The Meaning of the Unity of Acts
By: Ayatullah Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi
At-Tawhid in acts means to them that in performing His acts, Allah does not need any help or helper. He is independent and alone in doing. Some of the polytheists and deviators used to say that without there being other things or other persons, Allah is unable to carry out an act, and that when He wants to do anything He needs the help of others. Here is, of course, a delicate point which must be mentioned. To say that Allah carries out an act by some means which He Himself has created is different from saying that He cannot do without the help of some means. These two expressions differ from each other. By Allah's Will, we shall expand on them in the coming pages, to explain the difference between saying Allah acts through means, and that He cannot act without means.
Thus, the meaning of Unity of Acts, in the terms of rationality and theology, is that Allah, in carrying out His acts, does not need any help and helper from outside Himself. Should he use any means for that purpose, the means itself is created by Him and used by Him. It is not that He needs some help from outside Himself and not connected to Him, and to be brought from somewhere else, or else Allah would not be able to do whatever He wants to. No, it is not like that, Allah's Acts need none but Himself. If the Act needs a means, He creates it and uses it.
Another Version of the Unity of Acts
Some Islamic philosophers use the term "Unity of Act" instead of "Unity of Acts". By this term they intend to say that all Allah's created beings are connected to one another with an existential tie which collects them in a single order oneness, i.e. there is a sort of unity throughout the stages of existence.
Taking into consideration that the entire universe, from this point of view, is a single unit, the act which Allah achieves is the creation of this one universe, and thus, Allah has only one thing to do the creation of this world with all its details and diverse dimensions, extended over the vast expanse of time. This, however, does not mean that Allah has created the world in a single moment, and then it goes on automatically forever.
Actually, they mean that this world, besides having its dimensions of length, width and thickness, which are collected together, it also has its dimension of time, too. The world, with this dimension, which spreads in the expanse of time, is a single unit. Producing such a thing does not happen in the time, since time contains the world, not Allah. This world had been created with its time, but in what time is Allah? He has no time. The relation of the world, with all its phenomena along the time with Allah, is an existential one, yet it is not one of time nor of place.
Can anybody tell where Allah had created the world? Such a place is a part of the world itself. The "where" appears with the world when it is created. So, it is impossible to tell where Allah had created the world.
The "place" is something which Allah had created first and then He created the world in it. One may ask: "Where did Allah created the 'where"'? If we suppose that a vacancy in the space had been created first by Allah, then the world was created in that vacancy, the same question rises again: "Where did He create that vacancy?" It goes on until it comes to where one can no more ask: "Where was that creation created?" "Where" belongs to the creation, and there was no "where" before creation. This is like length, width and thickness, which belong to the world. It is not that Allah had first created the world and then gave it its length.
Actually the world of matter means something which has length. We cannot say that Allah created the world, then gave it width or thickness. The world of matter cannot be without length, width and depth. Similarly, it cannot be without time.
Therefore, time and place, like volume and other dimensions, are characteristics of the world itself, not added from outside. The entire world, with its time and place dimensions are a single unit, which Allah had created. This they derived from the ayah: "And Our command is but one..." [Suratul-Qamer/50] and this one command is: "Be!" and it is there. This is regarded by some Islamic philosophers as a proof of the Unity of Acts, which can be regarded as Unity of Act, too. That is, there is only one act, no more, as, in fact, all of the Acts stem from a single one.
The real nature of these Acts is one, though they appear in different complexion and at different places and times. So, the different Acts are the manifestations and appearances of a single one.