By Dr. Zakir Naik
All major religions that believe in the existence of God ultimately, on a higher level, believe in one supreme God. All religious scriptures actually speak about monotheism i.e. belief in only one true God.
People change scriptures for their benefit
By the passage of time most of the religious scriptures have been distorted and changed by people for their own benefits. The creed of many religions has thus been distorted from monotheism to pantheism or polytheism. The Holy Qur’an says:
“Then woe to those who write The Book with their own hands, And then say: “This is from Allah,” To traffic with it For a miserable price! Woe to them for what their hands Do write, and for the gain They make thereby.” [Holy Qur’an 2:79]
Tawheed Definition and Categories
Islam believes in ‘Tawheed’ which is not merely monotheism i.e. belief in one unique God, but much more. Tawheed literally means “unification” i.e. “asserting oneness” and is derived from the Arabic verb “Wahhada” which means to unite, unify or consolidate. Tawheed can be divided into 3 categories. (i) Tawheed ar-Ruboobeeyah (ii) Tawheed al-Asmaa-was-sifaat (iii) Tawheed al-Ibaadah.
a. Tawheed ar-Ruboobeeyah (maintaining the unity of Lordship)
The first category is ‘Tawheed ar-Ruboobeeyah’. ‘Ruboobeeyah’ is derived from the root verb “Rabb” meaning Lord, Sustainer and Cherisher.
Therefore ‘Tawheed-ar-Ruboobeeyah’ means maintaining the unity of Lordship. This category is based on the fundamental concept that Allah alone caused all things to exist when there was nothing. He created or originated all that exists out of nothing. He alone is the sole Creator, Cherisher, and Sustainer of the complete universe and all between it, without any need from it or for it.
b. Tawheed al-Asmaa was-sifaat (maintaining the unity of Allah’s name and attributes)
The second category is ‘Tawheed al Asmaa was sifaat’ which means maintaining the unity of Allah’s name and attributes. This category is divided into five aspects:
(i) Allah should be referred to as described by Him and His Prophet: Allah must be referred to according to the manner in which He and His prophet have described Him without explaining His names and attributes by giving them meanings other than their obvious meanings.
(ii) Allah must be referred to as He has referred to Himself Allah must be referred to without giving Him any new names or attributes. For example Allah may not be given the name al-Ghaadib (the Angry One), despite the fact that he has said that He gets angry, because neither Allah nor His messenger have used this name.
(iii) Allah is referred to without giving Him the attributes of His creation, In a reference to God, we should strictly abstain from giving him the attributes of those He has created. For instance in the Bible, God is portrayed as repenting for his bad thoughts in the same way as humans do when they realize their errors. This is completely against the principle of Tawheed. God does not repent and He does not commit any mistakes or errors.
The key principle when dealing with Allah’s attributes is given in the Holy Qur’an in Surah Ash-Shurah:
“There is nothing Whatever like unto Him, And He is the One that hears and sees (all things).” [Holy Qur’an 42:11]
Although hearing and seeing are human qualities, when attributed to the divine being they are without comparison in their perfection unlike when associated with humans who require ears, eyes, etc. and who are limited in their sight and hearing.
(iv) Men should not be given any attribute of God: To refer to a human with the attribute of God is also against the principle of Tawheed. For example, referring to a person as one who has no beginning or end (eternal).
(v) Allah’s name cannot be given to his creatures: Some divine names in the indefinite form, like ‘Raoof’ or ‘Raheem’ are permissible names for men as Allah has used them for Prophets; but ‘Ar-Raoof’ (the Most Pious) and Ar-Raheem (the most Merciful) can only be used if prefixed by ‘Abd’ meaning “slave of” or “servant of”. i.e. ‘Abdur-Raoof’ or ‘Abdur-Raheem’. [Holy Qur’an (42:11)]
c. Tawheed al-Ibaadah (maintaining the unity of worship)
(i) Definition and meaning of Ibadaah:
Tawheed al-Ibaadah means maintaining the unity of worship or ‘Ibaadah’. Ibaadah is derived from Arabic word ‘Abd’ meaning slave or servant. Thus Ibaadah means servitude and worship. Salaah is one of the highest forms of Ibaadah i.e. worship but is not the only form. People misunderstand that worship of Almighty God only means ritual prayers but the concept of worship in Islam includes total obedience, submission and servitude. Following the commandments of God and abstaining from things He has forbidden is Ibaadah (worship) and this worship is only due to Allah alone and to no one else.
(ii) All three categories to be followed simultaneously.
Only believing in the first two categories of Tawheed without implementing Tawheed-al-Ibaadah is useless. The Qur’an gives the examples of “Mushrikeens” (idolaters) of the Prophet’s time who confirmed the first two aspects of Tawheed. It is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an: Say: “Who is it that Sustains you (in life) from the sky and from the earth? Or who is it that Has power over hearing And sight? And who Is it that brings out The living from the dead And the dead from the living? And who is it that rules and regulates all affairs? They will soon say, “Allah”. Say, “Will you not then show piety (to Him)?” [Holy Qur’an 10:31] A similar example is repeated in Surah Zukhruf of the Holy Qur’an:”If thou ask them, Who Created them, they will certainly say, Allah: how Then are they deluded Away (from the Truth)?” [Holy Qur’an 43:87] The pagan Meccans knew that Allah was their Creator, Sustainer, Lord and Master. Yet they were not Muslims because they also worshipped other gods besides Allah. Allah categorized them as “Kuffaars” (disbelievers) and “Mushrikeen” (idol worshippers and those who associate partners with God). “And most of them Believe not in Allah without associating (others As partners) with Him!” [Holy Qur’an 12:106]
Thus Tawheed al-Ibaadah i.e. maintaining the unity of worship is the most important aspect of Tawheed. He alone deserves worship and He alone can grant benefit to man for his worship.
The omission of any of the above mentioned categories of tawheed or deficiency in the fulfilment of any criteria of Tawheed is referred to as ‘shirk’.
Shirk literally means sharing or associating partners. In Islamic terms it means associating partners with Allah and is equivalent to idolatry.
b. Shirk is the greatest sin
which Allah will never forgives. The Holy Qur’an describes the greatest sin in Surah Nisa: “Allah forgives not That partners should be set up With Him; but He forgives Anything else, to whom He pleases; to setup Partners with Allah Is to devise a sin Most heinous indeed” [Holy Qur’an 4:48] The same message is repeated in Surah Nisa: “Allah forgives not (The sin of) joining other gods With Him; but He forgives Whom He pleases other sins Than this: one who joins Other gods with Allah, Has strayed far, far away (From the Right).” [Holy Qur’an 4:116]
c. Shirk leads to hell fire
The Qur’an says in Surah Maidah: “They do blaspheme who say: ‘Allah is Christ the son Of Mary.’ But said Christ: ‘O Children of Israel! Worship Allah, my Lord And your Lord’. Whoever Joins other gods with Allah -Allah will forbid him The Garden, and the Fire Will be his abode. There will For the wrongdoers Be no one to help.” [Holy Qur’an 5:72]
d. Worship and obedience to none but Allah:
The Qur’an mentions in Surah Al-Imran: Say: “O people Of the Book! Come To common terms As between us and you: That we worship None but Allah; That we associate No partners with Him; That we erect not, From among ourselves, Lords and patrons Other than Allah.” If then they turn back, Say ye: “Bear witness that we (at least) Are Muslims (bowing To Allah’s Will).” [Holy Qur’an 3:64]
The Holy Qur’an says: “Revile not ye Those whom they call upon Besides Allah, lest They out of spite Revile Allah In their ignorance.” [Holy Qur’an 6:108] “And if all the trees On earth were pens And the Ocean (were ink), With seven Oceans behind it To add to its (supply), Yet would not the Words Of Allah be exhausted (In the writing): for Allah Is Exalted in power, Full of Wisdom.” [Holy Qur’an 31:27]
“O men! Here is A parable set forth! Listen to it! Those On whom, besides Allah, You call, cannot create (Even) a fly, if they all met together for the purpose! And if the fly should snatch Away anything from them, They would have no power to release it from the fly. Feeble are those who petition And those whom they petition!” [Holy Qur’an 22:73] And all Praise be to Allah, the Lord, Creator, Cherisher and Sustainer of all the Worlds!