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

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.



  1. April 7, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    […] […]

  2. Mansoor said,

    April 7, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    Allah knows best. Perhaps it may come across as personal bias, but I think Dr. Haddad has a valid point. After all, how many common people who study aqeeda with Ash’ari scholars learn the definition and distinction between conceptual categories like sifat al- ma’ani wa l-ma’nawiyyah?

    On the other hand, all students of salafi aqeeda are taught straight away the tripartite division of ruboobiyya, uloohiyya and asma wa sifaat. What is more interesting is that Ashari proponents might argue that their divisions are benign – the aqeeda can (and is) taught without needing to have any knowledge of the categories – I would agree. On the other hand, having looked at salafi aqeeda, it is more difficult to convey the doctrine without first engendering the tripartite division. It’s something worth investigating. In fact, following many discussions on forums like Islamicawakening, it becomes evident there is a clear conceptual framework through which the pronouncement of takfir is processed. As Dr. Haddad points out, takfir is not about things like negating the shahada or things proven by necessity (ma’lum min al-darurah), but about falling foul of the logical implications of an ill-structured doctrinal mechanism routed in theories like the tripartite division.

    As to the article on your blog;

    1) the first point when looking to see the source of a scholarly theory is to understand that support from primary sources and any individuals whose words need to be interpreted is not admissible. This is a principle of usul, otherwise the Mu’tazila would be free to support their heterodoxy – as they did – by arguing that they are the true inheritors of the sahaba and tabi’een, by bringing random quotes from the nass and from sahaba/tabi’een (as they did). So, the authors use of aayaat of Qur’an is inadmissible due to the tafsir which has been superimposed on the Surah to make it read according to the tripartite thesis.

    2) secondly, there are 3 quotes – ibn Battah, al-Tahawi and al-Qayrawani. The last 2 can be ignored for the same reasons just mentioned, since there is nothing clear in the statements whichsupports the tripartite theory of tawhid – rather, it is a superimposing on the text.

    Lastly, there is the statement of ibn Battah which does seem to be a clear expression. However, Dr, Haddad has already previously responded to this quote – rightly or wrongly – with the following:

    First of all, Ibn Batta’s text is misquoted. The PDF document has:

    “This is because the basis of faith in God which people are obliged to believe in requires affirming faith in three things: Firstly, to believe in His lordship (rabbaniyyah) so as to be distinct from the negaters; those who do not recognize a Creator. Secondly, to believe in His oneness (wahdaniyyah)…”

    The reference given in the footnote was:

    “15. Al-Ibanah `an Shari`at al-Firqat al-Najiyah (Riyadh: Dar al-Rayah, 1993), 2:181-2.”

    However, the text of Ibn Batta’s Ibana in the Dar al-Rayah edition nowhere has: “Firstly, to believe in His lordship (rabbaniyyah).” The actual text has:

    “First, he must firmly believe in his _aaniyyatahu_…”

    This is a scan of the passage:

    This wording is acknowledged by a Saudi university site:

    Ibn Batta coined the neologism _aaniyya_ from the Greek infinitive _einai_. This term is used in Greek philosophy and the Greek New Testament to mean “to be, to exist, to happen, to be present.” See the Christian site:http://www.searchgod…cgi?number=1511

    The participle form of _einai_ is _on_, genitive _ontos_, which gave us the philosophical adjective “ontic” in English.

    The correct translation, therefore, would be: “First, the servant must believe in His ontic being, so that he will steer clear of the way of the deniers, who do not affirm a Creator…”

    As is evident for all to see, Ibn Batta in his Ibana presented a Greek philosophical term as a requisite of a Muslim’s tawhid – the extreme irony of which fact completely escapes the Wahhabis even as they acknowledge, as per the Jami`at al-Imam Ibn Saud URL already quoted, the fact that the term is

    ! اصطلاح فلسفي قديم معناه : تحقق الوجود العيني

    Second, the terminology innovated by Ibn Batta is:

    “aaniyyatahu”/”wahdaniyyatahu” i.e. “ontic being” and “singularity” whereas the terminology innovated by Ibn Taymiyya is: “tawhid al- rububiyya” and “tawhid al-uluhiyya” i.e. “oneness of lordship” and “oneness of godhood.” The difference is no more immaterial than the difference of certain dual or triple subdivisions found in Ash`ari texts.

    Third, the application of such a division of terminology against Muslims also differed. Ibn Batta targeted the Jahmis, a non-Sunni minority considered kafir according to the stringent Hanbali view, so there is nothing new there. However, Ibn Taymiyya targeted the mutakallimun of Ahl al-Sunna, i.e. the vast Sunni majority. Sunni readers should not lose sight of the latter fact when objectors try to confuse them with purported triple-tawhid quotes from al- Tabari or Ash`aris and Maturidis such as al-Qurtubi or al-Qari.

    In illustration of the above two points, note well the words of Abu Hamid Ibn Marzuq in his book Bara’at al-Ash`ariyyin (1:89, 1:94f.):

    “Tawhid al-rububiyya and tawhid al-uluhiyya were invented by Ibn Taymiyya who claimed that all Muslims among the mutakallimun worshipped other than Allah due to their ignorance of tawhid al- uluhiyya; he claimed that the only tawhid they knew was tawhid al- rububiyya. The latter consists in affirming that Allah is the Creator of all things, as, he says, the polytheists conceded. He then declared all Muslims to be unbelievers. Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab imitated him in this, and others imitated Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab.”

    Fourth, the PDF text calls Ibn Batta’s innovation “an ancient taxonomy” and this is deception. Even Imam Ahmad never said this, and he was not a Tabi`i nor even a taba` al-tabi`in but he studied under the next generation. And Ibn Batta did not reach Imam Ahmad, nor did he meet Imam Ahmad’s students nor even his students’ students, but for the most part took from the next generation. What “ancient”?

    Again note well Ibn Marzuq’s clear demonstration regarding the novel nature of Ibn Taymiyya’s taxonomy:

    “Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal… never said that tawhid consisted in two parts, one being tawhid al-rububiyya and the other tawhid al- uluhiyya. Nor did he ever say that ‘whoever does not know tawhid al- uluhiyya, his knowledge of tawhid al-rububiyya is not taken into account because the idolaters also had such knowledge.’… None of the followers of the Followers … None of the Successors … None of the Companions of the Prophet — Allah bless and greet him — ever said that tawhid consisted in two parts, one being tawhid al-rububiyya and the other tawhid al-uluhiyya, nor did any of them ever say that ‘whoever does not know tawhid al-uluhiyya, his knowledge of tawhid al-rububiyya is not taken into account because the idolaters also had such knowledge.’… Nowhere in the extensive Sunna of the Prophet (Allah bless and greet him) … is it related that the Prophet ever said or ever taught his Companions that tawhid consists in two parts, one being tawhid al-rububiyya and the other tawhid al- uluhiyya, nor that ‘whoever does not know tawhid al-uluhiyya, his knowledge of tawhid al-rububiyya is not taken into account because the idolaters also had such knowledge.’ If mankind and jinn joined together to establish that the Prophet ever said such a thing, even with an inauthentic chain of transmission, they would not succeed.”

    Fifth, the PDF quotes al-Dhahabi’s positive words about Ibn Batta’s character but he omits his words about his unreliability and this is more deception.

    `Ubayd Allah ibn Muhammad, Abu `Abd Allah al-`Ukbari, known as Ibn Batta (d. 387) was a student of al-Najjad and one of the main authorities in doctrine and law in the Hanbali school, a pious scholar who never left his house in forty years and fasted all year round except on the two `Ids. Al-Dhahabi declares him “an Imam in the Sunna and an Imam in fiqh” but then cites Abu al-Qasim al-Azhari’s verdict that “Ibn Batta is extremely weak” (da`if da`if) while al- Khatib declares him a forger and narrates from Abu Dharr al-Harawi and others that al-Daraqutni questioned his truthfulness.

    Ibn Hajar stated: “I discovered something in connection with Ibn Batta which I found scandalous and hideous.” He then shows that Ibn Batta may have added words to the hadith of the Burning Tree narrated in al-Tirmidhi – so as to give it an anthropomorphic slant – whereby the Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, said: “When Allah Most High spoke to Musa, the latter was wearing a robe of wool, a wool cloak, and a pair of sandals made of untanned ox leather.”

    The addition found by Ibn Hajar to be apparently forged by Ibn Batta reads: “He [Musa] said: ‘Who is the Hebrew (man al-`ibrani) speaking from the tree?’ And Allah said: ‘I am Allah.'”

    The doctrinal position of Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama`a is that Musa (upon him peace) heard Allah *without direction* as narrated from Ibrahim al-Nakha`i in al-Tha`alibi, Tafsir (4:117), al-Khatib, Tarikh Baghdad (10:371-374, 13:167), al-Dhahabi, Mizan (3:15 §5394), and Ibn Hajar, Lisan (4:113-114 §231).

    WAllahu a`lam.

    GF Haddad

    One peace of advice. I see on these forums that supposed students of knowledge speak without restraint; arrogance, lying, treachery etc are all deemed permissible in ‘defending the truth.’ I see people playing around with philosophical topics with such childlike naivety, speaking about the metaphysical nature of time and space etc. I pray Allah protects you from self-delusion. The problem with self-delusion is that you can’t know if it applies to you! This isn’t a battle between pious traditionists and misguided speculative theologians. It is a tiresome research exercise between a whole myriad of positions espoused by varyingly inclined theologians in their effort to stay true to the spirit of the scripture and the belief of the righteous.

    Please feel free to forward this to any one else who was a recipient of your original message – for academic honesty. No need to cut and paste it on to your ghiba/namima forum though 🙂

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