Monotheism in its Absolute Purity
Ahadîyyat and Wahdânîyyat
وَإِلَـٰهُكُمْ إِلَـٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ ۖ لَّا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الرَّحْمَـٰنُ الرَّحِيمُ
“And your God is One God, there is no other, cannot be and will never be one worthy of worship but He, the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful” (2:163).
The main theme of the Holy Qur’ân, the one that predominates over all other themes, is that of Oneness of His Being His Ahadîyyat and Wahdanîyyat. “He lets none associate with Him, and share His judgment” (18:26). “So let him who hopes to meet his Lord do deeds of righteousness and let him associate no one in the worship of his Lord” (18:110). “Indeed, he who associates anything with Allâh falls, as it were, from on high, and either the birds snatch him away or the wind blows him off to some deep place very far away” (22:31), and “associate no partners with Allâh, surely this (act of) associating partners (with Him) is a grievous wrong” (31:13). These statements and many similar others constitute the cornerstone of all statements in the Holy Qur’ân. Ilâhun Wâhid, إِلَـٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ (the only One Deity; 2:163), is the basic Attribute of Allâh and the foundation of the Muslim confession La ilâha ill-Allâh,لَّا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ َ: “There is no other, cannot be and will never be one worthy of worship but He.” It is this confession, which when combined with the confession of the prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh), admits a person into the fold of Islam.
The Unity of Allâh implies that He is One and Unique in His Being, One and Unique in His Attributes, and One and Unique in His works. His Oneness means that there is neither plurality of gods nor plurality of persons in His Godhead. His Oneness in His Attributes implies that no other being possesses one or more of His Divine Attributes in its perfection. His Oneness in works implies that none can do that which Allâh has done or that which He may do, and no other being has influence over His intentions and Holy desires (irâdat al-Muqaddas إرادة المقدٌس). Multiplicity exists only in His Names and Attributes, but His every attributive Name is invested with all His other Names. This is because His every Name implies His essence as well as a particular aspect it enshrines. Allâh is the Name that combines all His Names.
There are two Arabic words stated that signify the oneness – Ahad and Wâhid. Allâh says, He is Ahad أَحَدٌ (the Unique One; 112:1) and says, He is Ilâhun Wâhid, إِلَـٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ (the Only One Deity; 2:163). These Divine names lack the typical Arabic article al, which is added in Arabic as prefix to an adjective to denote perfection. For example, Allâh is not simply Rahmân (Gracious) but al-Rahmân (the Most Gracious). Allâh’s Attribute Ahad أَحَدٌ and ilâhun Wâhid, إِلَـٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ lack the prefix of al. This is because these Arabic words stand for perfection inherent in them. They do not need any further perfection. This doctrine of Unity is beautifully summed up in one of the shortest chapter of the Holy Qur’ân:
قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ اللَّهُ الصَّمَدُ لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ
“Say! [The fact is] He is Allâh, the One and Alone in His Being [Ahad]. Allâh is that Supreme Being Who is the Independent and Besought of all and Unique in all His Attributes [al-Samad]. He begets none and is begotten by no one; and there is none His equal.” (112:1–4).
The above verses (112:1-4) mention two basic Divine Attributes – the Attribute of Ahad and that of al-Samad. Ahad أَحَدٌ stands for perfect uniqueness in its oneness. It is one of the wonders of the Arabic language and of the Qur’ân that this word is used as an Attribute of Allâh. Because of the perfection inherent in this word, it can never be used to describe anyone else. Allâh is Ahad in the sense of absolute Uniqueness, not in a numerical sense that has its second and third. Unlike His Attributes of Resemblance—such as He sees (huwa al-Basir) and He listens (huwa al-Sami), Attributes that can be shared by his creation to some extent, the Attribute of Ahadiyyat أحديٌت cannot be shared. This Attribute adheres to His Essence, and no other language has any one word that can give the meaning imbedded in this word.
Ahadiyyat – Unity in its Uniqueness: Allâh is such a unique One (Ahad) that even His Attributes are not separate from Him. He is not of a composite nature like the God of the Trinity. He is All-Compact in His Unity, and all human intellect becomes helpless in trying to conceive His uniqueness in His Oneness (Ahadiyyat). There is no place in Ahadiyyat to allow for being one of many, nor does His Ahadiyyat admit another one to dissolve in it and become a part of it, nor does it allow any differentiation or distinction, and none can have any share in His Lordship. Shiblî (d. 335 AH / 946 CE) said, “Whoever tells about Ahadiyyat using clear statements is deviating from the straight path. Whoever is silent about it is ignorant. Whoever presumes that he has arrived at understanding Ahadiyyat has not arrived. Whoever speaks of it is unaware. Whoever thinks he is near to understand it is distant, whoever thinks he has found it has lost it. Everyone that you describe from your imagination or perceive through your intellect comes from you, not from Him, and it returns to you, because it is contingent and fabricated like you. He is veiled in His Ahadiyyat. Only the servitude (‘abûdîyyat) of a Gnostic has a link to His Ahadiyyat.”
The word al–Samad الصَّمَدُ occurs in the Holy Qur’ân only once (112:2) and is applied to Allâh alone. Samad is something that has no hollow space in it, and nothing can enter it or come out of it. This Attribute rejects outright the dogma of Trinity. Samad is clean, transparent, and invisible, something on which no dust can fall (William Edward Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon). Al-Samad is that Supreme Being Who is beyond all philosophical conceptions, a Being that is eternal and everlasting and is the Sustainer, on Whom everything depends, whereas He Himself is Independent. The word Al-Samad comprises the concept of Primary Cause, “Eternalship,” and Independence, combined with the idea that everything existing or conceivable goes back to Him as its source and is dependent on Him for its beginning as well as for its continued existence (Lisân al-‘Arab by Mukarram bin Manzûr; Tâj al-‘Arûs by Murtaza Balgrâmî; Al-Mufradât fî Gharâib al-Qur’ân by Abû al-Qâsim Husain al-Râghib).
Chapter 112:1–4 of the Holy Qur’ân cited above points out the fundamental errors of many religions and rejects outright all forms of polytheism, including the doctrine of Trinity, “sonship,” and partnership or need for an intercessor. The simple words from Chapter 112 reject the belief of the Hindus that soul and matter are eternal and coexist with God. They also negate the belief of incarnation, according to which a mere human being is likened to God. These verses illuminate the heart of a human being with the true Divine Unity and His Glory and tell him that no defective qualities can be attributed to the Deity he is worshipping. It tells him that his Deity has no second to share in His Lordship, nor in His Essence or His Love; the idea of a second being is inconceivable. His Deity is neither the starting link of any chain nor its last link. Soul and matter are not coeternal with Him but rather are His creation. To Him alone obedience is rendered; without Him no affair is accomplished. He will continue to exist beyond time,. He is above time, for time is also His creation (103:1). When the creation has ceased to exist, He will exist as He existed before creation. He is above conception and conjecture. His Attributes have no limit. He does not require the assistance of any other being to carry on His work. Everything existing or conceivable goes back to Him as its source. Any attempt at depicting Him by means of figurative representation or by abstract symbols is wrong. None sees Him other than Him. None perceives Him other than He. This is Allâh, the One and Only Deity to be adored and worshipped. This is the Deity as presented by the Holy Qur’ân.
Wahdânîyyat of Allâh: The word wâhid, وَاحِدٌ denotes the number one, which is followed by the second (number two) and then the third (number three) and so on. The Christians say that God is one (Wâhid), and to this number another two are added to make three, yet the three, according to them, are one. The Hindus are not much different with their “Trimutri” – the three gods. Allâh says, He is al-Wâhid (13:16) – (with the Arabic prefix al denoting perfection according to Arabic rules), meaning the Only One, that is no number can be added to His Oneness. When the word wâhid – without the prefix al, is used for Allâh, it is always in combination with another word like ilâha إِلَـٰهٌ as in ilâhun Wâhid, إِلَـٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ – that is, no other deity can be added or associated with Him. This association is called shirk in the Holy Qur’ân (18:26; 18:110). Belief in the Unity of God (Wahdânîyyat وحدانيت of Allâh) is to believe that His Being is free from every associate, whether that associate is an idol or a human being as God incarnate, the sun, the moon, a river, fire, a tree, ones ego, ones desires or deceit, a Holy Ghost or any other spirit. It is against the claim of belief in Wahdânîyyat of Allâh to conceive of something or someone as possessing any power similar to Him or any attribute equal to Him, or to accept anyone else as co-sustainer or co-provider. Similarly, to hold anyone as bestowing honour or disgrace; to consider anyone as helper; or to confine your love, your worship, your humility, your hopes, and your awe to anyone other than Him—be he Jesus, Mary, Krishna, Buddha, Muhammad, ‘Alî, Hussein or anyone else—contradicts this belief. No Unity can be complete without the following three types of particularization: (1) there is the Unity of Being. (2) There is the Unity of Attributes—that is to say, all good Attributes (al-Asmâ’ al-Husnâ) are confined to His Being, and those other Attributes of resemblance, which are shared with His creation, which may offer to sustain benefits, are only a part of the system set up by Him. (3) No one is to be considered His associate in the matters of love, worship, and awe. We read in the chapter Al-Â‘râf:
أَيُشْرِكُونَ مَا لَا يَخْلُقُ شَيْئًا وَهُمْ يُخْلَقُونَ وَلَا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ لَهُمْ نَصْرًا وَلَا أَنفُسَهُمْ يَنصُرُونَ وَإِن تَدْعُوهُمْ إِلَى الْهُدَىٰ لَا يَتَّبِعُوكُمْ ۚ سَوَاءٌ عَلَيْكُمْ أَدَعَوْتُمُوهُمْ أَمْ أَنتُمْ صَامِتُونَ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ عِبَادٌ أَمْثَالُكُمْ ۖ فَادْعُوهُمْ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لَكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ أَلَهُمْ أَرْجُلٌ يَمْشُونَ بِهَا ۖ أَمْ لَهُمْ أَيْدٍ يَبْطِشُونَ بِهَا ۖ أَمْ لَهُمْ أَعْيُنٌ يُبْصِرُونَ بِهَا ۖ أَمْ لَهُمْ آذَانٌ يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَا ۗ قُلِ ادْعُوا شُرَكَاءَكُمْ ثُمَّ كِيدُونِ فَلَا تُنظِرُونِ إِنَّ وَلِيِّيَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي نَزَّلَ الْكِتَابَ ۖ وَهُوَ يَتَوَلَّى الصَّالِحِينَ وَالَّذِينَ تَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِهِ لَا يَسْتَطِيعُونَ نَصْرَكُمْ وَلَا أَنفُسَهُمْ يَنصُرُونَ وَإِن تَدْعُوهُمْ إِلَى الْهُدَىٰ لَا يَسْمَعُوا ۖ وَتَرَاهُمْ يَنظُرُونَ إِلَيْكَ وَهُمْ لَا يُبْصِرُون
“Do they associate (with Him as partners) those who create nothing but are themselves created? They (the associated gods) will have no power to give them (who associate partners with God) any help, nor can they help themselves. And if you invite these (associated gods) for (your) guidance, they will not respond to you. It makes no difference to you whether you call them or you remain silent. “Verily, those whom you call on beside Allâh are (merely helpless maids or) servants like yourselves. (If it is not so then) call on them, they should then make a response to you if you are right. Have these (gods) feet with which they walk, or have they hands with which they hold, or have they eyes with which they see, or have they ears with which they hear? Say, Call upon your associate gods, then contrive you all against me and give me no respite, (yet you will see that I am triumphant because), My Protecting-Friend is Allâh Who has revealed this perfect Book and He takes into (His) protection all the righteous. And those whom you call upon besides Him have no power to help you, nor can they help themselves. And if you call these (associates) to guidance they will not even be able to hear (you speak). And though you see them (as if they are) looking at you while (as a matter of fact) they do not see” (7:191–199).
Association of other gods with Allâh (shirkشِرك ) is not limited to the worship of god incarnates and spirits, and idols in houses of worship. It is also a form of shirk to suppose that other objects, dead or alive, possess one or more of the Attributes as the Supreme Being to the same extent. For example, to believe that there are three Persons in the Godhead and that the Son and the Holy Ghost are eternal, omnipotent, and omniscient, or that there is a creator of evil along with a creator of good, or that matter and soul are self-existing and coeternal. How can you feel comfortable taking another human being, one who slept, walked, ate, and got rid of what he had eaten, as an object of worship, adoring him or bowing before him? It is also a form of shirk to blindly obey religious leaders, assenting in what they enjoin and what they forbid, submitting to their behest. Such obedience perpetuates a slaved mind who has no power of judging what is good and great and what is wrong and inferior (16:75). Allâh says:
اتَّخَذُوا أَحْبَارَهُمْ وَرُهْبَانَهُمْ أَرْبَابًا مِّن دُونِ اللَّه وَالْمَسِيحَ ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ وَمَا أُمِرُوا إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُوا إِلَـٰهًا وَاحِدًا ۖ لَّا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۚ سُبْحَانَهُ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ
“They have taken their learned men and their monks for lords apart from Allâh, and (similarly they have taken) the Messiah, son of Mary, whilst they were enjoined to worship none but One God. There is no other, cannot be and will never be One worthy of worship but He. Too glorified is He for what they associate (with Him).” (9:31)
To go after your desires—making these desires an object of your ultimate goal and worship—is yet another form of shirk. We read:
أَرَأَيْتَ مَنِ اتَّخَذَ إِلَـٰهَهُ هَوَاهُ
“Have you considered (over the plight of) one who has taken his own low desires for his deity?” (25:43)
Your desires are apt to become objects of your adoration. You clothe your desires in a divine garb. Your worldly wishes goad you to place them at the altar of divinity. Intellectually, human beings may have advanced far enough so as not to bow before stones and stars, but they have not outgrown their worship of wealth, their excessive love for tribe or nation, their heroes, their flags, their leaders. These new idols still lie enthroned in the depth of many hearts, and humans are ready to sacrifice their lives for it.
وَاتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ الَّذِي آتَيْنَاهُ آيَاتِنَا فَانسَلَخَ مِنْهَا فَأَتْبَعَهُ الشَّيْطَانُ فَكَانَ مِنَ الْغَاوِينَ وَلَوْ شِئْنَا لَرَفَعْنَاهُ بِهَا وَلَـٰكِنَّهُ أَخْلَدَ إِلَى الْأَرْضِ وَاتَّبَعَ هَوَاهُ ۚ فَمَثَلُهُ كَمَثَلِ الْكَلْبِ إِن تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْهِ يَلْهَثْ أَوْ تَتْرُكْهُ يَلْهَث
“Relate to them the news of him (the human being) to whom We gave Our commandments but he withdrew himself there from, the satan followed him (in his pursuit of the world and his impulses), with the result that he became one of those led astray. We would have exalted him (in ranks) thereby (- by means of these Our commandments) if he willed, but he remained inclined to this world and followed his low desires. His case therefore is like that of a dog [- symbol of greed], if you bear down upon it, it lolls its tongue out or if you leave it alone, it still lolls out its tongue.” (7:175-77)
You may not fall into the error of those who believe in incarnation of God. He is not in an object nor is any object within Him. He is now as He always was, the Unique One without oneness or manyness. Think of Him in this fashion.
فَتَعَالَى اللَّهُ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ
“Allâh is Highly Exalted far above the things they associate (with Him)” (7:190; see also 9:31, 10:18, 27:63, 28:68).