We often hear of the creed of Islam as La ilaha illa Allah (“no god but the One God”).  Far more than merely stating that there is one God, the healing of the Prophetic message is the transformation from having a heart fractured by the pursuit of every external and internal idol to arriving at a state of wholeness through devotion to the One God.

Shaykh Zayed mosque

Shaykh Zayed mosque from Shutterstock

Ultimately, the bold claim of the Prophetic tradition is that there is a path to God—or rather, multiple paths—and it goes right through humanity.  In other words, there is no way of being right with God without first and also being right with humanity, starting with “the least of these.”

Qur'anic calligraphy, from Sokollu Mehmed Pasha mosque in Istanbul

Qur’anic calligraphy, from Sokollu Mehmed Pasha mosque in Istanbul author's photo

Ultimately, the message of the Prophet weaves together theology, ethics, and spirituality.  Faith in God compels us to begin with service to the downtrodden and marginalized in society:  the poor, the lonely, the sick, the elderly, the children, the ostracized, the widows, the immigrants.

Faith in God is not so much a doctrine that we hold in our head, but a light that shines on all without distinction, a water that always starts on high and gravitates towards the lowly, nurturing all along the way.

The love of God, embodied and re-presented through service to humanity, crushes that ultimate and most invisible idol, the ego, leaving nothing in its place but the very presence of God.

It is our ego that insists “mine, mine”, and sees ourselves as cut off from grace, cut off from one another, cut off from the cosmos, and cut off from God.

And the remedy for the ego is love, that fire of alchemy that through service to humanity transforms and uplifts what’s base in our spirits to what’s golden and luminous.

Allah calligraphyOnce we are done with the “no god”, once we have negated the illusory idols, there is left naught “but the One God.”

Taken in this way, Tawhid (Unity) means not merely the oneness of God, but that we must become whole inside our own selves, and we must strive for unity in the human community.  If we are fractured in our own hearts, it becomes all but impossible to have unity in the human community, or to truly detect the unity of creation, the oneness of God.

In this path, justice and love are intrinsically related:   justice means simply standing against all that blocks the flows of love towards the totality of humanity, no matter where and when, by whom and to whom.

In the beginning there was God and there was none other.
In the end there will be God and none other.
It is now, as it was then, and as it shall be—through love.

Once love has transformed that ego, there will be God, and none other than God.

La ilaha illa Allah.
Illa Allah.
There is no god, but the One God.
But the One God.

Categories: Beliefs, Culture, Ethics, Institutions, Politics

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Omid Safi

Omid Safi

Omid Safi is a Professor of Islamic Studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, specializing in contemporary Islamic thought and classical Islam. He leads educational tours to Turkey every summer, through Illuminated Tours: http://www.illuminatedtours.com


    • Just think of all the blind hate Muslim Jihadees have for infidels! Just think of the confusion westerners have when we here of Christian men, women and children being blown up in Pakistan, having their throats slit while going shopping in a mall in Kenya, or sleeping in a dormitory in Nigeria and waking up to Boco Haram! Through your tears you could cry out loud to the Living God to do something to stop the genocide of Christians in Syria, Egypt, and Iraq to name but a few Muslim dominated countries practicing The Sharia on non Muslims. So what confusion do westerners have? The confusing nature of Islam in the west and Islam in the east. The myth of the moderate Muslim and the confusion he brings with
      There is only one type of Muslim the type who believes that Christ is not The Son of God who was resurrected from the dead. This Christ has welcomed every one of those Christian martyrs to heaven. Only he has the authority to do that. He extends an invitation to anyone who believes. Soon though, Christ will return to judge the world, he will remove false religion and false prophets and false messiahs and restore justice.
      Until we watch the carnage, listen to the lies, sing The Lords praises, give of our time and resources to help the persecuted, we wait for the Lord to return and pray for our enemy who despise us for believing in Jesus Christ, The Son of God.

  1. Jesus taugh Love your enemies and those who persecute you.
    Muhammed taugh enemies of Islam must be killed and crucified.
    Jesus Taugh with example on the Cross, that he forgave his executers.
    Mohammed comdenmed all of the Jews and Christians.

    Love is something that humankind knows a little and it is very powerfull.. God comes from Love and it is an unmeasureable LOVE. Islam has nothing much about love instead comdenation. Lets be openminded, serve each other and all be blessed.

  2. “I walk my talk” can be the most beautiful thing a person can honestly say … and the most difficult. come on communities of people that value love enough to want to communicate about it regularly, deeply and passionately … the world really needs you. you can do it !!!

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