Couple of days back (24th Aug, 2006) i was initiated in a Tao temple here in Singapore. i went there to quench my thirst about Tao Philosophy. being someone interested in comparative religion, i found it interesting to co-relate between the Tao Philosophy and Judio-Christian-Islamic philosophy. Tao is one of the most ancient philosophy, also it refers to the ancient/folk religion of ancient China. on the other hand islam is the last major monotheistic religion, the most modern philosophy in terms of religious ideas. yet the fabric that binds the two is amazing and ever refreshing to discover.
The very meaning of Tao is very enigmatic. Literally it means 'the Way', or 'the Path', although it means much more. Those who are familiar with the undescribable nature of the Supreme Spirit (Param-Atma in Hindu terminology) the Abstract description of God, can easily co-relate the idea of Eternal Tao and the unfathomable idea of God. From Taoist sacred texts we find:
The Tao that can be told is not the Eternal Tao;
The name that can be named is not the Eternal Name.
The Nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
It is the same Judio-Christian-Muslim idea of God. The idea that God can not be named was so great in Judaic tradition, they still write God as G-d as a symbol of respect and to mean that God can not be named in reality. In Quran we also find this idea of God as an impersonal reality far beyond human intellect. Quran says clearly, "Glory to be God, the Lord of Inaccessibility, above everything that they describe" (37:180) or in simpler terms, "Nothing is like Him" (42:11).
Quoting from the wikipedia on Tao: There is the 'Great Tao', that is the source of and guiding principle behind all the processes of the universe. Beyond being and non-being, prior to space and time, Tao is the intelligent ordering principle behind the unceasing flow of change in the natural world. In this sense Tao gains great cosmological and metaphysical significance comparable to the theistic concept of God (particularly the first person of the Christian Trinity) ; the Greek concept of the logos; or the Dharma in Indian religions.
thus when as a muslim i recognize the symbology of Tao and can relate it to the abstract transcendental idea of God in other religion including that of Islam, it was easier for me to appreciate the Taoists when they say, 'everything comes from the TAO'. i had no problem agreeing with the idea that everything began from the God, Al Azim (another name of God found in Quran, meaning incomparably Great) and Al Badi (the Originator).
Remembering the opening chapter of the Quran, namely AlFatiha - i was saying to myself that in every prayer muslims pray for the Tao. you wonder how?
Remember the quranic verse when it says,
Ihdina alssirata almustaqeema.
Guide us on the straight path. (chapter 1, verse 6, the Quran)
Now Tao exactly means the Path. so if the Quran was in chinese instead of arabic we had to read it as 'Tao' and in essence we basically praying to Eternal Tao (that is the God transcendental) for the tao (the path, the dhamma, the guidance).
Also if you read Tao Te Ching, the way it describes the Eternal Tao, you can co-relate with the names of God mentioned in the Quran, for example: Al Waajid - God The All Perceiving;
Al Badi - God The Originator.
For a more scholarly explanation pls read this article by Sachiko Murata that talks about the Tao of Islam. its a very refreshing article not only for muslims but for all.