Mullā Álī al-Qārī mentions this classification of tawĥīd, both in his explanation of Badyi’l Amālī and Fiqh al-Akbar. So I was intrigued by this until I found another copy of Đaw al-Máālī recently, annotated by Shaykh Ábdu’s Salām Shannār . He writes a very insightful commentary on this classification, a complete translation of which follows.

 

Bismillāhi’r Raĥmāni’r Raĥīm

Álī al-Ūshī [Badyi’l Amālī ]:

yaqūlu’l ábdu fī badýi’l amālī
li tawĥīdin bi nažmin ka’l la’ālī

The slave says, in the beginning of his dictation
Of a poem describing tawhid – shining like a pearl:

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Áli al-Qārī [Đaw al-Máālī] :

By ‘slave’ he [Imām Álī al-Ūshī] means himself. That is, he is the slave of Allāh. He describes himself as a slave recognizing the sovereignty of Allāh as his Lord and thankful for this great gift [of being his faithful slave] and paying tribute to this noble attribute [úbūdiyyah.] As someone has said:

lā tadúūnī illā bi yā ábdahā
fa innahu ashrafu asmāyiya

Do not address me except as ‘her slave’
For, that is the best one among my names

Amālī is the plural of Imlā’a [dictation.] La’ālī is the plural of Lu’lu [pearl.]

Tawĥīd means to affirm the Unity of the Absolutely Independent Being [ithbāt al-waĥdāniyyah li’dh dhāt aş-şamdāniyyah] Here the verse means: I nbegin my dictation of a poem, with praise and declaration of the Unity of the Lord of the heavens. A poem, that is radiant as pure pearls strung together.

Concerning the Unity [tawĥīd] of the Creator and its proofs:

Know that proofs of tawĥīd are plentiful in the Qur’ān for the people of knowledge. As Allāh says: ‘And your God is One God. There is no other God except Him; He is the most Merciful, the Compassionate’ [Sūrah al-Baqarah/2:163] and he said: ‘And know that there is no other God except Allāh’ [Sūrah Muhammad/v.19]

The phrase of tawĥīd [kalimatu’t tawĥīd] is a very beneficial one in negating all other gods except Him alone. And also the negation of the right of absolute slavery to everyone except Him [ádamu ghayrihi fī istiĥqāqi’l úbūdiyyah.] Even though many disbelievers attest in the Unity of Lordship [tawĥīd ar-rububiyyah] as Allāh táālā says: ‘If you ask them, who created the heavens and the earth, they will say: it is Allāh’ [Sūrah Luqmān/v.25] and ‘When the messengers asked [their people] do you doubt in Allāh, the creator of the heavens and the earth?’ [Sūrah Ibrāhīm/v.10]

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Shaykh Ábdu’s Salām Shannār:

Some scholars have classified tawĥīd in three categories:

Tawĥīd ar-Rubūbiyyah or the Unity of Lordship, Sovereignty.

Tawĥīd al-Ulūhiyyah or the Unity of God (or Unity of Worship)

Tawĥīd al-Asmā’a wa’s Şifāt or the Unity of Names and Attributes

Tawĥīd ar-Rubūbiyyah means to believe that Allāh is the only One who has the power of creation; and He alone has the [absolute] power to dispense in the universe – to grant and to withhold. Most polytheists towards whom the messengers were sent – particularly our prophet Muhammad şallAllāhu álayhi wa sallam – believed in this type of tawĥīd, as proven by the verse mentioned by Al-Qari above. Al-Qari says: ‘inspite of the recognition of this Unity by all the infidels..’ even though many of them like Nimrud and Firáwn did not accept this Unity of Lordship either. Therefore, my alteration ‘most infidels..’ is more accurate.

Tawĥīd al-Ulūhiyyah means that only Allāh ta’ala can be worshipped. Indicating that one can pray and beseech Allāh alone [wa’t tawajjuhu ilayhi bi’d duáā] Therefore many polytheists remain infidels because of this reason, because they assign partners to Allāh in worship.

Tawĥīd al-Asmā’a wa’s Şifāt means that all the names and attributes of Allāh are unique; that is nobody other than Allāh can be associated with those names and attributes.

Thus, tawĥīd or monotheism commanded by Allāh táālā is that we must believe that there is only one God to be worshipped, and the belief that only He is the Creator and the Destroyer; He alone has the power to grant and to withhold. And the belief that He is unique in His names and attributes.

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Important Notes (by Shaykh Al-Shannar) :

The first person to classify [or invent] tawĥīd into three categories as described above was Ibn Taymiyyah. And along with this classification, [and based on it] he followed it up with invalidating intercession [tawassul] of messengers and pious people. He branded those who believe in intercession [tawassul] as polytheists and considered them out of Islām with the claim that such intercession invalidates the Unity of Worship [tawĥīd al-ulūhiyyah.] He thus attributed polytheism [shirk] to pious predecessors and leaders among muslim scholars because they allowed intercession. By doing this, he fell into a great mistake and manifest heresy. However, if we reflect upon this matter, we realize that such a classification is correct in principle even though false and invalid in its purpose. [saĥīĥun fī mabda’yihi fāsidun fī ghāyatih]

Some scholars followed Ibn Taymiyyah in his classification, like the author [Álī al-Qārī] raĥimahullah who was also among those who accepted and permitted intercession [tawassul.] Thus he agreed with [Ibn Taymiyyah’s] classification in principle and opposed it in its purpose. [wāfaqahu fi’l mabda’a wa khālafahu fi’l ghāyah] Infact, nobody agreed with him [Ibn Taymiyyah] in his purpose [of invalidating intercession] except a very small minority which will not increase [inshāAllāh], because truth is manifest and falsehood shall be vanquished.

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Some of our contemporaries have rejected this classification of tawĥīd and some of them have attacked it in a heinous manner, branding that those who accept this classification are extremely ignorant. And accusing them of distortion and heresy inspite of the fact that scholars of all times, past and present, describe tawĥīd in these words: “Unity of God, the Creator in Worship and the belief in the Unity of His Self, His Attributes and His Actions.” [ifrādu’l mábūdi bi’l íbādati maá iýtiqādi waĥdatihi táālā dhātan wa şifātan wa afáālan]

Their saying: ‘Unity of God, the Creator in Worship’ is Tawĥīd al-Ulūhiyyah;their saying: ‘and the belief in Unity of His Self and His Attributes’ is Tawĥīd al-Asmā’a wa’s Şifāt and their saying: ‘and His Actions’ is Tawĥīd ar-Rubūbiyyah.

If we deliberate in this matter, we find that Ibn Taymiyyah raĥimahullāh did not depart from the classical definition as documented by earlier scholars, even though his objective in this classification was to use it as a point to reject intercession [tawassul] as I have mentioned earlier. It is quite probable that such attacks and vituperation concerning this classification are a result of the intention of Ibn Taymiyyah’s classification, not the principle itself.

If we examine closer, we realize that such a classification is necessarily not bound by the intention [of denying intercession.] Because there are verses in the Qur’ān that clearly describe this kind of classification:

If you ask them who has created the heavens...” [Sūrah Al-Ánkabūt/v.61] proves Unity of Lordship, Sovereignty. Concerning the Unity of God or Unity of Worship, the polytheists themselves acknowledged: “…we do not worship them, except for the reason that they take us closer to Allāh” [Sūrah Az-Zumar/v.3]

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We are faced with a question here: If tawĥīd is classified into three types, is it correct to say that the polytheists who accept only Tawĥīd ar-Rubūbiyyah as monotheists?

The answer is obviously no. One cannot be considered a monotheist [muwaĥĥid] just because they accept one part of tawĥīd. Because Allāh táālā has called them polytheists and infidels, inspite of such acceptance. Therefore it is not permitted to call someone a monotheist [muwaĥĥid] unless they attest all the three parts of tawĥid namely: Tawĥīd ar-Rubūbiyyah, Tawĥīd al-Ulūhiyyah and Tawĥīd al-Asmā’a wa’s Şifāt.

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If someone does not accept this ‘classification,’ it does not harm their faith in any way as long as they attest to the proper definition of tawĥīd which includes all three ‘components’ of tawĥīd. Infact, mentioning this classification is only an additional explanation.

I had to elaborate on this matter, because I have found many students confused about this issue and they remain so without resolving it. Rather, students may accept the first opinion they come across and advocate it adamantly – not knowing the intent of such classification. Therefore I thought that we must clearly define our position, and hence the commentary.

In summary: 'Tawĥīd can be described or classified as three categories along with the belief that tawassul or intercession is permissible.'

Allāh táālā knows best.