Chapter-3: Monotheism & Polytheism
The great Messenger of God, Abraham (peace be upon him), the patriarch of Jews, Christians and Muslims, through his vision, reasoning and Mercy of God, arrived at the truth of the existence of One God. It is narrated in Qur’an, God says: “We showed Abraham the kingdom of the heavens and the earth, as We show you with examples from nature, so he became one of the firm believers. (while pondering) When the night drew its shadow over him, he saw a star and said, “this is my Lord !” But when it set, he said: “I do not love to worship such a god that fades away.” Afterwards he saw the moon shining, he said; “This is my Lord !” But when it also set, he cried: “If my Lord does not guide me, I shall certainly become one of those who go astray.” Then when he saw the sun with its brighter shine, and he said: “This must be my Lord! it is larger than the other two.” But when it also set, he exclaimed: “O my people! I am done with your practice of associating partners with God. As far as I am concerned, I will turn my face, being upright, to Him Who has created the heavens and the earth, and I am not one of the idolaters.”(Qur’an;6:75-78).
Islam is based on the strict adherence to monotheism (The doctrine or belief that there is only one God) called Tawhid, which was preached by Abraham (peace be upon him); Allah, the One and Only God, the Creator, Cherisher and Sustainer of all the Worlds: “And He is Allah: there is no god but He. To him be praise at the first and at the last: for Him is the Command and to Him shall ye (all) be brought back.”(Qur’an;28:70);“Thus said the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.”(Isaiah;44:6); “No just estimate have they made of Allah: for Allah is He Who is strong and able to carry out His Will” (Qur’an;22:74). Abraham said: “For me I, have set my face firmly and truly toward Him Who created the heavens and the earth, and never shall I give partners to Allah.”(Qur’an;6:79). Moses (peace be upon him) said: “Shama Israelu Adonai Ila Hayno Adna Ikhad ”[“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord”] (Deuteronomy;6:4). Jesus (peace be upon him) also believed in One God, when he said: “Shama Israelu Adonai Ila Hayno Adna Ikhad ”[“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord”](Mark;12:29) and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was commanded: “Your God is one God; there is no one worthy of worship except Him, the Compassionate, the Merciful.(Qur’an;2:163).
Tawhid, the basis of Islam, needs deep understanding. Tawhid relates to the oneness of God, in the sense that He is one and there is no god but He, as stated in the “witness” creed (shahadah): “There is no one worthy of worship except Allah (God) and Muhammad (peace be upon him) is His messenger”. Tawhid further refers to the nature of God, that He is a unity, not composed, not made up of parts, but simple and uncompounded: “Say, He is the One God” (Qura’n;112:1). The doctrine of the unity of God and the issues that it raises, such as the question of the relation between the essence and the attributes of God, reappear throughout most of Islamic history. Tawhid can not be visualized in a pantheistic sense: (Pantheism; a doctrine identifying the Deity with the universe and its phenomena) that it is wrong to say that; “all essences are divine, and there is no absolute existence besides that of God”. To majority Muslims, the science of Tawhid is the systematic theology through which a better knowledge of God may be reached.
Monotheism and Polytheism
Monotheism in Bible:
The existence of God is taken for granted in the Bible. There is nowhere any argument to prove it. The miracles and signs by the messengers and prophets were enough to satisfy the followers. However even then immediately after coming out of Egypt under miraculous circumstances, the Israelites indulged in the worship of calf. He who disbelieves the truth of God, is spoken of as one devoid of understanding: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”(Psalms;14:1). The First Commandment declared in the Old Testament as well as New Testament states the Oneness of God (Deuteronomy;6:4, Mark;12:29);“He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.”(Deuteronomy;32:4). The infinite nature of God is indicated explicitly: “Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them? God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” (Ehyeh asher ehyeh)…”(Exodus;3:13-14). So when Moses asks who he is, God replies in effect: ‘Never you mind who I am!’ Or ‘Mind your own business!’ There was to be no discussion on God’s nature and certainly no attempt to manipulate him as pagans sometimes did when they recited the names of their gods. Yahweh is the Unconditioned One: I shall be that which I shall be. He will be exactly as he chooses and will make no guarantees.
God’s attributes are spoken of by some as ‘Absolute’, i.e., such as belong to his essence as Jehovah, Jah, etc.; and Relative, i.e., such as are ascribed to him with relation to his creatures. Others distinguish them into ‘Communicable’, i.e. those which can be imparted in degree to his creatures: goodness, holiness, wisdom, etc; and ‘Incommunicable’, which cannot be so imparted: independence, immutability, immensity, and eternity. They are by some also divided into ‘Natural Attributes’, eternity, immensity, etc.; and Moral, holiness, goodness, etc. The attributes of God are set forth in order by Moses: “And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.”(Exodus;34:6-7).
In the Bible, God is declared to be; Eternal (Deutronomy;33:27; Psalms;90:2), Immortal (1Timothy;1:17;6:16), Light (Isaiah;60:19; James; 1:17, 1John;1:5), Invisible (Job;23:8-9) Un-searchable (Job;11:7; 37:23;Psalms; 145:3; Isaiah; 40:28; Romans; 11:33), Incorruptible (Romans;1:23), Absolute sovereign (Daniel;4:25,35), Mighty (Job;36:5),Omnipotent (Geneses17:1; Exodus;6:3), Omniscient (Psalms;139:1-6; Proverbs;5:21), Omnipresent (Psalms;139:7; Jeremiah;23:23), Immutable (Psalms;102:26-27), Glorious. (Exodus;15:11; Psalms;145:5), Most High (Psalms;83:18; Acts;7:48), Perfect (Mathew; 5:48, Job;36:4; 37:16), Holy (Psalms;99:9; Isaiah;5:16), Just (Deutronomy;32:4; Isaiah;45:21), True (Jermiah;10:10), Upright (Psalms;25:8; 92:15), Righteous (Ezra;9:15; Psalms;145:17), Good (Psalms;25:8; 119:68), His being alone good.(Mathew;19:17), Incomparable(Isaiah;44:7; Jeremiah;10:7), Great(Psalms;86:10), Gracious (Exodus;34:6, Psalms;116:5), Merciful (Exodus;34:6-7), Long-suffering (Numbers;14:18; Micah;7:1), Jealous (Joshua;24:19; Nahum;1:2), Compassionate (2Kiings;13:23), None beside Him (Deutronomy;4:35; Isaiah; 44:6), None before Him (Isaiah;43:10), None like to Him (Exodus;9:14; Deutronomy;33:26; 2Samuel;7:22; Isaiah;46:5,9), Fills heaven and earth (1Kings;8:27; Jeremiah;23:24). Should be worshipped in spirit and in truth. (John;4:24), A consuming fire (Hebrews;12:29). His being alone possessed of foreknowledge (Isaiah;46:9-11). His being the sole object of worship in heaven and earth.(Nehemia;9:6; Mathew;4:10).His being the only Saviour. (Isaiah;45:21-22). His being the only source of pardon.(Micah;7:18; Mark;2:7),Universal (Job;28:24; Daniel;2:22; Act;15:18), Infinite (Psalms;147:5; Romans;11:33), Wonderful, Beyond human comprehension (Psalms;139:6), and Underived. (Job;21:22; Isaiah;40:14). The idol worship is condemned in the Old Testament“(Exodus;20:3-5, Deuteronomy;5:7-9). According to Bible Adam was created in the image of God (Geneses;1;26-27,5:1), but an other place it is mentioned: “I am God, and there is none like me.”(Isaiah;46:9). Some theologians have interpreted ‘image’ as ‘vicegerent’. Allah says: “We have indeed created man in the best stature;”(Qura’n;95:4). Islam reject to draw any semblance between the attributes of Allah and His creatures; because; “there is none like unto Him.”(Qura’n;112:4).
However Bible narrates certain attributes, of God like His creatures, which are not befitting to the elegance, grace and greatness of The Supreme Creator and Sustainer. They appear to contradict the attributes of God mentioned elsewhere in Bible. Some examples are: “And they heard the voice of Jehovah God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Jehovah God amongst the trees of the garden.”(Genesis;3:8), “And Jehovah God called unto the man, and said unto him, Where art thou?(Genesis;3:9). God showing repentance:” And it repented Jehovah that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart”(Genesis;6:6), “Thou hast rejected me, said Jehovah, thou art gone backward: therefore have I stretched out my hand against thee, and destroyed thee; I am weary with repenting.”(Jeremiah;15:6). God shaving like a “barber”: “In that day will the Lord shave with a razor that is hired in the parts beyond the River, even with the king of Assyria, the head and the hair of the feet; and it shall also consume the beard.”(Isaiah;7:20) God showing his back parts to Moses: “And I (God) will take away my hand and thou shalt see my back parts”(Exodus;33:23). God “riding” a cherub: “And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly; Yea, he was seen upon the wings of the wind.”(2 Samuel;22:11). There are some other contradictory attributes of God, at some places God saying that no one can see Him: “No man hath seen God at any time”(John;1:18), “(God) whom no man hath seen, nor can see”(I Timothy;6:16), “And he (God) said, Thou canst see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live”(Exodus;33:20). It is contradicted at other verses: “And they (Moses, Aaron and seventy others) saw the God of Israel”(Exodus;24:10), “And the Lord spoke unto Moses face to face, as a man speaks unto his friend”(Exodus;33:11). A very strange incidence is narrated, that Jacob wrestled with God and prevailed: “And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was strained, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for thou hast striven with God and with men, and hast prevailed. And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for, said he, I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved”(Geneses;32:24-30).
The complex doctrine of Trinitarianism” called as ‘Trinitarian Monotheism” was the deviation introduced by Paul against the monotheistic teachings of Old Testament and Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him). According to this docrine; God is considered to consist of three persons, The Father (God), the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit,all three as One. Trinity is totally opposed to monotheisim preached by Abraham (peace be upon him), which Jews, Christians and Muslims claim to follw.The use of the terminology ‘son of God’ and Father (for God) need to be understood as per its use among Hebrews and the Biblical text. The Hebrews believed that God is One, and had neither wife nor children in any literal sense, hence it is obvious that the expression “son of God” merely meant to them “Servant of God”; the one who, because of his faithful service, was close and dear to God, as a son is to a father. Christians who came from a Greek and Roman background, later misused this term. In the Greek-Roman heritage, “son of God” signified an incarnation of a god or someone born of a physical union between male and female gods. When the Church cast aside its Hebrew foundations, it adopted the pagan concept of “son of God”, which was entirely different from the Hebrew usage, just to make the new faith familiar and acceptable to new gentile converts of pagan origin. Consequently, the use of the term “son of God” should only be understood from the Semitic symbolic sense of a “servant of God”, and not in the pagan sense of a literal offspring of God. In the Gospel, Jesus is recorded as saying: “Blessed are the peace-makers; they will be called sons of God.”(Mathew;5:9). Son of God has been used numerously in the Old & New Testaments in similar sense. (Hosea;1:10,Jeremiah;31:9,Job;2:1,38:4-7,Genesis; 6:2,Deuteronomy; 14:1, Exodus;4:22-23, 2Samuel;8:13-14, Psalms;2:7, Book of Job;1:6, Luke; 3:38, 9:22 & 4:41). Likewise use of the term ‘abba’, “dear father” by Jesus’ when he said: “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father”. (Romans; 8:15), should be understood similarly, because the word ‘Father’ is used for the ‘God’ or the ‘Lord’ not as biological father but in the spiritual sense as The Creator & Sustainer: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God, are the sons of God.” (Romans;8:14). “He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation”(Psalms;89:26), “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Mathew;5:48), similarly God is mentioned as Father at many other places (Mathew;5:16,45,48, 6:1,6,8,9,32, 7:11,21, 10:32,33, 12:50, John; 5:30, 5:37, 14:16, 20:17, 2Samuel; 7:14, Psalms;89:26). Moreover word ‘Father’ has also been used as a token of reverence or messenger or domination: Joseph (peace be upon him) is called a father to Pharaoh (Genesis; 45:8), Abraham (peace be upon him) is called the father of a multitude of nations (Genesis;17:5), and Job is called the father of the needy (Job;29:16). Again by theologians alluding to Psalms 110; Jesus is called Priest or a Father of the priesthood, forever. The only person who has blasphemously been given attributes like God is Melchisedec: “For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.” (Hebrews;7:1-4). In the literal sense here Melchisedec, appears to be higher than Jesus!
The early Chrisitans rejected the new doctrine of Trinity. According to doctrine of Christianity, God literally became incarnate as a human in the form of son i.e. Jesus Christ. This “Trinitarian Monotheism” has been rejected by several Christian denominations and Christian-based religions. Arianism, was founded by the Alexandrian presbyter Arius (4th century), according to his doctrine, God alone is immutable and self-existent, and the Son is not God but a creature with a beginning. The Council of Nicaea (325 C.E) condemned Arius and declared the Son to be “of one substance with the father.” Arianism had numerous defenders for the next 50 years but eventually collapsed when the Christian emperors of Rome Gratian and Theodosius assumed power. The First Council of Constantinople (381 C.E) approved the Nicene Creed and proscribed Arianism. However it continued among the Germanic tribes through the 7th century, and similar beliefs are held in the present day by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and by some adherents of Unitarianism. The Strict Unitarian Christians believe that God, the Father, to be unipersonal, the only divine being, salvation to be granted to the entire human race, and that the Reason and Conscience to be the criteria for belief and practice while some others believe that Jesus is a created deity. Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, do not religiously worship the Logos (Jesus), but they believe that the Father created the worlds by means of the Logos.
It is striking that the basic teachings of the Church such as Trinity and Vicarious Atonement find no mention in the Bible. There is not a single unambiguous statement in the entire Bible where Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) himself says, “I am God” or where he says, “worship me” rather he said: “..There is none good but one, that is, God..”(Mathew;19:17). The only single verse in the whole of Bible which, the supporters of Trinity interpreted to supports this Christian dogma that: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one.”(The first Epistle of John; 5:7,8). In some volumes this verse is written as : “There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree”. In the foot note of this verse in ‘New International Version Bible’ it is written; ‘not found in any Greek manuscript before the sixteen century’. Dr C.I, Scofield, D.D. backed by eight other D.D.’s in a footnote to this verse opine: “It is generally agreed that this verse has no manuscript authority and has been inserted. “The fundamentalist Christians still retain this fabrication whereas, in all the modern translations including the Revised Standard Version (RSV) this pious deceit has been unceremoniously expunged. On the contrary Jesus (peace be upon him) also said: “Shama Israelu Adonai Ila Hayno Adna Ikhad ”[“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord”](Mark;12:29). In fact, various verses of the Bible point to the actual mission of Jesus (peace be upon him), which was to fulfill the Commandments and the Law revealed to Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) (Mathew; 5:17,18,19). Indeed Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) rejected any suggestions that attributed divinity to him, and explained his miracles as the power of the One True God. Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) thus reiterated the message of monotheism that was given by all earlier prophets of God.
Islam toltallly despise the Trinity, for it is mentioned in Qur’an:“They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy) verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them.”(Qur’an;5:73); “O people of the Book! Do not overstep the bounds [of truth] in your religious beliefs, and do not say of God anything but the truth. The Christ Jesus, son of Mary, was but God’s Messenger – [the fulfillment of] His promise which He had conveyed (kalimah, “word”) unto Mary – and a soul created by Him. Believe, then, in God and His Messengers, and do not say, “[God is] a trinity”. Desist [from this assertion] for your own good. God is but One God; utterly remote is He, in His glory, from having a son: unto Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth; and none is as worthy of trust as God.”(Qur’an;4:171). M. Asad logically explains this verse: “His word which He conveyed unto Mary and a soul from Him”. According to Tabari, the “word” (kalimah) was “the announcement (risalah) which God bade the angels to convey to Mary, and God’s glad tiding to her” (Qur’an;3:45) – which justifies the rendering of kalimatuhu as “[the fulfillment of] His promise”. As regards the expression, “a soul from Him” or “created by Him”, it is to be noted that among the various meanings which the word ruh bears in the Qur’an (e.g., “inspiration” in Qur’an;2:87, 253), it is also used in its primary significance of “breath of life”, “soul”, or “spirit”: thus, for instance, in Qur’an;32:9, where the ever-recurring evolution of the human embryo is spoken of: “and then He forms him [i.e., man] and breathes into him of His spirit” – that is, endows him with a conscious soul which represents God’s supreme gift to man and is, therefore, described as “a breath of His spirit”. The verse (Qur’an;4:171) stresses the purely human nature of Jesus and refutes the belief in his divinity, the Qur’an points out that Jesus, like all other human beings, was “a soul created by Him”.
Opposite to Tawhid is Shirk (associating partners or other deities with God: Polytheism). Shirk is considered synonymous with any belief or practice rejected by Islam. The Qur’an stresses in many verses that God does not share his powers with any partner (sharik): Say: “My Lord has forbidden only indecencies whether , such of them as are apparent and such as are within, and sin and wrongful oppression, and that you associate with Allah (shirk) for which He has granted no sanction, and saying things about Allah of which you have no knowledge.”(Qur’an;7:33); “Never has Allah begotten a son, nor is there any god besides Him. Had it been so, each god would govern his own creation, and each would have tried to overpower the others. Exalted be Allah, above the sort of things they attribute to Him!”(Qur’an;23:91). The shirk is distinguished, by different grades apart from pure and blatant polytheism. The shirk al-‘adah (“shirk of custom”), which includes all superstitions, such as the belief in omens and the seeking of help from soothsayers. Shirk al-ibadah (“shirk of worship”) is manifested in the belief in the powers of created things, the reverencing of saints (an act showing respect by bowing, only reserved for Allah), kissing holy stones (except black stone at Ka’ba), and asking to grant favours from dead or alive people (grant of favours is only by Allah), “shirk of knowledge” (shirk al-‘ilm) is to credit anyone, such as astrologers and palmists etc with the knowledge of the future. All of these types of shirk are shirk saghir (“minor shirk”) in comparison with polytheism. The Muslims totally reject all types of Shirk and Kufir (Disbelief), they firmly believe in Tawhid, ONE GOD, Supreme and Eternal, Infinite and Mighty, Merciful and Compassionate, Creator and Provider. God has neither father nor mother, no sons nor was He fathered. None is equal to Him. Allah is the God of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and all mankind; He is not the God of a special tribe or race. He is the Creator and Sustainer of humanity and all other creatures. He is the God for the Christians, the Jews, the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Hindus, the atheists, and all others. He extends His favours in this world to all, believers or non-believers, as a test, which is part of His wisdom and plan.
God created humanity and formed nations and tribes, He says: “O mankind! We created you from male and female, and made you into nations and tribes that you might get to know one another.(Qur’an;49:13). He provided guidance through His messengers: “No doubt We raised in every nation a Messenger, saying: “Serve Allah and keep away from false gods and idols.” After that, Allah guided some of them while deviation proved true against the others. So travel through the earth and see what was the end of those who denied Our Message.”(Qur’an;16:36). Hence in the major religions the traces of monotheism (Tawhid) are still found in the scripture even if not practiced. Hinduism is commonly perceived as a polytheistic religion because the common Hindus are observed worshiping many gods. However Hindus, well versed in their scriptures, insist that a Hindu should believe in and worship only one God. The sacred Hindu scriptures, urge monotheism (Tawhid), it is stated: “Those whose intelligence has been stolen by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures.”(Bhagavad Gita;7:20); “He is One only without a second.” (Chandogya: Upanishad;6:2:1), “Of Him there are neither parents nor lord.”(Svetasvatara: Upanishad;6:9), “There is no likeness of Him.”(Svetasvatara: Upanishad;4:19), “His form is not to be seen; no one sees Him with the eye.”(Svetasvatara: Upanishad;4:20).According to Vedas: “There is no image of Him.” (Yajurveda;32:3);“He is bodiless and pure.”(Yajurveda;40:8);“They enter darkness, those who worship the natural elements (air, water, fire, etc.);“ They sink deeper in darkness, those who worship sambhuti (created things, for example table, chair, idol, etc)”(Yajurveda;40:9);“O friends, do not worship anybody but Him, the Divine One. Praise Him alone.”(Rigveda;8:1:1).The Brahma Sutra of Hinduism is: “There is only one God, not the second; not at all, not at all, not in the least bit.” (Ekam Brahm, dvitiya naste neh na naste kincha).
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