Like a child who knows that he has to walk some day but still can't manage, I am toddling. For days, I have thought how to say this and I am afraid I am tongue tied. Firstly, I would say, don't trust me blindly. This is my understanding of things and others may or may not agree. Just seek other sources for whatever I say (and I shall provide as much references as I could). At the same time, I pray from the Almighty that I get things correctly.
Let me start like this...
One thing is for sure, no religion could have a base as simple as the Kalima we, as Muslims, recite. However, do we really know what it means? The general translation of the first part of Kalima is "There is no god but Allah." The translation has a flaw, I believe. The word "god" restricts the concept only to idol worship. As far as I could find out, there is no proper translation of "ilaha" in English. The word "ilaha" means deity / god/ one to be worshipped/ one who has power to satisfy your needs and answer your prayer/ one who is in control of your affairs/ One who can comfort you; provide protection and support for you.
So, what's the difference? And one may ask: does it matter? This post is about these two questions.
If your understanding of the word "god" goes beyond idol worship, then there is no difference; otherwise, there is a huge difference. There is this wonderful thing about Quran: it's an explanation of itself. If you find a word confusing in a verse, try looking for it somewhere else in Quran and the other verse would explain the previous one. So for the explanation of "ilaha" let's look at verse 25:43. The English translation is given below:
Have you seen him who takes his low desires for his ilaha? Will you then be a protector over him?
Do you think anyone in the world really "worships" his desires? I haven't met anyone who does but I have seen people, the focal point of whose lives is "worldly desires." Thus, I believe the word "ilaha" shouldn't be restricted to idol worship. It's more close to "the focal point of your life."
Let's now come to the question whether it makes any difference or not. If you have followed the last few arguments then you should be able to see that the difference is actually similar to the difference between "idea" and "attitude" or in other words, the difference between "set of concepts" and "way of life." Islam is an attitude, a way of life. It's not an idea or some set of concepts.
Which brings me to what I wanted to say in this post: Islam means submission and there are no rules/ restrictions except those imposed by Allah (which reached us through His Prophet, Salallaho Alay-he Wa'aalehee Wassalam). A Muslim not only doesn't worship any other being/ thing; the focal point of his life isn't anything except the commandments of Allah.
Though it might seem a simple concept to grasp, it might also appear to be quite difficult to follow. Yet, it isn't and I shall tell you why in the next few posts. I shall also continue with why we need to understand the meanings of the words so deeply.
Just as a last example, let me put a question to you: Do Muslims worship the Black Stone (hijr-e-aswad) when they perform hajj and kiss this stone? No, certainly not! This is what the focal point indicates: When you are sure that an instruction is from Allah, then there is no question of right or wrong/ benefit or loss - acting accordingly is "right" and "beneficial."
I shall move forward with both kinds of posts - computer science as well as understanding of life, the later being extremely difficult to put into words. The next post might be about "exploiting buffer overflow vulnerabilities to hack systems."
Submission to Allah's Will is the best companion; wisdom is the noblest heritage; theoretical and practical knowledge are the best signs of distinction; deep thinking will present the clearest picture of every problem.
(Hazrat Ali AS)