In Islam, we believe in God, and we believe 4 things about God.
First, we believe that He exists. I spoke about that at some length last week, and while you might not have the same circuitous route to belief that I do, you probably do believe in God, or in some supreme deity: Jews and Christians do, Sikhs do, even Hindus have a main sort of boss God in their panoply (from what I understand).
What makes us all different? Well, here’s where the disagreement starts.
In Islam, we have a concept of God called ‘Tawheed’ (توحيد, in Arabic), loosely translated as ‘Oneness.’ This belief in the Oneness of God has three aspects: Tawheed ar-Rubbubiyyah, Tawheed al-Uloohiyyah, and Tawheed al-Asma was-Sifaat; Oneness in His Lordship, in His Right to be worshiped, and in His Names and Attributes. Let’s see if we can get through all of these in one post…
In the last post, I described God as the Creator. God created everything: from the so-called singularity to every bit of trace mineral that went to build the processors in the phone or computer you’re reading this on. He created all of it. So, the moon, the sun, all the stars; the earth, it’s wobbly path around the sun, and the alternation of day and night and seasons that results from that wobble; the path the moon takes, the tides, the ability of things to float and swim, the things that float and swim; the ability to fish, hunt, gather, farm; the nutritional value of foodstuffs, the necessity to eat, mouths that chew, bodies that need nourishment; bodies that come into and depart the world. He created all of it, and He alone decides whether it keeps going this way or not.
We expect the sun to rise tomorrow morning (Tuesday, September 27, 2016) at approximately 7:20am here in North Texas. It rose today at 7:19, and yesterday at 7:19, and last Thursday at 7:17am. From our perspective, the sunrise is rather predictable, and we should give thanks to Almighty God for its regularity: He created it, after all.
But, and this is where His Lordship comes in: He, and He alone, could decide to change the rules that govern the rotation of the earth and the apparent rising and setting of the sun. This is a bit unlikely, but it’s within His power to do so, right?
I suppose you could disagree, but only if you disagree with His existence: this is God we’re talking about, after all.
So He Created all, and He alone decides if it all keeps going as expected or not. This is His Lordship, His Rubbubiyyah. Now where does the Tawheed come in?
Before God created everything, what existed?
And when He created everything, did He have any help?
And if He’s created by Himself, then who can change the laws that govern the motion of the earth and the rising and setting of the sun? Who else is the Lord of all creation?
That’s Tawheed ar-Rubbubiyyah: the Oneness of His Lordship.
I doubt there’s much disagreement on this point, at least among those who acknowledge God’s existence: it’s the next part where the major religions diverge.
Looking back at this, I don’t think I got it all. Maybe I jumped a bit from Creation to Lordship… Let me try again:
I’m typing this on a Dell keyboard. It’s a few years old and was assembled in China. Or maybe I’m typing it on an Apple keyboard that also says “made in China” on the bottom (I typed this at different times and places, on different machines). Some partner of Dell or Apple put all the parts together, but they probably bought some of the parts from some other entity: they didn’t drill the oil and convert it to plastic, for example, nor did they dig up the ore and refine the copper for the pins and wires. And, really, Dell and Apple probably didn’t actually make the keyboards: some 3rd party probably made the keyboards for Dell and Apple. But, still, we could say that Dell made this keyboard.
Suppose that I’m feeling frustrated and decide to take my frustration out on this keyboard. I could pick it up and whack it on the corner of the desk; I could bend it over my knee until it snapped; I could ball my hands into fists and slam them down on it as hard as I could. We could say that I have the power to destroy the keyboard, right?
But why is plastic a suitable material for keyboards? Why does copper conduct electricity? Why does slamming my fists on a keyboard cause the keyboard to break (or my hands to bruise or bleed)? Because God Created the earth in such a way that when large quantities of dead plants and animals get buried by tons and tons of rock and sediment and subjected to intense heat and pressure, they eventually turn into oil. He put copper in the ground for us to dig up, and created it in such a way that electricity and heat move through it easily and efficiently. He made our hands and gave us the capability to use them to help or harm, be gentle or pinch, stroke or smash.
And not only did God decide that copper would make a good conductor and that hands will bruise when used as hammers, He can decide the opposite. He can decide to cause all the copper to turn into macaroni, or that hands will no longer be able to smash, that humans will no longer express frustration through wrath.
Both are unlikely, but they’re within His power, assuming you believe that God is All Powerful and Irresistable.
The idea that this power to create, ordain the function/operation of, and destroy all of existence belongs to God alone is Tawheed ar-Rubbubiyyah.
Sure, Dell can (pay some third party to) assemble raw materials in to a keyboard. Sure, I can smash that keyboard. But God is the only One that made all that possible, because He is Lord.
I planned to finish off belief in God in this blog, but I’m already at 500 words, and it’s likely that the next bit is going to go somewhat long, so I’ll give you a break. Stay tuned: God willing, 3 days from now, on Thursday the 29th, I’ll dig into the next facet of Tawheed: Tawheed al-Uloohiyyah.