Why does Islam stress so much on the belief in one God only?
The Islamic stress on the belief in one God only is because of the simple fact that there is absolutely no reason to believe in more gods than one. Belief in one God is a matter of necessity, as there is no other satisfactory explanation for our own existence or for that of whatever surrounds us in this world1. It is, in fact, in search of an explanation for our own existence and for that of whatever surrounds us that we believe in the existence of an unseen God. Our belief in one god provides us with a comprehensive answer for our search. Once we discover the unseen God, there is absolutely no reason to carry on searching for more gods than one.
Thus, the Qur’an has rejected polytheism2 simply on the basis that there is absolutely no reason to believe in more gods than one. The Qur’an (Al-Anbiyaa 21: 24) says:
أَمِ اتَّخَذُوا مِن دُونِهِ آلِهَةً ۖ قُلْ هَاتُوا بُرْهَانَكُمْ ۖ
Do they hold other gods besides Him? [O Prophet,] tell them: ‘Bring your evidence [for believing in more gods than one].
The whole universe is clearly a work, a production and a management of a single mind. There is nothing in the physical world, which leads us to believing in the existence of a second or a third god. Even the apparently opposing phenomena in the world combine to form unblemished harmony and a sweet rhythm. Although the skies, the earth, the moons and the stars, are independent entities and one may be driven by the apparent diversity and variety in them to consider them the production of different architects, yet they all combine together to form a single system, in which each is playing its allotted role. The scorching heat of the summers and the chilling cold of the winters may by its apparent variation draw one to believe in ascribing seasons to different gods, yet with the advancements of our knowledge of the physical world, we know today that the change in seasons is only a result of the systematic movements of the celestial bodies. Likewise, the variation in the phenomenon of life and death can lead us to ascribe the two to different powers, yet a closer look at the two would show that, under the present physical setup, death is essential for the sustenance of life itself.
The Qur’an has pointed toward the various aspects of the physical world, of life and death and of man’s inherent belief in the oneness of God and has rejected the idea of plurality of the deity, as completely baseless and without any foundation at all. Al-Namal 27: 60 – 64 says:
أَمَّنْ خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَأَنزَلَ لَكُم مِّنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَنبَتْنَا بِهِ حَدَائِقَ ذَاتَ بَهْجَةٍ مَّا كَانَ لَكُمْ أَن تُنبِتُوا شَجَرَهَا ۗ أَإِلَـٰهٌ مَّعَ اللَّـهِ ۚ بَلْ هُمْ قَوْمٌ يَعْدِلُونَ ﴿٦٠﴾
أَمَّن جَعَلَ الْأَرْضَ قَرَارًا وَجَعَلَ خِلَالَهَا أَنْهَارًا وَجَعَلَ لَهَا رَوَاسِيَ وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَ الْبَحْرَيْنِ حَاجِزًا ۗ أَإِلَـٰهٌ مَّعَ اللَّـهِ ۚ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ ﴿٦١﴾
أَمَّن يُجِيبُ الْمُضْطَرَّ إِذَا دَعَاهُ وَيَكْشِفُ السُّوءَ وَيَجْعَلُكُمْ خُلَفَاءَ الْأَرْضِ ۗ أَإِلَـٰهٌ مَّعَ اللَّـهِ ۚ قَلِيلًا مَّا تَذَكَّرُونَ ﴿٦٢﴾
أَمَّن يَهْدِيكُمْ فِي ظُلُمَاتِ الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ وَمَن يُرْسِلُ الرِّيَاحَ بُشْرًا بَيْنَ يَدَيْ رَحْمَتِهِ ۗ أَإِلَـٰهٌ مَّعَ اللَّـهِ ۚ تَعَالَى اللَّـهُ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ ﴿٦٣﴾
أَمَّن يَبْدَأُ الْخَلْقَ ثُمَّ يُعِيدُهُ وَمَن يَرْزُقُكُم مِّنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۗ أَإِلَـٰهٌ مَّعَ اللَّـهِ ۚ قُلْ هَاتُوا بُرْهَانَكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ ﴿٦٤﴾
[Ask them: Are these false gods worthier of your worship and reverence] or Him, Who created the heavens and the earth and sent down water from the skies for you, bringing forth gardens of delight? Try as you may, you cannot cause such trees to grow. Is there another god, besides the one God? Yet they are a people, who ascribe equals to Him.
[Are these false gods worthier of your worship and reverence] or Him, Who has established the earth and has watered it with running rivers, Who has set mountains upon it and has placed a barrier between the two seas? Is there another god, besides the One God? Indeed most of them do not know.
[Are these false gods worthier of your worship and reverence] or Him, Who answers the distressed, when he cries out to Him and relieves [him] from his afflictions? It is He, Who made you successors of the earth. Is there another god, besides the One God? How little do you reflect.
[Are these false gods worthier of your worship and reverence] or Him, Who guides you in the darkness of the dry lands and the seas and sends the winds as a sign of His mercy? Is there another god, besides the One God? He is absolutely clear of their polytheistic ascriptions.
[Are these false gods worthier of your worship and reverence] or Him, Who initiates creation and shall repeat it and Who blesses you through the heavens and the earth? Is there another god, besides the One God? Say to them: ‘Bring your evidence, if you are truthful’.
Thus, according to the Qur’an, when God alone is the planner, the creator, and the sustainer of whatever enjoys existence, as is clearly evidenced by the magnificent coherence in the physical world, then why should any one ascribe to the belief of more gods than one3?
Besides the evidence of the physical world, another important aspect of the stress on the oneness of God is that throughout the history of man, whenever God spoke to man, He commanded him to refrain from ascribing partners or equals to Him. Through Moses (pbuh), God directed the Israelites:
You shall fear the LORD your God; him alone you shall worship; to him you shall hold fast (Deuteronomy 10: 20)
According to the Gospel of Mark:
One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ (Mark 12: 28 – 30)
Through Muhammad (pbuh), God declared:
وَإِلَـٰهُكُمْ إِلَـٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ ۖ لَّا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الرَّحْمَـٰنُ الرَّحِيمُ
And your God is One God; there is no other God, except Him – mercy abundant, mercy eternal.
When there is neither any physical evidence to believe in more gods than one nor has God Himself authorized such a belief, then there is absolutely no reason to ascribe to the belief of more gods than one.
It is primarily because of the complete lack of any plausible argument in favor of the existence of other deities as well as the lack of authorization from God to the effect, that religions claiming to be divine hold ascribing false partners to God, as a blasphemy against God and thus, an unforgivable sin.
One of the reasons given by the Torah for the gravity of the crime of ascribing false partners to the One God, is that it challenges the honor of God. Our God is an honorable God. He does not like to share our reverence and worship with false productions of our own minds. When He alone is the source of all the blessings that we enjoy in life, then He alone should be the target of all our gratitude, reverence and worship. Exodus 20: 3 – 6 says:
You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Exodus 20: 3 – 6)
The Qur’an (Al-Mu’minoon 23: 117) declares:
وَمَن يَدْعُ مَعَ اللَّـهِ إِلَـٰهًا آخَرَ لَا بُرْهَانَ لَهُ بِهِ فَإِنَّمَا حِسَابُهُ عِندَ رَبِّهِ ۚ إِنَّهُ لَا يُفْلِحُ الْكَافِرُونَ
And whoever calls upon another deity besides the One God, having no evidence for it, he shall be held accountable for it, by his Lord. Indeed such rejecters shall not prosper.
Another reason, which seems quite apparent, for the unforgivable nature of the sin of ascribing false partners to God is that even though man can have a plausible excuse for the most heinous of crimes that he may have committed – He may have been driven by extreme anger, while killing another person; he may have been overcome by uncontrolled emotions, while committing fornication; he may have been overpowered by his self-interests, while taking an unjust decision – yet it is obvious that he cannot have any such excuse for ascribing partners to God. According to the Qur’an, ascribing partners to God is a case of clear transgression against God, for which man does not have any excuse. Thus, the Qur’an unequivocally declares that God may forgive any sin for whomsoever He decides, yet He shall never forgive the sin of ascribing partners to Him, unless the person truly repents and corrects his behavior, during his life. Al-Nisaa 4: 48 says:
إِنَّ اللَّـهَ لَا يَغْفِرُ أَن يُشْرَكَ بِهِ وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّـهِ فَقَدِ افْتَرَىٰ إِثْمًا عَظِيمًا
Indeed God shall not forgive that partners be ascribed to Him; besides this, He may forgive anything for whomsoever He wills. And whoever ascribes partners to God, is guilty of a great injustice.
I hope this helps.
March 30, 2001
- For details, please refer to one of my earlier responses titled “Existence of God“. [↩]
- The belief that there are more gods than one, which in the Arabic language is known as ‘Shirk’ (lit: ascribing partners or holding equals with the One God). [↩]
- The first two verses point toward the beautiful overall coherence in the heavens, the earth, the rivers, the mountains and the seas. When all these phenomena combine to make a magnificent coherent system, which ultimately supports and sustains life, then why should man blindly hold separate creators and designers for them? The third vese points toward man’s inherent attachment with the One true God only. Deep inside man knows that the One God is fully sufficient to remove all his afflictions and to grant him all the blessings that he craves for. There is absolutely no reason to hold others as equals to the One True God. The fourth verse points to the stars and the winds and how they play their prescribed roles in the overall system. While the last verse points to the ultimate wisdom in the creation – the resurrection – which makes it all meaningful. The oneness of purpose is also presented as evidence of the oneness of the creator. [↩]