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The Con­cept of Tawhid in Islam

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Mean­ing of Tawhid

The word Tawhid comes from the verb wah­had which lit­er­al­ly means to unite. In Islam­ic ter­mi­nol­o­gy, it means to real­ize and main­tain the uni­ty of Allah in one’s actions (inward­ly and out­ward­ly). The actu­al word tawhid does not occur in the Qur’an or Sun­nah though the present tense of the verb (from which tawhid is derived) is used in Sun­nah. The Prophet(P) sent Muadh ibn Jabal as gov­er­nor of Yemen in 9 A.H. He told him, You will going to the Peo­ple of the Book, so first invite yuwah­hidu Allah [them to the asser­tion of the one­ness of Allah]”.1

Fur­ther, the divi­sion of tawhid into the com­po­nents known to us today was not done by the Prophet(P) nor his Com­pan­ions(R). It was sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly defined as such in order to con­vey, as con­cise­ly as pos­si­ble, the sim­ple Uni­tar­i­an belief of Islam. This was nec­es­sary because as Islam quick­ly spread to the four cor­ners of the world, new con­verts began to inter­pret the teach­ings of Islam in line with their own philo­soph­i­cal con­cepts of Allah and so con­fu­sion arose. Pre­con­ceived inter­pre­ta­tions, all of which are blame­wor­thy, were prop­a­gat­ed by those who want­ed to destroy Islam from the inside. 

The first such ene­my of Islam was an Iraqi con­vert from Chris­tian­i­ty named Sau­san who preached man’s absolute free will while deny­ing qadr (Divine Decree)2. His stu­dent, Ma’bad ibn Khalid al-Juhani3, spread such deviant ideas until he was tried and exe­cut­ed by the Umayyad Caliph. There were three oth­er such exe­cu­tions over the peri­od of 26 years. The lat­er Umayyad Caliphs were rel­a­tive­ly more cor­rupt and cared less about such reli­gious issues. At the same time, the mass­es were also rel­a­tive­ly less edu­cat­ed about their reli­gion. This proved to be a dead­ly combination. 

As the num­ber of deviants increased through the lib­er­a­tion of var­i­ous lands, apos­tates were no longer exe­cut­ed. Instead, Mus­lim schol­ars rose to exe­cute the tide of heretics intel­lec­tu­al­ly. Taw­b­jd, pre­cise­ly defined, emerged out of this defense strategy.

Tawhid had been divid­ed into the three fol­low­ing categories : 

  • tauhiyd ar-rubu­biyah
  • tauhiyd al-asma was-sifaat, and
  • tauhiyd al-ibadah or tauhiyd al-ulu­uhiyah

Tawhid has been likened to a tree, the roots being tauhiyd ar-rubu­biyah, the trunk being tauhiyd al-asma was-sifaat, and the fruit being tauhiyd al-‘ibadah.

Each cat­e­go­ry of tawhidwill now be dis­cussed in some detail.

The Divi­sions of Tawhid

Tawhid Ar-Rubu­biyah

On tauhiyd ar-rubu­biyah4 : All of mankind read­i­ly rec­og­nizes this aspect of tauhiyd (except the most arro­gant5) because this belief in imprint­ed on our nature. This is a belief in the unique­ness of Allah with respect to His actions. This belief, more specif­i­cal­ly and among oth­er things, is that He is the only Lord of the sev­en heav­ens (with­out part­ner in His domin­ion), the only Lord of the great Throne, the only One in whose hand is sov­er­eign­ty of every­thing, the One who pro­tects all yet is not pro­tect­ed nor is there a pro­tec­tor against Him, the only Cre­ator (who cre­ates from noth­ing), only Own­er, and only Maintainer/​Sustainer of all that exists, etc. Even the pagan Arabs knew this.

This cat­e­go­ry of tauhiyd neces­si­tates the fol­low­ing beliefs : every­thing that hap­pens in cre­ation is by the decree and per­mis­sion of Allah ; sus­te­nance and pro­vi­sion are from Allah alone ; life and death are in His con­trol only ; all bless­ings and dis­as­ters come from Him only6 ; guid­ance and mis­guid­ance is by the will of Allah alone ; Allah alone has knowl­edge of the unseen ; nobody has any rights over Allah unless He Him­self has laid down such upon Him­self ; leg­is­la­tion and pre­scrib­ing a way of life is the right of Allah alone, among oth­er things.

Tawhid al-Asma wal Sifaat

On tauhiyd al-asma was-sifaat : This aspect of tauhiyd includes belief in only those attrib­ut­es Allah has described Him­self with in His Book and in only those attrib­ut­es His Mes­sen­ger has attrib­uted to Him.7 One must affirm that these attrib­ut­es are per­fect or absolute in Allah alone (i.e., are unique to Him) and deny the sim­i­lar­i­ty of His per­fect attrib­ut­es with any­thing oth­er than Him.8 Such affir­ma­tion is with­out dis­tor­tion9, inter­pre­ta­tion, denial, nor are they depict­ed in a way that makes His attrib­ut­es sim­i­lar to His cre­ation, and with­out stat­ing how the attrib­ut­es are. We do not negate His actions like His estab­lish­ment on His throne or His descend­ing to the low­est heav­en. Nor do we seek to explain the modal­i­ty of such actions. This is because the modal­i­ties of such actions are unknown though the actions them­selves are known. Belief in them is oblig­a­tory and ask­ing about the modal­i­ty is inno­va­tion. Belief in this aspect of tawhid requires both nega­tion and affir­ma­tion for There is noth­ing sim­i­lar to Him, and He is the All-Hear­ing, the All-See­ing.“10

The more one knows about Allah and His names and attrib­ut­es, the more one will love, desire to please and have Allah pleased with him, fear, hope, and trust Allah. Hence, the cor­rect under­stand­ing of the names and attrib­ut­es of Allah is very impor­tant and beneficial.

Tawhid al-Ibadah

On tauhiyd al-‘ibadah : The imple­men­ta­tion of tauhiyd is a ful­fill­ment of the sha­ha­da. This is the rea­son that mes­sen­gers were sent and books revealed11. This is the belief, recog­ni­tion, and knowl­edge that Allah has the posi­tion of God over all His cre­ation. It is the rejec­tion of all the so-called part­ners” of Allah and a rejec­tion of the wor­ship of any­thing oth­er than Allah. The nec­es­sary and prop­er con­se­quence of the recog­ni­tion that there is no god except Allah is that all wor­ship will be reserved for Allah alone. This cat­e­go­ry of tawhid requires that one sin­gle out Allah in all acts of wor­ship such as : puri­ty of inten­tion, grat­i­tude, love, fear, hope, awe, repen­tance, putting one’s trust, seek­ing aid and assis­tance, seek­ing guid­ance, as well as the obvi­ous acts such as salah (rit­u­al wor­ship), being good to one’s par­ents, sup­pli­ca­tion, sac­ri­fice, jihad, etc.12 The per­son will not have any goal oth­er than pleas­ing his Lord and attain­ing His rewards. His beliefs will be what­ev­er is proven in the Quran and Sun­nah, he will be fol­low­ing the Mes­sen­ger of Allah, his deeds and actions will be what Allah and His Mes­sen­ger pre­scribed, and his char­ac­ter and man­ners will be an imi­ta­tion of the Prophet.

There are two actions of the heart that must be com­bined for the spir­it of wor­ship to be real­ized : love and sub­mis­sion. When faith enters a per­son­’s heart, it caus­es there­in cer­tain men­tal states, which result in appar­ent actions, both of which are proof of true faith. Fore­most among those men­tal states is the feel­ing of grat­i­tude towards Allaah which could be said to be the essence of ibadah. This feel­ing of grat­i­tude is so impor­tant that a non­be­liev­er is called a kaafir which means one who rejects the truth” as well as one who is ungrate­ful”. And with the feel­ing of grat­i­tude comes love. A believ­er loves and is grate­ful to Allah for His boun­ties, but being aware of the fact that his good deeds, whether men­tal of phys­i­cal, are far from com­men­su­rate with Allah’s favors. He is always anx­ious lest, because of his sins, Allah should with­hold from him some of those favors or pun­ish him in the here­after. He there­fore fears Him and sur­ren­ders to Him and serv­ing Allah with humility.

Oth­er nec­es­sary com­po­nents of the heart are fear and hope. Fear comes out of the great­ness of Allah and comes about when one tru­ly glo­ri­fies and exalts Allaah and hope flows from com­plete and true love. Both of these must be held in bal­ance. The schol­ars of Islam have described these com­po­nents like the wings of a bird with which a believ­er flies towards Allah. If they are bal­anced, he flies prop­er­ly. If one of them is miss­ing, then he has a short­com­ing. If they are both miss­ing, the bird is on the verge of death.

This cat­e­go­ry of tauhiyd is the key to real life. A human’s need for Allah that he wor­ship Him and not asso­ciate any part­ner with Him as it is a need con­cern­ing which there is no com­par­i­son that one could even make an anal­o­gy to. The real­i­ty of a human being is in his heart and soul and these can not be sus­tained with­out their rela­tion with Allah, there is no tran­quil­i­ty in this world except in His remembrance.

A sig­nif­i­cant part of tauhiyd al-ibadah is the imple­men­ta­tion of Divine Law and this aspect of tauhiyd al-ibadah is referred to as tauhiyd al-hakamiyah [the one­ness of Allah with respect to His rule].

Tawhid al-Hakamiyah

On tauhiyd al-hakamiyah : Sub­mis­sion to Allah, alone, encom­pass­es wor­ship­ping and obey­ing Him, alone. Asso­ci­at­ing part­ners with Allah with respect to His rule and asso­ci­at­ing part­ners with Him in wor­ship are one and the same thing. Who­ev­er fol­lows a legal sys­tem oth­er than Allah’s is like one who pros­trates to an idol. All rulers who have changed the laws of Allah or rulers who rule in accor­dance with some­thing oth­er than Shar­i’ah (Divine Law) must be reject­ed and opposed. Allah says in the Quran that He had sent mes­sen­gers to every sin­gle nation pro­claim­ing the wor­ship of Allah alone while also shun­ning at-taghu­ut13. Judg­ing and rul­ing accord­ing to what He revealed is oblig­a­tory on believ­ers so much so that it is one of the main rea­sons why mes­sen­gers were sent with scrip­ture to judge between peo­ple in mat­ters they dif­fered14. Rul­ing in accord with what Allah has revealed is the exact same as sin­gling out Allah for obe­di­ence and one owes com­plete obe­di­ence to Him. It is there­fore clear that those who do not rule or judge by what He had revealed are unbe­liev­ers15. The refusal to rule accord­ing to what Allah had revealed vio­lates every aspect of tawhid. It vio­lates tauhiyd ar-rubu­biyah because Allah alone is in full charge of His cre­ation and He directs all of its affairs. To rule by some­thing else is to set up gods with Allah. It vio­lates tauhiyd al-asma was-sifaat because Al-Hakam (The only Judge, The only Decider, The only Ruler) is one of the beau­ti­ful names of Allah. It vio­lates tauhiyd al-ibadah because Allah alone is to be sub­mit­ted to. It vio­lates anoth­er type of tawhid, not pre­vi­ous­ly dis­cussed, and that is tauhiyd al-itibaa. This means that the only one who is to be fol­lowed and obeyed is the one whom Allah sent for that pur­pose (i.e., the Mes­sen­ger of Allah).

The domin­ion [(i’nil huk­mu) i.e, rule of judge­ment] is for none but Allah. He com­mand­ed that you wor­ship none but Him. That is the straight deen [judge­ment or reli­gion]” (Qur’an, Sura’ Yusuf : 40)

In Sura’ at-Tau­ba, Allah tells us that the Jews and the Chris­tians took their rab­bis and monks as lords. When Allah’s Mes­sen­ger was recit­ing this verse, Adi bin Hatim con­tra­dict­ed the Mes­sen­ger say­ing, they don’t wor­ship them.” The Mes­sen­ger replied, they cer­tain­ly do. [They] made law­ful things as unlaw­ful and unlaw­ful things as law­ful. And they (Jews and Chris­tians) fol­lowed them and by doing so, they wor­shipped them.“16

Con­clu­sions

On sub­mit­ting one’s loy­al­ties and love to the com­mands and guid­ance of Rev­e­la­tion. Hav­ing loy­al­ty for the sake of Allah and bas­ing one’s love and hate on guid­ance from Allah is essen­tial for one’s faith to be cor­rect and there is no prop­er imple­men­ta­tion of the sha­ha­da with­out it.17 Con­cern­ing this top­ic, noth­ing seems to be more stressed with more evi­dence pro­vid­ed for, after the oblig­a­tion of tauhiyd, than lov­ing and hat­ing for the sake of Allah. Allah will be more beloved than any­thing if one tru­ly wor­ships Him and because of that, he will love what Allah loves and despise what Allah despis­es. He will be dis­gust­ed and will hold in con­tempt any­thing that is an affront to his beloved. 

Asso­ci­at­ing part­ners” with Allah — though He alone is deserv­ing of wor­ship — is the great­est dis­re­spect and oppo­si­tion to Allah. Those who give loy­al­ty to the unbe­liev­ers — instead of oppos­ing them — are not wor­ship­ping Allah prop­er­ly because if they were, how could they show love, approval, and sup­port to those who oppose Allah and His reli­gion ? Should Mus­lims love, approve, and sup­port unbe­liev­ers, while also keep­ing ties with unbe­liev­ers stronger than with each oth­er, then such Mus­lims have vio­lat­ed the sha­ha­da and have apos­tat­ed18. This is because the truth­ful­ness of a state­ment is indi­cat­ed by actions.Endmark

Cite Icon Cite This As : 
  1. Sahih Bukhari vol 9, No. 469 and Sahih Mus­lim vol 1, No. 27[]
  2. Deny­ing qadr (i.e., Allah’s secret knowl­edge of the future) nul­li­fies one’s belief in tawhid for this is in vio­la­tion to tauhiyd ar-rubu­biyah as well as the rejec­tion of many vers­es from the Quran such as, No calami­ty occurs on the earth or among your­selves but is inscribed in the Book before We bring it into exis­tence. Ver­i­ly, that is easy for Allah.” (Qur’an, al-Hadeed : 22). And Allah cre­at­ed you and what­so­ev­er you do.” (Qur’an, 37:96). When one denies qadr think­ing that all acts one does is new both to Allah and new to one, is to say that one can act out­side the lim­its imposed by Allah i.e., to act out­side His realm of absolute con­trol. The realm of influ­ence we have in the course of events which make up our lives are lim­it­ed to the men­tal choice between options pre­sent­ed to us. In oth­er words, man pro­pos­es and Allah dis­pos­es.[]
  3. It is nar­rat­ed on the author­i­ty of Yahya ibn Yamur that the first man who dis­cussed qadr in Bas­ra was Ma’bad al-Juhani. I [Yahya] along with Humaid ibn Adbul Rah­man al-Him­yari set out for umrah and said, If it should so hap­pen that we come into con­tact with any­one of the Com­pan­ions of the Mes­sen­ger of Allah, we shall ask him about what is being talked about con­cern­ing qadr.” Unex­pect­ed­ly, we came across Abdul­lah ibn Umar ibn al-Khat­tab while he was enter­ing the mosque. I and my friend sur­round­ed him — one of us was on the right and the oth­er on the left. I expect­ed that my friend would autho­rize me to speak so I said, O Abu Abdu Rah­man, there have appeared some per­sons on our land who recite the Qur’an and pur­sue knowl­edge.” Then after explain­ing their affairs, I said, they claim that there is no such thing as qadr.” Ibn Umar said, When you hap­pen to meet such per­sons, tell them that I have noth­ing to do with them and they have noth­ing to do with me. And ver­i­ly, there are in no way respon­si­ble for my belief.” Ibn Umar then swore by Allah say­ing, If any of them had with him the gold equal to the bulk of the moun­tain of Uhud and then should spend it, Allah would not accept that from him unless he affirms his faith in the Divine Decree [mean­ing, that per­son is a kafir].” Abdul­lah bin Abi Awfa advised peo­ple not to greet those who denied qadr nor to make the funer­al prayer over them when they died [i.e., they were kafir]. See Shara­ha al-Arba’ain an-Nawawi #2 and also Fun­da­men­tals of Tawheed by Bilal Phillips, p. 3.[]
  4. The basis for tauhiyd ar-rubu­biyah is found­ed on many vers­es, such as Qur’an, 39:62 ; 37:96 ; 8:17 ; 64:11, but in gen­er­al, all vers­es in the Quran that speak of Allah’s actions are bases for tauhiyd ar-rubu­biyah.[]
  5. The main motive for deny­ing Allah is unjus­ti­fied pride. Such a proud per­son feels that it is not becom­ing of him to have to acknowl­edge some­one greater than him­self and there­fore be gov­erned by Him. Those who dis­pute con­cern­ing the signs of Allah, in their hearts is only pride that they shall nev­er attain.” (Qur’an, al-Ghaafir : 56)[]
  6. If Allah allows harm to befall you, none can remove it except Him” (Qur’an, 6:17)[]
  7. He is not described by any names oth­er than those He or His Mes­sen­ger have made men­tion of in order to pre­vent giv­ing a false descrip­tion of Allah. The cre­ation is in no posi­tion to describe the Cre­ator so we are oblig­at­ed to stay with­in the lim­its He defined.[]
  8. A sim­i­lar­i­ty is bound to arise due to the medi­um used, i.e., the human lan­guage. Yet these sim­i­lar­i­ties are only in label, not mag­ni­tude. For exam­ple, we need micro­scopes to see small things and tele­scopes to see things far away. So we see and Allah sees but He is All-See­ing.[]
  9. Mean­ing to explain away His names and attrib­ut­es by giv­ing them oth­er than obvi­ous mean­ings.[]
  10. Qur’an, ash-Shura:11[]
  11. See Qur’an, 16:36[]
  12. These acts must also be done in a man­ner that is pre­scribed by Allah. Fur­ther, to per­form any of the said acts for any­one oth­er than Allah negates and destroys one’s ful­fill­ment of this cat­e­go­ry of tauhiyd.[]
  13. i.e. rulers who have changed the laws of Allah or rulers who rule in accor­dance with some­thing oth­er than what Allah reveals. Also see : An-Nahl : 36[]
  14. See al-Baqara : 213 and also an-Nisaa : 105 — Sure­ly, We have sent down to you the Book in truth that you might judge between men by that which Allah has shown you.”[]
  15. This is the ver­dict regard­ing whether the rulers who fail to apply the guid­ance of Allah in their lands. Who­ev­er does not rule by what Allah has revealed are unbe­liev­ers.” Al-Maid­ah 44 (also see vv. 45 and 47). Ibn Abbas when, while defend­ing Ali ibn Abi Tal­ib when the Khawar­ij pro­nounced him kafir, said that not rul­ing by Islam in some of its aspects is minor dis­be­lief (kufr). [This state­ment was most like­ly made by a stu­dent of Ibn Abbas and not ibn Abbas him­self.] The prop­er dimen­sions of this state­ment are real­ized when par­tic­u­lar rulers are exam­ined. If a prac­tic­ing Mus­lim ruler knows that it is oblig­a­tory on him to apply the Shari­ah in its entire­ty, yet for some rea­son (weak­ness) does not, then such a ruler is not a dis­be­liev­er (though he may be a faasiq). This is what Ibn Abbas was refer­ring to. Oth­er rulers — who open­ly deny Islam, do not believe that it is oblig­a­tory to apply Shari­ah, who pre­fer oth­er sys­tems like democ­ra­cy or social­ism over the Shar­i’ah, nor believe in its imple­men­ta­tion — are full-fledged unbe­liev­ers (even if they prac­tice all the oth­er rites in Islam).[]
  16. See : Tafsir at-Tabari Vol. 10, p. 114 or see the nine-vol­ume tafsir by Muhsin Khan and Hilali, vol 2, p. 370.[]
  17. See al-Baqara : 213 and also an-Nisaa : 105 — Sure­ly, We have sent down to you the Book in truth that you might judge between men by that which Allah has shown you.”[]
  18. You see many of them tak­ing the unbe­liev­ers as their friends and pro­tec­tors. Evil indeed is that which they have sent for­ward before them. For that rea­son, Allah’s wrath fell upon them and in tor­ment shall they abide. And had they believed in Allah and the Prophet and that which was revealed to them, they would not have tak­en them as friends and pro­tec­tors, but many of them are dis­obe­di­ent to Allah.” (Qur’an, al-Maid­ah 80 – 81. Also see : vers­es 51 & 55 – 57). The state­ment above, and had they believed…” is a con­di­tion­al state­ment mean­ing that if those who per­pe­trate those acts are unbe­liev­ers.[]

1 Comment

  1. Muslim scholar Reply

    Tawhid is such an impor­tant part of islam, rather I must say that Tawhid is the basics of Islam and you have done a good job of cov­er­ing its var­i­ous aspects in this col­lec­tion of Islam­ic Quotes.

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