Talks on Islam: Is Allah is the Same as the God of the Bible?

Posted: March 4, 2011 in Islam
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One of the most common assertions that we hear when a comparison between Islam and the Judaeo-Christian tradition is made is that both conventions essentially worship the same God. Allah, it is said, is merely another name for Jehovah, the God of the Bible. Such statements are often made by those who are attempting to bring these disparate religions together in the spirit of ecumenism. Likewise, the claim is also made by Muslims who seek to assuage Christian and Jewish opposition to Islam, often as a prelude to dawah, extending an “invitation” to accept Islam that usually comes at the end of Muslim attempts at proselytism. The superficial characteristic of monotheism is emphasized, while the vast differences between God and Allah are ignored. Vast differences there are indeed. As will be shown below, the characteristics of Allah and the God of the Bible are quite different. Further, the origin of Allah will be seen from WITHIN the pagan system of the ancient Near East, not as an outsider and opponent of that system who nevertheless was sometimes treated syncretistically by compromising followers (as was the case with Jehovah in the Hebrew scriptures), but instead as one who was integrally important to pagan beliefs during the long process that eventually led to his monotheization.

Differing Views of the Nature of the Deity

There are many differences between the attributes of God and Allah. First, there is the attribute of knowability, the idea that human beings may know God and enjoy a personal relationship with the Creator. God, as He is revealed in the Bible, allows Himself to be known and fellowshipped with on a personal basis by those who have trusted in Him through His Son Jesus Christ.

John 17:3 , “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

The Bible presents God as a Being who intimately reveals Himself to man, and who encourages us to learn of Him and enter into ever closer fellowship with Him.  The Bible presents a God who had a personal relationship with Abraham such that Abraham was called “The friend of God.” The God of the Bible wants for mankind to come to Him, be cleansed of their sins, and enjoy this close personal fellowship.

 “Draw nigh unto God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” (James 4:8)

Contrast this with the Islamic description of Allah as unknowable. Indeed, in Islam, it is considered blasphemous to “presume” that one can know Allah intimately or claim any sort of close, personal fellowship with him. This theological view developed early in Islam, and became an important feature of Islamic theology, being espoused by Muslim thinkers such as al-Ghazali. Shehadi summarizes the teachings of this Sufi theologian on this point,

“The end result of the knowledge of the `arifin [ed. note – a term denoting “the knowers”] is their inability to know Him, and their knowledge is, in truth, that they do not know Him and that it is absolutely impossible for them to know Him.”

This view is also understood among modern Islamic scholarship, where the statement of al-Faruqi is representative,

He [God] does not reveal Himself to anyone in any way. God reveals only His will. Remember one of the prophets asked God to reveal Himself and God told him, ‘No, it is not possible for Me to reveal Myself to anyone’….This is God’s will and that is all we have, and we have it in perfection in the Qur’an. But Islam does not equate the Qur’an with the nature or essence of God. It is the Word of God, the Commandment of God, the Will of God. But God does not reveal Himself to anyone. Christians talk about the revelation of God Himself – by God of God – but that is the great difference between Christianity and Islam. God is transcendent, and once you talk about self-revelation you have hierophancy and immanence, and then the transcendence of God is compromised. You may not have complete transcendence and self-revelation at the same time.”

Allah is considered by Muslims to be unknowable, transcendent, so exalted that he would never lower himself to treat with man on a personal level of friendship and fellowship. It is for this reason that Muslims consider Christian doctrines such as the incarnation and the vicarious atonement to be illogical and blasphemous – from the Muslim’s perspective, Allah would never take on the form or flesh of a human being, and certainly would never yield himself to die, however temporarily. Because the incarnation, vicarious atonement, personal salvation and other related doctrines in Christianity carry with them the necessity of immediate encounter with God by man, they are considered unacceptable in Islam, which teaches that such encounter would never occur, that they would be an insult to Allah. Youssef states this well when he says,

“When Muslims reject the concept of God-become-man, they also reject the concept of a relationship between God and man, which is the essence of Christian faith. Put simply, Islam delineates a concept of God that ultimately is irreconcilable with the Christian Gospel. Muslims do not believe that God would have an interest in a personal relationship of love and friendship with man, much less that he actually would enter into human history for the purpose of establishing, or rather re-establishing, such a relationship….According to Muslims, divinity and humanity are totally exclusive entities. They believe God really could not have entered into human life and that the relationship with God enjoyed by Christians is impossible. Fellowship with God, which is the religious experience of the Christian, is unimaginable to Muslims. They consider the Christian assertion that man was created in God’s own image to be blasphemous.” 

A God of Love Versus a God of Hate

God, as revealed in the Bible, is a God of love who cares for and desires the best for His creations. He is merciful, full of grace and compassion, and seeks to restore a humanity alienated from him by sin. “For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) We are told in the Bible that God does not desire the damnation of any soul, but wants all to come to Him through Christ for forgiveness of their sins and reception of eternal life.

It is God  “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:4).

God, in his great mercy towards mankind, has provided to mankind an Advocate before His heavenly throne, Jesus Christ, who intercedes on behalf of the Christian before the Father, and who shed His blood to free lost and sinful men and women from the wrath of God against sin.

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:1-2)

These verses illustrate the position and activity of Christ as both Savior and Advocate. He is the propitiation for our sins, meaning that the shedding of His sinless blood in sacrifice for us satisfied the demands of God’s wrath against sin, and that this act of grace was performed for the whole world, for every man, woman, and child who has lived and ever will live. Likewise, He is the Advocate, the one who stands before the throne of the Father and pleads His own righteousness on behalf of those who have trusted in Him as Savior, if we sin.

This contrasts with the quranic Allah, who hates sinners and has made no provision for their reconciliation to him.

“..and Allah loveth not those that do wrong.” (Surah 3:140) – “Contend not on behalf of such as betray their own souls; for Allah loveth not one given to perfidy and sin.” (Surah 4:107) – ”

Indeed, those who disbelieve and commit wrong [or injustice] – never will Allah forgive them, nor will He guide them to a path. (Surah 4:168-169)

And We ordained for them therein a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and for wounds is legal retribution. But whoever gives [up his right as] charity, it is an expiation for him. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are the wrongdoers  (Surah 5:49)

Indeed, those who disbelieve will be addressed, “The hatred of Allah for you was [even] greater than your hatred of yourselves [this Day in Hell] when you were invited to faith, but you refused.” (Surah 40: 10)

As presented in the Qur’an, Allah is a vindictive deity who desires to afflict sinners, not save them. This understanding of Allah seems to be the orthodox Islamic position. Note the passage below:

This is the covenant which you make with Allah as soon as you recite La ilaha illallah, and in doing so you make the whole world your witness. If you violate this covenant, your hand and feet, the minutest hair on your body and every particle of the earth and of the heaven before which you made that false declaration, will render evidence against you in the court of Allah where you will be in the dock in such a helpless condition that not a single defence witness will be available to you. No Advocate or Barrister will be there to plead your case….”

As demonstrated here, breaking the covenant made with Allah, which is the covenant to live and abide by Islamic law and practice, will result in being hauled before the court of Allah completely defenseless, with no hope of ever being either redeemed from your sin or of being saved from the wrath of Allah. Of course, the way in which this covenant is broken is by apostatizing from Islam, not by committing some other gross or negligent personal sin. Indeed, the main thrust of the quranic verses mentioned above seems to be the condemnation of those who “betray their own soul” and who were “called to the faith” and refused, essentially choosing to reject Islam.

Further, the Qur’an contains a great deal about the types of people who Allah hates, usually understood to be those who have rejected Islam, or who will not convert to it:

  • Transgressors (2:190)
  • Ungrateful and wicked creatures (2:276)
  • Those who reject faith (3:32; 30:45)
  • Those who do wrong (3:57, 140; 42:40)
  • The arrogant, the vainglorious (4:36; 16:23; 31:18; 57:23)
  • One given to perfidy and crime (4:107)
  • Those who do mischief (5:64; 28:77)
  • Those given to excess (5:87)
  • Wasters (6:141; 7:31)
  • Those who trespass beyond bounds (7:55)
  • Treacherous (8:58)
  • Ungrateful (22:38)
  • Those who exult in riches (28:76)

This does not reconcile with the God of the Bible who, while hating sin and the performance of sin, also loves sinners and seeks to turn them from their wicked ways.

 “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

This passage illustrates to us God’s amazing love, His willingness to send His Son Jesus Christ to die in our place, to take the wrath against sin upon ourselves, even though we are all sinners. Further, God’s attitude toward the damnation and punishment of sinners is shown in Ezekiel 18:23, “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways and live?”

While Allah may hate all who are not righteous and even seek their damnation, God loves them and has made abundant provision for them to receive forgiveness and eternal life. Truly, human beings go to hell in spite of the undeserved grace that God seeks to give to them.

The reason for this difference in the perception of God between Christians and Muslims has to do with the perception of love. The former believe in a God who loved them enough to send His Son to die for them even while they were still sinners, the latter believe Allah hates any who do not conform to his demands. As noted earlier, love is a necessary part of a reconciled relationship. Yet, Islam rejects love from being an attribute of Allah’s character. Self-sacrificial love is considered to be weakness in the Islamic mindset, and to say that God loves is tantamount to saying that God is weak and vulnerable. Youssef, himself a former Muslim, describes the mindset this way,

The concept of love as one of God’s attributes is conspicuously missing from Islam because in Islamic thought love is a sign of weakness. Far be it from Allah, the all-powerful, to be weak. To love is to be vulnerable, and far be it from Allah to be vulnerable. But love also produces genuine confidence and hope and teaches the beloved to love freely and generously in return. Islam has no concept of the strength of love or of the characteristic qualities of love as desirable. The Koran gives no knowledge of the perfect love of God in Jesus Christ, which casts out fear and which is strong enough to overcome death and inaugurate eternal life. Muslims cannot rest in the promise of a faithful God who assures that nothing will separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

In Islam, God and man are wary of each other, in contrast to Christianity, in which God and man are in love with each other. This difference is of great importance because it lies at the heart of the tensions Muslims feel toward Christians. The same relationship that exists between God and humans in each of the two religions exists by extension between the humans. Christians are taught to love their neighbors as they have first experienced Christ’s love. Muslims are taught – many exhortations to charity notwithstanding – to judge, condemn, and even eliminate their neighbors if they fail to measure up to a certain standard of faith and practice, because that is how they expect Allah to deal with them.”

Contrast this view of the lack of love in God’s character with that expressed by God in the Bible,

And they that escape of you shall remember me among the nations whither they shall be carried captives, because I am broken with their whorish heart, which hath departed from me, and with their eyes, which go a whoring after their idols: and they shall lothe themselves for the evils which they have committed in all their abominations.” (Ezekiel 6:9)

The sin of God’s people may lead to chastisement, but He does not seek their destruction. Instead, their sin breaks His heart (talk about vulnerability!), and He desires for them to return to Him. He does not want to destroy them, He wants to restore them as they repent of their sins against Him.

The lack of assuring knowledge of God’s love for them is much of the reason why the spirit of Islam is so harsh and hateful towards those who are not submitted to its system. Because Allah does not love self-sacrificially – and he certainly does not love those who are not Muslims – neither does the orthodox, fundamentalist Muslim trying to live by the letter of the Qur’an. The Muslim cannot claim that Allah loves him or her. He or she has no true hope or assurance of salvation from all the efforts made in this life. The Muslim is instead left hanging in limbo, never quite knowing if he or she has “done enough” to please Allah at the Last Day.

As Youssef further tells us about this,

The harshness of Islam is the direct result of its uncertainty about salvation and eternity. Not only are people what they worship, but they become what they fear. The Muslim’s fear of Allah’s judgment and condemnation turns outward into the same kind of action toward others. Grace and forgiveness are rare attributes of God or man in Islam, which proves a common saying that ‘Islam is as arid as the deserts of its birth.'”

As Youssef rightly perceives, we become what we worship.

From the origional article

Simply Allah  has no answer to mankinds sins , but the God of the Bible does.

 “O Prophet! say to those who are captives in your hands: “If Allah findeth any good in your hearts, He will give you something better than what has been taken from you, and He will forgive you: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Surah 8:70)

In this passage above, it is taught that Allah will forgive captive prisoners of war who fall into Muslim hands, if these prisoners have good in their hearts, usually understood to be a willingness to accept Islam. Thus, it is taught that inherent goodness in men (or at least some men) will be enough to provoke Allah’s forgiveness. Indeed, it may suggest that those who are inherently good will be the ones to convert to Islam (and vice versa). This teaching basically affirms the Muslim contention that man is inherently good, and that sin is not truly a barrier that separates man from God. The Islamic teaching is essentially man-centered, not God-centered.

 This Islamic teaching that man can be good at heart contradicts what God says in

Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it.

 The main difference is that Islam is a religion of good works but good works are not good enough and without a saviour they have no answer to for their sins.  Only the God of the Bible provided the way back to him and back into a relationship with himself.


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