There is no god but God

Peace, one and all…

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If you wanted a handy summation of the basic beliefs of Islam, you couldn’t do much better than the shahadah, the Islamic declaration of faith (literally ‘witnessing’).  In Arabic, it runs thus:

La ilaha ill Allah, Muhammadur rasul Allah

A literal translation would run something like this: ‘there is no god but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God’.  Whilst this does, indeed, capture the essence of the Islamic worldview it doesn’t fully convey the breadth that this statement is really trying to make.  Thus, a more accurate translation (at least in terms of ideas) would probably be something like this:

‘Nothing has the right to be worshipped but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God’

That is, the Islamic tradition has a very well developed understanding of the human pysche – in particular, our ability to turn all sorts of things into ‘gods’.  Thus, much of the Quranic discourse on assigning partners to God works in this multi-layered manner too.

In one particularly important passage, the Quran states:

‘Have you seen the one who takes as his god his own desire?’ (al-Furqan 25:43)

That is, our own desires can, if unchecked, become ‘gods’ themselves, or rather, people can serve their egos as if they were gods.  Such ego-gods are perhaps the most pernicious and hard to deal with of all, and they can take many forms.  Lust, greed, selfishness – all of these things can be served as deities, if we’re not careful.  Religion too can become a god.  That is, when we’re unconnected from ourselves and our inner ears, our (mis)understandings of religion can also become a god. 

The Islamic tradition is really pointing out here, though, that the only real god is God (one of whose Names in Islam is al-Haqq, The Truth or The Real).  In a very important prophetic tradition, Prophet Muhammad (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) is reported to have said:

Then he (the man) said, “Inform me about Ihsan.” He (the Messenger of Allah) answered, ” It is that you should serve Allah as though you could see Him, for though you cannot see Him yet He sees you.”

Ma’as salama,
Abdur Rahman

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8 thoughts on “There is no god but God

  1. Salaams bhai.
    Bhai, you are talking about the most basic(not simple)and most important thing in this and all other worlds!!
    Thank you for sharing this post. The translation “There is no god but God” is very funny! We too can say there is no sun but sun, no muneer but muneer and so on.
    Allah could have used ‘La Allah illa Alla’ or ‘La Ilaha illa Ilaha’. That is not the case. Each and every letter and word have their significance.

    Instead of shedding light on the meaning, this simplistic translation instead kills the message.
    Bhai has thrown in some amount of light here.‘Nothing has the right to be worshipped but God’ is closer to the meaning.

    We need more clarification regarding ‘god’ and ‘God'(Ilah and Allah). The former is an attribute and the latter is the one to whom the attribute belongs.

    Ihsan: The source actually means ”It is that you should serve Allah as though you see Him, and if you cannot see Him ,He indeed sees you.”

    In the translation mentioned in the post “worship as though you could see Him, for r though (instead of if) you..” the italicized are adulterations by the translator. I find it incompatible with the reality. These seemingly simple adulterations induce deviation from the truth.

    —————————————-
    That makes a lengthy comment! Hope bhai wouldn’t mind.

  2. Salaams Abdul Muneer,

    Al hamdu lillah for lengthy comments! 🙂

    Thank you for your comments. May Allah bless you. Yes, the translation isn’t the standard one. I took it froma website, rather from other sources (I was a little pressed for time).

    Ma’as salama,
    Abdur Rahman

  3. Assalamu alaikum all,

    Jazak Allahu khayran bhaijan for sharing this… indeed NONE is worthy of worship except Allah…

    You said: “If you wanted a handy summation of the basic beliefs of Islam, you couldn’t do much better than the shahadah, the Islamic declaration

    And also, I think we must look to Hadith Jibril. Our deen actually consists of three important elements: Islam (the 5 pillars), Iman (belief in Allah, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, the Last Day, Qadr – good and bad of it and life after death) and Ihsan (to worship Allah as if you see Him, and knowing that if you see Him not, He surely sees you). These are beautifully explained in this concise hadith. And all of these three elements constitute the deen of Islam. So i think everything mentioned in this hadith must be equally important…

    Islam is the outer and practical application of what our deen commands, imaan is the belief we possess in our hearts… and ihsan is the inner dimension of our faith that insha’Allah we are all aspiring too…

    Keep this faqira in your du’as, all good ive said is from Allah and all mistakes are my own.

    I had recently attended a lecture at my uni on Hadith Jibril, masha’Allah it was brilliant and inspiring! alhamdulillahi Rabbil 3aalameen!

    Peace

    http://fortyhadith.iiu.edu.my/hadith02.htm

  4. Salaams Ukhti,

    Yes, it’s a great hadith. Full of important things. In fact, I wrote this post and then copied it to http://www.streetprophets.com (I’ve just joined) and soon afterwards, someone posted the hadith of jibril! Great minds think alike it seems.

    I took a short Sunnipath course on this last year and it was great, al hamdu lillah. Who gave the lecture?

    Ma’as salama,
    Abdur Rahman

  5. There is no God, but God. This is not only an expression of monotheism, or an expression of proper worship of God as opposed to our self-centered ego/nafs. It is also, to the Sufi, an expression of the nature of reality. There is nothing but God, and we are His illusion created to behold and worship the hidden treasure.

    La illaha ill Allah!

    and Ya Haqq!

  6. Wa alaikum salaam akhi,

    yeh i came across the Sunnipath link when searching for the Hadith. I love the free courses they have now and again!!!

    It was Shaykh Sa’ad al Attas 🙂

    Jummua Mubarak to you all!

  7. Salaams Irving,

    Yes. The more I think about it, the more I realise how deep this essential point is.

    God bless you for bringing it to mind.

    Abdur Rahman

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