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"Allah" Is The Same One God

Reader comment on item: Is Allah God? - Continued
in response to reader comment: The god of Islam...

Submitted by Hamilton (United States), Sep 27, 2006 at 16:43

If there is only one God, then Jews, Christians and Muslims (and Zoroastrians, Druze, Ba'hai, and Sabians), regardless of the different glosses their sacred texts may give to God must be referring to the same entity. Now Christians may not like some of what the Koran says, just as Jews have serious problems with, say, verses from John, but to suppose that we're not all talking about the same God is non-sense. Christians and Muslims it would also seem have a special interest in this question because both religions have elements of supersessionism: they claim to supersede all other revelations and claim to be the only true or correct path to God. Judaism, for example, because it came first has no such idea, and indeed, recognizes any religion as valid that is consistent with the Noahide laws (see Genesis for the 7 laws of Noah).

God (as an exoteric objective entity) is transcendent. So it does not make sense to discuss the term "God" as if it had a referent like other terms. And indeed, the arguments put forth against the God of the Koran versus the God of the Bible (an ambiguous term, more about which in a moment) are not disagreements about the referent of the term, but rather about whether you like or dislike the specific practices that adherents to each revelation follow. Indeed, it's not so much even the teachings of the Koran that are the basis of arguments that serve to distinguish Allah from the "God of the Bible", since no one has quoted the Koran at any length, but rather the disgust with Islamic fundamentalists superimposed onto the Koran.

Now the term, "God of the Bible" is ambiguous. Because when Christians use that term, they are including the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which posits that God is triune: three persons (the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost) that are in eternal harmony as one. But the triune conception is radically in conflict with the Tannach's (the Jewish Bible) conception of God, who is transcendent, has no form, and most importantly, is one. For Jews, to put in Christian terms, there is only God the Father (thus on the High Holidays Jews sing "Avenu, Malchanu" "Our Father, Our King"). Thus, Jews could not worship God by using the name "Jesus Christ" because that it would be tantamount to idolatry, whereas Jews could worship God using the name "Allah," which is a cognate for "Elohim," one of the many names that God is given in the Tannach (the most famous one being the tetragrammaton: YHVH). From a theological perspective, though Jews and Christians share a sacred text, Judaism and Islam are much closer to each other than Christianity is to either. Compare the Jewish proclamation of faith: Hear O Isreal, The Lord is our God, the Lord is One, with the Muslim one, There is no god but God (and Mohamed is his prophet).

It is true of course that the Koran does deny that God begot a son. (See e.g. Sura 18 and 19). But Judaism would deny this too and argue, as it has for two millenia, that the deification of Jesus rests on numerous flawed interpretations of the Tannach. And yet, there is no doubt that Jews and Christians are referring to the same God, even if one is triune and the other unitarian. These are interesting theological discussions, but the question about whether we all worship the same God is not a theological question, it's a political one. Because Christianity and Islam have supersessionist elements and each claims to be the only valid path to God, each has an interest in denying the validity of the other in a way that other religions do not. If each recognized that there were other valid paths to God, this debate would never even get going. If we all recognized that any religion that conformed to the Noahide laws was a valid religion, we would have a non-reletavistic basis for religious pluralism and tolerance.

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