Thursday, April 21, 2011

Al-Majdalus on Monotheism

Today I'd like to share some remarks from Abu al-Majdalus's Arabic commentary on the Nicene Creed, as translated into English by Samuel Noble. What follows are his comments on the first few words of the creed, which are an affirmation of biblical monotheism:

First, the believer says, "We believe in one God." This expression is taken from the Law of Moses, since God said in it, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is one" [Deuteronomy 6:4]. They began by confirming God's sole lordship, as in unity he is the God of every thing. No one is his partner, no likeness resembles him, and no opposite rivals him. In his eternal essence there is no mass and no breadth because mass is bounded by dimensions and dimension confines it and form touches it. The parts of that which is divided separate and what is described is bounded by its description, but the Absolutely One is not resembled by his works or comparable to his creature. He is not described except by the attributes of his eternity because he was the Creator before every attribute and description. His essence is unrestricted and his work is unimpeded. He is veiled from intellects just as he is veiled from vision. He has no bounded description and no numbered time. Shortcomings and defects do not reach him. Times and seasons do not change him. Pre-eternal, he remains eternal. His existence has no beginning. "Pre-eternal" is an expression referring to one before whom there is nothing. "The Absolutely One" is an expression referring to one who has no second. Just as 'alif' is the first letter and nothing precedes it, the Creator - may he be praised - is the first without beginning, eternally existent with nothing before him. Everything depends on his will and comes out of his volition.

Moses bore witness in his great Law and all the prophets in their prophecies to the oneness of God and the pre-eternity of his being eternal. God, may he be exalted, said in the Law, "Hear, O Israel, I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt. Do not worship any god other than me and do not bow to any god besides me" [Deuteronomy 5:6-9]. He also said, "Look, look, I am he and there is no god other than me. I cause death and I bring life. I strike and I heal. No one escapes from my hand" [Deuteronomy 32:39]. The prophet Isaiah said, "I am the first and the last. There is no god before me nor will one come after me" [Isaiah 44:6; 43:10]. The one is unique in oneness. No one shares in it. The prophet Isaiah said, "You are the mighty God, the God of Israel who sits upon the cherubim. You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth" [Isaiah 37:16]. The prophet Jeremiah said, "Our Lord is one. We do not worship another with him". The Holy Gospel said, "Bow to the Lord your God and worship him alone" [Matthew 4:10].


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