Ibn Abil-'Izz (died 792 AH) - may
God be pleased with him - said:
"Knowledge of Usool-ud-Deen (the fundamentals of the religion) is the most
noble branch of knowledge, since the excellence of a certain type of knowledge depends
upon what it is concerned with, and this is the greater Fiqh (understanding) ,
which is why lmaam Abu Haneefah (died 150AH) - may God be pleased with him - called that
which he compiled concerning Usool-ud-Deen: "al-Fiqhul- Akbar"
(The Greatest Fiqh). The need of the servants for this knowledge is greater than
every other need; and it is the most necessary of all things for them, since there is no
life for the hearts, nor any delight, nor any tranquillity, except through knowing their
Lord, the One to be worshipped, their Creator - with His Names, His Attributes and His
Actions, and that He - along with all that - is more beloved to the person than anything
else. So man's striving is with regards to everything that will draw him nearer to God, to
the exclusion of the creation.
However, it is impossible for the minds to come to know and understand all that in detail,
so the Most Merciful, the Most Majestic - from His mercy, sent Messengers to teach that
and call to it; and to give good news to those who accept their Call and to warn those who
reject it. The key to their Call and the essence of their message was the servant's
drawing closer to Almighty God - the Most Perfect - through His Names, Attributes and
Actions, since all that the Messengers were ordered with is built upon this. This then is
followed by two great principles: Firstly: Knowing the path that leads to
Him and that is the Sharee'ah (Islamic Law and Way) which is comprised of His
orders and prohibitions. Secondly: That those following the path know what
lies in store for them, which is endless bliss. So the people who know God best are the
ones who best follow the way to Him; and know best what lies at the end of the way."1
Firmness Upon the Deen (The Religion of
So, firmness upon the Deen of Almighty God, excellence in this world and salvation
in the Hereafter is built upon two great matters: "Firstly: Knowledge of God
and the beautiful Names and lofty Attributes that befit Him and His Actions - and this
necessitates appreciation of His Majesty, honouring Him, fearing Him, being in awe of Him,
loving Him, placing one's hopes in Him, placing reliance upon Him, being pleased with His
decree and having patience with what He sends down as regards to hardships. Secondly:
Knowledge of what He loves and is pleased with, and what He hates and angers Him - whether
beliefs, sayings, outward or inward actions. So the one who has knowledge of this has to
rush to fulfill that which Almighty God loves and is pleased with, and to avoid that which
He hates and which angers Him.2
Sufyaan ibn 'Uyaynah (died 197H) - may God be pleased with him - said:
"There are three types of Scholars: one who knows God and knows God's commands; and
one who knows God, but does not know His commands; and one who knows God's commands, but
does not know God. And the most complete of them is the first - and that is the one who
fears God and knows His rulings."3
The Essence of Islam
Explaining the essence of Islam and its main pillar, the Prophet - the peace and blessings
of God be upon him - said: "Islam is built upon five (pillars): Testifying that
none has the right to be worshipped except Almighty God and that Muhammad is the Messenger
of God; establishing the Salaah (formal prayer), paying the Zakaah (charity tax), making
Hajj (pilgrimage) to the House and fasting in Ramadaan. "4 In
another narration: "Islam is built upon five (pillars): To worship God and to
reject anything along with Him . . . "5 Also in another
narration: "lslam is built upon five: The Tawheed of Almighty God .
. . "6
Thus: "Testifying that none has the right to be worshipped except Almighty
God", has the same meaning as: "To worship Almighty God and to reject
anything along with Him", which has the same meaning as: "The Tawheed of
Almighty God." So, it will be clear to the honourable reader that Tawheed
is the essence of Islam, and it is the starting and ending point for all goodness and
Linguistically Tawheed means: "To make something one, or to assert the oneness
of something."7 However, what we are concerned with here is the Sharee'ah
or technical meaning of Tawheed, which is: "To single out Almighty God
alone for worship."8
Al-Bayjowree - may God have mercy on him - said: "It is to single-out al-Ma'bood
(the One to be worshipped - i.e. Almighty God) with worship, along with belief and
affirmation in the oneness and uniqueness of His Dhaat (Essence), Sifaat
(Attributes) and Actions."9
Shaykh al-Ghunaymaan - may God protect him - said: "It is to single Him out with
worship, with love, lowliness and submissiveness to Him, by complying with His commands
and submitting to them."10
The Divisions of Tawheed
And Tawheed - with the Salaf and the Scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah
has three divisions.
'Allaamah as-Safaareenee (died 1112H) - may God's mercy be upon him - said: "Know
that Tawheed has three divisions: Tawheedar-Ruboobiyyah (the Oneness of God
in His Lordship), Tawheed al- Uloohiyyah (to single-out Almighty God alone for
worship) and Tawheed al-Asmaa was-Sifaat (the uniqueness of God's Names and
"And God has gathered these three divisions in His - the Most High's- saying: "Lord
of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, so worship Him alone and be
constant and patient in the worship of Him. Do you know of any who is similar to
"So Tawheed ar-Ruboobiyyah implies: A firm and definite belief that Almighty
God alone is the Creator, the Master and Owner, and the Command is for none but Him."14
"And Tawheed al-Uloohiyyah is to single-out God alone for all worship and not
to worship anything along with Him, whether it be an angel, a Messenger, a prophet, a
pious person, a tree, a stone, the sun, the moon, or other than these."15
"And Tawheed al-Asmaa was-Sifaat is the uniqueness of Almighty God - the Most
High - with regards to His Names and His Attributes, by affirming that which God has
affirmed for Himself - whether in His Book (i.e. the Qur'aan) or by the tongue of
His Messenger - may the peace and blessings of God be upon him - without tahreef
(distorting the Names and Attributes), ta'teel (denial of the Names and
Attributes), takyeef (saying how they are), or tamztheel (making any
resemblance with the creation)."16
Tawheed in Knowledge and Action
The above three divisions of Tawheed have been grouped - by some of the Scholars -
into two types: the first type deals with knowing Almighty God through His Names,
Attributes and Actions (i.e. Tawheerd al-Asmaa was Sifaat and Tawheed
ar-Ruboobiyyah), and the second deals with actualising and manifesting
this Tawheed through singling out God alone for worship (i.e. Taawheed al-
Uloohiyyah). The first type of Tawheed is connected with knowledge,
whilst the second type is connected with action.
Ibn al-Qayyim (died 756H) - may God's mercy be upon him - said: "As regards the Tawheed
which the Messengers called to and which the Books were sent down with, then it is of two
types: Tawheed fil-Ma'rifah wal-lthbaat (the Tawheed of Knowledge and
Affirmation) and Tawheed fit-Talab wal-Qasd (the Tawheed of Actions and
So the first type affirms the reality of the Dhaat (Essence) of the Lord - the Most
High - along with His Names, His Attributes, His Actions, His speaking in His Books and
His speaking to whomsoever He wishes from His servants. It also affirms the all-embracing
nature of His Predestination and Pre-Decree and His wisdom. The Qur'aan has
completely clarified this type of Taheed - as occurs at the start of Soorah
Hadeed and Soorah Taa Haa, at the end of Soorah al-Hashr, at the
beginning of Soorah Sajdah, at the beginning of Soorah Aal 'Imraan and all
of Soorah al-Ikhlaas, and other than these.
The second type: Then it is what is contained in Soorah al-Kaafiroon and contained
in His - the Most High's - saying: "Say: O people of the Book! Come to a word
that is just and fair between us and you, that we shall worship none but God and that we
shall associate no partner along with Him, and that we shall not take others as lords
besides God. Then if they turn away, say: Bear witness that we are Muslims."17
It is also contained at the beginning of Soorah Tanzeel and at the beginning,
middle and end of Soorah al-Mu'min, and at the beginning and end of Soorah
A'raaf and the greater part of Soorah An'aam. Indeed, every soorah
(chapter) in the Qur'aan comprises these two types of Tawheed, witnesses to
them and calls to them.
Since the Qur'aan
[i] information about Almighty
God, His Names, His Attributes, His Actions and His Sayings - which is Tawheed
fil-Ma'rifah wal-lthbaat (the Tawheed of Knowledge and Affirmation); or
[ii] it is a call to worship Almighty God alone without any partner, and a
rejection of whatever is worshipped besides Him - and this is Tawheed al-lraadee
at-Talabee (the Tawheed of Actions and Intentions); or
[iii] it is a command to obey Him and to comply with His orders and prohibitions -
so this is from the rights of Tawheed and is a completion of it; or
[iv] it gives information about the people of Tawheed and how they were
treated in this world and how they will be honoured in the Hereafter - and this is the
reward for Tawheed; or
[v] it gives information about the people of Shirk (associating partners
along with Almighty God) and the punishment they receive in this world and the torment
they shall receive in the Hereafter - so this is the reward for those who abandon Tawheed."18
Tawheed - its Importance in the Qur'aan
Ibn Abil--'Izz - may God have mercy on him - said: "So the Qur'aan - all of it
- is about Tawheed, its rights and its rewards; and about Shirk, its people
and their punishments. Thus: "All praise belongs to God, Lord of the
worlds."19 is Tawheed (of knowledge). "The Most
Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy" is Tawheed (of knowledge). "The
Master of the Day of Judgement" is also Tawheed (of knowledge). "You
alone do we worship and You alone do we seek aid and assistance from" is Tawheed
(of action) . "Guide us to the Straight Path" concerns Tawheed
and asking for guidance to the path of the people of Tawheed, (which is): "The
Path of those whom You have favoured." "Not of those who have
earned Your anger, nor of those who have gone astray" - those who have
separated themselves from Tawheed."20 So Almighty God begins
this soorah by first informing us about Himself - the Most Perfect (i.e. Tawheed
of knowledge). Then after having knowledge of Almighty God - the Most High - God orders us
with the Tawheed of action: "You alone do we worship."
Likewise just as "the great Qu'aan opens with Tawheed it also I ends
with it. So the Qur'aan opens with Soorah al-Faatihah: "All
praise belongs to God, Lord of the Worlds" and the great Qur'aan ends
with the Soorah: "Say: I seek refuge with the Lord of mankind".21"22
Likewise, the greatest ayaah (verse) in the Qur'aan is Ayatul-Kursee
(the Verse of the Throne).33 Since this great aayah informs us -
from start to finish - purely about Almighty God's Names, His Attributes and His Actions.
So this further emphasizes the importance of the Tawheed of knowledge. Similarly, Soorah
al-Ikhlaas - from start to finish - is concerned with the Tawheed of knowledge,
whilst Soorah al-Kaafiroon is connected with the Tawheed of action.24
Indeed, the Prophet - may the peace and blessings of God be upon him - said about a man
who was reciting al-Kafiroon in the first rak'ah (unit of formal prayer): "This
is a servant who believes in his Lord." Then the man recited al-Ikhlaas in
the second, so he - may the peace and blessings of God be upon him - said: "This
is a servant who knows his Lord".25 The Prophet - may the peace
and blessings of God be upon him - said: "Say: He is God, the One"
is equivalent to one third of the Qur'aan. And "Say: O disbelievers . .
. " is equivalent to a quarter of the Qur'aan.26
What further demonstrates the importance of this Tawheed is the fact that the
Prophet - may the peace and blessings of God be upon him - "would begin his day with Tawheed
(of knowledge and action), since he recited both Soorah al-Kafiroon and Soorah
al-Ikhlaas in the two rak'aat (units of prayer) before Fajr (dawn
prayer).27 And he would end the night by reciting both of these soorahs
in his witr (final - literally "odd numbered") prayer.28"29
"Indeed, all of the Qur'aan is about Tawheed."30
And Almighty God - the Mighty and Majestic - says: "A book We have sent down,
full of blessings, that men may ponder over its messages; and those who possess
understanding may take them to heart."31
Tawheed - its Importance from the Sunnah
And what proves the importance of Tawheed from the Sunnah is that the Chosen
one - may the peace and blessings of God be upon him - remained in Makkah thirteen years
amongst the disbelievers, calling them to it, and saying to them: "Say: None has
the right to be worshipped except Almighty God and thus be successful . . . ".32
The Messenger of God - may the peace and blessings of God be upon him - said: "I
have been sent close to the Hour, with the sword, so that none has the right to be
worshipped except Almighty God alone, without any partner. My sustenance is beneath the
shade of my spear. And humiliation and ignominy is for whosoever opposes my command. And
whosoever resembles a people is from them."33"34
Similarly he would send his Companions to various communities ordering them with this Tawheed
first - as was the case when he sent Mu'aadh ibn Jabal to Yeman, saying: "Indeed
you are going to a people from the People of the Book, so let the Tawheed of God be
the very first thing you call them to . . . "35
And just as the Prophet - may the peace and blessings of God be upon him - started his
Prophethood and teaching with the matter of Tawheed, then likewise he - may the
peace and blessings of God be upon him - mentioned "the matter of Tawheed
during his final illness from which he - may the peace and blessings of God be upon him -
died, when he said: "The curse of Almighty God be upon the Jews and the
Christians, for they took the graves of their Prophets as places of worship."36"37
Clearing a Misconception
Shaykhul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (died 728H) said: "The Tawheed with which the
Messengers came with comprises of affirming that Divinity and worship belong to Almighty
God alone, such that a person witnesses that none has the right to be worshipped except
Almighty God, and that none is worshipped except Him, nor depended upon other than Him,
nor are alliances or enemies made except for Him, nor is an action done except for Him.
This affirmation also covers those Names and Attributes which Almighty God affirms for
Himself, as God - the Most High - says: "And the God to be worshipped is only
one God. None has the right to be worshipped except Him, the Most Merciful, the Bestower
of Mercy."38 And God - the Most High - says: "Do not
take two objects of worship. Indeed, Almighty God is the only Deity to be worshipped, so
fear Him."30. And He - the Most High - says: "Whosoever
calls upon (i.e. supplicates or prays to) other than God, for which he has no proof, then
his reckoning is only with his Lord. Indeed the disbelievers will not be successful."40
Almighty God - the Most High - also says: "And ask those of our Messengers whom
we sent before you: 'Did We ever appoint objects of worship besides the Most
And Almighty God informed us about every Prophet from amongst the Prophets that they
called the people to the worship of God alone, having no partner, as He said: "Indeed
there is an excellent example for you in Abraham and those with him, when they said to
their people: 'Indeed we are free from you and whatever you worship besides Almighty God.
We have rejected you, and there has arisen between us and you, hostility and hatred
forever - until you believe in God alone."42 And God said about
the mushriks (pagan idolaters): "When it is said to them: 'None has the
right to be worshipped except Almighty God', they become arrogant. And they say: 'Are we
to abandon those deities that we worship because of a mad poet?"43
And this occurs a lot in the Qur'aan.
And what is meant by Tawheed is not merely Tawheed ar-Roobubiyyah - the
belief that Almighty God alone is the Creator - which is what some of the people of Kalaam
(speculative theology) and the Sufis think! So they think that if they affirm this type of
Tawheed, along with its proofs, then they have affirmed the utmost limits of Tawheed
and that if they bear witness to this and become absorbed in it, then they have absorbed
themselves in the limits of Tawheed! However, this is not the case. Since even if a
person agreed to those attributes which are befitting to the Lord, and declared Him free
from everything He should be declared free from and affirmed that He alone is the creator
of everything - then still such a person would not be a muwahid (a person of Tawheed)
until along with this, he witnesses that the only Ilaah (i.e. object of worship) is
Almighty God (Allah) - (i.e. none has the right to he worshipped except God alone)
- affirming that Almighty God alone is the Ilaah deserving off all worship,
adhering to this worship and associating no partners with Him. Also affirming that this Ilaah
(object of worship) is He who is deified and worshipped and who deserves worship and it is
not that Ilaah merely with the meaning: "The One who has the power to
create and originate."44
So if an explainer (of the Qur'aan) explains Ilaah to mean: "The One
who has the power to create and originate" and believes that this is the most
particular description of Ilaah and affirms this to be the limits of Tawheed - as is done by the people of Kalaam (speculative theology), and it is what they
say from Abul-Hasan al-Ash'aree45 and his followers - then they do not
know the true reality of the Tawheed with which Almighty God sent His Messengers,
since the Arab mushriks (pagan idolaters) used to agree that Almighty God alone is
the Creator of everything. Yet despite this, they were still mushriks, as God - the
Most High - says: "Most people do not believe in God except that they commit shirk
(i.e. associate others with Him in belief and worship).''46
A group from amongst the Salaf (the first three generations of Muslims) said: "If
you ask them who created the Heavens and the earth, they will say: 'God' - yet along with
this, they worshipped others besides Him."47
Almighty God - the Most High - said. "Say: 'Whose is the earth and all that is
in it, if you do indeed know?' They will say: 'It belongs to God.' Say: 'Will you not then
remember?' Say: 'Who is the Lord of the heavens and the Lord of the great Throne?' They
will say: 'God.' Say: 'Will you not then fear Him?"48 So not
everyone who affirms that Almighty God is the Lord of everything and is its Creator, will
be a worshipper of Him to the exclusion of everything else - calling upon Him alone,
hoping in Him alone, having fear of Him alone, forming allegiance and enmity for Him,
obeying His Messengers, ordering what He orders and forbidding what He forbade."49
Shaykh 'Abdul-Qaadir al-Jeelaanee (died 561H) said: "So it is upon you to fear God - the
Mighty and Majestic - and not to fear anyone else except Him. Turn to God - the
Mighty and Majestic - for your every need, and rely upon Him alone - the Most High
- seeking that which you need from Him alone. Do not rely upon anyone other than Almighty
God. And Tawheed - all is contained in Tawheed."50
1. Sharhul-'Aqeedatul-Tahaawiyyah (p. 69).
2. Fadl 'Ilmus-Salaf (p. 47) of al-Haafidh Ibn Rajab (died 795H).
3. Related by ad-Daarimee (1/102) and Abu Nu'aym in al-Hilyah (7/ 280), with a Saheeh isnaad.
4. Related by al-Bukaaree (1/49) and Muslim (no. 16) from 'AbduIlaah ibn 'Umar - may God be pleased with him.
5. Related by Muslim (no. 20).
6. Related by Muslim (no. 19).
7. Lisaan ul-'Arab (3/450) of Ibn Mandhoor and also al-Hujjah fee Bayaanil-Mahajjah (1/305) of Abul-Qaasim al-Asbahaanee.
8. Ad-Dururus-Sunniyyah (1/48) of Shaykh 'Abdur- Rahmaan ibn Hasan.
9. Jawharah at-Tawheed (p. 10).
10. Sharh Kitaabut-Tawheed min Saheehil-Bukaaree (1/38).
11. Lawaami' al-Anwaarul-Bahiyyah (1/128) of as-Safaareenee. For the division of Tawheed into three types, refer to: al-Ibaanah 'an Sharee'atil-Firqatin-Naajiyah (p. 693-694) of Ibn Battah (died 387H); Kitaab ut-Tawheed of Ibn Mandah (died 395H) and al-Hujjah fee Bayaanil-Mahajjah (1/85,
1/111-113) of Abul-Qaasim al-Asbahaanee (died 535H).
12. Qur'an - Soorah Maryam 19.65.
13. Taqreebut-Tadmuriyyah (p. 110) of Shaykh Ibn al-'Uthaymeen.
14. Taqreebut-Tadmuriyyah (p. 110-111).
15. Taqreebut-Tadmuriyyah (p. 112-113).
16. Taqreebut-Tadmuriyyah (p. 116-117).
17. Qur'aan - Soorah Aal 'lmraan 3:64.
18. Mandaarijus-Saalikeen (3/449-450) of lbn al-Qayyim.
19. Qur'aan - Soorah al-Faatiha 1:1 - and what follows is a completion of this soorah.
20. Sharhul-'Aqeedatul-Tahaawiyyah (pp. 89-90) of lbn Abil-'Izz.
21. Qur'aan - Soorahtun- Naas 114:1.
22. Hukmul-Intimaa (p.58) of Shaykh Bakr Abu Zayd - slightly adapted.
23. Related by Muslim (no.1768) from 'Ubayy ibn Ka'b - may God be pleased with him.
24. Refer to Majmoo' al-Fataawaa (1/54) of Ibn Taymiyyah.
25. Hasan: Related by at-Tahawee and Ibn Hibbaan. Al-Haafidh Ibn Hajar authenticated it in Ahadeethul-'AaIiyaat (no.16).
26. Saheeh: Related by at-Tabaraanee in al-Mu'jamul-Kabeer (3/203/2) from Ibn 'Umar - may God be pleased with him. It was authenticated by al-Albaanee in Saheehul-Jaami' (no. 4405).
27. Related by Muslim (no.726)
28. Saheeh: Related by an-Nasaa'ee and al-Haakim, who declared it saheeh.
29. At-Tawheed wa Atharahu fee Hayaatil-Muslim (p.30) of Ahmad ibn Ibraaheem al-Hareeqee.
30. Madaarijus-Saalikeen (3/450).
31. Qur'aan - Soorah Saad 38:29.
32. Related by Ahmad (4/63).
33. Saheeh: Related by Ahmad (no. 5114) and Ibn Asaakir (19/96/1), from Ibn 'Umar - may God be pleased with him. It was authenticated by al-Haafidh
al-'Iraaqee in Takhreejul-Ihya (3/42), and al-Haafidh Ibn Hajr in in Fathul-Baaree (10/222).
34. At-Tawheed wa Atharahu fee Hayaatil-Muslim (p.29).
35. Related by al-Bukhaaree (1/13) and Muslim (1/272), from Ibm 'Abbaas - may God be pleased with him.
36. Related by Bukhaaree (1/532) and Muslim (5/16).
37. At-Tawheed wa Atharahu fee Hayaatil-Muslim (p.29).
38. Qur'aan - Soorah Aal-'Imraan 3:163.
39. Qur'aan - Soorah Nahl 16:51.
40. Qur'aan - Soorah Mu'minoon 23:117.
41. Qur'aan - Soonh az-Zukhruf 43:45.
42. Qur'aan - Soorah al-Mumtahinah 60:4.
43. Qur'aan - Soorah Saafaat 37:35-36.
44. This is the saying of the people of Kalaam (speculative theology), Abu Mansoor al-Maatureedee in al-Tawheed (pp.20-21), and for a similiar misconception refer to Fee Dhilaalil-Qur'aan (5/2707) of Sayyid Qutub. Compare this meaning of Ilah with the correct explanations of great mufassirs - such as Imaam Ibn Jareer at-Tabaree in his Tafseer (20/102) and Ibn Katheer in his Tafseer (3/398) - which is: the one who is who is worshipped and who alone deserves to be worshipped.
45. He is Abul-Hasan 'Alee ibn Ismaa'eel al-Asharee (died 324H) - to whom the Ashariyah'aqeedah is is incorrectly ascribed, since he abandoned the 'aqeedah - and that of the Mu'tazilah previously - for the 'aqeedah of the Salaf - as is mentioned by Ibn Katheer in Tabaqaatush-Shaafi'iyyah and shown by his last book: Al-Ibaanah 'an Usoolid-Diyaanah.
46. Qur'aan - Soorah Yoosuf 12:106.
47. This is the saying of lbn 'Abbaas and others - as occurs in Jaami'ul-Bayaan 'an Ta'weelul-Qur'aan (13/50-51) of at-Tabaree.
48. Qur'aan - Soorah Muminoon 23:84-87.
49. Majmoo'ul-Fataawaa (3/97-105) of Ibn Taymiyyah.
50. Futoohul-Ghayb (p.176).