Allah—The God of Islam

Muslims affirm the existence of a single God or Supreme Being called Allah. The term “Allah” probably comes from al illah, meaning “the God.” Allah’s attributes include omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, and unity—denoting His indivisible nature as distinct from the concept of the Trinity.  

Allah Has Many Names

The Quran speaks of various names by which Allah is known, each revealing one of His attributes. These include the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, the Sovereign, the Source of Peace, the Guardian of Faith, the Preserver of Security, and the Supreme (Sura 59:22-24). Despite this array of titles, Muslims most often refer to Him simply as Allah.

In conversations among Muslims, the mention of Allah’s name is a common occurrence, woven into the fabric of their speech. A Muslim’s commitment to a particular course of action may be accompanied by the word “Enshallah,” which means “If Allah wills.” When a sneeze interrupts a conversation, it is common to hear the reflexive exclamation, “Praise Allah!” Similarly, the encounter with moments of beauty prompts expressions such as “Glory to Allah!” In the mundane routines of daily life, it is common to hear expressions of gratitude such as, “Thanks be to Allah!” 

Allah Is “One”

In the Islamic faith, Allah is perceived as completely singular (as opposed to being triune). This singularity precludes any notion of partners or companions. 

Muslims consider Allah to be fundamentally incomprehensible. Consequently, they often resort to negation when describing Allah, stating what He is not rather than what He is. For example, Muslims claim that Allah is not a spirit. The term “spirit” would make Him comparable to angels, who are spirits. Muslims assert that Allah is beyond sensory perception. He cannot be grasped visually, nor does he possess physical attributes or components. Despite such negations, Muslims also emphasize Allah’s qualities of compassion and mercy, emphasizing His benevolent nature.

Some within the Muslim community prefer the term “unicity” to underscore the absolute uniqueness and oneness of Allah. They emphasize that Allah exists independently of creation, without any form of manifestation. While Allah’s will is evident through the Quran, He himself remains unmanifested. This transcendence is so profound that any suggestion of Allah’s revealing Himself would compromise His transcendental nature.

Muslims understand Allah as transcending all qualities and states attributed to creatures. He is distant and inaccessible, existing beyond human comprehension. Allah’s nature is entirely distinct, making Him unknowable. Yet, paradoxically, the Quran asserts that Allah is closer to human beings than their own jugular veins. Despite this proximity, Allah does not manifest Himself directly to those to whom He is “close.”

The Trinity Is Viewed as an Abhorrent Doctrine

The core belief in the absolute unity of Allah is the primary reason that Muslims reject the Christian doctrines of the Trinity and Jesus as the Son of God. They interpret the phrase “Son of God” quite literally, perceiving it to imply a physical coupling for the begetting of Christ by Allah. Consequently, Muslims reject the notion of Allah as “Father” since such a term inherently implies physical procreation. For them, to refer to Allah as a “father” or “heavenly father” is blasphemous because it suggests a divine involvement in sexual activity to produce Jesus Christ (see Suras 6:101 and 19:35).

When Muslims address the topic of the Trinity, they commonly characterize it as tritheism, which posits the existence of three distinct deities rather than the orthodox understanding of one God eternally manifest in three persons (Sura 4:171). Furthermore, Muslims often argue that the doctrine of the Trinity is internally contradictory—how can something be both three and one at the same time?

In discussions with Muslims about the Trinity, a curious misconception often arises—the notion that the Trinity consists of God, Mary, and Jesus (see Sura 5:116). This seems to have been Muhammad’s understanding of the Trinity.

Allah—A Source of Good and Evil

The idea of Allah’s total sovereignty is one of the more controversial aspects of the Muslim concept of Allah. “God hath power over all things,” says the Quran (Sura 3:165). Muslims believe that God is the source of both good and evil (Suras 32:13; 113:1,2). God can direct people toward either good or evil. Abdiyah Akbar Abdul-Haqq observes: “Even if a person desires to choose God’s guidance, he cannot do so without the prior choice of God in favor of his free choice.” Muslims believe that Allah’s immutable decrees foreordain everything that happens in the universe, good or bad. They say that everything we think, say, and do—good or bad—was predestined, foreordained, decided, and decreed from the beginning of time. Everything is preordained and written in stone (Hadith 8:611). Risaleh-i-Barkhawi, a Muslim theologian, goes so far as to say:

Not only can he (God) do anything, he actually is the only one who does anything. When a man writes, it is Allah who has created in his mind the will to write. Allah at the same time gives power to write, then brings about the motion of the hand and the pen and the appearance upon paper. All other things are passive, Allah alone is active. 

Islam has a deep-rooted fatalistic streak, often encapsulated in the phrase “Enshallah,” or “If Allah wills,” often repeated by devout followers. This fatalism can sometimes lead to negligent behavior. A poignant example can be seen in Tehran, Iran, where children occasionally meet tragic fates by falling from low balcony railings in apartment buildings. Despite these preventable accidents, little effort is made to raise the height of the railings because belief in Allah’s will renders such measures futile. Consequently, fatalism erodes the sense of moral obligation.

In an attempt to reconcile Allah’s seemingly contradictory nature—capable of both good and evil—some Muslims assert that these actions stem from His will rather than from His inherent character. This explanation, however, proves unsatisfactory because actions are intrinsically linked to one’s nature. As Norman Geisler and Abdul Saleeb put it, “Salt water does not flow from a fresh stream.” 

One cannot help but notice that the Allah of the Quran seems to act somewhat arbitrarily. He can choose good, but he can just as easily choose evil. He can choose mercy, but he can just as easily choose severity. He can choose love, but he can just as easily choose hate (see Sura 11:118-19). 

Given the clear teaching of the Quran that Allah is involved in both good and evil, it is not surprising to learn that there is no suggestion in the Quran that Allah is holy. The Quran seems to emphasize Allah’s power rather than his purity, his omnipotence rather than his holiness. 

Allah’s Love is Limited

A Muslim could not truthfully say that “God is love” as the Christian can (1 John 4:16). In Islam, Allah’s love is reserved for those who worship and obey him, while unbelievers do not receive his love. The Quran emphasizes Allah’s mercy toward the righteous but portrays him as withholding mercy from the wicked (Suras 2:135; 3:31; 19:96). 

A Christian Assessment

Contrary to Islam, the Bible paints a vivid picture of God as deeply personal, inviting intimate relationships with human beings. God intentionally created human beings with the ability to connect and communicate with Him on a personal basis (Genesis 1:26-27). Our primary purpose, our highest aspiration, must be to know God personally and intimately.

Consider that when God created Adam, He recognized Adam’s solitude as “not good” (Genesis 2:18). Human beings were designed to be social creatures, not to exist in isolation, but to participate in relationships with others. Foremost among these relationships is the relationship with God Himself. There is a longing in every human heart that only God can satisfy, a void that only He can fill. We are created with an innate longing for fellowship with God, and our souls remain restless and insecure until that longing becomes a living reality.

The biblical narrative leaves no doubt that people in ancient times had intimate relationships with God in their personal lives. Knowing God was the primary concern of ancient believers. Enoch and Noah are described as walking closely with God (Genesis 5:24; 6:9). God communicated directly, bypassing intermediaries, with figures such as Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, David, Elijah, and Isaiah. Similarly, God spoke directly to Peter, James, John, Philip, Paul, and Ananias in the New Testament. This is in stark contrast to the distant figure of Allah in Islam.

God Is Spirit

In contrast to the Islamic view of God, the Bible affirms that “God is spirit” (John 4:24). Because God is spirit, He is invisible and cannot be seen (Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:17). John 1:18 tells us, “No one has ever seen God [the Father]; the only God [Jesus Christ], who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (inserts added for clarification). When Jesus became a man, He became a visible revelation of the invisible God (the Father).

Islam’s claim that the description of God as spirit implies a created status similar to that of angels is unfounded. Scripture affirms that God, being spirit, transcends time and is eternal. He is the eternal King (1 Timothy 1:17) and the sole possessor of immortality (6:16). Descriptions such as “Alpha and Omega” (Revelation 1:8) and “first and last” (Isaiah 44:6; 48:12) underscore His eternal nature. God’s existence extends from eternity past to eternity future, as noted in passages such as Isaiah 43:13 and Psalm 90:2. Such phrases are never used in Scripture of creatures like angels. 

Transcendent and Immanent

The concept of the transcendence of God delves into the idea of God’s distinctiveness, His separateness from both the universe He created and humanity. Conversely, the immanence of God refers to His dynamic presence within creation and human affairs while maintaining His unique essence apart from them. While Allah is portrayed as profoundly transcendent, the God of the Bible is both transcendent and immanent, exalted above creation and yet intimately involved with His creatures. 

Some Bible verses emphasize both the transcendence and immanence of God. Deuteronomy 4:39 says, “Know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath.” In Isaiah 57:15, God affirms: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit.” In Jeremiah 23:23-24 God says, “Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away?” God is above and beyond creation, yet He is also active amid creation. 

God Reveals Himself

Muslims believe that while Allah’s divine will is evident in the Quran, Allah Himself remains hidden and invisible. In contrast, the Bible asserts that God has consistently taken the initiative to reveal Himself, not just His laws, to humanity. 

The concept of revelation is logically consistent with the idea of God as our nurturing heavenly Father. No caring parent would intentionally hide from his child and allow him to grow up unaware of his existence. Such behavior would be considered the ultimate in cruelty. Similarly, for God, the act of creating us and then remaining silent would contradict the nature of a loving heavenly Father.

God’s revelation unfolds through two primary channels: general revelation and special revelation. General revelation refers to revelation that is available to all people of all times. For example, the beauty and order of nature serve as evidence of His existence (Psalm 19). On the other hand, special revelation includes distinct and explicit manifestations of God, such as His pivotal interventions in human history, as seen in the Exodus narrative, or in the person of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:2-3). It also includes His messages delivered through prophets and apostles, as described in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. 

Ultimately, God delights in making Himself known, ensuring that His presence and purposes are unmistakable to those who seek Him.

Caution in Discussing the Trinity

Muslims sometimes ask, “Do you believe in the Trinity?” This question requires caution on the part of Christians. As Sobhi Malek notes, if a Christian answers with a simple “yes” without elaborating on the meaning of the term, the Muslim may conclude that the Christian believes in three separate gods, a notion abhorrent to Muslims. Conversely, if the Christian denies belief in the Trinity, he would be going against a fundamental Christian doctrine. Therefore, when faced with this question, the Christian should respond with a qualified “yes,” accompanied by a clear definition of the Trinity.

Muslims reject the Trinity for various reasons. Primarily, they perceive it as suggesting that God has partners, a concept they find abhorrent. In addition, Muslims argue that the term “Trinity” doesn’t appear in the Bible. In response, one can point out that the Muslim term for God’s oneness, “tawhid,” is also not directly mentioned in the Quran. Yet Muslims maintain the concept of God’s oneness based on the entirety of the Quran. Likewise, though the word Trinity is not mentioned in the Bible, the concept is clearly derived from the whole of Scripture.

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is based on (1) evidence that there is only one true God; (2) evidence that there are three persons who are called God in Scripture; and (3) scriptural evidence of three-in-oneness in the Godhead. Let’s briefly consider these three doctrinal planks:

1. The testimony of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation consistently affirms the unity of God—a crucial point to emphasize in conversations with Muslim acquaintances who misinterpret the Trinity as the worship of three gods. Both the Old and New Testaments virtually shout that there is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4; 32:39; 2 Samuel 7:22; Psalm 86:10; Isaiah 37:20; 43:10; 44:6; 45:5,14,21-22; 46: 9; John 5:44; 17:3; Romans 3:29,30; 16:27; 1 Corinthians 8:4; Galatians 3:20; Ephesians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 Timothy 1:17; 2:5; James 2:19; 1 John 5:20,21; Jude 25). 

2. While affirming one God, Scripture also reveals the existence of three distinct persons identified as God in the Bible—the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. It’s important to clarify that the Trinity is not God, Jesus, and Mary, but rather the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Each of these three persons is called God in Scripture—the Father (1 Peter 1:2), Jesus (Hebrews 1:8), and the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4). They also individually possess the attributes of deity, including omnipresence (Matthew 19:26; 28:18; Psalm 139:7), omniscience (Romans 11:33; Matthew 9:4; 1 Corinthians 2:10), and omnipotence (1 Peter 1:5; Matthew 28:18; Romans 15:19). In addition, each of the three performs the works of deity. For example, all three were involved in the creation of the universe: the Father (Genesis 2:7; Psalm 102:25), Jesus (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2), and the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:2; Job 33:4; Psalm 104:30).

3. Finally, Scripture points to three-in-oneness within the Godhead. A notable verse is Matthew 28:19. After Jesus rose from the dead, He referred to all three persons of the Trinity while instructing the disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The word name in this verse is singular in Greek, indicating that there is one God, but there are three distinct persons within the Godhead—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

Further evidence of God’s triune nature is found in Paul’s benediction in his second letter to the Corinthians: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God [the Father] and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14). This verse shows the intimacy that each of the three persons has with the believer.

When you try to explain the Trinity to Muslim friends, they may express difficulty in understanding the doctrine. How can three be one? It’s important to clarify that the Trinity does not involve three gods in one God or three persons in one person, which would be illogical. Rather, it affirms one God eternally revealed in three persons (three WHOS in one WHAT). This concept is difficult for finite minds to comprehend fully, but its complexity suggests divine origin rather than human invention. You’d have to have the mind of God to understand the nature of God fully (see Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 11:33). 

God Love’s Sinners

While the Quran asserts that “Allah loveth not those that do wrong” (Sura 3:140), the Christian scriptures proclaim a profound message: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God’s affection extends to all sinners, as emphasized in passages such as John 3:16 and Romans 5:1-10.

Love is not merely a trait of God; it defines His very nature—“God is love” (1 John 4:8). Love permeates His very being. Remarkably, God’s love doesn’t depend on our merit; it persists despite our fallenness (John 3:16). First John 4:9-10 illuminates this truth: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 

God Is Holy

Unlike the Allah of the Quran, the God of the Bible is holy. God’s holiness means not only that He is entirely separate from all evil but also that He is absolutely righteous (Leviticus 19:2). He is pure in every way. God is separate from all that is morally imperfect. Among the many verses that address this aspect of God are Exodus 15:11, 1 Samuel 2:2, Psalm 99:9, 111:9, Isaiah 6:3, and Revelation 15:4. 

God Is Singularly Good, Just, and Righteous

The Bible emphasizes the absolute unity of God’s moral nature. When we speak of “unity,” we refer to the absence of dualistic notions of good and evil, kindness and cruelty, in God’s being. God embodies pure goodness, justice, and righteousness without any moral ambiguity. The God of the Bible hates evil, does not create moral evil, and does not lead people astray.

Unlike the God of the Bible, Allah is not intrinsically good but is labeled as such because of his actions. There is a fundamental logical inconsistency in this view. If Allah is considered good only because of his deeds, should he not be considered evil for any wrongdoing? It seems difficult to avoid this conclusion.

Moreover, if Allah is capable of evil actions, does this not reflect something inherent in his character? Doesn’t an effect resemble its cause? One cannot produce what one does not possess. Viewed in this light, it is hard to escape the conclusion that evil is part of Allah’s nature.

Contrary to Islamic beliefs, the Bible asserts that good and evil cannot come from the same source; they cannot both come from God. Scripture portrays God as pure light without darkness (1 John 1:5), emphasizing His unique goodness, righteousness, and justice. Various passages illustrate God’s unique goodness (Psalm 25:8; 31:19; 34:8; 100:5; 106:1; Nahum 1:7), righteousness (Ezra 9:15; Psalm 11:7; 33:5; 89:14; Jeremiah 12:1), and justice (Genesis 18:25; Psalm 11:7; John 17:25; Hebrews 6:10).

Sovereignty and Free Will

The God portrayed in the Bible reigns sovereignly over the cosmos, holding sway over all things and asserting dominion over every aspect of existence (Psalm 50:1; 66:7; 93:1; Isaiah 40:17; 1 Timothy 6:15). At the same time, Scripture presents humanity as possessing volition and the capacity for independent choice (Genesis 3:1-7). It remains a profound mystery to our limited understanding of how divine sovereignty and human autonomy coexist, yet both principles find expression in the pages of Scripture. These concepts often appear intertwined within a single verse (see Acts 2:23 and 13:48). This underscores that the true God, unlike Allah, cannot be held responsible for the evil choices of human beings.

An Objective Basis for Forgiving Sinners

The Bible highlights humankind’s predicament of falling “short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and indicates the need for a remedy. Man’s sinfulness, his complete lack of righteousness, made it impossible for him to establish a relationship with God on his own. God solved this seemingly insurmountable problem by “declaring righteous” all who believe in Jesus. Through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, where He took our place and bore our sins, believers are acquitted by God and declared “not guilty.” Romans 3:24 emphasizes that God’s declaration of righteousness is given to believers “by his grace as a gift,” where grace is defined as “unmerited favor.” Only because of God’s unmerited favor can believers be declared righteous before Him.

It’s crucial to stress that God’s declaration of righteousness rests on an objective foundation. It wasn’t merely a subjective decision by God to overlook humanity’s sin or dismiss their unrighteousness, which would be both unjust and unrighteous. Instead, Jesus willingly died on the cross on our behalf, paying the price for our sins and redeeming us from death through His sacrifice.

In contrast, Islam lacks the concept of atonement, leading to the absence of an objective basis for Allah to pardon sins. This ultimately suggests that Allah would be unjust and unrighteous. Only through the cross could God maintain His justice while justifying those who trust in Jesus, even though they are ungodly. To suggest that God could forgive sinners without any requirement for atonement “is to impute immorality to God and make him a protector of sin rather than its condemner.” 

The Biblical God Is Not Allah 

Although it is often argued that the Allah of Islam and the God of the Bible are the same God, their differences are so substantial as to make a common identity impossible: 

• While the God of the Quran is a radical unity, the God of the Bible is a Trinity (Matthew 28:19).

• While the God of the Quran cannot have a “Son,” the God of the Bible has an eternal Son named Jesus Christ (John 3:16).

• While the God of the Quran is not a spirit, the God of the Bible is spirit (John 4:24).

• While the God of the Quran is wholly transcendent, the God of the Bible is both transcendent and immanent (Deuteronomy 4:39; Isaiah 57:15; Jeremiah 23:23,24). 

• While the God of the Quran brings about both good and evil, the God of the Bible never engages in evil (1 John 1:5).

• While the God of the Quran is not a “Father” (Sura 19:88-92; 112:3), the God of the Bible is a Father (Matthew 6:9). 

• While the God of the Quran loves only those who love him and obey him, the God of the Bible loves all people, including all sinners (Luke 15:11-24). 

• While the God of the Quran reveals only his laws and not himself, the God of the Bible has revealed Himself from the beginning.

• While the God of the Quran has no objective basis for forgiving people, the God of the Bible does have an objective basis—the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. 

My friends, it is critically important that Muslims come to understand the truth about God, Jesus, and the gospel that saves. I invite you to consult my book, Reasoning from the Scriptures with Muslims (Harvest House Publishers). It will teach everything you need to know to effectively dialog with Muslims.

  1. William Miller, A Christian’s Response to Islam (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1976), p. 45.
  2. Bruce McDowell and Anees Zaka, Muslims and Christians at the Table (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1999), p. 94.
  3. Donald Tingle, Islam & Christianity (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1985), p. 8.
  4. Abdiyah Akbar Abdul-Haqq, Sharing Your Faith with a Muslim (Minneapolis: Bethany, 1980), p. 159.
  5. Risaleh-i-Barkhawi, quoted in Gerhard Nehls, Christians Ask Muslims (Bellville: SIM International Life Challenge, 1987), p. 21.
  6. Lewis Hopfe, Religions of the World (New York: Macmillan, 1991), p. 410.
  7. McDowell and Zaka, p. 124.
  8. Norman Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), pp. 141-42.
  9. Sobhi Malek, Islam: Challenge and Mandate, in The World of Islam CD-ROM.
  10. William Saal, Reaching Muslims for Christ (Chicago: Moody, 1993), in The World of Islam CD-ROM.
  11. Gleason Archer, “Confronting the Challenge of Islam in the 21st Century,” Contend for the Faith (Chicago: EMNR, 1992), p. 99.

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