by Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips (Islamic Monotheism) 1990, 213 pp., $12.00
Tawheed Publications, PO Box 3835, Riyadh 11481, Saudi Arabia
What is Tawheed? In his Foreword, the author explains:
...Tawheed is the very foundation of Islam on which all the other pillars and principles depend. If one's Tawheed is not sound, the rest of one's Islam becomes, in effect, a series of pagan rituals. p.iv
Despite the importance of this doctrine, there is a dearth of books about this subject written specifically with the English-speaking Muslim in mind. This book is a welcome remedy to this problem. It provides a detailed discussion of a complex subject in a straightforward style, which with a few exceptions, is very readable. It includes an index of the hadiths cited, as well as an informative bibliography. Many parts of it were originally prepared as instructional materials for the Minaret ar-Riyadh English Medium Islamic School and have been circulated in Muslim communities across the United States and in the West Indies. Despite its apparently simple style, it is based upon deep and thorough scholarship. The author advises:
Although this book is based on the approach used in classical Arabic texts on the science of Tawheed such as al-'Aqeedah at-Tahaaweeyah, I have deliberately avoided the presentation of the theological issues found in classical works which have little or no relevance to modern English readers. p. vii
The foundation of the author's exposition of Tawheed is laid out in Chapter 1. It is devoted entirely to a detailed discussion of the meaning of the term Tawheed ("unification") and its three categories:
1) Tawheed ar-Ruboobeyah ("Maintaining the Unity of Lordship)
2) Tawheed al-Asmaa was-Sifaat ("Maintaining the Unit of Allah's Names and Attributes")
3) Tawheed al-'Ebaadah ("Maintaining the Unity of Allah's Worship")
He maintains that the three overlap and are inseparable to such a degree that whoever omits any single aspect has failed to complete the requirements of Tawheed and may be guilty of "shirk", the idolatrous association of partners with Allah. His arguments are supported by citations from various hadith, the Quran, and other sources. This method of exposition is used throughout the book.
The remainder of the book consists of discussions of diverse topics in support of his view of Tawheed. Many of these topics have seldom been discussed adequately in the Islamic literature for the English- speaking reader until now. The appeal of the book is further enhanced by the author's comparative consideration of diverse religious beliefs and practices such as Christianity, Judaism, Shi'ism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Yoruba, Sufism, Buddhism, Jainism. Darwinism and Marxism are even considered.
The following outline and summary of the remaining chapters of the book point out the depth and breadth of his treatment of the subject of Tawheed.
The discussion of shirk parallels the categories of Tawheed discussed in Chapter 1. It includes consideration of Shirk by Association, by Negation, by Humanization, and by Deification. The chapter concludes with the subjects of Major Shirk (the worship of any other than Allah) and Minor Shirk (riyaa, the practice of worship for show).
The subjects discussed include The Barzakh, (the partition between death and resurrection), Pre-Creation, (the soul of each child is created prior to its birth on earth), The Fitrah, (an infant's natural belief in Allah), the Born Muslim, (is not automatically guaranteed Paradise), the Covenant, (between man and Allah made during pre-creation is to practice the principle of Tawheed into our daily lives). Included is a refutation of the Hindu and Buddhist concept of reincarnation and Karma.
The subjects discussed include Charms, (such as the Rabbit's foot, horseshoes, and the improper use of the Quran), Ruling on Charms, (Charms are shirk), Omens (belief in omens, or tiyarah, was practiced in pre-Islamic Arabia, but is shirk in Islam), Fa'l, (the Good Omen, which has very limited and strict acceptance only if used as an "optimistic term"), and The Islamic Ruling on Omens, (belief in omens has been rejected by the Sunnah of the Prophet (saw).) This chapter concludes with a brief consideration of some of the more popular "bad luck" omens prevalent in Western society such as knocking on wood, spilling salt, breaking a mirror, black cats, and the # 13.
The subjects discussed are the World of the Jinn, (Jinn are a creation of Allah which co-exists with man on the earth and may have occult powers), the Islamic Ruling on Fortunetelling, (Islam opposes any form of association with those who practice fortunetelling), Visitation of Fortunetellers, (forbidden), Belief in Fortune Tellers, (makes a Muslim a disbeliever and includes those who read the books and writings of fortunetellers, listen to them on radio, or watch them on television). All the various methods of fortunetelling used around the world are forbidden, including palm-reading, I-Ching, fortune cookies, tea leaves, Zodiacal signs and Bio-rhythm computer programs.
The relatively lengthy principle subject of this chapter is the Arguments of Muslim Astrologists, (in support of the practice of astrology including the use of court astrologers by the later Umayyad caliphs), and the Islamic argument against it. The Islamic Ruling on Horoscopes (is that they are forbidden). This is a particularly important chapter because of the widespread belief and influence of astrology in Western society, and apparently among some contemporary Muslims.
This chapter discusses the Reality of Magic, and the Islamic Ruling on Magic (the practice and learning of magic is classified as Kufr). This fascinating chapter includes consideration of the reality of occult phenomena such as haunted houses, levitation, possession, clairvoyance, materialization and reincarnation. It offers some explanations for their causes, such as the influence of jinns, and concludes with a strong warning against involvement with magic. Like the previous chapter on astrology, this is another important one because of the widespread belief in the occult in Western society.
This chapter discusses the concept of Allah's transcendency over all creation, its Significance in helping man avoid belief in the erroneous concept of the immanence of Allah, the Danger of the Immanence Concept which could lead one to treat created matter as equal to Allah or to believe that one may be possessed of ivinity equal to Allah, and Clear Proofs of Allah's transcendency including consideration of the following proofs: natural proof, rayer proof, the Mir'raaj proof, Quranic proof, Hadeethic proof, logical proof, and the consensus of Early Scholars. The discussion of these proofs is sometimes tends to the abstract and may require diligent effort on the part of the reader to grasp.
This chapter discusses several diverse issues related to the question of whether or not Allah can be seen by humans. The issues include whether or not Allah was seen by Moses and Muhammad (saws), as well as the spiritual wisdom of not being able to see Allah.
This chapter discusses Saint worship and its bases, including Allah's Favor of some people over others as a test of their spiritual integrity; Taqwaa, the spiritual power of the pious, which cannot be judged by others; Wallee: the "Saint", the error of the Sufi practices of worshipping saints; Fanaa, the Sufi's mystical beliefs and practices which allegedly lead to union of Man with God; and Roohullaah, the "Spirit" of Allah mentioned in the Quran often used by Sufis to support the mystic belief in the re-unification of the human soul with Allah. The author makes a valiant attempt to discuss these complex ideas as clearly as possible.
This chapter discusses the practice of grave worship in Islam and rejects it. The discussion includes consideration of Prayers to the Dead, The Evolutionary Model of Religion, The Degeneration Model of Religion, The Beginning of Shirk, The Excessive Praise of the Righteous, Grave Restrictions, "Taking Graves as places of Worship". Masjids with Graves, The Prophet's Grave, Salaah in the Prophet's Masjid (salah may be performed). This chapter is very clear in its argument against grave worship, and includes an interesting reference to the Chinese practice of ancestor worship.
The book ends with a two page "Conclusion" which holds that
...it is the duty of every sincere believer in God to put aside his or her cultural experiences and emotional ties to family, tribe or nation, and acquire a working knowledge of Tawheed, the foundation of faith. For, it is only in the application of that knowledge that man may achieve salvation. p. 204.
This book is recommended reading. It provides a detailed exposition of Islamic monotheism written specifically with the English-speaking reader in mind. The book is a compact reference source for information on the principle of Tawheed as well as western and other beliefs and practices which may violate this principle. The knowledge it provides will help to keep the devout English-speaking Muslim, and others, on the Straight Path.
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