Tawhid: the Islamic Principle of God's Oneness

Arab man praying in the desert
GCShutter/E+/Getty Images

Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are all considered monotheistic faiths, but for Islam, the principle of monotheism exists to an extreme degree. For Muslims, even the Christian principle of the Holy Trinity is seen as a detraction from the essential "oneness" of God. 

Of all of the articles of faith in Islam, the most fundamental is a strict monotheism. The Arabic term Tawhid is used to describe this belief in the absolute Oneness of God. Tawhid comes from an Arabic word meaning "unification" or "oneness"—it is a complex term with many depths of meaning in Islam.

Muslims believe, above all else, that Allah, or God, is the sole divine deity, who does not share his divinity with other partners. There are three traditional categories of Tawhid: the Oneness of Lordship, the Oneness of Worship, and the Oneness of Allah's Names. These categories overlap but help Muslims to understand and purify their faith and worship.

Tawhid Ar-Rububiyah: Oneness of Lordship

Muslims believe that Allah caused all things to exist. Allah is the only one who created and maintains all things. Allah is not in need of help or assistance over creation. While Muslims greatly respect their prophets, including Mohammad and Jesus, they firmly separate them from Allah. 

On this point, the Quran says:

Say: "Who is it that provides you with sustenance out of heaven and earth, or who is it that has full power over [your] hearing and sight? And who is it that brings forth the living out of that which is dead, and brings forth the dead out of that which is alive? And who is it that governs all that exists?" And they will [surely] answer: "[It is] God." (Quran 10:31)

Tawhid Al-Uluhiyah/'Ebadah: Oneness of Worship

Because Allah is the sole creator and maintainer of the universe, it is to Allah alone that Muslims direct their worship. Throughout history, people have engaged in prayer, invocation, fasting, supplication, and even animal or human sacrifice for the sake of nature, people, and false deities. Islam teaches that the only being worthy of worship is Allah. Allah alone is worthy of prayers, praise, obedience, and hope.

Any time a Muslim invokes a special "lucky" charm, calls for "help" from ancestors or makes a vow "in the name of" specific people, they are inadvertently steering away from Tawhid al-Uluhiyah. Slipping into shirk (the practice of worshipping false gods or idolatry) by this behavior is dangerous to one's faith: shirk is the one unforgivable sin in the Muslim religion.

Every single day, several times a day, Muslims recite certain verses in prayer. Among them is this reminder: "Thee alone do we worship; and unto thee alone do we turn for aid" (Quran 1:5).

The Quran further says:

Say: "Behold, my prayer, and (all] my acts of worship, and my living and my dying are for God [alone], the Sustainer of all the worlds, in whose divinity none has a share: for thus have I been bidden—and I shall [always] be foremost among those who surrender themselves unto Him." (Quran 6:162–163)
Said [Abraham]: "Do you then worship, instead of God, something that cannot benefit you in any way, nor harm you? Fie upon you and upon all that you worship instead of God! Will you not, then, use your reason?" (Quran 21:66-67)

The Quran specifically warns about those who claim that they worship Allah when they are really seeking help from intermediaries or intercessors. Islam teaches that there is no need for intercession because Allah is close to his worshippers:

And if My servants ask thee about Me—behold, I am near; I respond to the call of him who calls, whenever he calls unto Me: let them, then, respond unto Me, and believe in Me, so that they might follow the right way. (Quran 2:186)
Is it not to God alone that all sincere faith is due? And yet, they who take for their protectors aught beside Him [are wont to say], "We worship them for no other reason than that they bring us nearer to God." Behold, God will judge between them [on Resur­rection Day] with regard to all wherein they differ; for, verily, God does not grace with His guidance anyone who is bent on lying [to himself and is] stubbornly ingrate! (Quran 39:3)

Tawhid Adh-Dhat wal-Asma' was-Sifat: Oneness of Allah's Attributes and Names

The Quran is filled with descriptions of Allah's nature, often through attributes and special names. The Merciful, the All-Seeing, the Magnificent, etc. are all names which describe Allah's nature. Allah is seen as distinct from his creation. As human beings, Muslims believe that one may strive to understand and emulate certain values, but Allah alone has these attributes perfectly, in full, and in their entirety.

The Quran says:

And God's [Alone] are the attributes of perfection; invoke Him, then, by these, and stand aloof from all who distort the meaning of His attributes: they shall be requited for all that they were wont to do!"(Quran 7:180)

Understanding Tawhid is key to understanding Islam and the fundamentals of a Muslim's faith. Setting up spiritual "partners" alongside Allah is the one unforgivable sin in Islam:

Verily, Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with Him in worship, but He forgives except that (anything else) to whom He pleases (Quran 4:48).


mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Huda. "Tawhid: the Islamic Principle of God's Oneness." Learn Religions, Aug. 27, 2020, learnreligions.com/tawhid-2004294. Huda. (2020, August 27). Tawhid: the Islamic Principle of God's Oneness. Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/tawhid-2004294 Huda. "Tawhid: the Islamic Principle of God's Oneness." Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/tawhid-2004294 (accessed March 26, 2023).