Know -- May Allah show you mercy -- that tawhid is the singling out of Allah for worship and service. It is the religion of the prophets sent by Allah to mankind. The first of the prophets was Nuh -- 'Alayhi al salam -- whom Allah had sent to his people when they exaggerated their esteem for the saints, Wadd, Suwa', Yaghuth, Ya'uq and Nasr, and raised them into gods. The last is Muhammad -- Sails Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam -- who destroyed the idols which stood for these deified persons.
It was to a religious people who worshipped regularly, performed the pilgrimage, gave in charity and remembered Allah constantly that He sent His Prophet Muhammad. Their mistake was one of assigning to some creatures an intermediary role between them and Allah in the hope of realizing closeness to Allah and His pleasure through their intercession. They compared them to the angels who keep Allah constant company, to Jesus and Mary, and many other saints. For this reason, Allah sent Muhammad -- Sails Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam -- to revive for them the religion of their ancestor Ibrahim, and to teach them anew that such pietism and devotion as they showed for the saints belonged exclusively to Allah, never to any favorite angel, prophet or any creature. For it must be borne in mind that these associationists did witness that Allah is indeed alone the Creator, without partners in the act of creation, that He alone was the Provider, that He alone was the Giver of life and death, Ruler of the universe; and finally, that heaven and earth and all the creatures in them are under His command and at His disposal
The evidence that thee who were fought by the Prophet of Allah -- Salla Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam -- subscribed to the religious views we mentioned is in the Qur'an. Allah said:
"Ask them, 0 Muhammad, 'Who sends down for
you your provision from the sky and Who grows it out from the earth? Who hears
your prayer and sees your condition? Who brings the living out of dead, and the
dead of the living? Who directs the course of the world?' They will answer,
'Allah.' Rejoin: 'Would you then not fulfill your duty to Him?' Qur'an 10:3I
"Ask them, 0 Muhammad, 'Who is Master of
the seven heavens, Lord of the glorious throne?' They answer, 'Allah.' Rejoin:
'Would you then not keep your duty to Him?' Ask them again, 'In Whose hand is
dominion over all things? Who is it that assists people and is never assisted by
anyone else? Who, as you claim, has knowledge?' They will answer: 'Allah'
Rejoin: 'How then are you beguiled?' ' Qur'an 23:86-89
The associationists' acquiescence in all this was not sufficient to enter them into the ranks of tawhid to which the Prophet -- Salla slllahu 'alayhi wa sallam -- had called them. If therefore you have convinced yourself of this fact, you would know that the tawhid which was turned down by these ancients is itself the tawhid which holds Allah as sole object of worship, what is called in modern parlance "the monotheistic creed." For they did pray to Allah day and night, but also prayed to the angels to intercede on their behalf, thinking that the angels carry weight with Allah for their righteousness and closeness to Him. They also prayed to the righteous humans, such as al Lat, or to a prophet such as Jesus.
You would then know, equally, that the Prophet -- Salla Allahu 'alavhi wa sallam -- fought them precisely on account of this shirk or associationism, and invited them to exclude all but Allah from their worship and devotion, following the divine commandment:
"Therefore, do not worship, pay homage or
pray to anyone beside Allah." Qur'an 72:18
"To Him alone are worship and prayer
legitimate. Those who address themselves in religious worship or prayer to other
beings will never receive satisfaction." Qur'an 13:15
The Prophet had fought them to no purpose but to make worship, sacrifice, supplication and every religious devotion be directed to Allah alone.
[Tawhid : The Essence of Worship]
You have therefore become convinced that their profession of the faith that only Allah is worthy of worship did not entitle them to enter Islam; that their invocation of angels, prophets and saints for intercession with Allah and winning of His favor has, on the contrary, rightly rendered them outlaws in the eyes of Islam.
Such is the tawhid to which the prophets of Allah have called men, and which the associationists rejected. It alone is what is meant by the statement "There is none worthy of worship but Allah," because only He may legitimately be approached in any religious devotion, not the king, prophet, saint, holy tree, holy grave or jinn.