Monotheism in Quran

Monotheism in Quran

Monotheism in Quran is a recurring concept on which God lays great emphasis. Monotheism means believing in one God as the creator, sustainer, and the One whom everything returns to Him and emanates from His existence. In Arabic, monotheism is called tawheed (تَوحید), which comes from the root word /wḥd/ (وَحَدَ) and the word wāḥid (واحِد), which means one. In reality, monotheism is the most important thing that must be considered for someone who believes in God and Islam. In this article on Islam4u, we will take a look at:

A Surah Devoted to Monotheism in Quran

There is an entire chapter in the Quran devoted to monotheism that has two names:

  1. Ikhlas  [sincerity]
  2. Tawheed [monotheism]

The reason this surah is known as Tawheed is because it essentially orders the Prophet and believers to say that God is one. It is famous that this surah is similar to the ID card of God that introduces him briefly yet comprehensively. The surah commands the Prophet to say:

  1. God is one.
  2. He is needless.
  3. He neither begets nor was begotten.
  4. No one is His equal.

Polytheism: The Opposite of Monotheism in Quran

Polytheism or shirk (شِرك), that is, ascribing partners to God and believing in more  than one God is the biggest sin as mentioned in the Quran. Polytheism is such a great sin that God has said in the Quran that He will forgive every sin except polytheism.

إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَغْفِرُ أَن يُشْرَكَ بِهِ وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّـهِ فَقَدِ افْتَرَىٰ إِثْمًا عَظِيمًا ﴿48﴾

Indeed Allah does not forgive that partners should be ascribed to Him, but He forgives anything besides that to whomever He wishes. Whoever ascribes partners to Allah has indeed fabricated [a lie] in great sinfulness. 1

 It is very important to always compare monotheism with polytheism. In other words, we must see if our actions and beliefs have even the slightest hint of polytheism in it or not, which would compromise our monotheism.

Verses About Monotheism in Quran

There are many verses about monotheism in the Quran. In many verses, God describes Himself or quotes His prophets and servants to believe in one God and not to ascribe partners to Him. For example, verse 110 that is the last verse of surah Kahf states:

قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَنَا بَشَرٌ مِّثْلُكُمْ يُوحَىٰ إِلَيَّ أَنَّمَا إِلَـٰهُكُمْ إِلَـٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ ۖ فَمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو لِقَاءَ رَبِّهِ فَلْيَعْمَلْ عَمَلًا صَالِحًا وَلَا يُشْرِكْ بِعِبَادَةِ رَبِّهِ أَحَدًا ﴿110﴾

Say, ‘I am just a human being like you. It has been revealed to me that your God is the One God. [Translation by Qara’i]

Here, God is telling Prophet Muhammad to say to his people that he is a human being like them, except that revelation descends on him saying that God is one.

Another verse quotes Jesus the Messiah who engages in a conversation with God and tells God:

مَا قُلْتُ لَهُمْ إِلَّا مَا أَمَرْتَنِي بِهِ أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّـهَ رَبِّي وَرَبَّكُمْ

I did not say to them [anything] except what You had commanded me [to say]: ‘‘Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.’’ [Translation by Qara’i]

The people of Jesus believed and still believe in three gods and say Jesus is the son of God. However, this great prophet said to God that he never told them that he is the son of God and only said to his people what God had commanded him: to worship one God, his Lord, and their Lord.

Prophet Ibrahim and Monotheism in Quran

Prophet Ibrahim is one of the greatest prophets of God. His rank is second to Prophet Muhammad. That is, after Prophet Muhammad who has the highest rank among the prophets, Prophet Ibrahim has the second highest rank. In fact, Prophet Ibrahim is described in many verses of the Quran and is given the title Haneef, meaning true in faith and monotheist. As an illustration, verse 79 of surah An‘ām quotes him as saying:

إِنِّي وَجَّهْتُ وَجْهِيَ لِلَّذِي فَطَرَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ حَنِيفًا ۖ وَمَا أَنَا مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ ﴿79﴾

‘Indeed I have turned my face toward Him who originated the heavens and the earth, as a Hanif, and I am not one of the polytheists.’

Prophet Joseph and Monotheism in Quran

Monotheism in Quran has been mentioned frequently. One of the instances where monotheism is spoken about is the story of Joseph and the two inmates while Joseph was in prison. The people of Egypt at that time were idolaters and ascribed partners to God. Each of these two individuals had seen a dream and asked Prophet Joseph to interpret it for them. However, Joseph said that he would only do so if they submit to God Almighty and let go of their pagan beliefs. That is, to worship and believe in the only one God. Joseph said to them:

يَا صَاحِبَيِ السِّجْنِ أَأَرْبَابٌ مُّتَفَرِّقُونَ خَيْرٌ أَمِ اللَّـهُ الْوَاحِدُ الْقَهَّارُ ﴿39﴾

O my prison mates! Are different masters better, or Allah, the One, the All-paramount?

As a result, the two prison mates of Joseph professed their faith in the One God and became monotheists. Afterwards, Joseph interpreted their dream.

Monotheism in Quran Based on the Advice of Luqman to His Son

In surah Luqman (لُقمان), starting from verse 13 of this surah, Luqman the wise gives a series of advice to his son. The very first piece of advice he gives is not to ascribe partners to God. In other words, he tells his son not to be a polytheist, but rather a monotheist. He continues by saying that polytheism is a great injustice and oppression:

وَإِذْ قَالَ لُقْمَانُ لِابْنِهِ وَهُوَ يَعِظُهُ يَا بُنَيَّ لَا تُشْرِكْ بِاللَّـهِ ۖ إِنَّ الشِّرْكَ لَظُلْمٌ عَظِيمٌ ﴿13﴾

When Luqman said to his son, as he advised him: ‘O my son! Do not ascribe any partners to Allah. Polytheism is indeed a great injustice.’

Therefore, we get to know that polytheism cannot exist at the same time as monotheism. In other words, they are direct opposites, meaning a person who is not a monotheist is a polytheist and vice versa. Of course, this applies to those who believe in God, because if a person believes in no God, he is an atheist and is outside our discussion.

Prophet Moses and Monotheism in the Quran

It is an inescapable fact that all the Abrahamic religions were monotheistic in nature. As a matter of fact, the religion of Moses which later became known as Judaism is also monotheistic. Nevertheless, the people of Moses worshipped a golden calf that was made by a man named Samiri (سامِري) in Moses’ absence. When Moses returned, he witnessed that his people were worshipping the golden calf. He got angry and ordered that the calf be set on fire and then its ashes thrown into the sea. Then Moses said:

إِنَّمَا إِلَـٰهُكُمُ اللَّـهُ الَّذِي لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۚ وَسِعَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ عِلْمًا ﴿98﴾

Indeed your God is Allah. There is no god except Him. He embraces all things in [His] knowledge.’ 2

Prophet Hud and Monotheism in Quran

Prophet Hud was one of the Arab prophets who was sent to the tribe of ‘Ād (عاد). His people were idolaters and believed in many gods. Consequently, God sent Hud to them to guide them to the monotheistic faith. After doing so, Hud’s people rejected him and refused to become monotheists. They said:

قَالُوا أَجِئْتَنَا لِنَعْبُدَ اللَّـهَ وَحْدَهُ وَنَذَرَ مَا كَانَ يَعْبُدُ آبَاؤُنَا ۖ فَأْتِنَا بِمَا تَعِدُنَا إِن كُنتَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ ﴿70﴾

They said, ‘Have you come to [tell] us that we should worship Allah alone and abandon what our fathers have been worshiping? Then bring us what you threaten us with, should you be truthful.’ 3

Therefore, they were punished by God due to their refusal to believe in one God, and also because they themselves asked to be punished. As a result, God Almighty destroyed a mighty nation, that is, people who used to build houses out of mountains. This shows the importance of monotheism in the Quran.

Prophet Shu‘ayb and Monotheism in Quran

Prophet Shu‘ayb (شُعَيب) was also an Arab Prophet of Midian. His people reportedly used to worship a large tree. God Almighty sent Shu‘ayb to invite them to worship one God. However, like the people of ‘Ād, they too refused to become monotheistic. They mockingly said:

قَالُوا يَا شُعَيْبُ أَصَلَاتُكَ تَأْمُرُكَ أَن نَّتْرُكَ مَا يَعْبُدُ آبَاؤُنَا أَوْ أَن نَّفْعَلَ فِي أَمْوَالِنَا مَا نَشَاءُ ۖ إِنَّكَ لَأَنتَ الْحَلِيمُ الرَّشِيدُ ﴿87﴾

They said, ‘O Shu‘ayb, does your worship require that we abandon what our fathers have been worshiping, or that we should not do with our wealth whatever we wish? You are indeed [a] gentle and sensible [person].’ 4

Unfortunately, the people of Midian did not believe in God either and were punished, as if they never existed. This is yet another story of monotheism in the Quran.

Monotheism in the Quran and Jacob’s Will to His Sons

In one of the verses of the Quran, we read that while Prophet Jacob (یَعقوب) was on his deathbed, he made a will to his sons by asking them who they would worship after his death. They said:

نَعْبُدُ إِلَـٰهَكَ وَإِلَـٰهَ آبَائِكَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِسْحَاقَ إِلَـٰهًا وَاحِدًا وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ ﴿133﴾

‘We will worship your God and the God of your fathers, Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac, the One God, and to Him do we submit.’ 5

This and many other verses show that monotheism in the Quran is something that is greatly emphasized by God the Exalted.

Monotheism in Quran in Ayat al-Kursi

There are many verses of monotheism in Quran where God Almighty expressly states that there is no god but He Himself. These verses describe different attributes of God as well and are not repetitive, that is, they explain different aspects of God’s oneness. For example, verse 255 of surah Baqarah, known as Āyat al-Kursī (آیَةُ الکُرسي) states:

هُوَ اللَّـهُ الَّذِي لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْمَلِكُ الْقُدُّوسُ السَّلَامُ الْمُؤْمِنُ الْمُهَيْمِنُ الْعَزِيزُ الْجَبَّارُ الْمُتَكَبِّرُ ۚ سُبْحَانَ اللَّـهِ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ ﴿255﴾

Allah—there is no god except Him—is the Living One, the All-sustainer. Neither drowsiness befalls Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that may intercede with Him except with His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them, and they do not comprehend anything of His knowledge except what He wishes. His seat embraces the heavens and the earth and He is not wearied by their preservation, and He is the All-exalted, the All-supreme.

Monotheism in Quran: The Hierarchy of Monotheism

There are two main types of monotheism or tawheed:

  1. Theoretical monotheism
  2. Practical monotheism

Theoretical monotheism means recognizing the oneness and unity of God by means of the intellect. For example, one should know that there only exists one God and no other and he has no partners in any matter. Theoretical monotheism itself has three branches:

  1. Monotheism in essence (تَوحيدُ الذّات)
  2. Monotheism in attributes (تَوحيدُ الصِّفات)
  3. Monotheism in actions (تَوحيدُ الأفعال)

The Hierarchy Explained

  • Monotheism in essence means knowing that God’s essence is one and cannot be more than that.
  • Monotheism in attributes simply means that God’s attributes are all related to his sole essence and they are not apart from each other. In other words, all his attributes are essentially one attribute. That is, when we say God is merciful, it also means that He is just, generous, sustainer, and so on at the same time.
  • Monotheism in actions means all his actions are done with one single will and anything that takes place in the universe is by that will.
  • Finally, practical monotheism simply means worshipping and obeying one God and implementing one’s monotheistic belief.

Monotheism in Quran and an Example of Monotheism in Actions

In truth, God Almighty is the creator of everything that exists. In fact, there is no God and creator but Him. In a verse of the Quran, God makes reference to His oneness in creating things:

ذَٰلِكُمُ اللَّـهُ رَبُّكُمْ ۖ لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۖ خَالِقُ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ فَاعْبُدُوهُ ۚ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَكِيلٌ ﴿102﴾

That is Allah, your Lord, there is no god except Him, the creator of all things; so worship Him. He watches over all things. 6

Therefore, it is only God who has created everything, and He watches over all things, too. So we must worship Him alone. This is yet another valuable verse concerning monotheism in the Quran.

Monotheism in Quran and Monotheism in Attributes

The final verses of surah Hashr (الحَشر) describe God and give Him certain attributes. In fact, they are a few of the 99 names or attributes of God that are known as Asmā’ al-usnā (الاسماء الحُسنی). Verse 23 of this surah reads:

هُوَ اللَّـهُ الَّذِي لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْمَلِكُ الْقُدُّوسُ السَّلَامُ الْمُؤْمِنُ الْمُهَيْمِنُ الْعَزِيزُ الْجَبَّارُ الْمُتَكَبِّرُ ۚ سُبْحَانَ اللَّـهِ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ ﴿23﴾

He is Allah—there is no god except Him—the Sovereign, the All-holy, the All-benign, the Securer, the All-conserver, the All-mighty, the All-compeller, and the All-magnanimous. Clear is Allah of any partners that they may ascribe [to Him]!

The verse first begins by saying that there is no god except God. Then it states His names and attributes; how He is the sovereign of the universe; how He is holy, and so forth. At the end, polytheism is rejected by saying that God has no partners. That is to say, even though God has so many attributes, all of them belong to His sole essence and shares them with no one.

Are All Muslims Monotheists?

Monotheism has different levels and ranks. Every Muslim acknowledges that there is only one God and that they must only worship Him. However, sometimes they are neglectful of what a true monotheist is and how he should be. To explain, sometimes they are oblivious of the fact that God is in control of everything and that God is the true manager of the universe. For example, they may have become sick and are doing everything to get well again. They go to the doctor, take medicine, but are not aware that God is the one who has created all of these blessings and thus the true healer. Bearing this in mind, if one remembers God all the time and knows that He is the one that one should rely on and His will overpowers everything that exists, one then has become a true monotheist.

Conclusion

It is an undeniable fact that there is only one God that has to be worshipped. One can prove this by means of the verses of the Quran and the intellect. As for monotheism in the Quran, God has said that if there were more than one God, there would be a conflict of interest and everything would fall out of order and into chaos:

لَوْ كَانَ فِيهِمَا آلِهَةٌ إِلَّا اللَّـهُ لَفَسَدَتَا ۚ فَسُبْحَانَ اللَّـهِ رَبِّ الْعَرْشِ عَمَّا يَصِفُونَ ﴿22﴾

Had there been any gods in them other than Allah, they would surely have fallen apart. Clear is Allah, the Lord of the Throne, of what they allege [concerning Him]. 7

Therefore, it is very important to always remember God and consider Him as the sole being that must be obeyed and worshipped. This is the meaning of monotheism and that is when one would prosper in both worlds.


References

  1. Quran 4:48 (Qara’i).
  2. Quran 20:98 (Qara’i).
  3. Quran 7:70 (Qara’i).
  4. Quran 11:87 (Qara’i).
  5. Quran 2:133 (Qara’i).
  6. Quran 6:102 (Qara’i).
  7. Quran 21:22 (Qara’i).

 

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Abu Mahdi
Abu Mahdi
I'm Abu Mahdi, one of the writers of this blog. I have a BA in English literature and an MA in English language teaching. I am also a teacher and reciter of the Quran in the field of reading the Quran, tajweed, and maqamat. Currently, we are working on a course for learning tajweed of the Quran here on Islam4u.

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