The Ibadi schools position on the divine unicity of Allah. Contrasted with the Ashari’ Non Position and Christian concepts of Trinity


Is Allah a compound unity Trinitarian Christians claim?

Is Allah a compound unity as the Ashari possibly claim?

Is Allah indivisible, absolute, and unique as the Qur’an and the Ibadi school claims?

“He only orders you to evil and immorality and to say about Allah what you do not know. And when it is said to them, “Follow what Allah has revealed,” they say, “Rather, we will follow that which we found our fathers doing.” Even though their fathers understood nothing, nor were they guided? (Qur’an 2:169-170)

If someone were to come up to you and say “Allah is one ” would that be sensible to you? Or would you be asking ‘One what?’

The word Tawheed or Tawhid is nowhere to be found in the  Qur’an. The reason for this is simple, it is because Allah (swt) is not a unity.

Tawheed or Tawhid is often translated as “to make something one.”

However; Allah (swt) does not need to be made one, Allah (swt) IS one, absolute and unique.

The book Kitab al-Tawhid is often translated as (Book of the Unity of Allah)

Let us look at what the word unity would mean in English:

unification, integration, amalgamation; coalition, federation, confederation

“They have certainly disbelieved who say, ” Allah is the third of three.” (qaloo inna Allaha thalithu thalathatin) (Qur’an 5:73)

It also stands to reason that if Allah (swt) is not a third of three Allah (swt) is not a third of 33 or a third of 99.

“Believe, then, in Allah and His apostles, and do not say, “Three” Desist from this assertion for your own good. God is but One God” (Qur’an 4:171)

It also stands to reason that if Allah (swt) tells us not to say ‘three’ that we also do not say ‘four’ or ‘five’ or ‘twenty’ or ‘ninety-nine’.

In what sense is Allah one?

This is a question that both Christians and Muslims need to address.

(Allah is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves and pairs among cattle: by this means does He multiply you: THERE IS NOTHING WHATEVER LIKE UNTO HIM and He is the One that hears and sees (all things). To Him belong the keys of the heavens and the earth: He enlarges and restricts the Sustenance to whom He will: for He knows full well all things.” (Quran 42:11-12)

From this, we learn that among the creation is that which exists in pairs and so we know that we cannot say “Two” in relation to Allah (swt) either.

So in what sense is Allah one?

In the Torah we find that Allah (swt)  instructs Moses with the powerful Shema :

(Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear oh Israel the Lord your God the Lord is ONE”)

“There is one [echad] alone, and there is not a second..” – Ecclesiastes 4:8

The term in Hebrew is ECHAD

There are not multiple subjects in the opening declaration of the Shema to be united with the adjective, echad. “God” is the single subject and “one” is that single subject’s adjective

In The Qur’an we find that Allah (swt) instructs the Blessed Messenger (saw) with the following:

“He is Allah the Absolute Allah the independent and besought of all or that which is independent of all things but all things are dependent upon.
He was not brought forth from like kind nor is like kind brought forth from Him. Nor is there to Him any equivalent.” (Qur’an 112:1-4)

The term for ‘Absolute’ is AHAD

In the  Qur’an, we have the Arabic word Wahid for the number one, or something singular.

“And your god is one God. There is no deity (worthy of worship) except Him, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful (Qur’an 2:163)

The Arabic word that is used for the word ‘one’ or ‘singular’ above is wahid

“The word ahad, -conveys an uncountable oneness. It is not one in a series. It cannot be added to or divided into fractions. It stands for a singular, unique entity.”-Sheikh Salman al-Oadah

So let us put this into perspective

You reading this are one person, yet your body is composed or comprised of parts. You are an integration, amalgamation; coalition, federation, a confederation of molecules, and atoms.

Anything that you can look around in your room or office right now and point to as ‘one’ is actually a composite unity. One bottle, one pencil, one pen, one phone, one chair, one table.

All of these are unified oneness, they consist of a federation, amalgamation, integration of various parts coming together to make one.

So when the Jews say ECHAD above and Muslims say AHAD it means an absolute oneness that is not divisible by parts, or components.

The thing about Trinitarian-Christians is that they can NEVER define God without the use of the word ‘Three’. They can NEVER define God’s oneness without the use of the word three. So they have to always speak about God’s ‘threeness’. Either three roles or an economy of three.

We have seen that Allah instructs us in the  Qur’an to not say THREE.

The Qur’an does not even attempt to describe or define ‘The Trinity’ for the simple fact that it does not address something that is not a reality. There is no such thing as ‘The Trinity’.

There are trinitarian (plural) concepts of the divine.

There is for example the Sabellian Trinity in which God is one person; and The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three aspects, modes of God.

Then there is the more popular Nicean Trinity in which God is one being who has three persons.


The number one starts to take on less and less significance as the Trinitarian doctrine becomes expounded. What happens is that God’s oneness becomes supplementary to his threeness. The ‘oneness’ of God or the idea that God is one becomes little more than a footnote in Christian theological discussion.

So when it comes to the attributes of Allah (swt) the Ash’ari will say:

“In other words, the Mu’tazaila assert that the attributes of God are His essence itself; claiming that He is All-Knowing and All-Mighty in essence, and not through [the attributes of ] knowledge and power. We state (as maintained by the Companions, tab’in, and others from the jurist) – that the attributes of God are neither His essence itself nor anything independent to his Essence, this is because His attributes are never separate from His essence and that has always been pre-eternally and always will be, contrary to the attributes of mankind. [Minah ar-Rawd al-Azhar 96 | Daw al-Ma’awli li Bada’ al-Amali 23].

Source: (pg 101 The Beneficial Message & The Definitive Proof In the Study of Theology -Muhammad Salih Farfur Translation and Notes by Wesam Charkawi)

Wow! So much for definitive proof. This may show respect to some mystery of God like the hypo-static union of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit espoused by a particular version of the Trinity;  but it does not make a propositional stance.

“They claimed that the logical consequence of the “Attributes of Forms” was the “multiplicity of beginning-less entities” (ta’addud al-qudama’). This reasoning was refuted by the entirety of Ahl Al-Sunna scholars. see al-Buti, Kubra al-Yaqinat Al-Kawniyya (p. 119 n.).
The Attributes are neither the Essence Itself nor other than It (al-sifat laysat ‘aynu al-dhat wa la ghayraha), as in the school of Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama’a.” Al-Qari, Daw’al-Ma’ali (p.5)

Source: (Pages 7 & 8 Correct Islamic Doctrine/Islamic Doctrine  Volume 2 By Ibn Khafif, translated by Gibril Fouad Haddad) 

This is no refutation at all!

The assumption of an attribute which can be described neither by existence nor by nonexistence is the assumption of something which is in the middle between existence and nonexistence, between affirmation and negation, but this is something absurd!

This position of the  Ash’ari leaves the problem unsolved—their view of the attributes as something ‘extra’ in/from God’s essence would be an affront to doctrines of extreme unicity/simplicity.

So with regards to these attributes are they “IN” the essence of Allah (swt) or “OUTSIDE” the essence of Allah (swt)?

The Ash’ari is in the same boat as those who espouse the Mystery of the Trinity because ultimately they are resigned to say:

“bi-la kayfa” -without asking how,” or “without [knowing] how.

So the Power IS NOT Essence?  The Will IS NOT Essence?   The Knowledge IS NOT essence?
Yet they are not other than it?

In a world of Atheism, skepticism, doubt, a well prepared Christian tradition, moral relativity, the more the doctrine of the Muslims needs to be sound, cohesive, and clear. 

As long as the Asharites do not give attributes that are Allah’s essence, personification they are not among the polytheist. Yet their non-committal position is troubling and it leaves a well informed Christian plenty of opportunity to maneuver.  Al hamduillah that the Qur’an lends no support to such a perspective anyhow!

For me, I do not believe as do the Trinitarian Christians that Allah (swt) is a compound unity. Nor do I believe as the Ash’ari Muslims that Allah (swt) is a possibly/maybe compound unity.  I do not believe that the Qur’an lends any support to such a concept of Allah (swt).

The Muslim scholars (those today) even among the Ash’ari need not be ignorant of the Christian theological tradition.  I would encourage them to ponder why the Qur’an never makes an attempt to describe a definitive concept of the so-called ‘The Trinity‘ yet, tells us all to desist from saying: ‘Three‘.  Allah (swt) never describes himself as a unity nor a multiplicity.

Allah’s Exalted attributes (sifat) are one and the same thing as his Essence (Dhatihi), there is no difference between his Essence (Allah) and his attributes. For example one of his attributes is All-Knowing. His knowledge (Allah) is not gained like the knowledge of his creation (human beings), because the created human being is born ignorant and after that, he gains knowledge, but that is not the case with Allah the exalted. To further understand you can apply this example to all the other attributes of Allah the exalted.

The proof for negating God’s attributes as an addition to His essence (i.e attributes are separate from essence is as follows:

If the divine attributes are separate referents and imagined to be within the divine essence, this will necessitate the divine essence to be compound unity, which is impossible.

If the divine attributes are separate referents and are imagined to be outside of the divine essence, they can either be regarded as necessary existents or possible existents.

If they are regarded as necessary existents this would bring plurality in the essence, which is not acceptable.

If they are regarded as possible existents, this would mean the divine essence is deficient of those attributes, which is equally not acceptable. 

Remember where we cited above:

“They claimed that the logical consequence of the “Attributes of Forms” was the “multiplicity of beginning-less entities” (ta’addud al-qudama’). This reasoning was refuted by the entirety of Ahl Al-Sunna scholars. see al-Buti, Kubra al-Yaqinat Al-Kawniyya (p. 119 n.). 

Yet notice that there was no meaningful attempt to explain how this is refuted! 

The real meaning of Tawhid

The unity (tawhid) of attributes means to recognize that the essence and attributes of Allah are identical and that His various attribute are also not separate from each other (only in the conceptualization of these attributes appear to be separate because can’t conceptualize otherwise).

Therefore, the unity (tawhid) of essence means the negation of there being any peer or like of Allah, and the unity (tawhid) of attributes means the negation of any kind of multiplicity or plurality within His essence.

Allah has all the attributes that are implying the perfection of majesty and beauty, but His attributes have no aspect really separate from Him.

The separation of the essence from the attributes and the separation of attributes from each other, are the characteristics of the limitation of existence and are not conceivable in the case of infinite existence.

Multiplicity, combination, and the separation of the essence and the attributes are inconceivable in the case of the Absolute Being.

Another important point about the concept of tawhid-the unity of God or God is one and has no associate, peer, or partner. It is important to emphasize that this unity or oneness is not arithmetical. It means, in tawhid you cannot speak about another god or multiple gods, because it would be absurd. Tawhid doesn’t allow that. Plurality has no meaning (it is absurd) in regard to an absolute and infinite being.

“He only orders you to evil and immorality and to say about Allah what you do not know. And when it is said to them, “Follow what Allah has revealed,” they say, “Rather, we will follow that which we found our fathers doing.” Even though their fathers understood nothing, nor were they guided? (Qur’an 2:169-170)

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