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An Overview of Kitāb Al-Tawḥīd: Part 2

Posted by Abu Iyaad
Friday, Jun 14 2024
Filed under Tawḥīd

The Book of Monotheism

THE BOOK OF MONOTHEISM by Shaykh al-Islām Muḥammad bin ʿAbd al-Wahhāb (رحمه الله) elucidates and clarifies the meaning of the statement (لا إله إلا الله), “There is none worthy of worship but Allāh alone”. This statement enters a person into Islām, which is the religion of all the Prophets and Messengers of Allāh.

This book explains the reality of Tawḥīd al-Ulūhiyyah, or Tawḥīd al-ʿIbādah (strict, pure monotheism in belief, speech and deed, which is singling out Allāh with all forms and types of worship, and unifying them for Him alone) and makes mention of its rulings, limits, conditions, excellence, evidences, foundations, details, requirements, fruits, what strengthens and weakens it, what nullifies it, and what completes and perfects it.

The author brought verses of the Qurʾān and ḥadīths from the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) with little speech of his own. Being a clarification and elucidation of the reality of what the Qurʾān came with, in confirmation of the messages of previous prophets and messengers, it is a proof (ḥujjah) against the polytheists, the Jews, the Christians and the misguided among the Muslims who followed the ways of these past nations, just as the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) informed that they would, handspan by handspan.

Rather, he (صلى الله عليه وسلم) informed explicitly, that some from this ummah would worship idols, indicating, that although the entirety of this ummah would not go astray, as did past nations, some among them would certainly fall into the avenues, snares, and web complexes of shirk. This indicates the severity of this matter, because Tawḥīd is the foundation for rectification of the earth and its inhabitants, and determines their bliss in this life and the next.

What follows below is a summary and overview of the book for the purpose of revision and review. It is subject to addition, editing and revision for improvement.

Click on a chapter title to expand and view its summary or click the button below to expand/collapse all chapter summaries.

On Patience and Satisfaction with Allāh's Decree Being From Īmān and Tawḥīd

Chapter 35 From faith in Allāh is to have patience over Allāh’s decrees

Verses: (64:11-)

This chapter follows the prior sequence of four chapters which relate to the states of the heart. Those states are love, fear, reliance, and feeling secure (from Allāh's plan). Allāh is worshipped upon love, but with fear of His displeasure, and in all of that reliance is placed upon Him. However, along with that one must not feel secure from Allāh’s plan with a false sense of security. Hence, a person fears his sins, and he sees all afflictions as a test, as expiation, as purification and a path to perfection in character. This leads us to the issue of patience, and patience upon Allāh’s decrees in particular.

Believing in al-Qadar and accepting whatever Allāh has decreed while showing patience upon Allāh’s obedience and patience in refraining from His disobedience is from faith (īmān). Having patience upon worldly afflictions comes under this generality, relates to the issue of al-Qadar and is from Īmān and Tawḥīd.

Patience means “restraint” and it is to:

restrain the tongue from complaining (about the hardship, calamity),
restrain the heart from displeasure and anger over the calamity and
restrain the limbs from making a outward display of that anger.

The affair of patience is great, and hence, it has been said: “Patience is to faith as is the head to the body,” as is related from Imām Aḥmad.

What drives patience during worldly difficulties, afflictions and calamities in a servant is his sure knowledge that these affairs are from Allāh's permission and decree and that Allāh has perfected His wisdom in decreeing these affairs upon the servant. Thus, the servant resolutely shows patience, seeking nearness to Allāh through that, whereby his īmān and Tawḥīd are strengthened, as is his character.

The angle from which patience enters into worship (and thereby connected to Tawḥīd and its perfection) is that worship is a) a legislative command, or b) a legislative prohibition, or c) a tribulation, a test in that Allāh afflicts a servant with a hardship or calamity, and he remains patient. This tribulation arises in both his religion and his world. The obligations require patience, the prohibitions require patience and creational decrees require patience. The author dedicated a chapter to this third arena of patience as it is from the obligatory perfection of Tawḥīd.

Given that calamities and hardships are from al-Qadar, and al-Qadar returns back to Allāh’s wisdom (ḥikmah), wherein things are placed in their proper places, in agreement with the praiseworthy objectives behind them, then this is wisdom (ḥikmah) and justice (ʿadl), and Allāh is wise and just. As such, every calamity is good for the servant. He knows it is from Allāh, has patience, knowing that either his sins will be expiated or he will be rewarded.

While having patience upon calamities is obligatory, being pleased requires detail. If it is in relation to Allāh’s act of decreeing, then it is obligatory to be pleased with His act. If it is in relation to the thing decreed, which is the hardship or calamity, then it is recommended to be pleased with it, but not obligatory.

On Intentions and Motivations Behind Actions

Chapter 36 What has come regarding al-Riyāʾ (showing off)

Verses: (18:110-)

The author (رحمه الله) proceeds to bring two chapters that relate to intentions and motivations behind acts of worship, from the affairs that are hidden and known only to Allāh. This is an arena in which shirk (associationism) can enter, and is in fact, like a vast ocean, because of the nature and scope of people’s desires, intentions and motivations.

Tawḥīd is to single out Allāh with all forms of worship, and then to seek only the Face of Allāh and His reward in the Hereafter when performing those acts of worship for Allāh. Hence, when He fulfills the rights of Allāh and the rights of His servants, He desires only to see the Face of Allāh (as recompense for his deeds). He does not do so for show, for fame and repute, or to acquire a portion of the world. As a result, he completes his faith and his Tawḥīd. As for acting in order to be seen, to be praised, to be spoken of, and to acquire the world, then this is a revilement in one’s sincerity and in one’s Tawḥīd. Hence, the author included this chapter and the next in this work to address this most subtle, hidden and dangerous affair. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم) stated that this type of hidden riyāʾ is from the affairs he most feared for his ummah.

Doing deeds for show and to acquire the world is a sign of weakness in faith (īmān), and weakness in knowledge of Allāh’s Rubūbiyyah and His Names and Attributes. It demonstrates a lack of conviction that Allāh alone is the one who gives reward and recompense.

There are numerous scenarios the scholars outline:

—a) When a person, from the outset, does an action for show, for praise and the likes, this is futile and rejected action, it is minor shirk. The one who persists in such actions, it is feared that it will lead him to major shirk. The Hypocrites are those whose actions, all of them or the vast majority of them, are for show.

—b) When a person does a deed seeking the Face of Allāh and also for praise and for showing off to the people, then this action is futile and rejected. Of all of those for whom partners are set up, Allāh is most unneedy of having partners and associations made for Him, as He is unique, He is the Self-Sufficient Master, free of all needs, worthy of all praise. Hence, such actions in which others are given a share alongside Him are rejected.

—c) When a person does a deed seeking the Face of Allāh alone, and then the impulse of showing off comes to him during the deed, then if he repels it, and purifies his sincerity, then it will not harm him. But if he becomes satisfied with it, and persists upon it, then his deed will become deficient, and this will weaken his faith and his sincerity to the extent of his riyāʾ.

Riyāʾ is a great calamity, requiring a harsh cure. It requires training the soul upon sincerity and fighting against the thoughts and impulses of riyāʾ and the various motivations that compromise pure sincerity. One should seek aid in Allāh at all times in maintaining utmost sincerity in belief, word and deed, knowing that power over punishment and reward in the Hereafter belongs only to Allāh, and people will be utterly powerless.

Chapter 37 From shirk is a person desiring the world through his deeds (that are for the hereafter)

Verses: (11:15-11:16-)

This chapter continues from the previous chapter and addresses the issue of doing righteous deeds which are deeds of the hereafter in order to gain a portion of the world, and this is also from minor shirk.

Seeking the world is a pursuit of the people of disbelief, as they do not believe in the hereafter, nor in reckoning and recompense, so they have nothing else to seek for satisfaction and pleasure except the world and its glitter. Whoever resembles them and follows them in that will be wretched and enslaved, as the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) alluded in the ḥadīth, "Wretched is the worshipper of the dīnār, wretched is the worshipper of the dirham..." This enters into minor shirk as it comprises the heart's attachment to the world in a way that competes and clashes with the heart's attachment to Allāḥ.

The scholars have explained the different categories of people who come under the verse pertaining to the chapter (11:16-) and they are as follows:

The first: Those who do deeds which are for Allāh, they are not done for others, but he desires not the reward of the hereafter, but an affair of the world. For example, one who prays because it is healthy for his body, or fasts the obligatory fasts health reasons, or keeps ties of kinship to benefit from those ties (not for reward in the hereafter). These deeds are done not out of seeking Paradise and fleeing from the Fire, and such people enter into the verses the author quoted in the opening of the chapter.

It should be noted that deeds are of two types, those for which the Shariʿah has not mentioned any worldly reward, such as prayer, fasting and many other acts of worship. And those deeds for which the Sharīʿah mentioned as having a consequential reward in the world, such as keeping ties of kinship (which leads to increase in provision and lifespan). With respect to this second type, if a person seeks only the worldly benefit, then this is the minor shirk, and if he seeks both the world and the hereafter, doing so due to seeking Paradise, fleeing Hellfire and acquiring the stated worldly benefit, then there is no harm in this, as the legislation mentioned the worldly benefit as an encouragement for the deed.

The second: Those who do deeds of the hereafter for wealth, such as the one who studies Islamic knowledge to become a teacher because he wants employment, to earn a living. He does not do so because it is obligatory to seek knowledge, and to worship Allāh upon knowledge, seeking Paradise therein. Likewise, one who memorises the Qurʾān to be an imām, in order to earn a living. The intent is wealth, not the hereafter. This enters into minor shirk.

The third: The people of riyāʾ who do deeds for show, as occurs in the previous chapter.

The fourth: Those who do righteous deeds but are committing that which invalidates their Islām, such as those who pray, fast, recite the Qurʾān, but fall into major shirk. Their deeds are therefore invalid, and they will have nothing in the hereafter.

The lesson from this chapter is that the believer is not attached to or motivated by the world. This is why the true believer, who is complete in this faith and his Tawḥīd, does not seek recognition, or position, and is not motivated by wealth. Hence, whether he is given or not, whether he is appointed or not, whether he is invited or not, whether he is recognised or not, it concerns him not. Hence, the ḥadīth of the chapter, “Wretched is the worshipper of the dīnār, wretched in the worshipper of the dirham…” Among the people are those who become pleased and angry on the basis of the world, and among the people are those who care not whether they are placed at the front or the rear of the army, whether they are given or not, whether they are interceded for or not (in the affairs of the world). They care not whether they are known or are obscure and shunned by the people. Since, they are not seekers of the world, it is all the same to them.

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© Abu Iyaad — Benefits in dīn and dunyā


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