Islamic Studies

Ibn Taymiyyah and The Division of Tawhid into Three Parts: A Call for Insaf and Taqwa

“Did Ibn Taymiyyah invent the division of tawhid into three distinct parts:

1. Tawhid of Allah’s lordship

2. Tawhid of Allah’s names and attributes

3. Tawhid of Allah’s worship?

then use it to declare Muslims as out of Islam?”

This is an important question which reflects one’s love for Islam and faith. One should not get upset with such questions, but understand that people ask these questions out of concern and interest in understanding faith correctly. Since understanding is the foundation of actions, it is important that this issue be clarified.

The Book of Allah and this division:

Allah says, “All praise is to Allah [alone] the Lord of everything that exists, The Most Gracious The Merciful. Owner of the day of recompense. It is You alone we worship and You alone we beseech for assistance.”

If one looks at these short verses in Surah al-Fatiha one can easily see:

“All praise is to Allah [alone] the Lord of every thing that exists.” [This is tawhid of Allah’s lordship]

“The Most Gracious, The Merciful. Master of the Day of Recompense” [Tawhid of Allah’s names and attributes]

“You alone we worship and You alone we beseech for assistance” [Tawhid of Allah’s worship]

Thus, this understanding of tawhid is clearly found in the Qur’an. Commenting on this Mulla ‘Ali Qari [may Allah have mercy upon him] wrote in his explanation of Fiqh al-Akbar [a book attributed to Abu Hanifa [may Allah have mercy upon him] vol. 10 pg. 9

“Allah began al-fatiha with “All praise is due to Allah [alone] the Lord of everything that exists” alluding to the establishment of the tawhid of lordship, which serves as the basis for tawhid al-uluhiyah a requirement for creation to realize the reality of servitude to Divine. This is the first obligation upon the slave related to the m’arifa of Allah the Glorified the Mighty.” Mulla ‘Ali Qari continues, “Most of the chapters and verses of Qur’an contain these two types of tawhid. Rather, the Qur’an consists of this tawhid from its beginning to its end! This is due to the fact that the Qur’an contains information about Allah, His names and attributes and His actions and this tawhid is related to knowledge and information. [Or the Qur’an contains information related] to the call to worship of Allah alone with no partner dismissing what is worshiped other than Him and this is the tawhid of intent and will. [Or the Qur’an contains information related to] orders, prohibitions and being firm upon His obedience and this is from the rights of tawhid [upon the slave] and its perfection [related to its articulation]. [Or it consists of information regarding] the people of tawhid and Allah’s interaction with them in this life and the next and this is from the rewards of tawhid. [Or it consists of information regarding] the people of shirk and His dealings with them in this life and the next. Thus, the Qur’an, in its entirety, deals with tawhid, the rights of its people the adoration for them, or the degradation for the people of shirk and their punishment [in the next life] and those who departed from tawhid due to deviation, ignorance or corruption.” [It is interesting to note that Mulla ‘Ali Qari’s statement [may Allah have mercy upon him] from the statement “The Qur’an consists… to the word corruption” is a quote of Ibn al-Qayyim form Madarij al-Salikin vol. 3 pg. 145].

“Yes, but Mullah ‘Ali Qari [may Allah have mercy upon him] came well after Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn al-Qayyim. Is there any proof that there were earlier Imams who recognized this division?”

1. Imam al-’Ukb’ari [may Allah have mercy upon him] died 387 A.H wrote, “Thus, the foundations of faith in Allah which are an obligation upon the creation to firmly believe in establishing faith in him are three:

1. That the slave believes in the Lordship of Allah

2. That he believes in Allah’s oneness [in worship]

3. That he affirms that He is described by attributes which only He could be described with such as The All Knowing, The Allah powerful, The All-Wise and the other attributes which He described Himself with.

And, indeed, we have found that Allah addresses His slaves to firmly believe in each and every part from these three articles and have faith in them.” al-Ibana of Ibn al-Bata pg. 693-694

2. Imam al-Tahawi died 321 A.H. wrote in the introduction to his famous treaty: “Indeed Allah is the One Unique. There is no partner with Him and there is nothing like Him and nothing can overpower Him.”

Commenting on this Sh. Abdul al-Razaq al-Badr wrote,

“Indeed, Allah is the One the Unique there is no partner with Him” tawhid of worship]

“There is nothing like Him” [tawhid of His names and attributes]

“Nothing can overpower Him.” [Tawhid of his lordship]

3. Imam Abi Zaid al-Qayrawani [may Allah have mercy upon him] died 386 A.H clearly under the title “These obligatory tenets include believing in the heart and expressing with the tongue that Allah is One God and that there is no god other than Him, nor is there any like Him, nor any equal to Him. He has had no child. He had no father. He has no wife. He has no partner. There is no beginning to His firstness nor any end to His lastness. Those who try to describe Him can never adequately do so nor can thinkers encompass Him in their thought. Real thinkers may derive lessons from His signs but do not try to think about the nature of His Essence. “But they do not attain any of His knowledge except what He wills.” (2:254)”

There are some who tried to state that Abi Zaid [may Allah have mercy upon him] was upon the way of the khalaf, however, as Imam al-Dhahabi stated, “He was on the creed of the salaf.”

Other great scholars who noted this distinction: Abu Hanifa, his student Abu Yusuf and Abu Bakar al-Turtusha [may Allah have mercy upon them all] as well as a host of others that time will not permit to present at this time.

Ibn Taymiyyah [may Allah have mercy upon him] died 728 A.H while these great Imams died well before him. Thus, the contention that he invented this division is due to, as will be explained soon, a bias and hatred that springs from a polluted toxic well. Let us stand for justice, be fair and learn to respect, differ if needed and be brothers.

May Allah grant us insaf.


About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship. Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010.

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  • Assalamu alaikum all.

    A note regarding the statment of Mulla Alee AlQaaree rahimahullah:

    ….to realize the reality of servitude to Divine. This is the first obligation upon the slave related to the m’arifa of Allah the Glorified the Mighty.”

    Ibnu Abee Al’izz alHanafee in his commentary of AL ‘aqeedatu attahaaweyyah stated “know that tawheed is the first call of the Messengers, the first station of the journey, the first position in which the journior to Allah stands….. due to this it is the authentic view that the first obligation ordained upon the mukallaf (a mature, sane individual of sound hearing and/or sight who comes to know of Islam) is testifying that there is no Deity worthy of worship besides Allah, not “annadthar” (meaning to look, search or research into the call of Islam) (1), nor the intention to research (2), nor doubt (3)….. Tawheed is the first thing by which a person enters into Islam, and the last thing that he leaves with from the world. Therefore tawheed is the first obligation and the last page21-23, v 1.

    (1) this is the Mathhab of the Ashaa’erah, “alinsaaf” albaaqalaaee page 22.

    (2) this is the Muthhab of aljawaynee, “alirshaad” aljawaynee page 3. (though it is clear that aljawaynee abandoned the way of the mutakallimeen reverting to the orthodox beliefs of Ahlussunnah “tabaqaat ashshaafe’eyyah alkubraa lissubkee page 186 v.2, also sharh alfiqh alakbar lilmullaa alee alqaaree page 6, also talbees iblees libni aljawzee page 104 and 105)

    (3) this is the mathhab of the mu’tazilah, “alusool alkhumsah” alqaadee abduljabbaar.

    These differences, are in their entirety
    based upon the view of the Mutakallimeen that the origin of emaan in the Creator is “kasbee nadtharee” meaning something earned, derived from speculation and research, where as Ahlussunnah regard the origin of emaan in the Creator to be “fitree wahbee” meaning from nature and divine predispositioning (Allah made the human with an inbuilt inclination towards tawheed

  • Assalaamu alaikum,

    I just wanted to say I found Suhaib Webbs name on the deen show, a show my friend sent me a link to the other day. He answered very good questions about christianity right to the point. I was a christian and I couldnt even awnser those questions to that clarity to anyone as of yet. I hope that it helps me in dawah, ameen.

    It is good too see you are providing important information for all to see. I am an engineering student in Newfoundland Canada, and theres only about 1 million people in my province, with maybe 2 (with more spread around Canada from here) other Muslim men converts here that I know of. SubhaanAllah maybe 5 times as many women converted to islam (or more)!

    Anyway Ill be sure to check back here every now and again and see what is happening.

    Wa alaikom salaam

  • asalamu alykum,
    MashaAllah, we recite and affirm these attributes of Allah(SWT) daily. Allah(SWT) has truly blessed us with wisdom that we need to spread to others.

  • Assalaamu ‘alaykum,

    The article mentioned this

    ” Other great scholars who noted this distinction: Abu Hanifa, his student Abu Yusuf and Abu Bakar al-Turtusha [may Allah have mercy upon them all] as well as a host of others that time will not permit to present at this time.”

    When you get the time, please give us the references for Abu Hanifah (ra) and his students accepting the division of 3 branches of Tawhid insha’Allah.

    Jazak’Allah khairan

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