By Dr. Omar Abdullah Kaamil
Dividing tawheed into Tawheed al-Uloohiyyah and Al-Ruboobiyyah and Al-Asmaa Wa Al-Sifaat was not known prior to Ibn Taymiyyah. The Messenger of Allah did not tell someone who wanted to enter Islam that there are two types of tawheed (i.e. of Lordship and of Divinity) and one won’t become Muslim unless and until he acknowledges both. Nor did the Prophet ﷺ imply the multiplicity of tawheed in any way nor was it reported from any of the righteous predecessors until the seventh century where Ibn Taymiyyah divided tawheed into three parts:
1. Tawheed al-Ruboobiyyah: Ibn Taymiyyah claimed that Muslims and polytheists alike acknowledge this type of tawheed. Tawheed al-Ruboobiyyah, according to Ibn Taymiyyah, means that one has to believe that Allah is the sole creator, sustainer and disposer of affairs in the universe.
2. Tawheed al-Uloohiyyah: This means worshipping Allah alone. Ibn Taymiyyah states: “The true God is the one who deserves to be worshipped … and the tawheed means that you worship Him alone without associating any partners.” [Al-Tadmeeriyyah, p. 106]
3. Al-Asmaa Wa Al-Sifaat: It means, according to Ibn Taymiyyah, believing in the attributes of Allah according to the apparent literal meaning.
Ibn Taymiyyah says in his Minhaj al-Sunnah talking about the Muslims, Scholars of the Islamic Creed of Ash’aris and others:
“They took out from tawheed what is part and partial of it such as Tawheed al-Uloohiyyah and believing in the Attributes of Allah according to the apparent literal meaning. The only thing left in tawheed for them is Tawheed al-Ruboobiyyah which is to believe that Allah is the Creator of all things and their Lord. This last type of tawheed is even acknowledged by the polytheists. Allah Ta’ala says about them:
“If you ask them, who is it that created the heavens and the earth. They will certainly say: “Allah”. Say: “Praise be to Allah.” But most of them understand not.” [Surah Luqman: 25]
“Say, who is it in whose hands is the governance of all things, who protects (all), but is not protected (of any)? (say) if ye know, They will say, “(It belongs) to Allah.” Say: “Then how are ye deluded.” [Surah al-Mu’minoon: 86 & 87]
“And most of them believe them not in Allah without associating (others as partners) with Him!.” [Surah Yusuf: 106]
Some of the righteous predecessors said that when the polytheists were asked as to who created the heavens and the earth, they would respond: “Allah,” yet they used to worship idols. The tawheed that Allah demands of his slaves is Tawheed al-Uloohiyyah which contains Tawheed al-Ruboobiyyah and it means that only Allah is worshipped without any partners…” [Minhaaj al-Sunnah, Pages 2 & 6]
He said in his article called “Ahl al-Sunna”:
“Tawheed Al-Ruboobiyyah alone is not sufficient and does not guarantee that one is not a disbeliever.”
Ibn Abdul Wahhab said in his book called “Kashf al-Subhohaat”:
“The last of the Messengers, Muhammad, who destroyed the statues of these righteous people, was sent to a people, who used to worship, perform Hajj, give charity and remember Allah often. However, they used to take some of the creation as intermediaries between them and Allah. They used to say, “We want them to get us closer to Allah and we want their intercession for us with Allah.” Their intercessors include those of the angels, Jesus and Mary and other righteous people.” [Kashf al-Subhohaat: Pages 3-4]
He also says:
“These polytheists accept and acknowledge that Allah is the sole Creator without any partner, He is the sole Sustainer, He is the sole giver of life and taker of life, He is the sole disposer of affairs in the universe, and that all seven heavens and the earth and their inhabitants are all His slaves and worshippers He does with as He pleases and when He pleases.”
Then he quoted a few verses from the Holy Qur’an to prove that the polytheists are as he just described them and he added:
“When it is established that the Messenger of Allah fought them so that only Allah is called upon, vow is made to Him, sacrifices made only for His sake, only His aid is sought after and all for of worship is dedicated to Allah alone, then you must realize that their acknowledging the Tawheed al-Ruboobiyyah did not make them enter into the circle of Islam and the fact that they turn towards the Angels, the Prophets, the Saints seeking their intercession to get closer to Allah is what made their blood and their wealth permissible. It should now be clear that the tawheed to which the Messengers called is the Tawheed al-Uloohiyyah and that is exactly what the polytheists refused.”
How could the Messenger of Allah ﷺ stay quiet about a matter such as this? How was it possible that all the scholars of the Ummah missed this point for seven centuries until the coming of Ibn Taymiyyah? Or was it that the generations before Ibn Taymiyyah were not on the creed of the Ahlus Sunnah Wa al-Jama’ah and that the Ahlus Sunnah Wa al-Jama’ah are those who follow this division of tawheed?
This division of tawheed into three is illogical. The true God is at the same time the true Lord and vice versa. These two words are inseparable in that when (the word) ‘God’ is used ‘Lord’ is implied and when ‘Lord’ is used ‘God’ is also implied. We find that they are used interchangeably in the Qur’an, in hadith and in the statements of the scholars alike.
The Holy Qur’an and Prophetic tradition indicates the unrepeatability of Tawheed al-Uloohiyya and Ruboobiyyah. Allah Ta’ala says:
“(Kept them away from the Path), that they should not worship Allah, Who brings to light what is hidden in the heavens and the earth, and knows what ye hide and what ye reveal.” [Surah al-Naml: 25]
These verse establishes that none deserves to be prostrated to except the Omnipotent and Omniscient.
Allah Ta’ala says,
“And neither would he enjoin you that you should take the angels and the prophets for lords…” [Surah Aal Imran: 80]
This verse clearly states that the polytheists worshipped multiple lords. Despite this Divine injunction, the proponents of the bid’ah of trinity of tawheed say: The polytheists believed in the Tawheed al-Ruboobiyyah and they only have one Lord. They became polytheists because they associated partners with Allah in the Tawheed al-Uloohiyyah!!!.
Look at what the polytheists will say on the Day of Judgement:
“By Allah!, we were truly in an error manifest. When we held you (idols) as equals with the Lord of the Worlds.” [Surah al-Shura’a: 97-98]
That is to say that the polytheists held their idols as lords equal with Allah Ta’ala.
Allah Ta’ala says:
“Am I not your Lord (who cherishes and sustains you)? They said: “Yeah, we do testify!” [Surah al-A’raaf: 172]
If acknowledging the Tawheed al-Ruboobiyyah was not enough, then it would not have been enough to take the covenant with just the Lordship (Am I not your Lord?) Nor would it be correct for them to say:
“Surely, we were heedless of this.”
If the Tawheed al-Uloohiyyah were not included in the Tawheed al-Ruboobiyyah, then the wording of the covenant would not be enough and the mankind would have to have been asked to acknowledge also the Tawheed al-Uloohiyyah as part of the covenant. The fact that Allah Ta’ala asked for the acknowledgement of His Lordship means that Tawheed al-Uloohiyyah is already included in Tawheed al-Ruboobiyyah.
As for evidence from the Sunnah [that the tawheed is inseparable], there is the questioning of the two Angels of an individual right after the burial – only about his Lord. They only say, “Who is your Lord?” This is because the angels do not distinguish between Lord and God. According to the view of the proponents of trinity of tawheed, the angels would have to ask: Who is your God not Who is your Lord? Or, they would have to ask both questions.
Thus, limiting the tawheed al-Ruboobiyyah to ‘tawheed of creation’ is a mistake and a dubious statement. This is because Lordship is not limited to creation only, as we have shown previously, but it also includes the administration of the universe as well as disposing of its affairs. Not all the polytheists and disbelievers were in agreement regarding the Lordship nor did they all believe in the Tawheed al-Ruboobiyyah as the proponents of the trinity of tawheed claim.
Some of the disbelievers at the time of the Prophet ﷺ were atheists and disbelieved in resurrection and life after death. Some of them were polytheists who associated partners with Allah Ta’ala and claimed that their idols were partaking in the creation as well as in controlling some of the matters of the universe. There were people of the book who believed in multiple gods. Yet Ibn Taymiyyah and his followers speak of the disbelievers as if they were one group having the same belief.
After all this, how can someone describe the word ‘Lord’ as just the Creator and the Originator?
Let us now examine the usage of the word ‘Allah’ in the Qur’an.
Use of the word ‘ilaah’ (a god) in the Qur’an
Upon beholding the Qur’an, we see that the word ‘god’ is a general term that is used for the same meeting as His exalted name ‘Allah’ but the latter is the clearest of all names that can refer to Him. We find that the understanding from these two words are one and the same to the extent that the word ‘Allah’ is used in place of “God” as a description, not as a proper noun in this verse:
“And He is Allah in the heavens and on earth. He knoweth what ye hide, and what ye reveal, and He knoweth the (recompense) which ye earn by your deeds.” [Surah al-An’aam, 3]
This verse is a parallel of the following verse [where the word ‘God’ instead of ‘Allah’]:
“It is He Who is God in heaven and God on earth; and He is full of Wisdom and Knowledge.” [Surah al-Zukhruf, 84]
The use of His exalted name “Allah” in this verse and the like is a synonym for “the God (al-ilaah)” That is to say: “He is the God Who is…”
Whoever studies the verses in which the word “the God (al-ilaah)” is mentioned, finds that this word is used to mean “He who does what the lord must do — either all of it or some of it — from creation, to managing, to having full control over all affairs in the universe, etc. In addition, He is the only One deserving to be worshipped since He possess the above qualities. Examples of such verses include:
1. “If there were, in the heavens and the earth, other gods besides Allah, there would have been confusion in both! But glory to Allah, the Lord of the Throne: (High is He) above what they attribute to Him!” [Surah al-Anbiya: 22]
The confusion in heavens and on earth won’t happen by the mere fact of multiplicity of gods unless and until we take the words “the God (al-ilaah)” in this verse to mean the disposer of affairs and the manager of the matters of the Universe.
2. “No son did Allah beget, nor is there any god along with Him: (if there were many gods), behold, each god would have taken away what he had created, and some would have lorded it over others! Glory to Allah. (He is free) from the (sort of) things they attribute to Him!” [Surah al-Mu’minoon: 91]
In this verse, “the God (al-ilaah)”, is described as the Creator, Disposer of affairs, Victor over all things.
3. “Say: if there had been other (gods) with Him, as they say, behold, they would certainly have sort out a way to the Lord of the Throne!” [Surah al-Isra’: 42]
Seeking out a way to the Lord of the Throne would necessitate multiple creators, disposer of affairs, victors who control the universe.
Use of the word rabb (a lord) in the Qur’an
The word “Lord (rabb)” is used in the Nobel Qur’an, as in the language, with various shades of meanings:
1. Upbringing (al-tarbiya)
2. Mending and caring (al-islaah wa al-ria’aya)
3. Governance and politics (al-hukooma wa al-siyaasa)
4. Owner (al-maalik)
5. Possessor (al-Saahib) as in the saying of Allah Ta’ala in Surah Quraysh: (3): “Let them adore the Lord of this House.”
The original meaning of this word “Lord (rabb)” is He in Whose Hands is the power of administration, managing and bringing about what is necessary. This is the general meaning of the term and being a creator is not among its meanings as some claim.
The Falsity of Dividing Tawheed into Three Parts
Allah Ta’ala says:
“Behold! Verily to Allah belong all who dwell in the heavens and on earth. Those who follow [alleged] partners apart from Allah follow nothing but conjecture. They do nothing but lie.” [Surah Yunus: 66]
“He merges Night into Day, and He merges Day into Night, and He had subjected the sun and the moon (to His Laws); each one runs its course for a term appointed. Such is Allah your Lord: to Him belongs all Dominion. All those whom ye invoke besides Him have not the least power.” [Surah Faatir: 13]
These two verses indicate that the polytheists believed that the lords they were worshipping had a share in the dominion (mulk) and that they had influence on the Divine plan of Allah. The verses conclude by saying that what they believe is only conjecture. The lords or the idols had no influence over the Divine plan nor can they create anything.
Allah Ta’ala also says:
“Say: Do ye see what it is ye invoke besides Allah. Show me what it is they have created on earth, or have they a share in the heavens? Bring me a book (revealed) before this, or any remnant of knowledge (ye may have), if ye are telling the truth!” [Surah al-Ahqaaf: 4]
This verse proclaims that the polytheists believed that their lords had a share in the lordship (ruboobiyyah) of Allah and that is why Allah Ta’ala demanded them to bring forth their evidence if they were speaking the truth.
How then can Ibn Taymiyyah and his followers claim that the polytheists were believing in Allah and were monotheists as far as the oneness of His Lordship (Uloohiyyah), despite the fact that Allah Ta’ala describes them as the violators of His Covenant!?
“Those who break Allah’s Covenant after it is ratified.” [Surah Baqarah, 27]
What is the covenant that is mentioned in this verse? Isn’t it the first covenant that Allah took from mankind as described in the following verse?
“When thy Lord drew forth from the Children of Adam – from their lions – their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves, (saying): “Am I not your Lord (who cherishes and sustains you)? – They said, “Yeah! We do testify!” (This) lest ye should say on the Day of Judgement “Of this we were never mindful.” [Surah al-A’raf: 172]
Did Allah Ta’ala take the covenant by saying “Am I not your God” Did not Allah Ta’ala say:
“In the case of those who say, “Our Lord is Allah, and, further, stand straight and steadfast, the angels descend on them (from time to time): “Fear ye not! (they suggest), Nor grieve! But receive the Glad tidings of the Garden (of Bliss), that which ye were promised.” [Surah Fussilat: 30]
Why would the polytheists then end up in hellfire after having believed in the Lordship of Allah?
Didn’t Fir’awn say:
“I am your Lord, the Most High.” [Surah al-Naaziaat: 24]
Where is the Tawheed al-Ruboobiyyah of Fir’awn and his followers?
Didn’t the Prophet ﷺ inform us that the two angels ask everyone in the grave who his Lord is not who his God is?
The truth is that the word god (ilaah) and lord (rabb) are used interchangeably in the Qur’an as synonyms. The evidence is that “the God” and “the Lord” are one and the same thing in the Qur’anic and prophetic usage and are also found in the Qur’an itself and in the tradition of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ.
Allah relates the words of Yusuf (alayhissalaam) in Surah Yusuf: 39:
“O my two companions of the prison! (I ask you), are many lords differing among themselves better, or the One Allah, Supreme and Irresistible?”
He said thereafter:
“If not Him, ye worship nothing but names which ye have named, – ye and your fathers, – for which Allah hath sent down no authority. The command is for none but Allah. He hath commanded that ye worship none but Him, that is the right religion, but most men understand not.” [Surah Yusuf, 40]
The “many lords” referred to in the above verse were being worshipped (not just taken as intermediaries or intercessors).
Allah Ta’ala said regarding ‘Eesa (alayhissalaam):
“Nor would he instruct you to take angels and prophets for Lords and patrons.” [Surah Aal Imran: 80]
He said regarding the same subject in another place:
“And behold! Allah will say: “O ‘Eesa the son of Maryam! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation to Allah?” [Surah Ma’idah: 116]
Read the following verse again:
“Nor would he instruct you to take angels and prophets for Lords and patrons.” [Surah Aal Imran: 80]
This was the religion of some of the polytheists of the Arabs. They took the angels as lords as did the tribe of Bani Maleeh from Khuzaa’ah. They used to worship Jinn and claimed that jinn appeared to them. They further believed that they were angels and daughters of Allah (Astaghfirullah). The fact that they claim that their lords were angels, it is as if they worshipped angels and that is why the angels will renounce the misdeeds of these polytheists as recorded in the Qur’an:
“One day He will gather them all together, and say to the angels, “Was it you that these men use to worship?” They will say,”Glory to Thee! Our (tie) is with Thee – as Protector – not with them. Nay! But they worshipped the Jinns: most of them believed in them (Jinns).” [Surah Saba 40 & 41]
Then Allah Ta’ala says regarding the angels:
“If any one of them should say, “I am a god besides Him,” such a one We should reward with Hell. Thus do We reward those who do wrong.” [Surah al-Anbiya: 29]
“The Lord” and “The God” are two terms that the Qur’an uses as synonyms meaning one and the same thing. The polytheists, therefore, who worships the false gods, not Allah, will automatically violate the Tawheed al-Ruboobiyyah. The evidence for this is that the formula “La ilaha illa Allah (There is none worthy of worship except Allah)” encompasses the Tawheed of both Al-Uloohiyyah and Al-Ruboobiyyah. If it weren’t so, tawheed of Al-Ruboobiyyah would be expressed with a formula other than “La ilaha illa Allah” and this does not exist. Those who claim otherwise, we would refer them to the following verse:
“Say: produce your proof if ye are truthful.” [Surah al-Baqarah:111]
Al-Sanusi mentions that the formula “La ilaha illa Allah” contains both tawheeds and that “The God” is in fact “The Lord” who is worshipped. And as was related already the two terms are inseparable.
Allah Ta’ala says:
“But (I think) for my part that He is Allah, My Lord, and none shall I associate with my Lord.” [Surah al-Kahf: 38]
The disbeliever will say, after having tasted punishment of Allah, in the hereafter:
“…and he could only say, ‘Woe to me! Would that I had never ascribed partners to my Lord and Cherisher.” [Surah al-Kahf:42]
The usage of these terms in the Sunnah is the same as in the Qur’an. For example, Al-Haakim narrates in his “Al-Mustadrak” on the authority of Qurra bin Iyadh (radhiyallahu anhu) who said:
“In the Day of Battle of Qadisiyyah…a Zoroastrian said to Mughira bin Shu’ba (radhiyallahu anhu): “I know exactly what brought you Arabs to us. You don’t find enough food in your country to eat until you are full. Here, we will give you of the food that you need…” Al-Mughira said to him: “By Allah, we did not come for that. We are a people who worshipped the rocks and idols. When we saw a rock better than the one we worshipped, we would throw the former and start worshipping the latter. We did not know what a Lord is until Allah Ta’ala sent us a Messenger from among us who invited us to Islam and we followed him…(to the end of the hadith)” [Al-Musradrak, Hadith 5901, 3/510]
Al-Mughira (radhiyallahu anhu) states clearly in this hadith that they did not know what a Lord (rabb) was yet Ibn Taymiyyah says that they acknowledged the Tawheed al-Ruboobiyyah!.
Al-Haakim said this hadith has an authentic chain even though neither of the Sahihs contains it. Al-Dhahabi agreed with Al-Haakim in his “Talkhees al-Khabeer.”
Perhaps the clearest evidence that the polytheists disbelieved in both Tawheed al-Ruboobiyyah and Al-Uloohiyyah is that when the angels ask the person in the grave who his Lord is, the disbeliever will say: “I do not know.”
[From the Book: The Bid’ah and Perils of Trinity of Tawheed]