Is Allah really one or only "one of"?

Monotheism vs. Eloquence of the Quran

Sam Shamoun

We read in the Quran regarding Allah’s unity:

Say: 'He is God, One, S. 112:1 Arberry

This chapter is called both Sura Al-Ikhlas ("Chapter of the Absoluteness") as well as Sura At-Tauhid ("Chapter of the Unity/Oneness"). One Muslim writer said of this short Sura:

The Most Concise Definition of God:

The most concise definition of God in Islam is given in the four verses of Surah Ikhlas which is Chapter 112 of the Qur’an: …

Surah Ikhlas - the touchstone of theology:
Surah Ikhlas (Chapter 112) of the Glorious Qur’an, is the touchstone of theology. ‘Theo’ in Greek means God and ‘logy’ means study. Thus Theology means study of God and to Muslims this four line definition of Almighty God serves as the touchstone of the study of God. Any candidate to divinity must be subjected to this ‘acid test’. Since the attributes of Allah given in this chapter are unique, false gods and pretenders to divinity can be easily dismissed using these verses. (Dr. Zakir M. Naik, Concept of God in Islam; source)

Amazingly, the actual Arabic of verse 1 does not say that Allah is One, but literally says Allah is One of. This is due to the word used for one in the sentence, namely ahad. Here is a transliteration of the Arabic text of the Quran: Qul huwa Allahu ahad(un), which literally means:

"Say: He, Allah, is one of."

Christian writer and native Arabic-speaker Abdullah Al Araby writes:

The intentional mistranslation of the Quran is a massive subject that needs to be explored and dealt with in a separate thesis. For the purpose of this article we will give just a few examples before zeroing in on the topic of this article.

In Sura 112:1

"Say: He is Allah, the One and Only…" In the original Arabic, the word which was translated "Only" in this verse was actually "One of." The translator couldn't literarily translate it, because it would have implied "shirk" (associating other Deities with Allah). ("Nikah"- The Islamic "N" Word; What Does It Exactly Mean?; source)

A better way of saying this would have been Allahu Al-Ahad, i.e. "he is Allah, the One" or "he, Allah, is the Unique One." Note how the following Muslims sought to correct the problem by inserting the definite article within parentheses:

Say (O Muhammad): "He is Allah, (the) One. Hilali-Khan

Others follow suit but omit the parentheses:

Say: He is Allah, the One! Pickthall

Say `He is ALLAH, the One! Sher Ali

Yet others provide a predicate or rearrange the word order in order to make the sentence more complete and clear:

Proclaim, "He is the One and only GOD. Khalifa

Say, [God] is one God; Sale

The Quran’s author could have avoided this confusion and difficulty by writing the verse in this way: Qul huwa Allahu Al-Wahid(un).

Which would give us,

"Say, he is Allah, the One,"

Or

"Say he, Allah, is the One."

The author could have even omitted the Arabic definite article, al, and simply have said: Qul huwa Allahu Wahid(un).

As Michael B. Schub put in his paper "True Belief - a New Translation and Commentary on Sura 112", ZAL, 22 (1990), p. 81:

"ahadun: The rules of the `Arabiyya [i.e. Classical Arabic] require wahidun here."

Notice how this word for one, wahid, is used in the following texts in relation to there being one God:

Why, were you witnesses, when death came to Jacob? When he said to his sons, 'What will you serve after me?' They said, 'We will serve thy God and the God of thy fathers Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac, One God (ilahan wahidan); to Him we surrender.' S. 2:133 Arberry

Your God is One God (Wa-ilahukum ilahun wahidun); there is no god but He, the All-merciful, the All-compassionate. S. 2:163 Arberry

O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of God aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of God, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in God and His apostles. Say not "Trinity": desist: it will be better for you: for God is one God (Allahu ilahun wahidun): Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is God as a Disposer of affairs. S. 4:171 Y. Ali

They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the third of three; when there is no God save the One God (wama min ilahin illa ilahun wahidun). If they desist not from so saying a painful doom will fall on those of them who disbelieve. S. 5:73 Pickthall

Say: 'God is witness between me and you, and this Koran has been revealed to me that I may warn you thereby, and whomsoever it may reach. Do you indeed testify that there are other gods with God?' Say: 'I do not testify.' Say: 'He is only One God (qul la ashhadu qul innama huwa ilahun wahidun), and I am quit of that you associate.' S. 6:19 Arberry

Maketh he the gods One God (ilahan wahidan)? Lo! that is an astounding thing. S. 38:5 Pickthall

It is quite interesting to note that, apart from Sura 112:1, ahad is never used in connection to Allah’s unity. The word that is always used in reference to Allah being one is wahid.

Furthermore, a statistical analysis of the Quran demonstrates the correctness of Al Araby’s point. Every occurrence of ahad shows that the word means "one of," or refers to a member of a group. It isn’t used to mean one or solitary:

and thou shalt find them the eagerest of men for life. And of the idolaters; there is one of them (ahaduhum) wishes if he might be spared a thousand years, yet his being spared alive shall not remove him from the chastisement. God sees the things they do. S. 2:96 Arberry

and they follow what the Satans recited over Solomon's kingdom. Solomon disbelieved not, but the Satans disbelieved, teaching the people sorcery, and that which was sent down upon Babylon's two angels, Harut and Marut; they taught not any man, without they said, 'We are but a temptation; do not disbelieve.' From them they learned how they might divide a man and his wife, yet they did not hurt any man (ahadin) thereby, save by the leave of God, and they learned what hurt them, and did not profit them, knowing well that whoso buys it shall have no share in the world to come; evil then was that they sold themselves for, if they had but known. S. 2:102 Arberry

Say ye, 'We believe in God, and what has been revealed to us, and what has been revealed to Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the Tribes, and what was brought to Moses and Jesus, and what was brought unto the Prophets from their Lord; we will not distinguish between any one of (ahadin) them, and unto Him are we resigned. S. 2:136 Palmer

The Messenger believes in what was sent down to him from his Lord, and the believers; each one believes in God and His angels, and in His Books and His Messengers; we make no division between any one of (ahadin) His Messengers. They say, 'We hear, and obey. Our Lord, grant us Thy forgiveness; unto Thee is the homecoming.' S. 2:285 Arberry

and believe not any but him who follows your religion.' Say: 'The true guidance is God's guidance-- that anyone (ahadun) should be given the like of what you have been given, or dispute with you before your Lord.' Say: 'Surely bounty is in the hand of God; He gives it unto whomsoever He will; and God is All-embracing, All-knowing. S. 3:73 Arberry

Say: "We believe in God, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus, and the prophets, from their Lord: We make no distinction between one and another (ahadin) among them, and to God do we bow our will (in Islam)." S. 3:84 Y. Ali

When ye climbed (the hill) and paid no heed to anyone (ahadin), while the messenger, in your rear, was calling you (to fight). Therefore He rewarded you grief for (his) grief, that (He might teach) you not to sorrow either for that which ye missed or for that which befell you. Allah is Informed of what ye do. S. 3:153 Pickthall

But those who believe in God and His apostles, and who do not make a distinction between any one of (ahadin) them,- to these we will give their hire, for God is forgiving and merciful! S. 4:152 Palmer

O ye who believe! approach not prayer while ye are drunk, until ye well know what ye say; nor yet while polluted,- unless ye be passing by the way,- until ye have washed yourselves. But if ye are sick, or on a journey, or one of (ahadun) you come from the privy, or if ye have touched a woman, and ye cannot find water, then use good surface sand and wipe your faces and your hands therewith; verily, God pardons and forgives. S. 4:43 Palmer

O you who believe! when you rise up to prayer, wash your faces and your hands as far as the elbows, and wipe your heads and your feet to the ankles; and if you are under an obligation to perform a total ablution, then wash (yourselves) and if you are sick or on a journey, or one of (ahadun) you come from the privy, or you have touched the women, and you cannot find water, betake yourselves to pure earth and wipe your faces and your hands therewith, Allah does not desire to put on you any difficulty, but He wishes to purify you and that He may complete His favor on you, so that you may be grateful. S. 5:6 Shakir

And (We sent) Lut when he said to his people: What! do you commit an indecency which any one (ahadin) in the world has not done before you? S. 7:80 Arberry

If one (ahadun) amongst the Pagans ask thee for asylum, grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of God; and then escort him to where he can be secure. That is because they are men without knowledge. S. 9:6 Y. Ali

And never (O Muhammad) pray for one of (ahadin) them who dieth, nor stand by his grave. Lo! they disbelieved in Allah and His messenger, and they died while they were evil-doers. S. 9:84 Pickthall

And whenever a surah is sent down, some of them look at the others - 'Does any one (ahadin) see you?' - Then they turn away! God has turned their hearts, for that they are a people who do not discern. S. 9:127 Palmer

They said, 'Lot, we are messengers of thy Lord. They shall not reach thee; so set forth, thou with thy family, in a watch of the night, and let not any ONE OF (ahadun) you turn round, excepting thy wife; surely she shall be smitten by that which smites them. Their promised time is the morning; is the morning not nigh?' S. 11:81 Arberry

Therefore go forth with your followers in a part of the night and yourself follow their rear, and let not any one of (ahadun) you turn round, and go forth whither you are commanded. S. 15:65 Shakir

When if one of them (ahaduhum) receiveth tidings of the birth of a female, his face remaineth darkened, and he is wroth inwardly. S. 16:58 Pickthall

But how many (countless) generations before them have We destroyed? Canst thou find a single one of (ahadin) them (now) or hear (so much as) a whisper of them? S. 19:98 Y. Ali

O believers, follow not the steps of Satan; for whosoever follows the steps of Satan, assuredly he bids to indecency and dishonour. But for God's bounty to you and His mercy not one of (ahadin) you would have been pure ever; but God purifies whom He will; and God is All-hearing, All-knowing. S. 24:21 Arberry

And call to mind Lot when he said to his people, `You commit an abomination such as no one (ahadin) among mankind has ever committed before you; S. 29:28 Sher Ali

Muhammad is not the father of any of (ahadin) your men, but (he is) the Apostle of God, and the Seal of the Prophets: and God has full knowledge of all things. S. 33:40 Y. Ali

Lo! Allah graspeth the heavens and the earth that they deviate not, and if they were to deviate there is not one (ahadin) that could grasp them after Him. Lo! He is ever Clement, Forgiving. S. 35:41 Pickthall

When news is brought to one of them (ahaduhum) of (the birth of) what he sets up as a likeness to (God) Most Gracious, his face darkens, and he is filled with inward grief! S. 43:17 Y. Ali

nor could any one of (ahadin) you have kept us off from him. S. 69:47 Palmer

Say: 'From God shall protect me not anyone (ahadun), and I shall find, apart from Him, no refuge, S. 72:22 Arberry

For, that Day, His Chastisement will be such as none (else) (ahadun) can inflict, And His bonds will be such as none (other) (ahadun) can bind. S. 89:25-26 Y. Ali

Does he think that no one (ahadun) has power over him? S. 90:5 Shakir

Does he think that no one (ahadun) sees him? S. 90:7 Shakir

'and equal to Him is not ANY ONE (ahadun).' S. 112:4 Arberry

In every single case, ahad is used to refer to one of something, to one member of a specific group. None of the examples used this word to mean one, alone, single etc. On the basis of this statistical analysis one can hardly avoid the conclusion that Al Araby’s verdict (quoted above) is correct.

Basically, this means that the Quran contains a gross grammatical mistake that affects the so-called pure monotheism of Islam!

How could such an error arise?

One possible, and even probable, explanation as to why Muhammad, or the author of the Quran, used the word ahad is because of his interaction with the Jews. Muhammad may have heard the Jewish Shema, the monotheistic creed of faith found in Deuteronomy 6:4, recited which uses the word echad to refer to Yahweh’s unity. Here is the Hebrew in transliteration and the translation of it right after:

Shema Yisrael Yahweh Elohenu Yahweh Echad

Hear O Israel, Yahweh Our God Yahweh is One.

It may be that Muhammad heard the word echad used and then decided to adopt it by using what he perceived to be the Arabic equivalent, namely ahad. Little did he realize that the use of this word would severely compromise his monotheistic position and the Quran’s alleged perfect grammar.

Another possibility is that Muhammad, or the author, may have used Ahad so it could rhyme with the words which follows since it is written in a poetic form. And yet, by using either Al-Wahid or Al-Ahad he could have avoided this compromise and still have matched the rhyme.

Whatever the case, the foregoing shows that the Quran is far from being a masterpiece, or the pinnacle of Arabic eloquence. The wrong use of a word in a very crucial text which relates to the nature of Allah is a clear proof that God is not the author of the Quran. The Quran is nothing more than the fallible invention, the imperfect writing of someone who wanted to convince his readers that these were the very words of God. But because of such basic grammatical mistakes the author betrayed the real source of this invention, and ended up presenting a very wrong message to his contemporaries or at least gave them a weapon to be used against him. Instead of convincing people that the Quran teaches the absolute unity of God and is of a divine origin, the author’s grammatical errors gives his enemies enough evidence to prove otherwise, i.e. that Allah is confused since in some passages he claims that he alone is God whereas the grammar of some other texts suggests there is actually more than one divine being.


Further observations and comments

Interestingly, there maybe further substantiation that ahad actually means "one of," or at least that Allah is one of many, and it comes from the very title given to the 112th chapter of the Quran. We noted earlier that one of the chapter’s names is Sura At-Tauhid. The word Tauhid, which Muslims translate as Unity or One, comes from a verb which means a plurality coming together as one, a unification of several things or persons!

Tauhiyd comes from the verb wahhad WHICH LITERALLY MEANS TO UNITE. In Islamic terminology, it means to realize and maintain the unity of All‚h in one's actions (inwardly and outwardly). The actual word tauhiyd does not occur in the Quran or Sunnah though the present tense of the verb (from which tauhiyd is derived) is used in Sunnah. The Prophet sent Muadh ibn Jabal as governor of Yemen in 9 A.H. He told him, "You will going to the people of the book, so first invite yuwahhidu All‚h [them to the assertion of the oneness of All‚h]".[1] (The Concept of Tauhiyd in Islam; capital emphasis ours)

And:

TAWHEED:

Definition and Categories:

Islam believes in ‘Tawheed’ which is not merely monotheism i.e. belief in one God, but much more. Tawheed literally means ‘unification’ i.e. ‘asserting oneness’ and is derived from the Arabic verb ‘Wahhada’ which means TO UNITE, UNIFY or CONSOLIDATE. (Source; the bold, underlined, capital emphasis is ours)

Thus, the very word used to describe this chapter, and the one commonly used by Muslims to refer to Allah’s unity, originates from a verb which actually refers to a plurality coming together to form some kind of unity!

Admittedly, the title sura title "At-Tauhid" is not part of the original text, but was given to it later by Muslim scholars. Nevertheless, it fits the text in a way that was certainly not intended by those who chose this title.

In any case, Muslims are in a dilemma. Since the data shows that the literal rendering of Sura 112:1 is that "Allah is one of," the question remains one of what? Is he one of many gods? But this would be a contradiction with other texts from the Quran that say there are no other gods. Is he one of many divine entities who have come together to form a unity (i.e. the literal meaning of the verbal origin of Tauhid)? But this again implies that originally there has been more than one god and therefore contradictory to other Quranic references.

It is interesting, though, that the pagans accused Muhammad of doing exactly this, namely making all the gods one God:

‘What! has he made all the gods into one God? This is, indeed, an astounding thing.’ S. 38:5 Sher Ali

Or is he one of many divine Persons who have always existed together as the one God? In other words, it is not the coming together of several different gods to form a unity, but the existence of several distinct persons who have always been God. If this is the implied meaning, then one has to complete the text by bringing this point out more clearly. Here is a way in which this could be done:

"Say: He is Allah, one of many who have always existed as God."

This would fit nicely with what the chapter says as a whole. We quote again the Sura, this time including the implied reading of verse 1 into the translation:

Say: He is Allah, one (of many others who are) Allah, the Eternal, Absolute (since he exists as a plurality of divine Persons which makes him completely self-sufficient); He begetteth not, nor is He begotten (since these divine Persons have always existed and therefore did not come into being); And there is none like unto Him (since there are no other beings that exist as a plurality of persons in one).

Our paraphrase isn’t simply supported by or based on the use of ahad. We have additional support from other Quranic passages that refer to more than one divine entity, more than one person or being that has all the attributes of Deity. For instance, the Quran teaches that Allah’s Spirit is fully God, a divine Person, having all the essential attributes of both Deity and personhood. For the evidence please read the following:

http://answering-islam.org/Shamoun/gabriel.htm
http://answering-islam.org/Responses/Saifullah/t5_73.htm
http://answering-islam.org/Responses/Osama/spirit1.htm
http://answering-islam.org/Responses/Osama/spirit2.htm

Since the Spirit is not the same as Allah, i.e. he is said to be His Spirit or the Spirit of Allah implying a distinction, this either means that there is more than one God or that the One God exists as more than one non-physical, incorporeal Person. Yet either position calls into question the orthodox Islamic view regarding the absolute unity of Allah.

The above may give the impression that we are trying to extract something like the Christian doctrine of the Trinity from the Quran. Not at all! The Quran presents a god that is very different from the God of the Bible. The two are utterly incompatible. Nevertheless, the Quran is far from being as monotheistic as the common Muslim claims and interpretations want to make us believe. In this paper, we simply point out that the Quran is not consistent in its message. Taking all its texts and formulations as they really are, without subjecting them to a preconceived theory of elevated monotheism, the Quran leads into confusion about the nature of God. It is obviously not divine revelation.


The Incompleteness and Incoherence of the Qur'an
The Miracle of the Qur'an
Articles by Sam Shamoun
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