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Last Updated: 2008/09/30
Summary of question
Which verse of the Holy Quran containsevery kind of tawhid? What are the different kinds of tawhid?
Which verse of the Holy Quran contains every kind of tawhid? What are the different kinds of tawhid?
Concise answer

Tawhid is a widely discussed topic among Islamic and Quranic concepts, which is why it consists of various types and levels. This is why tawhid has been widely given in-depth discussions in many verses of the Quran. This method and style of elaboration is essential to the Quran. Today, this method is commonly implemented as the method of thematic interpretation of the Quran. Wherever we see a discussion about theology in Islamic teachings, it contains these essential topics: essence of the divine, His attributes, its levels along with the different levels of tawhid. Therefore, wherever the majestic name of (الله) is used it denotes the levels of tawhid and this is exactly what some interpreters of the Quran believe the first ayah of surah Baqarah to be pointing to. Although, it is obvious that this meaning cannot be retrieved through explicit verbal signification, it is understood through signification by association, given the external indications and verbal evidence found in other traditions and verses.

Despite being short and concise, some small surahs of the Quran contain very essential and foundational discussions of tawhid and other pillars of Islam.

Regarding the different levels of tawhid we must say: Islamic theologians have divided tawhid into the following divisions:

1. Unity of the essence, 2. Unity of divine attributes, 3.Unity of divine actions, each of which are also divided into sub-divisions of tawhid; such as the unity in creatorship, unity in guardianship, unity in sovereignty, unity in obedience, unity in legislation and unity in worship.

Detailed Answer

The Holy Quran has adapted a specific method and style in laying out its concepts and teachings, which is the method of elaborating on and interpreting some verses through others; meaning that a certain verse revealed in a certain context and section of the Quran is to be explained and interpreted by another verse that is located in a different section of the Quran.

Hence, scholars and interpreters of the Quran have extracted and gathered every verse pertaining to tawhid[1] to thoroughly understand its concept and levels, and have named this method of interpretation thematic interpretation. Specifically speaking, this type of interpretation includes gathering every verse related to the concept of tawhid and categorizing them into a consistent order and subsequently reaching theological conclusions using those verses.[2]

Therefore, we must say that tawhid consists of many levels and divisions. This is the very reason why accumulating all of its divisions in one ayah is extremely difficult. However, verses that contain the majestic name of(الله) and are about faith, implicitly denote the levels of tawhid, such as the verse:

“Say: We believe in Allah and in that which had been revealed to us, and in that which was revealed to Ibrahim and Ismail and Ishaqand Yaqub and the tribes, and in that which was given to Musa and Isa, and in that which was given to the prophets from their Lord, we do not make any distinction between any of them, and to Him do we submit and we do not allow racial prejudice and personal desires to accept some and deny the others”.[3]

The phrase: “We believe in Allah”; means that we believe in the necessary existent and incomparable being that bears all attributes of perfection and transcends any form of imperfection whatsoever. Then this phrase: “And in that which had been revealed to us”; comprises of everything regarding the Quran and Sunnat because of “And God revealed upon you the Book (Quran) and wisdom”. Therefore, this verse denotes tawhid (faith) and what it consists of, meaning the Quran, the Sunnah of the Prophet, divine attributes, prophetic attributes, faith in the hereafter, in the unseen (ghayb) from the past and future, faith in legal rulings and boundaries, etc.

The third phrase till the end: “And what was revealed onto Ibrahim and …”, mentions faith in all revelations of the prophets and their heavenly books and in general, faith in the prophets themselves based on the order they have been listed, which is in accordance with the significance of their prophecy and how vast their prophecy extended.

Therefore, despite the shortness and conciseness of the verse, it contains every level and type of tawhid: unity of guardianship, unity of divinity and unity of divine names and attributes. It also consists of the vital element of faith in the divine prophets and heavenly books.[4]

We must note that this verse will only imply this meaning if we have reviewed other traditions and verses from the Quran and intellectually extracted the different levels of tawhid and God’s attributes from those verses and traditions. It is only through thematic interpretation that the conclusion can be reached that the essence of the divine and His attributes are gathered within the majestic name of (الله). However, this isn’t to say that the majestic name of (الله) lexically signifies this meaning but implies it when conjoined with other indications found in other verses and traditions.

By implementing this method we can find many ayahs in the Quran that denote the concept of tawhid.

One of those ayahs is: “And We have made the skies a guarded canopy”.[5] The stability of the ground without an object to rely on is the biggest indication of tawhid and God’s omnipotence.[6]

In the Quran, we see different verses that reflect on some of the different kinds of tawhid, for example: “Surely, His is the creation and the command; blessed is Allah, the Lord of the worlds.”[7]

The term “له الخلق” refers to unity in creatorship and the term “امر” reflects on unity in management, which is a type of sovereignty.[8]

However, some quite short surahs of the Quran contain the essential levels of tawhid, such as surah Ḥamd, which is a short and concise surah that consists of issues that no other surah consists of.

The three types of tawhid are mentioned in this surah. “رب العالمین” shows the unity of guardianship.

Unity of divinity and unity of worship is understood from the term “الله” and phrase “ایاک نعبد و ایاک نستعین”.[9]

Levels of Tawhid:

Islamic scholars and theologians have thoroughly covered the topic of tawhid in their writing and discussions to the point where it has become one of the main issues of conflict and disagreement between all three famous sects of theologians.[10]

We will now list every type of tawhid and briefly explain it:

Islamic scholars and theologians have divided tawhid into the following divisions:

1. Tawhid of the Divine Essence, 2. Tawhid of Divine Attributes, 3.Tawhid in Creatorship, 4.Tawhid in Guardianship, 5.Tawhid in Sovereignty, 6.Tawhid in Obedience, 7.Tawhid in Legislation, 8.Tawhid in Worship.

1. Tawhidof the Divine Essence:

Tawhid of the divine essence means that God Almighty is one and doesn’t have a peer and match. One of the most manifested attributes of God Almighty is that He is single and no second can be assumed for Him. This is what theologians technically name tawhid of the divine essence and refer to in order to negate any peer and comparable match to God.

Sometimes what is intended by essential tawhid is that God Almighty is one, meaning that he is indivisible and doesn’t have components. To distinguish between these two types of essential tawhid, the former is known as unitary tawhid (al-Tawhid al-Ahadi), which denotes that there is no peer for God and the later refers to the fact that God doesn’t have any components and is indivisible.

God Almighty has mentioned these two kinds of tawhid in surah Ikhlās. In the beginning of this surah, He says: “قل هو الله احد”; Say: He is Allah, the one and only! This is essential tawhid; the kind in which He doesn’t have any components. At the end of the surah He says: “و لم یکن له کفواً احد”; And none is like Him and comparable to Him, meaning that there is no second entity similar to Him.

These two verses have been interpreted as mentioned in order to prevent repetition.[11]

2. Tawhid of the Divine Attributes:

All theists agree on the fact that God possesses every attribute of perfection and beauty pertaining to His essence, for example, knowledge, power, life, etc., but have not reached a consensus about how these attributes are attributed to Him exactly.

The Imamites believe that God’s attributes are one and in unity with His essence. The M‘utazilites believe that the divine essence is in place of His attributes without any attributes actually belonging to Him.[12]The Asharites say: the attributes of perfection are, both in concept and instance, separate from His essence.[13]

This is a profound topic in Islamic theology, beyond the scope of this article.

3. Tawhid in Creatorship:

Formal proof and intellectual deduction dictates that there is no other creator in this world other than the glorified Allah. Contingent beings, their actions and effects – even the human being and all of his discoveries and inventions – are, without exaggeration, the creation of God. Everything in existence is His creation, however some are directly His creation while others, indirectly.

This is what has been proven by formal proof and intellectual deduction and derived form tradition. Some of the proofs are as follows:

“…Say: Allah is the Creator of all things and He is the One, the Supreme”[14]

“Allah is the creator of everything and He has charge over everything”[15]

“That is Allah, your Lord, there is no god but He the Creator of all things, therefore serve Him…”[16]

The famous three theological sects: the Imamates, Asharites and Mutaziltes, have disagreements regarding this type of tawhid (tawhid in creatorship) as well. In this issue the Asharites have a different view than the Imamites and Mutazilites.

The Asharite approach to tawhid in creatorship is that creatorship is confined to God Almighty, that is, only God plays the sole role of creating something and no one else. Nothing else is the creator of any creature, nor does it have the least effect on its creation directly or as a preparatory cause.

Therefore, the Asharites deny the causal relationship between all creations of God. They assume that every affair and effect of the material world has been caused directly by God Almighty without there being any correlation and causality whatsoever between material things. According to this approach, heat emits from fire because God has desired it to be so, not because there is a natural relationship of cause and effect between fire and heat. The relationship between the sun and light is also the same. They believe divine tradition has been set to this standard so that light is emitted from the sun and moon without there being a causal system in place.[17]

Contrary to the Asharites, the Imamites and the Mutazilah interpret tawhid in creatorship in a different way. They believe the confinement of tawhid in creatorship to have a contrasting explanation negating it from all others and at the same time totally befitting of His greatness, in line with intellectual reason, Quranic contexts and academic discussions:

Independent creatorship originating from God Almighty and not relying on anything else is confined to God and no one else shares it with Him. But every other being executes God’s plan and demand by His power and strength as His agents. What those other than God do is in the sense of  the relationship between the means and the caused or the cause and effect, like fire and heat.[18]

4. Tawhid in Guardianship:

Tawhid in guardianship means that all affairs are managed by God. What is intended by the guardianship of God is that He is the manager and guardian of this world’s affairs; it has nothing to do with creatorship. Believing in tawhid of guardianship is to believe that the good and bad and planning of life all belongs to God even though there might be subsidiary planners and means. These subsidiary means and planners are all divine troops and agents who proceed by His will. Opposing tawhid in guardianship, is multiplicity in guardianship. Multiplicity in guardianship is to believe that despite being God’s creation, God has left the management of takwini (generative) and tashri‘i (legislative) affairs of all creatures to themselves and has stepped aside after initially creating them.[19]

5. Tawhid in Sovereignty:

Tawhid in Sovereignty means that sovereignty exclusively belongs to God. Tawhid in sovereignty is an aspect of tawhid in guardianship, meaning that the rabb is the lord and owner of the marbūb (the object of lordship). In other words, the rabb is the creator of all creations and the one who has brought every creation from nothingness to existence. He has the privilege to occupy and take possession of their lives and belongings and set limitations as to what they are capable of doing. It is a proven fact that such occupation and change-making calls for true guardianship over the one being occupied, or else such occupation would be illegitimate and considered evil.

Since all creatures are equal when compared to God and in complete need of and created by Him, and they don’t even own their actions and thoughts, none of them essentially and by principle have guardianship over one another, for guardianship is only for God, the true owner of mankind and the universe, who has generously instilled life and existence in them.

As God himself says: “Here is protection only Allah's, the True One; He is best in (the giving of) reward and best in requiting.”[20]

Therefore, sovereignty is only Allah’s and is counted as one of the levels of tawhid. Many verses of the Quran denote this type of tawhid (tawhid in sovereignty):

“…The judgment is only Allah's; He relates the truth and He is the best of deciders.”[21]

“…Now surely His is the judgment and He is swiftest in taking account.”[22],[23]

6. Tawhid in Legislation:

Tawhid in legislation means that the right to legislate and set legal terms is confined to God and no one else can do so unless he refers to the Quran and sunnah of the Prophet.

7. Tawhid in Obedience:

Tawhid in obedience denotes that the privilege of being obeyed and served is restricted to God, meaning that the confinement of this privilege is a branch of the confinement of guardianship. Since God is the owner of the human being, the manager of his affairs and the one who has determined his criteria and way of life, He is the one who deserves to be obeyed the same way He has the right of sovereignty.

Therefore, there is no other being in this world that must essentially be obeyed. Even those given this privilege by God did not essentially possess it.

In other words, since God is the only owner of man’s being and his lord, obeying and serving Him is His only. What is meant by obedience is that one must use the blessings God has granted him in the path of His satisfaction. Refusing to obey God in this manner is tyranny against God, which the intellect scolds.[24]

8. Tawhid in Worship:

Tawhid in worship means that there is no one worthy of worship but God. Muslims have a consensus on this type of tawhid. Regarding this tawhid, God says: “And certainly We raised in every nation a messenger saying: Serve Allah and shun the false gods…”[25]


[1] And other concepts, e.g., justice, sovereignty, resurrection, truth, etc.

[2] Manshure Javide Quran, Sobhani, Ja’far, vol.1.

[3] Baqarah:136.

[4] Taysir al-Karim al-Rahman fi Tafsir Kalām  al-Mannan, Abdul-Rahman ibn Nasir al-Sa’di, pp. 70-71.

[5] Anbiya:32.

[6] Ahkam al-Quran, Jassaas, vol. 1, p. 33.

[7] A’raf:54.

[8] Sobhani, Ja’far, Al-Ilahiyyat, vol. 1, p. 409.

[9] Taysir al-Karim al-Rahman, p. 37.

[10] Imamites, Mutazilites and Asharites.

[11] Al-Ilahiyyat, vol. 1, p. 355.

[12] Maqalat al-Islamayn, vol. 1, p. 225; see: Sobhani, Ja’far, Muhadaratun fi al-Milal wa al-Nihal, vol. 2, chapter 6.

[13] Ash’ari, Al-Luma’, p. 30.

[14] Ra’d:16.

[15] Zumar:62.

[16] An’am:102.

[17] This is a summary of the viewpoint of the Asharites. For further information, see: Milal wa Nihal, vol. 2.

[18] This theory is in need of a detailed exposition; please refer to detailed sources in this regard.

[19] Al-Ilahiyat, vol. 1, pp. 403-415.

[20] Kahf:44.

[21] An’am:57.

[22] An’am:62.

[23] Al-Ilahiyyat, vol. 1, pp 417-421.

[24] Ibid, pp. 425-428.

[25] Nahl:36.


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