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Tawhid (Oneness of God)

The concept in Islam is that every child is born on the nature of Islam or is born a Muslim. What is this nature? This nature is nothing but monotheism.

Monotheism is the most important concept in human history. But monotheism is not just a concept, it is a creed/belief. However, it is not just a creed either; monotheism is actually the ultimate and only reality of the universe. Concept, belief/creed, and reality are apparently three words, but they are not just words; they represent three stages and ranks of a human being. For those whose faith does not progress beyond the utterance of the creed, or moves only slightly beyond, monotheism remains merely a concept that sometimes influences and sometimes does not at all. For those who advance in the journey of faith, and faith begins to spread through their limbs and senses, monotheism becomes a creed for them. But this stage is, after all, a station between concept and reality. The highest rank for humanity is when monotheism becomes the first, last, and only reality of the universe for a person, a reality that encompasses everything.

The history of world religions testifies that the concept of monotheism has been the basis of every religion, and this is entirely natural. If not based on monotheism, then on what else would religion be based? Since it is that one being who sent prophets and messengers and chose for them the religion of monotheism. But the common perception is that monotheism no longer remains in any religion except Islam. Is this true? Let’s see.

A significant example concerning monotheism is presented that of Hinduism, and this example becomes more important in the context of the subcontinent. It is widely believed that Hinduism involves belief in thousands of gods instead of one. They have even deified certain animals and trees. This idea is not wrong. This is indeed the situation with popular Hinduism. But on the other hand, the reality is that the concept of one God is not only present in Hinduism but is also very prominent. Hinduism’s foundational sacred texts declare that this universe was created by one being, ‘Brahma,’ who owns it and whose light illuminates the earth and the skies. But then the question arises, where did the ill of polytheism come from among Hindus, how did the idea of thousands of gods appear, and why were animals and even some trees sanctified? This is an important question, but let us consider it further later on.

The fundamental concept in Christianity is the Trinity: God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit, that is, three in one and one in three. This is a well-known and popular concept in Christianity, and monotheism cannot be found in this concept. However, the earliest references available in the history of Christianity indicate that the concept of the Trinity is a much later development; otherwise, the concept of monotheism found in Islam was also present in Christianity. Muslims, spreading to different parts of the world from Arabia, along with other religions also encountered Christianity and its concept of the Trinity, and it was this encounter that laid the foundation for Islamic theology (Ilm al-kalam). However, the Muslim response to the concept of the Trinity is essentially that Jesus being born without a father, does not create any mystery about his special ‘nature’ or the explanation that Christians have developed regarding Jesus’s person and his birth, because Adam was born without a mother and without a father, and Eve was created from Adam’s left rib. In this respect, the birth of Adam and Eve involves more ‘mystery’ than the birth of Jesus. The response of Muslim scholars and theologians is not only correct in terms of religious rationale but also as a logical justification. This logic and justification also confirm and verify that the concept of monotheism must have been present in Christianity as it is the original concept.

Regarding the concept of monotheism, Islam and Judaism are incredibly close to each other, and surprisingly, the concept of monotheism has not been distorted in the history of Judaism as it has in the history of Hinduism and Christianity. However, the concept of monotheism in Judaism has not reached perfection as it has in Islam. How? This clarification will come later.

In the Chinese religion, Confucianism has been equated with Sharia, and Taoism with Tariqat, and the concept of monotheism is present in both. In the Chinese language, Tao means the eternal and ultimate principle, i.e., Ultimate Reality. In recent years, there have been many significant comparative analyses of the fundamental concepts of Islam and Taoism, and in this regard, Sheikh Akbar Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi has been presented as a major representative of Islamic mysticism, and his teachings have been widely utilized. These writings and comparisons have proven that the teachings and concepts of Taoism are very close to Sheikh Akbar’s understanding of religion.

Regarding Buddhism, the common opinion has been that there is no concept of God in it. This opinion is not just from ordinary people but also from major experts in Buddhism. The basis for this opinion is in the literature that provides information about Gautama Buddha’s teachings and his life. According to this literature, Gautama Buddha maintained silence about God. Silence over here means that when someone asked him about God, he either remained silent, smiled, or told the questioner to focus on other matters or teachings. In this regard, the existence of this opinion is based on the assumption that there is no concept of God in Buddhism, and when there is no concept of God, then there is no question of monotheism. However, regarding Buddhism, recent evidence or some interpretations of its teachings have led some major experts to insist that not only the concept of God is present in Buddhism, but it is a concept of one God (monotheism). These experts have presented the concept of Shunny of Gautama Buddha in this regard. Shunny is a Sanskrit word and an important concept of Hinduism, which literally translates as Zero, but in Hinduism, this concept has the meaning of ultimate reality, and these experts claim and insist that it not only has the same meaning in Buddhism but also has become more comprehensive in it.

As far as Islam is concerned, it would be entirely wrong to say that Islam has presented a new concept of monotheism. Because Islam is not a new religion, but it is the same religion that began with Adam. However, since the scope of this religion was completed with Islam, which began with Adam, therefore, all the basic and important teachings and concepts of religion, including monotheism, were to achieve ‘completeness’ in Islam. This completeness was also inevitable because no religion, and no prophet after the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), would come, so Islam had to encompass all the past concepts and all future possibilities. Thus, both in these regards, the religion of Hanif (true monotheism) was completed on Islam. The Prophethood and servitude were completed on the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and in the form of the concept of monotheism in Islam, the concept of monotheism reached the height of perfection. But the question is, what is Islam’s concept of monotheism? Let’s see.

Islam’s concept of monotheism is stated in Surah Al-Ikhlas. That is, Allah is one, Allah is self-sufficient. He did not beget nor was He begotten, and there is none like Him. But scholars and commentators have detailed the difference between Wahid (one) and Ahad (the One). The status of unity is that Allah is one, such a one that is not two, not three, not four. But the status of singularity (Ahadiyat) is that Allah is beyond even the concept of one. Not just beyond the concept of one, but beyond human thought and speculation. This is why the method of negation is used to describe this position. That is, negate whatever concept of Allah you have established and be sure that Allah certainly is not that. From here the concepts of assimilation/likening (tashbīh) and transcendence (tanzih) arise. What is resemblance (tashbīh)? It is that Allah says that He is closer than your jugular vein. And assimilating (tashbīh) is that we recognize Allah by His attributive names. He is Merciful, Generous, Forgiving, Knowledgeable, Aware, Almighty, Subduer. And what is transcendence (tanzih)? It is that His being is one and beyond all determination. This is the concept of monotheism that has reached perfection in relation to Islam.

This does not mean that the concept of monotheism is not present in other religions, but the practical situation is that after a certain period in every religion, either the predominance of assimilation occurred, or transcendence (tanzih) prevailed. In this regard, Hinduism and Judaism present a comparative situation. We raised this question at the beginning of our column, where did the disease of polytheism come from among Hindus and why did the worship of thousands of gods begin among Hindus? One answer is certainly that over time, the original teachings of Hinduism began to distort, until the situation arose that we have been seeing in Hinduism for thousands of years. But the question is, why did the teachings of Hinduism distort and how did this happen? The answer is that this happened due to the predominance of the concept of assimilation/anthropomorphism. Indeed, this entire universe is a ‘sign’ of Allah, but of course, it is just a sign. Thus, in the journey of history, the great individuals who were born were servants of Allah, not God themselves, God forbid. But Hindus elevated the signs of Allah and the servants of Allah beyond their real status to the status of the Creator, which caused a blow to the concept of monotheism, and a flood of polytheism entered Hinduism. The situation in Judaism appears opposite, where transcendence prevailed. If the concept of Shunny in Buddhism is considered correct, then the situation in Buddhism also appears similar to Judaism. Islam, while describing both concepts everywhere, creates a balance between them that is unparalleled but exactly according to the status of Islam in world religions.

In terms of Islam’s concept of monotheism, the concept of monotheism is not only operative in every corner of individual and collective life but is also fully inherent in the universe and its phenomena, and it is ongoing and prevalent in all Islamic acts of worship. Islam’s concept is that every child is born on the nature (or with the natural disposition) of Islam or is born a Muslim. What is this nature? This nature is nothing but monotheism (Tawhid). This concept is that the child is born on the nature of Islam, but its parents or, in other words, its environment makes it something else. This means that the child is a harmonious whole. Such a whole in which there is no conflict between soul (Nafs), spirit (Ruh), and body (Jism), no duality, its soul, spirit and body are working in perfect accordance, but the environment breaks this harmony and thus pushes the child off the path of monotheism and onto the path of polytheism. The Quran says to Muslims, why don’t you do what you say? This is not an ethical teaching. The difference between saying and doing creates hypocrisy, which is a sign of associating partners with God in one sense. On the other hand, the unity of word and deed is a sign of the concept of monotheism.

Look at Islamic acts of worship. There is a great reward for performing prayers with the congregation. Some people think that Islam emphasizes collectivism, correct. Some people think that when Mahmood and Ayaz stand in the same row, the difference between the servant and the master is erased, which is the desired outcome of Islam, correct. One explanation is that Islam emphasizes collectivism, and praying together in the mosque creates a sense of being one ummah (community) among Muslims, which is also correct. One thought is that by praying together, Muslims become aware of each other’s conditions, thereby sharing in each other’s problems and paving the way for consoling each other, correct. But the question is, does the concept of congregational prayer also have any relation to the concept of monotheism? One answer to this question is that prayer is a meeting between God and the servant, but consider the position of the imam and the followers in congregational prayer. Doesn’t the position of the imam appear as a symbol of the principle of monotheism? And doesn’t the formation of the imam and the followers create a beautiful scene of unity in diversity and diversity in unity? Look at the act of Hajj, in which the Kaaba appears as a symbol of monotheism among the pilgrims’ circumambulation, look at the fasts, the main purpose of the fasts, i.e., piety (Taqwa), also appears as a symbol of monotheism.

Islam has placed great emphasis on the institution of the family. There have been many interpretations of the emphasis given on this institution, and all these interpretations will be correct, but basically, the thing is that in the vast universe of society, the family is the symbol of unity and the principle of unity. Thus, we see that when the family disintegrates, it creates a state of chaos in society that destroys every valuable thing. The unity of the family institution keeps society disciplined and meaningful in the same way that the principle of monotheism keeps this entire universe and life disciplined and meaningful.

If we are talking about the universe, then there is no harm in seeing what the position and symbol of the sun in our solar system are. Isn’t the sun also a symbol of the principle of unity among the planets? And isn’t it the command of Allah that we will show you our signs in the universe and in yourselves? Islam’s concept starts from the individual and goes through the family to the concept of the ummah and humanity. Islam describes the ummah as one body and says about humanity that you are all the progeny of Adam. This is also a situation of unity in diversity and diversity in unity. Even if we look at human languages, the same principle emerges. The thousands of languages of the world are similar in terms of concepts and words, but the unity of the sounds of languages clearly translates the principle of monotheism.

There has been a major objection to traditional Persian and Urdu ghazal poetry here that in it the ‘beloved’ (Mehboob) is described in an extremely exaggerated manner. This objection is not wrong, but this objection is also a masterpiece of the disease of so-called realism and lack of understanding because those who object do not try to see and understand that the concept of the beloved in ghazal poetry encompasses both appearance (Majaaz) and reality (Haqiqat), hence, due to favor/grace of the reality (Haqiqat), even the exaggerated description of appearance (Majaaz) doesn’t remain exaggerated. They are not even aware that all praises are for Allah, and no praise for Allah can ever be exaggerated. In this regard, it is also seen that the principle of monotheism is fully operative here.

We said at the beginning of our column that monotheism is a concept, a creed/belief, and a reality, and then we also described it a bit. However, if this description is stated in concrete terms, then it would be said that for a large number of people, monotheism is a concept. For scholars, it is a creed/belief, and for mystics, it is a reality. Here, our discussion on the concept of monotheism in relation to other religions and Islam is complete, but the question arises, is the reality of monotheism related to religion? And can we not search for this concept in life independently of religion? This is an important question in itself. Let’s analyze this question and try to find an answer.

Humans have denied God and rejected religion, but they cannot reject the design inherent in their mind, their existence, and the universe, which is the basis of everything. Humans get caught up in the cycle of words, terms, and concepts, but there are some realities that are beyond words, terms, and concepts. These realities are expressed and will continue to be expressed, it is another matter that humans call them by another name. But what difference does it make? Human history is witness that humans have denied God and monotheism and deviated from them, but despite this denial and deviation, they could not go anywhere else. Their life and their intellectual efforts testify that they could not go anywhere. However, they certainly had the illusion that they had gone somewhere. Indeed, a human cannot transcend his limitations.

The history of philosophy starts with Thales, and Thales says that the origin of everything is water. Thales’s idea has been welcomed in the history of philosophy in this regard that he is the first person who used philosophical thought to try to explain everything from one principle or ‘one principle’. After Thales, there were many other people, someone said that the basis of everything is fire, and someone said it is air. In the explanations from water, fire, and air there is no mention of God anywhere, but the real thing is that the explanation of the entire universe has been attempted from ‘one principle’. This effort has always been ongoing in the field of philosophy. The philosophers who denied God and rejected religion also dreamed that they would establish a self-sufficient system, such a system whose explanation could be done from one principle. The provision of one principle has been important because it increases the possibility of reducing or completely eliminating internal and external contradictions in the system. The position of one God or monotheism in religion is also the same.

Hegel’s system has been of great importance in Western philosophy, and Hegel’s thought has had profound effects on the history of philosophy. There is no question of God’s entry into Hegel’s philosophy, thought, and system, but Sachiko Murata and William C.Chittick have written in their work ‘The Vision of Islam’ that all divinity has entered Hegel’s philosophy of history. Karl Marx says that Hegel’s philosophy was standing on its head, I stood it upright, and Karl Marx was strongly against religion and God. But Marxism has been called a ‘religion,’ and it has been rightly called so, because all its fundamental concepts are similar to some concept of religion. Religion has the concept of God and fate, and Marx considers these concepts coercion, but Marx’s own concept of history is the same. In Marx’s view, no one has control over the turns of history. Iqbal has said about Marx that he is not a prophet but has a book in his armpit, and the reality is that Marx’s Das Capital had almost acquired the status of a sacred book in which the fates of nations were apparently revealed.

The case of science is also not different from philosophy. Dr. Abdus Salam was Qadiani, but he believed in God and monotheism too. Few people know that the work for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize was that he had presented the theory of limiting the four forces operating in the universe to two forces. He said that I started this work on the principle of monotheism. The gentleman thought that he would advance his theory and one day prove that the actual forces operating in the universe are not four, but only one. Abdus Salam’s background was religious, but he was working within the scope of science, and his theory will be applied to scientific principles, theories, and methods. That is, suppose someone non-religious was in Abdus Salam’s place, what would he say? He would say that the actual and operating forces in the universe are not four, they are two, and there is a possibility that eventually, it will be proven that the actual forces are not two, only one.

The foundations of modern psychology are also based on the denial of God and the rejection of religion, and this psychology hardly recognizes humans beyond instincts, but it also says that human psychology should be subject to some one principle, because if it is not, then neurotic conditions will arise in humans.

If we talk about genetics, there too the effort is being made to discover the actual principle of physical structure, and genetic experts say that they have discovered this principle in the form of DNA, but research is ongoing. New theories and new concepts are emerging, but the goal is to discover the original principle.

In the West, literature and art have long been independent of religion, but literature and art have this eternal and literary issue that there should be order and harmony in them, and the concept of ‘completeness’ (Kuliyat) should emerge from the literature or art piece, and it should be known that the literature or art is ‘one unit’. Literature and art can never break away from these concepts. They will deny God, they will reject religion, but in other words, in another style, they will express them at some level under some title.

Humans can change everything, distort everything, but what about their physical existence, which itself is proof of unity in diversity and diversity in unity. Here we are talking about human existence independent of the spirit. In this perspective of quantification, the spirit is not actually a divine command but an unknown energy, but what is the human body itself and why is its structure like this? And what meanings emerge from it as it is? Is a human just a collection of hands, feet, and a few other organs? Can we establish any concept of human by separating these organs or looking at them separately?

Just look at the situation of human authority and power. Humans are not ready to entrust their affairs to one God. But the concept of power and authority ultimately ends on one person. This person is somewhere the president and somewhere the prime minister… somewhere the chairman of an institution and somewhere the managing director. The question is, why is this so? Why can’t the human mind think beyond this? Why does he entrust power and authority to one person in the end? Isn’t this a tendency inherent in his design?

In religion, the question of human possibilities is entrusted to God and the human fate appointed by Him, and there have been many debates in the history of religions about the relationship between fate and human effort. This question is also under discussion in modern sciences, just the title has changed. Psychology and sociology, etc. ask whether nature has more involvement in determining human personality and its destiny or the external environment of humans? See, the terms have changed, but the question is the same. And the question cannot be different. Humans can reject everything but cannot reject their own existence and the design inherent in the universe, because this design was not made by humans but by Allah, that being whom humans deny due to their ignorance but in reality, whose denial is not possible.

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