Of Wahid and Ahad
Of the Beautiful Names and Attributes of Allah are al Wāhid and al Ahad, both having the same meaning and yet they are distinctly distinguishable. Subhanallah!
Sharing here two beautiful explanations that will make us understand the difference between Wahid and Ahad, InshaaAllah.
وَإِلَـٰهُكُمْ إِلَـٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ ۖ لَّا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الرَّحْمَـٰنُ الرَّحِيمُ
“And your God is One God; there is no god save Him, the Beneficent, the Merciful.” [Sūrah al-Baqarah: 163]
Allah also says:
قُلْ هُوَ اللَّـهُ أَحَدٌ
“Say: He is Allah, the One.” [Sūrah al-Ikhlās: 1]
In the first of these verses, Allah is referred to as al-Wāhid (the One), whereas in the second verse, He is referred to as al-Ahad (the One). What is the difference between these two names?
Both names share a common etymological origin, and both refer to “oneness”.
The word wāhid is simply the Arabic word for the number “one”. As a name of Allah, it refers to His being the one and only true God. It also refers to His being the First, before whom nothing existed. This in turn, communicates that no one deserves to be worshipped besides Allah, and that He has no partner in divinity.
The word ahad, by contrast, conveys an uncountable oneness. It is not one in a series. It cannot be added to or divided into fractions. Its stands for a singular, unique entity. Also, in Arabic grammatical usage, it is the form of the word “one” used to distinguish an individual from others, like in the phrase “one of them” in “Only one of them showed up.”
Consequently, the name al-Ahad, it is more exclusive in its meaning than the name al-Wāhid, referring specifically to Allah’s essence, communicating that Allah is absolutely singular in His essence and utterly unique in His attributes. No one is like Him in any way. As Allah says elsewhere in the Qur’ān: “There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the Seeing, the Hearing.” [Sūrah al-Shūrā: 11]
Allah’s name al-Wāhid (the One) appears in twenty-two verses of the Qur’ān. The name al-Ahad appears only once, in the short chapter of the Qur’an entitled al-Ikhlās:
“Say: He is Allah, the One. Allah, the Self-Subsisting. He begets not, nor is He begotten, and there is none like unto Him.” [Sūrah al-Ikhlās: 112: 1-4]
The name al-Ahad that appears in the chapter entitled al-Ikhlās is more emphatic and eloquent in expressing the concept of “oneness” than the name al-Wāhid, though both names convey essentially the same meaning: “the One”. Allah is the One and only Lord, the One and only Creator, the One and only Provider. He alone lives without dying. He alone gives life and causes death.
He is the One (al-Wāhid) who has no partner. He is the One (al-Ahad) who is unique and incomparable in His attributes and His actions and in every way.
Allah alone is worthy of worship. All other worship is false. Our hearts should turn to Him alone in reverence and devotion, and in hope.
Allah is One in His names and attributes. Some names belong to Him alone, like the name Allah and the name al-Rahmān (the Beneficent). Other names might be used to describe human beings as well, like “merciful” and “kind”. However, there is no comparison between the application of these names on the human level and their meaning with respect to Allah. No one is comparable to Allah. This is why Allah says: “He begets not, nor is He begotten, and there is none like unto Him.” [Sūrah al-Ikhlās: 3-4]
Allah also says:
“Do you know of any who is worthy of His name?” [Sūrah Maryam: 65]
The difference between Wahid and Ahad:
1. Ahad is used exclusively in the Negative sense only. Wahid is used in the Positive sense only.
i.e. Laysa ahad mawjoodan fee al masjid – there is not One person in the Mosque [it is empty].
Laysa wahid mawjoodan fee al masjid – there is not One in the Mosque [but there are a lot (more than one) people in the Mosque].
وَلَا يُشْرِكْ بِعِبَادَةِ رَبِّهِ أَحَدًا ……wa la yushriku bi ‘ibadatihee Ahada –
“and no-One should associate partners with Him in worship.” [al Kahf 18:110]
However, we notice that Allah uses the word Ahad in ayah 1 of Surah al Ikhlas, to describe Himself.
This is strange, because Ahad is usually only used in the negative. This Ahad is used to show that there is a uniqueness of the usage of this word when describing Allah – now in the positive sense instead of the negative.
By Allah using Ahad, He is implying affirmation to His Oneness, and there being none similar to Him in that Oneness.
Amazing: There is no Arabic literature which ever uses the word Ahad by itself in a positive way – except for Surah al Ikhlas.
2 – The other form of ‘Ahad’ is used in Iddaafa form i.e. ‘One of…’ Ahad al Muslimeen (one of the Muslims) etc.
So this Ahad can only be used in a positive way if another set of words are attached to it.
Ahad comes from – Wahd/Wahada –
Wahd وحد (waw, ha, daal) – one who is individual by himself, his tribe/lineage/origin is not known.
Allah did not use that word for Himself because He does not want to make Himself similar to humans in attributes.
Raghib al Isfahani in Mufradaat al Qur’an says,
“Ahad is a separate word which implies; That One cannot have any comparison, a sole unique entity who does not have an equal or competitor in any way. He does not have a 2nd or affiliate.”
So Ahad is different to Wahid.
The people of other religions believe in God as One (this is Wahid), but they always make the mistake of giving Him attributes of the creation. It is only when you disassociate Allah’s attributes from similarity to the creation that you can believe Allah is Ahad (Unique in His Oneness).
A strong Theme in this Surah is that Everything about Allah is Unique in His Oneness.
This is why all the attributes of Allah in this surah are Unique for Allah Himself.
(i.e. Allah, ahad, as-Samad, lam yaLid, lam yuWlad).
Allaahumma Baarik Lana Feema A’tayt = O Allah, bless for us in what You’ve given us.
Sal-lal-laahu Ala Muhammad, Sal-lal-laahu-alaihi-wa-Sallam.
Sources: Explanation 1 and Explanation 2