Linda Sarhan has taken several college level courses in Islamic studies and is an experienced Islamic studies writer.
What Is Tawheed?
Tawheed is the basic fundamental to Muslims’ belief in Allah. This belief originates from the Qur’an and from what the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) taught. Many scholars organized tawheed into three categories in order to give Muslims a better understanding and a reminder that Allah is above everything.
Tawheed helps with having a better understanding of Allah and guard against innovations as many people from a wide variety of cultures are coming to Islam.
Three Categories of Tawheed
1. Tawheed ar-Rububiyah – maintaining the oneness of Allah's Lordship.
2. Tawheed al-Asma' was-Sifaat – maintaining the unity of Allah's names and attributes.
3. Tawheed al-Ibaadah – maintaining the unity of worship.
Tawheed is the concept of monotheism in Islam. It is the "unification" or "asserting oneness" of Allah. Tawheed comes from the Arabic word wahhada, which means to unite or unify. The term tawheedullah is used with reference to Allah. It is realizing and affirming Allah's unity in all of man's actions, which directly or indirectly relates to Him.
The three categories of tawheed overlap each other. They are inseparable to such a degree that whoever disregards any one category or aspect in tawheed has failed to complete the requirements of having tawheed. In fact, omitting any part of tawheed is considered to be shirk. Shirk is a sin. Simply put, shirk is when you establish partners with Allah. Shirk has many forms.
Are Christianity and Judaism Idolatrous?
In fact, Christianity and Judaism are both considered to be monotheistic religions. However, by the classification of tawheed, Christianity is polytheistic and idolatrous because they worship more than just God. Even still, they humanize Allah not only through the concept of the trinity but through physical art representations. Judaism also commits shirk in tawheed because they are considered to be a subtle form of idolatry. Although Judaism claims to forbid idolatry, they use artistic representations of God in their worship.
As previously mentioned, the word tawheed doesn't appear in the Qur'an nor hadiths. However, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) taught the concept of tawheed and why it is important. The Prophet (pbuh) even warned Muslims against any deviations and to stick with the path he lead.
As Islam began to spread throughout the world, cultural traditions and thoughts began corrupting the concept of tawheed as the Prophet (pbuh) taught. Therefore, scholars took the concept of tawheed, as the Prophet (pbuh) taught, and categorized it to keep from having misunderstandings and innovations about worshiping Allah as Islam spread throughout the world.
Further Explanation of the 3 Categories of Tawheed
The word rububiyah comes from the Arabic word Rabb, which means "Lord". Tawheed ar-Rububiyah is the fundamental concept that only Allah caused all things to exist. It is Allah that sustains and maintains His creation without needing anything from it.
"Allah created all things and He is the agent on which all things depend." [Surat az-Zumar 39:62]
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) would often repeat: "La hawla wa la quwwata illa billah", which means there is no movement nor power except by Allah's will. This proof that nothing happens unless it is by the will of Allah is also mentioned in the Qur'an.
"And no calamity strikes except by Allah's permission." [Surat at-Taghabun 64:11]
Some people may then ask, "Why does Allah allow bad things or evil things to happen?" Allah does not associate evil to Himself. Evil and 'bad things' are actions of His creations not of Allah. However, what we may perceive as 'bad things' may be for a good reason. This is a hard concept to grasp when there are so many horrible things happening in the world, but it only Allah who knows why these things happen. Take a look at this ayah:
"It is possible that you dislike something that is really good for you or like something that is really bad for you, but Allah knows (what is best for you) and you do not." [Surat al-Baqarah 2:216]
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Four Aspects of Tawheed al-Asma' was-Sifaat
1. The unity of Allah's names and attributes.
2. Refer to Allah as He referred to Himself without giving Him new names or attributes.
3. Do not give Allah the attributes of this creation.
4. Do not give man Allah's name unless preceded by the prefix 'Abd. The prefix 'Abd means "slave or servant of".
Tawheed al-Asma' was-Sifaat
Tawheed al-Asma' was-Sifaat is the maintaining the unity of Allah's names and attributes. Allah's attributes are different from human attributes. Allah's attributes are similar to human attributes in name only and not in degree. You should only refer to Allah how He and His Prophet (pbuh) described Him. When it comes to Allah's names, the Qur'an gives 99 names of Allah scattered across different ayahs.
"Allah - there is no deity except Him. To Him belong the best names." [Surat Taha 20:8]
Please note that it is forbidden for people to name themselves or others as slave to any other than Allah. For example, 'AbdurRasool (slave of the messenger), 'Abdun Nabee (slave of the Prophet), or 'Abdul Hussain (slave of Hussain). The Prophet (pbuh) also said it was forbidden for Muslims to refer to those under their charge as 'abdee (my slave) or 'amatee (my slave girl).
One example of giving Allah the attributes of His creations is in the Bible and the Torah. It says that Allah created the Universe in six days and on the seventh day He rested. This implies that He gets tired just as some of His creations do. This concept is sinful and considered shirk. The Qur'an clearly states:
"Allah - there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of [all] existence. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is [presently] before them and what will be after them, and they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills. His Kursi extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Most Great." [Surat al-Baqarah 2:255]
Some people claim that Allah is spirit or has a spirit. This concept goes against the aspects of tawheed. Allah does not refer to Himself as spirit nor did the Prophet (pbuh) express this concept. In fact, Allah refers to the spirit as a part of His creation.
"They ask you (Muhammad) about the spirit. Tell (them) that the spirit exists by my Lord's command." [Surat al-Isra 17:85]
Tawheed al-Ibadah is about maintaining the unity of worship. The term 'ibadah means to have total obedience and submission to Allah. Even though Mecca pagans believed in Allah and even practiced the first two concepts of tawheed, they still worshiped others besides Allah. They and others believed in idols to act as intermediaries to Allah. Even Saul (Paul) of Tarsus committed an act of shirk when he deified the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) and Jesus' mother, Mary. Also, if someone prays to the prophets (pbut), angels, "saints", dead people, jinn, etc. asking them for help or simple to ask Allah for something on you behalf, this is also shirk.
"I did not create jinn and mankind except for my worship." [Surat adh-Dhariyat 51:56]
"Verily, We have sent to every nation a messenger (saying), 'Worship Allah and avoid false gods.'" [Surat an-Nahl 16:36]
"You alone do we worship, and from you alone do we seek help." [Surat al-Fatiha 1:5]
Even the Qur'an states that Christians and Jews believe in praying through a priest and other religious leaders as well as to "saints". However, Allah clearly states that there is no need for intercession. Each person can pray and ask forgiveness directly from Allah. Even the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said that Christians and Jews worship their priests and rabbis because they accept whatever they say regarding what is permissible or forbidden.
"They have taken their scholars and monks as lords besides Allah, and (also) the Messiah, the son of Mary. And they were not commanded except to worship one God; there is no deity except Him. Exalted is He above whatever they associate with Him." [Surat at-Tawbah 9:31]
"...Verily, I am close; I listen to the prayer of everyone who calls on Me. So let them respond to Me and believe in Me in order that they may be guided right." [Surat al-Baqarah 2:186]
There is much to cover when it comes to understanding tawheed. But for now, this gives you a basic idea of what the three categories tawheed are all about. Mufti Menk gives an in-depth lecture with regards to the three overlapping categories of tawheed and their significance to the Islamic faith.
In-Depth Lecture on Tawheed From an Islamic Scholar
Sources and Further Reading
- The Concept of Tahweed | Spirit of Islam
- The Fundamentals of Tawheed (Islamic Monotheism) | Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips
- Tawhid | Meaning, Aspects, & Oneness | Britannica
- Tawhid | Wikipedia
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Linda Sarhan
Ayidakyu Suleiman on June 05, 2017:
lslam,the Qur'an and the sunnah of prophet Muhammad (s a w) my favorite Qur'anic verses lines that changed my life by noorin.