The three categories of Tawheed, defined in the Quran


In the Name of Allaah, the All-Merciful, may His Salaah and Salaam be upon His final Messenger, and upon all his family members and companions, and those who follow his way, to proceed…

Tawheed has three categories understood directly from Allaah’s Book. This division of tawheed is not from someone’s opinion, nor is it merely a traditional way to explain tawheed. It is a division that is taken directly from Allaah’s Book.

The first category is Tawheed ar-Ruboobiyyah, which means “to single out Allaah in understanding His Actions,” like His creating, providing, bringing of life and death, and keeping order in all affairs. A person understands that Allaah alone is the Creator, the Provider, the Ever-Living One in charge of all affairs.

The second category is Tawheed al-Ulooliyyah, which means “to single out Allaah within the actions of the servant.” This includes all actions that draw them closer to Allaah, Glorified and Exalted, like:

Du’aa – supplication
Rajaa’ – hope
Rahbah – awe
Ragbah – longing
Tawakkul – trust
Isti’aanah – seeking general assistance
Istighaathah – seeking assistance in emergencies
Nathr – taking oaths

All forms of worship must be strictly for Allaah alone, and nothing can be done for other than Him. This is what is called tawheed al-‘ibaadah, or tawheed al-ulooliyyah, and it is the tawheed that is put into practice as the servant singles out Allaah in everything He has requested, with an intention for Him alone, in all acts of obedience.

The third category is tawheed al-asmaa’ was-sifaat, which means “to believe in every Name and Attribute that Allaah affirmed for Himself, or those that His Messenger (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) affirmed for Him.”

These three categories are understood directly from Allaah’s Book. Every verse that mentions Allaah’s Actions, like creating, providing, bringing life and death, and controlling affairs, is describing tawheed ar-ruboobiyyah. This is quite frequent in the Quran. Allaah says:

“Say: ‘Who owns the earth and all that is on it, if you truly have knowledge?’ They will say: ‘Allaah.’ Say: ‘Then won’t you be reminded?’ Say: ‘Who is the Lord of the seven heavens and the Great Throne?’ They will say: ‘Allaah.’ Say: ‘Then won’t you have taqwaa?’ Say: ‘In whose Hands are the treasures of everything, and He protects while there is no protector against Him, if you truly have knowledge?’ They will say: ‘Allaah.’ Say: ‘How then are you deluded from the truth?’” [Surah Al-Mu’minoon, 23:84-89]

Allaah also says:

“Say: ‘Who is it that provides for you from the heavens and the earth?’ Or ‘who possesses hearing and sight and brings forth the living from the dead, and the dead from the living? And who is in control of the affairs?’ They will say: ‘Allaah.’ Say: ‘So then won’t you have taqwaa?’” [Surah Yunus, 10:31]

Similarly, every verse that mentions the creation of the heavens and the earth or other created things is about tawheed ar-ruboobiyyah.

Every verse mentioning worship, whether it be a command to worship Allaah or a prohibition of shirk, is about tawheed al-ulooliyyah.

Every verse mentioning something about Allaah’s Names or Attributes is about tawheed al-asmaa’ was-sifaat.

All of these categories are found in Allaah’s Book, and this is what led the scholars to say, “Tawheed is three categories: ulooliyyah, ruboobiyyah, and al-asmaa’ was-sifaat.” They did not invent this division on their own, rather it is something directly from Allaah’s Book.

The categories are taken from many verses, so let us look to some of them now.

The very first chapter found in the mus-haf (Quran), Surah Al-Fatihah, mentions all three categories of tawheed. Allaah says:

“All the praise is due to Allaah, the Lord (Creator, Sustainer) of all that exists” [Surah Al-Fatihah, 1:2]

Here is tawheed ar-ruboobiyyah, as the verse establishes Allaah’s Lordship over the ‘aalameen, which means everything except Allaah, and the Rabb (Lord) means the Owner and Controller of Affairs. Allaah then says:

“The Bestower of Mercy, the All-Merciful, the Owner of the Day of Judgement” [Surah Al-Fatihah, 1:3-4]

Tawheed al-asmaa’ was-sifaat is present in these verses, as Allaah establishes for Himself the attributes of Mercy and Ownership. He also establishes some of His Names –Ar-Rahmaan, Ar-Raheem, and Al-Maalik. Then He says:

“You alone we worship, and You alone we seek help from” [Surah Al-Fatihah, 1:5]

And here is tawheed al-ulooliyyah, as the verse demonstrates the obligation to single out Allaah with acts of worship, and to seek help from Him alone.

Similarly, the three categories of tawheed are also found in Surah An-Naas, the very last chapter to be found in the mus-haf. Tawheed ar-ruboobiyyah is found in His Statement:

“Say: ‘I seek refuge in the Lord of mankind’” [Surah An-Naas, 114:1]

And tawheed al-asmaa’ was-sifaat is found in His Statement:

“the King of mankind” [Surah An-Naas, 114:2]

And lastly, tawheed al-ulooliyyah is found in His Statement:

“the God worshipped by mankind” [Surah An-Naas, 114:3]

Likewise, the very first command issued in the mus-haf contains the categories of tawheed:

“O mankind! Worship your Lord who created you and those who came before you, so that you might attain taqwaa. (He is) the One who made the earth a bed for you and the sky a mighty structure, and He sent water down from the sky that brings forth many fruits for your provisions. So do not ascribe partners to Allaah while you have knowledge!” [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:21-22]

After mentioning the three kinds of people, the believers, the disbelievers, and the hypocrites, and then turning His Servants to the Quran as a source of guidance [Translator’s note: In the first 20 verses of Surah Al-Baqarah.], He followed that up saying:

“O mankind! Worship your Lord!” [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:21]

This is a general call, a command to the entire creation, to single out Allaah with acts of worship, and a command to avoid ascribing a single partner to Allaah. This is tawheed al-ulooliyyah.

Then Allaah comes with tawheed ar-ruboobiyyah, as something to back up the fact that He deserves to be worshipped alone:

“The One who made the earth a bed for you and the sky a mighty structure, and He sent water down from the sky that brings forth many fruits for your provisions” [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:21-22]

Aren’t these the actions of Allaah, Most High and Magnificent? This is tawheed ar-ruboobiyyah. Allaah, Most Glorified and Exalted, mentions it here as a proof and something that leads to tawheed al-ulooliyyah. Just as He alone does these things, then no one other than Him deserves worship, rather this is a right that is purely and solely for Him, Most Glorified.

He mentions two of the categories of tawheed in these verses. Tawheed al-ulooliyyah is mentioned since it is the greatest thing sought from mankind, and tawheed ar-ruboobiyyahis mentioned as a proof for it, and something that can not be separated from it. He orders all of mankind with the same order found in another verse:

“And I have not created the Jinn nor mankind for any purpose other than worshipping Me” [Surah Ath-Thaariyaat, 51:56]

So He has informed us that these two great creations, the Jinn and mankind, have not been created for a purpose other than worshipping Allaah, singling Him out with tawheed al-ulooliyyah.

Then He forbade shirk in the last part of the verse:

“So do not ascribe partners to Allaah while you have knowledge” [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:22]

Meaning that you are not to perform a single act of worship for other than Allaah, while you know that no one shares in His Ruboobiyyah, His Creation of the Heavens and the Earth, His sending of the rain, His causing the plants to grow forth, etc. Since you know that no one shared with Him in these affairs, then how could you worship someone along with Him?!

Allaah, Most Glorified and Exalted, says:

“And your God is one God, there is no God except Him” [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:163]

This is tawheed al-ulooliyyah. A god is something that is worshipped, so ulooliyyah is worship and complete love. The verse means that the one who rightfully deserves your worship is only one, there is no God except Him, there is none to be worshipped other than Him. Later in the verse, Allaah says:

“The Bestower of Mercy, the All-Merciful” [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:163]

This is something from tawheed al-asmaa’ was-sifaat, as it contains proof for two of Allaah’s Names, along with His Attribute of Mercy.

Allaah also says:

“Verily in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, and the ships that sail through the sea with that which is of use to mankind, and the water that Allaah sends down from the sky and makes the earth alive with it after its death, and the many animals of all kinds scattered therein, and in the various winds, and in the clouds that are held between the sky and the earth, truly all of these are evidences for people of intellect.” [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:164]

This verse is about tawheed ar-ruboobiyyah. Allaah mentions these things as proofs for His Right to be worshipped alone, as He called these things aayaat, meaning proofs and evidences for His Right to be worshipped alone.

In these verses, all three categories of tawheed have been mentioned, and likewise you find them mentioned all throughout the rest of the Quran.

In the Quran Allaah only mentions tawheed ar-ruboobiyyah, that which the disbelievers themselves affirm, to show its weight as a proof and to establish the evidence for tawheed al-ulooliyyah. So Allaah brings an idea that they agree about as a proof against them, and this obliges them to answer the following questions:

  • How can you admit to Allaah’s Ruboobiyyah, that He is the sole Lord (Creator, Sustainer) of the creation, and not agree that He alone has the right to be worshipped?!
  • How can you worship someone or something that did not share in any part of the creation with Allaah?! This is a clear contradiction, as Allaah Almighty says:
“Say: Do you see that what you call on besides Allaah, what have they created in the earth? Or what is their share in the heavens? Bring me a book from the past, or any trace of knowledge you have, if you are indeed truthful!” [Surah Al-Ahqaaf, 46:4]

Allaah also says:

“This is the creation of Allaah! So now show me what those less than Him have created!” [Surah Luqmaan, 31:11]

And Allaah says:

“O mankind! A parable has been set forth, so listen! Verily those who are called on besides Allaah can not even create a fly, even if they all gathered together to help each other! And if a fly were to snatch something from them, they do not even have the power to get it back! How weak are those who seek from them, and how weak are those being sought!” [Surah Al-Hajj, 22:73]

So if flies attacked mankind, they would have no way to defend themselves or take revenge, while the fly is the weakest thing! So if flies and mosquitoes swarmed over them, they would not be able to rid themselves of them. They would only be able to kill some of them, but there would be such a great number of them that they would overwhelm all of mankind!

It is also said that the meaning of the verse is that if a fly were to take something away from an idol, some perfume or decoration that the people placed on it, that verily the idol could do nothing to get back what the fly took from it. Allaah says:

“How weak are those who seek from them, and how weak are those being sought!” [Surah Al-Hajj, 22:73]

In the verse, “those who seek” are the polytheists. “Those being sought” are the idols, and it has also been said that it means the fly itself.

With all of this, how can these things be made partners with Allaah, the Creator, the Provider, the Bringer of Life and Death, the Strong, the Mighty, the One who is capable of everything, the Glorified and Exalted?! Where is the intellect?! Where is the understanding?! We ask Allaah to pardon us.

Source: Part 3, 7 & 8 of a series of translated articles from the book, Lessons from the Noble Quran (pp.12-14) by Shaykh Saalih al-Fawzaan (may Allaah preserve him), translated by Moosaa Richardson.

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