Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Categories of Tawhid#3

Dr. Billal Philips

Tawhid al-'Ebadah [Maintaining the Unity of Worship]

In spite of the wide implications of the first two categories of Tawhid, firm belief in them alone is not sufficient to fulfill the Islamic requirements of Tawhid. Tawhid ar-Rabbubiyah and Tawhid al-Asma was-Sifat must be accompanied by their complement, Tawhid al-'Ebadah, in order for Tawhid to be considered complete according to Islaam. This point is substantiated by the fact that Allah Himself has related in clear terms that the Mushrikun (idolators) of the Prophet's time confirmed many aspects of the first two forms of Tawhid.

In the Qur'an Allah tells the Prophet (saws) to say to the pagans:

"Say: 'Who is it that gives you all sustenance from the sky and earth, governs sight and hearing, brings forth life from dead (matter) and death from the living, and plans the affairs of man?' They will all say 'Allah'."[35]

"If you asked them who created them, they would surely say, 'Allah' "[36]

"If you asked them who brings down water from the sky and with it brings the earth to life after its death? They will most certainly say, 'Allah'."[37 ]

The pagan Makkans all knew that Allah was their creator, sustainer, their Lord and Master yet that knowledge did not make them Muslims according to God. In fact, Allah said:

"Most of them do not believe in Allah except while joining partners to Him." [38]

Mujahid's [39] commentary on this verse was as follows: "Their belief in Allah represented by their statement, 'Allah created us, provides for us and takes our lives', did not stop them from worshipping other gods along with Allah."[40] From the previously mentioned verses, it is clear that the Kuffar (disbelievers) knew of Allah's sovereignty, dominion and power. In fact, they used to faithfully devote various types of worship to Him like Hajj, charity, animal sacrifices, vows and even prayers in times of dire necessity and calamity. They even used to claim that they were following the religion of Abraham. Because of that claim, Allah revealed the verse:

"Abraham was not a Jew nor was he a Christian, but (he) was a true Muslim and not among those who joined partners with Allah." [41]

Some pagan Makkans even believed in the Resurrection and the Judgement and others in predestination (Qadar). Ample evidence of their belief can be found in pre-Islamic poetry. For example, the poet Zuhair was reported to have said:

"It is delayed, placed in a book and saved for the Day of Judgement or hastened and avenged."

'Antarah was quoted as saying:

"O 'Ebil to where will you run from death, if my Lord in the sky has destined it?" [42 ]

In spite of the Makkans' confessions of Tawheed and their knowledge of Allah, Allah classified them as disbelievers (Kuffaar) and pagans (Mushrikun) simply because they worshipped other gods along with their worship of Allah.

Consequently, the most important aspect of Tawhid is that of Tawhid al-'Ebadah, maintaining the unity of Allah's worship. All forms of worship must be directed only to Allah because He alone deserves worship, and it is He alone who can grant benefit to man as a result of His worship. Furthermore, there is no need for any form of intercessor or intermediary between man and God. Allah emphasized the importance of directing worship to Him alone by pointing out that this was the main purpose of man's creation and the essence of the message brought by all the prophets. Allah says:

"I did not create the Jinn and Mankind except for My worship."[43]

"Verily, We have sent to every nation a messenger (saying), 'Worship Allah and avoid false gods'."[44]

Understanding the purpose of creation in a complete sense is beyond man's innate abilities. Man is a finite created being and can not reasonably hope to fully comprehend the actions of the infinite Creator. Hence, God made it a part of man's nature to worship Him, and He sent prophets and books of divine revelation to clarify the aspect of the purpose of creation which was within man's mental ability to grasp.

That purpose is, as was previously mentioned: the worship of God ('Ebadah) and the main message of the prophets were to worship God alone, Tawhid al-'Ebadah. Consequently, the gravest sin is Shirik, the worship of others instead of Allah or along with Allah. In Surah al-Fatihah, which every Muslim is required to recite in his or her prayers at least seventeen times daily, verse four reads, "You alone do we worship and from You alone do we seek help". A clear statement that all forms of worship should only be directed to the One who can respond, Allah. The Prophet Muhammad SAW confirmed the concept of unity of worship saying, "If you ask in prayer ask only Allah, and if you seek help, seek it only from Allah."[45] The absence of any need for intercession is further emphasized by the many verses indicating His closeness to man. For example:

"When My servants ask you (O Muhammad) about Me (tell them), 'Verily I am close (to them), I listen to the prayer of every one who calls on Me. So let them respond to Me and believe In Me in order that they may he guided aright."[46]

"It is We who created man and We know what his soul whispers to him, for We are nearer to him than his jugular vein."[47]

The confirmation of Tawhid al-'Ebadah conversely necessitates the denial of all forms of intercession or association of partners with Allah. If someone prays to the dead seeking their influence on the lives of the living or the souls of those who have passed away, they have associated a partner with Allah, because worship is being shared between Allah and His creation. The Prophet Muhammad SAW said, in no uncertain terms, "Prayer (du'a) is worship."[48] And, Allah, Most Great and Glorious, said:

'Do not worship besides Allah that which can not help or harm you." [49]

"Those on whom you call besides Allah are only slaves like yourselves."[50]

If someone prays to the Prophet SAW, to so-called saints, Jinns or angels asking for help or asking them to request help from Allah for them, they have also committed Syirik. The concept of "Ghaus-i-Azam" (al-Ghawth al-A'd Ham), a title given by the ignorant to 'Abdul-Qadir al-Jailani,[51] is also an expression of Syirik in this form of Tawhid. The title literally means "the greatest source of rescue; the one most able to save someone from danger" and such a description only belongs to Allah. When misfortune occurs, some people call on 'Abdul-Qadir by this title seeking his aid and protection even though Allah has already said:

If Allah allows harm to befall you none can. remove it except Him." [52 ]

According to the Qur'aan, when the Makkans were questioned about directing their prayers to their idols, they answered,

"We only worship them so that they may bring us closer to Allah."[53]

The idols were only used as intermediaries yet Allah called them pagans for their practice. Those among Muslims who insist on praying to other than Allah would do well to reflect on this fact.

Christians, influenced by the teachings of Saul from Tarsus (later called Paul), deified Prophet Jesus and directed their prayer to him and his mother. The Catholics among Christians have saints for every occasion to whom they direct their prayers in the belief that these saints can directly influence the affairs of this world. The Catholics also use their priests as intercessors between themselves and Allah in the mistaken belief that the priests are closer to Allah due to their celibacy and piety, and thus more likely to be listened to by Allah.

Most Shi'ite sects have devoted certain days of the week and hours of the day for prayer to 'Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husain [54] due to their distorted belief in intercession.

Worship ('Ebadah) in the Islamic view, includes more than just fasting, paying Zakah, Hajj and animal sacrifices. It includes emotions like love, trust, and fear, all of which have degrees which should only be directed to God. Allah has addressed these emotions and warned against excesses in them as follows:

"There are among men those who take (for worship) others besides Allah as equals to Him. They love them as they should only love Allah. But those who believe have a much greater love of Allaah..." [55]

Will you not fight people who broke their oaths, plotted to expel the messenger and were the first to (attack) you? Do you fear them? Allah has more right to be feared if you are truly believers."[56]

"Put your trust in Allah if you are truly believers." [57]

Since the term 'Ebadah means total obedience and Allah is considered the ultimate Lawgiver, the implementation of secular legal systems not based on divine law (Syari'ah) is an act of disbelief in the divine law and belief in the correctness of such systems, such a belief constitutes a form of worshipping other than Allah (Syirik). Allah said in the Qur'an:

"Those who do not rule by what Allah has revealed are disbelievers (Kafirun).”[58]

On one occasion, the Prophet's companion 'Adi ibn Hatim, who was a convert from Christianity, heard the Prophet (saws) recite the Qur'anic verse, "They have taken their rabbis and monks as lords besides Allaah,"[59] so he said: 'Surely we did not worship them,' The Prophet SAW turned to him and said 'Did they not make forbidden (Haram) what Allah had made allowable (Halal) [60] , and you all made it Haram, and did they not make Halal what Allah made Haram [61] and you all made it Halal?' He replied, 'We certainly did.' The Prophet (saws) then said, 'That was how you worshipped them'."[62 ]

Hence, a significant parts of Tawhid al-'Ebadah involves the implementation of Syari'ah, especially in lands where Muslims form the majority of the population. Divine law has to be re-introduced in the many so-called Muslim countries where governments now rule according to imported capitalist or communist constitutions, and Islamic law is either totally extinct or relegated to a few areas of minor importance.

Likewise, Muslim countries, where Islamic law is on the books but secular laws are in force, have also to be brought in line with the Shari'ah as it pertains to all aspects of life. The acceptance of non-Islamic rule in place of Syari'ah in Muslim lands is Syirik and an act of Kufur. Those in a position to change it must do so, while those unable to do so must speak out against the rule of Kufur and call for the implementation of Syari'ah. If even this becomes impossible, un-Islamic government must be sincerely hated and despised for the pleasure of God and the upholding of Tawhid.


34 (Sunan Abu Dawud, (English Trans.), vol.3, pp. 1385-86, no.4957).
35 Surah Yunus 10:31.
36 Surah az-Zukhruf, 43:87.
37 Surah al-'Ankaboot, 29:63.
38 Surah Yoosuf, 12:106.
39 Mujahid ibn Jubair al-Makkee (642-722) was Ibn 'Abbas' most outstanding student. The narrations of his Tafsir (commentary) of the Qur'an has been compiled by 'Abdur-Rahman at-Tahir and published in two volumes under the title, Tafsir Mujahid, (Islamabad: Majma' al-Buhuth).
40 Collected by Ibn Jareer at-Tabaree.
41 Surah Aal'Imraan, 3:67.
42 Quoted in Sulaimaan ibn 'Abdul-Wahhab's Tayseer al-'Aziz al-Hamid, (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami, 2nd., 1970), p.34.
43 Surah adh-Dhariyiat, 51:56.
44 Surah an-Nahl, 16:36.
45 Reported by Ibn 'Abbas and collected by at-Tirmidzi. See An-Nawawi's Forty Hadith, (English Trans.), p.68.
46 Surah al-Baqarah, 2:186.
47 Surah Qaaf, 50:16.
48 Sunan Abu Dawud, vol.1, p.387, no.1474.
49 Surah al-Anbiya, 21:66.
50 Surah al-A'raaf, 7:194.
51 Abdul-Qadir (1077-1166) was a principal of a school of Hanbalite Law and a Ribaat (monastery) in Baghdad. His Sermons (collected in al-Fat-h ar-Rabbaane, Cairo 1302) were strictly orthodox with some, mystic interpretations of the Qur'an. Ibn 'Arabee (born 1165) declared him the Qutb of his time and stated that he had a rank which placed him above all beings except God. 'Ali ibn Yusuf ash-Shattanawfi (d. 1314 CE) wrote a book called Bahjat al-Asrar (Cairo, 1304) in which he attributed many miracles to 'Abdul-Qadir. The Qadiriyah Sufi order is named after him and its spiritual exercises and regulations traced back to him. (Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam, pp.5-7 and 202-205).
52 Surah al-An'aam, 6:17.
53 Surah az-Zumar, 39:3.
54 Fatimah was the Prophet Muhammad's youngest daughter who married the Prophet's cousin 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, and Hasan and Husain were their sons.
55 Surah al-Baqarah, 2:165.
56 Surah at-Tawbah 9:13.
57 Surah al-Ma'idah, 5:23.
58 Surah al-Ma'idah, 5:44.
59 Surah at-Tawbah, 9:31.
60 Christian clergy made Haram the marrying of more than one wife and the marrying of first cousins. Roman Catholicism forbade priests from marrying and forbade divorce in general.
61 The Christian Church made Halal the consumption of pork, blood and alcohol. Some of them also made allowable painting and statues depicting God as a man.
62 At-Tirmidzi.


See: The Categories of Tawhid#4

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