By Br. Ahmad Ibrahim
Published in the 19th issue of Nida'ul Islam magazine, July - August 1997
All those who profess the Islamic beliefs should naturally submit to Allah and worship Him alone, by doing whatever He commanded and by avoiding whatever He has forbidden, which is Tawheed ul `Ibaadah. Without this aspect of Tawheed, one's belief in Allah's Oneness is not complete.
We Muslims often use the term `Aqeedah, but what do we mean by it? Is `Aqeedah something that is memorized and simply rattled off on one's tongue? And what is the relationship between one's `Aqeedah and one's actions?
`Aqeedah is the firm creed that one's heart is fixed upon without any wavering and doubt, creed which excludes any supposition, doubt or suspicion. The Qur'an uses the term "Emaan" in its stead. In the understanding of Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jama`ah, it is well known that Emaan is profession in the heart and by the tongue, and action by the heart, tongue and the limbs. [al-`Aqeedat ul-Wasitiyyah of Ibn Taymeeyah]. Therefore, Emaan is much more than just a mere profession. For that reason, we find that early Makkans refused to say the Shahada - even though mere saying of it is not a difficulty - as they understood its implications. They understood that one's belief in Allah which is stated by tongues must be present in the heart and must manifest in one's actions of heart (such as love and fear of Allah), of tongue (dhikr, saying of the Shahada...) and of limbs (prayer, enjoining good and forbidding evil...).
Today, however, some people pronounce the Shahada without a second thought and without realizing the intended meaning and implications of the testimony of faith..
To profess the Islamic belief is to believe in:
The unity of Allah's Lordship (Tawheed ur-Ruboobeeyah): That Allah is the One who creates, owns and administers what He created, the One who brings benefit and averts harm, and the sole Power in the universe.
Allah's unity regarding His Perfect Names and Attributes (Tawheed Asmaa' Allah wa Sifatih)- describing Allah according to the names and attributes by which He has described Himself in the Qur'an or by those used by Prophet Muhammad to describe Him.
All those who profess these beliefs should naturally submit to Allah and worship Him alone, by doing whatever He commanded and by avoiding whatever He has forbidden, which is Tawheed ul `Ibaadah. Without this aspect of Tawheed, one's belief in Allah's Tawheed (Oneness) is not complete. In fact, if any of the above aspects of Tawheed is missing, one's realization and maintaining of Tawheed in one's life is lacking and defective.
However, an aspect of Tawheed that perhaps needs to be stressed in particular is Tawheed ul-`Ibaadah, as it is often either not understood properly or is neglected to a varying degree. Absence of such understanding and practice leads to various deviations, from believing that faith is mere statement on the tongue and thus not fulfilling one's true purpose of creation, to the very common ritualism, wherein the religion is taken as a set of ritualistic actions without much meaning and impact on one's life.
What is Tawheed ul`Ibaadah?
Tawheed ul `Ibaadah is to single-out Allah alone for all worship and not to worship anything along with Him, whether it be an angel, a Messenger, a Prophet, a pious person, a tree, a stone, the sun, the moon, or other than these, such as money or one's desires. Allah says: "And your Lord is one Lord, there is none who has the right to be worshipped but He, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful" [2:163]. Also, "And the Mosques are for Allah (alone), so invoke not anyone along with Allah" [72:18]. And as regards to worshipping other than Him, Allah the Exalted says, "That is because Allah is the Truth, and what they invoke besides Him, it is falsehood. And verily, Allah is the Most High, the Most Great" [22:62].
How does one take others as god besides Allah? In brief, Ibn al-Qayyim says that "Taghoot" (false god, anything worshipped besides Allah) includes everyone who rules by other than the Revelation of Allah and the example of His Messenger; or that which is worshipped instead of, or in addition to, Allah; or which is followed in opposition to the Commands of Allah. Therefore, if one chooses to love, revere, obey or follow other that Allah and His Revelation, then he could be regarded as a god besides Allah.
The Implications of Tawheed ul-`Ibaadah
To understand the reality of ul-`Ibaadah and what it means to worship Allah alone, without attributing partners to Him, is of extreme importance, and all those who succeed in it will be a step closer to becoming true `Ibaad (worshippers, servants) of the Merciful, and those who are doing their best to fulfill the purpose of their creation and maintain Tawheed in their lives. The following are some reasons which point to the essentiality of Tawheed ul-`Ibaadah, hoping that they would increase us in our desire to understand it and apply it in our short lives:
It is this aspect of Tawheed that the Prophets were sent to elaborate first and foremost, "And verily, We have sent amongst every nation a messenger (with the command): 'Worship Allah and avoid all false deities" [16:36]. Nooh (a.s.) said, "Worship Allah, you have no other deity but Him." [7:59] The Prophet (s.a.w.) said, "I was sent between the hands of the Hour with the sword until Allah will be worshipped alone with no partner, my sustenance was made under the shadow of my spear, and humiliation and lowliness were made for those who disobey my order." [Narrated as mu`allaq by al-Bukhari and Abu Dawood; Ibn Hajr classified it as hasan]
It is only the case that when Tawheed al-`Ibaadah is affirmed, that the other two aspects of Tawheed - Tawheed ur-Ruboobeeyah and Tawheed Asmaa'illaahi wa Sifaatih - are affirmed as well, because if one performs true `Ibaadah to his Lord, then he would affirm Allah's Ruboobeeyah and also perfection in the Names and Attributes that can belong only to Him. But one can believe in either of the two other aspects of Tawheed without necessarily believing in Tawheed ul-`Ibaadah. "If you asked them who created them, they would surely say, 'Allah'." [43:87]
Tawheed al-`Ibaadah is the essence of our deen and the purpose of our existence. "And I created not the Jinns and men except that they should worship Me (alone)." [51:56]
It is this aspect of Tawheed that muwahhidoon (true worshippers of Allah alone and affirmers of Tawheed) are distinguished by from mushrikoon. This Tawheed is emphasized in the meaning of the testimony of faith, by which one enters into Islam. Therefore this Tawheed is the true essence of the first pillar upon which Islam is built.
This aspect of Tawheed is based mainly on action, rather than knowledge, unlike the other two aspects of Tawheed, and it is by affirming this Tawheed that one truly submits to Allah (s.w.t.). To affirm this Tawheed by action until the end of this life is a command in the Qur'an: "And worship your Lord until there comes unto you the Hour that is certain (i.e.death)." [15:99]
Da`wah as well as Jihad are performed primarily to establish this aspect of Tawheed. "And fight them until there is no more fitnah (disbelief and polytheism) and the religion is for Allah alone. But if they cease, then Allah is All-Seer of what they do." [8:39]
This aspect of Tawheed is Allah's right upon His servants. "The right of Allah upon his `Ibaad is that they worship Him alone, and do not associate in worship anyone or anything with Him." [Agreed upon]
The first commandment in the Mushaf relates to Tawheed al-`Ibaadah. "O mankind! Worship your Lord, Who created you and those who were before you so that you may attain Taqwa." [2:21]
Affirming Tawheed al-`Ibaadah leads - by Allah's permission - to the intercession by the Prophet (s.a.w.) on behalf of the muwahhid. "I will say, 'O Lord, allow me to intercede for whoever said, 'Laa ilaaha ill Allah'.' Then Allah will say, 'By My Power, and My Majesty, and My Supremacy, and by My Greatness, I will take out of Hell whoever said, "Laa ilaaha ill Allah" [Al-Bukhari]. Of course mere saying, without affirming the testimony of faith with action, is not sufficient.
This aspect of Tawheed is a qualifying distinction by which Allah described His Angels and Prophets. "Surely those who are in the presence of your Lord disdain not to worship Him; they celebrate His praises, and prostrate before Him" [7:206]. While those who are neglectful and disdainful of Tawheed al-`Ibaadah are disgraced by Allah: "Verily, those who scorn My worship, they will surely enter Hell in humiliation" [40:60].
Allah describes the best of His creatures by their distinctive mark of performing `Ibaadah to Allah (s.w.t.). "As to the righteous, they shall drink of a cup containing a mixture of Kaafoor. A fountain where `Ibaad-Allah (worshippers of Allah) do drink, making it flow in unstinted abundance." [76:5-6]
Those who affirm this aspect of Tawheed in truth are protected by Allah from the Shaytan, accursed. "Certainly, you have no authority over `Ibaadee (My worshippers), except those who follow you of the wrong-doers" [15:42].
When Muhammad (s.a.w.) was mentioned in his most perfect states, he was called `abd, a true worshipper of Allah (s.w.t.) and affirmer of Tawheed al-`Ibaadah. "Glorified be He Who took His `Abd for a journey by night from the Sacred Masjid to the Farthest Masjid, the neighborhood whereof We have blessed that We might show him of Our signs. Verily, Allah is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer" [17:1]. Also, "And when `Abdullah stood up, calling unto Him, they gathered against him (s.a.w.) and almost suppressed him" [72:19].
The perfection of the created being is in affirming Tawheed al-`Ibaadah. "And they say: 'The Beneficient (Allah) has begotten children.' Exalted be He! Those whom they call children, (i.e. angels), are but honoured `Ibaad. They speak not until He has spoken, and they act by His command. He knows what is before them, and what is behind them, and they cannot intercede except for him with whom he is pleased. And they stand in awe due to their apprehension of Him" [21:26-28] .
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