Mankind's Greatest Need: Tawḥīd
Indeed, the affirmation of the Tawḥīd of Allāh is something that mankind – whether they have accepted Islām or not – are more in need of than food and drink. This brief article explains the three categories of Tawḥīd, along with its two types. There is also a highly beneficial explanation of what separates the Tawḥīd of the muwāḥid from the Tawḥīd of the mushrik.
[Tawḥīd] is to single Him out with worship, with love, lowliness and submissiveness to Him, by complying with His commands and submitting to them.
Ibn Abīl-’Izz (d.792H) - rahimahAllāh – said, “Knowledge of Uṣūlud-Dīn (the fundamentals of the Religion) is the most noble branch of knowledge, since the excellence of a certain type of knowledge depends upon what it is concerned with, and this is the greater Fiqh (understanding), which is why Imām Abū Ḥanīfah (d.150H) - raḥmatullāhi ʿalayhi - called that which he compiled concerning Uṣūlud-Dīn: “al-Fiqhul-Akbar.” (the Greatest Fiqh). The need of the servants for this knowledge is greater than every other need; and it is the most necessary of all things for them, since there is no life for the hearts, nor any delight, nor any tranquility, except through knowing their Lord, the One to be worshipped, their Creator - with His Names, His Attributes and His Actions, and that He - along with all that - is more beloved to the person than anything else. So man’s striving is with regards to everything that will draw him nearer to Allāh, to the exclusion of the creation.
However, it is impossible for the minds to come to know and understand all that in detail, so the Most Merciful , the Most Majestic - from His mercy, sent Messengers to teach that and call to it; and to give good news to those who accept their Call and to warn those who reject it. The key to their Call and the essence of their message was the servant’s drawing closer to Allāh - the Most Perfect - through His Names, Attributes and Actions, since all that the Messengers were ordered with is built upon this. This then is followed by two great principles: Firstly: Knowing the path that leads to Him - and that is the Sharīʿah which is comprised of His orders and prohibitions. Secondly: That those following the path know what lies in store for them, which is endless bliss. So the people who know Allāh best are the ones who best follow the way to Him; and know best what lies at the end of the way.”
Firmness Upon the Religion:
So, firmness upon the Religion of Allāh, excellence in this world and salvation in the Hereafter is built upon two great matters: “Firstly: Knowledge of Allāh and the beautiful Names and lofty Attributes that befit Him and His Actions - and this necessitates appreciation of His Majesty, honouring Him, fearing Him, being in awe of Him, loving Him, placing one’s hopes in Him, placing reliance upon Him, being pleased with His decree and having patience with what He sends down as regards hardships. Secondly: Knowledge of what He loves and is pleased with, and what He hates and angers Him - whether beliefs saying, or outward or inward actions. So the one who has knowledge of this has to rush to fulfill that which Allāh loves and is pleased with, and to avoid that which He hates and which angers Him.”
Sufyān Ibn ʿUyaynah (d.197H) - raḥimahullāh – said, “There are three types of Scholars: one who knows Allāh and knows Allāh’s commands; and one who knows Allāh, but does not know His commands; and one who knows Allāh’s commands, but does not know Allāh. And the most complete of them is the first - and that is the one who fears Allāh and knows His rulings.”
The Essence of Islām:
Explaining the essence of Islām and its main pillar, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) said, “Islām is built upon five: Testifying that none has the right to be worshipped except Allāh and that Muḥammad is the Messenger of Allāh, establishing the al-Ṣalāh, paying the Zakāh, making pilgrimage to the House and fasting in Ramaḍān.”  In another narration, “Islām is built upon five: To worship Allāh and to reject anything along with Him... ”  Also in another narration, “Islām is built upon five: The Tawḥīd of Allāh... ” 
Thus, “Testifying that none has the right to be worshipped except Allāh,” has the same meaning as, “To worship Allāh and to reject anything along with Him,” which has the same meaning as: “The Tawḥīd of Allāh,” So, it will be clear to the honourable reader that Tawḥīd is the essence of Islām, and it is the starting and ending point for all goodness and excellence.
Linguistically, Tawḥīd means, “To make something one, or to assert the oneness of something.”  However, what we are concerned with here is the Sharīʿah or technical meaning of Tawḥīd which is, “To single out Allāh alone for worship.” 
Al-Bayjooree - raḥimahullāh – said, “It is to single-out al-Ma’bood (the One to be worshipped - i.e. Allāh) with worship, along with belief and affirmation in the oneness and uniqueness of His Dhaat (Essence), Sifaat (Attributes) and Actions.” 
Shaykh al-Ghunaymaan - hafiẓahullāh – said, “It is to single Him out with worship, with love, lowliness and submissiveness to Him, by complying with His commands and submitting to them.” 
The Division of Tawḥīd:
And Tawḥīd - with the Salaf and the Scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jamāʿah - has three divisions.
’Allāmah as-Safaareenee (d.1112H) - raḥimahullāh – said, “Know that Tawḥīd has three divisions:- Tawḥīd al-Rubūbiyyah (the Oneness of Allāh in His Lordship), Tawḥīd al-Ulūhiyyah (to single-out Allāh alone for worship) and Tawḥīd al-Asmāʾ‘ wa-al-Ṣifāt (the uniqueness of Allāh’s Names and Attributes).” 
“And Allāh has gathered these three divisions in His - the Most High – saying,
“Lord of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, so worship Him alone and be constant and patient in the worship of Him. Do you know of any who is similar to Him?” ” 
“So Tawḥīd al-Rubūbiyyah implies: A firm and definite belief that Allāh alone is the Creator, the Master and Owner, and the Command is for none but Him.” 
“And Tawḥīd al- Ulūhiyyah is to single-out Allāh alone for all worship and not to worship anything along with Him, whether it be an angel, a Messenger, a Prophet, a pious person, a tree, a stone, the sun, the moon, or other than these.” 
“And Tawḥīd al-Asmāʾ‘ wa-al-Ṣifāt is the uniqueness of Allāh - the Most High - with regards to His Names and His Attributes, by affirming that which Allāh has affirmed for Himself - whether in His Book or by the tongue of His Messenger ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam - without taḥrīf (distorting the Names and Attributes), ta’teel (denial of the Names and Attributes), takyīf (saying how they are), or tamthīl (making any resemblance with the creation).” 
Tawḥīd in Knowledge and Action:
The above three divisions of Tawḥīd have been grouped - by some of the Scholars - into two types:- the first type deals with knowing Allāh through His Names, Attributes and Actions (i.e. Tawḥīd al-Asmāʾ‘ wa-al-Ṣifāt and Tawḥīd al-Rubūbiyyah), and the second deals with actualising and manifesting this Tawḥīd through singling out Allāh alone for worship (i.e. Tawḥīd al-Ulūhiyyah). The first type of Tawḥīd is connected with knowledge, whilst the second type is connected with action.
Ibn al-Qayyim (d.756H) - raḥimahullāh – said, “As regards the Tawḥīd which the Messengers called to and which the Books were sent down with, then it is of two types:- Tawḥīd al-Ma’rifah wal-Ithbaat (the Tawḥīd of knowledge and affirmation) and Tawḥīd fit-Talab wal-Qasd (the Tawḥīd of actions and intentions).
So the first type affirms the reality of the Dhaat (essence) of the Lord - the Most High - along with His Names, His Attributes, His Actions, His speaking in His Books and His speaking to whomsoever He wishes from His servants. It also affirms the all-embracing nature of His Predestination and Pre-Decree and His wisdom. The Qurʾān has completely clarified this type of Tawḥīd - as occurs at the start of Sūrah Hadīd and Sūrah Ṭā Hā, at the end of Sūrah al-Ḥashr, at the beginning of Sūrah Sajdah, at the beginning of Sūrah Ālī ʿImrān and all of Sūrah-Ikhlās, and other than these.
The second type: Then it is what is contained in Sūrah-Kāfiroon and contained in His - the Most High’s - saying: “Say: O people of the Book! Come to a word that is just and fair between us and you, that we shall worship none but Allāh and that we shall associate no partner along with Him, and that we shall not take others as lords beside Allāh. Then if they turn away, say: Bear witness that we are Muslims.” 
It is also contained at the beginning of Sūrah Tanzeel and at the beginning, middle and end of Sūrah-Mu’min, and at the beginning and end of Sūrah-A’raaf and the greater part of Sūrah-Anʿām. Indeed, every Sūrah in the Qurʾān comprises these two types of Tawḥīd, witnessing to it and calling to it.
Since the Qurʾān either gives [i] information about Allāh, His Names, His Attributes, His Actions and His Sayings - which is Tawḥīd al-Ma’rifah wal-Ithbaat (the Tawḥīd of knowledge and affirmation); or [ii] it is a call to worship Allāh alone without any partner, and a rejection of whatever is worshipped besides Him - and this is Tawḥīd al-Iraadee at-Talabee (the Tawḥīd of actions and intentions); or [iii] it is a command to obey Him and to comply with His orders and prohibitions - so this is from the rights of Tawḥīd and is a completion of it; or [iv] it gives information about the people of Tawḥīd and how they were treated in this world and how they will be honoured in the Hereafter - and this is the reward for Tawḥīd; or [v] it gives information about the people of Shirk (associating partners along with Allāh) and the punishment they receive in this world and the torment they shall receive in the Hereafter - so this is the reward for those who abandon Tawḥīd.”
TAWḤĪD – ITS IMPORTANCE IN THE QUR‘AAN:
Ibn Abīl-’Izz - raḥimahullāh – said, “So the Qurʾān - all of it - is about Tawḥīd, its rights and its rewards; and about Shirk, its people and their punishments. Thus, “All praise belongs to Allāh, Lord of the worlds.”  is Tawḥīd (of knowledge). “The Most Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy.” is Tawḥīd (of knowledge). “The Master of the Day of Judgement.” is also Tawḥīd (of knowledge). “You alone do we worship and You alone do we seek aid and assistance from.” is Tawḥīd (of action). “Guide us to the Straight Path.” concerns Tawḥīd and asking for guidance to the path of the people of Tawḥīd, (which is), “The Path of those whom You have favoured. Not of those who have earned Your anger, nor of those who have gone astray.” those who have separated themselves from Tawḥīd.”  So Allāh begins this Sūrah by first informing us about Himself - the Most Perfect (i.e. Tawḥīd of knowledge). Then after having knowledge of Allāh - the Most High - Allāh orders us with the Tawḥīd of action, “You alone do we worship.”
Likewise just as, “the great Qurʾān opens with Tawḥīd it also ends with it. So the Qurʾān opens with Sūrah-Fātiḥah, “All praise belongs to Allāh, Lord of the worlds.” and the great Qurʾān ends with the Sūrah, “Say: I seek refuge with the Lord of mankind.” ” 
Likewise, the greatest āyah in the Qurʾān is Aayatul-Kursee.  Since this great āyah informs us - from start to finish - purely about Allāh’s Names, His Attributes and His Actions. So this further emphasises the importance of the Tawḥīd of knowledge.
Similarly, Sūrah-Ikhlās - from start to finish - is concerned with the Tawḥīd of knowledge, whilst Sūrah-Kāfiroon is connected with the Tawḥīd of action. Indeed, the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) said about a man who was reciting al-Kāfiroon in the first rak’ah, “This is a servant who believes in his Lord.” Then the man recited al-Ikhlās in the second, so he (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) said, “This is a servant who knows his Lord.”  The Prophet sallallâhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam said, “Say: He is Allāh, the One.” is equivalent to one third of the Qurʾān. And “Say: O disbelievers...” is equivalent to a quarter of the Qurʾān. 
What further demonstrates the importance of this Tawḥīd is the fact that the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam), “would begin his day with Tawḥīd (of knowledge and action), since he recited both Sūrah-Kāfiroon and Sūrah-Ikhlās in the two rak’aat before Fajr (dawn prayer).  And he would end the night by reciting both of these Sūrahs in his witr prayer. ” 
“Indeed, all of the Qurʾān is about Tawḥīd.”  And Allāh - the Mighty and Majestic – says, “A book We have sent down, full of blessings, that men may ponder over its messages; and those who possess understanding may take them to heart.” 
TAWḤĪD – IT’S IMPORTANCE FROM THE SUNNAH:
And what proves the importance of Tawḥīd from the Sunnah is that the Chosen one - ʿalayhis-ṣalātu was salām - remained in Makkah thirteen years amongst the disbelievers, calling them to it, and saying to them,
“Say: None has the right to be worshipped except Allāh and thus be successful...” 
The Messenger of Allāh (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) said, “I have been sent close to the Hour, with the sword, so that none has the right to be worshipped except Allāh alone, without any partner. My sustenance is beneath the shade of my spear. And humiliation and ignominy is for whosoever opposes my command. And whosoever resembles a people is from them.” ” 
Similarly he would send his Companions to various communities ordering them with this Tawḥīd first - as was the case when he sent Muʿādh Ibn Jabal to Yemen, saying, “Indeed you are going to a people from the People of the Book, so let the Tawḥīd of Allāh be the very first thing you call them to...” 
And just as the Prophet (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) started his Prophethood and teaching with the matter of Tawḥīd, then likewise,
“He (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) mentioned the matter of Tawḥīd during his final illness from which he (ʿalayhis-ṣalātu was salām died, when he said, “The curse of Allāh be upon the Jews and the Christians, for they took the graves of their Prophets as places of worship.” ” 
CLEARING A MISCONCEPTION:
Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymīyyah (d.728H) said, “The Tawḥīd with which the Messengers came with comprises of affirming that Divinity and worship belong to Allāh alone, such that a person witnesses that none has the right to be worshipped except Allāh, and that none is worshipped except Him, nor depended upon other than Him, nor are alliances or enemies made except for Him, nor is an action done except for Him. This affirmation also covers those Names and Attributes which Allāh affirms for Himself, as Allāh - the Most High – says,
“And the Allāh to be worshipped is only one Allāh. None has the right to be worshipped except Him, the Most Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy.” 
And Allāh - the Most High – says, “Do not take two objects of worship. Indeed, Allāh is the only Deity to be worshipped, so fear Him.” .
And He - the Most High – says,
“Whosoever calls upon (i.e. supplicates or prays to) other than Allāh, for which he has no proof, then his reckoning is only with his Lord. Indeed, the disbelievers will not be successful.” 
Allāh - the Most High - also says,
“And ask those of our Messengers whom we sent before you, ‘Did We ever appoint objects of worship besides the Most Merciful?’ ” 
And Allāh informed us about every Prophet from amongst the Prophets that they called the people to the worship of Allāh alone, having no partner, as He said,
“Indeed there is an excellent example for you in Ibrāhīm and those with him, when they said to their people, ‘Indeed we are free from you and whatever you worship besides Allāh. We have rejected you, and there has arisen between us and you, hostility and hatred forever - until you believe in Allāh alone. ’” 
And Allāh said about the mushriks (pagan idolaters), “When it is said to them, ‘None has the right to be worshipped except Allāh’, they become arrogant. And they say: ‘Are we to abandon those deities that we worship because of a mad poet?’” 
And this occurs a lot in the Qurʾān.
And what is meant by Tawḥīd is not merely Tawḥīd al-Rubūbiyyah - the belief that Allāh alone is the Creator - which is what some of the people of Kʿalám (speculative theology) and the Ṣūfīs think! So they think that if they affirm this type of Tawḥīd, along with its proofs, then they have affirmed the utmost limits of Tawḥīd and that if they bear witness to this and become absorbed in it, then they have absorbed themselves in the limits of Tawḥīd! However, this is not the case. Since even if a person agreed to those attributes which are befitting to the Lord, and declared Him free from everything He should be declared free from and affirmed that He alone is the creator of everything - then still such a person would not be a muwahhid (a person of Tawḥīd) until along with this, he witnesses that the only Ilāh (i.e. object of worship) is Allāh - (i.e. none has the right to he worshipped except Allāh alone) - affirming that Allāh alone is the Ilāh deserving off all worship, adhering to this worship and associating no partners with Him. Also affirming that this Ilāh (object of worship) is He who is deified and worshipped and who deserves worship and it is not that Ilāh merely with the meaning, “The One who has the power to create and originate.” 
So if an explainer (of the Qurʾān) explains Ilāh to mean, “The One who has the power to create and originate” and believes that this is the most particular description of Ilāh and affirms this to be the limits of Tawḥīd - as is done by the people of Kʿalám, and it is what they say from Abū al-Ḥasan al-Ashʿarī  and his followers - then they do not know the true reality of the Tawḥīd with which Allāh sent His Messengers, since the Arab mushriks used to agree that Allāh alone is the Creator of everything. Yet despite this, they were still mushriks, as Allāh - the Most High – says,
“Most people do not believe in Allāh except that they commit shirk (i.e. associate others with Him in belief and worship).” 
A group from amongst the Salaf (the first three generations of Muslims) said,
“If you ask them who created the Heavens and the earth, they will say, ‘Allāh’ - yet along with this, they worshipped others besides Him.” 
Allāh - the Most High – said,
“Say: ‘Whose is the earth and all that is in it, if you do indeed know?’ They will say, ‘It belongs to Allāh.’ Say, ‘Will you not then remember?’ Say, ‘Who is the Lord of the heavens and the Lord of the great Throne?’ They will say, ‘Allāh.’ Say, ‘Will you not then fear Him?’”  So not everyone who affirms that Allāh is the Lord of everything and is its Creator, will be a worshipper of Him to the exclusion of everything else - calling upon Him alone, hoping in Him alone, having fear of Him alone, forming allegiance and enmity for Him, obeying His Messengers, ordering what He orders and forbidding what He forbade.” 
Shaykh ʿAbd al Qādir al-Jeelānee (d.561H) said, “So it is upon you to fear Allāh - the Mighty and Majestic - and not to fear anyone else except Him. Turn to Allāh - the Mighty and Majestic - for your every need, and rely upon Him alone - the Most High - seeking that which you need from Him alone. Do not rely upon anyone other than Allāh. And Tawḥīd - all is contained in Tawḥīd.” 
 Sharḥul-’ʿAqīdahtit-Tahaawiyyah (p. 69)
 Fadl ’Ilmus-Salaf (p. 47) of al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Rajab (d.795H)
 Related by al-Dārimī (1/102) and Abū Nuʿaym in al-Hilyah (7/280), with a Ṣaḥīḥ isnād.
 Related by al-Bukhārī (1/49) and Muslim (no. 16) from ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿUmar - raḍī Allāhu ʿʿʿanhu.
 Related by Muslim (no.20)
 Related by Muslim (no.19)
 Lisaanul-’Arab (3/450) of Ibn Mandhoor and also al-Ḥujjah fī Bayānil-Maḥajjah (1/305) of Abū al-Qāsim al-Aṣbahānī
 ad-al-Durar al-Sunniyyah (1/48) of Shaykh ’Abdur-Raḥmān Ibn Ḥasan
 Jawharut-Tawḥīd (p. 10)
 Sharḥ Kitābut-Tawḥīd min Ṣaḥīḥil-Bukhārī (1/38)
 Lawaami’ul-Anwaarul-Bahiyyah (1/128) of as-Safaareenee. For the division of Tawḥīd into three types, refer to: al-Ibānah ’an Sharee’atil-Firqatin-Naajiyah (p. 693-694) of Ibn Baṭṭah (d.387H); Kitābut-Tawḥīd of Ibn Mandah (d.395H) and al-Ḥujjah fî Bayānil-Maḥajjah (1/85, 1/111-113) of Abū al-Qāsim al-Aṣbahānī (d.535H)
 Sūrah Maryam [19:65]
 Taqreebut-Tadmuriyyah (p. 110) of Shaykh Ibn al-’Uthaymīn
 Taqreebut-Tadmuriyyah (p. 110-111)
 Taqreebut-Tadmuriyyah (p. 112-113)
 Taqreebut-Tadmuriyyah (p. 116-117)
 Sūrah aali-’ʿImrān [3:64]
 Madārij al-Sālikīn (3/449-450) of Ibn al-Qayyim
 Sūrah-Fātiḥah [1:1] - and what follows is a completion of this Sūrah
 Sharḥul-’ʿAqīdahtul-Tahaawiyyah (p. 89-90) of Ibn Abīl-’Izz
 Sūrah-Naas [114:1]
 Hukmul-Intimaa‘ (p. 58) of Shaykh Bakr Abū Zayd - slightly adapted
 Related by Muslim (no. 1768) from ’Ubayy Ibn Ka’b - raḍī Allāhu ʿʿʿanhu.
 Refer to Majmūʿ al-Fatāwá (1/54) of Ibn Taymīyyah
 Ḥasan: Related by at-Tahawee and Ibn Hibbān. Al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar authenticated it in Aḥadīthul-’Āliyaat (no. 16).
 Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by at-Ṭabarānī in al-Mu’jamul-Kabîr (3/203/2) from Ibn ʿUmar - raḍī Allāhu ʿʿʿanhu. It was authenticated by al-Albānī in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Jāmiʿ (no. 4405).
 Related by Muslim (no.726)
 Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by Sūrah al-Nisāʾī and al-Ḥākim, who declared it ṣaḥīḥ.
 al-Tawḥīd wa Atharahu fī ḥayātil-Muslim (p. 30) of Aḥmad Ibn Ibrāhīm al-Hareeqee.
 Madārij al-Sālikīn (3/450)
 Sūrah Saad [38:29]
 Related by Aḥmad (4/63)
 Ṣaḥīḥ: Related by Aḥmad (no. 5114) and Ibn ’ʿAsākir (19/96/1), from Ibn ʿUmar - raḍī Allāhu ʿʿʿanhu. It was authenticated by al-Ḥāfiẓ al-’ʿIrāqee in Takhreejul-Iḥyā‘ (3/42), and al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Hajr in in Fat′h al-Bārī (10/222).
 al-Tawḥīd wa Atharahu fī ḥayātil-Muslim (p. 29)
 Related by al-Bukhārī (1/13) and Muslim (1/272), from Ibn ʿAbbās - raḍī Allāhu ʿʿʿanhu.
 Related by al-Bukhārī (1/532) and Muslim (5/16)
 al-Tawḥīd wa Atharahu fī ḥayātil-Muslim (p. 29)
 Sūrah aali-’ʿImrān [3:163]
 Sūrah al-al-Naḥl [16:51]
 Sūrah-Mu‘minoon [23:117]
 Sūrah al-Zukhruf [43:45]
 Sūrah al-Mumtaḥinah [60:4]
 Sūrah-Saaffaat [37:35-36]
 This is the saying of the people of Kʿalám, such as Abū Mansoor al-Maatureedee in al-Tawḥīd (pp. 20-21), and for a similar misconception refer to Fee Dhilālil-Qurʾān (5/2707) of Sayyid Qutb. Compare this meaning of Ilāh with the correct explanations of great mufassirs - such as Imām Ibn Jarīr al-Tabarī in his Tafsīr (20/102) and Ibn Kathīr in his Tafsīr (3/398) - which is: the one who is who is worshipped and who alone deserves to be worshipped.
 He is Abū al-Ḥasan ʿAlī Ibn Ismāʿīl al-Ashʿarī (d.324H) - to whom the Ashʿariyyah ʿaqīdah is incorrectly ascribed, since he abandoned this ʿaqīdah - and that of the Muʾtazilah previously - for the ʿaqīdah of the Salaf - as is mentioned by Ibn Kathīr in Tabaqaatush-Shaafi’iyyah and shown by his last book: al-Ibānah ’an Uṣūlid-Diyaanah.
 Sūrah Yūsuf [12:106]
 This is the saying of lbn ʿAbbās and others - as occurs in Jāmiʿul-Bayān ’an Ta’weelul-Qurʾān (13/50-51) of al-Tabarī.
 Sūrah-Muminoon [23:84-87]
 Majmūʿ al-Fatāwá (3/97-105) of Ibn Taymīyyah
 Futoohul-Ghayb (p. 176)