Death and the Afterlife Prophets The Holy Qur'an

Distinctive Features of Islam

Some of the unique features of Islam ranging from the unity of God, prophethood, the Holy Qur’an, rights of women and life after death that attracted the author to join Islam.

3The Review of Religions – October 2004 Four Principal Attributes of Allah God Almighty has four principal attributes which may be called the mothers of all attributes. Every one of them makes a demand upon our humanity. These four are R u b u b i y y a t, R a h m a n i y y a t, Rahimiyyat and Malikiyyat of the Day of Judgement. For its manifestation, Rububiyyat demands nothingness, or a state resembling nothingness. Every form of creation, whether animate or inanimate, comes into being through it. For its manifestation, R a h m a n i y y a t demands the absence of existence and its operation is related only to animates and not to inanimates. This series sets out, in the words of the Promised Messiah(as) Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a summary of his exposition of four outstanding topics: ISLAM; ALLAH, THE E X A LTED; THE HOLY PROPHET ( s a ); and THE HOLY QUR’AN. The original compilation, in Urdu, from which these extracts have been translated into English, was collated with great care and diligence by Syed Daud Ahmad Sahib, Allah have mercy on him and reward him graciously for his great labour of love. Amin. The English rendering is by the late Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, Allah be pleased with him, and quoted from The Essence of Islam, Volume 1. All references throughout, unless otherwise specifically mentioned, are from the Holy Qur’an. The Essence of Islam: Allah the Exalted – Part 5 The founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community was Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as). In 1891, he claimed on the basis of Divine revelation, that he was the Promised Messiah and Mahdi whose advent had been foretold by Muhammad, the Holy Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and by the scriptures of other faiths. His claim constitutes the basis of the beliefs of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. 4 The Review of Religions – October 2004 The Essence of Islam: Allah the Exalted – Part 5 R a h i m i y y a t demands for its manifestation an affirmation of their nothingness and non- existence from the part of creation which is endowed with reason and relates only to man. M a l i k i y y a t of the Day of Judgement demands for its manifestation humble supplication and pleading and relates only to such of mankind as fall like beggars on the threshold of Unity and spread forth their mantle of sincerity in order to receive grace and, finding themselves empty handed, believe in the Malikiyyat of God. These four attributes are in operation all the time. Of these R a h i m i y y a t moves a person to supplication and M a l i k i y y a t consumes a person in the fire of fear and terror and gives birth to true humility, for this attribute establishes that God is the Master of recompense and that no one has the right to demand anything. F o rgiveness and salvation are through grace. [ Ayyam-us-sulah, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 14, pp. 242-243] In Surah Fatihah, God Almighty has set forth four of His attributes, n a m e l y, R a b b – u l – ‘ A l a m i n, R a h m a n, R a h i m and M a l i k – i – Yaum-id-Din. The order in which they are mentioned is the natural order of these four attributes and they are manifested in this order. Divine grace is manifested in the world in four types. The first is the most general grace. This is the absolute grace which perpetually envelops everything from the heavens to the earth without distinction of animate or inanimate. The coming into being of everything from non-existence and its fullest development is through this grace. Nothing is outside of it. All souls and bodies were manifested and are mani- fested through it and all were developed and are developed through it. This grace is the very life of the universe. Were it to be withdrawn for an instant the universe would come to an end; and had it not been for this grace, there would have been no creation. In the Holy Qur’an this grace is named Rububiyyat and by virtue of it God is called R a b b – u l – ‘Alamin, as is said at another place: 5The Review of Religions – October 2004 The Essence of Islam: Allah the Exalted – Part 5 He is the Lord of all things. (Ch.6: V.165) God is the Rabb of everything. Nothing in the universe is devoid of His Rububiyyat. So the attribute of Rabb-ul-‘Alamin is mentioned first of all in Surah Fatihah (the first chapter of the Holy Qur’an) and it is declared: All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds. (Ch.1: V.2) As of all the attributes of grace, this has natural priority, both because it comes into manifestation before the other attributes of grace and because it is the most general in its scope, inasmuch as it comprehends everything whether animate or inanimate. The second type of grace is general grace and the difference between this grace and the one previously mentioned is that the first one comprehends the whole of the universe and the second one is a special Divine bounty which is bestowed upon animates. In other words, the special attention of the Divine towards living things is called the general grace. It operates in respect of all living things according to their needs without their having any right or title to it. It is not the consequence of, or reward for, any action. It is by the blessing of this grace that every living thing lives, eats, drinks and is safeguarded against dangers and has its needs fulfilled. “THE COMING INTO BEING OF EVERYTHING FROM NON- EXISTENCE AND ITS FULLEST DEVELOPMENT IS THROUGH THIS GRACE. NOTHING IS OUTSIDE OF IT. ALL SOULS AND B O D I E S W E R E M A N I F E S T E D A N D A R E M A N I F E S T E D T H R O U G H I T A N D A L L W E R E D E V E L O P E D A N D A R E DEVELOPED THROUGH IT. THIS GRACE IS THE VERY LIFE OF THE UNIVERSE. WERE IT TO BE WITHDRAWN FOR AN INSTANT THE UNIVERSE WOULD COME TO AN END.” 6 The Review of Religions – October 2004 The Essence of Islam: Allah the Exalted – Part 5 Through it, all the means of life which are needed by every animate or its species for their own continuance, are made available. It is the consequence of this grace that whatever the souls need for their physical development has all been provided, and for those who in addition to physical devel- opment are in need of spiritual development, that is to say, they possess the capacity for such development, the Word of God has descended through eternity at the time of their need. It is through the operation of this grace of Rahmaniyyat that man fulfils his millions of needs. He has available to him the surface of the earth for residence, the sun and the moon for light, air for breathing, water for drinking, all varieties of food for eating, millions of medicines for treatment, a large variety of garments for wearing and Divine Books for guidance. No one can claim that all this has been provided through the blessing of his actions, that he had performed some good action in some previous existence in consequence of which God has bestowed these numberless bounties upon mankind. It is thus established that this grace which is manifested in thousands of ways for the comfort of all animates is an ex gratia bounty, which is not bestowed in consequence of any action but is a manifestation of Divine compassion, so that every animate should achieve its natural purpose and all its needs may be fulfilled. By virtue of this grace, Divine bounty provides for the needs of mankind and all animals and affords them protection so that their capacities should not remain in the realm of potentiality. The existence of this Divine attribute is established by the observation of the law of nature. No reasonable person would deny that the sun, the moon, the earth, and the elements, and all other necessary things which are found in the universe, and upon which the life of all animates depends, are manifested through this grace. The name of this grace, of which everything that breathes takes advantage according to its needs, without distinction of man or 7The Review of Religions – October 2004 The Essence of Islam: Allah the Exalted – Part 5 beast, believer or non-believer, good or bad, and of which no animate is deprived, is R a h m a n i y y a t, and by virtue of it God has been called R a h m a n i n Surah Fatihah after R a b b u l – ‘ A l a m i n. The attribute A l – R a h m a n is referred to at several other places in the Holy Qur’an. For instance: And when it is said to them, ‘Submit to the Gracious God’, they say, ‘And who is the Gracious God? Shall we submit to whatever thou biddest us?’ And it increases their aversion. Blessed is He Who has made in the heaven mansions of the stars and has placed therein a Lamp producing light and a moon that reflects light. And He it is Who has made the night and the day, each following the other, for the benefit of him who desires to remember, or desires to be grateful. And the true servants of the Gracious God are those who walk humbly and when the ignorant address them, they avoid them gracefully by saying, ‘Peace!’. (Ch.25: Vs.61-64) This means that: When the disbelievers, pagans and atheists are admonished that they should prostrate them-selves before the R a h m a n, they feel aversion towards the name R a h m a n a n d enquire: What is Rahman? The answer is that R a h m a n is the Blessed Being, Who is the perpetual source of all good and Who has made mansions in the heaven and has placed the sun and the moon in those mansions which provide light to the whole creation without distinction of believer and disbeliever. The same Rahman has made for all mankind day and night which follow each other so that a seeker of understanding should draw benefit from this wise arrangement and should find release from the coverings of ignorance and indifference and so that he who is eager to be grateful should render thanks. The true worshippers of Rahman are those who walk humbly upon the earth and when the ignorant ones address them harshly they reply to them in words of peace and compassion. That is to say, they offer kindness 8 The Review of Religions – October 2004 The Essence of Islam: Allah the Exalted – Part 5 in place of harshness, and in return for abuse, they pray for their revilers and thus they exhibit gracious qualities, for the Gracious One bestows the bounties of the sun, the moon, the earth and other countless favours upon all His creatures regardless of whether they are good or bad. In these verses, it has been expounded that the word Rahman is used for God because His mercy encompasses all good and bad alike. At another place this mercy has been referred to in the verse: ‘I will inflict My punishment on whom I will; but my mercy encompasses all things’. (Ch.7: V.157) At another place it is said: Say, ‘Who can protect you by night and by day from the Gracious God?’ (Ch.21: V.43) Tell these disbelievers and the disobedient ones that were it not for the attribute of Rahmaniyyat, they could not have averted divine chastisement. In other words, it is by virtue of Rahmaniyyat that He grants respite to the disbelievers and pagans and does not seize them quickly. At another place Rahmaniyyat is referred to as: Do they not see the birds above them, spreading out their wings in flight and then drawing them in to swoop down upon their prey? It is none but the Gracious God that keeps them from falling down. (Ch.67: V.20) This means that the grace of Rahmaniyyat so encompasses all animates that even birds which seem to have little value, fly joyously in the current of this grace. As this grace follows naturally after R u b u b i y y a t, it has been mentioned in that order in Surah Fatihah. The third type of grace is special grace. The difference between this and general grace is that in the case of the general grace, a beneficiary is not under obligation to make himself good, or to bring 9The Review of Religions – October 2004 The Essence of Islam: Allah the Exalted – Part 5 his ego out of the coverings of darkness, or to put forward any effort to take advantage of it. By virtue of general grace, God Almighty bestows upon every animate all that it needs according to its nature without asking and without any effort on its part. But in the case of special grace, striving and effort, purification of the heart and supplication, attention towards God and all kinds of appropriate efforts are needed. He alone receives this grace who seeks it and this grace descends upon one who works for it. The existence of this grace is also proved by observation of the law of nature. It is obvious that those who strive in the cause of God and those who are indifferent cannot be equal. Without doubt, a special mercy descends upon people who strive truly in the cause of God and withdraw from every darkness and disorder. By virtue of this grace, in the Holy Qur’an, God’s name is R a h i m. Because the attribute of Rahimiyyat is special and follows upon the fulfilment of certain conditions, it is mentioned after R a h m a n i y y a t, for R a h m a n i y y a t was manifested before R a h i m i y y a t m a n i f e s t e d itself. On account of this natural order R a h i m i y y a t is mentioned after R a h m a n i y y a t in Surah Fatihah and Allah the Exalted says: The Gracious, the Merciful. (Ch.1: V.3) This attribute is mentioned at several places in the Holy Qur’an. For instance, at one place it is said: And He is Merciful to the believers. (Ch.33: V.44) This means that God’s Rahimiyyat is confined to the believers and that a disbeliever and a rebellious THE ORDER IN WHICH THEY ARE MENTIONED IS THE NATURAL ORDER OF THESE FOUR ATTRIBUTES AND THEY ARE MANIFESTED IN THIS ORDER. 10 The Review of Religions – October 2004 The Essence of Islam: Allah the Exalted – Part 5 one have no share in it. It is worthy of note that the operation of the attribute of Rahimiyyat has been confined to the case of believers, but R a h m a n i y y a t is not so limited. Nowhere is it stated that God is R a h m a n towards believers. The mercy which is specially related to the believers is always described as Rahimiyyat. At another place it is said: Surely, the mercy of Allah is nigh unto those who do good. (Ch.7: V.57) The Rahimiyyat of Allah is close to those who do their duty to the utmost. At another place it is said: Those who believe and those who emigrate and strive hard in the cause of Allah, it is these who hope for Allah’s mercy; and Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful. (Ch.2: V.219) This means that His Rahimiyyat is certainly bestowed upon those who deserve it. There is no one who seeks Him and does not find Him. What kind of a lover is he towards whom the Beloved does not incline? O my master, what is lacking is pain, for the Physician is available. The fourth kind of grace is the most special one. This grace cannot be achieved merely by striving and effort. The first condition for its manifestation is that this world of means which is narrow and dark should be demolished altogether and the full power of the Lord of Unity should manifest its perfect brilliance nakedly without the intrusion of other means. This last degree of grace where all other graces end, is distinguished from other graces by being perfect in the sense that it is open and clear and there is no covertness or deficiency in respect of it. That is to say, there should be no doubt left with regard to the determined bestowal of this grace, nor with regard to 11The Review of Religions – October 2004 The Essence of Islam: Allah the Exalted – Part 5 the reality and pure and perfect mercy of this grace. The gener- osity of and the rewarding by the Eternal Master, the Bestower of the grace, should appear as bright as the day. The recipient of this grace should know with certainty and should feel it as a matter which is patent that the Master of the kingdom is bestowing a grand bounty, and great delight upon him by His determination, attention and special power. And that for his righteous conduct he is receiving the reward which is perfect and everlasting, most clear and superior, most desirable and loved, and that there is no aspect of a test or trial involved. To become the beneficiary of that complete, perfect, lasting and superior grace, it is necessary that the person concerned should be transported to another world from this defective, opaque, narrow, confined, mortal and doubtful world, because this grace is an experience of grand mani- festations in which the beauty of the true Benefactor should be clearly seen and should be experienced as a certainty, so that no stage of manifestation and certainty should be left out and no veil of material means should obstruct it. Every detail of complete understanding should come into operation in full force. The manifestations should be so clear and definite that God Himself should convey that they are free from every test and trial. This manifestation should carry with it high and perfect delights possessing so completely one’s heart and soul and every spiritual and physical faculty to such a degree as could not possibly be exceeded. This world which is defective in its essence, clouded in its appearance, mortal in its being, doubtful in its conditions, and narrow in its extent, cannot bear these grand manifestations. Pure lights and eternal bounties, and those perfect rays which are everlasting cannot be contained in it. For this manifestation, another world is needed which should be wholly free from the darkness of material means and should be the perfect and pure manifestation of the power of the One Supreme Being. 12 The Review of Religions – October 2004 The Essence of Islam: Allah the Exalted – Part 5 This most special grace is to some degree enjoyed in this very life by those perfect personalities who tread completely along the path of truth and, discarding their selfish designs and desires, lean wholly towards God. They die before their death, and though they appear to be in this world, they in truth dwell in the other world. Inasmuch as they withdraw their hearts altogether from the material means of this world, breaking away from the habits of humanness and turning away altogether from that which is beside Allah, adopt the way which is above the ordinary. God Almighty treats them in the same way and, in an extraordinary manner, manifests those lights for them which in the case of the others are only manifested after death. They experience to some degree this most special grace in this life. This is a very special grace and is the ultimate end of all graces. He who achieves it arrives at the greatest good fortune and enjoys eternal prosperity which is the fountainhead of all joys. He who is deprived of this grace is condemned forever to hell. By virtue of this grace, God Almighty has named Himself Malik-i-Yaum-id-Din in the Holy Qur’an. The recompense referred to in this juxtaposition is the perfect recompense, the details of which are set out in the Holy Qur’an. That perfect recompense cannot be manifested without the manifest-ation of complete Mastership. This is referred to at another place where it is said: ‘Whose is the Kingdom this day!’ It is Allah’s, the One, the Most Supreme. (Ch.40: V.17) This means that: On that day God’s R u b u b i y y a t will manifest itself without the intervention of material means and it will be observed and felt that everything besides the great power and might of Allah is non-existent. Then all comfort and joy, and all reward and punishment, will appear clearly as coming from God. There will be no veil in between and there will be no room left for any doubt. At that time, 13The Review of Religions – October 2004 The Essence of Islam: Allah the Exalted – Part 5 those who had cut themselves asunder from every-thing for His sake will find themselves in a state of perfect bliss which will envelope their bodies and souls, their outside and inside, and no part of their beings will be deprived of this great good fortune. M a l i k – i – Ya u m – i d – D i n also indi- cates that on that Day comfort or s u ffering and pleasure or pain, whatever is experienced by man, will proceed directly from God A l m i g h t y, and He will be the Master of all conditions. In other words, meeting with Him or being cut off from Him will be the cause of eternal good fortune or eternal misfortune. Those who had believed in Him, adhered to Unity and had dyed their hearts in His pure love, will experience the lights of His mercy clearly and openly; and those who had not achieved faith and love of God will be deprived of this delight and comfort and will be involved in painful torment. …. It will thus be seen that the priority given to the attribute Rahman over the attribute Rahim is necessary and is demanded by the rule of good composition. When the book of nature is studied, the first attribute of God which comes to notice is R u b u b i y y a t, then His Rahmaniyyat, and thereafter His R a h i m i y y a t and finally His Malikiyyat. Perfect composition demands that the order followed in the book of nature should also be kept in view in the revealed book. To reverse the natural order in composition is to reverse the law of nature. For a perfect composition it is necessary that the order of the composition should be in such accord with the order of nature as if it were its photograph in which that which is natural and in fact prior should be prior in description also. Thus in these verses the highest eloquence is displayed in which the natural order is perfectly observed. The verses follow the order which everyone possessing insight would observe in the order of the universe. Is this not the straight- forward way that the order in which Divine bounties appear in the book of nature should be followed also in the Revealed 14 The Review of Religions – October 2004 The Essence of Islam: Allah the Exalted – Part 5 Book? To take exception to such an excellent and wise order is the characteristic of those blind ones who have lost at once both their sight and their insight. The eye of the ill-wisher, wherever it lands; Is prone to see evil even where there is good. We revert to the subject and proceed to expound what is set out in Surah Fatihah from Rabb-ul- ‘ A l a m i n to M a l i k – i – Ya u m – i d – D i n. As expounded in the Holy Qur’an, it comprises four grand verities: The first verity is that God Almighty is Rabb-ul-‘Alamin, that is to say, that God is the Rabb and Master of all that which is in the universe. All that appears, is seen, felt or perceived by reason, is His creation, and that true existence belongs only to God Almighty and to nothing else. In short, the universe with all its components is created and is the creation of God. There is nothing in the compo- nents of the universe which is not the creation of God. Through His perfect Rububiyyat God Almighty controls and rules over every particle of the universe. His Rububiyyat is in operation all the time. It is not that after having created the world God has withdrawn from its control and that He has committed it to the law of nature so that He Himself does not intervene in any way. It is not like the maker of a machine who has no concern with it after it has been made. The creations of the True Maker are not unconn- ected with Him. The R a b b – u l – ‘ A l a m i n exercises His perfect Rububiyyat all the time over the whole universe and the rain of His Rububiyyat falls perpetually upon the whole universe. At no time is the universe deprived of the benefit of His grace. Even after the creation of the universe, that Source of Grace is needed every moment, without interruption, as if He had not yet created anything. As the world depended upon His R u b u b i y y a t for its coming into being, it is equally dependent upon it for its 15The Review of Religions – October 2004 The Essence of Islam: Allah the Exalted – Part 5 continuation and sustenance. It is He Who supports the world every moment and every particle of the universe is kept fresh and flourishing because of Him. He exercises His R u b u b i y y a t i n respect of everything by His will and intent. It is not as if His R u b u b i y y a t were exercised in respect of anything without His intent. In short, this verity means that everything in the universe is created and is dependent upon the Rububiyyat of God Almighty in respect of all its excellences and conditions, at all times. There is no spiritual or physical excellence which any created thing can acquire on its own without the determination of the Absolute Controller. Besides, it is latent in this and other verities that the divine attributes, such as Rabb-ul- ‘Alamin etc., are special to Him and that none else is associated with Him in that respect. The opening phrase of the Surah, namely, Alhamdu lillah, makes it clear that all worthiness of praise belongs to God alone. The second verity is R a h m a n, which follows upon R a b b – u l – ‘ A l a m i n. We have already explained that all animates, whether gifted with reason or not, good or bad, have been furnished and continue to be furnished with all that is needed for their maintenance, preservation of life, and the continuation of their species out of the general mercy of God Almighty. This is an absolute bounty that does not depend upon anyone’s actions. The third verity is Rahim, which follows after Rahman. This means that, as demanded by His mercy, God Almighty brings about good results in consequence of the e fforts of His creatures. He forgives the sins of those who repent. He bestows upon those who ask. He opens for those who knock. The fourth verity is M a l i k – i – Ya u m – i d – D i n. This means that God Almighty is the Master of all perfect recompense which is free from all test and trial and the intervention of beguiling means and is purified of all uncleanness and is free from doubt and defect and is a manifestation of His great powers. He does not lack the 16 The Review of Religions – October 2004 The Essence of Islam: Allah the Exalted – Part 5 power to make manifest His perfect recompense, which is as bright as the day. The manifestation of this grand verity has as its purpose to make the following matters clear to everyone as a certainty. First, that reward and punishment are a certainty, which are imposed upon His creatures by the True Master as the result of His special determination. This matter is not possible of exposition in this world for it is not clear to the average person why and wherefore does he experience good or ill, and comfort or pain. No one hears the voice out of whatever he experiences that this is the recompense of his deeds, nor does anyone observe or feel that whatever he is passing through is the consequence of his actions. S e c o n d l y, the exposition is desired that material means are irrelevant and that it is the Grand Being or God Who is the fountainhead of all grace and the Master of all recompense. Thirdly, it is desired to expound what is great good fortune and what is great misfortune. Great good fortune is that condition of supreme triumph in which light, j o y, pleasure, and comfort en- compass the inside and outside, the body and soul, of a person, and no limb or faculty is left out. The great misfortune is the torment which, in consequence of disobedience, impurity, distance and separation, is set ablaze in the hearts and envelopes the bodies so that the whole being feels like being on fire and in hell. These manifestations cannot be observed in this world because this narrow, constricted and opaque world, which puts on the mantle of physical means and is in an imperfect condition, cannot bear their being made manifest. This world is subject to tests and trials and its comfort and its pain are both temporary and defective. Whatever a person experiences in this life is under the veil of physical means which hide the countenance of the Master of recompense. Thus this world cannot be the true and perfect and open day of recompense. The true, perfect and open Day of 17The Review of Religions – October 2004 The Essence of Islam: Allah the Exalted – Part 5 Judgement or of Recompense will be the world which will follow this one. That world will be the place of the grand manifestation and of the demonstration of glory and beauty. Whatever hardship or ease, comfort or pain, sorrow or joy, is experienced by people in this world is not necessarily attributable to God’s bounty or His wrath. For instance, anyone’s being rich is not a conclusive proof that God is pleased with him, nor is anyone’s poverty or privation proof that God Almighty is displeased with him. Both these are a trial so that a wealthy one may be tried in respect of his wealth and a poor one may be tried in respect of his poverty. These verities are set out in detail in the Holy Qur’an. [Brahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 1, pp. 444-461, footnote 11] In this journal, for the ease of non-Muslim readers, ‘(sa)’ or ‘sa’ after the words, ‘Holy Prophet’, or the name ‘Muhammad’, are used. They stand for ‘Salallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam’ meaning ‘Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him’. Likewise, the letters ‘(as)’ or ‘as’ after the name of all other prophets is an abbreviation meaning ‘Peace be upon him’ derived from ‘Alaihis salatu wassalam’ for the respect a Muslim reader utters. The abbreviation ‘ra’ or (ra) stands for ‘Radhiallahtala and is used for Companions of a Prophet, meaning Allah be pleased with him or her (when followed by the relevant Arabic pronoun). Also ‘ru’ or (ru) for Rahemahullahu Ta’ala means the Mercy of Allah the Exalted be upon him. 18 The Review of Religions – October 2004 Introduction For those who may read this article, be they Muslim or non- Muslim, believer or non- believer, I can, by the Grace and Mercy of Allah only attempt to cover a few of the very many distinctive features of the religion of Islam. I must claim from the outset that I believe a feature can only be claimed as distinctive when it is shown to stand out above and beyond all other comparisons in meaning, interpretation and philosophy. From this base, I will humbly try to describe and explain some of the features of Islam which I feel are distinctive from among all the great religions. The features I have chosen to briefly review are: – » The Unity of God, » The Universality of Prophet- hood and Religion, » The Holy Qur’an, » The Rights of Women, » Life after Death and » Khilafat. The Unity Of God The cardinal doctrine of Islam is the Unity of Godhead and the belief of all Muslims is – ‘La ilaha illallah’ – `There is none worthy of worship but the One [and only] God’. This Unity of God is the first and foremost Pillar of Islam and every other belief hangs upon it. Islam’s primary beauty lies in the Distinctive Features of Islam By Bilal Atkinson – Hartlepool, UK An address delivered at the Annual Convention of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association (UK) held at Islamabad, Tilford, Surrey on 31 July 2004. The author is an English convert and serves as the Regional Amir for the North East of the UK. 19The Review of Religions – October 2004 Distinctive Features of Islam fact that it provides its followers with the purest concept of the Creator. The concept is of only one unique God Who possesses all His attributes in absolute perfection and none of the attributes carry the stigmata of human imperfections or decay. God, as conceived by Islam, is a personal God and not a philosophical concept. He is One, Unique, Alone, Absolute, without beginning or end, not having succeeded any one and above the need for succession. The Holy Qur’an says: He is Allah the One: Allah the Independent and Besought of all. He begets not, nor is He begotten: and there is none like unto Him. (Ch. 112: Vs. 1-5) This small chapter covers all aspects of the Unity and Uniqueness of God. The Unity of God is meant both in physical terms as well as in the unique powers, qualities and attributes of God in which He has no rival or competitor. This verse further indicates that God is the Guide for the whole of mankind equally, and He entertains no special attachment to any particular people. Those who sincerely strive to attain nearness to Him, He guides them along the paths that lead to Him. All people are equal in His sight as He is the source of all creation. He alone is the Unity that is the source from which the multiplicity of the entire Universe is born. The last verse also categorically refutes any allegation that there may be any other Gods in existence by proclaiming; `And there is none like unto Him’. The Holy Qur’an further substantiates this claim by declaring: If there had been in both the heaven and the earth gods other than Allah, then both the heaven and the eart h would have ended up in chaos. Glorified then be Allah, the Lord of the Throne, above what they attribute. (Ch. 21: v. 23)