Is Islam a Monotheism (tawhid)?

No, it is not! At least not according to the creed of the vast majority of Muslims who follow the Imam Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal (+ 855) and the perhaps most influential theologian Abu l-Ḥasan al-Aš‘arī (+ 935).

According to this creed the Koran is not only eternal, but most of all "uncreated" (Arabic: ġayr mahlūq). What exactly is to be thought as "uncreated" under the name "Koran", perhaps this "Tablet Preserved" of the Koran in heaven (Arabic: lauḥ maḥfūẓ, surah 85,22) or – as Ibn Ḥanbal insisted – even the Arabic pronunciation of his terrestrial recitation – that is irrelevant. In any case this creed teaches an uncreated (in philosophical terms: non contingent) being that is not identical with Allah and so another god.

This reproach, indeed, had duly been brought forward in the 9th century by the theological and philosophical school of the Mu`tazilites against their adversaries. The latter, however, under the leadership of Al-Aš‘arī, after having been persecuted a short time by the inquisition (Arabic: miḥna) of Caliph Al-Ma’mūn (+ 833), won a total victory over the Mu`tazilites, who now were condemned as heretics. Al-Aš‘arī and his followers argued that the Koran is not created (Arabic: mahlūq), because it is the word of Allah and therefore like any other attribute of Allah together with him uncreated and eternal.

Now for various reasons the Koran cannot be thought of as an attribute of God as for instance his justice. One only may try to imitate a sentence like "God is just" with an attribute "Koran" or "Koranic"!

Most of all, this kind of theological argument in favour of the uncreatedness of the Koran necessarily leads to a third god: Jesus according to the Koran is "Allah's word" (Koran 4,171: "Allah's messenger and his word", Arabic: rasūlu llāhi wa kalimatuhu, N.B. not only "a word of Allah's"). According to the logic of the Ash‘arites Jesus must be uncreated, therefore a (third) god, though the Ash‘arites, of course, deny this.

To sum up: The Hanbalite-Ash‘arite creed, which the by far greatest majority of Muslims adheres to, doesn't teach a trinity, but undoubtedly (at least) three gods. That it doesn't give literally the name "god" to the Koran and to Jesus is unimportant. What matters is the content of the teaching, not a word.

Christoph Heger


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