother or godfather. In Arabic, the word Allah cannot be made plural, it cannot be made feminine, nor cannot be joined with aspects of the creation, it is in fact unique. The last word of this verse, ahad, is different from the Arabic word wahad meaning one. The word ahad goes beyond the concept of one and is unique when used to describe Allah. Here's why: The word one can be used to describe many things. For example, you can have one car, and I can have one car. However when the word ahad is used to describe Allah, it is unique because Allah is unique. Allah is in fact ahad.
Another way to explain this concept is God does not resemble the creation in anyway shape or form. God has no image that can be replicated or fathomed by the creation. God has no beginning and no end. God is Omniscient. God exists without place. God is ahad.
"Allah is He on Whom all depend"
This means everything that exists was created and depends on God (Allah). Regardless if one believes in God or not, they still depend on God. Everything from the air we breathe to the grandeur of the universe depends on God. If everything depends on God, then God depends on nothing. This means if one were to take all the prayers from the beginning of humanity to the end of time, it wouldn't increase or decrease God's dominion. It's because of this concept; worship belongs to God alone with no intermediaries, partners or associates.
"He begets not"
In modern English, this means God does not give birth. Why? The act of giving birth is an animal process. Animals give birth. This doctrine is rejected by Islam metaphorically and literally. To put this into a biblical context, the phrase God had a son is an example of this. If God had a son this would make him like the creation, would make him like an animal, therefore God would not be ahad.
"Nor is He begotten"
In modern English, this means God is not born. Why? The act of being born implies one has a beginning and was created. This means if God were born, than there was a time when God did not exist, again making God like the creation. The practice of anthropomorphism or giving God human-like characteristics is synonymous with the concept of God being born. Again, this doctrine is rejected by Islam because this would make God like the creation, therefore God would not be ahad.
Important note: Islam does confirm the miraculous birth and many miracles of Jesus Christ the son of Mary. We believe he was the promised messiah, we believe in his ascension, and await his second coming. However, we attribute these miracles to God and God alone. We do not credit Jesus Christ the son of Mary with the ability to perform these miracles by his own will. In comparison, Jesus Christ the son of Mary had no human father; Adam, the first man had no human mother and no human father. Both were created by God, and Islam teaches us not to worship any aspect of the creation, regardless of the miraculous birth or works.
"And none is like unto Him."
This verse confirms what the previous three verses stated. Nothing that was created by God is similar to God or is part of God. Nothing shares God's attributes, the creation was created, therefore not part of the creator God (Allah).
Hopefully this article helps you understand the most important and focused on teaching in Islam.
God (Allah) is ahad!
If you have any questions regarding the article, please don't hesitate to contact me.
God Bless You!