Over the years as I have gone to break my fast, I have always known to take an odd number of dates. Why? Because Allah is an odd number, I was told. And over the years, the mystery has grown for me. I wondered what odd number?
I assumed it was profoundly complicated, like an imaginary number, taught in classes at MIT, far beyond my forgotten knowledge of calculus, so counterintuitive that it defied the laws of Newtonian physics, and hovered beyond the grasp of reason far in the hidden workings of harmony in the universe.
I had explained to my son at one point that part of the reason actually that we know God exists is that God has a numerical value, God is an odd number. And just as know the logic of math and magnetism can be explained in equations, our understandings of things like truth, beauty, justice, and the good showed the existence of an underlying harmony – this odd number that is God.
I explained to him that just as when you put the poles of magnets together, and they will snap into place when put the right way, but they will repel each other in the opposite direction, so our souls contain an inner magnetism that is at its essence the Divine and this Divine essence tune our souls to perceive the qualities of the Divine in the world.
And yes, I explained it is because, as all the Muslims tell us when we go to eat an odd number of dates, Allah is an odd number.
Now, many of you, far smarter than me, may have figured this question out long ago. You might think this is an obvious conclusion, but I truly wondered about what this strange and foreign number that was Allah could be, wondered if I would ever understand it, and decided, no probably not.
Until tonight. Tonight I had the pleasure of reading the Six Enneads by Plotinus, a Roman philosopher who inspired Islamic philosophers among others. And his discussion astounded me, and the light bulb went off.
Allah is one.
Yes, that was my revelation. For better or for worse, I hadn’t figured that out yet.
So Plotinus’s explanation of the nature of reality is very complex, but it involves several key points. One is that time is all movement and that eternity is rest. We know that time is moving and that is the nature of phenomenon because of ceaseless change in the creation. Outside of time, in eternity, is rest.
Another point is that the perception of movement involves the intellect and that the intellect is a property of the soul that proceeds from an underlying unity that is one soul that unites all of us.
We can understand that this unity is reality and unites all souls into the One Soul because we can perceive the other souls in existence. If we were not connected, we could not perceive them, our perception of them is in the matter that is in movement, and in this movement of the creation, we are unified in our perception of each other.
In the movement of perception, we perceive the ideals of beauty and justice among other things because our soul finds rest in the connection to the unity that is the Single Eternity outside of time.
Anyhow, my explanations of Plotinus fall far short of his brilliance. I include these brief snippets for two reasons. First, I attempt to explain the source of my insight. Second, I attempt to encourage you to all read Plotinus’s The Six Enneads as an explanation of some of the most profound mystical truths of the unity of reality that is the oneness of the transcendent.
Suffice it to say, my many times wondering about what number is God and coming up with no answer made me question, is the number one really the answer?
But then it occurred in my mind: Qul Huwallahu AHAD. Say Allah is One.
And if you meditate on the properties of the number one, several things occur that make other things make sense. For one, when any figure is divided by one, you get the exact same figure. So when you divide a being by Allah you get its essence, but when you divide a being by its own being you get Allah.
This is an interesting point in terms of gnosis and the process of self-knowledge as knowledge of the Divine.
Other interesting properties of number one arise when you think in terms of exponents. If you raise the number one to any power, it always equals one.
If you raise any number to power one, it remains unchanged.
31 = 3
-51 = -5
These are interesting powers for a variety of reasons, but in terms of Allah, it is interesting because it reflects the eternal character of Allah in the fact that to any power one is always one. And it also reflects the fact we find our true essence in our Oneness with Allah as any number to the power of one is its exact self.
Just a final note, I asked my husband if he knew Allah was an odd number and he kind of hemmed and hummed. So I asked him if he knew what number Allah was, to check if I was crazy or was this relevant to anyone else, and he said, “seven?”
It was an interesting discussion, suffice to include here that I became convinced I should share this insight in case anyone else had ever wondered as I had what odd number is Allah, actually.
Well, I have the answer, thanks to Plotinus and confirmed by the Quran.
Allah is one.