The Transcendence of God
As there is a commonality and distinction between Islam and Christianity of God’s oneness, there is also a similar belief and distinction of God’s transcendence. God’s transcendence means, to exist above and independent from; to rise above, or to succeed. Abdulla Saeed expresses Allah’s transcendence as, “there is nothing like Him in creation.” The word transcendent is used to describe an incommunicable attribute of God’s otherness, supremeness, and distinction from all of His creation. Although transcendence could be defined the same between the two religions, their understanding greatly differs.
Allah of the Qur’an
The transcendence of Allah is one of the fundamental beliefs in Islam. According to the Qur’an 57:4, “It is He who created the heavens and earth in six days and then established Himself above the Throne.” Allah’s transcendence means he is above and beyond his creation. Allah is not surrounded by his creation, as he is above it, nor does he dwell within it. He is wholly distinct, independent, and superior over the entire universe. As the scholar At-Tawiah explains, “Allah is independent of the Throne and whatever is beneath it. He surrounds everything and is above it, and what He has created is incapable of surrounding Him.” The Muslims belief of Allah’s transcendence insists his nature is unknowable and unapproachable.
The Qur’an is the primary source for the Muslims understanding of Allah’s transcendence. It states, “It is Allah who created the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them in six days; then He established Himself above the Throne” Allah is above the Throne sovereignly ruling and reigning separated from all of his creation. The Qur’an makes it clear that Allah is unlike his creation by his total separation of it. The reality of Allah’s transcendence causes one to ask: Can Allah be known?
According to the Qur’an 17:9, “Indeed, this Qur’an guides to that which is most suitable and gives good tidings to the believers who do righteous deeds that they will have a great reward” Allah’s will has been revealed, but not his nature. Allah’s has revealed his will through the Qur’an and prophets. As one Islam scholar states, Allah’s will,
is all we have, and we have it in perfection in the Quran. But Islam does not equate the Quran with the nature or essence of God. It is the Word of God, the Commandment of God, the Will of God. But God does not reveal Himself to anyone."
Allah’s will has been revealed as to living a submissive and righteous life. At the same time, Allah’s transcendence does not mean he is not in control or aloof out in space. The Qur’an mentions of Allah’s presence with his people by stating, “And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein” but does not mention interacting with his creation. Allah is the righteous judge who expects righteous obedience and total submission to his will, which was given to his prophet Muhammad in the Qur’an.
God of the Bible
The God of the Bible is presented as having the same attribute of transcendence as that of Allah in the Qur’an. God’s transcendence describes His relationship with the world. Transcendence is language used in the Bible describing God’s holiness or majesty. Like Allah the Bible reveals God as above, beyond, and separated from his creation in one sense. The Bible depicts God as incomprehensible when it says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Although God is incomprehensible the Bible never denies the knowability of God. This is a fundamental difference between the Christian and Muslim faith.
In Christianity the transcendence of God does not limit His ability to make Himself known to the world. The God of the Bible glories in revealing not only His will but His very nature to His creation. John Frame points this out in His book, The Doctrine of God as theologians such as Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebisus, Augustine, and others viewed God’s transcendence as being “God is so far above us, so very different from anything on earth, that we can say nothing, at least positive, about him.” This view of God’s transcendence can cause one to become skeptical of the Bible and God.
The Bible never declares God’s transcendence as a barrier for knowing or speaking truth about Him. One of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith is the ability to know the transcendent God. As Frame states, “Scriptures never suggest that the human mind is incapable of knowing God or that human language is incapable of speaking truly about him.”
Unlike the Qur’an, which presents Allah, is a transcendent cosmic god who is not willing to interact personally with his world. The God of Bible is transcendent and yet reveals himself personally to His creation. This is where the Bible and Qur’an go their separate ways as it relates to God’s transcendence.
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 Abdullah Saeed, Islam’s Thought An Introduction, 79.