Islam, with over 1.61 billion followers internationally, is one of the world religions that profess belief in the Oneness of God, that Muslims refer to as ‘tawheed’. The word ‘Islam’ derives its meaning from the Arabic for ‘peace’ and ‘submission’, describing the peace and contentment that comes through faith. A believer in Islam is called a Muslim, which in Arabic means ‘one who submits to the will of God’.
While many Muslims prefer to use the Arabic name for God, ‘Allah’, it doesn’t really matter whether we use the Arabic ‘Allah’ or the English ‘God’, as they mean nearly the same thing. Allah is derived from the Arabic ‘al’ (the) and ‘ilah’ (god), so simply means ‘the God’. Allah has a little more clarity in the sense that it only refers to the one God, whereas ‘god’ with a small ‘g’ can be used in many ways, for instance gods, goddesses, and demi-gods. Allah is never used in this way; as it only refers to Almighty God.
Allah is the same God worshipped by Jews and Christians, known as Elohim or Elah in Hebrew. Arabic speaking Jews and Christians call God ‘Allah’ and Arab Christians refer to Jesus to as ‘Isa ibn Allah’ (Jesus son of God). Although this would never be used by Muslims, who focus on Tawheed, the Oneness of God, with absolute clarity.
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.’” Mark 12:29 (NIV)
“Your God is one God. There is no God but Him, the Merciful-to-all, the Mercy Giver.”
Quran 2:163 (Safi Kaskas)
A teaching that can be traced back to Deuteronomy in the Bible:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:4-7 (NIV)
Belief in the Oneness of God and that all people are equal before God, enables Muslims who take it to heart to transcend differences of ethnicity, nationality, culture, religion, and other distinguishing characteristics. All people are members of the same Human Family, when we realise and truly understand that; we can overcome many evils that plague our communities and societies.
We are all in this together and we either thrive together or suffer together. The choice is ours; I pray we collectively make the right one and work together for the benefit of everyone in our Human Family.
Paul Salahuddin Armstrong
Muslim Chaplain, University of Birmingham