To understand the basics of Islamic belief, you need to understand Tawheed and how important it is to not deviate as that will fall under the unpardonable sin in the hereafter – that of shirk. This is a brief introduction to the science of Tawheed.
Tawheed means the oneness of Allah – it’s the main part of Imaan (faith) and the most important Islamic belief. Tawheed is the first part of the shahada, it’s the foremost article of faith and all Islamic teachings rest on its principle.
Tawheed asserts that everything on this earth is created by Allah, the Sustainer of the universe and the Sole Source of its Guidance. Allah (S.W.A) exists as a single, unique, supreme being, independent of His entire creation. Allah is true and absolute, His existence transcends the limit of the human mind.
Tawheed can be categorised into three – as believing that Allaah is One:
- With no partner or associate in His Lordship (ruboobiyyah);
- In His divinity (uloohiyyah); and
- In His names and attributes (al-asma’ wa’l-sifaat).
Tawheed was categorised into three with the expansion of Islam and the need to establish Islamic creed as seperate to cultural beliefs. The three branches of Tawheed were taken from the implied verses of the Quran and the statements of the Prophet (P.B.U.H). They are inseparable – an omission of one is a failure to complete the requirements of Tawheed and it will constitute shirk.
Tawheed al-Ruboobiyyah (Oneness of Divine Lordship):
Tawheed al-ruboobiyya means believing that Allah alone is the Lord and Owner of all things, He alone gives life and takes it away, and He is the Sovereign, sustainer of everything in the universe. It also means having a firm believe that Allah is One and Unique with regard to His actions i.e. creation and with giving life and death.
Tawheed al-Uloohiyyah (Oneness of Divinity or worship)
Tawheed al-Uloohiyyah or Tawheed Al-Ibaadah means devoting all acts of worship, whether inward or outward, in word or in action, to Allah Alone.
This aspect of Tawheed is to do with knowing and acting upon everything that Allaah has commanded and refraining from everything that He has forbidden.
Tawheed al-Asma’ wa’l-Sifaat (the oneness of the Divine Names and Attributes)
This is to acknowledge with conviction, the Names and attributes of Allah as described in the Quran and sunnah. This aspect of tawheed is based on two factors:
- Affirmation – affirming the names and attributes of Allah as without any changes, negation or distortion and;
- Denial – denying that Allah has shortcomings or faults.
A part of perfecting Tawheed is knowing what constitutes Shirk (ascribing partners to Allah).
The Quran and Sunnah indicate that shirk and ascribing partners to Allaah sometimes puts a person beyond the pale of Islam and sometimes it doesn’t. For this reason, scholars have divided shirk into two types: major shirk (shirk al-akbar) and minor shirk (shirk al-asghar).
This type of Shirk is categorised within the three branches of Tawheed: Shirk al-Roboobiyyah, Shirk al-Uloohiyyah and Shirk al-Asma’ wa’l-Sifaat. This means within each of the categories of Tawheed, any action or omission that opposes it teachings is shirk.
- Superstitious beliefs, using charms or omens, wearing amulets with Quranic verses, being wary of bad luck occuring on Friday the 13th, reading zodiac signs e.t.c. fall under Shirk al-Roboobiyyah.
- Worshipping jinns, saints, animals and/or idols, going to graves to make tawaaf and ask for help e.t.c. fall under Shirk al-Uloohiyyah.
- Humanising Allah by giving him an image/form, giving Allah’s creation his attributes fall under Shirk al-Asma’ wa’l-Sifaat.
This type of Shirk includes everything that may lead to major shirk but it doesn’t necessarily take a person away from Islam. There are usually two kinds of minor shirk:
- Having an emotional attachment to certain things without Allah’s permission or guidance i.e. to offer protection or ward off the evil eye e.t.c.
- Reverence of some people or things in a way that does not go so far as ascribing lordship to them i.e. swearing by something other than Allah, or saying, “Were it not for Allah” e.t.c.
The ways differentiate between minor and major shirk are:
- When the Prophet (P.B.U.H) clearly states that an action is a minor sin;
- When the word shirk is used in the Quran and Sunnah in the indefinite form [without the definite al-]. This usually refers to minor shirk;
- If the Sahaabah understood from the texts of sharia that what was meant by shirk here was minor shirk, not major. Undoubtedly the understanding of the Sahaabah carries weight;
- If the Prophet (P.B.U.H) interpreted the words shirk or kufr in a manner which indicates that what is meant is a minor shirk and not the major form.
The best way to live by Tawheed is by understanding the Quran and Sunnah in order to avoid any misunderstanding. Gaining knowledge of Islam is life long and you should not seek to cross the limit of what was revealed to us – humans haven’t got the capacity to undertand the unseen.
When it comes to shirk – avoid both major and minor shirk. The greatest sin is shirk and it is the transgression of the unique rights of Allah, which are to be worshipped and obeyed alone, with no partner or associate.