"And your Lord has commanded that you shall not serve (any) but Him...."
Each and every creation (makhlooq) in this universe has a natural innate attachment with the creator. Every being that is created, itself carries a signature of the creator in every form and shape and also submits to the reality of existence of its creator. This is not something for which a creature needs something from outside his being. His existence itself contains those elements that lead his way towards his creator. If we try to specify those elements within a human being, our first attention goes towards the conscience (fitrah) of a human being. This conscience is captured in our soul and is completely intrinsic to our being. The spirit is the being which is the home of conscience while body is just the outer representation of our being.
Our conscience is the one which tells us the right and wrong and all such moral principles. Hence, it needs to have an orientation or inclination. Orientation will set a direction for a being and finally a direction will have no end without an inspiration. So, basically, every spirit has a conscience which sets the moral principles and in order to do that, we ultimately and naturally need an ultimate inspiration. The entity that might act as an inspiration can have a scope. But there needs to be one entity, neither more nor less, which needs to be above every entity. To explain this mess, I would like to take an example of a student pursuing a career:
Let's suppose that a person has an orientation of caring and healing others. A sudden thought comes to his/her mind that he/she should become a doctor. Also, he/she defines certain objectives to achieve his/her career. This is the direction that was taken according to the orientation. According to the scope of final objective, inspiration or motivation is also recognized. And finally, he/she goes to the school and college and studies to become a doctor which is the path to reach the inspiration.
If we carefully notice this example, everything is clear-as-sky that the career path selected is due to the orientation which acts as a cause and it is pointing towards a direction to become something which is guided by the inspiration. And the inspiration here can be multiple but one, the ultimate is definitely needed. So, that states our point of view that the idea of God is an idea of ultimate inspiration which is undeniable if we have a conscience that is willing to set it's moral principles. Now, because taking care of morality is intrinsic to our conscience, the idea of god is also intrinsic and an innate reality which cannot be denied by our conscience.
This argument stated above begs a question. What about the conscience of a person who denies the existence of God? The simple answer is that it is impossible. Because it is not our words that testify to the idea of God but it is our conscience and our conscience doesn't work exactly according to us. Every being has an ultimate inspiration within his self. If someone denies that ultimate inspiration, his self will start recognizing something else as an inspiration and if he still denies this new inspiration then his self will cling to something else and so on. So, denying the idea of God means ultimately denying the idea of existence or submitting to something at some point by stopping the loop of denial. My physics teacher in school once said that most of the scientists our athiests and they don't believe in god. But he was forced to conclude his statement by saying that there god is nature. So, one can say that 'his idea of god is different than others' but cannot deny the idea itself. So, we conclude that atheism by definition has no value and it is fundamentally impossible to deny the existence of God. And the Holy Quran states in this context:
"The seven heavens declare His glory and the earth (too), and those who are in them; and there is not a single thing but glorifies Him with His praise, but you do not understand their glorification; surely He is Forbearing, Forgiving." Al Isra (17:44)
The above verse shows how the idea of God is within every creation. And another verse which states that how our conscience says opposite to what a proponent of athiesm might say:
"Read your book; your own self is sufficient as a reckoner against you this day." Al Isra (17:14)
Our self definitely contains this fundamental idea of god and that is the reason it will be a proof against us finally. Also, Imam Ali (عليه السلام) states, "The one who recognized his self, recognized his lord" implying that ultimately our self consists all those fundamentals we need to understand the idea of God in its entirety. So, now let us go further to address what is left with us.
We see that ultimately we now have to see what can be the possible reality of God. And we shall only use the most basic rational ways to reach the results inshallah. We can easily think of some possiblilities. Either God is one or more than one. Within these two broad categories of reality of God lies a long list of classifications. We are not going to mention them as it is not at all necessary to ponder on each and every speculation regarding these categories. Definition of more than one gods is followed in the polytheistic systems. This is a possibility but let us match this idea with what our self testifies. It doesn't matter for us over here whether Gods are two, three or more than that but the fact of the matter is that does our pure and perfect self which is the essence of our being accept it? Our self contains the innate idea of God which must be an ultimate inspiration. Can we have more than one ultimate inspiration? If we have many inspirations within our idea of God, those inspirations should either be absolutely equal or they should differ from each other. If they are equal then why are they having multiple forms? There multiple forms is a proof of the fact that they are different. Even if there forms are identical in a way that they are exactly a replica of each other then they cannot be absolute or independent. Because a replica needs to have an original version which means it depends on it's original form and that implies that it is not absolute but rather relative to the existence of the original version. Another proof is there similarlity which itself testifies that they are not unique.
So, absoluteness with exact equality is impossible and hence we are left with another option that they are different. Now, being different is itself a proof that one inspiration is better than another and one is best of all of them. So, again the multiplicity of the inspiration will finally melt down into a single inspiration which is best of all of them. We see this in the polythiestic faiths where one god is better than other and one of them is best of all. Because establishing such an idea is possible but it will not sustain. It will finally break into a hierarchy. This defeats the argument of multiple gods. As the gods which are different, comparative and have a hierarchy can be an inspiration but not ultimate inspiration. Our soul is traversing on a path which should end up on the absolute, the ultimate inspiration and objective rather than a passer-by-checkpoint or a short term goal. A doctor will never settle alone with a medical science degree. He/she will explore more unless and until he reaches a point where he doesn't need to strive further.
The Holy Quran challenges the idea of multiple gods or even a lower form of god by stating:
Do not associate with Allah any other god, lest you sit down despised, neglected. Al Isra (17:22)
This verse is not neglecting the possibility of a human being to accept multiple gods but rather it is clarifying that one would not achieve and would be finally neglected and despised if they do so. Because, naturally it means lowering the bar of the objective and inspiration which will be problematic for none but the self of the person as his soul will loose the ability to explore, think and ascend further. Finally, submitting to something less than the ultimate inspiration actually means submitting to someone who carries it's own inspiration. As Quran says:
"Those whom they call upon, themselves seek the means of access to their Lord-- whoever of them is nearest-- and they hope for His mercy and fear His chastisement; surely the chastisement of your Lord is a thing to be cautious of." Al Isra (17:57)
So, we notice how beautifully these verses state which is extremely fundamental to our souls. How these verses convert the fundamentals of every being into words and negate the reality of polythiestic ideologies. The verses of Quran are definitely speaking the voice of our self here which we don't listen. Concluding the above argument, we stand clear that atheism is impossible and an athiest has a god which he submits but is unaware of his own submission. And polytheism which might be a possible inclination will vanish if we deeply ponder upon the fundamentals of our self. We will understand if we ponder carefully that all the entities that we accidently thought of as gods were short of being an ultimate inspiration.
Now, if we enter into the realm of monotheism, we again need to deal with several questions. Now, the focus of discussion has shifted from 'what is the suitable idea of god?' to 'how should we define a single inspiration/God?' There can be a few possibilities. But those possibilties are not what we are looking to identify but rather what our soul will find to be the best. We need to understand that we are not forcing our conscience to accept something which is not asked for and is inferior. The concept of a single inspiration is proven but that inspiration should fit into the exact criteria of what our conscience fundamentally wants. It was stated in the above discussion that there must be atleast one ultimate inspiration above all that should suffice the requirement of our final destiny or objective on this journey of our soul. Further, we also stated while having an argument on polytheism that inspiration can be comparative and different but such inspiration cannot be considered ultimate inspiration. It might be the best among all but if it is comparable then it is not unique. Our ultimate inspiration should be one, unique, independent and above everything while being the origin of everything. Can an entity within the realm of creation fulfill such a criteria? Can we call a creation, an origin of other creation? Even if this creation is not known to us or it is something really amazing and out of the box? The problem over here is that, whatever it might be, it is still a creation and hence it doesn't fulfills the criteria of being above all. Because, it lies withing the realm of creation and is remotely comparable to something even if the comparison is not that close. A star we see in the sky might be a million light years apart but the distance is still finite and it can be compared to other stars because it is has all the features of a star. So, this short example shows that our conscience will never settle with an ultimate inspiration which is not unique in all aspects and has nothing remotely similar. One might say, what about this universe as a single entity? Well, this universe is a system which is dependent upon several physical forces and natural phenomenas and if we contemplate the origin of these forces we are left with a question mark. It doesn't suffice the criteria of the self that the inspiration should be independent. So, whatsoever we might imagine and regardless of how much we move ahead, our self searches for more.
We our left with nothing but to take an option of this ultimate inspiration which is away from all bounds. This process of reasoning to reach the final conclusion is quite clear in the Holy Book (Qur'an) where Prophet Ibrahim (عليه السلام) says:
So when the night over-shadowed him, he saw a star; said he: Is this my Lord? So when it set, he said: I do not love the setting ones.
Then when he saw the moon rising, he said: Is this my Lord? So when it set, he said: If my Lord had not guided me I should certainly be of the erring people.
Then when he saw the sun rising, he said: Is this my Lord? Is this the greatest? So when it set, he said: O my people! surely I am clear of what you set up (with Allah).
Al Anaam (6:76-78)
As Imam Ali (عليه السلام) states the definition of that one god, the ultimate inspiration below:
Praise is due to Allah whose worth cannot be described by speakers, whose bounties cannot be counted by calculators and whose claim (to obedience) cannot be satisfied by those who attempt to do so, whom the height of intellectual courage cannot appreciate, and the divings of understanding cannot reach; He for whose description no limit has been laid down, no eulogy exists, no time is ordained and no duration is fixed. He brought forth creation through His Omnipotence, dispersed winds through His Compassion, and made firm the shaking earth with rocks......
He is a Being, but not through phenomenon of coming into being. He exists but not from non-existence. He is with everything but not in physical nearness. He is different from everything but not in physical separation. He acts but without connotation of movements and instruments. He sees even when there is none to be looked at from among His creation. He is only One, such that there is none with whom He may keep company or whom He may miss in his absence.
(excerpts of Nahj ul Balagha sermon 1)
As Amir al Mumineen (عليه السلام) defines, this is the ultimate destiny and inspiration our self is looking for and this is the only inspiration which can set pure moral standards for our conscience. Hence, this is the best and most beautiful definition of monotheism as it is testified by the soul and it is fundamental and intrinsic within ourselves.
Concluding this entire discussion now, we reach a conclusion which is solely given to us by our pure soul and our conscience. Similar to this, as described in the above verses, every particle in this entire universe is in complete servitude to Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) (the ultimate inspiration). Hence, while setting up moral principles, they should be derived from this inspiration and nothing else. Such should be the fundamental of the religion of our conscience. Therefore, monotheism in theory and in action is our fundamental principle whether we accept it or deny it. As the verse below says:
"Whoever goes aright, for his own soul does he go aright; and whoever goes astray, to its detriment only does he go astray...." Al Isra (17:15)
At last, the acting upon this principle just means pure servitude. We end on where we started. Serving the commandment of Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) is the only way to act upon the principle of monotheism and for this Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) has given commandments in his book of principles i.e Quran. Along with this he has brought the guiding inspirations which are not the ultimate inspirations but just the checkpoints on the path. Not the destiny but the bridge that connects to destiny. These are the prophets and Ahlulbayt (عليه السلام). This is just a brief Islamic point of view to elaborate the principle of monotheism and not necessarily the scope of our discussion for now. In this way we conclude our discussion by claiming from the purity of our soul that:
"Verily, we belong to Allah (سُبْحَانَهُ وَ تَعَالَى) and verily to him do we return."
[Al Baqarah (2:156)]
Edited by Zainuu