The concept of God espoused by a religion cannot be judged by merely observing the practice of its followers. It is quite common for the followers of many religions to be ignorant of the concept of God in their scriptures. It is therefore better to analyse the concept of God in any religion by referring to its holy scriptures.
Anyway, let’s see what religion is and its categories.
Quickly Jump to:
- 1 Religion proves God’s existence?
- 2 Categorisation Of Major World Religions
- 3 Concept of God in Major Religions Scriptures
- 3.1 Concept of God in Hinduism (Everything is God)
- 3.2 Concept Of God In Sikhism
- 3.3 Concept Of God in Zoroastrianismm
- 3.4 Concept of God in Judaism
- 3.5 Concept of God in Christianity
- 3.6 Concept of God in Islam
- 4 Attribute of God is unique and possessed by Him alone
- 5 God of All; A Unified God
Religion proves God’s existence?
One of the distinguishing features of our civilisation is the presence of a large number of religions and ethical systems. Mankind has always sought to understand the reason for creation and his own place in the scheme of things.
Arnold Toynbee studied the history of man through the ages and put his findings in a monumental work consisting of ten volumes. He summarised that in the history of man, religion stood as the centre. In an article in The Observer on October 24, 1954 he wrote:
I have come back a the belief that religion holds the key to the mystery of existence;
Religion according to the Oxford dictionary means “belief in a superhuman controlling power especially in a personal God or gods entitled to obedience and worship”.
A common feature of all major religions is the belief in a Universal God or Supreme Divine Authority that is Omnipotent and Omniscient. Followers of all major religions believe that the God they worship is the same God for them as well as for others.
However, Marxism, Freudianism and other non-religious beliefs tried to attack the roots of organized religion. But these in turn, developed into belief systems themselves. For instance, when communism was many countries of the world it was preached with the same commitment and fervour that characterizes preaching and propogation of (Characterises the act of preaching) religions.
Thus religion is an integral part of human existence.
The Glorious Qur’an says in the following verse:
“Say: ‘O People of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you: That we worship none but Allah; That we associate no partners with him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than Allah’. If then they turn back, Say ye: “Bear witness that we (at least) are Muslims (bowing to Allah’s Will)”. (Al – Qur’an 3:64)
Categorisation Of Major World Religions
Religions of the world can be broadly categorized into Semitic religions and non-Semitic religions. Non-Semitic religions can be divided into Aryan religions and non-Aryan religions.
Semitic religions are religions that originated among the Semites. According to the Bible, Prophet Noah had a son called Shem. The descendents of Shem are known as Semites. Therefore, Semitic religions are the religions that originated among the Jews, Arabs, Assyrians, Phoenicians, etc. Major Semitic religions are Judaism, Christianity and Islam. All these religions are Prophetic religions that believe in Divine Guidance sent through prophets of God.
The non-Semitic religions are further subdivided into Aryan and non-Aryan religions:
Aryan religions are the religions that originated among the Aryans, a powerful group of Indo-European speaking people that spread through Iran and Northern India in the first half of the second Millenium BC (2000 to 1500 BC).
The Aryan Religions are further subdivided into Vedic and non-Vedic religions. The Vedic Religion is given the misnomer of Hinduism or Brahminism. The non-Vedic Religions are Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, etc. Almost all Aryan religions are non-Prophetic religions.
Zoroastrianism is an Aryan, non-Vedic religion, which is not associated with Hinduism. It claims to be a prophetic religion.
The non-Aryan religions have diverse origins. Confucianism and Taoism are of Chinese origin while Shintoism is of Japanese origin. Many of these non-Aryan religions do not have a concept of God. They are better referred to as ethical systems rather than as religions.
Concept of God in Major Religions Scriptures
Let us understand the concept of God in major world religions by analysing what their scriptures have to say about it.
Concept of God in Hinduism (Everything is God)
The most popular among the Aryan religions is Hinduism. Hindu is actually a Persian word which stands for the inhabitants of the region beyond the Indus Valley. However in common parlance Hinduism is a blanket term for an assortment of religious beliefs, most of whom are based on the Vedas, the Upanishads and the Bhagwad Geeta.
Hinduism is commonly perceived as a polytheistic religion. Indeed, most Hindus would attest to this, by professing belief in a multitude of Gods. Some Hindus believe in the system of three God while Some Hindus actually believe in the existence of thirty-three crore i.e. 330 million Gods. However learned Hindus who are well versed with their scriptures insist that a Hindu should believe in and worship only one God.
God as in Islam and Hinduism, Major Difference
The major difference between the Hindu and the Muslim perception of God is the common Hindus belief in the philosophy of Pantheism. Pantheism considers everything, living and non-living to be divine and sacred. The Hindus therefore consider the trees, the sun, the moon, the animals and even the human beings as manifestations of God. For the common Hindu, everything is God.
Islam, on the contrary, exhorts man to consider himself and his surroundings as examples of divine creation rather than as divinity itself. Muslims therefore believe that everything is Gods i.e. God with an apostrophe s. In other words we believe that everything belongs to God. The trees, the Sun , the Moon and everthing in this (Universe belong to God.)
Thus the major difference between the Hindu and the Muslim beliefs is difference of the apostrophes. The Hindus says everything is God. The Muslim says everything is Gods, i.e. God with an apostrophes.
The Holy Quran says :
“Come to common terms as between us and you.The first common term is that we worship none but Allah.”
The first common term is “that Islam worship none but Allah”.
So let us try and find commonality by analysing both Hindu and Islamic scriptures.
The most popular among all the Hindu scriptures is the Bhagwad Geeta. Consider the following verse from the Geeta :
Those whose intelligence has been stolen by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures. [Bhagwad Geeta chapter 7 verse 20 (B.G. 7:20)]
The Geeta is referring to people who are materialistic and therefore worship demigods i.e. besides the True God.
The upanishads are also considered sacred scriptures by the Hindus. Consider the following verses from the Upanishads :
“Ekam evaditiyam” i.e “He is One only without a second” [Chandogya Upanishad 6:2:1]
“Na casya kasuj janita na cadhipah.” i.e”Of Him there are neither parents nor Lord” [Svetasavatara Upanishad 6,9] [ part II page 263.]
“Na tasya pratima asti” (There is no likeness of Him.)” [Svetasvatara Upanishad chapter 4:19]
“Nainam urdhvam na tiryancam na madhye na parijagrabhat na tasy pratime asti yasya nama mahad yasah.” i.e “There is no likeness of Him whose name is great glory”. [The principal Upanishad by S. Radhakrishnan pg 736 & 737] [Sacred Books of the East, volume 15, the Upanishad part II page no 253]
Compare the above verses with the following verses of the Holy Quran
“And there is none like unto Him.” [Holy Quran , 112:4]
“There is nothing whatever like unto Him.” [Holy Quran ,42:11]
The following verses from the Upanishad allude to the inability of Man to imagine God in a particular form:
“Na samdrse tisthati rupam asya, na caksusa pasyati kas canaiam. Hrda hrdistham manasa ya enam, evam vidur amrtas te bhavanti”.
Meaning: “His form is not to be seen; no one sees Him with the eye. Those who through heart and mind know Him as abiding in the heart become immortal”. [Svetasvatara Upanishad 4:20]
The Holy Quran refers to this aspect in the following verse:
“No vision can grasp Him But His grasp is over
All vision: He is Above all comprehension,Yet is acquainted with all things.” [Holy Quran 6:103]
Vedas are considered the most sacred amongst all the Hindu scriptures. There are 4 main vedas. Rig Ved, Yajur Ved, Sam Ved and AtharvaVed.
Consider the following verses from the Yajur ved:
“Na tasya pratima asti” that is,”There is no image of Him” [Yajurved 32 : 3]
It further says as
“He is unborn, He deserves our worship.”
“There is no image of Him whose glory verily is great. He sustains within Himself all luminous objects like the Sun etc. May He not harm me, this is my prayer. As He is unborn, He deserves our worship” [The Yajurveda by Devi Chand M. A. pg 377]
“He is bodyless and pure.” Is mentioned in Yajurved 40 : 8:
“He hath attained unto the Bright, Bodiless, Woundless, Sinewless, the pure which evil hath not pierced. Far-sighted, wise, encompassing, he self-existent hath prescribed aims, as propriety demands, unto the Everlasting Years.” [Yajurved 40 : 8] [Yajurveda samhita by Ralph I. H. Griffith pg 538]
It is also mentioned in the Yajur Veda:-
“Andhatama pravishanti ye asambhuti mupaste”
“They enter darkness, those who worship natural things”, for example air, water, fire etc “They sink deeper in darkness those who worship sambhuti Sambhuti means created things, for example table, chair, idol, etc”.
[Yajurved 40 : 9]
It also mentions a prayer stating
“Lead us to the good path and remove the sin that makes us stray and wander” [Yajurveda chapter 40 :16]
Consider the following verses from Atharva ved:-
“Dev maha osi” “God is verily great” [Atharvaveda 20 58 :3]
“Verily, Surya, thou art great; truly, aditya, thou art great.As thou art great indeed thy greatness is admire: yea, verily, great art thou, O God.”
(Atharveda Samhiti vol 2 William Dmight Whitney pg 910)
A similar message is given in Quran in Surah Rad:
“He is the Great, the most High.” [The Holy Quran 13 :9]
Also in Rig Ved, the oldest of all the vedas is Rig veda. It is also the one considered most sacred by the Hindus. The Rig Ved states that
“Sages (learned Priests) call one God by many names”.
The Rigveda gives no less than 33 different attributes to Almighty God, Many of these are mentioned in Rigveda Book 2 hymn 1
Amongst the various attributes given in Rigveda, one of the beautiful attributes! Mentioned in Rigveda Subh II verse 3 for Almighty God is Brahma. Brahma means The Creator. Translated into Arabic this word it means Khaliq. Muslims can have no objection if Almighty God is referred to as Khaliq or Creator or Brahma. However Muslims definitely do not subscribe to the view that Brahma is Almighty God who has four heads (nauzubillah), Muslims take strong exceptation to it.
Describing Almighty God in anthropomorphic terms also goes against the following verse of Yajurveda:
“Na tasya Pratima asti” (There is no image of Him) [Yajur Ved 32 : 3]
Another beautiful attribute mentioned in the Rigveda Book II hymn 1 verse 3 (R.V. 2:1:3) is Vishnu. Vishnu means The Sustainer. Translated into Arabic it means Rabb. Again, Muslims can have no objection if Almighty God is referred to as Rabb or Sustainer or Vishnu. But the popular image of Vishnu among Hindus is that of a God who has four arms, with one of the right arms holding the Chakra ie a discus and one of the left arms holding a conch shell, riding a bird or reclining on a snake couch. Muslims can never accept any image of God. As mentioned earlier this also goes against Yajurveda chatper 40 verse 19.
Consider the following verses from the Rigved too:
“Ma chidanyadvi shansata” that is, “O friends, do not worship anybody but Him, the Divine One. [Rigveda Book 8 :1:1]
[Rigveda samhiti vol ix, pg 1 and 2 by swami Satyaprakash Sarasvati and satyakam Vidhya Lankar]
The wise yogis concentrate their minds; and concentrate their thought as well in the Supreme Reality, which is Omnipresent, Great and Omniscient. He alone, knowing their functions, assigns to the sense organs their respective tasks. Verily, great is the glory of to Divine Creator. [Rigveda 5:81]
[Rigveda Samhiti volume 6 page 1802 and 1803 by Swami SatyaPrakash Saraswati and Satyakam Vidhyalanka]
Furthermore, “Ekam Brahm, dvitiya naste neh na naste kinchan”
“There is only one God, not the second; not at all, not at all, not in the least bit”.
Thus only a dispassionate study of the Hindu scriptures can help one understand the concept of God in Hinduism.
Concept Of God In Sikhism
Sikhism is a non-semitic, Aryan, non Vedic religion. Though not a major religion of the world, it is a branch or offshoot of Hinduism founded by Guru Nanak at the end of the 15th Century. It originated in the Area of Pakistan and North West India called Punjab meaning the land of the 5 rivers. Guru Nanak was born in a Kshatriya (warrior caste) Hindu family but was very strongly influenced by Islam and Muslims.
Sikh AND Sikhism
The word ‘Sikh’ is derived from the word Sisya meaning disciple or follower. Sikhism is a religion of 10 Gurus, the first Guru being Guru Nanak and the 10th and the last being Guru Gobind Singh. The sacred book of Sikhism is Sri Guru Granth also called Adi Granth Sahib.
The Five Ks
Every Sikh is supposed to keep the five Ks which are also serve as his identity.
- Kesh – uncut hair; which all the Gurus kept
- Kangha comb; used to keep the hair clean.
- Kada metal or steel bangle; for strength and selfrestrain
- Kirpan dagger; for self defence
- Kaccha special knee length underwear or underdrawler for agility
Mulmantra: The Fundamental Creed of Sikhism
The best definition that any Sikh can give regarding concept of God in Sikhism is quote the “Mul Mantra” the fundamental creed of Sikhism, which occurs at the beginning of Guru Granth Sahib.
It is mentioned in Sri Guru Granth Sahib volume 1 Japuji, the first verse
“There exists but one God, who is called the true the creator, free from fear and hate, immortal not begotten, self-existant, Great and compassionate.”
Sikhism enjoins on its followers strict monothiesm. It believes in only One Supreme God who is, in the unmanifest form called ‘ek omkara’.
In the manifest form He is called as Omkara and has several attributes such as:
Besides Sikhism being strictly monotheistic, it does not believe in Avataravada the doctrine of incarnation. Almighty God does not incarnate Himself in what is known as Avatara. Sikhism is also strongly against idol worship.
Guru Nanak was influenced by the sayings of Sant Kabir so much that several chapters of Shri Guru Nanak Sahib contain couplets of Sant Kabir.
One of the famous couplets of Sant Kabir is
“Dukh mein Sumirana sabh karein Sukh mein karein na koya Jo sukh mein sumirana karein To dukh kaye hoye”
(Everyone remembers God during trouble but no one remembers Him during peace and happiness. The one who remembers God during peace and happiness why should he have trouble ?).
Compare this with the following verse of the Holy Quran:
“When some trouble toucheth man, He crieth unto his Lord, Turning to Him in repentance: But when He bestoweth A favour upon him As from Himself, (man) Doth forget what he cried And prayed for before, And he doth set up rivals unto Allah” [Holy Quran 39:8]
Concept Of God in Zoroastrianismm
Zoroastrianism is an ancient Aryan religion which originated in Persia more than 2500 years ago. Though it has relatively few adherents, less than one hundred and thirty thousand in the whole world, it is one of the oldest religions. The Iranian Prophet Zoroaster was the founder of Zoroastrianism (also commonly known as Parsiism). The sacred scripture of the Parsis is the Dasatir and Avesta.
God in Zoroastrian religion is known as Ahura Mazda Ahura means the Lord and Mazda means the Wise hence Ahura Mazda means the Wise Lord or the Wise God. Ahura Mazda stands for a strict form of Monotheistic God.
Qualities of God according to Dasatir
According to Dasatir, Ahura Mazda has the following qualities :
Qualities of God according to Avesta
According to Avesta, the Gathas and the Yasna give the various characteristics to Ahura Mazda such as
Concept of God in Judaism
Judaism is one of the major Semitic religions. Its followers are known as Jews and they believe in the prophetic mission of Prophet Moses.
The following verse from Deuteronomy contains an exhortation from Moses
“Shama Israelu Adonai Ila Hayno Adna Ikhad” It is a Hebrew quotation which means
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” [The Bible, Deut 6:4]
Consider the following verses from the Book of Isaiah:
“I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour.” [The Bible, Isaiah 43:11]
“I am lord, and there is none else There is no God besides me.” [The Bible, Isaiah 45 : 5]
“I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me.” [ The Bible, Isaiah 46:9]
Judaism condemns idol worship in the following verses :
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor see them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God…” [The Bible, Exodus 20:3-5]
A similar message is repeated in the book of Deutoronomy:
“Thou shalt have none other gods before me.Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is inheaven above, or that in the earth beneath, or that is in the water beneath the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God…” [The Bible, Deut 5:7-9]
Concept of God in Christianity
Christianity is a Semitic religion, which claims to have nearly two billion adherents all over the world. Christianity owes it name to Jesus Christ. Jesus is also a revered figure in Islam.Islam is the only non-Christian Faith that prescribes faith in Jesus:
Before we discuss the concept of God in Christianity let us examine the position of Jesus in Islam:
One may ask, if both Muslims and Christians love and respect Jesus, where exactly is the parting of ways? The major difference between Islam and Christianity is the Christians insistence on the supposed divinity of Christ. A study of the Christian scriptures reveals that Jesus never claimed divinity. In fact there is not a single unequivocal statement in the entire Bible where Jesus himself says, I am God or where he says, worship me. In fact the Bible contains statements attributed to Jesus in which he preached quite the contrary. Consider the following statements in the Bible, attributed to Jesus Christ:
“My Father is Greater than I” (John 14:28)
My Father is Greater than all” (John 10:29)
“I cast out devils by the spirit of God. (Mathew 12:28)
…with the finger of God cast out devils.. (Luke 11:20)
“I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge; and my judgement is just; because I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father, which hath sent me.”
God sent Jesus
The Bible mentions the prophetic nature of Jesus mission in the following verses:
“…and the word whic h ye hear is not mine, but the Fathers which has sent me.” (The Bible, John 14:24)
“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.” (The Bible,John 17:3)
Jesus refuted even a remote suggestion of his divinity. Consider the following incident mentioned in the Bible:
“And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
“And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God; but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”
And perhaps, this sums it up
“Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, A man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know.”
Concept of God in Islam
Islam is a Semitic religion, which has more than 1.2 billion adherents all over the world. Islam means submission to the will of Allah. Muslims accept the Quran, as the word of God revealed to Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). Islam states that Allah sent messengers and prophets throughout the ages with the message of the Unity of God, and accountability in the Hereafter. Islam thus makes it an article of faith to believe in the earlier prophets, starting with Adam, and including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, John, Jesus and many others (may peace be on them all).
Who is God in Islam?
The most concise definition of God in Islam is given in four verses of Surah Ikhlas which is Chapter 112 of the Holy Quran:
“Say: He is Allah, The one and Only.
“Allah, the Eternal, Absolute.
“He begets not, nor is He begotten. “And there is none like unto Him.” [Holy Quran 112:1-4]
The word Assamad is difficult to translate. It means absolute existence, which can be attributed only to Allah, all other existence being temporal or conditional. It also means that Allah is not dependent on any person or thing but all persons and things are dependent on Him.
What does Islam say about god-men?
India is often called the land of god-men. This is due to the abundance of so called spiritual masters in India. Many of these babas and saints have a large following in many countries. Islam abhors deification of any human being.
God does not becomes a human being & WHY?
Some people argue that God can do everything, then why cannot He take human form? If God wishes He can become a human being. But then He no longer remains God because the qualities of God and human beings in many respects are completely incompatible. The following paragraphs will show the absurdity of the idea of God becoming a human being.
God is immortal and human beings are mortal. You cannot have a God- man i.e. an immortal being, and at the same time and in the same entity. It is meaningless. God does not have a beginning while human beings have a beginning. You cannot have a person, not having a beginning and at the same time having a beginning. Human being have an end. We cannot have a being, which has no end and an end at the same time.
God Almighty does not require to eat whereas human beings require nourishment to sustain life.
God does not require rest or sleep while human beings cannot go indefinitely without rest.
God does not forget nor does He make mistakes.
Attribute of God is unique and possessed by Him alone
Not only does God possess unique attributes, but also each attribute of Almighty God is sufficient to identify Him. I shall clarify this point in detail. Suppose we take the example of a famous personality, say astronaut Neil Armstrong.
If someone says Neil Armstrong is an American. The attribute of being American possessed by Neil Armstrong is correct but not sufficient to identify him. Similarly Neil Armstrong is an astronaut. The attribute of being an astronaut is not unique to Neil Armstrong . To identify the person uniquely we must look for a unique attribute. For example, Neil Armstrong was the first human to set foot on the moon. So when one asks, who was the first man to set foot on the moon, the answer is only one, i.e. Neil Armstrong. Similarly the attribute of Almighty God should be unique e.g. Creator of the Universe. If I say creator of the building, it may be possible and true but it is not unique. Thousands of people can make a building, so there would be no difference between man and God. But each attribute of God points to none but God.
One attribute of God should not contradict with other attributes. All attributes should point to the one and same God.
God of All; A Unified God
Some polytheists argue by saying that the existence of more than one God is not illogical. Let us point out to them that if there were more than one God, they would dispute with one another, each God trying to fulfill his will against the will of the other Gods.
This can be seen in the mythology of the polytheistic and pantheistic religions. If a God is defeated or unable to defeat the others, he is surely not the one true God. Also popular among polytheistic religions is the idea of many Gods, each having different responsibilities. Each one would be responsible for a part of mans existence e.g. a Sun god, a Rain god, etc. This indicates that one God is incompetent of certain acts and moreover he is also ignorant of the other Gods duties and responsibilities. There cannot be an ignorant and incapable God.
If there were more than one God it would surely lead to confusion, disorder, chaos and destruction in the Universe. But the universe is in complete harmony.