On Islamic monotheism

Islamic monotheism differs profoundly from Jewish monotheism and that is the real conflict.

Tags: Islam Koran
Prof. Paul Eidelberg

OpEds Al-Masjid an-Nabawī mosque in Saudi Arabia
Al-Masjid an-Nabawī mosque in Saudi Arabia

Physicist Gerald L. Schroeder wisely said, “The god an atheist does not believe in is usually not the God of the Bible.  Unfortunately, the god of the ‘believer’ is also often not the God of the Bible.”

Islamic monotheism differs profoundly from Jewish monotheism.  The first Chief Rabbi of Palestine, Avraham Kook (1865-1935), who studied philosophy and Kabbalah, referred to Islamic monotheism as “barren and desolate,” whereas the Jewish God “brings joy and life to all.”  

Islam’s deity, Allah, is absolutely transcendent.  He is pure will without personality.  One consequence of Allah’s absolute transcendence is the impossibility of human free will or choice.   Islam postulates absolute predestination of all that we think, say and do.  The totality of all events is irrevocably fixed, preordained, and recorded from eternity.  Sinners are as predestined as virtuous believers.  

Contrast the idea of free will in the Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus (c.55–c.135):  “He gave us this gift free will from all let or hindrance or compulsion – nay, He put it wholly in our hands, not even leaving Himself any power to let or hinder us.”  This is Jewish, indeed, rabbinical doctrine.

Islamic fatalism contradicts the free will implied in the Genesis account of man’s creation in the image of God.   The clash between Judaism and Islam can even be seen in the architecture of their places of worship.  Commenting on Exodus 27:8 involving the rectangular lines of the Altar in the Temple, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch writes:  

"... in all forms made by organic forces unconsciously or at least unreasoningly, the curved or circular form predominates, or perhaps is even exclusive.  It is only the free, self-directed force, of free, reasoning Man, that makes its buildings and creations in straight lines and angles.The circle, the curve, appertains to subjection, to lack of free­will [hence the spherical mosque such as the Dome of the Rock (P.E.)] . . . The rectangle is the sign of the freedom of the human will, and of its mastery over the material world …"

The Jewish God – the God of Abraham – endows all men with moral freedom.  Abraham can argue and plead with God, as did Moses, because the God of the Jews is a personal God, immanent as well as transcendent.  This affirmation of human dignity in Judaism is absent in Islam. 

Consider the Quran.   Its ethos of jihad is an obvious denial of the sanctity of human life—a denial that contradicts the Quran’s reference to “Allah the compassionate.”   

It is in this light that we are to understand what is at stake in Islam’s conflict with Israel.  This conflict will not and cannot be resolved by diplomacy.  To think otherwise is to undermine the vigilance of one’s own people as well as facilitate the designs of the most dangerous enemies of mankind.