Tawhid (Arabic: توحيد tawḥīd "doctrine of Oneness [of God]"; also transliterated Tawheed and Tauheed) is the concept of monotheism in Islam. It is the religion's most fundamental concept and holds God (Arabic: Allah) is one (wāḥid) and unique (ahad).
The Qu'ran asserts the existence of a single and absolute truth that transcends the world; a unique, independent and indivisible being, who is independent of the entire creation. The indivisibility of God implies the indivisibility of God's sovereignty which, in turn, leads to the concept of a just, moral and coherent universe, as opposed to an existential and moral chaos. Similarly, the Qur'an rejects the concept of duality of God arguing that good generate from God's creative act and evil from free will of creation, asserting that the evil forces have no power to create anything. God according to Islam is a universal God, rather than a local, tribal or parochial one—is an absolute, who integrates all affirmative values and brooks no evil.
Tawhid constitutes the foremost article of the Muslim profession. The first part of the Shahada is the declaration of belief in the oneness of God. To attribute divinity to a created entity is the only unpardonable sin mentioned in the Qur'an. Muslims believe that the entirety of the Islamic teaching rests on the principle of Tawhid. There is an uncompromising monotheism at the heart of the Islamic beliefs which distinguishes Islam from some other major religions.
Islamic intellectual history can be understood as a gradual unfolding of the manner in which successive generations of believers have understood the meaning and implications of professing God's Unity. Islamic scholars have different approaches toward understanding it. Islamic theology, jurisprudence, philosophy, Sufism, even to some degree the Islamic understanding of natural sciences, all seek to explain at some level the principle of tawhid.
- 1 Tawhid in the Qur'an
- 2 Discerning unity of God
- 3 Arguments for the oneness of God
- 4 Interpretations
- 5 Influences on the Muslim culture
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
Tawhid in the Qur'an
The Qur'an is the main information source for understanding the oneness of God in Islam. All Muslim authorities maintain that a true understanding of God is impossible unless He introduces Himself due to the fact that God is beyond the range of human vision and senses. Therefore God tells people who He is by speaking through the prophet. According to this view the fundamental message of all of the prophets is "There is no God worthy of worship but God." 
The Qur'an asserts the existence of a single, absolute truth that transcends the world; a unique being who is independent of the creation; a real being indivisible into hypostatic entities or incarnated manifestation. According to the Qur'an:
"Say (O Muhammad): "He is God, (the) One, The Self-Sufficient Master, He begets not, nor was He begotten; And there is none co-equal or comparable unto Him." (Sura 112:1-4)
"Thy Lord is self-sufficient, full of Mercy: if it were His will, He could destroy you, and in your place appoint whom He will as your successors, even as He raised you up from the posterity of other people."(Sura 6:133)
According to Vincent J. Cornall, the Qur'an also provides a monist image of God by describing the reality as a unified whole, with God being a single concept that would describe or ascribe all existing things:"He is the First and the Last, the Evident and the Immanent: and He has full knowledge of all things."(Sura 57:3)" Some Muslims have however vigorously criticized interpretations that would lead to a monist view of God for what they see as blurring the distinction between the creator and the creature, and its incompatibility with the genuine and absolute monotheism of Islam.
The Qur'anic passages Sura 34:20-24, Sura 35:40 and Sura 46:4 provide a basic understanding of the serious nature and consequences of assigning partners or equals to God, a sin known in Islam as Shirk. God will forgive any sin except a person who dies while committing Shirk. The verse 34:20-24 rejects the idea of duality of God by arguing that both good and evil generate from God's creative act and that the evil forces have no creative power.
The Qur'an relates the story of Abraham in order to provide an example of an intellectual quest for understanding God as the Cause of Causes: Related in verses 6:75-79, Abraham moves progressively from worshipping the stars, the moon, and the sun to acknowledging God as the sole cause of the heavenly phenomena.
In order to explain the complexity of unity of God and of the divine nature, the Qur'an uses 99 terms referred to as "Excellent Names of God" (Sura 7:180). Aside from the supreme name "Allah" and the neologism al-Rahman (referring to the divine beneficence that creates and maintains the universe), other names may be shared by both God and human beings. According to the Islamic teachings, the latter is meant to serve as a reminder of God's immanence rather than being a sign of one's divinity or alternatively imposing a limitation on God's transcendent nature. Attribution of divinity to a created entity, shirk, is considered as a denial of the truth of God and thus a major sin.
Discerning unity of God
To know God is to know his oneness. To say that God is one has four meanings: two of them are false and two are correct. As for the two meaning that are false, one is that a person should say "God is one" and be thinking of number and counting. This is false because that which has no second cannot enter into the category of number. Do you not see that those who say that God is a third of a trinity fall into this infidelity? Another meaning is to say, "So-and-So is one of his people," namely, a species of this genus or a member of this species. This meaning is also false when applied to God, because it implies likening something to God, whereas God is above all likeness. As to the two meaning that are correct when applied to God, one is that it should be said that "God is one" in the sense that there is no likeness to him among things. Another is to say that "God is one" in the sense that there is no multiplicity or division conceivable in Him, neither outwardly, nor in the mind, nor in the imagination. God alone possesses such a unity.
Arguments for the oneness of God
Theologians usually use reason and deduction to prove existence, unity and oneness of the God. They use teleological argument for the existence of God as a creator based on perceived evidence of order, purpose, design, or direction—or some combination of these—in nature. Teleology is the supposition that there is purpose or directive principle in the works and processes of nature. The arguments are thereby circular and thus invalid from a syllogistic point of view.
Another way which is used frequently by theologians is Reductio ad absurdum. They use it instead of positive arguments as a more efficient way to reject the idea of opponents. Quran has also used this way in several cases.
God as the Cause of Causes
Against the polytheism of pre-Islamic Arabia, the Qur'an argued that the knowledge of God as the creator of everything rules out the possibility of lesser gods since these beings must be themselves created. For the Qur'an, God is an immanent and transcendent deity who actively creates, maintains and destroys the universe. The reality of God as the ultimate cause of things is however veiled from human understanding because of the secondary causes and contingent realities of things in the world. Thus the belief in the oneness of God is equated in the Qur'an with the "belief in the unseen" (Sura 2:3). The Qur'an summarizes its task in making this "unseen", to a greater or lesser degree "seen" so that the belief in the existence of God becomes a Master-Truth rather than an unreasonable belief. The Qur'an states that the God's signals are so near and yet so far, demanding its students to listen to what it has to say with humility (Sura 50:33, Sura 50:37). The Qur'an aims to draw attention to certain obvious facts, turning them into "reminders" of God instead of providing lengthy "theological" proofs for the existence and unity of God.
Ash'ari theologians rejected cause and effect in essence, but accepting it as something that facilitates humankind's investigation and comprehension of natural processes. These medieval scholars argued that the nature was composed of uniform atoms that were "re-created" at every instant by God. The laws of nature were only the customary sequence of apparent causes (customs of God), the ultimate cause of each accident being God himself.
God as the Necessary Existent
An ontological argument for the existence of God was first proposed by Avicenna (965-1037) in the Metaphysics section of The Book of Healing which is known as Contingency and necessity argument (Imakan wa Wujub).
Avicenna initiated a full-fledged inquiry into the question of being, in which he distinguished between essence (Mahiat) and existence (Wujud). He argued that the fact of existence can not be inferred from or accounted for by the essence of existing things and that form and matter by themselves cannot interact and originate the movement of the universe or the progressive actualization of existing things. Existence must, therefore, be due to an agent-cause that necessitates, imparts, gives, or adds existence to an essence. To do so, the cause must be an existing thing and coexist with its effect.
This was the first attempt at using the method of a priori proof, which utilizes intuition and reason alone. Avicenna's proof of God's existence is unique in that it can be classified as both a cosmological argument and an ontological argument. "It is ontological insofar as ‘necessary existence’ in intellect is the first basis for arguing for a Necessary Existent". The proof is also "cosmological insofar as most of it is taken up with arguing that contingent existents cannot stand alone and must end up in a Necessary Existent."  Another argument Avicenna presented for God's existence was the problem of the mind-body dichotomy.
According to Avicenna, the universe consists of a chain of actual beings, each giving existence to the one below it and responsible for the existence of the rest of the chain below. Because an actual infinite is deemed impossible by Avicenna, this chain as a whole must terminate in a being that is wholly simple and one, whose essence is its very existence, and therefore is self-sufficient and not in need of something else to give it existence. Because its existence is not contingent on or necessitated by something else but is necessary and eternal in itself, it satisfies the condition of being the necessitating cause of the entire chain that constitutes the eternal world of contingent existing things. Thus his ontological system rests on the conception of God as the Wajib al-Wujud (necessary existent). There is a gradual multiplication of beings through a timeless emanation from God as a result of his self-knowledge.
Indivisibility of God's sovereignty
The Qur'an argues that there can be no multiple sources of divine sovereignty since "behold, each god would have taken away what [each] had created, And some would have Lorded it over others!" The Qur'an argues that the stability and order prevailing throughout the universe shows that it was created and is being administered by only one God (Sura 28:70-72). Verses 27:60-64 for example read:
And who other than Him created the heavens and the earth and sent down for you water from the sky, whereby We cause to grow lush orchards - for it is not up to you to cause their trees to grow! Is there any other god besides God? Yet, these are the people who ascribe partners to Him!
And who other than Him made the earth a firm abode [for you], and set rivers traversing through it, and put firm mountains therein and sealed off one sea from the other? Is there any other god besides God? Indeed, most of them do not know!
And who other than Him responds to the distressed one when he calls Him and He relieves him of the distress and Who has made you [mankind] His viceregents on earth? Is there any other god besides God? - little do you reflect!
And who other than Him guides you in the darkness of the land and the sea? And who sends forth winds heralding His mercy [rain]? Is there any other god besides God? Far exalted be He above what they associate with Him!
And who other than Him brings forth His creation and then re-creates it? And who gives you sustenance from the heaven and the earth? Is there any other god besides God? Say [O Muhammad!]: Bring your proof if you are right [in associating others with God]
The Qur'an in verse 21:22 states: "If there were numerous gods instead of one, [the heavens and the earth] would be in a sorry state". Later Muslim theologians elaborated on this verse saying that the existence of at least two gods would inevitably arise between them, at one time or another, a conflict of wills. Since two contrary wills could not possibly be realized at the same time, one of them must admit himself powerless in that particular instance. On the other hand, a powerless being can not by definition be a god. Therefore the possibility of having more than one god is ruled out.
The Qur'an argues that human beings have an instinctive distaste for polytheism: At times of crisis, for example, even the idolaters forget the false deities and call upon the one true God for help. As soon as they are relieved from the danger, they however start associating other beings with God (Sura 29:65).
Next, the Qur'an argues that polytheism takes away from human dignity: God has honored human beings and given them charge of the physical world, and yet they disgrace their position in the world by worshipping what they carve out with their own hands.
Lastly, the Qur'an argues that monotheism is a not a later discovery made by the human race, but rather there is the combined evidence of the prophetic call for monotheism throughout human history starting from Adam. The Qur'an suggests several causes for deviation from monotheism to polytheism: Great temporal power, regarded by the holder and his subjects as 'absolute' — may lead the holder to think that he is God-like; such claims were commonly forced upon, and accepted by, those who were subject to the ruler. Also, certain natural phenomena (such as the sun, the moon and the stars) inspire feelings of awe, wonder or admiration that could lead some to regard these celestial bodies as deities. Another reason for deviation from monotheism is when one becomes a slave to his or her base desires and passions. In seeking to always satisfy the desires, he or she may commit a kind of polytheism .
The Qur'anic verse 45:24 is sometimes cited as a Qur'an argument against atheism. The verse reads: "And they say, 'This worldly life of ours is all there is — we die and we live, and nothing but time destroys us.' But they have no knowledge of it; they are only speculating."
Understanding of the meaning of Tawhid is one of the most controversial issues among Muslims. Islamic scholars have different approaches toward understanding it, comprising textualistic approach, theological approach, philosophical approach and Sufism and Irfani approach. These different approaches lead to different and in some cases opposite understanding of the issue.
The Textualistists or literalists by reason of their conception of the divine Attributes, came to represent the divinity as a complex of names and qualifications alongside the divine essence itself. The Athari methodology of textual interpretation is to avoid delving into extensive theological speculation.
Certain theologians use the term Tawhid in a much broader meaning to denote the totality of discussion of God, his existence and his various attributes. Others go yet further and use the term to ultimately represent the totality of the "principles of religion". In its current usage, the expressions "Tawhid" or "knowledge of Tawhid" are sometimes used as an equivalent for the whole Kalam, the Islamic theology.
God is unique, nothing is like him; he is neither body, nor individual, nor substance, nor accident. He is beyond time. He cannot dwell in a place or within a being; he is not the object of any creatural attribute or qualification. He is neither conditioned nor determined, neither engendered nor engendering. He is beyond the perception of the senses. The eyes cannot see him, observation cannot attain him, the imagination cannot comprehend him. He is a thing, but he is not like other things; he is omniscient, all-powerful, but his omniscience and his all-mightiness cannot be compared to anything created. He created the world without any pre-established archetype and without an auxiliary.
According to Henry Corbin, the result of this interpretation is the negation of the divine attributes, the affirmation of the created Quran, and the denial of all possibility of the vision of God in the world beyond. Mu'tazilis believed that God is deprived of all positive attributes, in the sense that all divine qualifications must be understood as being the essence itself. In contrast to Textualistic viewpoint, the Mu'tazilite attitude is known in the history of theology by the name of Agnosticism(ta'til), that is to say, it consists in depriving God of all operative action and ends finally in agnosticism. When, therefore, the Qur'an and certain hadith represent the divinity in anthropomorphic form, the Mu'tazilis saw it all as metaphor. The hand is the metaphorical designation of power; the face signifies the essence; the fact that God is seated on the Throne is a metaphorical image of the divine reign, and so on.
The solution proposed by Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari to solve the problems of tashbih and ta'til concedes that the divine Being possesses in a real sense the Attributes and Names mentioned in the Qur'an. Insofar as these Names and Attributes have a positive reality, they are distinct from the essence, but nevertheless they do not have either existence or reality apart from it. The inspiration of al-Ash'ari in this matter was on the one hand to distinguish essence and attribute as concepts, and on the other hand to see that the duality between essence and attribute should be situated not on the quantitative but on the qualitative level—something which Mu'tazilis thinking had failed to grasp. Al-Ash'ari is in agreement with the literalists regarding the reality of human characteristics assigned to God, but he warns against imparting any physical material anthropomorphic sense to them when attributing them to God. In his view, the Muslim must believe that God really does possess hands, face and so on, but without 'asking how'. This is the famous « bi-lakayfa », in which faith attests that it can dispense with reason. According to Henry Corbin, al-Ash'ari's great labour ended by leaving faith and reason face to face, unmediated.
Twelvers theology is based on the Hadith which have been narrated from the Islamic prophet Muhammad, the first, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth Imams and compiled by Shia scholars such as Al-Shaykh al-Saduq in al-Tawhid. According to Shia theologians, the attributes and names of God have no independent and hypostatic existence apart from the being and essence of God. Any suggestion of these attributes and names being convinced of as separate is thought to entail polytheism. It would be even incorrect to say God knows by his knowledge which is in his essence but God knows by his knowledge which is his essence. Also God has no physical form and he is insensible.
Al-Farabi and especially Avicenna put forward new interpretation of Tawhid on the basis of the reason not Qur'an and Hadith. Before Avicenna the discussions among Muslim philosophers were about the unity of God as divine creator and his relationship with the world as creation. The earlier philosophers were affected by the Plotinus' ideas. 
َWhether this view can be reconciled with Islam, particularly given the question of what role is left for God's will, was to become a subject of considerable controversy within intellectual Islamic discourse.
Sufi and Irfani viewpoint
In Islamic mysticism (Sufism and Irfan), Tawhid is not only the affirmation in speech of God's unity, but also as importantly a practical and existential realization of that unity. This is done by rejecting the concepts tied to the world of multiplicity, to isolate the eternal from the temporal in a practical way. The ideal is a radical purification from all worldliness.
For Muslim mystics (sufis), the affirmation in speech of God's unity is only the first step of Tawhid. Further steps involve a spiritual experience for the existential realization of that unity. Categorizations of different steps of Tawhid could be found in the works of Muslims Sufis like Junayd Baghdadi and al-Ghazali. It involves a practical rejection of the concepts tied to the world of multiplicity. Al-Junayd for example "distinguishes four steps, starting from the simple attestation of unicity which is sufficient for ordinary believers, and culminating in the highest rank reserved for the elite, when the creature totally ceases to exist before his Lord, thus achieving al-fanā fi al-tawhīd [annihilation in unity]."
Annihilation and Subsistence
According to the concept of Annihilation and Subsistence, "Man's existence, or ego, or self-hood...must be annihilated so that he can attain to his true self which is his existence and "subsistence" with God. All of man's character traits and habits, everything that pertains to his individual existence must become completely naughted and "obliterated" (mahw). Then God will give back to him his character traits and everything positive he ever possessed. But at this stage he will know consciously and actually - not just theoretically - and with a through spiritual realization, that everything he is derives absolutely from God. He is nothing but a ray of God's Attributes manifesting the Hidden Treasure." 
Unity of Existence
The first detailed formulation of "Unity of Existence" (wahdat al-wujud) is closely associated to Ibn Arabi. Widely different interpretations of the meaning of the "Unity of Existence" have been proposed throughout the centuries by critics, defenders, and Western scholars. Ibn Arabi himself didn't use the term "Unity of Existence" and similar statements had been made by those before him. For example, according to al-Ghazali "There is nothing in wujud [existence] except God...Wujud [Existence] only belongs to the Real One". Ghazali explains that the fruit of spiritual ascent of the Sufi is to "witness that there is no existence in the world save God and that 'All things are perishing except his face' (Qur'an 28:88)" 
Many authors consider being or existence to be the proper designation for the reality of God. While all Muslims believe the reality of God to be one, critics hold that the term "existence" (wujud) is also used for the existence of things in this world and that the doctrine blurs the distinction between the existence of the creator and that of the creation. Defenders argued that Ibn Arabi and his followers are offering a "subtle metaphysics following the line of the Asharite formula: “The attributes are neither God nor other than God.” God’s “signs” (ayat) and “traces” (athar)—the creatures—are neither the same as God nor different from him, because God must be understood as both absent and present, both transcendent and immanent. Understood correctly, wahdat al-wujud elucidates the delicate balance that needs to be maintained between these two perspectives." Shah Wali Allah of Delhi argued that the Ibn Arabi's "unity of being" was experiential and based on a subjective experience of illumination or ecstasy, rather than an ontological reality.
Influences on the Muslim culture
The Islamic doctrine of Tawhid puts forth a God whose rule, will or law are comprehensive and extend to all creatures and to all aspects of the human life. Early Muslims understood religion to thus cover the domains of state, law and society. It is believed that the entirety of the Islamic teaching rests on the principle of Tawhid. In the following, we provide a few examples of the influences of Tawhid on the Muslim culture:
According to the Qur'an, one consequence of properly conceived relationship between God and Man as the served and servant, is the proper relationship among humans. In order to achieve the former, the Qur'an consistently "reminds" men of two points: 1. That God is one; everything except God (including the entirety of nature) is contingent upon God. 2. With all his might and glory, God is essentially the all-merciful God.
- Satanic Logic
According to the Qur'an, Satan deviated from the oneness of God in the story of creation of man by permitting his own hierarchical value system to supersede God's will: God asked the angels to bow to Adam, who he had created from clay. Satan refused, saying that "I am better than him; you created me from fire and created him from clay". The Medieval Muslim scholar, al-Ghazali pointing out that the only legitimate "preference principle" in the sight of God is piety, writes: "every time a rich man believes that he is better than a poor one, or a white man believes that he is better than a black one, then he is being arrogant. He is adopting the same hierarchical principles adopted by Iblis [Satan] in his jahl [ignorance], and thus falling into shirk [opposite of Tawhid]." 
- Secularism and the evolution of public policy
The modern secular state (a by-product of European positivism) resulted from the evolution of public policy in west. Islamic scholarship has not however gone through the same process for a variety of reasons: The doctrine of Tawhid implies that the cosmos is a unified harmonious whole, centered around the omnipotent and omnipresent God. As interpreted by Muslim scholars, national sovereignty thus exclusively belonged to God and no room was left for evolution of nation-state ideas. According to Ozay Mehmet, "Secularism, i.e. policies based on science and man-made rules rather than divine criteria, has been rejected as anti-Islamic. Traditionally, a Muslim is not a nationalist, or citizen of a nation-state; he has no political identity, only a religious membership in the Umma. For a traditional Muslim, Islam is the sole and sufficient identification tag and nationalism and nation-states are 'obstacles'".
The desire to preserve the unity and transcendence of God led to the prohibition of Muslims from creating representation or visual depictions of God, or of any Prophet including Muhammad. Many Arab Muslims later extended the ban to any representations in art of the human form. The key concern is that the use of statues or images may lead to idolatry. The dominant forms of expression in the Islamic art, thus, became calligraphy and arabesque.
Islamic monotheism Declaration Polytheism Idolatry God Other gods
- Divine simplicity (the Christian concept of divine unity)
- God in Islam
- Names of God in the Qur'an
- Shema Yisrael
- Trinity in Islam
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