Wahid - Tawhid - Neo-Tawhid

Root w-h-d
Wahid Wahid is the Arabic number one. (Also transliterated wahed).
Tawhid Tawhid means monotheism, or the oneness of Allah (God). (Also transliterated tawheed, tauhid or tauheed.)
According to Islam, the other great monotheistic religions (Judaism and Christianity) are recipients of the same divine revelation received by Muhammad - although they are believed to have strayed from the original message. Therefore, Christians and Jews are accorded a special status as Ahl al-Kitaab (People of the Book).
While both the English word 'monotheism' and the Arabic 'tawhid' mean essentially the same thing - the belief that there is but one God - Islam expresses the concept somewhat differently. For Islam, God has certain attributes, and the belief in the oneness of God (Allah) therefore means not ascribing those attributes to others. The counterpart to tawhid is shirk, which translates as 'polytheism' but literally means sharing Allah's attributes with others.
Mainstream Sunni Islam considers tawhid to be divided into three categories, originally delineated by Abu Hanifa. Each can be negated by particular types of shirk. Certain Islamic radicals posit a fourth category, tawhid al-hakamiyyah.
CategoryDescriptionViolated by
Tawhid al-ibadaOnly God may be served/worshipped.
  • Outward shirk - worship of other Gods.
  • Hidden shirk - showing off.
  • Tawhid al-RububiyyaOnly Allah creates, sustains and is Lord of, Creation
  • Belief in more than one God
  • Atheism
  • Tawhid al-Asma wal-SifatCertain Names and Attributes unique to Allah
    (Nothing resembles Allah, Allah does not resemble his creations)
  • Deification of humans
  • Anthropomorphism of Allah
  • Tawhid al-Hakamiyyah*Allah alone has sovereignty over men
  • Allowing humans to govern human society
  • * Only recognised by a radical minority.
    Neo-tawhid While all Muslims are monotheists, several extreme interpretations of tawhid have arisen. The most prominent of these are 'Wahhabism' and some branches of Salafism (particularly those influenced by Maulana Maududi), both of which draw inspiration from the writings of Ibn Taymiyyah. This more extreme interpretation of tawhid, which has been used as a license to condemn ordinary Muslims as polytheists, is sometimes referred to by political theorists as neo-tawhid.
    The doctrine of Neo-Tawhid is very broad in identifying those attributes that can only be attributed to Allah, and very strict in condemning those practices seen to ascribe those attributes to others. For example, some Muslims pray at the tombs or shrines of Prophets, Saints or their own deceased relatives, asking them to intercede with Allah. Since receiving prayers is one of the attributes of Allah, the practitioners of neo-tawhid condemn prayers for intercession as shirk. When the Wahhabis invaded Mecca, they destroyed the tomb of Muhammad on the basis that although a Prophet, Muhammad is only a man who received Allah's message, and paying respects at his tomb was therefore tantamount to the pagan worship of a graven idol.
    The willingness to attack centuries-old Muslim practices as bida (innovation) and shirk underscores the fundamental division between neo-tawhid and Traditional Islam.
    Muwahid Those who followed the teachings of Muhammad Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab are often called 'Wahhabis', however 'Wahhab' is one of the names of Allah.1 It is considered shirk to take one of the names of Allah (as described, for example, in 'Abd al-Wahhab's own book, Kitaab Al-Tawheed (Book of Monotheism) chapter 45). For this reason, 'Abd al-Wahhab's followers called themselves Muwahidin, or Monotheists. (Also transliterated Muwahiddin.) 1 'Abd al-Wahhab, on the other hand, means slave of Wahhab.
    Note Some translators have incorrectly translated tawhid as "Unity", especially when translating the name of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terrorist organisation, Al-Tawhid w'al-Jihad (Monotheism and Holy Struggle, since renamed Al-Qaeda Organisation for Jihad in Iraq).

    Author Trevor Stanley
    The author does not claim to be a qualified religious scholar.
    Other sources
  • Muhajabah: An Introduction to Islamic Monotheism
  • Wikipedia: Definition of Tawhid
  • TheTrueReligion: What is Tawheed?
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    Trevor Stanley, Definition: Wahid - Tawhid - Neo-Tawhid, Perspectives on World History and Current Events, July 2005. URL: Downloaded:
    See AlsoShirk, kufr, Islamism, Ibn Taymiyya, Maulana Maududi, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

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