Human’s conceptions and imagery about God is mostly conjecture. We have no firm knowledge about God other than what He teaches us. The Quran says that we cannot comprehend God, that He is “high exalted above anything that people may devise by way of definition” (6:100) and that “there is nothing like Him” (42:11).
The Muslim learns about God from the Quran and prophetic traditions. The Names of Allah, also known as The Most Beautiful Names of God are specific attributes by which Muslims regard God and which are described in the Quran and prophetic traditions. Some of the names are:
The Sovereign Lord, The Holy, The Majestic, The Almighty, The Supreme, The Most High, The Sublime One, The Noble One, The Praiseworthy, The One, The Unique, The Eternal, The Glorious, The Everlasting, The Merciful, The Compassionate, The Loving, The Source of Peace, The Courteous, The Generous One, The Appreciative, The Patient, The Responsive, The Forbearing, The Oft-Forgiving, The All-Forgiving, Accepter of Repentance, The Pardoner, The Protecting Friend, The Cherishing Lord, The All-Knowing, The Hearer, The Seer, The Well-Aware, The Watchful, The All-Embracing, The Wise, The Witness, The Guide, The Just, The Judge, The Keeper of Accounts, The Truth, The Trustee, The Protector, The Resurrector, The Reckoner, The Avenger, The Equitable.
God’s names show His absolute power and control over all things, including evil. God is the perfection, the source, and the dispenser of all virtue and authority, as well as the source of all good. This knowledge has a profound impact on the life of a true Muslim: Knowing that God’s knowledge is complete, he acts within God’s stated limits and accepts God’s will. Knowing that God’s power is absolute, he prays for himself and others, depends on God for his needs, calls on Him exclusively, and feels reassured and relieved in times of distress. Knowing that God is both just and merciful, he tries to avoid God’s displeasure and hopes for His acceptance and mercy. Knowing that God is loving and wise, he feels cared for and particularly blessed, he knows that God’s choices for him are best, and he feels confident and serene. If harm comes his way, the Muslim knows it is because there is a purpose behind it and it is for his ultimate good.
How do we experience God?
Prophets may experience God by hearing His voice, such as Moses: “And when he came to it [the burning bush], he was called, ‘O Moses, indeed I am your Lord…’” (Quran, 20:11-12). Or God may send an angel, such as to Zachariah: “The angels called out to him while he was standing in prayer… ‘God gives you the good news of [a son] John, who will come to confirm a Word from God…’” (3:39). Or He may send revelation or inspiration: “And thus We have revealed to you (O Muhammad) an inspiration of Our command…” (42:51)
However, regular people can experience God through His revealed scripture, which is His word in human language. The Quran says, “You receive the Quran directly from One who is All-Wise, All-Knowing”(27:6). Another way to experience God is through prayer, which is conversation with God. The Quran says, “If my servants ask you about Me, I am near. I answer the call of the caller when he calls on Me” (2:186). Finally, adopting His attributes in our struggle for personal and social perfection (jihad) is a way of experiencing God. For example, when we forgive, we experience something of the infinite forgiveness that comes from “The Forgiving.” When we defend others, we experience some of the infinite guardianship that comes from “The Protector.” When we are honest, we experience something of the Truth that has “The Truthful” as its source. We can experience God’s divine names (His Being) as recipients of others’ goodness and as doers of good. But in order to experience God to our fullest capability, we have to acknowledge the source of goodness. Virtue without God-consciousness is defective and incomplete.
The Quran says that nothing beside God is divine in any way:
- “God bears witness that there is no god but Him, as do the angels and the people of knowledge…” (3:18)
- “It is not befitting for God to take a son. Exalted is He! When he decrees a matter, He only says to it, “Be,” and it is.” (19:35)
- “Say (O Muhammad), ‘I am only a human like you…'” (18:110)
- “O men! A parable is presented, so listen to it! Indeed, those you invoke besides Allah will never create [as much as] a fly, even if they all gathered together for that purpose! And if the fly should steal from them a [tiny] thing, they could not recover it from him. Weak are the pursuer and the pursued!” (22:73(
- “Say: ‘O people of the Book! Let us come to common terms as between us and you: That we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, lords and patrons other than Allah.'” (3:64)
- “Do you not see that whatever is in the heavens prostrates to God and whatever is on the earth, and the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, the moving creatures and many of the people?…”(22:18)
In summary, the Quran describes God as a single and absolute power, and mentions many of His attributes. God relates to humans in various ways, but most people experience Him through prayer, reading the Quran and developing qualities whose perfection is in Him. No other being is divine in any way, whether prophets, angels, saints, humans, animals, or anything in nature. The Quran commands us to:
“Say, ‘I call only upon my Lord and do not associate anyone else with Him.’” (72:20)
“Say, ‘He is Allah the One, Allah the eternal refuge. He neither begets nor is born, nor is there any equivalent to Him.’” (112)
These powerful statements of faith lends greatness and sublimity to man because, by applying it, he is freed from servitude and submission to anything or anyone other than the Majestic, Eternal and only God.