In the Name of Almighty God, The Merciful, The Compassionate

بسم لله الرحمان الرحيم

Salaam Aleikum (Peace be with you)! I hope you may gain some insight from my work here. Remember, I'm not a scholar and don't claim to be. I only claim to be a person who has a passion for both Islam and this great republic in which I live and wish to share my thoughts with others. Remember that anything good you find in this blog is from Allah, and anything wrong or bad is from my own flawed self.

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The Holy Ka'aba

The Holy Ka'aba
The House of God built by Abraham (peace be upon him)

The Pledge of Allegiance

The Pledge of Allegiance
take out the 9th line, and it would be haram (forbidden) to say this.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Reflections on Tawheed (The Oneness of God)

In the name of Almighty God, Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Probably the most important part of our aqeedah or theology is the concept of tawheed, or the absolute oneness of Allah, God Almighty. It is the foremost important element of the deen or religion of Islam; more important than no drinking alcohol, more important than avoiding pork, more important than how you dress, and even more important than the daily ritual prayers which are regarded as the most important "act" that Muslims are required by Allah to do.

The original Muslims, meaning firstly the prophet Muhammad himself of course, his contemporaries who followed him (the sahaaba), the generation immediately following the sahaaba (taba'een) and the generation immediately following the taba'een (taba taba'een) are known now as they were then, as the greatest generations of Muslims, known as our righteous predecessors, or as they are commonly referred to in Arabic, the Salafi Saleh. This concept comes from the saying of the prophet himself, when he said, "the people of my generation will be the best (in religion), and then those after them, and then those after them". These Muslims not only knew the concept of tawheed very well, it was the entire essence of their being. Everything they did, said, thought and believed revolved solely around this concept.

As succeeding generations came and went, the concept of tawheed started to become lost in the practice of Islam, as more and more Muslims became more and more distant from those earliest generations. Many Muslims began to mix local custom (which largely contradicted tawheed) with elements of Islam. All of the divinely inspired faiths are unfortunately subject to this phenomenon. A prime example is how so many ancient pagan rituals of Druid Europe made their way into the common practice of Christianity such as Christmas trees and Easter bunnies. As this phenomenon began to influence Muslims, the scholars of the time realized a need to systematically teach the concept of tawheed so that as new peoples and even whole nations entered into Islam, they would have the ability to be educated on this most important of principals. After all, the first pillar of Islam is the declaration of "laa illaha ila Allah" or "there is none worthy of worship except God". So for any worship to be directed at anything besides Allah was fundamentally anti-Islam, and as such was many of the practices of Muslims of the day which included the worship of graves and the veneration of so-called "saints". In order to teach tawheed in a relatively easy to understand way, the scholars broke the concept down into three parts.

1. Tawheed ul Rubbubiyyah (The Oneness of God's Lordship).
This is the element of tawheed which recognizes that everything in existence belongs solely to Allah, and Allah ALONE has dominion and control over it. A common Qur'anic du'a (supplicatory prayer) laa hawla quwata illa billah (there is no power or might except Allah) is a dhikr, or statement of remembrance, that emphasises this element of tawheed. This is emphasised in the hadith or saying of the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) that, "if the whole universe came together to harm you, they would not be able to unless Allah has willed it, and likewise if the whole universe came together to benefit you, they would not be able to unless Allah has willed it". This element of tawheed means that anything and everything belongs to Allah; the trees, the animals, us, all of the things we've made like buildings and art and literature, and everything else belongs to Allah. The fourth pillar of Islam, zakat (giving of at least 2.5% of one's wealth to the poor) is actually an act of worship that reflects this element of tawheed. We are required to spend of our wealth on those that aren't so fortunate because doing so is a recognition that your wealth is not really YOUR wealth; it belongs to Allah. You are only entrusted with it. Those who hoard wealth, are actually committing shirk (idolatry) because they are taking their money as lord instead of Allah. They hoard wealth because they believe that the money will benefit them. Remember the above hadith, no amount of money will ever benefit you unless Allah wills it. Therefore, it's not the money that ever benefits you, it's only Allah. So, it is impossible for anyone with true faith in Allah, and true taqwa (God fearing-ness) to be stingy with money. Those that are are either very weak in faith, don't have faith in Allah at all, or are just ignorant of this most important concept of tawheed ul rubbubiyyah.

2. tawheed ul asmaa wa sifaat (the oneness of God's names and attributes):
This element of tawheed basically means that only Allah Himself has the right to describe Himself, and we as His creation have no right apply attributes of creation to Allah and we have no right to apply attributes of Allah to anything in creation. Allah says in the Qur'an,
"All of the most beautiful names belong to Allah, so call Him by them, and leave the company of those who belie or deny his names" (Qur'an 7:180) The reference to names is referring to what we commonly know as the 99 names of Allah. The names of Allah reflect various attributes of Allah. For example one of Allah's names is Al Waduud (The All Loving). The Arabic word waduud is the generic word for love, but when we put the "Al" ahead of it, it then becomes a proper noun and means that Allah is "the all loving, the epitome of love, absolute love beyond any notion of love understood by anything in creation". The principal of tawheed ul asmaa wa sifaat indicates that you can give the name 'waduud' to things in creation but nothing in creation can be given the name "Al Waduud", because that name only belongs to Allah. It is for this reason that Muslims who are often referred to as "Wahhabis" resent that term because "Al Wahhab" is one of the names of Allah. The name of the founder of that movement was named Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab meaning "Muhammad, the son of the servant of 'The Giver of All".
In this element of tawheed we CANNOT attribute characteristics to Allah that He does not attribute to Himself. For example, some people believe that Allah, God, is present in everything; present in His creation. Some believe that all elements of creation are essentially "pieces" of Allah. This concept did creep into Muslim thought and some still believe that, but it is a blatant violation of tawheed ul asmaa wa sifaat, because Allah in His own words in the Qur'an, clearly indicates His separation from creation. The famous ayat ul kursi or "verse of the throne" indicates that when it says,
"His throne extends over the Heavens and the Earth and he feels no fatigue in guarding and preserving them".
Also Allah says in Surat al Ikhlaas or "the chapter of purity"

"Say: He is Allah, the ONE. The Eternal, The Absolute. He begets not, nor is He begotten, and THERE IS NONE IN CREATION COMPARABLE TO HIM.

Likewise the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) once asked a young girl where Allah was and she pointed to the sky. Muhammad (pbuh) then indicated that she was correct.

So, to attribute the notion that Allah is "in" His creation is a violation of tawheed ul asmaa wa sifaat. The key to this element of tawheed is "don't saying anything about Allah that He did not say about Himself, and don't say anything about anything in creation that Allah reserved for Himself".

3. tawheed ul 'uluheeyyah (The Oneness of God's Worship) This element of tawheed "seals the deal" is a sense. We can often get someone to fall in line with tawheed ul rubbubiyyah by them simply understanding that there is no power in all the universe other than Allah. Also we could relatively easily get people to understand that you can't say things about Allah that he didn't say about Himself and so on. However, both of those together don't make a Muslim a believer. Allah says in the Qur'an "Invoke not, nor pray to any Deity but Allah, there is no god but Him". (Qur'an 28:88) This means that our worship cannot be directed at anything or anyone except Allah, and Allah alone. Now, when we say "worship", we often think of ritual prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, sacrificing live-stock, and things like that. However worship is defined in Islam as "any act of invocation, seeking reward or aid from a Deity". Why do Muslims pray? Because Allah orders us to do so, so we do it for fear of His punishment for not doing it. Therefore we do it in order to seek reward or to seek protection in Allah from His anger. However, what about this; why do you obey the law? By law, I'm talking here about the law of the land, established by the government. We obey the law because if we don't we can be locked up right? Wrong. As Muslims, we must obey the law of the land because Allah orders us to do so when he says, "Obey Allah, His messenger, and those in authority over you". If we obey the law strictly in order to avoid being locked up or fined, then we are actually committing an act of shirk, because at that point we are taking the government as a lord besides Allah. This is where a lot of Muslims erroneously claim that we don't have to obey American laws because they are "kafir" laws (such as the law that states a man can only have one wife). This is a grave error because as the above verse states, we are required by ALLAH to obey those in authority over us, and it makes no reference to whether they are Muslims or Kufaar or People of the Book or whatever. As long as the law doesn't prevent you from practicing an essential part of Islam, you must obey (and marrying multiple wives is not 'essential'). Thus, obedience is also worship. We cannot show allegiance or obedience to anyone but Allah because to do so would be shirk (idolatry) and a violation of tawheed ul 'uluheeyyah. However, this is one of the main reasons why being a Muslim is so compatible with being an American. The US Declaration of Independence states that, "All men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator (Allah) with certain unalienable rights and among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". As such the American ideology recognizes that rights come from God, not government. In reality, without really knowing it, they stumbled upon the concept of tawheed ul 'uluheeyyah because they recognized that government doesn't give people rights, only God does, and therefore it is not the job of the government to "rule" the people (i.e. the government acting as God) but rather it is only responsible for protecting the peoples' access to those God given rights. In keeping with that the Pledge of Allegiance, which is essentially a bayyah (pledge of allegiance in Arabic/Islamic termonology) say,
"I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the republic, for which it stands, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, indivisable, with liberty and justice for all". Notice the "one nation under GOD" line. Many Muslims claim it is haraam (forbidden) to recite this but I would argue otherwise based on this line, because the pledge recognizes that the republic isn't God, but it exists under God, subserviant to God, recognizing Allah's sovereignty over it, just as the founding fathers realized that government does not exist to "play God" but it exists to protect the peoples' relationship with God (note: there have been moves by many atheist groups to remove the 'one nation under God' line from the pledge. Insha'Allah they will fail, but if they succeed then it would indeed be haraam or forbidden for a Muslim to say it; in my opinion). It is for this reason that I would argue, and Allahu 'Alim I may be wrong, that the United States, at least in it's founding principal, is the MOST Islamic country in existence today, even though it was founded mostly by non-Muslims.
Tawheed ul 'Uluheeyyah is about obeying, invoking, and putting one's trust in NONE but Allah and Allah alone, and then by doing that we also have responsibility to obey those who Allah orders us to obey like the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), our parents and those in authority over us (our government). If one finds themself unable to practice Islam while still obeying the laws of the land, remember Allah's words

"When the angels take the souls of those who died in sin, they (angels) will ask 'in what plight were you in?' and they (the sinners) will reply 'we were weak and oppressed in this land'. The angels will ask, 'was Allah's earth not spacious enough that you might move away from evil?' Such people will find there abode in Hell; what an evil refuge!" (Qur'an 4:97)

In layman's terms, "if you don't like it here....LEAVE". In some countries like Communist China, Cuba or other nations, many Muslims may indeed have difficulties practicing essential parts of Islam. Unfortunately that is the case in many Muslim majority countries such as Turkey where women are barred from wearing the hijab in public offices and schools, and in the formally Taliban occupied Afghanistan where women were barred from seeking education (which is an obligation on all Muslims). Fortunately, for us in the US, there really aren't any legal barriers to us practicing Islam, but nonetheless if a Muslim feels that they are not able to live "Islamically" here in the US, then as Allah says, they can always leave.

In conclusion, tawheed is indeed the most important concept of all Islamic concepts. It is this concept that should be taught first to new Muslims. I know that it wasn't really among the first things I was taught. It should be the first thing taught because once it is engrained in the mind and heart and soul of the new Muslim, all other elements of Aqeedah (theology, doctrine, lifestyle) will fall easily into place. New Muslim sisters wont have an issue with wearing hijab if tawheed is firmly engrained in their hearts. New brothers wont have problems lowering their gaze from the "poisonous eye candy" of our modern society, and most of all, ALL Muslims will be much more united and focused on our common goals of promoting what is good and preventing evil as opposed to focusing so much on our small and petty differences. I say all this first as a reminder to myself to focus on these concepts of tawheed and to use it to work towards bettering myself and bettering my iman. Insha'Allah I hope that some of you may find some benefit or at least food for thought. And, anything that I have said that is wrong is strictly from my own flawed self, and anything in this that is good is solely from Allah the Most Glorious, and the Most High.

...Allah Knows Best...

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