Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tauheed: understanding the Divine, monotheism as given in Islam

As is well known, Tauheed, or Monotheism, is the fundamental principle of Islam. A person is considered a Muslim, accepted in the Islamic family of over 1 Billion members, by making a public statement acknowledging that Nothing deserves worship except God. This is known as the Shahaadah , the act of witnessing. [ft.1]

It is worthy to note the beginning words of the Shahaadah in order to understand the profound nature of the Islamic teaching further. In Arabic, we say Laa e-laaha ill- Allah. , usually translated as "No deity except Allah", or, as in the previous paragraph, "Nothing deserves worship except God". The word for "No" [ Laa ]
is a negation of a something with continuity or lasting.

This shows that God is a reality which exists beyond our limited concepts of time and space. This shows that there has never been a period in which Allah has not been in charge, or has not been the Lord, nourisher and sustainer. [ft.2]

Traditionally God has been described by Muslims as having Ninety-nine names, or adjectives. One such name is Al-Awwal , The First, while another is Al- AKhir. , the Last.

The Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said that The best Dhikr[ contemplation] is Laa- e-laaha ill Allah.[Tirmidhi (hasan), Nasa'i, Ibn Majah, Ibn Hibban, Bayhaqi in Shu`ab al-iman, from Jabir ibn `Abd Allah].

By constantly recalling that statement of Tauheed, be it verbally, mentally or by other means, one's faith and devotion increases, and one will embrace what God has willed and avoid that which God has condemned.

Islam teaches that God is alone in his Lordship, and thus, should be worshiped alone as well. Prophets, Saints, etc.. should not be invoked in worship or in requests. Such acts constitute what is known as Shirk , a Polytheism which is utterly useless and spiritually defeating.


And place your trust in the Living One [Al-Hayy] who does not die, and celebrate his praise, and he is sufficient as aware of the sins of his servants[ft.3] 25:58

In contrast to the practice of other faiths, the Muslims do not have portraits of The Divine, never seek to give human form to the Divine, and even have avoided portraying the face of the Prophets in order to avoid any potential for idolatry.[ft.4]

Any portrayals of the Divine through imagery, paintings, etc.etc. would be inadequate, and give a false or unwarranted image of God. This even extends to the terminology used in reference to the Divine. Most strands of Christianity, for example, will acknowledge the existence of God as One, and are counted as among the Monotheistic religions, yet the Islamic view of the Trinity is that such an idea, which teaches that God is manifested in the "persons" of God "The Father", The "Son" Jesus Christ, and the "Holy Ghost", creates a picture exactly the opposite of God as One, and thus should be rejected.

And do not proclaim 'Trinity' [Thulathaa], Stop! It is best for You, as Allah is one deity [alone]. He is Glorified[ and above] from even having a son. To him belongs what is in the heavens and the Earth, and Allah is sufficient as a disposer of affairs. 4:171

The reader should notice that both the Trinity and ideas of the Divine having children are refuted. The reason is simple when one examines the end of this verse, telling us that God Almighty controls the Universe, is the creator of all and All-Knowing, Aware, and Eternal. Under those circumstances, a "son" is not needed, nor is it necessary for God to be manifested in human flesh.

We are also told in the Glorious Qur'an:

Say: He is Allah alone! Allah the eternal. He does not give birth, nor was he given birth to, and nothing exists like him. 112:1-4

Verse 3 repeats two particles of negation in the Original Arabic text [Lam]. The particle Lam negates the past tense verb. In other words, God cannot be described in terms of having been "born"[Lam Yoolad], as that would imply that God had at some point a mother, father, etc... and thus strike at the Monotheistic foundation. God should not be described as having given birth, or siring, children, as that would imply some sort of Divine Family, which would also contradict the Monotheistic foundation.

For a Quranic description of the Divine, or rather the way we should see the Divine to the limit of our immediate capabilities, I would suggest reading 24:35, 2:255, and 59:22-24. Also 112:1-4 as cited above.

{Shamsuddin Waheed is an Imam, Quranic Arabic instructor and lecturer. He is frequently called upon in developing Interfaith relations and understanding, Quranic study and other such activities. He can be reached at or his website}


[1] The second part of the Shahaadah reads "Muhammad is God's messenger" [ Muhammad Rasool Ullaah ]

[2] The author has explained this in more detail in The Divine Throne: an examination of Ayatul Kursiyy 2:255 which can be found at[] as well as other magazines and online sites.

[3] The Qur'an [ 51:56] teaches that humans have been created to serve God. To worship God is not limited to Prayer or ritual, but to the entire life of progression, spirituality and goodness. The verse here seems to be referring to the fact that God knows the "sins" of all in the creation.

[4] An example of this can be found in The Message , a Movie about the life of the Prophet Muhammad. Produced in 1976 by Moustapha Akkad, it represented the Prophet not with a face, character or even voice, but rather by a peaceful musical composition whenever required. see http: //