Chapter 8 Practical Monotheism

Practical Monotheism1

In this book, I have attempted to give a world view based on monotheism. God is an unlimited self-existing reality who is completely independent from anything and everything else, and everything is totally dependent on Him, even for its mere existence. Those who submit to this reality are called believers.

Is believing in God a matter only restricted to having a particular ideological worldview? Is it something which is only for the satisfaction of our innate curiosity about our own existence and the existence of the universe? Is it something for academic and philosophical discussions and arguments only, or are there practical implications for having a monotheistic world view? In other words, does God play any role in our personal day to day lives?

The common sense answer to this question is that an Omniscient and Omnipotent God should definitely have a role to play in our day to day lives. One obvious consequence of this understanding is to follow a monotheistic religion and to live our lives according to the rules of that religion. This can include performing specific rituals and prayers as well as living by the ethical code of conduct that the religion asks its followers to abide by. The necessity and reason for doing so have been touched upon in the Chapter 7, concerning the goals of life.

But the question still remains, does God have a role to play beyond religious rituals and practices? What about our career, our marriage and children, our sickness and health, or social dealings? Does God have a role to play in those as well? Or is God restricted to the practice of religion only?

The ideology of monotheism is not something which is restricted to intellectual discussions, academic debates and the practice of religious rites only. It has tremendous practical application for a believing person and it is only through practice that a person can really find the degree of his or her personal belief in monotheism.

People are at different levels and degrees in terms of their beliefs and conviction in God, and many falter at applying monotheism in their practical day to day lives:

وَمَا يُؤْمِنُ أَكْثَرُهُمْ بِاللّٰهِ إِلَّا وَهُمْ مُشْرِكُونَ

And most of them do not even believe in God without associating partners with Him. (Qur’an, Surah Yusuf, 12:106).

Let us look at some examples from our daily lives to understand this point a little better.

Sustenance (al-Rizq)

Let us say that I want to earn a living by applying for a job in a company. In order to successfully qualify for the job, I have to have the necessary training and skills for that position. Then when the position becomes available, I need to apply for it and go through the selection process. Eventually, I get hired and I start working in the company and have a steady income which is sufficient for my needs.

This is a fairly typical scenario for many individuals and there does not seem to be any role for God to play in the entire process.

Or is there?

From the monotheisistic worldview, the process is not as godless as it appears to be.

One of God’s name is al-Razzaq - The One who Continuously Provides Sustenance. He has created us, and it is His promise to provide us with the sustenance that is needed for our survival. In the modern world, the source of sustenance is typically in the form of the salary or income from our job or business. This income allows us to obtain the necessary resources needed for our survival.

We have to appreciate that God created the necessary conditions for us to be able to work in the particular position and attain the needed sustenance. First was the the ability and skill to work in a particular field, which of course requires effort on our part as well. Second was the job vacancy. Third was a successful completion of the selection process. Finally, it was the successful discharge of our responsibilities at work. All of these factors need to fall into place for this process of earning a living to take place.

The apparent source of sustenance is the income coming from the specific job, and obviously this sustenance can also come from another job in a different field, and it can also come from a business or investment income. The important thing is to have the realization and conviction that sustenance for our survival is coming from God alone - He is the real source - though He gives it through different means. However, ultimately, He is the real provider.

Therefore, no one can provide any benefit, nor take it away except by His permission. He can also either increase the sustenance or decrease it as He deems fit:

لَهُ مَقَالِيدُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ يَبْسُطُ الرِّزْقَ لِمَنْ يَشَاءُ وَيَقْدِرُ ۚ إِنَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ

His are the keys of (the treasures of) the heavens and the earth. He enlarges provision for whom He wills, and limits it (for whom He wills). Surely He has full knowledge of everything. (Qur’an, Surah al-Shura’, 42:12).

Needless to say, obtaining the sustenance requires effort on our part also, but neither our skills, efforts, our boss, nor the company that we work for are the real source of our sustenance, they are merely the means, for the true source is God alone. This is how a monotheist must view their situation, in regards to sustenance.

This view does not mean that we ignore the obvious processes – no one is saying do not work hard, do not listen to the boss, do not follow the job requirements, or the company rules as God will grant our sustenance! What it does mean however is that we do not regard them as the absolute source, but merely the means through which we attain our sustenance.

To what extent we see this reality is dependent on our conviction in God and His ability to provide for us through various sources, because God alone is the provider and maintainer of everything in existence:

وَمَا مِنْ دَابَّةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ إِلَّا عَلَى اللّٰهِ رِزْقُهَا وَيَعْلَمُ مُسْتَقَرَّهَا وَمُسْتَوْدَعَهَا ۚ كُلٌّ فِي كِتَابٍ مُبِينٍ

No living creature is there moving on the earth but its provision depends on God, and He knows its every lodging and disposition (every stage of its life), and the duration of its stay and the moment of its transition therefrom. All is in a Manifest Book. (Qur’an, Surah Hud, 11:6).

Cultivation of Plants

Let us look at another every day example of a woman who wants to grow figs in her backyard. She finds an appropriate spot and plants the fig seeds. After some time, the sapling starts to emerge from the ground. For the optimal growth, she needs to water the plant regularly, remove any weeds from the nearby soil, add fertilizer as needed and trim the branches. If she sees any insect infestation, then she needs to apply the necessary insecticide. Finally, after some time as the plant matures, figs will start to grow. All of these actions on her part are needed for successful growth of the plant, however none of them will yield a positive result without God providing the necessary ecosystem needed for the tree to grow.

The seed coat must split for the seed to germinate and turn into a young sapling; the nutrients and the water from the soil must be assimilated into the growing plant; the gas exchange must take place between the plant and the atmosphere needed for the sophisticated plant cell metabolism; the sun light must be available for the process of photosynthesis which converts light energy into chemical energy. As we can see, in the entire process of planting a seed and anticipating its growth into a tree, human intervention is a very small portion in the growth and survival of the tree.

What we call “nature” is a manifestation of God’s creation and His command (see Chapter 5). Through His acts of “creation and command,” He has laid out a system for us to interact with and manipulate according to our abilities and based on our desired outcome – in the example above, the harvesting of the fruit from the tree:

أَفَرَأَيْتُمْ مَا تَحْرُثُونَ أَأَنْتُمْ تَزْرَعُونَهُ أَمْ نَحْنُ الزَّارِعُونَ

Have you ever considered the seed you sow (in the ground)? Is it you who cause it to grow, or is it We Who make it grow? (Qur’an, Surah al-Waqiʿah, 56:63-64).

Again, I do not want to disregard the importance of the ecosystem and the biological factors that are needed for plant growth, however this amazingly complicated and sophisticated system which we call “nature” is being managed by “someone”.

God is involved in the entire system of nature through various factors some of which we can manipulate also. It is wrong to say that His involvement is only in those things for which we don’t have a reasonable explanation and for which we have a gap in our knowledge sometimes referred to as “god of gaps”.

God not only created and maintains the ecosystem which allows for the growth of plants, but He is actively involved in the process as well and this is the correct understanding of nature:

إِنَّ اللّٰهَ فَالِقُ الْحَبِّ وَالنَّوَىٰ يُخْرِجُ الْحَيَّ مِنَ الْمَيِّتِ وَمُخْرِجُ الْمَيِّتِ مِنَ الْحَيِّ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمُ اللّٰهُ ۖ فَأَنَّىٰ تُؤْفَكُونَ

God is He Who splits the grain and the fruit-stone (so that they germinate by His command). He brings forth the living from the dead, and He is the One Who brings forth the dead from the living; Such is God: how then are you turned away from the truth and make false claims? (Qur’an, Surah al-Anʿam, 6:95).

Disease and Health

Let us take yet another example. There is a forty year old man who is otherwise healthy, has optimal body weight and does not smoke or drink. Suddenly he starts getting very tired and weak within his daily work regiment and then starts to develop shortness of breath while walking. People around him notice that he is pale in appearance. Afterwards, he starts getting a fever almost daily. He goes to his physician who calls for blood work and upon reviewing the results, to the man’s surprise, is told that he has acute leukemia (blood cancer). This comes as a shock to him. He meets the cancer doctor who advises that the man take cancer chemotherapy. The doctor tells him that based on his cancer genetic subtype, he has a 60% chance of going into remission (becoming cancer free) and that he may also need a bone marrow transplant.

The man starts to wonder why did he fall ill; why has he developed leukemia? He does not recall any bad habits that could have led to this. Will chemotherapy resolve this? Will the doctor be able to cure this?

From the worldview of monotheism, both our sicknesses and health are from God. Due to unhealthy lifestyles, we can contribute to our own illness (e.g. smoking which may lead to lung cancer, obesity which may lead to a heart attack) and increase the chance of getting sick, but sometimes we can fall ill without even having any known risk factors for an illness.

We seek the necessary medical treatment for the illness such as: surgery, medication and preventive care, however the cure lies in God’s hands alone. The physicians, nurses and medication are the necessary means of achieving a cure, but they are not the real source. In fact, many times medication does not work, or may cause serious side effects making the illness even worse. Sometimes the doctors make a mistake and may cause further complications.

The doctors, nurses and medication cannot be considered as the real source of cure, but they may be thought of as being the means through which we can be successful in getting rid of an illness, or we may have to succumb to it.

This does not mean that a sick person should not seek medical treatment or follow the doctors’ recommendations, but what it means is that a successful outcome of the doctors’ treatment is not in their hands, but in God’s hands alone:

وَإِذَا مَرِضْتُ فَهُوَ يَشْفِينِ

And when I am sick, it is He (God) that cures me. (Qur’an, Surah al-Shuʿara’, 26:80).

From the monotheistic worldview presented above, God is an active player in our day to day lives. In fact, He is the only One with real power and the only effective agent who can bring about any real change, everything else only reflects His power and ability:

مَا شَاءَ اللّٰهُ لَا قُوَّةَ إِلَّا بِاللّٰهِ

Whatever God wills (has and will come to pass); there is no strength (to achieve anything) save with (the permission of) God. (Qur’an, Surah al-Kahf, 18:39).

The approach towards life by a person who has an understanding of the practical implications of monotheism will be very different from one who does not believe in God. The individual understands that their life is choreographed by a Wise and Merciful God. A monotheist will feel less and less dependent on others and their abilities to bring about benefit or harm. Such an individual will be less concerned by who did what or what they are capable of doing.

This belief will lead to true freedom and independence from others which we all crave, however are unable to achieve otherwise. Therefore, the stronger we are connected with the immutable permanence of God, the less we are affected by the changing landscape of our lives and personal relationships. This is true freedom which is achieved through the servitude of al-Rahman (The Most Merciful).

The viewpoint which puts God as the real source of power and change raises some important philosophical and ethical questions, such as:

a) Do humans have any real choice and freedom in making their decisions or are we compelled by God’s will and plan?

b) If God is the real source of power and change and He is All-Merciful, then how do we explain the existence of so much evil and corruption on the earth?

c) What is the role of prayer (duʿa) in our lives? Do prayers make any difference?

Presdestination and Free Will: An Affair Between Two Affairs (al-Amr bayn al-Amrayn)

We can look at the issue of predestination and free will from two different angles - one view is that there is no free will and all of us are just following what God has already ordained for us. We really do not have any true choice. We are merely actors playing out a script already written for us. The second view is that we are completely independent in our actions and are not bound by any limitations set by God or “destiny” or “karma.” We can do whatever we want and there is no higher authority interfering in our affairs.

If we take the first view that we are completely bound by God’s plan and have no real choice, then we cannot be blamed for any actions committed by us and therefore should not receive any punishment for our actions in this world or in the hereafter. However, this is contrary to our instincts and common sense.

In our social life, we hold people responsible for their actions. If after going through the due process of the law, someone is found guilty of committing a crime, then that person is punished according to the law. There must be free will in committing an action in order to justify punishment for that crime, otherwise there is no basis for a legal justice system or punishing anyone for any act. Thus, human free will is a self-evident reality.

Similarly, complete freedom in our actions implies independence from God’s authority in doing whatever we want to do. Based on our everyday experiences we know that complete freedom in whatever we want to do is also not true as there are many factors which are beyond our control. For example, we do not choose our parents or our ethnicity, our country of birth, socio-economic conditions of our family, early education or lack of it. In everyday life, even after the best of intentions, plans and preparation, some unforeseen factors and events can force us to change our plans, such as cancellation of a planned event due to a death in the family or unfavorable weather. We may desire something, but the outcome might turn out to be completely opposite to what we were intending to do.

In this regards, the Commander of the Faithful, ʿAli (‘a) has said:

I came to know God, the Glorified, through the breaking of determinations, change of intentions and loss of courage.2

There is a middle position between these two explained by the infallible leaders – the Ahlul Bayt (‘a). According to their view, there is neither complete free will nor complete predetermination - but rather, it is something between the two extremes.

Someone asked Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) about predestination and absolute free will and he replied as follows:

There is neither predestination nor absolute freewill, but between them there is a position in which is the truth, and no one knows it except the learned person or one who is taught by a learned person.3

When he was asked to further explain this concept, Imam al-Sadiq (‘a) said:

Allegorically, the ‘position between the two positions’ is like seeing someone who is committing a sin. You dissuade him from doing so, but he does not pay any attention to you, so you leave him alone. In this case, neither did you command him to commit the sin, nor did you persuade him to do so.4

In another instance, Imam al-Hadi (‘a) quoting his fore-father, Imam al-Sadiq (‘a), said:

With regards to ‘destiny’, people are divided into three categories: The first is the one who assumes that God has given him full authority - this (person) has weakened God in His kingdom, thus, he is perished. The second is the person who assumes that God has forced people to sin and He has held them responsible over things that they have no power over – this person is unfair to God in His judgment, thus he is [also] perished. The third is the individual who assumes that God has held people responsible for what they do and does not hold them responsible for what they have no power over – thus when a person does something good, he praises God and when he does something evil, he seeks God’s forgiveness - this person is a mature Muslim.5

There is indeed free will in our actions and we are all responsible for the decisions we make and the deeds we perform, however these actions and decisions are not independent from the All-Encompassing authority of God over our affairs. How we act in a certain situation is up to us, but the orchestration of that situation is not necessarily under our control.

For example someone is shopping in a mall and discovers a box containing a diamond ring on the floor, with a tag attached to it indicating that it is likely from a nearby shop. That person can then choose to pick up the ring and keep it or return it to the shop owner. The situation that arose in which a diamond ring of considerable value is found on the floor is out of our control, but what we do with that ring is in our choice.

Moreover, the ability to perform actions and the power and strength to do anything is from the God, and not independent of Him but how we act with this ability in a particular situation is under our control and that is why we are responsible for our actions.

Even after acting with a clear intention, pure determination and complete planning, the outcome may not be what we desire - in fact it may actually be the complete opposite. For example, a man wants to kill his enemy by shooting him. He follows this man and studies his routine. He finally gets an opportunity to shoot his enemy and even succeeds in lodging a bullet into him, but the bullet hits the man’s arm and he survives the assassination attempt. An off-duty police officer who just happens to be there shoots the assailant and ends up killing him. The person who wanted to murder actually ends up getting killed. This scenario demonstrates our free will and ability to act, but at the same time our inability to have full control over the outcome of our actions.

God is the necessary self-existing Being and everything other than Him is a contingent being which is dependent on Him not only for its existence but also for its attributes and actions. The will and want of a contingent being is also a manifestation of God’s will and want and not outside of it (see Chapter 5). Therefore, the contingent being’s attributes like life, hearing, vision and power are a manifestation of God’s life, hearing, vision and power.

Any manipulation in the realm of existence by a contingent being is only through God’s permission. If He takes away the power to act, a person is unable to do even a simple task such as moving a finger (as happens in people who suffer a stroke). The source of all power is God. Truly speaking there is no impactful being in existence except for God, as no one has any power or attribute independent of God:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ ضُرِبَ مَثَلٌ فَاسْتَمِعُوا لَهُ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللّٰهِ لَنْ يَخْلُقُوا ذُبَابًا وَلَوِ اجْتَمَعُوا لَهُ ۖ وَإِنْ يَسْلُبْهُمُ الذُّبَابُ شَيْئًا لَا يَسْتَنْقِذُوهُ مِنْهُ ۚ ضَعُفَ الطَّالِبُ وَالْمَطْلُوبُ

O humanity! A parable is given, so pay heed to it: Those whom, apart from God you invoke will never be able to create even a fly, even if all of them were to come together to do so. And if a fly snatches away anything from them, they cannot recover that from it. Powerless indeed is the seeker, and (so is) the sought! (Qur’an, Surah al-Hajj, 22:73).

The discussion on free will and pre-determination is explained briefly here and still requires a more in-depth discussion for which readers can refer to other sources, however I would like to repeat an explanation of this concept which was mentioned in Chapter 4, through a small incident in the life of Imam ʿAli (‘a).

Once, a man approached the Imam and asked him if humans had free will or were they bound by pre-determination? In his response, Imam ʿAli (‘a) asked the questioner to lift one foot off of the ground. The man complied. Then the Imam asked him to lift the second foot also. The man said it is impossible to lift both feet at the same time. To this Imam ʿAli (‘a) replied: “It seems that you have free will, but there are limits to it.”6

Let me end this discussion with the following narration from Imam al-Rida (‘a):

God has said: O progeny of Adam, it is with My will that you are such a being that you will for yourself whatever you will; and it is with My power that you carry out the duties that I have prescribed for you; and it is with My bounty that you find strength to disobey Me. I made you hearing, seeing and strong. Whatever good visits you is from God, and whatever evil strikes you is from your own self. That is because I have a greater right to your virtues than yourself, and you are worthier of your vices than Me. Therefore, I am not asked concerning what I do, and they (the creations) will be asked.7

God and the Existence of Evil

The world in which we live is full of unpleasant events and harmful objects. There is widespread hunger and poverty on the Earth with billions of people living on less than $2.00 per day, having no access to even basic necessities such as clean water and sanitation. There are widespread diseases and illnesses with millions of people dying every year from heart disease, stroke, infections like tuberculosis and malaria and who have little to no access to health care. There are large scale conflicts and wars, and millions of people have been forced to leave their homes and are living as refugees. Many societies have gun violence, sexual assaults on women, armed gangs and rampant cases of child abuse. Then, there are natural disasters such as tornados, earthquakes and floods which at times, kill tens of thousands of people. Many children come into the world with birth defects and many more die at a young age due to various illnesses.

If God is so Merciful and Benevolent, then why is there so much suffering and evil in this world? If nothing can happen without His permission, then why does He allow so much injustice? These questions cross the minds of many unbelievers as well as believers. Let us see if we can develop an understanding of suffering based on the teachings of the Qur’an.

We live in a material world which by its very nature is limited, temporary and constantly changing. Due to the limited and fluid nature of things, there are bound to be ups and downs, highs and lows. In this world, things exist in pairs and have their opposites. There is right and left, night and day, black and white, male and female, hard and soft, high and low, and naturally good and evil:

سُبْحَانَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْأَزْوَاجَ كُلَّهَا مِمَّا تُنْبِتُ الْأَرْضُ وَمِنْ أَنْفُسِهِمْ وَمِمَّا لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

All-Glorified is He, Who has created the pairs all together out of what the earth produces, as well as out of themselves, and out of what they do not know. (Qur’an, Surah Ya Sin, 36:36).

Things are often known through their opposites. Unless something is dry we will not know what wet is; unless we have darkness, we will not know what light is and if there was only light and no darkness then it would have been impossible to appreciate light. Darkness is not something which has an existence like light, instead it is lack of light which gives the perception of darkness. Similarly, it is the lack of knowledge which results in ignorance, and the lack of beauty which appears as ugliness. Injustice and cruelty is the lack of justice and compassion. Often times only when we get sick, do we realize the value of health. When we see a person with physical limitations (e.g. a blind person or a child with polio), only then can we be appreciate a healthy body with all of the organ systems working so perfectly:

قُلْ هُوَ الَّذِي أَنْشَأَكُمْ وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ ۖ قَلِيلًا مَا تَشْكُرُونَ

Say: He (God) it is Who has brought you into being and endowed you with hearing, and eyes, and hearts. How little you give thanks! (Qur’an, Surah al-Mulk, 67:23).

Now what may appear evil for one, may be good for another. The venom of a snake is bad for the prey but it is very good for the survival of the snake. The decomposition of food by bacteria and fungi is bad for a person who wanted to eat that food, but it is good for the environment as it allows the recycling of the nutrients. Even the dreadful event of death allows for renewal and replacement in a society by the next generation of humans beings which help advance society. Moreover, death also marks the exit of the soul from the physical realm of existence to a higher and more perfect realm of existence as discussed in Chapter 6.

Death is a natural phenomenon which marks the end of the temporary stay in this physical realm of existence. Not only must humans die, but everything around us such as plants, animals, and even celestial objects like the sun are expected to die one day. If we have been created to die, then of course there are going to be scenarios through which death will come, such as through an illness or injury and so in short, death in itself is not evil, rather, both life and death are a part of creation:

الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْمَوْتَ وَالْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلًا ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفُورُ

He (God) Who has created death and life, so that He may test you (and demonstrate to yourselves) which of you is better in deeds; and He is the All-Glorious with irresistible might, the All-Forgiving. (Qur’an, Surah al-Mulk, 67:2).

Human beings commit a lot of injustice to each other, as well as to the ecosystem. Due to human activity, the natural habitat of many animals has been destroyed and many species of animals have become extinct or are at the verge of extinction.

Some blame God for the widespread hunger and poverty in certain parts of the world, whereas we know that there are more than enough resources in the world to feed and provide basic necessities for everyone. The widespread hunger, poverty and resulting poor life expectancy and quality of life in certain parts of the world does not stem for a lack of sufficient resources in the world, but rather this is due to our mismanagement of these resources and a lack of social justice.

People cheat one another, physically and verbally abuse each other, and even murder one another! Those in power launch wars on other groups of people for the sake of dominating them. However, none of these atrocities committed by mankind can be blamed on God - He cannot be held responsible for the actions which we have committed, exercising our free will:

ظَهَرَ الْفَسَادُ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِي النَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُمْ بَعْضَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ

Corruption and disorder have appeared on land and in the sea because of what the hands of people have (done and) earned (of evil deeds). Thus He causes them to taste the consequence of some of what they have done, so that they may (take heed, repent and reform, and so) return (to the right way). (Qur’an, Surah al-Rum, 30:41).

Moreover, the world is a place to undergo trials and tribulations. It has been designed such so that we have to make moral choices between right and wrong, between our self interests and the rights of others. These trials help us to grow spiritually and cultivate better morals in us. The difficulties help us distinguish who is a true believer and who is still weak in faith:

أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَنْ يُتْرَكُوا أَنْ يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ ۖ فَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللّٰهُ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْكَاذِبِينَ

Do people reckon that they will be left (to themselves at ease) on their mere saying, We believe, and will not be put to a test? We certainly tested those who preceded them so that God will certainly mark out those who prove true (in their profession of faith) and He will certainly mark out those who prove false. (Qur’an, Surah al-ʿAnkabut, 29:2-3).

The trials facing us can be of different sorts depending on an individual’s circumstances. Sometimes it may be a lack of resources or poverty. Sometimes it could be having wealth beyond our needs to see if we prefer to live a luxurious life oblivious of others or if we will show empathy towards them and extend a helping hand to the needy. Sometimes the trial is about a lack of security and peace. For others, it could be by living with a disrespectful spouse or a child with a medical condition. But what is for certain is that everyone will be tested in different ways to see if they have patience and perseverance during the difficulties or not:

وَلَنَبْلُوَنَّكُمْ بِشَيْءٍ مِنَ الْخَوْفِ وَالْجُوعِ وَنَقْصٍ مِنَ الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَنْفُسِ وَالثَّمَرَاتِ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الصَّابِرِينَ الَّذِينَ إِذَا أَصَابَتْهُمْ مُصِيبَةٌ قَالُوا إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ أُولَٰئِكَ عَلَيْهِمْ صَلَوَاتٌ مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ وَرَحْمَةٌ ۖ وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُهْتَدُونَ

We will certainly test you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives and fruits (earnings); but give glad tidings to the persevering and patient: Those who, when a disaster befalls them, say, Surely we belong to God (as His creatures and servants) and surely to Him we are bound to return. (And they act accordingly.) Such are those upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy; and they are the rightly guided ones. (Qur’an, Surah al-Baqarah, 2:155-157).

Sometimes what we consider as a misfortune ends up being something good for us. For example, a person is fired from his position due to restructuring in the company. He is initially very depressed and starts wondering why God put him through such a difficulty while he had been a good person, and he knows others at that same company were not good people but are enjoying various comforts – including their job. After some emotional struggle, he decides to take additional courses in his field and learn new skills. Soon, another job opening comes based on his newly acquired skills and he gets a job which was far better than his previous position from which he was fired. That initial loss of the job ends up being a blessing in disguise for him, for which of course he was depressed about initially:

وَعَسَىٰ أَنْ تَكْرَهُوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ وَعَسَىٰ أَنْ تُحِبُّوا شَيْئًا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ لَكُمْ وَاللّٰهُ يَعْلَمُ وَأَنْتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

…It may well be that you dislike a thing but it is good for you, and it may well be that you like a thing but it is bad for you. God knows, and you do not know. (Qur’an, Surah al-Baqarah, 2:216).

At times, what people face is a direct result of their own actions and cannot be blamed on anyone else except for themselves.

Let us say that a bright college student gets into the habit of using drugs. Due to his bad habit, his grades start to go down and eventually he drops out of college and does not graduate. Without a college degree and being addicted to drugs he struggles to keep a job and remains in financial difficulties for years. He falls behind his peers who after graduating from college, became well established in their professional careers. This poor outcome of an otherwise bright and promising student is a result of his own bad habits and he has no one else to blame except for himself.

Let us take an example of another person who has a well-paying position at a multi-national corporation. In his personal life, he is married and has two kids. A new employee joins the office and they become good friends. Soon however, this friendship changes into a romantic relationship and he starts to cheat on his wife. His wife eventually finds out and files for divorce and also gets custody of the children. Later on, the man ends up losing his house, his family and a takes a big financial hit during the course of divorce - all due to the mistake of committing adultery. The girl he was having the affair with finds a better job in a different city and leaves him as well. Now what has befallen this man is entirely his own doing:

مَا أَصَابَكَ مِنْ حَسَنَةٍ فَمِنَ اللّٰهِ ۖ وَمَا أَصَابَكَ مِنْ سَيِّئَةٍ فَمِنْ نَفْسِكَ ۚ وَأَرْسَلْنَاكَ لِلنَّاسِ رَسُولًا ۚ وَكَفَىٰ بِاللّٰهِ شَهِيدًا

(O human being!) Whatever good happens to you, it is from God; and whatever evil befalls you, it is from yourself. We have sent you (O Messenger) to humankind as a Messenger, and God suffices for a witness. (Qur’an, Surah al-Nisa’, 4:79).

There are also other challenging situations in which people really have no apparent fault of their own. For example, a couple has a new born who seems to be doing well initially, however by the age of six months, the child starts to show signs of progressive physical and mental decline. Shortly thereafter, the baby begins to lose vision and hearing, and upon consultation, the doctors diagnose the child with a rare lysosomal disease (Tay-sachs disease); and dies by the age of four. In this situation, the couple went through tremendous sorrow and hardship without any fault of their own. Why did God put them through this? We cannot say that every calamity is a result of our own faults. Sometimes it is a test to elevate a person spiritually and give them a much higher rank in the hereafter. In fact, the closer a person is to God and the stronger one’s faith, the harder the test tends to be.

The prophets and the imams went through tremendous trials and tests but never complained about their situation – such as the test of Prophet Job (‘a) mentioned in the Bible and the Qur’an; or the events surrounding the martyrdom of Imam al-Husayn (‘a) as mentioned in Chapter 4 of this book.

مَا أَصَابَ مِنْ مُصِيبَةٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَا فِي أَنْفُسِكُمْ إِلَّا فِي كِتَابٍ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ نَبْرَأَهَا ۚ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكَ عَلَى اللّٰهِ يَسِيرٌ

No affliction occurs on the earth or in your own persons but it is recorded in a Book before We bring it into existence – doing so is surely easy for God. (Qur’an, Surah al-Hadid, 57:22).

When we look at individuals going through different challenges it often appears very hard to us to accept. A couple loses their teenage child in a car accident - we wonder how will they manage in that situation? However in the monotheistic worldview, when God puts someone in a challenging situation He gives them the patience and courage to handle the situation as well. No soul is tested more than it can bear:

لَا يُــكَلِّفُ اللّٰهُ نَفْسًا إِلَّا وُسْــعَهَا ۚ لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَعَلَيْهَا مَا اكْتَسَبَتْ

God burdens no soul except within its capacity: in its favor is whatever (good) it earns, and against it whatever (evil) it merits. (Qur’an, Surah al-Baqarah, 2:286).

Moreover, whatever happens during this life is temporary and is not our final outcome. The challenges will come to an end, just as this temporary life comes to an end. The excellent compensation given in the next world for facing calamities and injustice in this world, will be more than sufficient to remove all of the sorrow and grief:

جَنَّاتُ عَدْنٍ يَدْخُلُونَهَا يُحَلَّوْنَ فِيهَا مِنْ أَسَاوِرَ مِنْ ذَهَبٍ وَلُؤْلُؤًا ۖ وَلِبَاسُهُمْ فِيهَا حَرِيرٌ 33 وَقَالُوا الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ الَّذِي أَذْهَبَ عَنَّا الْحَزَنَ ۖ إِنَّ رَبَّنَا لَغَفُورٌ شَكُورٌ الَّذِي أَحَلَّنَا دَارَ الْمُقَامَةِ مِنْ فَضْلِهِ لَا يَمَسُّنَا فِيهَا نَصَبٌ وَلَا يَمَسُّنَا فِيهَا لُغُوبٌ

(So) Gardens of perpetual bliss will they enter, therein adorned with armbands of gold and pearls, and their garments therein will be of silk. And they will say: All praise and gratitude are for God, Who has removed grief from us (such as we had suffered until we were admitted here). Surely Our Lord is All-Forgiving, All-Responsive (to the gratitude of His creatures), Who, out of His grace, has made us settle in the abode of eternal residence, wherein no toil touches us, and wherein no weariness afflicts us. (Qur’an, Surah al-Fatir, 35:33-35).

When we are faced with a trial, we often do not know if it is because of our own doing or if God is testing us. It is difficult to know for sure, but often our response and reaction to the trial can give clues about it.

Some people, on facing a difficult situation, start complaining and show frustration. They ask why God has put them through the difficulty? Some blame God or even question His existence. Others show patience and perseverance, and through the calamity their faith in God actually increases. They see these trials as a way of spiritual growth. In reality, the soul will not grow unless it is put through trials and tribulations.

Going through difficulties is like going to the gym for physical exercises – in the same way, tribulations strengthen the soul and spirit of the individual.

In the story of Prophet Abraham (‘a) and his young son Ishmael (‘a), the Qur’an quotes both father and son, showing their patience and forebearance:

فَلَمَّا بَلَغَ مَعَهُ السَّعْيَ قَالَ يَا بُنَيَّ إِنِّي أَرَىٰ فِي الْمَنَامِ أَنِّي أَذْبَحُكَ فَانْظُرْ مَاذَا تَرَىٰ ۚ قَالَ يَا أَبَتِ افْعَلْ مَا تُؤْمَرُ ۖ سَتَجِدُنِي إِنْ شَاءَ اللّٰهُ مِنَ الصَّابِرِينَ

Then, when (his son) grew alongside him to the age of striving (for the necessities of life), he said: O my dear son! I have seen in my dream that I should offer you in sacrifice. So think about this and tell me your view! He said (unhesitatingly): O my dear father! Do as you are commanded. You will find me, by God’s will, one of those who show steadfast patience (in obeying God’s commands). (Qur’an, Surah al-Saffat, 37:102).

When people develop spiritual insight and their attachment to the material world is lessened, they realize that these trials and difficulties are actually helping them in their spiritual growth.

During the trials, the believers remember God intensely and are less concerned about following their desires – and this in turn induces spiritual growth in their souls. The friends of God actually welcome the trials and are grateful that they have been chosen for the difficult tasks that others are dreadful of. These are the people of high spiritual rank amongst God’s chosen people, those who when facing difficulties are not only patient but even offer thanks for what they are going through, as they can see the reality of calamities as nothing but pure beauty.

At the conclusion of Ziyarat ʿAshuraʾ, the following portion is recited while in the state of prostration (sajdah):

O God, all praise belongs to You, the praise of those who thank You for their misfortunes! All praise belongs to God for my great misfortune.8

Calling out to God (al-Duʿa)

Another very important implication of living by the ideology of monotheism is the ability to pray to God. Those with firm belief in God’s existence enjoy a special relationship with Him. They communicate with Him during prayers and supplications. This act of prayer or calling out to God for help cultivates a relationship between the servant and God, making the bond stronger, God has promised that those who pray to Him, He will answer them:

وَإِذَا سَأَلَكَ عِبَادِي عَنِّي فَإِنِّي قَرِيبٌ ۖ أُجِيبُ دَعْوَةَ الدَّاعِ إِذَا دَعَانِ ۖ فَلْيَسْتَجِيبُوا لِي وَلْيُؤْمِنُوا بِي لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْشُدُونَ

And when (O Messenger) My servants ask you about Me, then [respond] surely I am near: I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he prays to Me. So let them respond to My call (without hesitation), and believe and trust in Me (in the way required of them), so that they may be guided to spiritual and intellectual excellence and right conduct. (Qur’an, Surah al-Baqarah, 2:186).

The ability to pray to God for help during various circumstances and challenges of life gives the believers tremendous power and confidence. They can significantly change circumstances in their favor by calling out to God as there is no deficiency in terms of resources or ability viz a viz God.

Thus, if a believer calls out to God and He responds, then the prospect of success increases significantly. Of course, this does not mean that planning and practical steps should not be taken. But what it means is that through prayer a believer can have access to the source of all the goodness, power and honor.

The Qur’an tells us:

وَقَالَ رَبُّكُمُ ادْعُونِي أَسْتَجِبْ لَكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ عَنْ عِبَادَتِي سَيَدْخُلُونَ جَهَنَّمَ دَاخِرِينَ

Your Lord has said: Pray to Me, (and) I will answer you. Those who are too proud to worship Me will enter Hell, abased. (Qur’an, Surah al-Mu’min, 40:60).

The issue of prayers and health outcomes has been studied scientifically with variable results. Some studies have shown health improvement with prayers and others have shown no effect or even harm from the prayer9 (Even if God doesn’t exist, prayers should not cause any harm to health of an individual). In my opinion there are so many variables involved in an individual’s life that it’s nearly impossible to control all of them in order to do a proper scientific study for the health effects of prayers. We should understand that scientific method also has limitations in its ability to answer certain questions.

Just like parents do not give their children whatever they demand, or do not give it to them immediately, in the same way, praying to God does not mean that every prayer will be accepted immediately or even accepted at all. Asking God for something specific is ok to do, but it is better to ask for something which is good for us even though not necessarily it may be to our liking. For many people with the correct understanding of monotheism, prayer is actually the only thing that is truly under our control, everything else including our physical existence, wealth, family and honor belongs to God and has been given to us temporarily during this life.

In the supplication to God known as Duʿa Kumayl which is normally recited every Thursday night, we are taught to say the following:

يَا سَرِيعَ الرِّضَا

O He, whose pleasure is quickly achieved,

اغْفِرْ لِمَن لا يَمْلِكُ إِلاَّ الدُّعَاءَ

Forgive the one who owns nothing but supplication,

فَإِنَّكَ فَعَّالٌ لِّمَا تَشَاءُ

For You do whatever You will.

يَا مَنْ اسْمُهُ دَوَاءٌ

O He whose name is a remedy,

وَذِكْرُهُ شِفَاءٌ

And whose remembrance is a cure,

وَطَاعَتُهُ غِنًى

And whose obedience is the true wealth!

ارْحَم مَّن رَّأْسُ مَاِلهِ الرَّجَاءُ

Have mercy upon the person whose only capital is hope

وَسِلاَحُهُ الْبُكَاءُ

And whose only weapon is his tears!10

Acting Exclusively for God (al-Ikhlas)

It should be clear to the readers that those who truly live their lives according to the ideology of monotheism have a very different perspective towards the world, the creation and the events happening in their own lives and the society at large. For them, God is everywhere and His presence is so strong that everything else appears insignificant compared to Him. Their closeness to God blinds them to everything else. They are conscious of God at all times as they know that:

وَهُوَ مَعَكُمْ أَيْنَ مَا كُنْتُمْ ۚ وَاللّٰهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ

And He is with you wheresoever you may be; and God sees well all that you do. (Qur’an, Surah al-Hadid, 57:4).

أَلَمْ يَعْلَمْ بِأَنَّ اللّٰهَ يَرَىٰ

Does the person not know that God sees him? (Qur’an, Surah al-ʿAlaq, 96:14).

They know that God is always watching them and that everything that happens in their lives is ultimately from God. They do not complain about any situation and are ready to face any challenge as they know that it is all from God:

قُلْ كُلٌّ مِنْ عِنْدِ اللّٰهِ

Say: Everything is from God. (Qur’an, Surah al-Nisa’, 4:78).

In their day to day lives, their actions - whether ordinary tasks of daily living or those related to the practice of religion - are all done exclusively for the sake of God (al-iklhas).They purify their intentions so as to not seek worldly fame and recognition, nor do they expect any reward for helping others, not even as little as a thank you:

إِنَّمَا نُطْعِمُكُمْ لِوَجْهِ اللّٰهِ لَا نُرِيدُ مِنْكُمْ جَزَاءً وَلَا شُكُورًا

We only feed you for God’s sake; we desire from you neither reward nor thanks. (Qur’an, Surah al-Insan, 76:9).

Doing good things for our own self interest, self promotion, love for praise, expecting recognition or special treatment, or even a thank you - are all forms of hidden polytheism and many believers get into this trap.

وَمَا يُؤْمِنُ أَكْثَرُهُمْ بِاللّٰهِ إِلَّا وَهُمْ مُشْرِكُونَ

And most of them do not believe in God without associating (other as partners) with Him. (Qur’an, Surah Yusuf, 12:106).

However those who purify their intentions such that they act exclusively for the sake of God are free from hidden polytheism and are the true monotheists:

هُوَ الْحَيُّ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ فَادْعُوهُ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ ۗ الْحَمْدُ لِلّٰهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

He is the Living, there is no god but He, therefore call on Him, being sincere to Him in obedience; (all) praise is due to God, the Lord of the worlds. (Qur’an, Surah al-Mu’min, 40:65).

Complete Trust in God (al-Tawakkul)

The universe works by the law of cause and effect. Fire has the property to burn, and when it comes into contact with an object, it burns it. Medicine has the property to cure an illness, and so when a sick person takes it, he gets better. The property of the fire to burn and of the medicine to cure is because God has made them as such.

In our daily life, we must rely on the causes to achieve the desirable effects. For example, if a sick person wants to get better, then he has to take the right medicine for that illness; but it is God who cures through the right medicine. The causes and means to achieve a desirable effect are necessary, but a monotheist still has to put their trust in God for the cure and not on the medicine, as sometimes the medicine may not work, or it may even cause an adverse reaction making an illness even worse.

Another example is if we want to safeguard our house from intruders then we must secure it by locking it, but the trust to keep the house safe should be in God and not in the locks. As we know that thieves can disable or by pass a lock, but God can protect the house from all possible intruders as He has control over everything. Not to apply locks is foolishness, and to rely on locks only is also not wise either. Those who put their trust in God, He is sufficient for them.

وَمَنْ يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللّٰهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُ

…And whoever puts their trust in God, He is sufficient for him… (Qur’an, Surah al-Talaq, 65:3).

Let me emphasize again, trusting in God does not mean that one should not plan his affairs or ignore the necessary preconditions or factors needed for a desirable outcome. The property of medicine to cure, or a lock to secure the house are also through God and not independent of Him. We should utilize the means available in order to achieve the desirable effects.

However, a monotheist has wisdom and deeper vision of the reality and so is not caught in the causes and means only, but utilizes the means and still puts their trust in God to achieve the desirable outcome, as they know that the means may become ineffective and may not give the desirable result. However, behind the means there is a Higher power in whose hands is the end result of all of the affairs:

فَإِذَا عَزَمْتَ فَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللّٰهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللّٰهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُتَوَكِّلِينَ

So when you have decided (on a particular course of action), then place your trust in God; surely God loves those who trust. (Qur’an, Surah Ale ʿImran, 3:159).

وَإِلَى اللّٰهِ عَاقِبَةُ الْأُمُورِ

And with God rests the end and decision of (all) affairs. (Qur’an, Surah Luqman, 31:22).

Those who have trust in God, live a life free from fear and apprehension. When faced with overwhelming difficult situations, instead of panicking or running away, they face it with full confidence. The enormity of the situation does not overwhelm them easily, instead it only elevates their level of trust in God.

الَّذِينَ قَالَ لَهُمُ النَّاسُ إِنَّ النَّاسَ قَدْ جَمَعُوا لَكُمْ فَاخْشَوْهُمْ فَزَادَهُمْ إِيمَانًا وَقَالُوا حَسْبُنَا اللّٰهُ وَنِعْمَ الْوَكِيلُ فَانْقَلَبُوا بِنِعْمَةٍ مِنَ اللّٰهِ وَفَضْلٍ لَمْ يَمْسَسْهُمْ سُوءٌ وَاتَّبَعُوا رِضْوَانَ اللّٰهِ ۗ وَاللّٰهُ ذُو فَضْلٍ عَظِيمٍ

Those to whom the people said: Surely the people have gathered against you, therefore fear them, but this increased their faith, and they said: God is sufficient for us and most excellent is the Protector. So they returned with favor from God and (His) grace, no evil touched them and they followed the pleasure of God; and God is the Lord of mighty grace. (Qur’an, Surah Ale ʿImran, 3:173-174).

An Urdu poet has stated:

Don’t get daunted by the fury of opposing winds, oh eagle!
These blow only to make you soar higher (into the skies).11

Leave it to God (al-Tafwidh)

There are situations in life in which we want to get things done but feel helpless. Sometimes we do not know the way out. We feel cornered with all attempts to advance facing a dead end. The goal or objective seems beyond our reach, like a person whose sail boat is lost at sea and does not know in which direction to go to find the land; or a person who is overwhelmed with financial debt and does not know how to get out of the situation.

In such situations, the monotheist does not lose hope, nor tries to end one’s life like many people do, but rather, leaves one’s affairs to God to find a way out for him:

وَأُفَوِّضُ أَمْرِي إِلَى اللّٰهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللّٰهَ بَصِيرٌ بِالْعِبَاد44 فَوَقَاهُ اللّٰهُ سَيِّئَاتِ مَا مَكَرُوا

And I entrust my affair to God, Surely God sees the servants. So God protected him from the evil (consequences) of what they planned… (Qur’an, Surah al-Mu’min, 40:44).

Those who have this ability to leave their affairs to God have full confidence in Him. They understand that all affairs are in God’s hands and no one can benefit or harm them without His permission. None have any ability except by God’s authority. They know that if they maintain God consciousness, then He will find a way out for them and help them from a source that one does not even know existed:

وَمَنْ يَتَّقِ اللّٰهَ يَجْعَلْ لَهُ مَخْرَجًا وَيَرْزُقْهُ مِنْ حَيْثُ لَا يَحْتَسِبُ ۚ وَمَنْ يَتَوَكَّلْ عَلَى اللّٰهِ فَهُوَ حَسْبُهُ ۚ إِنَّ اللّٰهَ بَالِغُ أَمْرِهِ ۚ قَدْ جَعَلَ اللّٰهُ لِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدْرًا

And whoever is careful of (his duty to) God, He will make for him an outlet, And give him sustenance from whence he thinks not; and whoever trusts in God, He is sufficient for him; surely God attains His purpose; God indeed has appointed a measure for everything. (Qur’an, Surah al-Talaq, 65:2-3).

Imam ʿAli (‘a) has been quoted as reciting the following in his famous supplication known as Duʿa al-Sabah:

My God, these are the reins of my soul that I have bounded with the ties of Your will…12

Submission (al-Taslim) and Contentment with the Outcome (al-Ridha)

The path of believing in practical monotheism leads one to a state of submission/acceptance (al-taslim) and pleased with the outcome (al-ridha) for what is happening in one’s life.

A monotheist has conviction that all affairs are in God’s hands and nothing can happen without His permission, and so accepts the end result of all of their efforts.

Now this does not mean that one should not struggle hard or strive one’s best to achieve morally good objectives, but once it becomes clear that the outcome of our affairs are not going to be the way that we want them to be, accepting the reality and not complaining about it and not even feeling bad about it in the heart becomes the mainstay of the believer in monotheism.

For example, a couple’s son develops a serious illness. They provide him the best possible medical care but despite their sincere and whole hearted efforts the son dies. There is nothing more that they or anyone else could have done to save the child. Those with a personal relationship with God at the level of submission and pleasure with the outcome will accept this reality and not question God’s wisdom for taking their son. This does not mean that they do not feel the intense pain of losing their son nor does it mean that they will not grieve over him even years after his passing away, but they will accept the reality and are at peace with it. This submission comes from a very high level of faith in the heart which very few enjoy.

فَلَا وَرَبِّكَ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ حَتَّىٰ يُحَكِّمُوكَ فِيمَا شَجَرَ بَيْنَهُمْ ثُمَّ لَا يَجِدُوا فِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ حَرَجًا مِمَّا قَضَيْتَ وَيُسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا

But no, (not so as they have asserted,) by your Lord! they are no believers at all unless they refer all their disputes (that arise between them) to you for judgment, then they do not find any demur in their minds about the propriety of your judgment, and they submit (to your decisions) with entire submission. (Qur’an, Surah al-Nisa’, 4:65).

Monotheism as an ideology affects every aspect of the life of an individual who wants to live by it. Depending on the degree of one’s conviction in monotheism, an individual applies this ideology in one’s life. A true monotheist enjoys life to the fullest. The person develops a degree of independence from everything other than God. They are the true free individuals (al-ahrar) who are not bound by expectations of others, nor do they feel threated by anyone. It does not mean that they are careless about their duty to others, in fact they are very conscious of their obligations to people. However, they do not fear the powerful, or resourceful because in their personal relationships they are connected to the Most Powerful and the Most Resourceful. They never lose hope no matter how difficult the situation may be and they never get disappointed if the outcome is apparently not in their favor. They are the ones who are truly alive and they are surely the successful people:

لَا تَجِدُ قَوْمًا يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللّٰهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ يُوَادُّونَ مَنْ حَادَّ اللّٰهَ وَرَسُولَهُ وَلَوْ كَانُوا آبَاءَهُمْ أَوْ أَبْنَاءَهُمْ أَوْ إِخْوَانَهُمْ أَوْ عَشِيرَتَهُمْ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ كَتَبَ فِي قُلُوبِهِمُ الْإِيمَانَ وَأَيَّدَهُمْ بِرُوحٍ مِنْهُ ۖ وَيُدْخِلُهُمْ جَنَّاتٍ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا ۚ رَضِيَ اللّٰهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا عَنْهُ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ حِزْبُ اللّٰهِ ۚ أَلَا إِنَّ حِزْبَ اللّٰهِ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ

You will find no such people who (truly) believe in God and the Last Day, loving those who oppose God and His Messenger, even though they (the opponents of God) be their fathers, or their sons or their brethren or their kindred. It is they in whose hearts God has inscribed (true) faith and has strengthened them with His own revelation. He will admit them to Gardens served with running streams. They shall abide there for ever. God is well pleased with them and they are well pleased with Him. They are God’s party. Behold! it is God’s party alone that are the winners of the goal. (Qur’an, Surah al-Mujadilah, 58:22).

The best example of those who have lived by monotheism are the prophets and the imams; and a few anecdotes from their lives have been mentioned in Chapter 4 of this book. I encourage the readers to go over that chapter again after reading this one in order to understand their manners from the perspective of monotheism.

As we conclude this chapter, we are reminded of the words of Imam al-Husayn (‘a) just a few hours before he was martyred on the 10th of Muharram – the Day of ʿAshuraʾ:

Satisfied at Your (God’s) decree, and submitted to Your (God’s) command.

  • 1. Also referred to by its Arabic equivalent, al-tawhid al-afʿali.
  • 2. Nahj al-Balagha, saying 250.
  • 3. Usul al-Kafi, vol. 1, section on predestination and absolute freewill, tradition 10.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5.
  • 6. Lakhani, M. ʿAli, On Freedom and Necessity found at:
  • 7. Usul al-Kafi, v. 1, p. 152, Book of Monotheism, Chapter on Mashiʿa wa Irada, tradition 6.
  • 8. Mafatih al-Jinan, Ziyarat ʿAshura’.
  • 9. Andrade, Chittaranjan, Prayers and Healing:A Medical and Scientific Perspective on Randomized Controlled Trials, Indian J Psychiatry 2009. 51, 4:247-253.
  • 10. Mafatih al-Jinan, Duʿa Kumayl.
  • 11. Barg-e-Sabz, Syed Sadiq Husayn Shah.
  • 12. Mafatih al-Jinan, Duʿa al-Sabah.