So, if not on the basis of the second commandment, why else should anyone object? Well, does the biblical passage stating that God created man “in Our image,
according to Our likeness” mean that God created man to look like Him, or to have
dominion over worldly creation, similar to how God has dominion over all Creation,
ourselves included? The latter is the context in which this verse was revealed, for the full
verse reads, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the
cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis
1:26). This verse doesn’t read, “In Our image, according to Our likeness; let him have
eyes and a nose, a mouth and ears …” No, it speaks of dominion, not of physical
appearance. Not once, but twice, for in the following verses God said to humankind, “Be
fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it, have dominion over the fish of the sea,
over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis
So how should we portray God? According to both the second commandment and
the above verses, not at all. For not only does God command us not to, but we have no
idea what He looks like in the first place.
Similarly, the Christian claim that the God of the Old Testament repented and
changed from a harsh and wrathful God to the loving and forgiving God of the New
Testament is not universally accepted. In fact, many consider this concept contradicted
both by scripture—“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He
should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make
it good?” (Numbers 23:19)—and by common sense.
The Islamic understanding of God is more simple, and is similar to the Jewish
understanding in many respects. The critical elements of Islamic creed rest upon the
word, tawheed, which defines the Oneness of Allah, affirms
His many unique names and
attributes, and directs people to speak and act in a manner pleasing to God.
According to the Islamic religion, Allah is One in essence, eternal and absolute.
He is living, selfsubsisting, allknowing, allpowerful. He is in need of no one, but all are in need of Him. He does not beget, and is not begotten. He is “the First,” without
beginning, “the Last,” without end, and He has no partners or cosharers in divinity.
Allah is “the Predominant,” above Whom there is no one. He is “the Omniscient,”
perfect in knowledge, comprehending all things large and small, open and concealed, and
“AllWise,” free from errors in judgment. He is “the Compassionate,” “the Merciful,”
whose mercy encompasses all creation. However, while Allah loves and rewards belief
and piety, He hates impiety and punishes transgression. Being “the Omnipotent,” His
power is absolute, and none can frustrate His decree. Many other characteristic names are given in the Holy Qur’an, such as Allah
being the Lord and Master of creation—mankind having been created through His will
and living, dying, and returning to Him on
The Day of Judgment according to His decree. Muslims further recognize that Allah is beyond complete human understanding, as there
is nothing in creation comparable to Him. Perhaps in the afterlife we will be gifted with
greater understanding, but in this life, knowledge of our Creator is confined within the
boundaries of revelation.
Similar to Judaism, but unlike Christianity, there are no physical representations
of Allah in Islam. Consequently, the minds of the believers are not befuddled with
anthropomorphic “big man in the sky” imagery. Furthermore, the Islamic religion does
not assign gender to Allah, for Allah is understood to be transcendentally above all such
characteristics. The attribution of sexual traits is considered especially offensive,
blasphemous even, to Muslims. So while referred to by the male pronoun in the Qur’an,
this is nothing more than a linguistic necessity, for there is no genderneutral pronoun in the Arabic language. Lord, God, Creator and Master though He may be, nowhere in Islam
is Allah referred to as “Father.”
The Islamic understanding of God meets a number of objections in the
predominantly Christian West. The first is that Islam recognizes Jesus as a prophet but
not as a “son of God,” and especially not in a “begotten, not made” sense. The second is
that Islam teaches the Oneness of God and condemns the concept of the Trinity. The
third objection is that Muslims do not believe mankind inherited the burden of original
sin, for this concept is not compatible with God’s justice and mercy. The last is that
Muslims believe Jesus was raised up and saved from crucifixion, which invalidates the
doctrines of atonement and resurrection.
These differences in belief are significant, for they constitute the major faultlines
where the continental shelves of Christianity and Islam collide.