Monotheism [Touhid] and the unity of God is the core of the Islamic faith. The accuracy of all other beliefs and practices in Islam is examined by monotheism. The term used for God in the Quran is ‘Allah’. The Arabic term Allah has no plural, whereas the English word ‘God’ could be pluralised. Thus, Muslims usually prefer to use ‘Allah’ rather than ‘God’ to emphatically point out the unity of God.
Proofs of the Unity of God
One of the best and at the same time simple proofs for the unity of God is the proof of ‘infinite being’ suggested by Mulla Sadra (died in 1050 AH) P1. God is necessary infinite. P2. There is no plurality in an infinite being. Therefore there is no possible plurality in Godhead. Varies Ayaat in the Quran proves the unity of God. For instance see chapters 6:12-17, 21:22, 23:91, 28:88 and chapter 112.
During the battle of Camel one of the soldiers of Imam Ali (a.s) asked him: “Do you say God is One?” Before the Imam answers him, his friends opposed to him and said: “Is this the time for such questions?” The Imam said: “Let him ask, indeed this is what we are fighting for.” He then said to the man: “When someone says God is One, it could have four different meanings; two of which is wrong and the other two is correct. If you say: God is one in its numerical sense, then this is wrong, for, there is no second or third for God. Thus, those who said: “He is the third of the three” are blasphemous. Similarly, if one says: “He is one of the people” it is wrong for he has likened God to his creation. Glory be to Allah. The other two correct meanings of oneness of God is either to say: He is One meaning there is none like unto Him” or to say: “He is One in that He has no divisions whether in external existence or in our mind. Such is our exalted Lord.”
Unity not Trinity
Jesus Christ was an infallible Messenger of Allah insomuch as Moses, Ibrahim and other Prophets were. He never called to the worship of himself. Nazorean Jewish Christians, who lived in the time of Jesus, knew nothing about the Trinity. Historically, the mysterious term of Trinity was first used in the 2nd century by the Latin theologian Tertullian and its dogma was imposed to the body of the Christian community from the 4th century after the Council of Nicaea. The Dogma of Trinity is a blasphemy. It is also illogical and hence Christians justify it by calling it a mystery which is beyond logic! Islam whilst acknowledging Jesus Christ (P) as a great and infallible Messenger of God explicitly condemns the dogma of Trinity.
Scopes of Monotheism
Muslim theologians have mentioned four dimensions for Monotheism.
1) Monotheism of Essence: monotheism of essence means God in His very Essence is unique and peerless. There is none like unto Him and He has no partner.
2) Monotheism of Attributes: This means the attributes of God such as knowledge, might, life, etc are not distinct from His essence. The Ash’arites unlike Mu’tazilis do not believe in Monotheism of Attributes. Imam Ali (a.s) in the first sermon of Nahjul-Balagha whilst confirming the endless attributes of Allah explains that the purity of monotheism necessitates not separating the attributes of God from His essence.
3) Monotheism of Worshipping: This means none other than Allah is worthy of worshipping. Wahabism considers seeking intersession of Prophet Muhammad (P) or anyone else blasphemy and contradictory to the concept of Monotheism of worshipping. On the contrary, majority of Muslim theologians argue that seeking intercession under two conditions is not contrary to the monotheism of worshipping; 1) the intercessors are not worshipped but they are referred to as signs or the paths to God, 2) God has recognised and introduced them as His Signs and paths. Intercession through the Prophets (P) and the Imams of Ahlul-Bayt (a.s) meets the above conditions.
4) Monotheism of Acts: This means all that happens in the universe- including man’s actions- is eventually the act of God and is in accordance to His will. The Mu’tazilis denote monotheism in actions as they regard man an agent totally having free will for his actions. Shi’a theologians whilst confirming the relative free will for man, assert that the purity of monotheism necessitates that God is the source of every power in the universe and hence He is the ultimate Creator of all that exists including our actions.
The first and the third type of monotheism form the least necessary belief in Islam, denial of which sings out the person from the real of Islam.
Divine Names and Attributes
Islam encourages man to ponder on the creation of God and His attributes of actions. God is unlimited and hence it is impossible for a limited being to comprehend the Essence of God. Thus, Muslim theologians discuss the Names and the Attributes of God rather than His Essence.
Discussions about the Divine Names and Attributes are among the most important yet complicated theological discussions in Islamic theology, philosophy and ‘Irfan (mysticism). Thus, various opinions and theological sects have emerged.
The two main fundamental principles when discussing the Attributes of God is that God is 1) Transcendent (beyond description; Tanzih) and hence none is like unto Him (no Tashbeeh). 2) Suspension (Ta’teel) of knowing the Divine Attributes is not permitted.
The noble Quran in various chapters states that all the Beautiful Names belong only to Allah. The Beautiful Names of Allah are numerous and they all belong to Him, the Almighty. Nonetheless, several Prophetic traditions state that the Names of Allah are ninety nine Names and whoever counts them (believingly) shall be admitted into Paradise. Theologians also discuss as to whether we are allowed to give any beautiful names to Allah or it must be introduced to us by Allah or His Messenger? In short, most of the scholars believe or prefer the latter.
The Divine Attributes are classified into two categories ; 1) the Attributes of Essence and 2) the Attributes of Acts. The Attributes of Essence are also divided into the Attributes of Beauty or affirmative Attributes, such as the Attributes of knowledge, might and life, and the Attributes of Glory or the negating Attributes which we denote them from God such as ignorance, inability, physical, component, visible, occupying time or space, needy, changing and any other insufficiency.
The Attributes of Acts are Attributes that are related to God once His action takes place, such as the Creator and the Sustainer. In short, all Divine Attributes stem from five major ones: Unity, Knowledge, Might, and Perpetual (without beginning; Azali) and Endless (Abadi).
His Attributes are not distinct from His Essence
As mentioned earlier, the division of the Divine Attributes does not mean God is a compound of different attributes and characters. Glory be to Allah. The above divisions are solely for educational purposes.
Is the Word of God Created or Eternal?
Perhaps the most controversial theological discussion in the first few centuries of the Islamic era was the issue about the nature of the Words of God, that whether or not it is created. By the Words of God we mean the sounds and the words revealed to the Prophets. Shi’a theologians believe the Words of God were being created by Allah when necessary. For instance, when Allah wanted to reveal the message of worshipping Him to people, He created the following Words and revealed them to Prophet Muhammad (P): “O you mankind! Worship your Lord Who created you.” [2:21] The Quran also confirms that the Words of God are created. [21:2]
Is God Visible?
Nearly all Sunni theologians believe that God will be seen in the Hereafter and it is also possible to see Him in this world, whether in sleep or when awake. Their main reason for this dogma is some ambiguous Ayaat and numerous Hadiths that they regard as authentic. The Shi’a theologians on the contrary, but unanimously, believe that our vision can only grasp objects that are physical, stand within our sights, have colour and light reflects on them. The Almighty Allah is beyond all of these and hence it is impossible to be physically seen whether in here or in the hereafter. The ambiguous Ayaat also must be interpreted by the established Ayaat such as: “No vision can grasp Him, but He grasps all vision.” [6:103] Also see the Holy Quran: 7:143, 4:153, 25:21 The narrations about seeing God as bright as the full moon and similar narrations are all fabricated and are nothing other than Israelite narrations.
The Imams of Ahlul-Bayt (a.s) have explicitly and unambiguously denoted the dogma of seeing God whether in here or in the hereafter. They have however, confirmed that God is visible both in here and in the hereafter by the reality of faith and certainty of heart.