Steadfastness in Monotheism

Monotheism is the foundation of Islam. Indeed one who turns away from the obedience of one God and begins to serve his personal desires and Satan, his faith is destroyed. Such a person cannot defend his belief. That is why a person must say in all sincerity: I witness that there is no god except Allah.” He should be steadfast in his faith. Such people are mentioned in the Quran. (As for) those who say: Our Lord is Allah, then continue in the right way, the angels descend upon them, saying: Fear not, nor be grieved, and receive good news of the garden, which you were promised.[152] 

It is mentioned in Tafsir Minhajus Sadiqeen that Sufyan Ibne Abdullah Thaqafi requested the Prophet to teach him a quality that he can imbibe. The Prophet said, “Say My Lord is only Allah. Then be steadfast upon it.” He asked, “O Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.), what is the most dangerous thing that we should beware of?” The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) caught his tongue with his hand said, “Guard your tongue.”

[An Example]

Abdullah Ibne Huzaifah Ibne Qais was taken a prisoner while fighting against the Romans. The Romans told him to embrace Christianity and they would release him. Abdullah did not agree. The Romans heated olive oil in a huge pot and brought a Muslim prisoner before Abdullah. When he also did not agree to embrace Christianity, he was thrown into the boiling oil in front of Abdullah. His flesh separated from him and his bones disintegrated.

Once more Abdullah was told to embrace Christianity but he did not relent. The Christian chief said, “Cast him into the oil too.” Hearing this Abdullah began to weep. Upon hearing him wail that Christian chief ordered that he be brought back. Abdullah said, “I am not weeping due to the pain I would suffer, I am crying because I regret having only one life and I could sacrifice my life for Allah only once. It was my heart’s desire that if only each hair of my body had one life and each time I were revived to die again in martyrdom.” 

The Christian leader was astounded. He thought of releasing him and he said, “Kiss my head and I will set you free.” Abdullah refused. The chief became furious and said, “Give up Islam! Become a Christian. I will give you my daughter and bequeath my wealth to you.” Abdullah still did not agree. The chief said, “Okay! Kiss my head and I will release 80 Muslim prisoners with you. Abdullah accepted this. They returned to Medina. The other Muslims made fun of him saying, “You have kissed an infidel!” Abdullah said, “Due to that gesture Allah released eighty Muslim prisoners.” This incident is mentioned on page 128 of the second volume of Safinatul Bihar.

[Polytheism in seeking the help of causes]

A type of polytheism common among Muslims is that: The Creator of the universe has entrusted the system of the universe to causes and means. The cause for everything is appointed in something else. For example the cause for the birth of a child are his parents. The cause of the cure of a disease rests in medicine and doctor. He considers work the cause of earning livelihood. Man seeks the help of the causes to obtain some benefit or to save himself from some harm. If he begins to consider that this is only a medium of harm and benefit while the actual cause is Allah, there shall definitely be an increase in his recognition and insight. Say: I do not control any benefit or harm for my own soul except as Allah please.[153] 

Muslims should consider causes to be mere causes. If Allah wills He sends benefits or harm through them. If Allah wants He can nullify all their effects.

Man has to perform prayers in order to make this belief firm. And everyday he should sincerely utter this ten times: ‘Thee alone we worship. And Thine help we seek.’ These sentences are recited at least twice in every prayer. They imply that the person considers Allah to be the bestower of everything in the world and the Hereafter. Only He can protect us from the mischief of the world and the Hereafter. He is the true refuge. This is the actual meaning of reliance on Allah (Tawakkul). And reliance is a necessary component of faith.

[We should repose hope in the final cause]

Reliance does not mean that we do not refer to the causes. Reliance is an emotion of the heart. It’s strength, hope and support is the Almighty Allah, alone. However, it is the command of Allah that we seek help of the causes. On the basis of this command if man seeks the assistance of the causes for gaining something or avoiding some harm, it is a part of reliance. Every rational person garners the support of someone or something. However, his sight is trained only on the Almighty. He continues to pray to Allah because he knows that if Allah wishes He can solve his problem through the cause and if He so wills it will become ineffective. Then Allah can make someone else the cause. The final authority is not in the hands of the cause. It is with Allah. Allah can fulfill the needs of His slave through whichever medium He likes. If Allah wills He can fulfill his needs even without a cause or a medium. We have mentioned the details of this in the first volume of Greater Sins.

[Obeying someone in sin is also Polytheism]

And most of them do not believe in Allah without associating others (with Him).[154] Zurarah says that he asked Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) regarding the explanation of the above verse. Imam replied, “It is the same type of polytheism that man says, “No! By your life!”[155] Thus swearing by a creature to prove our word right is also a kind of polytheism. The following tradition has also been recorded in Tafsir Ayyashi from Imam Baqir (a.s.): The saying of man, “By Allah!” Or “by such and such person,” also constitutes Polytheism.

This shows that for swearing we must not make anyone a partner to Allah. We should not consider Allah, that final cause, to be equal to a creature (an intermediary cause). Thus it is only Allah’s name, which deserves to be sworn upon. In reality the greatest entity is that of Allah. The greatness of all the creatures is derived from the Almighty. Thus we should not consider anyone as the partner of Allah in according respect.

[Swearing by anyone else is not Prohibited]

However, it is important to state that since swearing by creature of Allah is not polytheism in worship or obedience, it is not prohibited. In the same way it is not prohibited if we make someone a partner in honoring Allah. It is certainly permitted. According to Shaykh Tusi such traditions were meant to imply that it is a detestable act. He writes on pg. 191 of volume six of his book Al-Mabsuta, “It is detestable to swear by anyone else other than Allah. For example to swear by the Prophet, the Ka’ba, by ones parents etc, is detestable.” It is recorded in traditions that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said, “Do not swear by your forefathers and the idols. Do not swear by anyone except Allah. Do not even swear by His name unless you are speaking the truth.”

Another tradition of the Prophet says that when he heard Umar swearing in the name of his father, he said, “The Almighty Allah has prohibited you to swear by your forefathers.”

The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) also said, “One who swears by anyone other that Allah has ascribed a partner to Allah.” Some narrations mention that, “Such a person has denied his Lord.” However, it is construed as polytheism and disbelief only when man makes him a partner in Allah’s greatness and equates him to Allah, but if he considers him of less importance then it is not polytheism, disbelief or a prohibited act. It is most certainly detestable in the light of these traditions.

[Practice for Monotheism]

People have been refrained from swearing by the creatures so that they may imbibe the habit monotheism. We should always and in all circumstances train our thoughts on Allah Almighty alone. In our words, deeds, actions and everything, there should not even be an iota of polytheism. We should gain perfect belief in monotheism and remain steadfast on it. In this way we are prohibited to seek the help of creatures. This also helps to inculcate the habit of asking everything from Allah, except when one is helpless.

Muhaqqiq Ardebeli says: It is detestable to ask anyone other than Allah. And this is proved from reason and Shariah. It is mentioned in traditions that some companions requested the Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) to guarantee Paradise for them. The Prophet gave his guarantee on the condition that they would be so self-reliant that if while mounting the horse they drop the whip, even if they could ask any person standing by to pick it up, they would themselves get down and pick it up themselves. This tradition is mentioned on pg. 6 of the book Zubdatul Bayan. Thus asking a creature is detestable, but the detestability does not remain in times of emergencies. However, it is prescribed in this way so that people cultivate the habit of monotheism.

[Do not Hide faith by oppression]

The 82nd Verse of Surah Anam says, Those who believe and do not mix up their faith with iniquity, those are they who shall have the security and they are those who go aright. Injustice is of various types and the greatest injustice is polytheism.

Most surely polytheism is a grievous iniquity.[156] What greater injustice can be there that the master is giving all bounties to His servant and removing every type of problem? But this shameless servant is denying the favors of his Master right before his eyes and considering someone else as the bestower of those bounties. What can be more serious than hiding the favors of his master?

A person who considers the cause to be everything and believes that the cause is sufficient even without the help of the final cause is an oppressor. One who ignores the unlimited bounties of Allah and instead of His praise and thankfulness he is falsely praising the causes, such a person is beyond the limits of justice. He is an oppressor. He is deserving of different types of punishments. He has forgotten his origin. He was nothing in the beginning. Then he assumed the shape of a sperm. He did not possess anything. When he came to the world he didn’t even have clothes on. Later he was bestowed different types of bounties by Allah. Is there any doubt that such thankless person is an oppressor? 

It is written in the history of Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi that in the beginning Ayaz was one of his slaves, but due to his intelligence and sacrifices he became the closest confidante of the Sultan. Other ministers and courtiers became jealous of him. Ayaz was having a small room of his own and it was always kept locked. No one entered it except Ayaz. Early in the morning he used to enter this room, stay inside for sometime and come out again locking it once more. Two of the ministers were always looking for an excuse to bring down Ayaz in the eyes of the Sultan. One day they said to the Sultan,

“Ayaz has stolen a part of your treasure and kept it in a room. He is looking for a chance to revolt against you. No one can enter his room as he keeps it locked.” The Sultan fell into doubt and issued an order that when Ayaz is in his service the next morning, the two of them would break the lock, enter the room and bring to him whatever they find there.

The next day when Ayaz joined the duty to serve the Sultan the two ministers went to his room accompanied by their laborers and bullock carts etc. They broke the lock and entered the room. But all they saw there were an old dress and a pair old shoes. They said to themselves that no one would put a lock just for a tattered dress and shoes. The treasure is probably buried in the room. Thus they began to dig the room. The deeper they dug the more ashamed they felt. At last the two of them came to the Sultan in fear. The king learnt of their jealousy and lies and said, “If Ayaz is satisfied you can be saved.” The vizier fell down at the feet of Ayaz and offered to give him all his wealth. Ayaz said, “The judgment rests with the Sultan.” The Sultan forgave the two ministers and then asked Ayaz why he had locked an empty room and why he visited it every day? That is, why he had been the center of some people’s doubt? Ayaz said, “O Sultan! I was a destitute before entering your service. I did not possess anything other than that dress and a pair of shoes. By the grace of the Sultan I have everything today. I fear that one day I may become disobedient and revolt. That is why I keep that dress and shoes in that room. Everyday I go there so that I may not become proud. So that I always remember that whatever I have is given to me by the Sultan.”

In the same way every person should remember his past.

So let man consider of what he is created: He is created of water pouring forth (sperm).[157] In the couplets of Maulana Rumi: 

You are a germ. You became a lump of flesh by the synthesis of dirt. Even though you might have earned great fame and influence in the world. You were born from the sperm. Leave your ego. O Ayaz! Remember that tattered old dress. That way Ayaz, brimming with intelligence had hung his clothes and old shoes. Every morning he entered the room alone and said, “These are your shoes. Do not look up!” Right now in the state that you are will bring ecstasy. It will remove intelligence from the brain and shame from the heart. It was for this reason that Azazeel became Iblis. He asked how Adam is superior to me?

It is recommended to repeat the following sentences after the Afternoon (Asr) prayer: “O Allah! Whatever bounty we have is from You. There is no deity except You. I seek forgiveness from You and repent to You.” Similarly we should remember the following sentences of Dua Abu Hamzah Thumali:

O my chief! I was that nonentity whom You exalted. I am that same weakling whom You bestowed strength. I am that same needy person whom You enriched. I am that same deviated person whom You guided. I am that same lowly creature whom You have made a great person.

[Believers in Difficulties and Polytheists in Comfort]

The Holy Quran says,

So when they ride in the ships they call upon Allah, being sincerely obedient to Him, but when He brings them safe to the land, lo! They associate others (with Him); thus they become ungrateful for what We have given them, so that they may enjoy; but they shall soon know.[158] The verse shows that people in difficulties tend to become religious but once they gain comfort they forget their religiosity. But such people cannot escape divine punishment that will soon catch up with them.

[Forgetting the Favors]

The Almighty Allah says, And when distress afflicts a man he calls upon his Lord turning to Him frequently; then when He makes him possess a favor from Him, he forgets that for which he called upon Him before, and sets up rivals to Allah that he may cause (men) to stray off from His path. Say: Enjoy yourself in your ungratefulness a little, surely you are of the inmates of the fire.[159]

[A Wrong Notion]

In the same Surah we have the following verse, So when harm afflicts a man he calls upon Us; then, when We give him a favor from Us, he says: I have been given it only by means of knowledge. Nay, it is a trial, but most of them do not know.[160]

[All blessings are from Allah]

The wretched man says that I have got these blessings because of my knowledge, experience, my strength, power and ability. He forgets who has given him this knowledge, strength, ability and experience. If he had considered, he would have known that Allah has bestowed upon him all these blessings for a short period of time, and Allah is the Master of everything. And He gives these blessings through the means of such causes.

[When the fact will be known]

It is a matter of sorrow that man wants to remain in the darkness of ignorance. He wants to continue to see the dream of his silly ideas and wrong notions. When death comes and the Day of Judgment arises, at that time he would know the truth. He would see, that the causes, which he was considering not as means of getting bounties, but directly effective, they are just the means. But when the truth will be known, his eyes will open. In the third volume of Kifayatul Muwahhideen, on page number 292 a tradition mentioned as follows: When the truth is revealed, he would be so ashamed that he would wish to hide in a pit of Hell as soon as possible, so that he is saved from shame and disgrace. But he does not know that he has lost the opportunity of salvation by his own self.

[They have come alone and would return alone]

The God Almighty says in Surah Anam: 

And certainly you have come to us alone as We created you at first, and you have left behind your backs the things which We gave you, and We do not see with you your intercessors about whom you asserted that they were (Allah’s) associates in respect to you; certainly the ties between you are now cut off and what you asserted is gone from you.[161]

In the commentary of this verse in Tafsir al-Mizan, it is written that this noble verse informs that, in the new life man will know the reality of life. On the Day of Judgment he will be resurrected again and produced before the Lord and then he will know the reality. He will come to know that the ability, which he had to do something, was also given by Allah. In the world, none but Allah made arrangements of his life. He had a wrong notion that man’s planning was only efficacious. He was thinking that, equipment, properties and children, wives and relatives, all by themselves are having some effect in life, but there he will know that it was a baseless thing. In the same way, he considered other gods to be associates of Allah, and thought that they would recommend for him before Allah. It was also a wrong notion and they were not supposed to be worshipped at all.

[Imploring the Causes is Deviation]

Yes, like the other parts of the world, man is also a part of it. Like the other components he is also under the command of Allah. He is proceeding towards the destination, which Allah has destined for him. Of all the things in this world none can interfere in His kingdom and destiny. Causes that apparently seem to be effective are so due to the effects given to them by Allah. Not one of their effects is permanent and none of their effects is without the help or blessing of Allah. But what can be done if man destroys himself upon the apparent effects of this physical life? He thinks that these means and causes are everything. Because of this misunderstanding, he folds his hands in front of them and implores them. He becomes unmindful of the Original Cause (Allah). The One Who is his Creator and Master as well as of those means and causes.

The matter goes to the extent that gradually on account of the effect of those causes he considers them to be permanent. He tries his best that these causes fulfill all his requirements and provide him with all the physical comforts. He spends his whole life in this misunderstanding and false hopes. He forgets the Quranic verse:

And life of this world is nothing but play. 

[One who forgets Allah, gets himself forgotten]

It is a fact and Quran has made it clear in different verses. For example it says: Those who forsook Allah, so He made them forsake their own souls: these it is that are the transgressors.[162] When death comes, the soul is separated from the body. Connection with all the physical possessions and resources ends at that time. When alive, the body was having connection with those resources and means. But now that it is dead the connections have also ended. After death man, that is his soul, will know that all these physical means were not permanent and they by themselves were nothing. Nothing and no one other than Allah is efficacious.

You have come to return to Us only…

This sentence points to the fact that on the Day of Judgment, physical causes would not be present to help him. You have come, leaving behind whatever We had given you. This part of the verse shows that only Allah is the true cause. And it is a wrong notion that those causes have any effect of their own. Now your connections have been cut off…

Man, because of his wrong notion, thought that causes were everything and he remained stuck to them, but after death, he came to know that his idea was wrong. Now it was known that these means and causes, which made him unmindful of the remembrance of Allah, had no such respect or value.

[Monotheism of Actions]

A major portion of Quran is regarding ‘Monotheism of Actions’. In this, man is prohibited to associate anything or anyone in the actions and deeds of Allah also. And ‘Monotheism of the Being’ is that Allah, in the aspect of His entity is unique. All the people of the world (except materialists) acknowledge, that the being of God is only one. The nature of man also says that the creator of this universe is one. Hence whatever polytheism is committed is not regarding ‘Monotheism of the Being’, rather it is committed regarding ‘Monotheism of Actions’. People associate other small deities in the actions of One God. This is also polytheism.

[Strengthen your Faith]

That is why it is obligatory on every Muslim to strengthen the fundamentals of his Islamic belief, specially the belief in monotheism. In it lies the good fortune of this world as well as the next. He should know it with certainty that the Creator and the One who gives life is God Almighty. One Who continues and cuts short the life is also the same entity.

He only gives life and causes death.[163]

As creation is the action of Allah, in the same way giving sustenance and granting increase or decrease in sustenance is also in the hands of Allah only.

Allah amplifies and straitens the means of subsistence for whom He pleases;[164]

In the same way honor and humility is also from Him only.

O Allah, Thou exaltest whom Thou pleasest and abasest whom Thou pleasest; in Thine hand is the good…[165]

And that He it is Who enriches and gives to hold...[166]

To bestow a son, a daughter or not to give any children at all, all this is also from the will of Allah.

He grants to whom He pleases daughters and grants to whom He pleases sons. Or He makes them of both sorts, male and female; and He makes whom He pleases barren...[167]

It is He Who provides food and He Who gives water to drink, and cure from sickness is also in His hand alone.

He who gives me to eat and gives me to drink and when I am sick, then He restores me to Health.[168]

Tests and trials are from Him alone, and difficulties are also removed by Him.

And if Allah should afflict you with harm, then there is none to remove it but He: and if He intends good to you there is none to repel His grace.[169]

Thus whatever man gets, the will of Allah is always present in it. He Alone gives good fortune and He Alone leaves in ill luck.

Allah makes err whom He pleases and guides aright whom He pleases.[170]

In the same way Allah has power over the emotional states of man, like happiness and sorrow.

And that He it is who makes (men) laugh and makes (them) weep.[171] In short, it should be known that in the kingdom of the Exalted Lord, no such thing happens in which His will, His permission, or consent is not there. If in the kingdom of the Creator of the universe a single leaf also grows on the tree or in the forest a blade of grass takes shape or if anywhere a leaf breaks and fall down it is only with the knowledge and will of Allah.

And there falls not a leaf but He knows it.[172]

[Verbal confession is not enough]

Though verbal confession of monotheism and brief fundamentals of faith is sufficient and if because of sins the belief is not affected, then surely it will be a cause of salvation. But an intelligent person will not be content with this limit. First of all he should try to strengthen his fundamental belief, that is, his conscience also should accept monotheism as if he is seeing God with the eyes of his conscience. His heart should be illuminated with the light of monotheism in such a way, that the lamp of his heart never extinguishes. Then his efforts should be that this light (Nur) goes on increasing. To attain this aim, it is necessary to take care of two things.

One is to safeguard from following carnal desires, and the other to completely defend the belief in monotheism. The details of these two will come later.

[Worship of carnal desires is contrary to the belief in Monotheism]

Worship of carnal desires means to fulfill them whether they clash with the command of Allah or not. It does not befit those who believe in the Oneness of God. Monotheists are, in fact, only those who obey Allah’s commands and prohibitions. They act upon His laws. And they avoid those actions that He has prohibited. They are careful that they leave no obligatory act and commit no prohibited deed.

One who follows carnal desires can never become a true monotheist. He does not deserve to be called a monotheist. In fact he does not worship only One Allah, but he worships his carnal desires also. Rather he gives preference to carnal desires over the orders of Allah. Such a person always thinks and considers himself to be independent. He does not consider himself to be in need of Allah. That is why he does not feel it necessary to acquire God’s pleasure. Rather he remains busy in keeping himself happy and in fulfillment of his lusts. Unless man strives seriously for something, he cannot get it. One who seriously desires to adopt belief in monotheism would never give preference to anyone’s word over that of God’s. And one who gives preference to his carnal desires over Allah’s command is not really willing to have the faith of monotheism. While one who blindly runs after carnal desires, can only satisfy them to a little extent.

[Attention on belief in monotheism through words and deeds]

Hence a believer is obliged to pay full attention to his speech and behavior, so that he does not deviate from the straight path of monotheism. He should refrain from all such actions, that smell of belittling God or smell of lowering the position of God. For example a believer performs a good deed; now he should not be pleased and delighted too much on performing this act. He should always keep in mind that only Allah had given him the divine opportunity to do it. He should not speak of favors conferred by him on others. He should think that Allah had made him the medium and the cause. In the same way, if some other person does a favor to a believer, he should not flatter that person. Rather he should be thankful to Allah. And he should thank that person that he became the medium of Allah.

If someone hurts him, a believer should know that it is a test from Allah. That is why Allah has stopped His help on this occasion. He should remain fearful that he might become deserving of divine punishment and disgrace. He should pray to Allah for the removal of difficulties. He should pray for success in his work. He should never think of being independent of Allah. He should not say: I did this and I did that, or I will do that. He should not even say: If I were not there this would have happened. I made that one wealthy, and saved that one from trouble. For this kind of talk implies that he proclaims himself to be in the place of the Lord. God should be the center of attention in all actions and speech. To the extent that it is commanded:

And do not say of anything; Surely I will do it tomorrow. Unless Allah pleases.[173]

Whenever you want to say something, say it in the above manner. After that it is said:

And remember your Lord when you forget

That is if you have forgotten to say ‘unless Allah pleases’ (Insha Allah), whenever you remember it, say ‘unless Allah pleases’ (Insha Allah).