Three principles of monotheism (tawheed)

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

Islamic monotheism (tawheed) is the foundation of Islam upon which all other teachings and practices must be based. The word “monotheism” comes from the root wa-ha-da from which we derive the word “one” and which is a verbal noun meaning “to make one.” Therefore, Islamic monotheism is to declare Allah to be one in respect to His Lordship, His right to be worshiped, and His divine attributes.

Muslim scholars have divided aspects of monotheism into three categories:

  1. Oneness of Lordship (tawheed ar-rububiyyah),
  2. Oneness of Godship (tawheed al-uluhiyyah),
  3. Oneness of Names and Attributes (tawheed asma wa sifat).

Ibn Abi Al-‘Izz writes in his commentary on Aqidah At-Tahawi:

فَالتَّوْحِيدُ أَوَّلُ الْأَمْرِ وَآخِرُهُ أَعْنِي تَوْحِيدَ الْإِلَهِيَّةِ فَإِنَّ التَّوْحِيدَ يَتَضَمَّنُ ثَلَاثَ أَنْوَاعٍ أَحَدُهَا الْكَلَامُ فِي الصِّفَاتِ وَالثَّانِي تَوْحِيدُ الرُّبُوبِيَّةِ وَبَيَانُ أَنَّ اللَّهَ وَحْدَهُ خَالِقُ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَالثَّالِثُ تَوْحِيدُ الْإِلَهِيَّةِ وَهُوَ اسْتِحْقَاقُهُ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى أَنْ يُعْبَدَ وَحْدَهُ لَا شَرِيكَ لَهُ

Monotheism is the beginning of the matter and its end. What is meant by this is the belief in the unity of God, for monotheism has three dimensions: first, matters concerning the attributes of Allah; second, the oneness of Lordship which states that Allah alone created everything; third, the oneness of Godship which states that Allah alone should be worshiped without associating any partners with Him.

Source: Sharh Aqidah At-Tahawi 24

The oneness of Allah’s Lordship is the belief that Allah alone has created the universe, that He alone is its Provider and Sustainer, and that He has complete ownership and power over His creation. In other words, Allah is one and unique in regard to His actions, such that no creature shares His power in creating and managing the universe.

Allah said:

إِنَّ رَبَّكُمُ اللَّهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ ثُمَّ اسْتَوَىٰ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ يُغْشِي اللَّيْلَ النَّهَارَ يَطْلُبُهُ حَثِيثًا وَالشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ وَالنُّجُومَ مُسَخَّرَاتٍ بِأَمْرِهِ ۗ أَلَا لَهُ الْخَلْقُ وَالْأَمْرُ ۗ تَبَارَكَ اللَّهُ رَبُّ الْعَالَمِينَ

Verily, your Lord is Allah who created the heavens and earth in six days and then established Himself above the Throne. He covers the night with the day, chasing it rapidly, and the sun, the moon, and the stars are subjected to His command. Unquestionably, for Him is the creation and the command. Blessed is Allah, the Lord of the worlds.

Surah Al-A’raf 7:45

The oneness of Allah’s Godship is the belief that Allah alone has the right to be worshiped by His creatures. All prayers, rituals, and acts of worship in Islam must be done with a sincere intention for the sake of Allah alone. In other words, Allah is one and unique in regard to the actions He deserves from His servants.

Allah said:

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اعْبُدُوا رَبَّكُمُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُمْ وَالَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُونَ

O mankind, worship your Lord who created you and those before you that you may become righteous.

Surah Al-Baqarah 2:21

Ibn Abbas said:

اللَّه ذُو الْأُلُوهِيَّة وَالْمَعْبُودِيَّة عَلَى خَلْقه أَجْمَعِينَ

Allah is the one possessing divinity and the right to be worshiped by the entire creation.

Source: Tafseer At-Tabari 1:1

The oneness of Allah’s Names and Attributes is the belief that Allah alone possesses perfect names and divine attributes. Allah’s beautiful names indicate that His might is perfect, His knowledge is perfect, His mercy is perfect, His justice is perfect, His wisdom is perfect, and all of His attributes are pure, holy, and flawless. Furthermore, none of His creatures can share in His attributes of perfection.

Allah said:

هُوَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ ۖ عَالِمُ الْغَيْبِ وَالشَّهَادَةِ ۖ هُوَ الرَّحْمَٰنُ الرَّحِيمُ هُوَ اللَّهُ الَّذِي لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْمَلِكُ الْقُدُّوسُ السَّلَامُ الْمُؤْمِنُ الْمُهَيْمِنُ الْعَزِيزُ الْجَبَّارُ الْمُتَكَبِّرُ ۚ سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ هُوَ اللَّهُ الْخَالِقُ الْبَارِئُ الْمُصَوِّرُ ۖ لَهُ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَىٰ ۚ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۖ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

He is Allah, other than whom there is no God, knower of the unseen and the witnessed. He is the Gracious, the Merciful. He is Allah, other than whom there is no God, the Sovereign, the Pure, the Perfection, the Faithful, the Overseer, the Almighty, the Compeller, the Supreme. Exalted is Allah above whatever they associate with Him. He is Allah, the Creator, the Inventor, the Fashioner, to Him belong the best names. Whatever is in the heavens and earth is exalting Him, for He is the Almighty, the Wise.

Surah Al-Hashr 59:22-24

These three categories are not mutually exclusive, but rather they overlap and they are integral aspects of the singular concept of Islamic monotheism. For example, the oneness of Lordship and Godship are the result of affirming Allah’s two names: “the Lord” (Ar-Rabb) and “the God” (Allah).

If a Muslim falls short in any of these categories, then he will have committed idolatry (shirk). The word “idolatry” comes from the root sh-ra-ka meaning “to partner, to share” and it means to associate partners with Allah in His Lordship, His right to be worshiped, or His divine attributes.

Idolatry is the chief sin which serves as a basis for all other sins, for idolatry opens the way toward fulfilling lustful passions, living selfishly, and transgressing the rights of others.

Allah said:

وَلَا تَجْعَلُوا مَعَ اللَّهِ إِلَٰهًا آخَرَ ۖ إِنِّي لَكُم مِّنْهُ نَذِيرٌ مُّبِينٌ

Do not make another god alongside Allah. Verily, I have given you a clear warning.

Surah Adh-Dhariyat 51:51

Acts of idolatry committed without repentance will cause all of a servant’s good deeds to be destroyed and he will be punished in the Hellfire.

Allah said:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يَغْفِرُ أَن يُشْرَكَ بِهِ وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ افْتَرَىٰ إِثْمًا عَظِيمًا

Verily, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. He who associates others with Allah has certainly fabricated a tremendous sin.

Surah An-Nisa 4:48

And Allah said:

إِنَّهُ مَن يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ فَقَدْ حَرَّمَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ الْجَنَّةَ وَمَأْوَاهُ النَّارُ ۖ وَمَا لِلظَّالِمِينَ مِنْ أَنصَارٍ

Verily, Allah has forbidden Paradise for one who associates with Allah and his refuge will be the Hellfire. There will be no helpers for the wrongdoers.

Surah Al-Ma’idah 5:72

Therefore, we must study our creed and specifically the principles of monotheism in order to protect ourselves from falling into idolatry.

We ask Allah to guide us to complete monotheism and to save us from associating partners with Him.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.