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Islamic Monotheism

The concept of monotheism, or Tawheed in Arabic, is the single most important concept in Islam.

Islam calls humanity away from the worship of any part of creation to the worship of The One and Only True God. No act of worship or devotion has any meaning or value if the concept of monotheism is in any way compromised. Due to its importance, the concept of monotheism (divine unity and singularity) must be properly and fully understood.

When fully understood and practiced, it frees humans from servitude to the creation, such as desires, greed, idols, men, women, stars, and imperfect manmade ways of life, to that of the Creator, for He alone deserves our servitude. It means true freedom. It means self-confidence free of arrogance. It means peace of mind and contentment, as you fully realize in your heart that your life is in the hands of the All-Knowing, All-Powerful Creator. In the words of Prophet Joseph, peace be upon him, “O my two companions of the prison! [I ask you]: are many lords differing among themselves better, or the One God, Supreme and Irresistible?” (Qur’an, 12:39)  

For ease of discussion, monotheism can be looked at from the following three perspectives:

1. The Oneness of God in His Lordship
2. The Devotion of All Worship to The One God Alone
3. The Uniqueness and Oneness of God in His Names and Attributes

This breakdown is by no means the only way to approach the subject that God is one and unique, but it allows the topic to be easily analyzed and discussed. (Monotheism is the key to understanding Islam, and revisiting this concept is recommended.)

The oneness of God in His Lordship means that God, The Originating Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, has absolute and perfect mastery over the universe. He alone is The Creator of all things. He alone causes everything to happen. He is The One who provides all sustenance and who determines all life and death. He is The Powerful, The Omnipotent, absolutely perfect and free from any defect. No one shares in His dominion. None can resist His decree. He is The One who created each of us from a single cell and made us into what we are. He is The One who created over a hundred billion galaxies and every electron, neutron, and quark contained within them, keeping all that exists and all the laws of nature in perfect measure. Not a leaf falls from a tree without His permission. Everything is kept in a precise record.

He is far greater than our imagination. He is so powerful that for anything to be created He simply says “Be,” and it is. He created time, space, and all the known and unknown worlds, yet He is not part of any of them. Most faiths recognize that The Creator of the universe is one, without partner. Islam includes the knowledge that God is not a part of His creation and none of His creation shares in His power.

In practical terms God’s complete control over all matters means that when you get sick, your cure is really coming from God. Certainly you need to take medication or whatever action is necessary to get well. However, in your heart you have to realize that the cure really comes from God for He is the Lord, Nourisher, and Sustainer. The same is true of all other problems in our lives. We pray, look for answers, and rely on Him. This belief cuts at the root of superstition, such as relying on a rabbit’s foot for good luck or knocking wood to ward off evil. You only rely on God for everything not His creation.

In Islam, to believe that any of God’s creation shares in His power or attributes is considered polytheism and disbelief. Examples of such false beliefs would be to consider that fortune-tellers or astrologers can predict the future; God, The All Aware, says that only He possesses the knowledge of the future. Only the Divine can give divine help. No being except God has the ability to give divine help or divine guidance. Belief that good luck charms and talismans have any power is a form of polytheism. These concepts are renounced in Islam.

This is where Islam differs from other religions. Although most religions teach that there is a Creator who created all that exists, they are rarely free of some form of polytheism (idolatry) with respect to worship. These religions either call on their adherents to worship other beings besides God (though usually placing these other gods on a lower level than the God who is The Creator), or they demand that their adherents call on other beings as intercessors between themselves and God.

All the Prophets and Messengers of God, from Adam to Muhammad, peace be upon them all, called people to worship God alone, without partner or intermediary. This is the purest, simplest, most natural faith. Only God is to be worshipped. God tells us that the purpose of the creation of humanity is to worship Him alone. The purpose of Islam is to call people away from the worship of creation and to direct them toward the worship of The Creator alone.

God created humans with an innate, natural inclination toward the worship of Him alone; Satan, on the other hand, does his utmost to get people to turn away from monotheism, enticing mankind to the worship of creation (idolatry). Most people have a tendency to focus their devotion on something they can visualize, something imaginable, even though they have an instinctive knowledge that The Creator of the universe is far greater than their imaginations. Throughout human history, God sent a succession of Prophets and Messengers to call the people back to the worship of The One and Only True God. Due to the allure of Satan, people repeatedly deviated to the worship of created beings (idolatry and polytheism).

God created human beings to worship Him alone. In Islam, the greatest possible sin is to worship anything or anyone other than God, even if the worshipper intends to get nearer to God by offering devotions to another being. God, The Sufficient, does not need intercessors or intermediaries. He hears all of our prayers and has complete knowledge of everything that happens.

At the same time, God does not need our worship, but He says that it is pleasing to Him. He is completely independent of all things. All creation is dependent upon Him. If every person in the world were to come together to worship only God, it would not benefit God in the least. It would not add an atom’s weight to His majestic dominion. Conversely, if all creation abandoned the worship of God, it would not decrease His dominion in the least. By worshipping God, we benefit our own souls and fulfill the noble purpose for which we were created. God has no needs; He is The Eternal, The Absolute.

Worship is not just traditional religious ceremonies or practices—it is an encompassing way of life. It is how we talk, walk, earn our living, treat friends and enemies, and much more. Worship must be done according to the way God revealed through His completion of the revelation to mankind, the Qur’an, and the last Prophet to whom He revealed the message: Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

The uniqueness and oneness of God in His names and attributes indicates that God does not share in the attributes of created beings, nor do they share in any of His. God is unique in every way. He cannot be limited in any way, for He is The Creator of everything. God, The Most Great says, “God! None is worthy of worship but He, The Ever Living, The One who sustains and protects all that exists. Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is he that can intercede with Him except with His permission? He knows what happens to them [His creatures] in this world, and what will happen to them in the Hereafter. And they will never encompass anything of His knowledge except that which He wills. The pedestal of His throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and He feels no fatigue in guarding and preserving them. And He is The Most High, The Supreme.” [Qur’an 2:255]

In Islam it is forbidden to attribute to God characteristics of His creation. The only attributes that may be ascribed to God are the ones He revealed Himself in the Qur’an or those used by the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, to describe Him. Many of God’s names and attributes seem to have equivalents on the human level, but this is only a reflection of human language. God’s attributes, like God Himself, are unlike anything in our experience. For instance, God has divine knowledge and His knowledge is nothing at all like the knowledge of human beings, for God’s knowledge is unlimited, omniscient, The All Knowing  and it encompasses all things without experiencing increase or decrease. Human knowledge, on the other hand, is acquired and limited. It is constantly changing, increasing and decreasing, and subject to forgetfulness and error.

Human attributes cannot be ascribed to God. All human attributes are limited. God has no gender, weakness, or deficiency. God is beyond the human and creation attribute of gender. Here we have used the pronoun “He” only because there is no gender-neutral pronoun in English/Semitic languages, and it follows the conventions of English usage. When the royal “We” is used in the Qur’an to refer to God, it is for respect and in no way implies plurality. To ascribe to God attributes of created things is a form of polytheism. It is likewise a form of polytheism to ascribe to created things attributes that belong to God alone. For instance, anyone who believes that any other than God is The All-Wise or All Powerful has committed the sin of polytheism.

“Blessed be the name of your Lord, full of majesty, bounty, and honor.” (Qur’an 55:78)


This means that we love God more than anything else in our lives, even more than ourselves, for we know everything that we love will perish except Him.

This means our hope is solely in God and His knowledge and power, for we know that He has power over all things.

This means that we fear no one but God, for He is the All-Powerful.

This means that we trust Him absolutely with our affairs and do not lose hope or give up when we face difficulty, but rather our faith increases, for He is the Lord, Sustainer, and Nourisher who is watchful over us at all times.

Once we understand and implement this in our heart through constant remembrance of God in thought and action, we will find ourselves content, at peace, courageous, self-confident, and truly happy in this life and in the hereafter when we meet Him on the Day of Judgment.


The study of the Oneness of God (Tawheed) cannot be considered complete without a careful analysis of its opposite, Shirk. The essence of shirk involves giving God’s rights to those other than Him. Shirk is to associate partners with God, whether through believing that other than Him has Power over His Creation and His Dominion, by worshipping other than Him, or giving His creation attributes that belong solely to Him, or giving God, the Most High, human-like attributes.

Shirk is the greatest sin a human being can commit.

The Qur’an explains, “Surely God will not forgive the association of partners [Shirk] with Him, but He forgives [sins] less than that of whomever He wishes.” (Qur’an, 4:48).

This verse refers to the Day of Judgment. On that Day, Allah may forgive someone all of his/her sins, even if he/she never repented. However, if one never repents from associating others with Allah (Shirk) and dies, Allah will not forgive him/her on the Day of Judgment.

The first commandment in the Qur’an is a call to worship God.

“O mankind! Worship your Lord, the One Who created you, and those before you…” (Qur’an, 2:21). Therefore, because the sin of Shirk denies the very purpose of man’s creation—that is, to worship God—it is to God an unforgivable sin.

To better understand shirk, please see the explanations below.

Shirk in Lordship

This category of Shirk refers to either the belief that others share God’s Lordship over creation as His equal or near equal, or to the belief that there exists no Lord over creation at all. Most religious systems fall into the first aspect of Shirk in Lordship, while it is the philosophers and their manmade philosophies who tend to fill the second aspect.

Shirk by Association

Beliefs which fall under this subcategory are ones in which a main God or Supreme Being over creation is recognized, however His dominion is shared by other lesser gods, spirits, mortals, heavenly bodies, or earthly objects. Such belief systems are commonly referred to by theologians and philosophers as either monotheistic (having one God) or polytheistic (having more than one God). According to Islam, all of these systems are polytheistic and many represent various degrees in the degeneration of divinely revealed religious systems, all of which were originally based on Tawheed.

For example, religions that believe that God shares His power with sons or daughters or angels, etc., are committing this type of shirk.

Shirk by Negation

This subcategory represents the various philosophies and ideologies that deny the existence of God either explicitly or implicitly. That is, in some cases God’s non-existence is stated (atheism), while in other cases His existence is claimed, but the way in which He is conceived actually denies His existence (pantheism).

Those who negate God attempt to escape the questions surrounding creation by claiming that there was no Creator and by attributing God’s attribute of being without beginning and end to matter, which He has created.

Shirk in Worship

This occurs when a person directs an act of worship to other than God. For example, those who worship saints or idols commit this type of shirk. These people might sincerely be praying to these objects or deceased people because they believe that those to whom they are praying were righteous and beloved to God and can therefore intercede for them with God. They often believe that they are too sinful to approach God directly and that going through a pious worshipper of God will surely increase their chances of gaining God’s pleasure and His acceptance of their prayers.

However, we have already stated above that God clearly says that this will never, ever be accepted of any person, and God states that those who are prayed to are in the same position as those who are praying to them.

Shirk in worship occurs in both a minor and a major way:

Minor Shirk

Minor shirk includes performing acts of worship with the intention of pleasing people, or receiving praise from people, or reasons other than solely pleasing God.

Major Shirk

This form of Shirk occurs when any act of worship is directed to other than Allah. Examples of this can be seen when people pray to idols, saints, or another human, and take these other created beings as intermediaries between them and God.

God says that He has created mankind to worship Him. (Qur’an, 51:56). Therefore, if mankind was created only to worship God, then clearly the worship of other than Him, whether it be through supplicated to another being, sacrificing for this being’s sake, or prostrating in front of it, is the greatest act of disobedience and disbelief. Directing worship to a being other than God has very severe consequences. God will not accept any deeds of such a person in the hereafter, and God will punish such a person with a severe and eternal punishment in Hell. 

Shirk in God’s names and attributes

Shirk in this category includes both the common pagan practice of giving Allah the attributes of His creation and the act of giving created beings Allah’s names and attributes.

Shirk by Comparing God to his Creation

In this category of shirk, God is usually given the form and qualities of human beings. For example, some religions picture God to look like an old man with a long white beard, while others believe that God needs to eat or rest, or marries and has children. These are all manifestations of shirk because people have given both the form and the qualities of the human being to God. And God is so much more majestic, so much Mightier, and so much more Glorious than any human mind could fathom.

Shirk by Comparing Creation to God

This form of shirk takes place when humans compare God’s creation to Him. For example, it is only God who knows the future. So when astrologers and palm readers claim that they know what happens in the future, they are attributing to themselves what only God knows. It is only God who can forgive sins. So for clergy or others to claim that they can forgive sins is giving God’s creation His attribute and is a form of shirk.

This was a brief discussion of monotheism and its opposite: shirk. For more information please consult the following website:

 May Allah protect us from Shirk and guide us to Tawheed.