"TAWHEED AND TRINITY: WHY IS MONOTHEISM SO HARD?"
27 December 2019
Dr. Abou El Fadl begins with the reminder that there is no simpler, straight-forward and unadulterated creed than the creed of Islam. Islam is the creed of intuition (fitra) because intuition tells us that there is a God and God is singular and immutable and not subject to the same laws of creation; God is the first cause of the created world. We dwell in a world limited by laws of existence. Islam came to existence before Prophet Ibrahim; Prophet Idris conveyed the same message from God that all of the Prophets that came after also conveyed, reminding us that human existence is not a coincidence, and that we are of God, from God and to God. Our Creator is intimately involved in everything we say and do. We cannot separate ourselves from our Divine Maker, even if we deny and ignore that Divine Maker.
In Islamic theology, we know that human beings, because of their own weaknesses, find a simple, straightforward message difficult to live up to. Human beings mythologize and complicate that message in numerous ways. For example, ancient Israelites had the message from Moses, "Adonai Echad", “Your God is One”. Despite this message, paganism, even until the time that Jesus appears, was intimately interconnected with the history of the Israelites, and documented in the Old Testament.
Jesus came with the identical message (as covered in previous khutbahs) that “Your Father and my Father is One and there is only One God” (John 17:1-5), but Christianity’s concept of the Trinity was born through a process of mythologizing a deity, and is a different form of paganism, but paganism, nonetheless.
The essence of what humanity has done repeatedly is to turn away from the simplicity and purity of the idea of one God, the Maker of All, to various mythologies that introduce various intermediaries between the Creator and the created. As discussed in previous khutbahs, it is taking what is mundane, and attributing Divine attributes to that mundane, so that it mediates between God and a human being – a process of divinating the mundane.
Two main elements play an undeniable role in the corrupting and complicating the message of Tawheed, the simple, pure innate idea that there is one and only God. One corrupting element is the frailty of the human ego, which is a bundle of contradictions. The human ego is exceptionally narcissistic and loves to deify itself, yet at the same time, suffers a consistent sense of guilt. It elevates itself to selfish heights but at the same time, does not see itself as worthy of dealing directly with the one and only Creator, not believing that God would care or be interested in every individual in a serious or intimate way. Mythology allows for interacting with something lesser than a full God; something that resembles a human being that is not fully God. Even in Islam, many people, instead of building the relationship with God, rely on Shaykhs, or Shariah, or a Sufi master, as if they are not worthy themselves of building a direct relationship with God.
The second element that comes in to mythologize the message of Tawheed is the corruptions of power, as the powerful always ache for a level of divination. Throughout history, the religious clergy has always played the role of deifying the ruler, supporting the idea that the ruler is God’s will and if one disobeys the ruler, it is as if disobeying God.
Tawheed, the belief in the one and only God, is more important than at any time in human history; it cleanses the human ego so it knows that it is worthy and important, and has rights, dignity and value as entitled to all, directly from God without intercession nor mythology. Unless religion stands up to the corruptions of power and is on the side of the oppressed, rather than on the side of the powerful, then religion will continue to be another instrument of oppression and corruption on Earth.