• Welcome to Religious Forums, a friendly forum to discuss all religions in a friendly surrounding.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Our modern chat room. No add-ons or extensions required, just login and start chatting!
    • Access to private conversations with other members.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

Divine Unity : Ontological, not a Numerical Concept


Active Member
بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم
A feature of Tawhid (monotheism) as propounded by Nahjul-Balagha( the most famous collection of sermons, letters and sayings of Imam Ali, the first Imam of 12 Imams ) is that the Divine Unity is not numerical but is something else. Numerical unity means the oneness of something which has the possibility of recurrence or multiplicity. It is always possible to imagine that the quiddity and form of an existent is realizable in another individual being. In such cases, the unity of an individual possessing that quiddity is numerical oneness and stands as the antithesis of duplicity or multiplicity.
It is one means that there is unique, none, nobody, nothing is like it. Inevitably, this kind of unity entails the quality of being restricted in number, which is a defect because one is less in number as compared to two or more of its kind. But if a being is such that the assumption of a recurrence with regard to it is impossible, since it is infinite and unlimited, and if we assume another like it exists, it will follow that it is the same as the first being, or that it is something which is not similar to it and, therefore, it cannot be called a second instance of it. In such a case, unity is not numerical. That is, this kind of unity is not one opposed to duplicity or multiplicity. And when it is said, “It is one, it does not mean that there are no two, three or more of its kind, but it means that a second to it is inconceivable.”
This notion can further be clarified through an example. We know that the astronomers and physicists are not in agreement about the dimensions of the universe, whether it is limited in size or infinite. Some scientists have favored the idea of an unlimited and infinite universe;
others claim that the universe is limited in dimensions so that if we travel in any direction, we shall reach a point beyond which there is no space.
The other issue is whether the universe in which we live is the only universe in existence, or if there are other universes existing besides it.
Evidently, the assumption of another physical world beyond our own is a corollary to the assumption that our universe is not infinite. Only in this case is it possible to assume the existence of, say, two physical universes each of which is limited and has finite dimensions. But if we assume that our universe is infinite, it is not possible to entertain the assumption of another universe existing beyond it. Whatever we were to assume would be identical with this universe or a part of it.
The assumption of another being similar to the Being of the One God, such as the assumption of another physical universe besides an infinite material universe, amounts to assuming the impossible, for the Being of Allah is absolute: “Absolute Selfhood and Absolute Reality.”
The notion that the Divine Unity is not a numerical concept, and that qualifying it by a number is synonymous with imposing limits on the Divine Essence, is repeatedly discussed by Nahjul-Balagha:

“He is the One, but not in a numerical sense.”(Sermon 152)

“He is not confined by limits, nor is He counted by numbers.”(Sermon 186)

“He who points to Him admits for Him limitations, and he who admits limitations for Him has numbered Him.”(Sermon 1)

“He who qualifies Him limits Him. He who limits Him numbers Him. He who numbers Him denies His pre-eternity.”(Sermon 152)

“Everything associated with unity is deficient except Him.”(Sermon 65)

How beautiful, profound, and full of meaning is the last statement! It says that everything except the Divine Essence is limited if it is one. That is, everything for which another of its same kind is conceivable is a limited being and an addition of another individual would increase its number. But this is not true of the Unity of the Divine Essence, for Allah`s Unity lies in His greatness and infinity for which a peer, a second, an equal or a match is not conceivable.
This concept, that the Divine Unity is not a numerical notion, is exclusively an Islamic concept, original and profound, unprecedented in any other school of thought. Even the Muslim philosophers only gradually realized its profundity through contemplating on the spirit of the original Islamic texts, in particular the discourses of Imam Ali (a.s.), ultimately formally incorporating it in the Islamic metaphysical philosophy. There is no trace of this profound concept in the writings of the early Islamic philosophers like al-Farabi and Ibn Sina (Avicenna). Only the later philosophers ushered this concept into their philosophic thinking calling it Really True Unity, in their terminology.