An Extremely Brief Introduction to Tawheed (Absolute Monotheism)
The first and most definitive article of faith in Islam is tawheed, the Unity of the One Almighty Creator and Sustainer of Creation – God. The most tacit description of God, called “Allah” in Arabic, can be found in the Qur’an:
“(1) SAY: He is the One God: (2) God the Eternal, the Uncaused Cause of All Being. (3) He begets not, and neither is He begotten; (4) and there is nothing that could be compared with Him.” (Surah al-Ikhlas, Qur’an Ch.112 vv.1-4)
This 4-verse chapter carries an important so important that reciting it 3 times in worship is tantamount to reciting the entire Qur’an because it’s message has one-third the value of the message of the Qur’an (Sahih al-Bukhari Bk. 1 No.533). It means that there is one deity worthy of all worship, praise, glory, and aid-seeking. He does not have a beginning nor an end – He is eternally-existing. Likewise, God has no partners in his Godhood, nor does He have any divisions, parts, or anything like that. He doesn’t give birth, nor was He born. He creates, but His creation still his creation, and not God. As such, there is nothing that can be compared with God, nothing in Creation at all. Nor can there be any representation, such as pictures, idols, people, etc. As such, concepts such as the Christian Trinity are bluntly rejected in Islam, and is seen simply as blasphemy (Qur’an Ch.4 v171).
In Arabic, the word for God is Allah (SWT). The (SWT) stands for “Subhanu wa Ta’ala,” meaning “Glorified and Exalted is He,” and although not mandatory, is uttered out of reverence after any mention of God. In Islam, God has 99 Beautiful Names, or Al-Asma’ Allah al-Husna, which can be used to call upon God, and the practice of which is encouraged (Qur’an Ch.7 v.180). Further explanation of the 99 Names will be given in the near future. Also, unnecessary swearing, blasphemy, and evil/lack of good in God’s name is strictly forbidden (Qur’an Ch.2 v.224).
Tawheed was the original concept of deity that mankind ever had, but it has been convoluted through time. Islam has been revealed through the prophets with the central message being tawheed – and even though these prophets may have had various sorts of legislations, since their core message was the same they are all considered to have been Muslims. Basically, Tawheed has 3 categories that have been constructed by the scholars – Tawheed ar-Rububiyah (Lordship), Tawheed al-Asma’ wal-Siffat (Names and Attributes), and Tawheed al-Uluhiyah (Worship/Devotion). (Philips)
Tawheed of Lordship basically means to believe and attest that God Almighty is the One and Only Creator. No one shares in the act of Creation except God Almighty, and no one sustains Creation except God Almighty. No movement all all of Creation, no matter how large or miniscule (even the vibration of an atom) can occur without His permission, and no movement can terminated nor modified in all of Creation without His permission.
Tawheed of Names and Attributes refers to structuring one’s understanding of Allah (SWT) as He has revealed about Himself through His prophets and scriptures. One cannot add one’s own whimsical musings to the canonical understanding of His Nature, Names and Attributes, nor can one subtract anything from the canonical understandings of His Nature, Names and Attributes, nor can one modify anything in the canonical understandings of His Nature, Names and Attributes. Yes, Muslims are allowed to meditate and contemplate the meanings of His Names and Attributes, but Muslims cannot teach or hold their musings on the same level as the standard canonical understandings. The canonical understanding of His Names and Attributes that applies to our generations is that which was interpreted and taught by Muhammad (SAW).
Tawheed of Worship/Devotion is to intend acts of worship and devotion only to Allah (SWT). Even more, all acts of worship and devotion must be performed as He taught us to perform them, without any additions, subtractions, or modifications. Actually, every single action, thought, or even intention should be contemplative of Him, and that He should be the One we ultimately aim to love, hope and fear. Even though we may hold these emotions and feelings for other created beings (love for parents, fear of dangerous animals, hope for an employer hiring you, etc.), the absolute manifestations of these emotions and feelings should be intended to God Almighty. It is only through God Almighty that we really experience success, even if that success is given to us through another created being.
A Muslim must maintain his/her tawheed throughout all 3 categories for his/her tawheed to be complete, and a shortcoming in even a single one of these categories is enough to place a person outside the fold of Islam. It is seen that the current manifestation of Islam is the only modern and existing paradigm that seems to meet all 3 requirements of tawheed.
If there is one absolute truth in Islam, and in all of Creation, it is that Allah (SWT) is the One God, without any partners of any sort, Creator and Sustainer of the Creation.
– Farhan R.
Philips, Abu Ameenah Bilal, Dr. The Fundamentals of Tawheed. International Islamic Publishing House (IIPH) 2nd Edition 2005.