THE MOSLEM DOCTRINE OF GOD
AN ESSAY ON THE CHARACTER AND ATTRIBUTES OF ALLAH
ACCORDING TO THE KORAN AND ORTHODOX TRADITION
SAMUEL M. ZWEMER, F.R.G.S.
AUTHOR OF "ARABIA, THE CRADLE OF ISLAM", "RAYMUND
AMERICAN TRACT SOCIETY
150 NASSAU STREET, NEW YORK
"Your God and our God are the same."The Koran.
"Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well,
the devils also believe and tremble."James 2:19.
"Neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son
and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him."Matt. 11:27.
JEWS, Christians and Mohammedans believe in one God and yet differ widely in
their interpretation of this idea. Unless we know the Moslem's idea of God we
cannot understand his creed nor judge his philosophy, nor intelligently
communicate our idea of God to him. The strength of Islam is not in its ritual nor in
its ethics, but in its tremendous and fanatical grasp on the one great truth -
[1.]Our purpose in these pages is to learn the extent and content of this idea; an
idea which holds the Moslem world even more than they hold it. I have found no
book in English, among the wealth of literature on Islam, that treats of this subject.
In German there are two books on the theology of the Koran 1, but both are rare
and limited, as appears from their titles, to a consideration of what the Koran
For a fair interpretation, however, of Islam's idea of God we must go not only to
the Koran, but also to orthodox tradition. The Hadith are the records of the
authoritative sayings and doings of Mohammed and have exercised tremendous
power on Moslem thought since the early days of Islam; not only by
supplementing but by interpreting the Koran. The Hadith are accepted by every
Moslem sect, in some form or other, and are indispensable to Islam. For proof of
these statements we refer to Sprenger and Muir. The Koran-text quoted is from
Palmer's translation, together with references to the three standard commentaries
of Beidhawi, Zamakhshari and Jellalain. For orthodox tradition I have used the
collection known as Mishkat-al-Misabih, because it is short, authoritative, and
because an English translation of this collection exists. (Captain Matthew's Mishcat-ul-Masabih, or a collection of the most authentic traditions regarding the actions
and sayings of Mohammed; exhibiting the origin of the manners and customs, the
civil, religious and military policy of the Musselmans. Translated from the original
Arabic. Calcutta, 1809; 2 folio volumes.) This collection, originally the work of
Bagawi (516 A.H.) and based on the classical works of Buchari and Muslim, was
edited and issued in its present form by Abdullah-al-Khatib (737 A.H.); and
Brockelmann in his history of Arabic literature calls it "the most correct and
practical book of Moslem traditions." I had no access to the translation and all
references are to the Arabic edition printed in Delhi.
The frontispiece is from the celebrated Shems-ul Ma'arif of Muhyee-ed-Din-al-Buni
This book treats of the names of God and their use in amulets, healing, recovering
lost property, etc. I am aware that in some parts of the Mohammedan world
disintegration of religious ideas is in progress and that the theology as well as the
ethics of Islam is being modified by contact with Western civilization, Protestant
missions, and Christian morals. My idea, however, was not to sketch the
theological views of Moslems in Liverpool nor of the reformers of Islam in India, but
of the vast orthodox majority of the people both learned and illiterate.
In the comparative study of any religion the idea of God is fundamental, and if
these pages give a clearer idea of what Mohammed taught and what his followers
believe concerning Allah, the Christian missionary will the more earnestly preach to
Moslems the Gospel of our Saviour, who said, "He that hath seen Me hath seen
"Historically, a pure theism is all but impotent. There is only one example of it
on a large scale in the world, and that is a kind of bastard Christianity -
Mohammedanism; and we all know what good that is as a religion. There are
plenty of people who call themselves Theists and not Christians. Well, I venture
to say that is a phase that will not last. There is little substance in it. The God
whom men know outside of Jesus Christ is a poor nebulous thing; an idea and
not a reality. You will have to get something more substantial than the far-off
god of an unchristian Theism if you mean to sway the world and to satisfy
men's hearts." - Alexander Maclaren (in sermon on John 14:1).
ANALYSIS OF ISLAM AS A SYSTEM DEVELOPED FROM ITS CREED
"There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is His Apostle"
THE DOCTRINE OF GOD "Pantheism of Force"
1. Negative (Nafi) "There is no god" -
2. Positive (Athbat) "but Allah."
His Names ... of the essence, Allah (the absolute unit)
of the attributes, - ninety-nine names
His attributes ... The physical emphasized above the moral
Deification of absolute force
Expressed in a series of negations, "He is not."
THE DOCTRINE OF REVELATION:
(Mohammed, the Apostle of God, is the sole channel of revelation and abrogates
Orthodox Moslems acknowledge two kinds of revelation and one authority besides
I. BY THE KORAN
(Wahi el Matlu)
Verbal revelation, which teaches the two-fold demands of Islam: -
(what to believe), "Iman"
1. In God
2. Angels (angels, jinn, devils)
Moslems believe that 104 "books" were sent from heaven in the following order:
These are utterly lost
To Adam ten books
To Seth fifty books
To Enoch thirty books
To Abraham ten books
These are highly spoken of in the Koran but are now in corrupted condition and
have been abrogated by the final book
To Moses The TORAH
To David The ZABOOR
To Jesus The INJIL
To Mohammed the KORAN
Eternal in origin: complete and miraculous in character; supreme in beauty and
4. Last Day (Judgment)
a. The Greater
Adam "Chosen of God."
Noah "Preacher of God"
Abraham "Friend of God"
Moses "Spokesman of God"
Jesus called "Word of God" and "Spirit of God"
MOHAMMED, (who has 201 names and titles)
b. The Less
Of these there have been thousands. Twenty two are mentioned in the Koran viz.:
Enoch, Hud, Salih, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Lot, Aaron, Shuaib, Zakariah,
John, David, Solomon, Elias, Lukman, Zu-el-kifl, Alexander the Great, Elisha.
B. PRACTICE :
(what to do) "Din"
[the five pillars]
1. Repetition of the Creed
2.Prayer (five times daily) including:
a. Purification : washing various parts of the body three time according to fourteen rules
b. Posture (prostrations) : facing the Kiblah (Mecca), prostrations, genuflections
c. Petition : Declaration of the Fatihah or first Surah. Praise and confession the
3. Fasting (month of Ramadhan)
4. Alms-giving (about 1-40 of income)
Mecca (incumbent), Medina (meritorious but voluntary), Kerbala, Meshed, Ali, etc.