Comparing God and Allah – Fundamental Considerations

After two weeks of plunging into the waters of the Koran, I can finally come up for air — fresh air. After taking time to plow through the repetitive and garbled “revelations” given to Muhammad in the name of Allah, I can now proceed to rejoice in my Christian faith knowing with metaphysical certainty that Allah is not God. In fact, if Allah were truly God, I would be led to despair and self-destruction, for he is a tyrant and marauder of goodness, no matter what his “ninety-nine names” are. Praised be Jesus Christ!

I knew that I had to read the Koran, in all fairness, in order to proceed with a book project which now consumes me. Having spent twenty years writing about Christianity and women, I wanted to see how women have fared under Islam, since stories of honor killings and death threats to Muslim apostates have relentlessly filtered through the self-policing media in the West.  What is this faith that triggers such a reaction when attacked from within or without?

Is Allah God?

If we learned anything from the Banner Art Years of CCD, we learned that “God is Love.”  It may not have included the excellent detail of Fr Hardon’s Catechism — the most recent to carefully list and explain the fifteen attributes of God –  but we got that central point. We’ve been told that this was the one thought that captivated the apostle John — exiled to the island of Patmos, because once a person really delves into love, all the world is new. One falls in love with Love.

If you consider those classic attributes of God as understood through Christianity, the premise is that he is all those things simultaneously and can never contradict Himself. On one level, it’s like a detective game that posits some clues: the culprit was a left-handed woman, wearing glasses and a red sweater, etc. so that a variety of suspects have to be sifted through and eliminated. (Even a child knows that you have to abide by the rules, and cannot say in the end, “She was wearing a green sweater because, well, she changed.”) The challenge is to combine God’s attributes – such as personal and omnipotent, omnipresent and invisible — so that one can serve him with an informed conscience. To understand God is to understand man in His image and likeness.

Islam insists on no such inner logic, allowing Allah to be “Life-Giver” (Al-Muhyi ) simultaneously with being “Bringer of Death” (Al-Mumīt ). He can even capriciously contradict himself, if he feels like it, being both the “Truth” (Al-Haqq ) and the “Best of Deceivers” (al-Makr ) [i] Despite having all those creative and poetic names by which to describe him, not one names him “love.” Muhammad says that Allah does love (Al-Wadūd — “The One Who Loves His Believing Slaves and His Believing Slaves Love Him”[ii] ) but that explanation is rather limited in scope and even recognizably human in its confines.  “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.”[iii]

So if Allah is not Love, then what is he? The entire Koran is firm in making the point — Allah is very, very powerful. Despite his inconstancy, he can do whatever he wants and will only smile upon those who commit to the Five Pillars of Islam. He is merciful and forgiving to Muslims alone. Those outside the fold will be subject to everlasting torment.  So this leads us to another striking difference.

There is no grace in Islam

Despite the age-old debates about faith vs. works, or the nature of salvation, Christians understand that the good we do is contingent on our openness to God, and a result of inviting him to work freely through us. The Catechism explains:

The grace of Christ is the gratuitous gift that God makes to us of his own life, infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification: ‘Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself.[iv]

This is the communion we strive for, the hope we bear that God’s will can be done despite us and the limits we place on grace.

Not so in Islam. After having accepted that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is his prophet, one must prove his devotion through good works. In essence, from then he is obliged to work for his salvation. Objectively, it may look similar to Christianity but the premise is very different. A Muslim and a Christian may both begin with fearing God, but in Islam it ends there as well — for a Muslim is essentially alone. The Christian moves beyond fear (which is an appropriate premise given his inadequacy to save himself) and appeals to the salvific work of Jesus on his behalf. He does what he can to echo the loving work of his Creator, but knows that his works are nothing compared to the work of the Incarnate One. And this leads to the ultimate difference between the two creeds.

Adoration versus Submission

If God is love, than we can be assured that everything that He permits will be for our good — despite ourselves — and will culminate in the means of eternal happiness. Love requires a personal encounter on the deepest, purest level possible — and what is stilted and compromised on earth will be consummated in heaven. There, those who love will encounter perfect Love, which is to be adored for eternity.

If Allah is not love but power, then there will be no personal encounter either here or in afterwards. Romano Guardini summed it up this way:

In adoration angels bow before their divine Lord, the creature before his Creator. But how and why? Not as a man who journeys on the sea in a frail boat and is compelled to bow before a storm. Not as a physician who has fought for the life of a man and is obliged to acknowledge himself helpless before the advance of disease. In both cases this would mean bowing to a superior force, but certainly not adoration. If God were mere power, man, because of his natural dignity, would have to refuse to render Him complete homage, even if God were to destroy him for his refusal. The angels, the elders, the four living creatures prostrate themselves before God for a very different reason, only because He is all-powerful, but because He is worthy.

This thought it is which determines our relation to God, and we must understand it well. We are as nothing before Him, nevertheless we have the dignity of our personality. Not from ourselves, but from Him – yet a dignity which is really ours. And it places an obligation upon us. Before a God who were only power, we could not bow low, we could only submit.

But God is not mere power, He is Mind as well. As great as God’s power, just so great is His truth. As perfect as is His sovereignty, just so perfect is his justice. As truly as He is real, just as truly He is holy. God’s being, His power and His sovereignty are in every way equal to His integrity and His goodness. If the expression may be allowed, He is not simply God, He is worthy to be God. [v]

Islam means “submission” for a reason – because there is no room for adoration. “And unto Allah maketh prostration whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth of living creatures, and the angels (also), and they are not proud. They fear their Lord above them, and do what they are bidden.”[vi]

Whereas the West has often proven itself incapable of deep reflection and mature restraint, the threat of Islamic aggression is different than other questions. It doesn’t require an understanding of medical principles, sexual ethics or theological disputes among Christians. It throws us back on our primal understanding of God and His essence. Will we choose submission to Allah or the God of love?  And if we can answer correctly, God grant the grace to live it every day.


[i] This verse (Surah 3:54) is often deliberately mistranslated outside of Arabic, perhaps as part of the deception. Honestly, it should read: “And they cheated/deceived and God cheated/deceived, and God (is) the best (of) the cheaters/deceivers.”

[ii] Surahs 11:90, 85:14

[iii] Luke 6:32

[iv] Catechism of the Catholic Church , 1999

[v] Romano Guardini, The Faith and Modern Man , p. 8

[vi] Surah XVI, 49-50

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  • Cooky642

    Thank you, Ms. Kineke, for the most fair comparison between Christianity and Islam I’ve seen to date. I, too, read through the Koran (several years ago), and found it disturbing. My conclusion was that Allah is not only NOT the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, but that, being the antithisis of everything I know and love about God, Allah must be Satan. It made perfect sense of a remark I remember reading (but don’t remember where) made shortly after 9/11: The difference between Islam and Christianity is that Allah demands that people send their children to die for him, whereas our God sent His Own Child to die for us!

  • http://catholichawk.com PrairieHawk

    There are only three possible spiritual sources for any religion, including Islam and Christianity. Either it comes from God, or from Man, or from the Devil. If Islam didn’t come from the Christian God, as Genevieve has demonstrated, then Mohammed either made it up or he had what you might charitably call “help.” Either way, the Koran is not a good source of spiritual insight.

    At the heart of the Christian mystery is a great and terrible sacrifice, the self-gift of Jesus on the Cross for the salvation of humankind. There is no such sacrifice in Islam. And, as Jesus teaches us, “There is no greater love than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends.” Clearly, Islam is not a religion founded on love, because it is not a religion founded on self-gift and sacrifice. We don’t just say that we love; we do love. And the Christian God clearly “does” love, while Allah does not.

    What then are we to do with Islam? Love the Muslims, to be sure, and even esteem them as the Catechism advises. But we also need to charitably tell them the truth and, even more, recognize the danger that Islam presents to the West. Islamicization, with the threat of Shariah law, is a very real and dangerous phenomenon in Europe and it could be coming here. Christians of all stripes need to stand firm in opposition to it and not give in to political correctness, which is a false sort of love that pretends that we don’t need to speak the truth. Now more than ever, our witness as Catholics is needed. Pray that we succeed.

  • Mary Kochan

    There are two ways to understand the question, “is Allah God?”

    Let’s use a human comparison. Suppose someone was talking to you about a friend you knew well – let say his name is John. The person talking to you does not know John well, in fact has only a passing acquaintance of him. This person has misjudged John on the basis of some misinterpretation of what this person has heard about John and thinks John has said and done, with very limited knowledge. This person goes on to tell you a bunch of erroneous and as you know, completely out of character things about John. At which point you stop this person and say, “Sorry, but that is not John you are talking about. I know John and that is just not him.” Genevieve is saying, “I know God and this description of Him in the Koran is not Him.”

    However, if, while you are talking to this person, John should happen to walk past on the other side of the street, the person might be able to point to him and say, “There, that is who I am talking about.” At that point, you would say, “Yes, that is the same John I am talking about.” That is the sense in which we are able to say that the God of Islam is the same God we worship. Because there is not another God out there who the Muslims are trying to worship, just like there is not another John out there that the person was talking about. In that sense, Allah is God. (Note that “Allah” is the Arabic word for God and that Arabic Christians call God “Allah.”)

    However demonically distorted their understanding of God is, and it is very distorted, they are not trying to worship the devil and we ought not to accuse them of that. The Church teaches that to the extent they understand anything true about God — and they do understand a few simple truths — to that extent their worship is accepted by God as being directed toward him (not to say that salvation can be obtained through Islam) and as being based upon an attempt to respond to the light they have been given.

  • http://catholichawk.com PrairieHawk

    Yes, Mary, I would agree with all that you have said. As religious syncretism, Islam undoubtedly contains shards of the truth and Muslims are indeed worshipping the one true God, however “demonically distorted” their understanding–or the expression of their worship–might be.

  • mallys

    Yes, to all, and the knowledge of right and wrong, that is the natural law inheritance of each human being, has been carefully distorted by teaching so that the recognition of good and evil has been skewed in Islam, most notably in the application of Shariah and in the deeds of the Islamacists.

  • goral

    If we were to equate Islam with a political system, it would have to be totalitarianism, a dictatorship. In fact Islam is and wants to be just that theocratical system. The religious precepts of Islam work because dissent is punishable by death and because Muslims are humans. It’s humanness that mitigates evil systems, lest everyone in town kill each other.

    If the cut-throat Mohammed is Allah’s greatest prophet then what kind of a God are we talking about? Islam was spread by murder Dom not martyrdom. Fatwa’s are issued against people making comments like ours. They’re carried out with no objections from the best of the Mohammedans.

    There’s an image out there of St. Claire with her foot on a turbaned man. Very close to an image that we’re all familiar with. Cooky was suggestive of that image.

    I hope you don’t mind living in Sweden as a knock-out blonde along with
    Salmon Rushdie who also suggested the same.

  • KenB

    Thanks for the entire article, and you hit on an important note Genevieve;

    “…but in Islam it ends there as well — for a Muslim is essentially alone…”

    I am sure I will not do this justice, but I will try.

    I recall reading (I think it was Chesterton) where the author was wondering about the Trinity and recalled that, as with how God said of Adam “It is not good for Man to be alone”. And he went further with this; so when we consider the Mohammendan notion of a stern and solitary God who blows out of the hot desert all powerful and unapproachable, as oppossed God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that perhaps it is not good for God to be so alone either.

    Thanks again -

  • noelfitz

    Mary’s post is sound bringing some balance here. She wrote that ““Allah” is the Arabic word for God and that Arabic Christians call God “Allah.””.

    Thus God is Allah.

    Muslims believe that there is no God, but God and Muhammad (peace be upon him) is His prophet. Christians and Jews also believe in God, who is most merciful, most just, the creator and Lord of all.

    When I was working in Kuwait I was very impressed by the devotion of ordinary Muslims.

    We have the fullness of truth, they do not, but they believe in God and worship Him.

    I read (http://www.catholic.net/index.php?option=dedestaca&id=253&grupo=Think%20%20Learn&canal=Islam%20Facts):

    Pope Favors Dialogue with Islam
    VATICAN CITY – In his response to the letter sent by 138 Muslim scholars, Benedict XVI says he believes in “sincere and frank dialogue” with Islam.

    Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the press office of the Holy See, said this in the most recent edition of the Vatican Television weekly program “Octava Dies,” commenting on the Pope’s mid-November response to the October letter sent by Muslim scholars calling for dialogue between Christianity and Islam.

    He continued: “It was an important letter that highlighted the central place of love of God and neighbor in the Quran and the Hebrew and Christian Bible, and which had the clear intention of promoting the common commitment to peace in the entire world on the basis of a profound reciprocal understanding.

    “The Pope’s response reminds us that we should not underrate the differences, but it also highlights above all that which unites; he encourages respect and knowledge of each other, and effective recognition of the dignity of every human person; he shows sincere confidence in a way of growing acceptance which is promising for the promotion of justice and peace.”

  • KenB

    I agree with you point Mary. Both we and the Muslims worship the same God, albeit in notably different ways.

    I liked you explanation, but also I look to Rome. The Popes have long indicated that we (Muslims, Jews, and Christians) all worship the same God Almighty, and quite frankly that (i.e. that the Pope says so) is quite good enough for me.

  • plowshare

    I wonder whether we are making the same mistake in using the Koran as our sole source for our understanding of Allah as those who attack Christianity make the Bible as the sole source for our perception of God. There are lots of passages in the Old Testament which, if taken literally, paint a very different picture of God than the one we have–God repenting of his creation as the reason for the flood, God telling the Israelites to have a census and then punishing them for carrying it out, etc.

  • http://feminine-genius.com gskineke

    Excellent points above, thank you; in no particular order:

    1. Cooky’s synopsis is excellent. I’m so glad it was presented;

    2. While there is no “magisterium” in Islam, there are clerics and their schools of thought which interpret the Koran. Added to this there are the ahadith, which are sayings of and anecdotes about the prophet Muhammed. Rather than helping, they only paint the picture worse (i.e. Muhammed went past a group of women and told them that hell was mostly full of women. What do we do with that?) The greatest summary/application of practical Islam is shari’a which is horrific – especially for women, but ultimately it shreds all legitimate human dignity.

    3. Whether God = Allah, yes, we could say that Muslims simply misunderstand the proper God, but in that sense so did the Mexicans. To have honoured Quetzalcoatl was also a “misunderstanding” by that standard, but the conquistadors didn’t respond with dialogue about commonalities. If you say, “Ah, but Muhammed incorporated Judeo/Christian ideas,” then what do you do with the fact that he rejects their view of God completely? Sure he refers to Abraham, Moses and Jesus, but they were all good Muslims worshiping Allah and the each story is changed and corrupted. (Ishmael was the son whom Abraham took to sacrifice, and all the characters lived in Mecca.) If Allah is the only prophet we can use to understand Allah, then “Allah,” as a concept, is a different God. When I say different God, I’m using the semantics from Scripture: “You shall not have false Gods,” and “If someone were to preach a Gospel different than this one, let him be anathema.” Anathema, to me, doesn’t mean sifting for shared views over coffee (and ardent Muslims would reciprocate that outlook).

    4. Should we dialogue with Muslims? Perhaps, but I believe a better path is to evangelise Muslims. If you read the testimonies of those who have rejected Islam, the predominant factor is that they weren’t really familiar with the Koran, and when they did read it they were horrified and left. The point about submission is that you are not required to understand to submit. In fact understanding is superfluous – which is why Allah is not worthy of human respect. That is why slavery is a legitimate concept in Islam (still), despite the fact that other faiths have come to see it as an intrinsic evil. The Vatican has my respect, but this is not a question of faith and morals. The Vatican is painfully aware that the Christians in Muslim lands are being harassed and killed, their churches torched or smashed. There is a political question that has to drive the Church’s response, but that is not my responsibility.

    5. We will soon come to see the limits of religious liberty if we tolerate the intolerable. If people could legitimately shun South Africa for apartheid, and if searing epithets to this day are “nazi” and “bigot,” then it shows that some things should not be tolerated. We are called to discern spirits and if we don’t show some careful discernment here, we will lose our ability to worship freely.

  • http://cradlerocker624.blogspot.com/ Madeline

    I wish there would a theologian who would come out and rebuke the spirit of political correctness because it’s found it’s way in the Catholic understanding of islam. Islam is evil. That good Catholics are deluded to apologize on islams behalf proves it’s satanic influence. Even the elect are deceived! What dismays me is the lack of discernment here. I am willing to respect people for who and what they are: children of God made in his image…but if they are persons following a lie, whether they be wiccan pagans or muslims, I will not respect that lie. A lie is a lie.

    Do NOT say ‘peace be upon him’ regarding muhammed, who is a FALSE prophet! Muhammed was given to fits, he was a pedophile, even according to their own Hadiths, the false prophet had relations with a 9 yr old child! And are we to conclude that the Blessed ArchAngel Gabriel actually appeared to him?

    It would be better actually that allah isn’t God because if ‘Allah’ is God, that makes islam is even more demonic and worse then I originally thought. Islam completely perverts and distorts the image of God, in islam, is the antithesis of all who and what God truly is: Which is love and mercy itself.

    The God of islam would NEVER become one of Us, God with us, and hang on the cross for mere humans.

    Devotion is not proof of the truth of the teaching.Cults members often display great devotion. Muslims are under a demonic ‘spell’ no different then those who were sucked in by Jim Jones. They were very devout too.

    The one thing satan always wanted is to be worshiped as God or at least completely distort the vision of God that people will have, causing them to fear God more then love him.Satan is achieving this brilliantly through islam. If there is any religion that is obviously demonically inspired, it is islam. Have any of you ever seen the kabah? The black rock they kiss? That thing gives me the chills.

    You see, I can easily see a day when Christians in this country will be threatened with death if they do not renounce the ONE true God. If you don’t understand that they do not worship the one true God, then you can not see this danger, nor will you understand for what they are threatening you for. You are still going to believe that reason will win them over. It will not. Only a miracle from God. And so far, the enemy of souls has succeeded in convincing Christians that they don’t need to pray and spiritually fight for the souls of muslims.

    “They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them,” Quran 5:73,

    “They indeed have disbelieved who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary. Say: Who then can do aught against Allah, if He had willed to destroy the Messiah son of Mary, and his mother and everyone on earth? Allah’s is the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them. He createth what He will. And Allah is Able to do all things,” (Quran 5:17

    I have read enough to know that the Holy Spirit had NOTHING to do with islam and daily I pray that God will rebuke the spirit of islam and give muslims the grace of conversion and freedom from the bondage of islam.

    The more I learn the more I appreciate Christians from the Holy land, that their families and ancestors were able to resist and survive under dhimmitude is amazing.

    May God spare us and save all those under the bondage of islam.
    Madeline

  • http://cradlerocker624.blogspot.com/ Madeline

    Plowshare, you make a great point and if you read the various Hadiths(which are teachings about the koran from islamic scholars,) it doesn’t get better, in many ways, worse.

    The best source I found is http://www.answering-islam.org

    and

    http://www.thereligionofpeace.com

  • plowshare

    Madeline, thank you for the references. I’ve seen the first before but it’s a big website (as is the second) and I need to give it a lot of careful study.

    Gskineke, I don’t doubt that some of the Hadiths paint an even worse picture. [I've been told, for instance, that female genital mutilation is not mentioned in the Koran, but it is in one of the lesser Hadiths.] But then, some of the Pseudepigraphia of Christian tradition are not recommended reading either–stories of children being turned into animals by Jesus, for instance. Discernment is needed in this as in many other things.

    I think it is significant that many official Muslim messages and documents begin with the invocation, “In the name of Allah, the merciful, …” There are, as you say, many schools of thought in Islam and I would like to know if there is a reasonably influential one which stresses the merciful aspects of Islam and with which we may be able to find real common ground.

  • Mary

    this is a great explanation of the difference. Why does our Catholic Church not acknowledge that Allah is NOT our beloved God of love ?  People need to know that and you do a good job of pointing it out. 

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