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THE MEANING OF GOD’S UNITY (TAWHID) WITH ITS IMPLICATIONS IN HUMAN LIFE

Of all the religions existing today, Islam is the one that places the greatest stress on Divine Unity (tawhid) and is purely monotheistic. All others, whether God-revealed or essentially polytheistic, unfortunately have been darkened to a certain extent. 

The Universe indicates God

The existence of God is too evident to need any arguments. Some saintly scholars even have stated that God is more manifest than any other being, but that those who lack insight cannot see Him. Others have said that He is concealed from direct perception because of the intensity of His Self-manifestation. 

However, the great influence of positivist and materialist schools of thought on science and on all people of recent centuries makes it necessary to discuss this most manifest truth. As this now-prevalent “scientific” world-view reduces existence to what can be perceived directly, it blinds itself to those invisible dimensions of existence that are far vaster than the visible.

Let us reflect on one simple historical fact: Since the beginning of human life, the overwhelming majority of humanity has believed that God exists. This belief alone is enough to establish God’s Existence. Those who do not believe cannot claim to be smarter than those who do. Among past and present-day believers are innovative scientists, scholars, researchers and, most importantly, saints and Prophets, who are the experts in the field. In addition, people usually confuse the non-acceptance of something’s existence with the acceptance of its non-existence. While the former is only a negation or a rejection, the latter is a judgment that requires proof. No one has ever proven God’s non-existence, for to do so is impossible, whereas countless arguments prove His existence. This point may be clarified through the following comparison.

Suppose there is a large palace with 1,000 entrances, 999 of which are open and one which appears to be closed. No one could reasonably claim that the palace cannot be entered. Unbelievers are like those who, in order to assert that the palace cannot be entered, confine their (and others’) attention only to the door that is seemingly closed. The doors to God’s existence are open to everybody, provided that they sincerely intend to enter through them. 

The most important factor leading many, especially those under the spell of materialistic science and its worldview, to fix their eyes on the apparently closed door is causality. Causality leads to the vicious chain of cause and effect, for each cause is also an effect. Moreover, the effect is totally different from the cause. All things and effects are usually so full of art and beneficial purposes that even if all causes gathered they would be unable to produce one single thing, let alone their simple immediate causes.

In order for a cause to produce an effect, it has to be able to produce the whole universe in which that effect takes place, for that effect cannot exist without the whole universe. Nor can they exist separately. Materialist scientists imagine powerless, dependent, and ignorant causes to be responsible for the existence of beings and things, and thus fancy them to possess absolute qualities. In this way they are implying (tacitly believing) that each of those causes possesses qualities that only can be attributed to God. 

However, the latest discoveries of modern science, like the universe’s unity and its parts’ inseparability, exclude the possibility of all the explanations put forward by materialistic science. They demonstrate that all entities, whether in nature or in the laws and causes attributed to them, are devoid of power and knowledge. They are contingent, transient, and dependent beings. But the properties attributed to any of these entities need infinite qualities like absolute power and knowledge.

This shows that causality is by no means necessarily linked with “objective” study or “neutral” scientific investigation. It is no more than a personal opinion. Moreover, it is an opinion that is irrational and devoid of sense.

When we study the universe, we see that all beings utterly refute the false claims of materialist and atheistic reasoning through their order, mutual relationship, and duties. They affirm that they are nothing but the property and creatures of a Single Creator. Each rejects the false notions of chance and causality, ascribes all other beings to its own Creator, and proves that the Creator has no partners. Indeed, when the Creator’s Unity is known and understood correctly, it becomes clear that nothing requires that causes should possess any power. Thus they cannot be partners to the Creator, for it is impossible for them to be so.

The universe is a document for believers to use. The Qur’an informs us that believing in God is to assent with one’s heart to the Creator with all His Attributes supported by the universe’s testimony. The true affirmation of God’s Unity is a judgment, a confirmation, an assent, and an acceptance that can find its Owner present with all things. It sees in all things a path leading to its Owner, and regards nothing as an obstacle to His Presence. If this were not the case, it would be necessary to tear and cast aside the universe in order to find Him, which is impossible for us.

The universe has been made in the form of an intelligible book so as to make known its Author. The book, which addresses humanity, seeks to make humanity read the book and its parts, and respond with worship and thanks to its Author’s will. Humanity attains to that worship by uncovering the order in the Book of the Universe through scientific study and displaying the functioning of the universe’s beings and workings. 

The universe is not passive or neutral. We cannot interpret it as we wish, for there is only one correct way of looking at the world, one universal world-view common to all humanity. This view is taught to us in the Qur’an as well as in the Book of the Universe by our Creator. This means that the Qur’anic world-view recognizes that the perception of the world differs relatively from one person to another. It allows for plurality within unity so that a universal dialogue is possible. This world-view contains no fragmentation or conflict, only harmony, assistance, peace, and compassion.

The materialist scientific world-view is based on radical fragmentation, for it views nature as a mechanism with no inherent value and meaning. It isolates an object by cutting off its connections with the rest of the world, and studies it within its immediate environment. 

But our perception of ourselves tells us that we are meaningful and part of the whole universe, and that everything must have a meaning and be part of the universe. Materialist science has left the subject—humanity—out of the universe and, insofar as this science is taking over, people feel that they have no place in this world. Thus they are isolated and live lives without meaning, except in a very limited, egoistic sense. People are alienated from their environment and from themselves.

The universe is an inseparable whole. Indeed, the unity observed in its totality, including humanity, is so clear that no one can deny it. Thus the materialistic approach to the scientific method has to be reconsidered. This method is reductionist, for it reduces every thing to fragments and then attributes each fragment to causes. But in reality, all things are interconnected and interdependent, for it is impossible to attribute anything, however small, to causes that are themselves transient and contingent. Since whatever is responsible for one thing must be responsible for everything, we cannot have one thing without the whole.

Why can we ascribe a thing to its antecedents in time but not to its neighbors in space? Why should a thing be able to produce another thing just because it happened before? All modern scientists know that space and time are fully equivalent and unified into a four-dimensional continuum in which both “here” and “there” and “before” and “after” are relative. In this four-dimensional space, the temporal sequence is converted into a simultaneous co-existence, the side-by-side existence of all things. Thus causality appears to be an idea limited to a prejudiced experience of the world.

Causality does have some meaning. Opposites are mingled in this world: truth with falsehood, light with darkness, good with evil, white with black, and so on. Since people have ingrained inclinations toward both good and evil, they are tested in this world to determine whether they will use their free will and other faculties in the way of truth and good or otherwise

Divine Wisdom requires that the veil of causes and laws be drawn before Divine Power’s operations. If God had willed, He could train the planets with His “Hands” in a way observable by us or let visible angels administer them. Then we would not be speaking of the laws of causes involved, such as gravitation. Or, in order to communicate His Commandments, God could speak to each person directly without sending any Prophets, or could write His Name with stars in the sky in order to compel us to believe in His Existence and Oneness. But in this case, humanity’s earthly existence would not be an arena of trial that pushes us to new developments and discoveries in science and technology, thereby enabling us to remove one veil more from the meaning of existence.

Like a mirror’s two sides, existence has two aspects or dimensions: one visible and material, known as the Realm of Opposites and (in most cases) Imperfections, and the transparent, pure, and perfect spiritual realm. The material dimension must—and does—contain events and phenomena that appear disagreeable to us. Those who cannot perceive the Divine Wisdom behind all things may even criticize the Almighty for those disagreeable events and phenomena. To prevent that, God uses natural laws and causes to veil His acts. For example, so that we do not criticize God or His Angel of Death for the loss of our beloved ones or our own death, God places diseases and natural disasters (among other “agents” or “causes”) between Himself and death.

On account of this world of testing and trial’s essential imperfection, we encounter and suffer from many deficiencies and shortcomings. In absolute terms, every event and phenomenon is good and beautiful in itself or in its consequences. Whatever God does or decrees is good, beautiful, and just. Injustice, ugliness, and evil are only apparent or superficial and arise from humanity’s errors and abuses. For example, although a court may pass an unjust sentence on you, you should know that Destiny permits that judgment because of a crime that you are hiding. Whatever befalls us is usually the result of self-wronging, an evil that we ourselves have done. However, those who lack the necessary sound reasoning and judgment to understand the Divine Wisdom behind events and phenomena may impute directly to God the apparent ugliness or evil, imperfections and shortcomings, experienced in worldly life, even though God is absolutely free of any defect or imperfection.

Therefore, so that people do not ascribe any ugliness or evil to God, His Glory and Grandeur require that natural causes and laws be a veil before His acts, while belief in His Unity demands that those causes and laws should not be ascribed to any kind of creative power.

If God Almighty acted in the world directly, and not through causes and laws, we would be unable to develop scientific knowledge or live even an instant of a happy life free of fear and anxiety. We can observe and study patterns in phenomena thanks to God’s acting from behind natural causes and laws. Otherwise, each event would be a miracle. The regularity within the flux and mutability of events and phenomena makes them comprehensible to us, and so awakens within us the desire to wonder and reflect, which is a principal factor in establishing science. For the same reason, we are able to plan and arrange our future affairs to some degree. Just consider how life would be if we did not know whether the sun would rise tomorrow!

Whoever owns such attributes as beauty and perfection desires to know them and make them known. God owns absolute beauty and perfection and is independent of all things. He also owns a holy, transcendent love and thus a sacred desire to display His Beauty and Perfection. If He showed His Names and Attributes directly, without the “medium” of causes and laws, we could not endure them. He manifests them as he does and by degrees within the confines of time and space so that we can connect with them, reflect on them, and perceive them. The gradual manifestation of Divine Names and Attributes is also a reason for our curiosity and wonder about them.

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Last Updated on April 15, 2002

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