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Malik and al-Shafi‘i’s Understanding

of Tawhid

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Al-Shafi‘i (رضي الله عنه) said:[1]

I asked Malik about tawhid and he said:

“It is absurd to think that the Prophet ﷺ taught his Community hygiene but did not teach them tawhid. He said: ’I was ordered to fight people until they say la ilaha illallah.’"[2]

Malik (رضي الله عنه) showed thereby that what is required of people in tawhid is the meaning illustrated by this hadith. He never said that part of tawhid is to belive that Allah in the upward direction.[3]


Al-Shafi’i[4] was asked about the Divine Attributes. He said:

It is forbidden for minds to represent Allah.[5] It is forbidden for the imagination to conceive limits for Him. It is forbidden for speculation to presume anything about Him. It is forbidden for souls to think about His Essence. It is forbidden for consciences to deepen reflection about Him. It is forbidden for thoughts to grasp other than what He described Himself with,[6] as conveyed by His Prophet ﷺ.

Oriental Pattern


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  1. Source: The Refutation of Him Who Attributes Direction to Allah p.160

    NB: The latinized Arabic is not perfect. May the reader exercise some forbearance.

  2. Narrated from al-Muzani by al-Sulami cf. Siyar ( Risala ed. 10:26). See note 253 on the hadith. Sumilary, Abu Hanifa (رضي الله عنه) said in the Fiqh al-Akbar: “The root of the affirmation of Drvine unity and sound conviction is to say, ’I believe in Allah, His angels, His Books, His Messengers, resurrection after death, the foreordainment of good and evil by Allah Most High, the Reckoning, the Balance, peradise and hell, and that all these are real.” And in the Wasiyya: “The believer us truly a believer and the unbeliever is truly an unbeliever. […] People are in three classes: the believer sincere in his faith; the unbelever upholding hus unbehef and the hypocrite dissembiing his hypocrisy.”  ↩

  3. Similarly, Ahmad (رضي الله عنه) said in one of the narrations of his ’Aqida: “The Believer from Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama’a is someone who bears witness that there is no god but Allah alone without partner whatsoever and that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger.” Ibn Abi Ya`la, Tabaqat al-Hanabila (1:293)  ↩

  4. Similarly, Ahmad said: “Truly, we concede whatever those hadiths say even if we have no knowledge of their explanation (fa-innaa nusallim lahaa wa-in lam na‘lam tafsiirahaa). We do not discuss them. We do not dispute about them. We do not explain them. Rather, we narrate them exactly the way they came to us, we believe in them, and we know that they are [the] truth, just as the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said.” Ibn Abi Ya‘ la, op. cit. (1:311).  ↩

  5. He also said: “I believe in what comes from Allah in the meaning meant (muraad) by Allah and I believe in what comes from the Messenger of Allah in the meaning meant by the Messenger of Allah ﷺ.” Cited by [by Qudaama in Lam’at al-I‘ tiqad (Ryadh ed. p. 10 = Damascus ed. p. 9 = ‘Uthaymin ed. p. 36) and Dhamm al-Ta’wil (1994 ed. p.9 = 1981 ed. p.11 and 1994 ed. p. 42 = 1986 ed. p. 44), al-Mawahibi in al-Ayn wal-Athar (Damascus: al-Mamuun ed.) p. 62, and Ibn Taymiyya in al-Risala al-Madaniyya (p. 121), al ‘Aqida al-Asfahaniyya (p. 86), and Majmu’ al Fataawaa (4:2 and 6:354)  ↩

  6. Similarly, Ahmad said: ”We believe and confirm the hadiths of the Attributes without ’how’ and without meaning (wa laa kayf wa-laa mana).” Narrated from Hanbal ibn Ishaq through al Khallaal by Ibn Qudama in Dhamm al-Ta’wil (p. 22-21) and Lamat al-I`tiqaad (p. 9) as well as Ibn Batta in al-Ibaana (3:58)  ↩

  7. Narrated from al-Rabii`ibn Sulaymaan by Ibn Qudaama in Dhamm al-Ta’wiil (p. 20–21 PARAGRAF 34).  ↩


* Living Islam – Islamic Tradition *