God (isl.)

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(Arab. Allah, Ilah, Turk. Tanrı)

The general notion of God in Islam finds its reification and counterpart in Allah. While the Turkish or Arabic words for ‘God’ (Turk. tanrı or Arab. ilah) can also be used in the plural, this possibility does not exist for Allah understood as the simultaneous designation for God and name. Many times in the Qur’an, God says of Himself that He is the One God: ‘There is no deity but Allah’ (37:35; 47:19).

In the Qur’an, God describes Himself with names such as ‘The Exceedingly Beneficent, The Exceedingly Merciful, The Exceedingly Gracious, The Omniscient, The Almighty, The Loving, The Giver of Life, The Repeatedly Forgiving’, which He refers to as ‘The Most Beautiful Names’. At the same time, these names determine the semantic content of the word ‘God’. Taking the features common to these ‘Beautiful Names’ as their point of departure, Islamic theologians have derived certain attributes from them. These are life, omniscience, will, omnipotence, the ability to hear, the ability to see, the ability to speak, and creative power. In addition to this, a negative theology has emerged as well, one that makes statements as to what God is not or the things to which He is superior. As far as the attribution of characteristics to God is concerned, Islam has major similarities to other theistic religions.

The Qur’an calls upon people to reflect upon God’s essence and characteristics. The demonstrations in the Qur’an of the essence and characteristics of God relate chiefly to the order and aim of creation and are evident in experience. Although the Qur’an says that God cannot be experienced directly with the senses in this world, this statement does not permit an interpretation tending towards agnosticism. This view deriving from the Qur’an has had a profound influence on theological thinking in Islam and has led to an evidence-based approach to recognition of the existence of God. Muslim scholars have developed such proofs.

The principle of divine oneness, transcendence, and absoluteness calls for an indissoluble ontological separation between creator and creation. This separation does not, however, mean that God is at a remove from humankind. Verses such as ‘And when My servants ask you, concerning Me – indeed I am near’ (2:186) or ‘We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein’ (50:16) attest to the proximity of God.

Mehmet Sait Reçber

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