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An Introduction to Tawḥīd and Its Divisions

An explanatory discourse on the science of Tawḥīd (oneness of Allāh), from the scholars of the past and present.

Linguistically, Tawḥīd means oneness, and its religious meaning is to single out Allāh in worship.

The Division of Tawḥīd into Two Types

Al-’Allāmah ’Abdur-Raḥmān Ibn Ḥasan (d.1285H) said:

“Tawḥīd is of two types: Tawḥīd of knowledge (maʿrifah) and affirmation (ithbaat) and it is the Tawḥīd of Rubūbiyyah (Lordship) and Asmāʾa wa-al-Ṣifāt (the Names and Attributes of Allāh). Then there is the Tawḥīd in actions (talab) and intentions (qasd) and it is the Tawḥīd of Ulūhiyyah (divinity) and ʿibādah (worship).”1

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyyah (d.751H) said:

“As for the Tawḥīd which the Messengers called to and which was revealed in the Books, then it is of two types: Tawḥīd in knowledge and affirmation (al-maʿrifah wal-ithbāt) and Tawḥīd in actions and intentions (at-talab wal-qasd). So the first thing is the affirmation of the reality of the essence of Allāh the Exalted and His Attributes and His Actions and His Names, and what He spoke in His Books, and what He spoke to whomever He wished from amongst His servants. It is also the affirmation of the comprehensiveness of His Predestination (qadā) and His Pre-Decree (qadar) and His Wisdom (hikmah). Indeed the Qurʾān has clarified this in an open declaration as is found in the beginning of Sūrah-Hadīd, and Sūrah Ṭā Hā; and towards the end of al-Ḥashr and in the beginning of as-Sajdah, and in the beginning of Ālī ʿImrān and in all of Sūrah-Ikhlās, and in other than them.

The second type is what is demonstrated in Sūrah-Kāfirūn and in the statement of Allāh the Exalted:

“Say: O People of the Book! Come to a word between us and you that we will not worship anyone besides Allāh and we will not associate anything with Him and we will not take each other as lords besides Allāh. So if they turn away, say: Bear witness that we are Muslims.”
[Sūrah Āl ʿImrān 3:64]

This can also be seen at the beginning of Sūrah Tanzeelul-Kitāb and at its end. It is also contained in the beginning, middle and end of Sūrah-Mu‘minūn. It is also at the beginning of Sūrah-A’rāf and at its end; and in most of Sūrah-Anʿām and in the great majority of the Sūrahs (chapters) of the Qurʾān. Rather, it is in every sūrah of the Qurʾān. So it demonstrates the two types of Tawḥīd, testifies to it and calls to it.

So verily the Qurʾān consists of either, information (akhbār) about Allāh and His Names and His Attributes and His Actions and His Statements – so it is the Tawḥīd of knowledge (ʿilm) and information (akhbār). Or the Qurʾān consists of calling the servants of Allāh to His Oneness and not associating partners with Him, and leaving off whatever is worshipped besides Him. So this is Tawḥīd of intentions (irādah) and actions (talab). Or the Qurʾān consists of ordering and prohibiting and the obligation of obeying His commands and prohibitions. So these are the rights of Tawḥīd and its completion. Or the Qurʾān informs of the nobility of the people of Tawḥīd and what is done to them in the world and how they will be honoured due to it in the Hereafter, so it is the reward of Tawḥīd. Or the Qurʾān consists of information about the people of Shirk and what was by them in the world and what they shall receive of exemplary punishment and torment, so this is the recompense of those who leave from the rule of Tawḥīd. So all of the Qurʾān deals with Tawḥīd and its rights and its rewards and with the affair of Shirk and its people and their recompense.”2

Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymīyyah (d.728H) said:

“Indeed the Tawḥīd which the Messengers came with includes affirmation of the divinity (ʿulūhiyyah) of Allāh alone. It includes testifying that there is no true deity worthy of worship besides Allāh, none except Him is to be worshipped, and none is relied upon except Him, no alliance is made except to Him and no enemies are developed except His, and nothing is done except with His permission. So due to that, it is necessary to affirm what He has affirmed for Himself from names and attributes. Allāh the Exalted says:

“And your God is one God. There is no true deity besides Him. The Most Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy.”
[Sūrah al-Baqarah 2:163]

Allāh said:

“Do not take two gods. He is only one God, so fear Him.”
[Sūrah al-Naḥl 16:51]

Allāh the Exalted said:

“Whoever calls upon another deity along with Allāh, then he has no proof for it. So verily his reckoning will be with his Lord. Indeed the disbelievers will not succeed.”
[Sūrah al-Mu‘minoon, 23:117]

And Allāh the Exalted said:

“And ask those whom we sent before you from our messengers, did We make any deities to be worshipped besides the Most Merciful.”
[Sūrah al-Zukhruf, 43:45]

So Allāh has informed that every prophet from amongst the Prophets called the people o the worship of Allāh alone, without any associates. And Allāh said:

“Indeed there is an excellent example for you in Ibrāhīm and those who were with him, when they said to the people: Verily we are free from what you worship besides Allāh. We have rejected you, and there has developed between us and you, hostility and hatred forever – until you believe in Allāh alone.”
[Sūrah al-Mumtaḥinah 60:4]

And Allāh said about the polytheists:

“Verily it is said to them: There is no deity worthy of worship besides Allāh, then they become arrogant. And they say: Are we to abandon our deities for a mad poet?”
[Sūrah al-Ṣāffāt 37:35-36]

So this is found in many places in the Qurʾān.”3

The Division of Tawḥīd into Three Categories

Shaykh Ṣāliḥ Ibn Sa’d al-Suḥaymī says:

“Linguistically, Tawḥīd means oneness, and its religious meaning is to single out Allāh in worship. And Tawḥīd is divided into three categories: [i] Tawḥīd al-Rubūbiyyah (The Oneness of Allāh in His Lordship) [ii] Tawḥīd al-Ulūhiyyah (The Oneness of Allāh in His Divinity) [iii] and Tawḥīd al-Asmāʾ wa-al-Ṣifāt (The Oneness of Allāh in His Names and Attributes).”4


Shaykh Ṣāliḥ al-Suḥaymī says:

“It is the Tawḥīd of Allāh in His actions such as creating and providing sustenance, and giving life or death, and supreme authority and planning. The meaning here, is to believe that Allāh the Glorified and Exalted is the Creator, and the Sustainer, and the Master, and the Governor, and the Planner of everything. None can change what He has predestined and none can alter His decision. From the proofs of Tawḥīd al-Rubūbiyyah is the statement of Allāh the Exalted:

“Verily your Lord is Allāh, who created the heavens and the earth in six days, then He ascended above the Throne. He covers the night with the day, chasing it rapidly. And He created the Sun and the Moon and the Stars, which are subjected to His command. Indeed His is the creation and the command. Blessed is Allāh, Lord of the Worlds.”
[Sūrah al-Aʿrāf, 7:54]

Indeed this category of Tawḥīd was accepted by the early polytheists, but this acceptance did not enter them into Islām, due to the absence of its necessary requisite, and it is Tawḥīd al-Ulūhiyyah. Allāh the Exalted said:

“And if you ask them who created the heavens and the earth, they will say: They were created by the All-Mighty (al-ʿAzīz), the All-Knowing (al-ʿAlīm).”
[Sūrah al-Zukhruf, 43:9]

Allāh the Exalted says:

“And if you ask them who created them, they will say: Allāh. So how are they deluded?”
[Sūrah al-Zukhruf ,43:87]

So the proofs concerning Lordship (rubūbiyyah) of the Creator – the Glorified and Exalted – cannot be counted, its textual and intellectual proofs are innumerable. So the creation is proof of the existence of the creator and the product is proof of the existence of the producer. So the product does not bring itself into existence, rather it is undoubtedly Allāh – the Glorified and Exalted – who brings things into existence. Allāh the Exalted said:

“Were they created by nothing? Or were they themselves the creators?”
[Sūrah al-Toor, 52:35]

And Allāh the Exalted says:

“And in the earth and in their own selves are signs for those who are certain. So will you not see? And in the skies is your sustenance and whatever you have been promised.”
[Sūrah al-Dhāriyāt, 51:20-22]

And there is other than them from the texts which show the completeness of His – the Blessed and Exalted – power.

‘And in everything is a sign, Showing that it is one.’”5


Shaykh Ṣāliḥ al-Suḥaymī says:

“It is the Tawḥīd in the actions of the servants for which they were created and for the sake of which they exist, such as Prayer (ṣalāh), and fasting (sawm), and sacrifice (dhabh), and taking oaths (nadhr), and seeking aid (istghāthah) and other than these from the types of worship. Tawḥīd al-Ulūhiyyah means to make all of the various types of worship for Allāh alone without any associate. So none besides Him, from His creation, is to be called upon, whether he be a successive king, or a sent prophet. So whoever makes something from these for other than Allāh, then he is a pagan disbeliever, as Allāh the Blessed and Exalted says:

“Say: Verily my Prayer and my Sacrifice, and my Living and my Dying are for Allāh, Lord of the Worlds. He has no partners, and that is what I command you with, and I am the first of the Muslims.”
[Sūrah al-Anʿām, 8:162-163]

And Allāh the Exalted says:

“Whoever calls upon another deity besides Allāh, then he has no proof for it. So verily his reckoning is only with His Lord. Verily the disbelievers shall not succeed.”
[Sūrah al-Mu‘minoon, 23:117]”6

A Point of Benefit

Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymīyyah (d.728H) says:

“The meaning of Tawḥīd is not Tawḥīd al-Rubūbiyyah only – and that is the belief that Allāh alone is the Creator of the world – as some of the people of kalām (theological rhetoric) and tasawwuf think. So they think that if they affirm that – along with its proofs – then they have affirmed the objective of Tawḥīd! They believe that if they testify to this and become engrossed in it, then they have become engrossed in the objective of Tawḥīd. So if a man affirms the Attributes of Allāh the Exalted, which He deserves, and negates everything that must be negated from Him and affirmed that He alone is the Creator of everything – he is still not a Muwwahhid (one who affirms Tawḥīd), until he testifies that there is no Ilāh (deity) except Allāh alone. And the Ilāh is the one who is deified and worshipped and he is deserving of worship, and he is not the Ilāh solely based upon the meaning that he is the one who has the power to create and originate. So if the explainer explains Tawḥīd to mean the one who has the power to create and originate and he believes that this is the most particularized description of al-Ilāh, and he makes this affirmation the utmost goal of Tawḥīd – as is done. So the people who exercise kalām in the Attributes of Allāh, and those who relate this from Abū al-Ḥasan [al-Ashʿarī] and follow him in it – they do not know the reality of Tawḥīd with which Allāh sent His Messenger (ﷺ). So the pagan Arabs used to accept that Allāh alone was the creator of everything, but despite this, they were still disbelievers. Allāh the Exalted said:

“Most of them do not believe in Allāh, except that they associate partners with Him.”
[Sūrah Yūsuf 12:106]

A group from amongst the Salaf used to say: ‘If you ask them who created them, they will say: Allāh. But despite this, they are worshipping other than Him.’7

Allāh the Exalted said:

“Say: Whose is the earth and all that is in it, if you indeed know? They will say: Allāh. Say: Will you not then remember? Say: Who is the Lord of the seven heavens and the Magnificent Throne? They will say: Allāh. Say: Will you not then fear? Say: In whose Hand is the realm of everything – and He protects and none can protect against Him – if you indeed know? They will say: Allāh. How then, are they deluded?”
[Sūrah-Mu‘minoon 23:84-89]

So everyone who accepts that Allāh the Exalted is the Lord of everything and its Creator – is a servant of Him alone, nor a caller upon him alone, hoping in Him alone, having fear of Him alone, making allegiance and enmity with Him alone, and obeying His Messengers, and ordering what He orders and prohibiting what He prohibits.”8

Tawḥīdul-Asmā Wa-al-Ṣifāt

Shaykh Ṣāliḥ al-Fawzān said:

“Entering into belief in Allāh is faith (īmān) in His Attributes which He described Himself with in His Book, or that which He was described with by His Messenger (ﷺ) in His Sunnah. So we affirm what came in the Book and the Sunnah with their wordings and meanings, and without alteration (taḥrīf) in the wordings, and without nullification (ta’tīl) in their meanings, and without resembling (tashbīh) His Attributes to those of the Creation. We rely only upon the Book and the Sunnah in their affirmation, not exceeding what is in the Qurʾān and Ḥadīth, because the mater of the Attributes is restricted to what is found in the texts (tawqīfiyyah).”9

Imām Muḥammad Ibn ʿAlī al-Shawkānī (d.1250H) said:

“The methodology adopted by the Companions (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhum) and their followers and those who followed them is to follow the evidences of the Attributes of Allāh at face value, without any figurative explanation (ta‘wīl), nor comparison (tamthīl), nor nullification (ta’tīl). Whenever they were asked about any of the Attributes of Allāh, they would recite the proof concerning it from the Qurʾān, or the Sunnah and avoid any other references. They would say: ‘Allāh said such and such, and this is the only thing that concerns us. We do not talk about what we have no knowledge of, nor were we permitted to do so by Allāh.’ If the inquirer attempted to obtain more out of them, they would chastise him for delving into what does not concern him. They forbade him from seeking what could never be attained without falling into heresy, which is not their path, nor is it what they learned from their Prophet (ﷺ) and the Companions and their followers. In that noble era, there was consensus (ijmāʿ) concerning the Attributes, and the methodology was one. Their only concern was with what Allāh had commanded them to do, and with the obligations that He had commanded them to fulfill. Those included: belief in Allāh, establishing regular prayers, zakāt (alms), fasting, pilgrimage (ḥajj), Jihād, charity (sadaqah), seeking beneficial knowledge, guiding the people to all types of good, seeking the glad tidings of Paradise, and avoiding the punishment of the Fire, enjoining the good and forbidding the evil, and rectifying the transgressors, as much as possible. They never occupied themselves with any matter that Allāh had not instructed them to become occupied with, nor had they tarnished their worship with the innovation of inquiring about His nature and essence. In those days, the Religion was pure and devoid of all heresy.”10

The Comprehensive Description of Belief in Tawḥīd

Shaykh Muḥammad Ibn Ṣāliḥ al-’Uthaymīn says:

“So whoever does not believe in the existence of Allāh, then he is not a Believer. Whoever believes in the existence Allāh, but without the oneness of His rubūbiyyah (lordship), the he is not a Believer. Whoever believes in Allāh and in the oneness of His rubūbiyyah, but not in the oneness of His ʿulūhiyyah (divinity), then he is not a Believer. Whoever believes in Allāh and in the oneness of His rubūbiyyah, and in the oneness of His ʿulūhiyyah, but he does not believe in His Names and Attributes, then he is not a Believer. So in the last example, there is the one who is deprived of faith completely and the one who is deprived of the completeness of faith.”11


[1] Fat‘h al- Majīd (p. 12) of Shaykh ’Abdur-Raḥmān Ibn Ḥasan Āl al-Shaykh.
[2] Madārij al-Sālikīn (3/449-450)
[3] Majmūʿ al-Fatāwá (3/97-101) of Ibn Taymīyyah.
[4] Mudhkiratun-fil-’Aqīdah (p. 13) of Ṣāliḥ al-Suḥaymī.
[5] Mudhkiratun-fil-’Aqīdah (p. 13-14)
[6] Mudhkiratun-fil-’Aqīdah (p. 14)
[7] This is a statement of Ibn ʿAbbās and others, refer to Jāmiʿul-Bayān (13/50-51).
[8] Majmūʿ al-Fatāwá (3/102-103)
[9] Sharḥul-ʿAqīdahtil-Waasitiyyah (p. 15) of Shaykh Ṣāliḥ Ibn Fawzān al-Fawzān.
[10] at-Tuhaf fī Madhaahibis-Salaf (p. 7) of Imām al-Shawkānī.
[11] Sharḥul-ʿAqīdahtul-Waasityyah (1/55) of Shaykh Muḥammad Ibn Ṣāliḥ al-ʿUthaymīn.

Prepared by Maaz Qureshi

Published: June 22, 2007
Edited: April 13, 2023

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