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Why only One God and not two or more than two gods? — Imam al-Tabari

September 11, 2017 Leave a comment

 

Our description has made it clear that the Creator and Originator of all things was before everything, that night and day and time and hours are originated, and that their Originator Who administers and manages them exists before them, since it is impossible for something to originate something unless its originator exists before it. (It is also clear that) God’s word:

“Don’t (the unbelievers) look at the camels (and reflect) how they were created, and at the heaven how it was raised, and at the mountains how they were set up, and at the earth how it was spread out flat? (Quran 88:17-20)

contains the most eloquent evidence and the most effective proofs for those who use reason to reflect and the mind to be instructed, that the Creator of all those things is eternal and that everything of their kind is originated and has a Creator that is not similar to them. That is because everything mentioned by our Lord in this verse, the mountains, the earth, the camels, is dealt with and administered by man, who may move it around and manage it, who may dig, cut, and tear down, none of which he is prevented from doing. Yet, beyond that, man is not able to bring anything of that into existence without a basis (to work from).

 

The conclusion is that the one who is incapable of originating those things could not have originated himself and that the one who is not prevented from managing and organizing whatever he wishes could not have been brought into existence by someone like himself and he did not bring himself into existence. Further, the One Who brought (man) up and gave him substantial (‘ayn) existence is the One Who is not incapable of (doing) anything He wishes, and He is not prevented from originating anything He wants. He is “God Unique and Forceful.” (Quran 12:39)

 

Someone might ask:

Why should it be disapprovable to assume that the things you have mentioned result from the action of two eternal (beings)?

The reply would be:

We disapprove of that because we find that the administration is continuous and the creation perfect. We say:

If the administrators were two, they would necessarily either agree or disagree. If they agree, the two would conceptually be one, and the one would be made two merely by positing two.

If they differ, it would be impossible to find the existence of the creation perfect and (its) administration continuous. For each one of two who differ does what is different from what his fellow does . If one gives life, the other causes death . If one of them produces existence, the other produces annihilation . It would thus be impossible for anything in creation to exist in the perfection and continuity it does.

God’s words: “If there were other gods except God in (heaven and earth), both would be ruined. Praised be God, Lord of the Throne, (who is above) what they describe“; (Quran 21:22) and: “God has not taken to Himself a child , and there has been no god together with Him. Otherwise, each god would have gone off with what he created and risen over the others. Praised be God (who is above) what they describe. He knows what is unseen and what is observable, and He is exalted above their associating (other gods with Him)” (Quran 23:91) -these words of God are the most eloquent evidence and the most concise explanation as well as the most effective proof for the falsehood of those falsehood-mongers who associate (other gods) with God.

 

That is because, if there were another god except God in the heavens and the earth, the condition of the two as to agreement and disagreement would necessarily be the one I have described. Saying that there may be agreement implies that saying they are two is wrong. It confirms the oneness of God and is an absurd statement in as much as the one who makes it calls the one two. Saying that there may be disagreement indicates ruin for the heavens and the earth, as our Lord says : “If there were other gods except God in them, both would be ruined.” (Quran 21:22) For if one originates and creates something, it would be the other’s business to put it out of existence and invalidate it. That is because the actions of two who differ are different, just as fire that warms and snow that cools what fire has warmed.

 

Another argument (would be this):

If it were (true) as those who associate other gods with God say, each one of the two whom they consider as eternal would necessarily be either strong or incapable.

 

If both were incapable , each one, being incapable, would be defeatable and not be a god.

 

If both were strong, each one of them, by virtue of being incapable of subduing the other, would be incapable and being incapable would not be a god.

 

If each one of them were strong enough to subdue the other, he, by virtue of the strength of the other to subdue him in turn, would be incapable. God is above the association of other gods with Him!

 

It has thus become clear that the Eternal One, the Creator and Maker of all things is the One Who existed before everything and Who will be after everything, the First before everything and the Last after everything. He existed when there was no momentary and extended time, no night and no day, no darkness and no light except the light of His noble face, no heaven and no earth, no sun and no moon and no stars. Everything but He is originated, administered and made. He alone by Himself created everything without an associate, helper, and assistant . Praised be He as powerful and forceful!

 

[The history of al-Tabari, vol. 1, pg. 218-220]

 

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Poetry on Prophet Muhammad by Imam Abu al-Abbas Abdullah b. Muhammad al-Naashi


 

I praised the Messenger of God, seeking by praising him a plenitude of the best of rewards for myself;

I praised a man beyond praise, unique in his qualities, far beyond others far or near,

A Prophet whose light shone high in places east, his gifts apparent to the people of places west.

The prophets brought him to us before his coming, news of him spreading on all sides.

The foretelling divines began calling his name, using it to fend off the impact of misleading ideas.

Idols were given voice declaring to God their innocence of those who told the untruths.

They spoke in clear words to the unbelievers, ‘A prophet has come to you from Lu’ayy b. Ghalib.

And evil spirits wanted to eavesdrop hut shooting stars scattered them from their seats.

He led us to where we would never have found our way, so lengthy was our blmdness to clear philosophies.

He brought evidences showing that they were signs from one Almighty in reward and punishment

One of which was the splitting of the moon in two, mountain tops then being covered as if by a turban by the moonbeams.

And another was the rising of water springs between his fingertips while no wells or pools were near.

And another was the rising of water springs between his fingertips while no wells or pools were near.

By it he quenched the thirst of a large crowd; and the water flowed into rivulets in all directions, down to the plain land.

And a well brimmed over at his arrow’s touch, one before too dry for a single drinker’s palate.

And the udder flowed to his palm’s rub, which before when squeezed for liquid had no teat to respond to a milkman’s touch.

And there was eloquent utterance from the hand of a fortune teller about plans of an enemy bent on attack.

And his being told of matters before their being, and of the after-effects to come when these did arise.

And from those signs there was revelation he brought, one that is expedient, to come with a multitude of wonders.

Thought could not conceive of it (Quran), and so the like of which no eloquent man could articulate, nor did it occur to the mind of any preacher.

It encompassed all knowledge, embraced all wisdom, eluding the aim of the scheming and deceitful.

He brought it to us, not through a trickster’s tales, a scribe’s pages, or an author’s description.

Revelation comes to him sometimes to answer a questioner, to respond to a solution seeker, or in the exhortation of someone who is conversing;

For the bringing of proofs, the imposition of laws, the telling of narration, or the interpretation of purpose;

For the quotation of proverbs, the proving of a case, the revealing of some disbeliever, or the suspension of a liar;

In the meeting of some assembly, in the thick of some battle, or as difficult, puzzling problems occur.

So, it came down in different ways, with straight-out meaning and flowing varieties.

Its verses confirm each other, as if their meanings were scrutinized by a watchful eye.

And the inability of man to achieve such as we have described is well known by the many who attempted (to imitate it).

 

[Al-Sira al-Nabawiyyah, vol. 1, pg. 78-79]

Al-Tabari as a teacher for a wazir’s son


 

A friend of his knew that the wazir was looking for a tutor for his son, and the friend asked Tabari whether he was willing to accept the position if it was offered to him. Tabari agreed, no doubt eagerly. The friend was able to arrange matters. After first providing him with the proper clothes, he introduced him to the wazir. Ibn Khaaqan gained a good impression of him. He offered him the position and agreed to pay ten dinars per month.

 

In addition, he had a contract drawn up specifying the time Tabari was allowed to devote to study, prayer, eating, and resting, and even gave him upon his request a one-month advance. A well-equipped classroom (hujrat al-ta’dib) for the boy was assigned to Tabari. He instructed him in writing, and his pupil appears to have quickly learned how to write. The writing tablet that demonstrated the boy’s newly acquired skill was taken by servants to his mother and the other slave girls who had borne children to their master (ummahat al-walad) as proof of the good news.

 

The overjoyed ladies filled a tray with dirhams and dinars and sent it with the servants back to Tabari. He, however, refused to accept the money. He had, he said, a contract with the wazir to be paid a certain sum and was not entitled to any further compensation. The matter was submitted to the wazir who summoned him and told him that he was wrong to reject the well-meant gift of the women and had offended them by not accepting it. Tabari argued that the women were slaves and legally owned no property of their own. He obviously implied that it was really the wazir who was the source of the money and who therefore was paying more than had been agreed upon in the contract.

Tabari learned a lesson from this occurrence. Later on, when friends would bring him a gift of food, it was his established custom (sunnah) to accept it as being, in contrast to money, merely a token gift; but, prompted by his socially proper attitude (muruwwah), he would make an appropriate return gift. This taught his friends that it would be inadvisable to press gifts on him.

 

[Ibn ‘Asakir, LXXV; adh-Dhahabi, Nubala XIV, 271]

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