The word “wahid” is used in some verses, and the word “ahad” is used in the chapter of al-Ikhlas for the unity of Allah. What is the reason for this distinction?

The Details of the Question

- What is the difference in meaning between these two words?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The word “ahad”, which is translated as “one” is a word derived from the root wahd or wahdah, which means “oneness / unity”. (Abu Hayyan, VIII, 528) When it is used as an attribute of Allah, it expresses His oneness, singleness and uniqueness.

It is attributed to Allah directly in the chapter of al-Ikhlas and indirectly in the chapter of al-Balad (90/7). In this sense, it also includes thalbi/negating (stating what Allah is not) attributes. As a matter of fact, the verses coming after it emphasize the oneness in this sense. Therefore, it is generally thought that the attribute “ahad” cannot be attributed to anyone but Allah with some exceptions. While “wahid”, which is derived from the same root, is an attribute of Allah in the sense of ­“­one, only, and only being that cannot be divided or increased in number”, it is also used to express the numerical unity of beings other than Allah.

There is a difference between “one” (wahid) and “single” (ahad). “Wahid” is generally used in the sense of “one of the many beings of the same sort”. “Ahad” is used in the sense of “the only being that has no being of the same sort, that is, unique in terms of its being and attributes”. In this sense, Allah is one, unique. The use of the word “Ahad” in the chapter of al-Ikhlas, which was revealed to explain the “uniqueness/oneness” of Allah, is important in this respect.  

Other differences between the attributes of ahad and wahid are explained as follows:

- Ahad shows that Allah ­is one in terms of His essence and wahid indicates that He is one in terms of His attributes.

- The word “wahid” is used for positive (proof) and the word “ahad” is used for negative (nafy). It rejects the existence of deities other than Allah. 

- While it is declared that Allah is unique in His essence and reality and free from all kinds of compositions, with the phrase “He is Allah, He is One”, He is freed from all kinds of multiplicity.

- The word “Allah” in the verse refers to the essence of God Almighty, while Ahad refers to His oneness. It should be noted here that the name Ahad does not mean one “as an amount”, but means “the only one”, “unique”, “the one without partners”, “the one except whom every being is created”. That is, all “one”s other than Him are one in number, they are creatures that came into being later.

- It means that the essence of Allah Almighty is one, that His holy nature is unlike any other, and that He is free from space and time, from body and from all the properties of body.

- Ahadiyyah is the unity of the essence while wahidiyyah aims to reject partnership in the attribute.

[References: Fakhruddin ar-Razi, Tefsir-i Kebir, Akçağ Yayınları: 23/560; Diyanet Tefsiri, Kur’an Yolu:V/690-691; EL-VÂHİD (EL-EHAD)]

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