The declaration that ‘there is no God but Allah’ is the essence of Islam. It means that God has no partner (sharik): He exists by Himself. This is expressed by the Arabic word tawheed, ‘oneness’ and ‘unity,’ which in the Islamic context means ‘the oneness of God.’ This is a fundamental doctrine encompassing the oneness of God in every sense of the expression. Nothing can rival Him as a source of power or love. There is no one worthy of worship other than God. He is not an abstract concept. He is always near us; He cares for us and we owe our existence to Him alone.
Islam established a close and direct relationship between the Creator and His creation, in which no mediating power plays any role. God’s absolute unity is reflected in the unity of His creation, in which each individual part is in harmonious conjunction with all of the others. There is nothing remotely like Him. The Quran thus enjoins us:
“Say: He is God, the One. God the Absolute. He does not beget, nor is He begotten; and there is none like Him.” (chapter 112).
Chapter 112 of the Qur'an, entitled Ikhlas, gives us the essence of monotheism. Not only does it tell us of the oneness of God, but it also makes it clear what the oneness of God means. This chapter presents the concept of God, purified of all human interpolation, for, prior to the advent of Islam, tampering with the sacred text had caused this concept of God to be distorted for all would¬ be believers. God is not many. God alone is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, including human beings. He is the sole possessor of all powers. He is Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Omnipresent. That is, although invisible to the naked eye, He knows everything, He sees everything, He has full control over everything and is present everywhere. All depend upon him. He depends on none. He, in his own being, is all-powerful. He is above to beget or begotten. He is such a unique being who has no equal or compeer. All kind of oneness belongs to this Almighty Being. The concept of One God is the actual beginning point and also the only source of Islamic teachings.
Fundamental to the religious structure of Islam is the concept of tawheed, or monotheism. As the seed is to tree, so is tawheed to Islam. Just as the tree is a wonderfully developed extension of the seed, so is the religious system of Islam a multi-facetted expression of a single basic concept. For monotheism in Islam does not mean simply belief in one God, but in God's oneness in all respects. No one shares in this oneness of God.
“God is One, Eternal and Absolute. He is everything, everything is from Him. God, the Creator of all things is the Sustainer of the universe.
God: there is no deity save Him, the Living, the Eternal One. Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. His is what the heavens and the earth contain. Who can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows all about the affairs of men at present and in the future. They can grasp only that part of His knowledge, which He wills. His throne is as vast as the heavens and the earth, and the preservation of both does not weary Him. He is the Exalted, the Immense One.” (2:255)
Monotheism is the doctrine that all power lies in the hands of one God alone; that He alone deserves to be worshipped. No act in the nature of worship is lawful unless directed towards God. It is God alone who fulfills our needs. It is God alone, who is behind the functioning of the entire universe.
Here are further verses from the Quran which very clearly state the concept of God:
“Truly your God is but one: Lord of the heavens and of the earth.” (37:4)
“This is God your Lord; there is no God but He, the Creator of all things; therefore, worship Him alone.” (6:102)
“Your God is one God; there is no God but He, the Compassionate, the Merciful.” (2:158)
“God: there is no God but He, the Living, the Eternal One. Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. His is what the heavens and the earth contain. Who can intercede with Him, unless by His leave? He is cognizant of men’s affairs now and in the future. Men can grasp only that part of His knowledge which He will. His throne is as vast as the heavens and the earth, and the preservation of both does not weary Him. He is the Exalted, the Immense One.” (2:255)
Tawheed has two aspects to it: tawheed fi az-zat and tawheed fi as-sifat, that is, oneness of being and oneness of attributes. This means that God is alone in His Being as well as in His attributes.
The attributes of God are called al-Asma ul-Husna, or the excellent names. The Quran says:
“But God’s are excellent names, call on Him by them.” (7:179) According to Abu Hurayrah, a Companion of the Prophet, there is a saying of the Prophet to this effect: “Verily, there are ninety nine names of God.”
This means that in addition to the fact of there being only one Being who enjoys the status of divinity and possesses divine powers, there is also the fact that no-one else can have a share in, or lay claim to God's attributes. These include the power of creating and sustaining the universe with all its countless bodies in motion, of sustaining and nourishing our world, in short, of governing all the happenings in the heavens and on earth; all of these are directly managed by God. No representative or deputy of God has any power-either independent or delegated –over the events of the universe: "He throws the veil of night over the day. Swiftly they follow one another. It was He who created the sun, the moon and the stars and made them subservient to His will. His is the creation, His the command. Blessed be God, the Lord of all creatures." (7:54
The divisibility of the divine attributes is totally alien to Islam. Just as God is alone in His being, so is He alone in His attributes. In recognition of His uniqueness, the Qur'an opens with the following invocation: "Praise be to God, Lord of the universe, the Compassionate, the Merciful, Sovereign of the Day of Judgement. You alone we worship, and to You alone we turn for help. Guide us to the straight path, the path of those whom You have favoured, not of those who have incurred Your wrath, nor of those who have gone astray." (1:1-7)
Islam enjoins believers to worship one God alone. No other being or object is worthy of being worshipped. No other being should be associated with God. Idolatry, or shirk, is to worship or hold in reverence anything other than God. This is strictly forbidden in Islam, and is regarded as the worst of all sins.
The Far-Reaching Effect of Tawheed
Anthropologists would have us believe that the concept of God in religion began with polytheism; that polytheism gradually developed with monotheism. That is, the concept of tawheed was an evolutionary feature of religion which emerged at a later stage. But, according to Islamic belief, the concept of tawheed has existed since the beginning of human life on this earth. The first man – Adam – was the first messenger of God. It was this first messenger who taught human beings the religion of tawheed.
It was in later generations that this religious system began to change. This happened principally because people began to make the assumption that divinity was inherent in natural phenomena. They wondered at the loftiness of the mountains, the unceasing flow of the rivers, and the extraordinary brilliance of the sun and moon, and took it that things possessed of such awesome attributes must necessarily share in God's divinity. Men gifted with special talents likewise came to be included in the category of the divine; they were supposed to be incarnations of God Himself. It was in this manner that the concept of polytheism crept into the religious system.
In consonance with the view that human religions began with tawheed – with polytheism as a later development – the basic mission of all the Prophets who made their appearance at intervals in this world was to lead people away from the worship of many gods and back to the worship of the One God. In other words, to turn them away from the adulation of creatures and towards reverence for the Creator.
As a proof of the Creator's existence, the Qur'an advances the very fact of the existence of the universe. All studies of the universe show that it cannot be Sui genesis: some other agent is essential for the universe to have come into existence. This means that the choice for us is not between a universe with God, or a universe without God. It is rather between a universe with God, or no universe at all. Since a non-existent universe is utterly inconceivable we are forced to accept the option of a universe with God – a necessary condition also for the existence of human beings.
God created man and settled him on the earth. After installing him here, He has kept an unceasing watch over him. Life and death are equally in His hands. Whatever man gains or loses, it is all a matter of the will of God. As the Qur'an expresses it: "God; there is no God but He-the Living, the Eternal One. Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. His is what the heavens and the earth contain. Who can intercede with Him, unless by His leave? He is cognizant of men's affairs, now and in the future. Men can grasp only that part of His Knowledge which He wills. His throne is as vast as the heavens and the earth, and the preservation of both does not weary Him. He is the Exalted, the Immense One." (2:255)
While tawheed means the oneness of God, it must be stressed that this concept differs radically from pantheistic or animist notions that all the forms of existence are diverse manifestations of one and the same reality. On the contrary, the oneness of God as defined in Islam means that there is only one Being of the nature of God. All other things of the universe, they physical or non-physical, are the creations of this One God: they are in no respect constituents of, or partners in the divine godhead.
By believing in one true God, man is saved from worshipping many false gods. Tawheed enables man to establish a direct link between God and man.
Belief in tawheed makes man humble and modest instead of being proud and arrogant. It is because belief in one Great God implies that man is His humble servant and that modesty alone befits him. Believers know that they must submit to God, on whom they depend utterly. Submission to one God results in individual freedom and dignity, for all human beings then become equal and all deserve our respect. There is only one God and all of us are servants of the same God. Belief in the oneness of God helps the individual to live in unity with others. Belief in one Creator gives a sense of oneness with all creation.
Belief in one God gives the believers confidence, for, they trust in God and believe that nothing can happen unless God wills it. Life and death are entirely in His hands. They remain content because they believe that power; wealth and success come from God alone. He gives them to whom He thinks fit and takes them away from whom He pleases. Tawheed thus brings about a unique blend of submission to God and human dignity and freedom.