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Monotheism in Islam: History & Definition

Instructor: Emily Cummins
This lesson will cover the definition and history of the religion of Islam, focusing on the concept of monotheism, or the belief in one and only one God.

So What is Monotheism?

What sounds more appealing to you? A pantheon of many different gods, filling in different roles? Or a single god who takes care of everything? Well, most modern faiths focus on this idea of a single god, something called monotheism.

Monotheism is derived from Greek, meaning 'singular,' and is defined as the belief in the existence of only one god. Many religions practice monotheism, but individuals who practice Islam believe in a very strict form of monotheism wherein the only god or deity a follower can worship is Allah, the Arabic word for God.

History of Islam

You're probably aware that Islam is a religion practiced by Muslims. Despite the controversial headlines surrounding the religion, Islam has a rich history and several noteworthy traditions and beliefs. It's believed to have originated in the 7th Century in the territory known today as the Middle East. Islam, which means 'surrender,' is based upon the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. Muhammad was born in the city of Mecca, today considered a holy site, and began preaching about the existence of a single god. In the grand scheme of things, Muhammad is thought to have reinforced monotheism in the Arab world.

In Islam, Muhammad is believed to have received revelations from Allah, which he wrote down. These writings formed the verses found today in the Qur'an, which is the most holy text in Islam. The Qur'an is considered sacred and contains the literal word of God, as relayed to Muhammad.

Today, many practicing Muslims pray up to five times a day, fast during holy holidays, and in many cases, take pilgrimage to sacred sites. In Islam, these acts are known as pillars. There are five pillars of Islam, which each Muslim must practice. The pillars consist of the belief in only one God, ritual prayer five times daily, giving to those in need, fasting through Ramadan (the holy month), and pilgrimage to Mecca (Muhammad's birthplace) at least once in a Muslim's lifetime. The first pillar, or the belief in one God, is key to understanding Islam.

Monotheism in Islam

Monotheism is perhaps the most important tenet of Islam and is, arguably, the fundamental concept of the religion. In Arabic, monotheism is also known as tawheed, and refers to the uniqueness and supremacy of God, or Allah. In Islam, Allah is the singular master and creator of the universe. Tawheed means specifically that there is no other being or deity worthy of worship except Allah. According to the Qur'an, Allah is a universal God, meaning that different local or tribal gods simply don't exist. Polytheism, or the belief in multiple gods, is considered one of the greatest sins in Islam because it violates this most fundamental belief of the religion. Tawheed also states that Muhammad is a singular being, meaning he doesn't have any kids, a wife, or parents.

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