What makes Islam's concept of God unique? What sets it apart from other religions?
Chapter 112 of the Quran entitled Surat al-Ikhlas (SINCERITY), serves as a good starting point to discuss the unique way in which God is viewed in Islam.
The first verse of this chapter declares the oneness of "Allah", the Arabic word for God. The word "Allah" itself is worthy of reflection with regards to this discussion.
"Allah" in Arabic is derived from "Ilah" which means god. Whereas "Ilah" can be changed to a plural form "Aliha" (gods), or a feminine form "Ilaha" (goddess), the word "Allah" has neither a sex nor does it have a plural form. In fact there are no other forms of the word "Allah". The word itself is unique.
Furthermore, "Allah" is the amalgamation of two words: "al-Ilah" or The God, indicating an unambiguous and clear reference to the one and only God.
Other than the implications of the word "Allah", the first verse goes on to re-emphasize the uniqueness of God by declaring Him to be one.
In Islam this oneness of God or monotheism is absolutely unequivocal as it is fundamental.
The verses that follow go on to outline the exclusive and absolutely unique nature of God by declaring that only He is independent of all things (verse 2), He does not beget nor is He begotten (verse 3) and that there is none like Him (verse 4).
Although Islam may share the concept of monotheism with other religions, it is its unmoving and uncompromising attitude towards this fundamental belief that sets it apart from the other faiths.
For instance, although Christians testify to the oneness of God, the concept is muddled by the trinity and the belief that Jesus is the Son of God whereas Islam rejects the worship of God in the form of any of his creations, be they men or women, animals, images or inanimate objects even if they are perceived to be intermediaries.
Human characteristics such as the need to rest or regretting decisions when attributed to God are also dismissed in Islam since they liken Him to His creation, thus contradicting the 4th verse translated above.
Conversely, attributing characteristics that are inherently exclusive to God such as all-Knowing and all-Seeing or infallibility to humans is also veering off away from the true understanding of God in Islam.
In conclusion, Islam's unique view of God lies in its pure and absolute monotheism or the oneness of God.
Question from the audience: What is the view of Islam about Jesus?
Speaker: Jesus as seen as another prophet who brought the same message as those prophets and messengers before him and those after him: to submit to the will of God.
Question from the audience: What is the difference between meditation and prayer in Islam?
Speaker: Prayer in Islam is a form of meditation but with limits. Prayer or meditation should not be so consuming as to isolate a person from the world in which they live.
Question from the audience: Can those who do not speak Arabic, do their daily prayers in their own language?
Speaker: It is required by all Muslims to know their prayers in Arabic since the original revelation was in Arabic and a Muslim is expected to know at least the portions that pertain to their prayer. Furthermore by having all Muslims, irrespective of where they are from and what language they can speak, call to prayer in Arabic and perform their prayer in Arabic, it makes it convenient for traveling Muslims to pray together and understand the calls to prayer in foreign lands.
Question from the audience: Is it permissible to celebrate the birth of
Speaker: In a hadith reported from the Prophet, it is said that any addition to religion after him are innovations and unacceptable. Hence, it is not permissible to celebrate the birth of Prophet Mohammad as a part of the Islamic religion.