Throughout history, humans have experienced spiritual experiences that cannot be explained. However we choose to interpret this encounter, these spiritual experiences are a fact of life. Buddhists deny that their visions are derived from a supernatural source. On the other hand, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam maintain that those experiences are divine. These monotheistic religions agree that it is impossible to describe those experiences in normal conceptual languages. Monotheism is a belief in the Unity of the God, or in One God. Jews are forbidden to pronounce the sacred Name of God. Muslims are prohibited to depict God, or any of his prophets, in human form. This discipline is a constant reminder that God is beyond all human comprehension.
There is striking similarity in Jewish and Islamic concepts of God. The Jews and Muslims find the Christian doctrines of the trinity and incarnation almost impious. One form of Christianity, Unitarianism, denies the doctrines of the Trinity, maintaining that God exists in One Being only. From the middle of the second century to the end of the third century a succession of distinguished Christian teachers maintained the undivided unity of God. Unitarianism is based upon Arianism, which was a Christian sect in the fourth century that denied that Jesus Christ had the same divine substance as that of God and hold instead that he was only the highest of created beings. It was named after its author, Arius (256-336). A native of Libya, Arius studied at the theological school of Lucian of Antioch, where other supporters of the Arian’s belief were also trained. Unitarians are generally close to the Jews and Muslims. They deny the doctrines of the Trinity, the delegated atonement, the deity of Jesus Christ, and the original sin.
According to the Islamic religion, the perception of God’s Uniqueness is the basis of the morality of the Quran. To give allegiance to earthly things or associate God with anyone or anything is considered blasphemy, the greatest sin in Islam that will not be forgiven on the Day of Judgment. Any other sin may be forgiven by God’s mercy if He wills. The Quran detests the pagan deities in almost exactly the same way as the Old Testament. These pagan gods are totally useless: they are powerless, and they cannot guide or protect humans. Instead, Muslims believe that Allah is the ultimate and unequaled reality:
Surah 112 "Say: He is Allah, The One; Allah, the Eternal, the Absolute; He begetteth not, Nor is He begotten; And there is none Like unto Him"
The nature of Allah here is indicated to us in few words that anyone can understand. Here we are specially taught to avoid the pitfalls into which humans have fallen at various times in trying to conceptualize Allah. We can understand Him as follows:
We have to note that his nature is so elevated, so far beyond our limited conceptions; that the best way in which we can realize Him is to feel that He is a Personality, "He", and not a mere abstract conception of philosophy. He is near us; He cares about us; we owe our existence to Him.
He is the One and Only God, the Only One to Whom worship is due; all other things or beings that we can think of are His creatures and in no way should be compared or associated with Him.
He is Eternal without beginning or end, Absolute, not limited by time, space or circumstance. He is the Ultimate the Reality.
We must not think of Him as a human having a son or a father, for that would be to import human qualities into our conception of Him.
He is not like any other person or thing that we know or can imagine. His qualities and nature are unique.
The unity, consistency of creative designs and the fundamental facts in our existence, proclaim the unity of the Designer, Maker, and Creator. This Surah sums up the whole argument and warns us especially against anthropomorphism, the tendency to conceive Allah after our own pattern, an evil tendency that creeps in all times and among all peoples. Islam returns to the Semitic concept of the divine unity and refuses to imagine that God can "beget" a son. There is no deity but Allah, the creator of heaven and Earth, who alone can save man and send him the spiritual and physical sustenance that he needs. Only by acknowledging Him the Uncaused Cause of all being, Muslims address a dimension of reality beyond time and space.
The call for Muslims to prayer starts by "Allah Akbar", which is translated, and may be understood by some Muslims, as God is great. This is not a correct translation or meaning. It actually means, "Allah is greater." Full stop. Period. According to rules of any language, this is not a complete sentence. But this phrase actually means that Allah is greater than anything that anyone may conceptualize. "Allah Akbar" distinguishes between God and the rest of all realities. I heard this phrase thousands of time in my life, but the first time I realized its true meaning, two pictures came to my mind: the intricate design of the universe and the living cell, and I was shaken and overwhelmed by the Greatness, Power, and Glory of Allah. Only by contemplating the verses of the Quran and the signs of nature, Muslims can grasp that aspect of divinity, because we can see God only through His words or His creations. The Quran emphasizes Allah as the Absolute, who alone has true and eternal existence:
Surah 55, Ayah 26 "All that is on Earth Will perish. But will abide (for ever) the face of Thy Lord - Full of Majesty, Bounty, and Honor"
The first pillar of Islam is "Shahadah", which is the Muslim profession of faith:
"I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is His messenger." This is not simply an affirmation of God’s existence, but an acknowledgment that Allah is the only true reality or perfection, the only true form of eternal existence, and all beings that exist owe their existence to His Will. To make this assertion demands that Muslims integrate their lives by making God their focus and sole priority. To say that God is One is not a mere numerical definition, but it is a call to make this unity the driving factor of one’s life. The divine unity requires Muslims to recognize that everything they do is for God’s sake. A Muslim works because God asks him to work and in this case working becomes an act of worship. A Muslim marries because God asks him to marry, and in this case, marriage becomes an act of worship, and so one. Therefore, a Muslim is always reminded with the divine unity of Allah. Because there is only one God, all rightly guided religions must derive from Him alone, and the basic beliefs of those religions should not change. The unity of God is also manifested in the Quran by the command of Allah to the Muslims to believe in the authentic revelations and books revealed to all prophets, even if they do not exist in our present time.
The Search for One God
The search for a single deity, by thinkers and scientists, happened throughout the history of mankind. Many used logic, science and philosophy to resolve this crucial question.
The Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaton concluded that the Sun god is the ultimate and only supreme power in the life of humanity. He abandoned polytheism in favor of monotheism by worshipping the sun god and ignored all the other traditional deities of Egypt, but his policies were immediately reversed by his successor King Tut.
Ibn Sina (980-1037), who is known by his Latin name Avicenna, was a great Muslim physician, and at the age of 18 he had mastered mathematics, logic, and physics. At that age, he was rewarded for his medical abilities with the post of court physician to the Samanid ruler of Bukhara. But his chief concern was religion. Ibn Sina extended the logical approach, based upon philosophical concepts, of Al-Kindi (870), another Muslim thinker. Ibn Sina formulated his approach to prove the existence of God, in his book Kitab Ash-Shifa (Book of Healing). His logic starts with a reflection of the way our minds work. We have the tendency of looking at anything in a global manner, and then examining the details later. A sentence consists of verbs and nouns, and these consist of letters. We learn first how to pronounce words and sentences, and then know the letters. A human body consists of a head, belly, arms, and legs, and these consist of cells. This process of breaking things into their components is our way of search for simplicity. We use bricks as simple building blocks to construct a complex skyscraper. The Earth consists of land and water. The Earth is one part of a more complex solar system, which is in turn a part of more complex star system, and so on. Also, simple things are inferior to complex things, such as an arm is inferior to the whole human body. Ibn Sina took it for granted that the whole universe follows a repetitive logic or laws. He also believed in the law of cause and effect. Thus, he considered that everything in this physical universe is a part of Unlimited Reality, a Supreme Creator that started it all. Since we cannot comprehend the physical universe, which should be inferior to the Unlimited Reality, then we will not be able to grasp the true power of the Supreme Creator. God, the Unlimited Reality, is the Creator of all realities. Because He is at the top of all realities, He must be absolutely Perfect and worthy of human submission, praise, and worship.
Abu Hamid Alghazaly (1058- 1111) was a great Muslim thinker. He was born in Khurasan. He started his search for God by considering Sufism, a mystical interpretation of religion. Later, Alghazaly abandoned Sufism and formulated an approach that would be accepted by the majority of Muslims. He had several major publications that address the basic faith in Allah. One of his books, Revival of Religious Knowledge, a five-volume text, is considered a great Islamic reference. Alghazaly set himself to defend Islam against philosophy and mysticism. He tried to discern between right and wrong, between the reliable tradition of Islam and heretical innovation. He searched for a reliable unshakable faith in God. He believed that philosophy should restrict itself to obvious phenomena such as medicine, physics and astronomy. Philosophy should not be utilized as a way of proving God’s Existence. How can anyone state facts about God that He himself did not reveal? Ibn Sina became the target of attack on philosophy by Alghazaly. After an agonizing search he found what he was looking for. Without abandoning reason, Alghazaly discovered that spiritual experiences, which cannot be explained by physical laws, yielded a direct and intuitive way to God. However, he resented taking that spiritual experience beyond its reasonable limits such as someone may claim that he is God’s incarnate when he encounters such an experience. Like Ibn Sina he concluded that humans are inferior of the Unseen God Who supplies the physically unexplained spiritual experience.
Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) used the avenues of science and logic to achieve total conviction in God. Newton began with an attempt to explain the universe, with God as the Creator of all the physical laws that govern the universe. Newton believed that all natural laws are the effects with God as the only Cause of all actions. In fact, he believed that gravity is a divine action; in effect, a stone fell because God’s finger was pushing it down. As Newton was investigating the universe, he became convinced that he had a solid proof of God’s existence. He wrote "Gravity may put the planets into motion, but without the divine power it could never put them into such a circulating motion as they have about the sun, and therefore, for this as well as other reasons, I am compelled to ascribe the frame of this system to an intelligent Agent." God who had designed all this so perfectly, had to be a supremely intelligent "Mechanick" and extremely powerful to manage this huge universe. In Newton’s Principia, he concluded that humans know God only by examining the evidences of His creations:
"This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. He is eternal and infinite, omnipotent and omniscient; that is his duration reaches from eternity to eternity; his presence from infinity to infinity; he governs all things, and knows all things that are or can be done. We know him only by his most wise and excellent contrivances of things, and final causes; we admire him for his perfection; but we reverence and adore him on account of his dominion; for we adore him as his servants.
According to "A History of God" by Karen Armstrong, 1993 and "Anti-Trinitarian Biographies," Vol. III, 1850 by A. Wallace, Newton rejected the divinity of Jesus and the doctrine of the trinity. He attributed these doctrines to the corruption of the New Testament. Newton came to the conclusion that the Fathers of the Church had imposed their doctrines on the Church in a misleading bid for pagan converts. He believed that the concept of the "three in heaven" was never once thought of. The verses of the New Testament that were used to "prove" these doctrines were erroneous. In 1690, He wrote a manuscript on the corruption of the New Testament concerning I John 5:7 and Timothy 3:16. It was entitled, "A Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture."
Newton became obsessed with clearing the Christian faith. He believed that Noah had founded the original religion - a Gentile faith - that had been simple and free from mysticism. Noah advocated the unity of God. Later generations had corrupted this pure religion with weird mixtures of idolatry and superstition. Thus God had sent a succession of prophets to put humanity back on course. Newton’s approach to monotheism was as close as it can be to the Islamic teachings.
During the eighteenth century, Christian scholars began to apply the new scientific methods to the Christian faith and came to the same conclusion of the existence of God as Newton. However, during Newton’s time, there were those who claimed that Newton unfolded all the mysteries of God and discovered all His physical laws that govern the universe, and consequently God has nothing else to do!