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Page last edited on 23 April, 2003

What is Tawheed?

[From the 'Invitation to Islam' Newsletter, Issue 1, May 1997]

The word Tawheed has by the grace of Allah, become a word which is well known amongst the Muslims of today. But do we really know the reality of this word?

'What is tawheed?' you ask any Muslim 'Is it the oneness of Allah?' he would reply 'What's that?' You ask again. 'I'm not too sure' he would say. This is the kind of scenario which the Muslims are involved in, and what a sad state of affairs it is when we cannot even explain the basics of our religion to those around us.

Some of us are so dedicated to completing our studies, that we engross ourselves in the textbooks for hours. Others of us love the western culture and lifestyle so much, that we can mimic and relay the words of non-Muslims to such an extent that we even start to quote chapter and verse from the latest Hollywood blockbuster! Yet upon being asked 'What is Tawheed? ' our tongues fall silent.

The cure for ignorance is knowledge, and in order to cure ourselves we have to take time-out to learn about this beautiful religion, even if it means reading articles such as this!

It is true that tawheed is simply the oneness of Allah, yet at the same time it is something which is so vividly explained in our religion, that it is a life long quest for knowledge. The detailed nature of tawheed is something which unfortunately, is not known by the majority of the Muslims and this is why you find many Muslims saying that Christianity and Judaism, like Islam, are monotheistic [1] religions. Yet if these Muslims were to truly learn about Islam they would discover that religions such as Christianity and Judaism are forms of idol-worship, which are far from being similar to Islam.

The Reality of Tawheed

Linguistically the word tawheed means unification (to make something one). However Islamically it is in reference to Allah being singled out alone, in all that is particular to him. The opposite of tawheed is 'Shirk' which is to associate partners with Allah by giving that which belongs to him, to others. [2]

Traditionally tawheed has been divided into three categories which help us to understand why Allah alone deserves to be singled out for worship. The division of tawheed into these three categories was something which was not done by the prophet of Allah (saws) or any of his companions. So is this something new that has been introduced into the religion (bida [3])? The answer to this is no, because we find that the basis of these three categories are to be found in the verses of the Qur'aan, hadeeth [authenticated reports] of the prophet (saws) and the statements of his companions.

The necessity for dividing up tawheed into three categories first came about during the early days of Islam. After the death of the prophet (saws) Islam spread like wildfire and before long the empires of Africa, Byzantium, Persia and India all fell under Muslim rule. Many people from these areas became Muslims. However some of these converts to Islam also carried with them some of their old pagan beliefs. This caused much confusion amongst people, and the simple belief of Islam which the people had accepted, started to become clouded. The task of opposing these new thoughts and ideas which were becoming prevalent, fell upon the shoulders of the Muslim scholars, who rose to meet this challenge intellectually. Amongst the first people to divide tawheed into three categories was the famous scholar of Iraq, Abu Haneefah. [4]

Before mentioning what these three categories are, it has to be stressed that the concept of tawheed is in no way similar to the Christian concept of trinity except the fact that they both begin with the letter 'T'!! The division of tawheed does not divide Allah up into three separate parts (as does trinity), but rather it helps us to understand as to how our Creator is unique and alone in being singled out for worship and reverence. Unfortunately there are some Christians today[5] who seem to forget this fact and continue to spread lies about the meaning of the tawheed of Allah.

[1] The Unity of Allah's Lordship

This first category of tawheed is known as tawheed-ur Ruboobeeyah or the unity of Allah's lordship. Through this we understand that it is Allah who alone created the universe which is why one of his divine names is AlKhaliq (the Creator). Through this we know that it is Allah alone who controls the universe and allows things to happen. This is why Allah refers to himself in the Qur'aan as AI-Malik (The Owner of the universe). Hence when something happens, it only happens with the permission of Allah:

"And no calamity strikes except with the permission of Allah"
(Surah At-Taghabun 64:11)

The prophet Muhammed (saws) further elaborated on this concept of Allah's control over the universe by saying: "Be aware that if the whole of mankind gathered together in order to do something to help you they would only be able to do something for you which Allah had already written for you. Likewise, if the whole of mankind gathered together to harm you, they would only be able to do something to harm you which Allah had already written to happen to you". [7]

We know that another name, which Allah chooses to call himself by, is Ar-Razzaq (the Sustainer). It is Allah who provides us with our food, shelter, clothing, families and friends. When our crops seem to be dying and there is not a cloud in sight, it is Allah who sends down His rain from the skies and sustains us.

"Allah created all things and He is the agent upon which all things depend"
(Surah Az-Zumar 39:62)

From this you would expect that people would turn back to Allah for good or bad fortune. However this is not the case. Today we find people relying on all kinds of good luck charms[9], which they believe will bring them good fortune and ward off evil.

Unfortunately, this selfish act of turning away from the favours of Allah has hit the Muslims hard, we find in many of our societies that the Muslims believe in all kinds of superstitions and good luck charms such as the Tawees (amulet). These practices have absolutely no basis whatsoever in Islam, but rather the prophet (saws) warned us by saying: "Whosoever brings something new into Islam, something which does not belong to it, will have it rejected".[10]

[2] The Unity of Allah's names and Attributes

This category of tawheed is known as Tawheed-al-Asma Wa-Siffaat or the unity of Allah's name and attributes. Allah says in the Qur'aan:

"Allah there is no god but be. To Him belong the most beautiful names"
(Surah Ta-Ha 20:8)

This category of tawheed helps us to understand who our Creator is through His Names and Attributes. Through His Names and Attributes we know that Allah is far beyond our imagination and bears no resemblance to human beings. In fact it is this principle which makes Islam unique from all the other religions on the face of this earth. Allah says in the Qur'aan:

"There is nothing like Him and He hears and sees all things"
(Surah Ash-Shura 42:11)

It is in this verse that a distinction is made between those who truly worship their Creator and those who worship the creation. The most prominent example of this is that of the Christians. They claim that Jesus (as) was God, this negates the Tawheed of Allah's Names and Attributes because it degrades the Creator (whom the Christians say was Jesus) to the level of human beings and gives Him those weaknesses which humans possess. It is known from the bible that Jesus ate, drank, felt tired, slept and did all the things which normal humans do. So how is it right for the Christians to say that god lowered himself to the level of humans? As Muslims we say 'Allah is above such imperfection' (subhanallah) and rather it is us weak humans who need to turn to this perfect lord and Creator.

[3] The Unity of Allah's Worship

This part of tawheed is known as tawheed-al-eebadah or the unity of Allah's worship. It is this aspect of tawheed which it could be said is the most important. It is through this that we learn how to worship our Creator alone. Allah is not the kind of god who does not respond or hear your calls. He is not the kind of god who needs some sort of middleman to take our prayers up to Him. Rather Allah says:

"And your lord said : Call on me and I will answer you"
(Surah Ghafir 40:60)

There is nothing to prevent a person from calling directly upon Allah and asking for His help and forgiveness. Unfortunately this is violated by most of mankind who believe that other men can intercede for them and even grant them forgiveness because of their apparent special status! An example of this is the Catholic religion which holds that the celibate priests are more purer then normal people. This allows for them to then hear the confessions of people's sins and subsequently grant them forgiveness. It is this kind of behaviour which takes a person away from the worship of Allah to the worship of man.

As Muslims we too should be careful of this, because it seems that many of our brothers and sisters are indulging in this kind of evil and are not even aware of it. How many Muslims are there today who call upon others besides Allah? We find that in countries such as Pakistan and India there are millions of Muslims who go to the graves of 'saints' and ask them for children, wealth, fame and more sadly, forgiveness. What makes this more ironic is the fact that many of these Muslims pray five times a day, and in every rakat (unit) of their prayer they say the following to their Creator:

"You alone do we worship and You alone do we seek help from"
(Surah Al-Fatiha 1:4)

Learning about the tawheed of Allah is the most important thing for the whole of humanity. For if we learn how to trust and worship our Creator with sincerity, then -and only then- will we escape from the slavery and captivity of this life. By worshipping Allah alone does a man achieve true peace and success. This is the reason why when the adhaan[15] is called, the muezzin[16] says "Haya alal Falaa" (come to success). And we ask Allah to make us amongst those who go to this success. Ameen


1 Monotheistic - The belief in one God
2 The topic of Shirk will be dealt with in the next issue, Inshallah
3 Bida - The Arabic word for innovation (something new broughtinto the religion)
4 Abu Haneefah an-Nu'man ibn Thabit was born in Kufah (Iraq) in the year 700 CE. He made his living as a cloth merchant, but devoted his entire life to studying and teaching Islam. His refusal to he appointed the judge of Kufah resulted in him being imprisoned and incurring punishment. He died in the year 767 CE in prison. His rulings and reasoning became the basis of the Hanafite school of Islamic law.
5 One of these Christians is a man by the name of Joseph Smith. Smith is on a continuous crusade against Islam and is a regular preacher in Hyde Park (London). A debate between Smith and Abdur-Raheem Green, entitled "The Sources of Islam" conducted last year shows the fallacy of Smith's lies against Islam.
6 Surah At-Taghaabun 64:11
7 At-Tirmidhee
8 Surah Az-Zurnar 39:62
9 Such as four-leaf clovers, rabbits paws and horseshoes.
10 Bukhari ( Eng. Trans Vol .3 pp 535 No. 861 ) and Muslim Eng Trans Vol. 3 pp 931 No 4266
11 Surah Ta-Ha 20:8
12 Surah As-Shura 42:11
13 Surah Ghaffir 40:60
14 Surah Fatiha 1:4
15 The call to prayer
16 The one who calls to prayer

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* pbuh - Peace be upon him; It is a Muslim practise to convey prayers of peace whenever the name of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and other prophets is taken.

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Last updated on 13 March, 2003

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