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Tawḥīd (Arabic: التَوحيد), or monotheism is the belief that there is only one God. It is the most basic and central belief, and the most important slogan, in Islam. The first doctrine that the Prophet (s) taught people was monotheism expressed with the slogan, "lā ilāh illā Allāh" (Arabic: لا إله إلّا ألله, There is no god except Allah). All ideological, moral and jurisprudential doctrines of Islam go back to tawhid. Muslims in Adhan (call for prayer) and prayers, testify to the unity of God.

In theoretical monotheism, the belief encompasses all features and aspects of God. God has a unique essence in that:

  • There is no being similar to Him (essential monotheism or al-tawḥīd al-dhātī التوحيد الذاتي),
  • And He is not in need of anyone else while other beings are in need of Him (practical monotheism or al-tawḥīd al-afʿālī التوحيد الأفعالي).
  • This implies that it is only God who is worthy of worship and Muslims should perform their religious practices only for God (monotheism in worship or al-tawḥīd al-ʿibādī التوحيد العبادي).
  • For Shiites, even God's attributes are nothing over and above His essence (the unity of Divine attributes or al-tawḥīd al-ṣifātī التوحيد الصفاتي).

Many verses of the Qur'an have referred to monotheism and God's place. According to the Qur'an, monotheism is rooted in people's nature (fitra), all prophets called for monotheism and mostly concerned themselves with the fight against polytheism —their goal was to resist polytheism and spread the worship of the only God.

Some Muslims have interpreted the word 'ibada (worship) so that puts them in a position to claim that some common behaviors of Muslims are not compatible with monotheism. The thought has been criticized, and rejected, by the majority of Shiite and Sunni scholars.


The word "tawḥīd", in Arabic, is from the origin w h d meaning to take as one. In modern Arabic, it also means identification. The word "waḥd", and its cognates such as "al-waḥīd", "al-waḥid", "Waḥdānīyya", "Aḥad" and the like, imply identity or oneness, and their application to God is meant to have a similar connotation.

According to hadiths, the Prophet (s) used the word "Tawḥīd" to mean the affirmation of the proposition "Lā Ilāh Illā Allāh, Waḥdah Lā Sharīka Lah" (لا إله إلا ألله، وحده لاشريک له, there is no god except Allah, he is one and has no partner). The same use might be found in hadiths by Imams (a).

Since the second/eighth century, the word "Tawḥīd" was commonly used in this meaning and later it came to refer to issues concerning the existence, attributes and acts of God. In Shiite hadiths, the word was also used in such a meaning.

Such a semantic extension of the word was the ground of authoring works under the title al-Tawhid concerning issues regarding the doctrine of monotheism, as well as the existence, attributes and acts of God. Even theology whose most basic issue is Tawhid or monotheism is occasionally known as 'Ilm al-Tawhid or 'Ilm al-Tawḥīd wa al-Ṣifāt.

Place in Islam

The doctrine of Tawhid or monotheism is the most central doctrine of Islam and the most important message of the Qur'an. The point is obvious from the emphasis of the Qur'an and hadiths upon this doctrine, such that about one third of the Qur'anic verses concern Tawhid, and some Qur'anic verses are explicit that the message of all prophets was spreading the word of Tawhid.

According to Islam, monotheism is the foundation of theology and the substance of authentic human life, and polytheism—setting partners with God—is an unforgivable sin:

According to a hadith by Imam 'Ali (a), monotheism is the foundation for knowledge of God.

Historically speaking, the Prophet's (s) call was from the very outset both positive and negative: the positive aspect of his call was to worship God alone and the negative aspect was to abandon all idols and polytheistic beliefs or behaviors. Other doctrines and laws of Islam are organized around this dual aspect doctrine.

The first statement by which the Prophet Muhammad (s) addressed the people of Mecca, at the beginning of his public call to Islam, also involved the two aspects of monotheism: testifying the oneness of God and abandoning polytheism. His delegates and representatives in other cities and tribes were assigned to call people to the acceptance of God's oneness.

The importance and centrality of monotheism or Tawhid for Muslims led to the association of Muslims with this doctrine, distinguishing them from the followers of other religions. This is why Muslims are sometimes called Ahl al-Tawhid (people of monotheism).

In the Qur'an

Monotheism is so important in the Qur'an that it takes the Prophet's (s) message to be merely the oneness of God, emphasizing that the revealer of messages to all prophets was Allah, the only God.

Concepts relevant to the oneness of God have been mentioned with different wordings in the Qur'an:

  • The rejection of any god except Allah: Lā Ilāh Illā Allāh (there is no god except Allah) (also: except Him, except me, except you—all pronouns referring to Allah), and similar phrases such as 'who is the god except Allah?' (also: who is the god other than Allah, should I choose a god for you except Allah?, is there a god together with Allah?, you do not have a god except Him, there is no god together with Him).
  • Oneness of God: He is the one Allah (also, He is a single god, the only god).
  • One God for everyone: 'your god is one'.
  • The God of the whole world: 'He is the God in the sky and on the Earth'.
  • Condemnation of people who believe in gods or any god except Allah: 'do you falsely want gods except Allah?'
  • The necessity of disbelieving multiple gods: 'do not set partners with Allah'.
  • The rejection of trinity: 'they do blaspheme who say that Allah is one of three in a trinity'.
  • God has no children: 'He has never given birth, nor has He been born'.
  • Rejection of the belief that angels are God's daughters.
  • Rejection of anything similar to Him.
  • The main message of all prophets was the oneness of God.

Moreover, the Qur'an reproaches Christians for taking Jesus (a) the Christ and his mother to be gods. It warns that in the Dooms Day, Jesus will condemn such a belief, calling everyone to worship the only God.

In addition to the word 'Allah', the word 'Rab' (رَبّ, Lord) has also been used in the Qur'an to emphasize His unity, especially in his manipulation of the world—which is called 'al-Tawḥīd al-Rubūbī' (oneness in manipulating the world). The following phrases are examples of such use: 'the Lord of the world', 'the Lord of the skies and the Earth', 'the Lord of the Throne (al-'Arsh)', 'the Lord of the Seven Skies', 'the Lord of East and West', 'the Lord of easts', 'the lord of the two easts and the two wests', 'the Lord of everything', 'the Lord of people'.

Background and History in the Qur'an

According to the Qur'an, monotheism is part of human innate nature, and is thus as old as human beings, since the first human on the Earth was himself a prophet. On the other hand, according to the Qur'an, at the beginning of creation, all people were monotheists, and polytheism emerged later as a result of their whims.

Innateness of Monotheism

According to the Qur'an and hadiths, the belief in monotheism is an "innate tendency" (Fitra) in human beings. This is to say that this is not acquired and is not in need of learning. The Fitra (innateness) and Mithaq (covenant) verses might show the innateness of monotheism.

Many Qur'anic verses state that if people return to their innermost self, they cannot accept the multiplicity of the world's creator. Even if a person is apparently polytheist, he is in fact committed to monotheism.

In Hadiths

Hadiths regarding Tawhid, in particular those quoted from Ahl al-Bayt (a), have given rise to an enormous literature. One very prominent one is Imam 'Ali (a)'s al-Khutba al-Tawḥidiyya (monotheistic sermon). Some of these hadiths are concerned with interpretations of monotheistic Qur'anic verses, some of them involve ideas about the doctrine of monotheism, and some provide arguments for monotheism or explain the idea.

The rejection of non-monotheistic doctrines and polytheistic behaviors is the theme of some hadiths. Some of them involve the place of monotheism in Islam. Some scholars of hadith have, on the basis of such hadiths, provided collections called al-Tawhid or some title in the vicinity. Here we only mention few hadiths regarding monotheism.

According to hadiths, the belief in divine oneness is the most virtuous mental act, monotheists are not tortured in the afterlife, and the most lovely expression for God is "Lā Ilāh Illā Allāh" (there is no god except Allah). In his well-known hadith, Silsilat al-Dhahab (the chain of gold), Imam al-Rida (a) says: if this expression is stated (with its conditions, such as Wilaya), it is the safe fort of God. Indeed, knowing God and taking him as one is the foundation of the religion, and this is the first sort of worship.


Hadiths narrated from Imam 'Ali (a) and other Imams (a) are, most of all, concerned with providing an explication of the meaning of oneness or identity (Waḥda). For one thing, they reject numerical and conceptual notions of oneness with regard to God and construe oneness as essential simplicity and uniqueness, and for another, they emphasize that God's oneness is beyond the scope of human understanding. For instance, Imam 'Ali (a) says: there are four explanations for oneness, two of which cannot be used about God and the other two can. The first two are numerical oneness, which means one in contrast to two or more, and typical oneness, which means a species of a genus (or a type of a species). The other two are oneness as being unique and without partners, and oneness as being essentially simple—that is, externally and mentally indivisible. Imam 'Ali (a) has expressed the latter as "Ihada l-Ma'na" (one in notion), saying that 'thus is our Lord". And he has appealed to the Qur'anic verse in which Christian Trinity is rejected as evidence for the rejection of God's numerical oneness.

In another hadith, Imam 'Ali (a) has said: "one but not numerically" and Imam al-Rida (a) said: "one but not with a numerical construal", which are explicit in the rejection of any numerical conception of divine unity.


There are hadiths in which arguments have been raised for God's oneness, particularly in debates with opponents of divine unity. These hadiths have, most of all, inferred the oneness of the designer (God) from the unity and design of the creations (things in the world). Imam 'Ali (a)'s lengthy advice to his son also contains a version of such an argument for divine unity: "if your Lord had a partner, you would have seen his partner's messengers and the effects of his kingdom".

The argument is that if God had a partner, this would imply that the power and actions of the partner manifest themselves in the world, the most significant of which is the existence of messengers from that partner, but there is nothing in the world as a sign of a partner for God.

Essential Monotheism

Main article: Essential Monotheism

Essential monotheism is the first stage of monotheism, consisting in the belief in the oneness of divine essence. That is, divine essence is not subject to plurality and has no analogue.

Some hadiths imply two meanings for essential divine unity: one is simplicity, that is, indivisibility (or having no parts), called 'Aḥadīyya al-Dhāt', and the other is having no analogue, called 'Waḥdānīyya al-Dhāt'.

In the terminologies of theology and philosophy, essential monotheism has been used in two meanings:

  • God is one, it has no analogue, and it is inconceivable for Him to have a second. Muslim theologians have called this 'essential monotheism', which amounts to the rejection of any analogue for the divine essence. This is also called 'al-Tawḥīd al-Wahidi' (oneness monotheism). In other words, it is the view that God is one as a necessarily existent being, having no partners or analogues.
  • Divine essence is simple, in the sense of not being composed of parts. This has also been called 'al-Tawḥid al-Ahadi'. In other words, it is the rejection of any external and mental composition about God and the affirmation of His simplicity.

Qur'an 112 (Sura al-Tawhid), in the Qur'an, refers to both kinds of essential monotheism: the word 'Aḥad' at the beginning of this sura refers to the simplicity of divine essence, and the last verse ('there is none like unto Him') refers to the rejection of any analogues and partners about God.

Attribute Monotheism

Main article: Attribute Monotheism

Attribute monotheism is the view that divine essence is identical with divine attributes. According to Shiite beliefs, divine attributes are nothing distinct from divine essence—they are not distinct properties that are attributed to God—rather they both identical to one another and identical to His very essence. Thus divine knowledge is not distinct from divine power; all His being is both knowledge, power and other attributes through and through, and all His attributes are identical to one another.

In human beings, however, an attribute such as will is distinct from their essence, since the will should be added to their essences in order for them to have such an attribute. That is, human essence is in itself free of any wills, and then the will is added to it. But this is not the case with God—for Him to have an attribute, nothing is added to His essence.

Imam 'Ali (a) has said in a sermon that divine essence does not admit of attributes. The point is elaborated in his monotheistic sermon (al-Khutba al-Tawhidiyya) in Nahj al-balagha:

The first step in piety is the knowledge of god, and the highest stage of this knowledge is affirmation. The highest stage of this belief is to take him as one (monotheism). Monotheism is completed by purity, and purity implies the rejection of attributes in God.

Some Ash'ari theologians maintain that divine attributes are distinct from the divine essence, and are, like divine essence, uncreated and eternal. This is called the "Eight Eternal Things" (al-Qudam al-Thamaniyya). The view, however, implies the belief in more than one eternal, uncreated thing, which is thought to contradict the doctrine of monotheism.

Act Monotheism

Main article: Act Monotheism

Act monotheism (al-Tawḥīd al-Af'ālī) is the view that in order to do His acts, God does not need anything or anyone other than His own essence—He is independent in all His acts.

According to act monotheism, nothing in the world can have any effects or do anything except in virtue of the power it is given by God; all actions, movements, and effects are originated in His essence. As He has no partners in His essence, He has no partners in His agency—including creation, monitoring, owning, and governing the world.

Act monotheism should not be taken to reject the principle of causation (that every phenomenon has a cause) or the effects of ordinary things in the world. For Shiites, act monotheism does not amount to the thought that God causes all phenomena in the world directly and without any mediating causes.

Act monotheism has been classified into monotheism concerning creation and legislative (Tashrī'ī) and existential (Takwīnī) lordship.

Act monotheism has been referred to in many Qur'anic verses, including: Qur'an 13:16, Qur'an 6: 102 and 164, Qur'an 7: 54, Qur'an 12: 40.

Worship Monotheism

Main article: Worship Monotheism

Worship monotheism is a sort of theoretical monotheism, which amounts to the thought that nothing except Allah is worthy of worshiping—that is, there is no god except Allah. Therefore, every person has to worship for God and on the basis of His commands.

This is taken to be implied by other types of monotheism: if our existence is from Allah, our survival depends on Him, the only truly independent cause in the world is Allah, and it is only Allah who has the right to command and legislate, then no one else is worthy of worship. Any non-divine motivations involving in worships reduces their value and it sometimes leads to their religious invalidity. According to the Qur'an, the prophets has been sent to remind people that they should purely worship God.

Worship monotheism has been referred to by some Qur'anic verses, such as Qur'an 6:102, Qur'an 1:2-5, Qur'an 21:25.


Given the types and stages of monotheism, the question arises which of these counts as a principle for Islamic beliefs and a condition for being considered as a Muslim. Is it sufficient for being a Muslim to believe in divine unity (that there is only one God)?

A reflection on Qur'anic verses reveals that the real monotheist is a person who takes Allah to be the only god, the only creator, the only legislator of religious laws, and the only thing worthy of worship. This is all reflected in the well-known monotheistic slogan of Islam: "Lā Ilāh Illā Allāh" (there is no god—no one worthy of worship—except Allah).

In other words, the prior stages of monotheism are necessary for being a Muslim, but they are not sufficient; the person should come to believe that there is no person worthy of worship except Allah. This is the threshold of monotheism, without which the person does not count as a monotheist or Muslim.

There are some 'hidden' sorts of polytheism, such as hypocrisy and egoism, that have been reproached in hadiths, but they are still compatible with the person being a Muslim.

Polytheism (Shirk)

As there are stages and degrees of monotheism, there are degrees of polytheism. There are types of polytheism in contrast to the types of monotheism called for by the prophets.

Theoretical polytheism

There are types of theoretical polytheism, as follows:

  • Essential polytheism: the view that there is a divine essence besides God. Some schools of thought have hold to two (dualism) or three (Trinity) or more independent eternal principles of creation, taking the world to be multi-polar or multi-focal. The belief that there is more than one principle for the world counts as essential polytheism, which goes against essential monotheism. Such a belief is incompatible with being a Muslim. Islam rejects any form of essential polytheism.
  • Attribute polytheism: such sort of polytheism, due to its speculative nature, is not common between ordinary people. This is held, instead, by some scholars who think about theology, but are not keen enough. Ash'ari scholars developed theories that lead to this types of polytheism. This also counts as a sort of hidden polytheism, which may be compatible with being a Muslim.
  • Creation polytheism: some schools of thought took God to have no analogues and partner, being the only principle of the world, but took some creatures to be his partners in creation. For instance, they believed that God is not responsible for the creation of misfortunes, defects, and in general, unpleasant events and phenomena; these are, they think, brought into existence by some creatures, without God involving in their creation. This is polytheism with regards to agency and creation, and is in contrast with act monotheism. This types of polytheism is also incompatible with Islam. However, some early stages of this might be categorized as hidden sorts of polytheism, which are still compatible with belief in Islam.

Practical polytheism

This type of polytheism is tied to human practices—it is polytheism with respect to worships. Some people worshiped woods or metals or stones or animals or stars or the sun or tress or the sea. There are still some people around the world who continue such practices. This is contrasted with worship monotheism.

Moreover, if a person admires and honors a person other than God in ways that imply exclusively divine attributes for that person, then he or she counts as polytheist. For only God is the one who is absolutely worthy of admiration and free from any defect. Such characterizations for anyone other than God—whether in speech or in practice—counts as polytheism.

There are degrees of practical polytheism. The highest degree, which is incompatible with Islam, is worship polytheism, which is an explicit sort of polytheism. However, there are tacit or hidden sorts of practical polytheism that Islam reproaches (though they are still compatible with the person being a Muslim). Thus hypocrisy, egoism, selfish ambitions, love of money, and the like count as polytheism. These are, nonetheless, hidden sorts of polytheism.

Boundary between monotheism and polytheism

The boundary between monotheism and polytheism is worship monotheism which includes the lower degrees of monotheism as well.

According to the definition of monotheism, if a person takes there to be a partner or analogue for God in His creations or in His practical attributes such as creation, livelihood-providing and the like, then he or she is polytheist.

The concept of monotheism reveals that the boundary between monotheism and polytheism is the belief that entities other than God are dependent or independent of Him. That is, if someone takes there to be an entity independent of God in his power, knowledge and other attributes, then he or she will be polytheist. On the contrary, the view that God has created entities who have knowledge and power dependent on Him (that is, it is God who has given them such knowledge and power) does not lead to polytheism, since they are dependent on God and thus they do not count as partners for the divine essence.

Ignorance of this boundary between monotheism and polytheism has led to some controversies. Ash'ari scholars thought that the belief in the principle of causation (that objects in the world have causal effects) leads to polytheism. Wahhabis maintain that the belief in the efficacy of human beings, natural phenomena and the like implies polytheism. The same is true, they think, of the belief that some persons other than God can heal the patients or help realize what people have prayed for.

The above boundary or criterion shows that such thoughts are unfounded—it is rejected both by a rational analysis of what monotheism is supposed to be and by Qur'anic verses and hadiths.

The Qur'an has attributed some causal efficacies to human beings, angels and objects. it also attributes to Jesus (a) the Christ some supernatural powers, such as creation, bringing the dead to life, telling about what is hidden, and healing the patients:

when you would create from clay the form of a bird, with My leave, and you would breathe into it and it would become a bird, with My leave; and you would heal the blind and the leper, with My leave, and you would raise the dead, with My leave

Qur'an 5: 110

This verse attributes many powers to a person, Jesus the Christ. But on the other hand, it emphasizes that all these are "by His leave", that is, Jesus did not do any of these supernatural acts independently; rather he depended in them on God. Such verses show that the belief that a person, such a prophet or Imam, can have the ability to do supernatural act, is not polytheism.

Murtaza Mutahhari writes:

The fact is that the boundary between monotheism and polytheism in the relation between God, human beings and the world, is in terms of "from Him" and "to Him". The boundary between them in theoretical monotheism is "from Him". Every entity can be conceived of in monotheistic terms insofar as his essence, attributes and acts are known to be "from Him", whether or not it has any causal effects or not, and whether or not it has supernatural powers or not, because God is not the God of the divine realm; he is also the God of this world. He is as close to the nature as He is to the divine realm; thus the mere supernaturality of something does not turn it into a god. ... In the Islamic worldview, the world has a "from-Him" character. The Qur'an attributes to some prophets some supernatural powers such as bringing some dead back to life, but qualifies all of these attributions with the phrase "by His leave". This is expressive of the "from-Him" character of such acts, in order to prevent the thought that prophets have any independent powers. Thus the boundary between theoretical monotheism and theoretical polytheism is the character of being "from Him". The belief in the existence of an entity whose being is not "from Him" counts as polytheism. The belief in the efficacy of an entity whose efficacy is not "from Him" also counts as polytheism, whether or not it is a great natural entity, such as all skies and earths, or an unimportant phenomenon, such as a movement of a leaf.

Meaning of Worship

Main article: Worship

According to monotheism, only God is worthy of worship. A denial of this view is incompatible with Islam. The word "'Ibada" (worship) in Arabic literally means obeying and humbleness. Worship monotheism amounts to the thought that nothing except God should be obeyed or submitted to.

Therefore, it is not the case that any humbleness counts as worship. On the contrary, it is an Islamic obligation to obey, and be humble with respect to, some creatures, such as parents. Since such an obedience is commanded by God, indeed it counts as an instance of obeying God. However, obeying anyone without God's command to do so is considered as polytheism. Therefore, visiting graves of the dead, appealing to Imams and prophets (Tawassul), the belief in the intercession (Shafa'a) of Imams (a), is not considered as polytheism, since they are not appealed to independently of God.

Some people such as Ibn Taymiyya, followed by some Wahhabis, hold that any kind of humbleness with respect to anyone counts as worship. This is why they take any appeal to Imams and prophets, visits of graves, asking Imams and prophets for intercession, and the like to be instances of worshiping someone other than God, which amounts to polytheism.


Muslim theologians have raised different arguments for monotheism, the best-known of which are the following four arguments.

Argument from God's Necessary Existence

If we suppose that there are two necessary beings, then in order to differentiate between them we should find a distinguishing character. Thus either of them should be composed of two parts one of which constitutes their commonality, the other constituting their distinctness. But the problem is that no composite object can be necessarily existent, since such an object needs its parts and is, indeed, an effect thereof. Therefore, neither of these beings counts as a necessary being.

Argument of Antagonism

One of the best-known arguments for monotheism is the argument of antagonism (Burhan al-Tamanu'). This is derived from the Qur'an, Qur'an 21:22: "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]". This argument seeks to prove the unity of whoever manipulates or designs the world. It does not seek to prove essential monotheism or the unity of creator.

Ayatollah Jawadi Amuli has formulated the argument as follows:

If we suppose that the designer—the lord—of the world is more than one, then those designers should be independent of one another in their essence and existence, since being a god implies independence. Moreover, they should be different in their essences so that they can be numerically different, rather than being one composite essence. And when they are distinct in their essence, their essential attributes would also be different, since a god's essential attributes are identical to his essence. Thus knowledge and will of either of these designers will be distinct from those of the other, and the epistemic system and the manipulation of either will also be different from those of the other. And since the objective system is a function of the epistemic system, then the objective system of either of these designers will be different from that of the other. Therefore, the existence of two designers will imply two distinct objective systems and diverse worlds and non-harmonious human communities. However, the objective system of the world is harmonious and unified. Therefore, there is only one designer for the world.

Arguments from the Qur'an and Hadiths

There is obvious textual evidence from the Qur'an and hadiths for monotheism. Scholars of theology and hadith have authored many books about monotheism, many of which are named al-Tawhid.

In Philosophy

After the problem of the existence of God—which is one of the first issues in Particular Theology—monotheism is one of the most important problems in Islamic philosophy.

Islamic philosophers have developed different ways of accounting for, and proving, monotheism, displaying different methods of research in this regard.

All three stages of monotheism—essential monotheism, attribute monotheism, and act monotheism—have been investigated and argued for. For example, according to some philosophers (such as Ibn Sina), since God is an essentially necessary being, the rejection of monotheism would lead to a contradiction.

Later, the expression, necessary being (Wajib al-Wujud), and the proof for monotheism with this Avicennan method, became very popular, so that it was developed not only by Muslim philosophers, but also by the majority of Muslim scholars of theology.

Ibn Sina's argument for monotheism has also been employed by Suhrawardi. He has also sought to argue for monotheism by an appeal to the principle that a simple entity does not have many instantiations.

Philosophers have also focused on the simplicity of the divine essence—the fact that it is not composite—since any sort of plurality in necessary beings will imply that they are divisible and composite.

By an appeal to the principle that a simple entity is all the things and none of them (principle of "Basit al-Haqiqa"), Mulla Sadra argues that the essence of such an entity reveals its complete simplicity and purity, and since such an entity is all the things, nothing else remains to be its second instance.

With respect to attribute monotheism, that is the identity of essence and attributes, Islamic philosophers have confirmed the Shiite thought in this regard. Philosophers after Ibn Sina have discussed attribute monotheism because their own view on the matter is different from popular views in theology. Khwajih Nasir al-Din al-Tusi has, on the one hand, formulated the theory of Ash'ari scholars according to which divine attributes are distinct from His essence, which implies the existence of eight eternal entities. On the other hand, he has formulated the theory of Mu'tazilis according to which divine attributes are proxies for divine essence. And he finally formulated the view of philosophers as in contrast to both these views.

Sadr al-Din al-Shirazi has formulated the theories of philosophers such as Ibn Sina, Farabi and Suhrawardi in terms of his principle of 'Basit al-Haqiqa'.

What is more, concerning act monotheism, philosophers are explicit that there is no independent, effect agent other than God, all acts being originated from God without any mediation. Therefore, it does not make sense to talk about a first or a second entity caused by God; all objects have been caused by God. Thus causal monotheism leads to existential monotheism and act monotheism leads to essential monotheism, since causation depends on existence, the origin of an effect and the effect of an origin are not existences. Philosophers of Transcendent Wisdom have often put these points in mystical terms.

In Mysticism

The problem of monotheism in mysticism has been tied with the controversial problem of personal unity of being.

Act Monotheism

For mystics, when a person, in his mystical journey, travels the stage of knowing the self and arrives in the realm of Tawhid or monotheism, the first stage of monotheism that he comprehends is act monotheism. Thus for mystics, 'act monotheism' is a stage of a mystical journey at which the person sees and comprehends that every phenomenon is from God and indeed every phenomenon is His act, all other things being nothing but instruments.

Attribute Monotheism

Along with his mystical journey, the person arrives in the stage of attribute monotheism. This is different from what philosophers are dealing with. This is the stage at which the person sees and comprehends that, in addition to every act, every perfect attribute is also originally from God. That is, he sees that nobody has knowledge except God. The knowledge had by other people is just a manifestation of divine knowledge—a shadow of divine omniscience, so to speak. And all powers are manifestations of divine power in His creatures.

Essential Monotheism

The last stage of monotheism that a mystical journey leads to is essential monotheism, known among mystics as Unity of Being (Waḥdat al-Wujūd). This is the stage at which the person sees the whole being as being only God. Everything in the world is a manifestation or an image of His being. This image-talk is only a metaphor, though. According to mystics, when a person achieves the highest stage of monotheism, he sees everything as mirrors in which divine being is manifested. All pluralities in the world are those of the mirror. Mirrors are numerous and the light manifested in those mirrors is one—the mirrors are not the light; rather they are manifestations of the light, as in the following Qur'anic verse:

"Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His Light is a niche wherein is a lamp—the lamp is in a glass, the glass as it were a glittering star—lit from a blessed olive tree, neither eastern nor western, whose oil almost lights up, though fire should not touch it. Light upon light" Qur'an 24:35.

This is deemed as the highest stage of a mystical journey that a person can achieve.

It is difficult to cash out what mystics want to say. Their views have long been subject to criticism by scholars of theology, jurisprudence, and Islamic philosophy. Since some of them have explicitly expressed their commitments to principles of Islamic beliefs, a charitable reading might be one that avoids such criticisms, though the wordings of the view may have led to misunderstandings. For example, in some other works, a mystic has proved that God is not a body and is never immanent in a body. Now when he says that we do not see anything but God, it should not be taken to mean that all these bodies are identical to God; rather it means that we can see the manifestations of God in these mirrors. This is implied by a charitable reading of their views.

Monotheistic Worldview

During recent decades, some Muslim philosophers have reformulated the Islamic monotheistic beliefs as a worldview contrary to atheistic, scientific and philosophical worldviews. In his exposition of the monotheistic worldview, Murtaza Mutahhari writes:

The monotheistic worldview is the understanding that the world has come into existence out of a wise will, and the existence rests upon goodness, mercy and a plan for the perfection and development of everything in the world. The monotheistic worldview amounts to the thought that the world is unipolar—the world undergoes a development "from Him" ('we are from God') "to Him" ('we return to God').
Everything in the world harmoniously develops towards a center. Nothing has been created purposelessly or aimlessly. The world is designed and manipulated with a chain of determined systems. The monotheistic worldview bestows sense, meaning, and goal to the life, since it envisages human beings as traveling a path of perfection that does not stop at any point—an ever-progressing development. Such a perspective gives vivacity and motivation to human beings. It provides him with sacred, transcendental goals, making them dedicated to their goals. This is the only worldview in which people's responsibility with respect to one another finds its real sense, as it is the only worldview that saves human beings from fall into the horrific darkness of nihilism.

See Also


  • The material for this article is mainly taken from توحید in Farsi Wikishia.