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Essence of Monotheism
Amin Ahsan Islahi
(Tr. by:Nikhat Sattar)


Prior to deliberating upon the arguments for tawhid, it is important to keep some matters before us as preamble.


First Addressees of the Qur’an

As mentioned in the “Essence of Polytheism”, no group among the initial addressees of the Qur’an was in denial of God. There were the Ishmaelites, who not only believed in God, but also accepted many of His high attributes. Their denial was not on the basis of denying His existence but it was due to believing or not believing certain things which either called for refuting the attributes (or their requirements) of God, or demanded the association of others in these attributes or their requirements. Then there were the Israelites, who were believers in God and all of His attributes, their requirements and consequences, but had become involved in such distortions of belief and practice that were totally contradictory to their basic beliefs and that called for either denial or polytheism. Thus, the Qur’an has addressed them not as deniers of God, but having accepted their basic beliefs, has merely refuted those things which opposed these beliefs and which they had accumulated within themselves.

This was the situation not only with the initial addressees of the Qur’an but also with ancient nations of the world, as discussed in “Essence of Polytheism.” Among nations of the past, the concept of a creator is found in some form or the other. This concept, however, is surrounded by so many superstitions, that it has neither provided any light to resolve the riddle of the universe nor has it strengthened the foundations of faith and practice. It is true that denial of God, which is denial of that which is obvious is only a product of current times. Similarly, the sophistic quality that is present today as a full fledged faith was only evident within a small group in history.


The Style of Arguments in the Qur’an

This is the reason why the Qur’an does not begin the debate on existence of a Creator with statements of confirmation, unlike our own speakers. If it had done so, its entire message would have been far from the demands of the present and deprived of effectiveness. The wisdom of its expression that had raised a storm within souls and hearts would have assumed the style of a dry and useless dispute. A large part of the text would have become irrelevant and without impact. But the Qur’an established its conclusive arguments according to the mindset of its addressees and lay open the errors and weaknesses of their beliefs and opinions in front of them. They should either accept true faith or, if they refute it, they will not find refuge except in their obstinacy and ignorance.

The issue of divinity is extremely important: it is the centre of religion and fountainhead of faith and until one holds its end it, the riddle of this universe cannot be solved; one cannot move a step forward and the principles of truth and false hood, or of virtue and sin cannot be established. Further, the Qur’an is a book of eternal guidance: it is not confined to any specific nation or time. It has to redress all errors of humans until the Day of Judgement. This is why it has used such a comprehensive style. On the one hand, it attests to God’s possession of all attributes such as creation, mercy, knowledge, power, justice and wisdom etc so that arguments can be proven finally to those people who do possess belief in some sort of creator, but are unable to grasp concepts of His real qualities, and on the other hand, also establishes arguments for those who do not believe in a creator at all.

Hence, the claim of divinity has been made in three styles according to the type of addressees. One form is that which is meant only for the deniers. The explanation of monotheism for them has been given so frequently and so comprehensively that it not only proves God’s existence but also demonstrates His unity. The second form is used for those who do believe in God but are confused about the concept of His attributes. They have been given explanation of how God is the possessor of these qualities. The third style is for those do accept God’s attributes but are caught within the net of erroneous practices and beliefs. The things that are totally contradictory to their earlier covenants and that they have collected around themselves have been refuted.

The first two types of arguments are generally for the Ishmaelites. Although they were not deniers of God, yet their minds were very confused about His attributes. This is why the Qur’an has provided an explanation of monotheism in such a manner that their confusions about God be removed completely. Whatever the Qur’an has said to them is a conclusive argument until the Day of Judgement for all groups who are atheists or those who are unclear about His attributes. Arguments for the third group are originally for the Israelites, who claimed that they were believers in the Torah and Bible, but had come to believe in many things contradictory to their principles. The reasoning that has been provided to them is conclusive until the Day of Judgement for all those who are involved in any kind of erroneous belief or action about God’s attributes or their requirements. At some places, the Ishmaelites are also addressees of such a style, but this has certain limits which will be discussed later. 


Underlying Principle of Qur’anic Reasoning

Similarly, it is very important to understand the foundation and source of Qur’anic arguments. The arguments in the Qur’an are either based on acceptance of the belief of the addressees or on irrefutable principles that are beyond the acceptance or refusal of the addressees. This second type again is divided into two forms. The source of these arguments either exists within the soul of humans or it is external. We shall call the first type spiritual arguments and the second would be arguments of the universe. Together, these are three types of Qur’anic arguments.


1. The argument that is based on what the addressees have accepted or agreed to has many aspects. For example, nations that accept any deity must necessarily also believe in all related attributes and matters that are linked to the deity. Those nations that accept God’s basic attributes should also accept those attributes that are derived from the basic ones. They should compare these with attributes that are contrary to these basic attributes. In the same manner, they should accept the responsibilities and obligations that become compulsory for humans when they accept these attributes. Further, nations that hold any heavenly book and possess history or principles of morality and virtue and evil within their societies must not avoid their foundational truths, their good principles and their everlasting and logical conclusions. If they do so, they are escaping from their own agreed manifesto and refuting their own statements.   

2. The second type of argument is related to the universe. This also has many aspects that are observed constantly in this universe and that demonstrate one God and all of His attributes that are described in the Qur’an. Then there are the laws that are at work in the incidents and systems of the universe as well as in the rise and fall of nations and which are manifestations of the attributes that exist within the Creator of the universe.

3. The third type is the argument related to the spirit. Their source is the soul of humans. From this, we mean the intuition and submission that the Creator of the earth and sky has bestowed within our souls. Some aspects of this are evident and we are conscious of these all the time, and others are those that vanish from the sight of ignorant and foolish humans but nature sends its warnings to remind them of the same.


The Qur’an has clarified all three types of sources of its arguments.


سَنُرِيْهِمْ اٰيٰتِنَا فِي الْاٰفَاقِ وَفِيْ اَنْفُسِهِمْ حَتّٰي يَتَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ اَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ اَوَلَمْ يَكْفِ بِرَبِّكَ اَنَّهُ عَلٰي كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيْدٌ. اَلَا اِنَّهُمْ فِيْ مِرْيَةٍ مِّنْ لِّقَآءِ رَبِّهِمْ اَلَا اِنَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ مُّحِيْطٌ.

 Soon will We show them our signs in the (furthest) regions (of the earth), and in their own souls, until it becomes manifest to them that this is the Truth. Is it not enough that thy Lord does witness all things? Ah indeed! Are they in doubt concerning the meeting with their Lord? Ah indeed! It is He that does encompass all things! (41:53-54)


In these verses, the Day of Judgement is claimed and before this, reasoning based on the universe and then those of the soul are referred to. Finally, the attributes of God which are either accepted by the addressees or qualities connected to these attributes are stated.

A clearer example is given in Surah al-Dhariyat:


وَفِي الْاَرْضِ اٰيٰتٌ لِّلْمُوْقِنِيْنَ . وَفِيْ اَنْفُسِكُمْ اَفَلَا تُبْصِرُوْنَ . وَفِي السَّمَآءِ رِزْقُكُمْ وَمَا تُوْعَدُوْنَ . فَوَرَبِّ السَّمَآءِ وَالْاَرْضِ اِنَّهُ لَحَقٌّ مِّثْلَ مَآ اَنَّكُمْ تَنْطِقُوْنَ.

On the earth are signs for those of assured Faith. As also in your own selves: Will you not then see? And in heaven is your sustenance, as (also) that which you are promised. Then, by the Lord of heaven and earth, this is the very Truth, as much as the fact that you can speak intelligently to each other. (51:20-23)


Here also, the claim of reward and punishment has been made. Above these verses, evidence of the sky and earth is given which clarifies that the Creator of the universe would not like to merely create it and leave it on its own.  The rules and laws of this universe, its historical perspective and its situation and consequences give evidence to the fact that a day of recompense will surely come. Those who commit evil deeds would be punished and those who do good will be rewarded. Then, a comprehensive statement that there are arguments within the earth and sky and within one’s own soul is given. This is a reference to arguments based on the universe and those of the spirit. Then an oath of the creator of the earth and sky is taken and the real claim is argued through the Creator’s divinity.

These two examples have been given merely to demonstrate that the Qur’an has itself explained the basic principles of its reasoning. As far as the point related to how the Qur’an has used these three sources to argue upon its main claims of tawhid, prophet hood and life after death, details on this will come later. Here, our purpose was to briefly present the principles of Qur’anic arguments.         


Some Essential Warnings

No one should misunderstand that the Qur’an uses the different types of arguments separately in the manner that we have stated. As you have seen, there are differences in both the styles and the principles of arguments according to the addressees, and similarly, the requirements of eloquence too change according to the addressees. In some places, arguments against the principles of addressees have been stated; in others, spiritual arguments are given and others, the three have been combined. Similarly, the original claim has been presented both individually and collectively. Tawhid has been mentioned in some places; in others life after death has been detailed. Two of these have been combined at some places and in others, all three are combined. Someone with critical insight can distinguish between them. The argument style in the Qur’an is natural. People who are familiar only with artificial ways of analysis fail to grasp the real force of Qur’anic arguments and become embroiled in misunderstandings and wrong perceptions.

Some ignorant people think that the foundation of religion is on orders. Whatever has been revealed is the truth, whether or not it is supported by rationality. Doubtless, whatever is stated by God and the Prophet (sws) is enough argument for people of faith. But religion has come not for those who believe but for those who denied. For them, just because God or the Prophet (sws) has said something cannot be proof of truth, unless it is based on solid, rational reality. Hence, the Qur’an, as stated above, has used the spiritual world and the universe as sources of arguments and has demonstrated links between its claims with the rules and principles of the soul and the universe. It has clarified again and again that the Qur’an is claiming all those facts for which every aspect of the universe is giving evidence and for which human nature is providing proof. Thus, it is essential that efforts be made to understand the arguments in the Qur’an related to issues of foundations of religion. This will unveil the secrets of the mutual links between shari‘ah and the spiritual world and misunderstandings of people about rationality of the Qur’an are removed.

In this preface, it was important to alert the reader to these points so that those who are not familiar with different groups of the initial addressees of the Qur’an and their qualities and conditions, or of the significance of the extent to which the Qur’an’s style of arguments has given consideration to the addressee, or are unaware of the basics of Qur’anic arguments could develop a better understanding. Such people believe that all arguments given in the Qur’an are conjectural and accusative and that they have no connection with the philosophy of decisive conclusions. Muslims who were influenced and impressed by Greek philosophy were deprived of the Qur’an due to this perception. They did not come towards the Qur’an, or, if they did so, they thought of it as a privy (God forbid) instead of a mine. They expected only accusations or arguments in an oratory style: not jewels of rational conclusions. Those Muslims today who are impressed by modern philosophy and science have the same misunderstanding. They generally think that the rationality of the Qur’an can appeal only to mediocre minds. Its arguments is below (God forbid) the wisdom of intellectuals and better minds. This misunderstanding is due to the fact that they are unaware of the foundations of Qur’anic arguments as well as of the varying forms in which these arguments have appeared. In this section, we would like to clarify the Qur’anic arguments about tawhid so that the reasoning of the religion may be clear.


Sequence of Discussion

Following is the sequence of discussions in this section:

General arguments about tawhid  

1.      Reasons related to the universe

2.      Reasons of the soul


Specific reasons of tawhid  

1.      Arguments according to the beliefs of the addresses

2.      Summary of previous arguments

3.      Impact of belief in tawhid upon individuals and community

4.      Importance of belief in tawhid in religion.

Since this part is the opposite of the essence of polytheism, it is important to review the latter before reading it. The real purpose of this section is only to explain the arguments on tawhid. Other discussions that are related to this chapter have been discussed in detail in “Reality of Shirk”. I pray to God that He places the things that have come from the heart and are truthful in the hearts of readers and if any errors have been committed, to remove their impact.  


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