The Three Categories of Tawheed according to the Qur’an: Imam al-Shinqitee

In the year 1378 AH (1958 or 1959 CE), the King of Morocco Muhammad the Fifth visited the city of al-Madinah in Saudi Arabia. While he was there, he requested that Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Shinqitee give a lecture on the subject of the completeness of the Islamic religion. Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen accepted this request and gave this lecture in al-Masjid al-Nabawi where he was a teacher. He discussed ten issues of great importance, and after a brief introduction and listing the ten topics, he proceeded to the first issue which is presented below:

أما الأول : وهي التوحيد ، فقد عُلم باستقراء القرآن أنه منقسم إلى ثلاثة أقسام :ـ

As for the first topic, it is al-Tawheed. And it is known from examining the Qur’an that al-Tawheed is divided into three categories.

الأول : توحيده جل وعلا في الربوبية . وهذا النوع من التوحيد جُبلت عليه فطر العقلاء ، قال تعالى < وَلَئِن سَأَلْتَهُم مَّنْ خَلَقَهُمْ لَيَقُولُنَّ اللَّـهُ > الأية [الزخرف 87] ، وقال تعالى : < قُلْ مَن يَرْ‌زُقُكُم مِّنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْ‌ضِ > إلى قوله < فَقُلْ أَفَلَا تَتَّقُونَ > [يونس 31] والآيات بنحو ذلك كثيرة جدا ، وإنكار فرعون لهذا النوع في قوله : <  قَالَ فِرْ‌عَوْنُ وَمَا رَ‌بُّ الْعَالَمِينَ > [الشعراء 23] ، مكابرة وتجاهل بدليل قوله تعالى : < قَالَ لَقَدْ عَلِمْتَ مَا أَنزَلَ هَـٰؤُلَاءِ إِلَّا رَ‌بُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْ‌ضِ بَصَائِرَ‌ > الآية [الإسراء 102] ، وقوله تعالى : < وَجَحَدُوا بِهَا وَاسْتَيْقَنَتْهَا أَنفُسُهُمْ ظُلْمًا وَعُلُوًّا > الآية [النمل 14] . ـ

The first category is singling Allah out in terms of lordship. And this type of tawheed is that which the natural dispositions of those with functioning intellects innately incline towards . Allah said:

وَلَئِن سَأَلْتَهُم مَّنْ خَلَقَهُمْ لَيَقُولُنَّ اللَّـهُ

And if you asked them who created them, they would surely say, “Allah.” [43:87]

And His statement:

قُلْ مَن يَرْ‌زُقُكُم مِّنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْ‌ضِ أَمَّن يَمْلِكُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ‌ وَمَن يُخْرِ‌جُ الْحَيَّ مِنَ الْمَيِّتِ وَيُخْرِ‌جُ الْمَيِّتَ مِنَ الْحَيِّ وَمَن يُدَبِّرُ‌ الْأَمْرَ‌ ۚ فَسَيَقُولُونَ اللَّـهُ ۚ فَقُلْ أَفَلَا تَتَّقُونَ

Say, “Who provides for you from the heaven and the earth? Or who controls hearing and sight and who brings the living out of the dead and brings the dead out of the living and who arranges [every] matter?” They will say, “Allah,” so say, “Then will you not have taqwa of Him?” [10:31]

And the ayaat of this sort are very abundant. And Fir’awn’s denial of this category in his statement:

قَالَ فِرْ‌عَوْنُ وَمَا رَ‌بُّ الْعَالَمِينَ

Fir’awn said, “And what is the Lord of the worlds?” [26:23]

This was [merely] arrogance and feigned ignorance according to Allah’s statement:

قَالَ لَقَدْ عَلِمْتَ مَا أَنزَلَ هَـٰؤُلَاءِ إِلَّا رَ‌بُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْ‌ضِ بَصَائِرَ‌

Moosaa said, “You have already known that none has sent down these [signs] as evidence except the Lord of the heavens and the earth…” [17:102]

And His statement:

وَجَحَدُوا بِهَا وَاسْتَيْقَنَتْهَا أَنفُسُهُمْ ظُلْمًا وَعُلُوًّا

And they rejected them, while their [inner] selves were convinced thereof, out of injustice and haughtiness [27:14]

ولهذا كان القرآن ينزل بتقدير هذا النوع من التوحيد بصيغة استفهام التقرير كقوله تعالى : < أَفِي اللَّـهِ شَكٌّ > [إبراهيم 10] ، وقوله تعالى : < قُلْ أَغَيْرَ‌ اللَّـهِ أَبْغِي رَ‌بًّا وَهُوَ رَ‌بُّ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ > الآية [الأنعام 164] وقوله تعالى : <> الآية [الرعد 16] ، ونحو ذلك لأنهم يقرون به . ـ

And for this reason the Qur’an came down with affirmation of this category of al-tawheed in the form of questions which are asked to affirm a point, such as His statement:

أَفِي اللَّـهِ شَكٌّ

Can there be doubt about Allah? [14:10]

and His statement:

قُلْ أَغَيْرَ‌ اللَّـهِ أَبْغِي رَ‌بًّا وَهُوَ رَ‌بُّ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ

Say, “Is it other than Allah I should desire as a lord while He is the Lord of all things?” [6:164]

and His statement:

قُلْ مَن رَّ‌بُّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْ‌ضِ قُلِ اللَّـهُ

Say, “Who is Lord of the heavens and earth?” Say, “Allah.” [13:16]

And the likes of these, for they affirm them.

وهذا النوع من التوحيد لم ينفع الكفار ؛ لأنهم لم يوحده جل وعلا في عبادته ؛ كما قال تعالى : < وَمَا يُؤْمِنُ أَكْثَرُ‌هُم بِاللَّـهِ إِلَّا وَهُم مُّشْرِ‌كُونَ > الآية [يوسف 106] ، < مَا نَعْبُدُهُمْ إِلَّا لِيُقَرِّ‌بُونَا إِلَى اللَّـهِ زُلْفَىٰ > الآية [الزمر 3] ، < وَيَقُولُونَ هَـٰؤُلَاءِ شُفَعَاؤُنَا عِندَ اللَّـهِ ۚ قُلْ أَتُنَبِّئُونَ اللَّـهَ بِمَا لَا يَعْلَمُ > الآية [يونس 18] . ـ

But this type of tawheed  does not benefit the disbelievers, because they do not single out Allah in worship. This is as Allah says:

وَمَا يُؤْمِنُ أَكْثَرُ‌هُم بِاللَّـهِ إِلَّا وَهُم مُّشْرِ‌كُونَ

And most of them believe not in Allah except while they commit shirk. [12:106]

مَا نَعْبُدُهُمْ إِلَّا لِيُقَرِّ‌بُونَا إِلَى اللَّـهِ زُلْفَىٰ

We only worship them [i.e. others besides Allah] that they may bring us nearer to Allah in position [39:3]

وَيَقُولُونَ هَـٰؤُلَاءِ شُفَعَاؤُنَا عِندَ اللَّـهِ ۚ قُلْ أَتُنَبِّئُونَ اللَّـهَ بِمَا لَا يَعْلَمُ

and they say, “These are our intercessors with Allah ” Say, “Do you inform Allah of something He does not know?” [10:18]

والنوع الثاني : توحيده جل وعلا في عبادته ، وهو الذي وقعت فيه جميع المعارك بين الرسل والأمم ، وهو الذي أُرسلت الرسل لتحقيفه . ـ

And the second category is singling Allah out in terms of worship, and this is the issue over which all of the conflicts between the prophets and their nations occurred, and this is that which the messengers were sent to actualize.

وحاصله : هو معني لا إله إلّا الله ، فهو مبنيٌ على أصلين هما النفي والإثبات من < لا إله إلّا الله > . ـ

And what this boils down to is the meaning laa ilaaha illallaah – there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah. So this is built on two foundations which are 1) negation and 2) affirmation in the phrase laa ilaaha illallaah.

فمعنى النفي منها : خلع جميع أنواع المعبودات غير الله تعالى في جميع أنواع العبادة كائنة ما كانت . ـ

So the meaning of negation in this phrase is the eradication of every form of worship towards every object of worship other than Allah – whatever it might be.

ومعنى الإثبات منها : هو إفراده جل وعلا وحده بجميع أنواع العبادة على الوجه الذي شرع أن يُعبد به . ـ

And the meaning of affirmation in this phrase is singling Allah out alone for every form of worship according to the manner which He legislated that He be worshiped.

وجل القرآن في هذا النوع : < وَلَقَدْ بَعَثْنَا فِي كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ رَّ‌سُولًا أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّـهَ وَاجْتَنِبُوا الطَّاغُوتَ > الآية [النحل 36] ، < وَمَا أَرْ‌سَلْنَا مِن قَبْلِكَ مِن رَّ‌سُولٍ إِلَّا نُوحِي إِلَيْهِ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاعْبُدُونِ > الآية [الأنبياء 25] ، < فَمَن يَكْفُرْ‌ بِالطَّاغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِن بِاللَّـهِ فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَكَ بِالْعُرْ‌وَةِ الْوُثْقَىٰ > الآية [البقرة 256] ، <  وَاسْأَلْ مَنْ أَرْ‌سَلْنَا مِن قَبْلِكَ مِن رُّ‌سُلِنَا أَجَعَلْنَا مِن دُونِ الرَّ‌حْمَـٰنِ آلِهَةً يُعْبَدُونَ > الآية [الزخرف 45] ، <  قُلْ إِنَّمَا يُوحَىٰ إِلَيَّ أَنَّمَا إِلَـٰهُكُمْ إِلَـٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ ۖ فَهَلْ أَنتُم مُّسْلِمُونَ > الآية [الأنبياء 108] والآيات بهذا كثيرة جدا . ـ

And the bulk of the Qur’an is of this category:

وَلَقَدْ بَعَثْنَا فِي كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ رَّ‌سُولًا أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّـهَ وَاجْتَنِبُوا الطَّاغُوتَ

And We certainly sent into every nation a messenger, [saying], “Worship Allah and avoid al-Taghoot [anything worshiped other than Allah]” [16:36]

وَمَا أَرْ‌سَلْنَا مِن قَبْلِكَ مِن رَّ‌سُولٍ إِلَّا نُوحِي إِلَيْهِ أَنَّهُ لَا إِلَـٰهَ إِلَّا أَنَا فَاعْبُدُونِ

And We did not send before you any messenger except that We revealed to him that, “There is no deity worthy of worship except Me, so worship Me.” [21:25]

فَمَن يَكْفُرْ‌ بِالطَّاغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِن بِاللَّـهِ فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَكَ بِالْعُرْ‌وَةِ الْوُثْقَىٰ

So whoever disbelieves in al-Taghoot and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold [2:256]

وَاسْأَلْ مَنْ أَرْ‌سَلْنَا مِن قَبْلِكَ مِن رُّ‌سُلِنَا أَجَعَلْنَا مِن دُونِ الرَّ‌حْمَـٰنِ آلِهَةً يُعْبَدُونَ

And ask those of Our messenger whom We sent before you; have We made deities to be worshiped besides the Most Merciful? [43:45]

قُلْ إِنَّمَا يُوحَىٰ إِلَيَّ أَنَّمَا إِلَـٰهُكُمْ إِلَـٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ ۖ فَهَلْ أَنتُم مُّسْلِمُونَ

Say, “It is only revealed to me that your god is but one God; so will you be Muslims [in submission to Him]?” [21:108]

And the ayaat of this meaning are very abundant.

والنوع الثالث : توحيده جل وعلا في أسمائه وصفاته ، وهذا النوع من التوحيد ينبني على أصلين كما بيّنه جل وعلا . ـ

And the third category is singling Allah out in regards to His names and attributes. And this category of al-tawheed is built upon two foundations, as He explained.

الأول : هو تنزيه تعالى عن مشابهة صفات الحوادث . ـ

The first is freeing Him from resemblance to the attributes of the created beings.

والثاني : هو الإيمان بكل ما وصف به نفسه أو وصفه به رسوله ﷺ حقيقة لا مجازاً على وجه الائق بكماله . ـ

And the second is to have eemaan in everything with which Allah described Himself or with which His messenger (ﷺ) described Him in a true sense without taking it figuratively and taking in a manner which befits His complete perfection.

ومعلوم أنه لا يصف الله أعلم بالله من الله ، ولا يصف الله بعد الله أعلم بالله من الرسول الله ﷺ ، والله يقول عن نفسه : < أَأَنتُمْ أَعْلَمُ أَمِ اللَّـهُ > [البقرة 140] ، ويقول عن رسوله : < وَمَا يَنطِقُ عَنِ الْهَوَىٰ * إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا وَحْيٌ يُوحَىٰ > [النجم 3-4] . ـ

And it is well-known that there is no one who describes Allah who is more knowledgeable about Allah than Allah Himself, and that there is no one after Allah who describes Allah who is more knowledgeable of Allah than the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). And Allah said of Himself:

أَأَنتُمْ أَعْلَمُ أَمِ اللَّـهُ

Are you more knowing, or is Allah? [2:140]

And He said of His messenger:

وَمَا يَنطِقُ عَنِ الْهَوَىٰ * إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا وَحْيٌ يُوحَىٰ

And He does not speak from [his own] inclination. * It is not but a revelation revealed [53:3-4]

فقد بيّن تعالى نفي المماثلة عنه بقوله تعالى : < لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ > [الشورى 11] ، وبيّن إثبات الصفات على الحقيقة بقوله : < وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ‌ > . ـ

For Allah has clarified the negation of any likeness to Him by way of His statement:

لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ

There is nothing like unto Him [42:11]

And He clarified the affirmation of His attributes according to their true nature by way of His statement:

وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْبَصِيرُ‌

and He is the Hearing, the Seeing [42:11]

فأول الآية يقضي بعدم التمثيل ، وآخرها يقضي بعدم التعطيل ؛ فيتّضح من الآية أنّ الواجب إثبات الصفات حقيقة من غير تمثيل ، ونفي المماثلة من غير تعطيل . ـ

So the first part of the ayah requires the absence of likening Allah to His creation, and the latter part requires the absence of denying the true meanings of His attributes. So it is made clear through this ayah that what is obligatory is to affirm the true attributes of Allah without likening them to the creation, and to deny any likeness of Allah’s attributes to those of the creation without denying the true meanings of His attributes.

وبيّن عجز الخلق عن الإحاطة به جل وعلا فقال : < يَعْلَمُ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمَا خَلْفَهُمْ وَلَا يُحِيطُونَ بِهِ عِلْمًا > [طه 110] . ـ

And Allah explained the inability of the created beings to encompass Him, for He said:

يَعْلَمُ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمَا خَلْفَهُمْ وَلَا يُحِيطُونَ بِهِ عِلْمًا

Allah knows what is [presently] before them and what will be after them, but they do not encompass Him in knowledge. [20:110]

[al-Majaalis ma’a al-Fadheelah al-Sheikh Muhammad al-Ameen al-Jankee al-Shinqitee pg. 112-115. For an expanded version of this discussion, see also Adwaa’ al-Bayaan 3/18-22]

For another excerpt from this same speech, see: Three Conditions for the Acceptance of Deeds: Imam al-Shinqitee

See also: Understanding the Ayaat al-Sifaat: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: A Comprehensive Statement regarding Bid’ah: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: Major Shirk and Minor Shirk: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: The purpose of Allah’s creation: Imam al-Shinqitee

See also: “No vision can grasp Him, but His Grasp is over all vision”: Tafsir al-Sa’di

See also: Allah does not forgive shirk but he forgives what is less than that: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: Only the Creator is Deserving of Worship: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

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