‘And your god is one God. There is no deity [worthy of worship] except Him, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.’ 2:163 (Translation from Sahih International)
The word Tawheed (توحيد) originating from the noun (واحد) or (احد) conveys the meaning of ‘one and unique.’ The concept of Monotheism for which the word Tawheed is commonly used in Islam is derived from the Quranic verse known as the chapter of Sincerity or Ikhlaas.
“Say, “He is Allah, [who is] One: Allah, the Eternal Refuge. He neither begets nor is born, nor is there to Him any equivalent.” 112-1-4 (Translation from Sahih International)
The actual word ‘Tawheed’ cannot be found in the Holy Quran, however, it appears in the Sunnan of Ad-Daaruqutnee, volume two, in the book of Zakaat, hadith 2034. Therein, it was reported that ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas said:
‘When the Holy Prophet sent Mu’aadh to the Yemen, he (pbuh) said to him: you will come across the People of the Book (Christians and Jews), the first thing you should call them to is Tawheed, (the Oneness of Allah) and should they know this, then inform them that Allah has made it obligatory upon them to pray five time per day …’
The Holy Quran delineates a worldview of a single Humanity, purporting a single origin, purpose and destiny enshrined in the semantic of Tawheed or unity.
‘ALL MANKIND were once one single community; [then they began to differ -] whereupon God raised up the prophets as heralds of glad tidings and as warners, and through them bestowed revelation from on high, setting forth the truth, so that it might decide between people with regard to all on which they had come to hold divergent views. Yet none other than the selfsame people who had been granted this [revelation] began, out of mutual jealousy, to disagree about its meaning after all evidence of the truth had come unto them. But God guided the believers unto the truth about which, by His leave, they had disagreed: for God guides onto a straight way him that wills [to be guided].’ 2:213 (Translation from Muhammad Asad)
The idea that all of humanity derives from a single origin is founded in all religious texts and is logically plausible. Despite our diverse cultures, races and human experiences we all recognise a ‘uniquely shared’ humanity. The aforementioned verse also delineates a quranic historicity of humanity’s departure from a state of “Unity”, to schismatic social arrangements based upon, social class, race, religious, ideological and nationalistic justifications aimed at driving wedges between man and His creator. Why else did Allah have to send Messengers and Prophets? Wasn’t it to give glad tidings to those who remained steadfast to the principles of “Unity” before God and to warn against schism and sectarianism?
The verse is also clear that at some point in time, humanity was united. On the one hand it is true to argue that, it neither specifies in which ways humanity was united, nor at what time in history for instance that unification took place. On the other hand, beyond this verse, there are some answers to these questions as the Holy Quran demands from its followers to call upon others to return to Tawheed.
‘Say: “O followers of earlier revelation! Come unto that tenet which we and you hold in common: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall not ascribe divinity to aught beside Him, and that we shall not take human beings for our lords beside God.” And if they turn away, then say: “Bear witness that it is we who have surrendered ourselves unto Him.”’ 3:64 (Translation from Asad)
The tenant of Tawheed invoked here is God consciousness:
‘O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware.’ 49:13 (Translation from Asad)
In other translations, ‘deeply conscious’ reads as follows: ‘…he who has more integrity… the more honourable among you … the noblest … the most righteous … the most pious … the most careful of his duty…’ and so on.
Furthermore, at the heart of the Muslim social consciousness there is the belief that all humans are born into the Tawhidian or Unitarian principle, otherwise referred to as al-Fitrah. Isn’t al-Fitrah best understood to be ‘human conscience?’ I recall the Prophet (pbuh) saying:
‘Righteousness is good character and sin is that which bothers the conscience, so much so that you do not wish others to witness you engaging in the act.’ (Muslim)
So what does this all mean in the realm of society and questions of justice? What I have said so far – perhaps excluding the religiousity – is rational. That Tawheed in the social context is derived from the goodness of individuals to serve humanity through generosity of spirit and selflessness and all of the good human traits of which the Holy Prophet, Muhammad (pbuh) was the best exemplar. It then becomes clearer when Allah in the aforementioned verse (49:13) links ‘Taqwa’ (God Conciousness) with ‘Akramakum’ (generosity and noble character). How else can one foster these traits, if the conscience and the heart are dead?
In the struggle for social and judicial reform nations must be guided by conscience, the light of Tawheed and seek a path towards the equitable distribution of the earth’s and human resources to the service of all. Is it not then realistic to claim that governments, which are not guided by conscience (Taqwa), are not fit for the service of their peoples?
On a final note the Holy Quran informs us of a conversation between father and child, in which he cautions his son to not associate or attribute to anyone divine or godlike qualities. In the political imagination this means the status of being immune from the law and of standards of justice to which all must adhere. This is in the Islamic religious and intellection tradition is referred to as ‘Shirk.’ Is it not?
‘And [mention, O Muhammad], when Luqman said to his son while he was instructing him, “O my son, do not associate [anything] with Allah. Indeed, association [with him] is great injustice.’ 31:13 (Translation from Sahih International)
Now if ‘Shirk’ equates injustice and ‘Tawheed’ is its antithesis, isn’t ‘Tawheed’ then justice, in every imagination of the concept? You decide.