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Kitab ut-Tawhid by Shaykh Ahmad Hendricks

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Chapter Two of the book:

Definition of Tawhid and ’Ibadah

The word "Tawhid is derived from the Arabic word "wah-hada" which means "to declare or judge something to be one." Tawhid also means the knowledge that "something is one".1 It also means "to unify," for example, a group of people around a single idea or approach to a particular problem. This is the sense in which the politicians use the word when they speak of Tawhid ul-kalimah or unifying public opinion.

The scholars distinguish between two sorts of unity

1. Haqq‘ — or real (literal) unity meaning indivisibility and uniqueness. For example, a geometric point is a real unity because it is indivisible, it is not reducible to smaller parts. Unity is also connected with the idea of uniqueness, for example, the Unity of Allah, the Most High. We speak of the unity of Allah because He is both indivisible and because He transcends multiplicity. There is only one Allah out there in existence. This objective uniqueness and indivisibilty is referred to as real unity.

2 Majaz‘ — or figurative (conceptual) unity, like the concept of "manhood" is a unity only at the conceptual level and is derived from numerous instances or occurrences of individual men out there in the world. Concepts are formed by collecting and abstracting all the common attributes of the individual occurrences of a thing and working them into a unified idea.

In the discussion on the Unity of Allah, it is crucial that the reader avoid the pitfall of thinking that it is a purely figurative or conceptual unity that is being discussed. The Wahdaniyyah, the unity of Allah may be an idea, but the idea in this case represents a real unity out there, the Divine Essence.

This distinction is made precisely to avoid the kind of error which Rationalist or Idealist philosophers have fallen into both in the past and at present. Philosophy tended to reduce the Divine Essence to an abstract idea or to a rational conclusion. This reductionism represented to the scholastics an idea nothing shorter than the denial of the Real and Personal Divinity taught by the Prophets. ’Ilm ut-Tawhid could indeed be seen as an attempt to rationally present the teaching of the Prophets (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon them all), about the nature of the Divinity, to a world that was being profoundly challenged by the growing influence of Greek rationalism.

The meaning of Tawhid in the Shari’ah2

Shaykh Ibrah‘m Bajuri defines Tawhid as the singular worship (’ibadah) of Allah the Most High, with total and complete belief in the uniqueness and perfection of His Essence, Attributes and Actions.3 This definition indicates that worship or ’ibadah has two fundamental dimensions:

1. an outer dimension of formal actions like the sujud (prostration) and ruku’ (bowing) of Salah (the prescribed daily prayers),

2. and an inner dimension of belief in the perfection of the Worshipped.

It is crucial that these two aspects of worship be taken together because they can be separated only at the price of making a serious error. Sujud, for example in itself, cannot be regarded as worship because Allah Himself would be guilty of ordering the Malaikah (The Angels) to commit acts of "shirk" polytheism when He said to them "usjudu li Adam", "prostrate before Adam". The great majority of commentators say that this sujud of the Angels was a sujud of respect and that sujud as a sign of showing respect and reverence was abrogated in the Shari’ah of Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). Here is no mention or hurling of accusations of "shirk" or of committing polytheism or fetishism. The reason being that sujud without the crucial inner dimension of belief in the Divinity and Lordship of the one that is prostrated towards, has nothing to do with "shirk". On the contrary, the scholars of Fiqh have to decide whether it is obligatory (wajib), recommended (sunnah) or forbidden (haram) or simply allowed (jaiz) or distasteful (makruh).

Similar remarks apply to all the other well-known ways and customs of showing respect and reverence to the scholars and saints of Allah. It is an error to call them "shirk" or to label them an act of ’ibadah directed to other than Allah. Both these dimensions of ’ibadah must be taken together when passing judgement.

’Ibadah is, therefore, all the words, acts and states of the worshipper done in complete humility and servitiude to the one whom he believes possesses Uluhiyyah (divinity) and Rububiyyah (lordship).

Muslims QUESTION the Christians precisely because they believe in the Divinity and the Lordship of Nabi ’‘sa or Jesus (may the peace of Allah be upon him), and consequently worship him as an aspect or part of a holy trinity — the Father (God), the Son (believed to be nabi ’‘sa) and the Holy Spirit. Similarly, the polytheists worshipped their various gods, Lat, ’Uzza and al-Manat, claiming that these idols shared in the Divinity or Uluhiyyah of Allah.

Now these mistaken beliefs and the actions that flow from them are the essence of "shirk" or the denial of Allah’s the Most High, uniqueness and Wahdaniyyah. Islam has declared unequivocally that Uluhiyyah (divinity) and Rububiyyah (lordship) belong solely to Allah the Most High and none beside Him share anything of this status and consequently, none is worthy of worship except Him.


Uluhiyyah, Rububiyyah and ’Ibadah

Ulu|hiyyah is an abstract noun derived from the Arabic "ilah" or divinity. An "ilah" according to Imam Sanusi is a Being who is absolutely independant and on whom everything else besides it depends.4 Other scholars define "ilah" as that which is alone worthy of worship and that which alone must be completely obeyed.

There is clearly no contradiction between the two definitions except that the second one does not clearly spell out the reason why the ilah is alone worthy of worship. The first definition on the other hand captures the essence and nature of Divinity or Uluhiyyah, it is therefore the one preferred in this book.

Another significant aspect of this definition is that the twenty sifat wajibah can by a process of inference be deduced from it. Allah’s absolute independance for example implies that He exists, that He is Eternal and Infinite and that He is Self-subsistent. The absolute dependance of the other on Him, for example, implies that He must be Living, All-knowing, Powerful and have Will. All these are necessary attributes of a creative "ilah", in the sense that we cannot conceive that a being creates unless he has these qualities.

Rububiyyah is derived from the Arabic word "Rabb" which means the "Owner, Lord, Protector and Nourisher."

To summarize, we said that ’ibadah involves actions done in a certain way with total servitude and belief in the Uluhiyyah and the Rububiyyah of the worshipped.

Tawhid therefore means, as the definition of Bajuri indicates, recognising and firmly believing that Allah, the Most High, alone has the attributes of Uluhiyyah and Rububiyyah and consequently He alone can and ought to be worshipped.

’Ibadah in the Shari’ah or sacred legal sense is mainly used to refer to the five outer pillars of Islam: Shahadah (witnessing), Salah (prayer), Sawm (fasting), Zakah (compulsory annual tithe) and Hajj (pilgrimage) as well as to the inner states such as fear (khawf), hope (raja’a) and dependence (tawakkul).

Tawhid defined in this way is then the prime idea, the motivating force and the director of acts of worship and the inner states to their correct and only true object, Allah the Most High, the Lord of the Worlds.


’Ibadah versus respect of the Scholars and Awliya

The feelings of respect, love and humility felt by some people towards the scholars and the awliya (the saints) dead or alive, are on good evidence recommended by the Shari’ah. This has absolutely nothing to do with "shirk" (polytheism) or bid’ah (unacceptable innovation). These noble feelings of respect, love and humility certainly do not compromise the unity of Allah, the Most High. No sane Muslim dares to believe that a created thing, prophet or saint shares in the Uluhiyyah or the Rububiyyah of Allah, the Most High.

Some reformist groups in recent times have erroneously been led to believe that these feelings of respect, love and humility shown to the scholars — or at the sanctuaries of Makkah and Madinah — are acts of worship. Although this is often said with good intention it is clearly not consistent with the concept of ’ibadah and its defining characteristics explained above.

Importance of ’aqidah (belief)

A human being consists mainly of instincts, emotions, will, reason and spiritual intuition. He falls below the level of an animal if he is dominated by his basic instincts. On the other hand, if his behaviour is controlled by reason he is capable of rising to high levels and achieving great things.

In daily social situations, we witness the powerful impact of the attitudes and beliefs of a person on his behaviour. For example, if one believes that a fire burns and is painful, one would stay clear from its flames. In a similar way, we distance ourselves from anything we believe to be hateful. Take another example — take some foodstuff which may be sweet and edible. However, should we have reason to believe that a poisonous substance has been put into it, we would simply refuse to eat it.

The beliefs which we hold are, therefore, of fundamental importance, meriting careful treatment and close attention. In the process of building up a Muslim’s Iman, the prescribed set of attitudes and beliefs taught by Islam become entrenched in his consciousness to the extent that they deeply affect his whole personality and behaviour. This means that a Muslim’s personality or the quality of his behaviour may then be said to reflect the degree to which his faith in Allah the Most High, the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and the Day of Judgement has taken root in his soul. This partly explains why the Prophet (the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and indeed the Qur’an, paid particular attention to theological questions during the first twelve years of his career.

Types of Tawhid

Tawhid according to the scholars has come to denote that branch of knowledge which deals with the doctrines of Islam in a systematic way. In order to distinguish between the academic study of this science and its practice or realisation, some scholars divide Tawhid into two kinds:

1 Tawhid A’m or general Tawhid: this refers to the knowledge of Allah the Most High, and His attributes, the qualities of Prophethood, the Prophets themselves and other important, guiding principles in Islam. This is the kind of Tawhid we will be discussing in our lessons. In addition to the meanings of Tawhid we noted earlier, it is also defined as the branch of knowledge that trains the student to demonstrate and derive the basic beliefs of Islam from rational proofs.5

2 Tawhid Khas or special Tawhid: this refers to the station of the spiritual traveller who, after years of practising the methodology of tasawwuf, realises the doctrines of Tawhid ’Am which for him become a living reality. He worships Allah, the Most High, as if he sees Him. The veils between him and the objects of his belief are lifted and he realises a higher degree of certainty in the principles or arkan of Iman than the average person. Imam Ghazali refers to this level of Tawhid when he says: "Know that spiritual union to the one who reaches a state of pure certitude by means of spiritual ‘taste’ and ‘ecstacy’, is in fact a degree of ‘arrival".6 Arrival according to the Sufis is attainment to the level of Tawhid Khas.


Definition of ’Ilm ul-kalam (Scholastic theology)

Al I|ji| says ’Ilm Ul-Kala|m is the science which enables the student to demonstrate the beliefs of Islam using the techniques of Logic and to answer any objections which may be raised against his arguments.7 Both Ibn Khaldun and Imam Ghazali define it as that branch of knowledge which deals with the intellectual proofs of the Islamic doctrines and with the refutation of the heretical sects, such as the Khawarij.8 These two definitions are clearly not contradictory except that ‘ji does not specifically mention the sects as an object of study. According to them, therefore, ’Ilm ul-Kalam performs two functions:

1. attempts to prove and demonstrate the doctrines of Islam on the basis of Logic;

2. studies and refutes the deviant sects and movements claiming to be part of or sometimes even claim to be the real Islam.

Shurut of al-Mutakallim

The mutakallim or the Muslim theologian, has to have several important qualifications. These are that he:

1 is required to have an extensive knowledge of Arabic

2 must be fully versed in and be knowledgeable about Logic

3 must have mastered the teachings of Qur’an and Sunnah

4 must possess the proper adab (manners) and the etiquette of debate like level-headedness, clarity of thought, the ability to listen well, sobriety, patience, mildness and even-temperedness

5 must be a pious and God-fearing Muslim.

Masa’il or scope of ’Ilm ut-Tawhid

Scholars traditionally divide the ’ilm of Tawhid into three sections:

Al-Ila’hiyyat which deals with questions relating to the Divine Essence and His attributes.
An-Nubuwwat which deals with the question of Prophet-hood, the Prophets and related issues like the miracles of the Prophets.
As-Sam’iyyat deals with those doctrines and beliefs which cannot be analysed by reason and whose chief and only source is the Qur’an and the Hadith, like the signs of Qiyamah, the conditions inside the grave after death, resurrection, heaven and hell and so on.
This traditional tripartite development of the subject-matter of ’Ilm ul-Kalam has been recently revised by Dr Sa’eed al-Buti into a fourfold division. According to him many other authors have also opted to divide the themes of Tawhid into ilahiyyat (theology), nubuwwat (prophetology), kawniyyat (cosmology or the study of the universe) and ghaibiyyat (eschatology or the doctrine of the unseen).9



.1. Al-Bajuri, E. 1972. Sharh jawrah ut-Tawhid (Commentary on the Jewel of Tawhid).

2. The word shari’ah is a derivation of the Arabic "shara’a" "to prescribe". It is a composite term that refers to all the legal, ethical, doctrinal and spiritual teachings revealed to the Prophet Muh³ammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.3. Al-Bajuri, E. Sharh jawharah ut-Tawhid: Matba’ah Dar ihya ul-Kutub al-’Arabi. p.8.

4. As-Sanusi, M. 1330AH Matn umm al-Barahin (Text of the Mother of Proofs). Makkah: Matba’ah al-Majidiyyah. p.8.

5. Al-Bajuri. 1972. Sharh jawharah ut-Tawhid (Commentary on the Jewel of Islam from rational proofs.)p.5.

6. Al-Bajuri, E. 1972 ed. Sharh jawharah ut-Tawhid. p. 947. Al-Iji, A. al-Mawaqif fi ’ilm ul-kalam (On the Science of Kala\m). Bairut: ’Alam ul Kutub. p. 78. Al-Maghribi, A. 1986. al-Firaq al-Kalamiyyah ul-Islamiyyah (Studies on the Islamic Theological Sects). Cairo: Maktabah Wahbah. p. 11.

9. Al-Buti, M.S. 1402AH. Sec. Ed. Kubra al-Yaqiniyyat al-Kawniyyah (The Great Cosmic Certainties). Damascus: Dar ul-Fikr. p. 25.

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