It is impossible to reach a meaningful definition of God. If we can define God we can have a complete concept of reality and then it is a valid question to ask what is beyond it, i.e. what is beyond God?
Therefore all we can do is form a necessarily incomplete concept by considering how several statements about the attributes of God fit together sensibly. Human beings are not qualified to invent any of these attributes. Instead we must look to what Gods messengers to Mankind have said about God.
In Islam the primary source of statements on the attributes of God is the Quran. This is judged by Muslims to be the exact word of God. Muslims also accept what other messengers from God stated though invariably the records of what they said are incomplete and some mistakes have crept in through human error.
In the Quran God describes himself in many places and in many ways. In this brief time I can only hope to cover a few.
In choosing which aspects to look at I consider it important to cover first aspects with a bearing on the real and imagined differences between Islams concept of God and the Christian concept of God.
Names and Attributes of God
At the heading of the chapters of the Quran and at the start of every action by a Muslim, the phrase Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim is found. This contains 3 names or attributes of God. It declares that the action is in the name of Allah the Most Gracious, the bestower of Grace. This is the most important set of attributes because of how often they are mentioned.
The first name Allah is the common Arabic word for God. Literally it means THE Divinity. It is a word that has no plural and has no gender. It is a uniquely specific word in the Arabic language.
The second name is ar-Rahman. This means the Most Gracious. This is in comparison with ar-Rahim meaning the bestower of grace. The difference between these two words is like the difference between an adjective which describes a nature and a verb which describes an action. Allah is the source of all good and mercies to all of creation: He actively wills good and mercy on creation.
Allah is close
YA - 2:186 (Yusuf Ali translation)
When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me: Let them also, with a will, Listen to My call, and believe in Me: That they may walk in the right way.
Allah is loving and forgiving
YA - 11:90
But ask forgiveness of your Lord, and turn unto Him (in repentance): For my Lord is indeed full of mercy and loving-kindness.
Allah is the cherisher and sustainer
YA - 1:2
Praise be to God, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds;
Allah is all-knowing, caring,
YA - 2:268
The Evil one threatens you with poverty and bids you to conduct unseemly. God promiseth you His forgiveness and bounties. And God careth for all and He knoweth all things.
Allah is one
YA - 2:163
And your God is One God: There is no god but He, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
YA - 5:72
They do blaspheme who say: God is Christ the son of Mary. But said Christ: O Children of Israel! worship God, my Lord and your Lord. Whoever joins other gods with God,- God will forbid him the garden, and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrong-doers be no one to help.
Say: He is God, the One and Only;
God, the Eternal, Absolute;
He begetteth not, nor is He begotten;
And there is none like unto Him.
It is not befitting to (the majesty of) God that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! when He determines a matter, He only says to it, Be, and it is.
Allah is Just
YA - 4:40
God is never unjust in the least degree: If there is any good (done), He doubleth it, and giveth from His own presence a great reward.
The Ayah of the Throne (ayat al-Kursiy) from the Quran contains some of these Names appear along with other descriptions of Allah:
God! There is no god but He, - the Living, The Self-subsisting, Eternal. No slumber can seize Him nor sleep. His are all things In the heavens and on earth. Who is there can intercede in His presence except as He permitteth? He knoweth What (appeareth to His creatures As) Before or After Or Behind them. Nor shall they compass Aught of His knowledge Except as He willeth. His Throne doth extend Over the heavens And the earth, and He feeleth No fatigue in guarding And preserving them For He is the Most High The Supreme in glory.
(Quran 2:255 YA)
The Quran contains many such names of Allah, These have been made into a list of The Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names or Attributes of Perfection. These are memorised by many Muslims, and used when they wish to praise Allah or call on Him for guidance or help.
Allah is He, than Whom there is no other god; who knows (all things) both secret and open. He, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Allah is He, than Whom there is no other god; the Sovereign, the Holy One, the Source of Peace (and Perfection), the Guardian of the Faith, the Preserver of safety, the exalted in Might, the Irresistible, the Supreme. Glory to Allah! (High is He) above the partners they attribute to Him.
He is Allah, the Creator, the Evolver, the Bestower of Forms (or colours) To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names. Whatever is in the heavens and on earth doth declare His Praises and Glory. And He is the exalted in Might, the Wise.
Other passages of the Quran where more of Allahs attributes of perfection are listed are: 3:31; 11:12; 35:15; 57:1-6 and 66:2-3
The 99 Names of God
These are the 99 Names of God (Asma-ullah) which are given in the Quran and Hadith according to at-Tirmidhi. You can also find a set of paintings along with explanations depicting these 99 names here
|1.||Allah (jallah jalaluh) -||God (in all His Majesty)|
|2.||ar-Rahman||the All-Merciful||51.||ash-Shahid||the Witness|
|3.||ar-Rahim||the All-Compassionate||52.||al-Haqq||the Truth, the Real, the Absolute|
|4.||al-Malik||the King||53.||al-Wakil||the Dependable|
|5.||al-Quddus||the All-Holy||54.||al-Qawiy||the Strong|
|6.||as-Salam||Peace, Source of Peace||55.||al-Matin||the Steadfast|
|7.||al-Mumin||the All-Faithful||56.||al-Waliy||the Patron, the Helper|
|8.||al-Muhaymin||the Guardian of Faith and Preserver of Safety||57.||al-Hamid||the All-Praiseworthy|
|9.||al-cAziz||the Almighty, the Hard of Access||58.||al-Muhsi||the Accounter, the Numberer|
|10.||al-Jabbar||the Irresistible||59.||al-Mubdic||the Initiator|
|11.||al-Mutakabbir||the Great, the Grand||60.||al-Mucid||the Reinstater, the Bringer-back|
|12.||al-Khaliq||the Creator||61.||al-Muhyi||the Life-giver|
|13.||al-Bari||the Maker||62.||al-Mumit||the Bringer of Death|
|14.||al-Musawwir||the Fashioner of Forms||63.||al-Hayy||the Ever Living|
|15.||al-Ghaffar||the Ever-Forgiving||64.||al-Qayyum||the Ever-Self-Sustaining|
|16.||al-Qahhar||the All-Compelling||65.||al-Wajid||the Finder, the Unfailing|
|17.||al-Wahhab||the Ever-Giving||66.||al-Majid||the Magnificent|
|18.||al-Razzaq||the Ever Providing||67.||al-Wahid||the Single, the All-Inclusive, the Indivisible|
|19.||al-Fattah||the Opener (of the heart),the Victory-Giver||68.||as-Samad||the Self-Sufficient, the Impregnable|
|20.||al-cAlim||the All-Knowing, the Omniscient||69.||al-Qadir||the All-Able|
|21.||al-Qabid||the Straitener||70.||al-Muqtadir||the All-Determiner|
|22.||al-Basit||the Expansive, the Munificent||71.||al-Muqaddim||the Promoter, He who brings forward|
|23.||al-Khafid||the Abaser||72.||al-Muakhkhir||the Delayer, He who puts far away|
|24.||al-Rafic||the Exalter||73.||al-Awwal||the First|
|25.||al-Mu'izz||the Honourer||74.||al-Akhir||the Last|
|26.||al-Mudhill||the Humiliator, the Degrader||75.||az-Zahir||the Outward, the Manifest|
|27.||as-Sami'eh||the All-Hearing||76.||al-Batin||the Inward, the Hidden|
|28.||al-Basir||the All-Seeing||77.||al-Waali||the Ruler|
|29.||al-Hakam||the Arbitrator||78.||al-Mutacali||the Transcendent|
|30.||al-cAdl||Justice, the Just||79.||al-Barr||the Good, the Beneficent|
|31.||al-Latif||the Subtle, the All-Pervading, the Gentle||80.||at-Tawwab||the Ever-Returning, the Ever-Relenting|
|32.||al-Khabir||the Informed, the All-Aware||81.||al-Muntaqim||the Avenger|
|33.||al-Halim||the Forbearing, the Indulgent||82.||al-cAfuw||the Effacer of Sins|
|34.||al-cAzim||the Tremendous, the Infinite||83.||ar-Rauf||the All-Pitying|
|35.||al-Ghafur||the Totally Forgiving||84.||Maliku-l-Mulk||the King of the Kingdom|
|36.||ash-Shakur||the Grateful, the Appreciative||85.||Dhu-Jalali wal-ikram||the Possessor of Majesty and Generosity|
|37.||al-cAli||the All-High||86.||al-Muqsit||the Equitable, the Requiter|
|38.||al-Kabir||the Great||87.||al-Jamic||the Unifier, the Gatherer|
|39.||al-Hafiz||the Safeguard||88.||al-Ghani||the All-Rich, the Independent|
|40.||al-Muqit||the Nourisher||89.||al-Mughni||the Enricher, the Emancipator|
|41.||al-Hasib||the All-Calculating||90.||al-Mani'eh||the Shielder, the Defender|
|42.||al-Jalil||the Majestic||91.||ad-Darr||the Harmer|
|43.||al-Karim||the Generous||92.||an-Nafi'eh||the Benefactor|
|44.||ar-Raqib||the Watchful||93.||an-Nur||the Light|
|45.||al-Mujib||the Answerer||94.||al-Hadi||the Guide|
|46.||al-Wasic||the All-Encompassing||95.||al-Badi'eh||the Peerless, the Originator|
|47.||al-Hakim||the Wise||96.||al-Baqic||the Immutable, the Eternal|
|48.||al-Wadud||the Loving, the Kind One||97.||al-Warith||the Inheritor|
|49.||al-Majid||the All-Glorious||98.||ar-Rashid||the Infallible Teacher and Knower|
|50.||al-Bacith||the Raiser of the Dead||99.||as-Sabur||the Patient, the Timeless|