Tawhid, in the sense of monotheism, is the realization that this existence has a Maker, an Owner; someone responsible for it that is not the product of chance. The one God, which is the core of Tawhid, can have no partners precisely because it is a God who is not subject to the laws of human beings, nor the laws of physics, nor the laws of time and space, nor the logic of human beings, physics or mathematics. Islam is the only religion on this earth that is firmly anchored in the theology of Tawhid, such that when you say, "I surrender my will to the will of the Owner of this universe," you know that everything that happens anywhere in the universe is within the control and sovereignty of God. God is aware of everything that unfolds, and from this comes your strength and your sense of being.
Monotheism is strong in the Jewish faith, but Judaism has gone through various trials and tribulations in history that has fitted the Jewish faith for the Israelite people as an ethnic, racial and nationalistic group, and the lines between what is Israelite and what is Judaism have been significantly blurred.
Christianity is a different story. We know the Ten Commandments given to Moses (Musa). The First Commandment says there is no god but God: “La illaha illallah.”. The irony in Christianity is that despite this First Commandment, Jesus does not unfold upon the scene until centuries later. How could all the prophets until the time of Jesus come and not tell us that embedded within the First Commandment is this jaw-dropping idea that God is a God of three essences that are co-equal, co-eternal and co-substantial, as is core to the Christian faith?
None of the prophets tell us that, and in fact, Jesus himself does not tell us that. But rather, after dying and being resurrected, according to the Christian belief, the disciples of Jesus tell us that. The problem is that the first teacher of the gospel and the person who wrote the first Gospel and the majority of the New Testament, according to Christian belief, is Paul. However, Paul never met Jesus, and in fact, was a Jew who persecuted Christians until he says that on the way to Damascus, he had a vision in which Jesus appears to him and teaches him what needs to be taught. All the other Gospels were written after Paul and copied from Paul.
Why do Muslims need to know and understand this? The biggest threat posed to the secular ideal in the United States is the mixing of religion and state, which comes primarily through the vehicle of evangelical Christianity, a sect that works fervently to colonize the world. We live in a colonial moment in which religion and politics mix with the main target being Muslims. The more Muslims know, the more Muslims will be able to protect themselves and raise their heads in pride, knowing who they are and what the truth is.
All the gospels were influenced by Paul and his teachings of the message of Christ. These are historical facts, not opinions. We do not know who the authors of the Gospels are. We do not know who wrote John, Matthew, or Luke; so for example, when you hear the familiar, “In the beginning was the Word…”, it is the author of the gospel who said it, and that author is unknown. The gospels were not written until at least 90 years after the death of Jesus. The idea of the Trinity is never clearly and firmly stated in any of the gospels. Jesus repeatedly refers to God as, "The Father who sent me."
In most churches today, there is hardly any talk about God, yet instead, they talk mostly about Jesus Christ as God. Further, the Bible does not provide a clear understanding of God the Father, God the Son, or the Holy Ghost. As a result, Christians know and connect far more to Jesus Christ than the Father of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Abou El Fadl gives numerous examples from the Bible that illustrate how Jesus refers to himself and to the Father, both in support of and in tension with the idea that Jesus is God. For example, in Luke 22:42, Jesus is worried about his impending trial and possible execution, so he prays fervently to God. God sends an angel to comfort Jesus and Jesus continues to pray while drops of sweat fall off him. These are not the actions of a god, but the actions of a man not wanting to be crucified. Further, Dr. Abou El Fadl demonstrates how certain words have been translated and mis-translated to create opposite meanings. In fact, the text of the Bible, as it exists in printed form, creates an enormous amount of tensions within the idea of a one and only God and reflects the choices made through various historical institutions. Of the many Gospel manuscripts that have reached us, no two manuscripts of the Bible agree with each other.
In another example, it is true that in the Bible, Jesus is referred to as a son of God. But various, undisputedly human prophets, including Moses, are also referred to as sons of God. Here, “son” is a term of endearment, and is not meant in the literal sense.
More significant is the use of the word “rabb” in the Bible, which is often used to refer to Jesus. “Rabb” is the Hebrew word for teacher. In John 1:38, Rabb is translated as teacher, but everywhere else where the word “rabb” is used in reference to Jesus Christ, it is translated to “Lord Jesus Christ,” completely altering the meaning. In the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic Bibles, it is clear that Jesus far from considered himself equal to God. But the English Bibles translate to exactly the opposite message.
As a result of this colonial project, many Muslims come to doubt Islam and even consider converting to nondenominational Christianity. “Nondenominational” means not being able to address the hard questions that differentiate Christian sects (e.g. whether Jesus is equal to or lesser than God; or whether Jesus was made by God or not), so instead, ignoring or pretending such differences do not exist, especially when speaking with Muslims. As is typical of how colonialism has worked, colonizers pretend that natives (i.e. Muslims) know nothing about the colonizing culture, and therefore never expect that the gaze will be returned upon them. An example is the way misogynistic British culture criticized women’s treatment in Muslim colonized countries while ignoring their own sexist behaviors. For young Muslims who have doubt in their hearts about their faith, the answer is to get an education.
Vice President Mike Pence recently was talking about how the U.S. has helped to define Islam to combat fanaticism and radicalism; the Islam they want is a hesitant, restless and insecure Islam. Islam is coming under a massive onslaught, and the role of evangelicals like Pence, Bannon and Trump is to eliminate the doctrine of separation of church and state and try to sneak in Christianity, especially among Muslims in the West. The Jesus they have constructed is a Hollywood racist image—the handsome figure of a Jesus Christ that you want to date, not worship. It is a racist and colonial project, and the battleground is over the Muslim intellect.
The answer is to gain serious knowledge in order to protect yourself and your children; and to support knowledge so that Muslims can stand on their own feet, return the gaze, and say, “La illaha illallah, Muhammad ar Rasulallah. We know who we are, and we are proud of it because it is the truth.”