Ali Ibn Abu Talib on Tauheed

 

Tauheed is the Islamic concept of mono theism, but what does this mean? What are the key points, what is the differences between Islams understanding of monotheism and other religions?

 

Tauheed

Tauheed is the belief in monotheism, specifically Islamic mono theism which has certain conditions which other mono theistic religions do not stipulate. However before one can even contemplate the nature of God, we must ask why believe in the first place? Why should we even question if there is a God or not?

The answer to these important questions are as follows:

  • Why are we here? – Humanity appears to have a purpose beyond just living.
  • Why is there something rather than nothing?
  • How should I live? – How can we decide what is right and wrong?

 

So now we must address the issue of the existence of God, and the associated proofs. There are four commonly accepted arguments for the existence of God, they are :

  1. Cosmological
  2. Ontological
  3. Teleological
  4. Moral Law Argument

 

Imam Ali’s Sermon on Tauheed

 

Today we will investigate a portion of the sermon of Imam Ali Ibn Abu Talib AS, this is the first sermon in Nahjul al Balagha (The Peak of Eloquence). 

 

Praise is due to Allah whose worth cannot be described by speakers, whose bounties cannot be counted by calculators and whose claim (to obedience) cannot be satisfied by those who attempt to do so, whom the height of intellectual courage cannot appreciate, and the depths of understanding cannot reach; He for whose description no limit has been laid down, no eulogy exists, no time is ordained and no duration is fixed. He brought forth creation through His Omnipotence, dispersed winds through His Compassion, and made firm the shaking earth with rocks.

الحَمْدُ للهِ الَّذَي لاَ يَبْلُغُ مِدْحَتَهُ القَائِلُونَ، وَلاِ يُحْصِي نَعْمَاءَهُ العَادُّونَ، ولاَ يُؤَدِّي حَقَّهُ الُمجْتَهِدُونَ، الَّذِي لاَ يُدْركُهُ بُعْدُ الهِمَمِ، وَلاَ يَنَالُهُ غَوْصُ الفِطَنِ، الَّذِي لَيْسَ لِصِفَتِهِ حَدٌّ مَحْدُودٌ، وَلاَ نَعْتٌ مَوْجُودٌ، وَلا وَقْتٌ مَعْدُودٌ، وَلا أَجَلٌ مَمْدُودٌ. فَطَرَ الخَلائِقَ بِقُدْرَتِهَ، وَنَشَرَ الرِّيَاحَ بِرَحْمَتِهِ، وَوَتَّدَ بِالصُّخُورِ مَيَدَانَ أَرْضِهِ.

 

The phrase “Praise is due to Allah whose worth cannot be described by speakers” refers to our inability to describe Allah fully, there are no words that equate to the reality of Him. 

 

H 271, Ch. 10, h6

Sahl has narrated from Muhammad ibn ‘Isa from Ibrahim from Muhammad ibn Hakim who said the following: “Imam Abu al-Hassan Musa ibn Ja’far AS, wrote to my father, ‘Allah is most High, Glorious and Great. One can never reach the essence of His attributes. Speak of only those of His attributes of which He Himself has spoken and refrain mentioning attributes other than those ones.’” 

42|11| “…There is nothing like Him. He is the Hearing, the Seeing.”

 

The next phrase is “whose bounties cannot be counted by calculators”. If one considers that everything we have, even our very existence is a favor and blessing from God, then how can we possibly pay God back for all of this? Even if we acted perfectly and prayed non stop, this would still be nothing in comparison to what God has given us.

 

16|18|And if you tried to enumerate the favors of God, you will not be able to count them. God is Forgiving and Merciful.

16|71|God has favored some of you over others in livelihood. Those who are favored would not give their properties to their servants, to the extent of making them partners in it. Will they then renounce God’s blessings?

 

Consider how some people have wealth, and others do not. God gave every wealthy person the ability to obtain that wealth, and created the wealth for them to obtain. How difficult is it for people to feel grateful to Allah about all the good things they have and have achieved? The ideal human would be constantly thankful to Allah for everything that they have. This is why we see the Prophets SAW and the Imams AS constantly in prayer and offering thanks to Allah, not because they are sinners, but because they are aware of the favor that Allah has given them, and the right thing to do when you owe someone is to be thankful. 

 

The phrase “whom the height of intellectual courage cannot appreciate and the depths of understanding cannot reach” this again refers to danger of limiting Allah, but in this particular instance, by the rationalization of Him with the mind (Aql). There were groups who said every thing is either a body or an action, and this must even be true of Allah, and therefore he is a body eg, a thing of limits. This notion of applying logic to Allah in this way is thoroughly rejected :

H 283, Ch. 11, h6

Muhammad ibn Abu ‘Abd Allah has narrated from Muhammad ibn Isma‘il from al-Husayn ibn al-Hassan from Bakr ibn Salih from al-Hassan ibn Sa‘id from ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Mughirah from Muhammad ibn Ziyad who said the following: “I heard Yunus ibn Zabyan saying, ‘Once I went to meet abu ‘Abd Allah AS and said, ‘Hisham ibn al-Hakam has uttered monstrous words. I will briefly mention a few of them. He thinks Allah has a body because things are of two types: (a) body and (b) acts. It is not possible for the Creator Himself to be just actions or functions. But it is possible to consider Him as the agent.’ Abu ‘Abd Allah, recipient of divine supreme covenant, then said, ‘That is not proper for him. Does he not know that the body has limits and the form has limits and an end? Whatever is subject to limitations is also subject to increase and reduction and such things are created. “I (Yunus) then asked, ‘What then I should say?’ He replied, ‘Allah is without body and form. He is the giver of body to all bodies and the giver of form to all forms. He cannot be divided or limited. He does not grow or decrease. If it were as they say, then there would remain no difference between the Creator and the created, the Inventor and the invented. But He is the Creator and the Inventor. He has made the distinction and differentiation between that to which He has given body, form and that which He has invented. This is because nothing is similar to Him nor does He resemble anything.’

H 246, Ch. 8, h3

Ali ibn Ibrahim has narrated from his father from ibn abu ‘Umayr from abu Ayyub from Muhammad ibn Muslim from (Imam) Abu ‘Abd Allah AS, who said the following: “O Muhammad, people rationalize everything. They even speak about Allah’s Self. When you hear such discourses, say to them, ‘No one, other than Allah, deserves to be worshipped, (Allah) the One and no one is similar to Him.’” 

 

The phrase “He for whose description no limit has been laid down” again refers to the importance of not limiting Allah by our descriptions. One of the great scholars of the past Sheikh Suduq has said : 

our belief concerning the attributes of (His) essence is this. Whenever we describe Allah by the attributes of His essence,1 we only desire by each attribute the denial of its opposite in respect of Him, the Glorious and Mighty. We say that Allah, the Glorious and Mighty, has always been the Hearing One (sami), the Seeing One (basir), the Knowing One (‘alim), the Wise (hakim), the Powerful (qadir), the Glorious (aziz), the Living (hayy), the Ever-lasting (qayyum), the One (wahid), the Prior (qadim) – for these are the attributes of His essence.

 

H 267, Ch. 10, h2

Muhammad ibn Isma‘il has narrated from al-Fadl ibn Shadhan from ibn abu ‘Umayr from Ibrahim ibn ‘Abd al-Hamid from abu Hamza who said the following: “Once Imam Ali ibn al-Husayn said to me, ‘O abu Hamza, Allah cannot be defined by means of the created things. Our Lord is by far above being described through the attributes. How can the infinite be defined with the finite? “No mortal eyes can see Him, but He can see all eyes. He is All-kind and All aware.”’” (6:103) 

H 273, Ch. 10, h8

Sahl has narrated from Muhammad ibn Ali al-Qasani (perhaps the right name is Ali ibn Muhammad, one of the companions of Imam Abu al-Hassan al-Hadi AS, the tenth Imam,  who said the following: “Once I wrote to the Imam explaining that people before us had differences on the issue of the Oneness of Allah. The Imam wrote, ‘Glory belongs to Allah, Who cannot be defined or described. There is nothing similar to Him. He is All-hearing, All-seeing.’” 

 

There are those who say how do we understand that Allah is different to everything, but at the same time we are similar, eg Allah hears, and we hear, Allah is one, and we are one eg. This criticism has led many astray and resulted in a deviant ideology whereby they allow certain ideas, such as Allah having hands. The correct position is that there is nothing like Allah in reality and meaning, as explained :  

 

 

H 222, Ch. 2, h6
Ali ibn Ibrahim has narrated from his father from al-‘Abbass ibn ‘Amr al-
Fuqaymi from Hisham ibn al-Hakam from abu ‘Abd Allah, recipient of divine
supreme covenant, who has said the following:
Abu ‘Abd Allah, recipient of divine supreme covenant, said
this to an atheist in answer to a question. ‘He (Allah) is a thing
but different from all other things. I repeat my statement that
speaks about Him as a thing. He is a thing in the sense of the
reality of things except that He does not have a body and form.
He cannot be felt, touched or comprehended with the five
senses. Imagination cannot comprehend Him, Dahr (times) do
not reduce Him and passing of time does not change Him.’
“The man asking questions then said, ‘Do you say that He
hears and sees?’ The Imam said, ‘He does hear and see: He
hears without a hearing organ and sees without a means. He
Himself hears and He Himself sees. My saying, ‘He hears
without a hearing organ and sees without a means, He Himself
hears and He Himself sees,’ does not mean that He is a thing and
His-Self is another thing but only that I meant to express my self
thereby as I was questioned and explained to you as you had
asked a question. Thus, I say that He hears with the whole of
His-Self but not in the sense that His whole self has parts. I
intended only to explain it to you and to express myself. All I
mean thereby is that He does hear, see and He is All-knowing
and is the expert in knowing without any multiplicity in His Self
or meaning.’
“The man asking questions then said, ‘What then is He?’ The
Imam said, ‘He is the Lord. He is the One who is worshipped
and He is Allah. When I say Allah, it does not mean establishing
the proof for these letters (of alphabet) like Alif, Lam, Ha’, al-
Ra’ or al-Ba’ but I intend thereby the meaning of a thing and a
thing that is the Creator of all things and the Designer of all
things. These letters refer only to the meaning that is called
Allah, al-Rahman (the Beneficent), al-Rahim (the Merciful), al-
‘Aziz (the Majestic) and so forth, and so are other such names.
He is the One who is worshipped, the Majestic, the Glorious
One.’
“The man asking questions then said, ‘Whatever we can think
of is but a creature.’ The Imam then said, ‘Had it been as you
said we would not have had any responsibility to believe in the
Oneness of the Creator; we would not have any responsibility
toward something of whose existence we cannot even think. In
fact, whatever is thought of and our senses comprehend with
clear limits and similarities such thing is a creature. However,
complete negation is total nullification and nothingness.
‘The second invalid aspect (in the matter) is similarity and
analogy. If similarity is a kind of attribute of the creatures that
undergoes manifest composition and assemblage, it necessitates
proving the existence of the Creator. This is because the
existence of the creatures and their evident dependency on Him
as His creatures cannot happen without their Creator. The
Creator is something other than them and He is not similar to
them. Had he been something similar to them, resembled them
in manifest composition and assemblage, He would then be just
one of the creatures. So also is the case with other conditions of
the creatures such as coming into existence from nothing and the
changing from a smaller size to a full grown size, from

blackness to whiteness from strength to weakness and so forth,
or such other existing conditions that do not need explanations.
“The man asking questions then said, ‘You have already
defined and limited Him in your proving His existence.’ The
Imam, recipient of divine supreme covenant, then said, ‘I did not
limit Him. I only presented proofs of His existence; between
proving and disproving no third alternative exists.’
“The man asking questions then said, ‘Can His existence be
proved through reasoning from the effect to the cause or the
cause to the effect?’
“The Imam said, ‘Yes, there is nothing whose existence can be
proved without adopting either of the two above processes of
reasoning.’
“The man then asked, ‘Does the question how apply to Him?’
The Imam said, ‘No, this question does not apply to Him; it is
the aspect of qualities and limitations. However, it is necessary
to avoid abandoning or nullifying His existence (in one’s belief)
and analogizing Him. Negating Him is denying His existence,
refusing to accept Him as the Lord and abandoning Him (in
one’s belief) altogether. Whoever analogizes Him with other
things from His creatures has proved that qualities of creatures
exist in Him. Creatures do not deserve to be called the Lord. It is
necessary to believe, however, that the question how applies to
Him only in a way that does not apply to things other than Him
and things other than Him do not deserve and share Him in it.
The question how cannot apply to Him if it limits Him or makes
Him a subject of knowing for others.’
“The man then asked, ‘Do things make Him tired?’ The Imam
then said, ‘He is by far Exalted and above experiencing such
conditions. Such conditions are due to coming into physical
association or dealing with the creatures. They are qualities of
creatures that can only associate with others through physical
contact. But He is the Most High and His will and demand are
effective and He does whatever He wants.’” 

 

The second paragraph of the first sermon of Nahjul al Balagha (The Peak of Eloquence) :

 

The foremost in religion is the acknowledgement of Him, the perfection of acknowledging Him is to testify Him, the perfection of testifying Him is to believe in His Oneness, the perfection of believing in His Oneness is to regard Him Pure, and the perfection of His purity is to deny Him attributes, because every attribute is a proof that it is different from that to which it is attributed and everything to which something is attributed is different from the attribute.Thus whoever attaches attributes to Allah recognizes His like, and whoever recognises His like regards Him two; and whoever regards Him as two recognises parts for Him; and whoever recognises parts for Him mistook Him; and whoever mistook Him pointed at Him; and whoever pointed at Him admitted limitations for Him; and whoever admitted limitations for Him numbered Him. Whoever said: ‘In what is He?’, held that He is contained; and whoever said: ‘On what is He?’, held He is not on something else.

أَوَّلُ الدِّينِ مَعْرِفَتُهُ، وَكَمَالُ مَعْرِفَتِهِ التَّصْديقُ بِهِ، وَكَمَالُ التَّصْدِيقِ بِهِ تَوْحِيدُهُ، وَكَمَالُ تَوْحِيدِهِ الاخْلاصُ لَهُ، وَكَمَالُ الاخْلاصِ لَهُ نَفْيُ الصِّفَاتِ عَنْهُ، لِشَهَادَةِ كُلِّ صِفَة أَنَّها غَيْرُ المَوْصُوفِ، وَشَهَادَةِ كُلِّ مَوْصُوف أَنَّهُ غَيْرُ الصِّفَةِ، فَمَنْ وَصَفَ اللهَ سُبْحَانَهُ فَقَدْ قَرَنَهُ، وَمَنْ قَرَنَهُ فَقَدْ ثَنَّاهُ،وَمَنْ ثَنَّاهُ فَقَد جَزَّأَهُ، وَمَنْ جَزَّأَهُ فَقَدْ جَهِلَهُ، وَمَنْ جَهِلَهُ فَقَدْ أشَارَ إِلَيْهِ، وَمَنْ أشَارَ إِلَيْهِ فَقَدْ حَدَّهُ، وَمَنْ حَدَّهُ فَقَدْ عَدَّهُ، وَمَنْ قَالَ: «فِيمَ» فَقَدْ ضَمَّنَهُ، وَمَنْ قَالَ: «عَلاَمَ؟» فَقَدْ أَخْلَى مِنُهُ.

He is a Being, but not through phenomenon of coming into being. He exists but not from non-existence. He is with everything but not in physical nearness. He is different from everything but not in physical separation. He acts but without connotation of movements and instruments. He sees even when there is none to be looked at from among His creation. He is only One, such that there is none with whom He may keep company or whom He may miss in his absence.

كائِنٌ لاَ عَنْ حَدَث، مَوْجُودٌ لاَ عَنْ عَدَم، مَعَ كُلِّ شَيْء لاَ بِمُقَارَنَة، وَغَيْرُ كُلِّ شيء لا بِمُزَايَلَة، فَاعِلٌ لا بِمَعْنَى الْحَرَكَاتِ وَالاْلةِ، بَصِيرٌ إذْ لاَ مَنْظُورَ إلَيْهِ مِنْ خَلْقِهِ، مُتَوَحِّدٌ إذْ لاَ سَكَنَ يَسْتَأْنِسُ بهِ وَلاَ يَسْتوْحِشُ لِفَقْدِهِ.

 

 

Submission

Submission is the process of exercising your free will to acknowledge the relationship between man and God, such that all of the intentions and actions of man are directed in a manner that is pleasing to Allah. So a persons actions, inaction’s, likes, dislikes, love, hate, etc are all based on the desires of God.

 

 

Free Will

The assumption that is evident in the issue of submission is that the human being has free will. Submission has no meaning if it is coerced or forced. The fact that humanity has the option of choosing is interesting in itself. The issue of free will is an age old topic and has been debated for centuries. The Shia school of thought has a unique position, and that is that we do not have complete free will, nor are we predestined, but the reality is somewhere in between. 

 

Imam Hadi  quoting from Imam Sadiq said: “People with regards to ‘destiny’ are of three categories: The first is the one who assumes that Allah has given full authority to him. This (person) has weakened God in His kingdom, thus, he is perished. The second is the one who assumes that God has forced people to sin and He has held them responsible over things that they have no power over. This (person) is unfair to God in His judgment, thus he is perished. The third is the one who assumes God has held people responsible for what they do and does not hold them responsible for what they have no power over. Then when he does something good, he praises God and when he does something evil, he seeks God’s forgiveness. This (person) is a mature Muslim.”

 

The Imam was also asked about the meaning of ‘a matter in between’. His reply was: “The example of it is, if you see a man committing a sin and you advise him to refrain from it, yet he does not pay any heed to your advice. Surely, just because he didn’t listen to you, it cannot be said that you forced him to sin.”

 

 

How do we know if we are submitting to Allah?

If one has truly submitted to Allah, then all of their actions and intentions will be inline with Allah’s wishes for us. The question is, how do we know we have reached that lofty position? How do we know we are doing things for Allah and not for our self. For example, if a man loves his wife, how do we know he does it for Allah and not because she makes him happy and therefore for himself?

If the man’s intention is qurbatan lilla, then if he loves his wife, when she gets closer to Allah, his love for her increases, and as she gets away from Allah eg stops praying or becomes bad, then his love for her reduces.

 

Medina Minds Team

Medina Minds Team

A group of contributors who are working to publicize the reality of Islam and Muslims.

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