Were it not for the question of monotheism, I might well have ended up a Quaker or a Methodist. Had I been seeking an identity, it’s likely I would have chosen a home closer to my character. I might find myself part of a different kind of community: unaggressive, softer, calmer, more progressive, socially constructive. I think about this quite a lot these days.
But I came this way, not because I was seeking an alien path, or alienation. I stumbled this way because I knew, innately, that a man, however great, was not God, or a part of God, or one in essence with Him, or His son, or part of a divine mystery that made him part of another’s whole. The path I walk addresses that: worship God alone without partner, turn only to Him and ask only of Him. God is not a man, and is not like a man: God is the creator of the universe and all in it and outside of it, beyond time.
Allah — there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of existence. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is before them and what will be after them, and they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills. His throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Most Great. — Qur’an 2:255
Were it not for this central tenet, I could quite easily have made my home in any one of the multitude of churches that teem in my town, choosing a community of my liking to nurture my soul. Instead I wander, a stranger, into an ethnocentric and sectarian house of prayer to fulfil my obligations in my locality, finding refuge and comfort only in my nomadic trek across counties every Sunday morning to seek faithful nourishment and fellowship elsewhere.
Community is often what people are looking for — and I see this amongst the Christian faithful leading full and meaningful lives amongst their fellow believers, as they engage in mid-week Bible study circles in their homes, and socialise over coffee after church on Sunday mornings. Sometimes, while passing by, I see smiling families being greeted at the church doors by the local priest and their helpers. I relate to that need for companionship and belonging completely.
But I took a different road, awake to the calls of my soul. Years ago, when faced with the Nicene Creed midway through the Sunday service each week, I was forced by conscience to recite only its first four lines:
“We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.”
Throughout the thirty lines that remained, I would close my mouth. It forced me for a time to sit at the back of church, where nobody would see my abridged affirmation. Later I would miss church altogether. Not due to laziness, though that was my excuse, but due to conscience. But for that central tenet, I could easily have made my home in that tradition, with its beautiful music, camaraderie and communion. Instead I chose this lonely road — and it is lonely at times — driven on to worship the creator of both the vast universe and the tiniest quarks.
I believe in one God, the Almighty, make of heaven and earth, and of all that is, seen and unseen. And He is the most high, the most great.