Question: What is the meaning of Kalimat at-tawhid?
When one becomes a Muslim, first and foremost, it is obligatory for one to know and believe in the meaning of the phrase La ilaha ill-Allah Muhammadun Rasul-Allah. This phrase is called Kalimat at-tawhid. The brief meaning of it is as follows: There is no god except Allah and Muhammad ‘alaihis-salam is His Messenger.
Ahl as-Sunnah scholars explain the meaning of the Kalimat at-tawhid as follows:
Human beings were nonexistent. They were created later. They have one Creator. He is the One who has created everything. The Creator is one. He does not have a partner or a likeness. There is no second He. He has been ever-existent; His existence did not have a beginning. He will be ever-existent; there is no end to His existence. He will not cease to exist. His existence is always necessary. His nonexistence is impossible. His existence is of Himself; He does not need any means. He is the One who creates everything and makes them go on existing. He is not material or a thing. He is not at a place or in any substance. He does not have a shape and cannot be measured. It cannot be asked how He is; when we say “He," none of the things which occur to the mind or which we can imagine is He. He is unlike these. All of them are His creatures. He is not like His creatures. He is the Creator of everything that occurs to mind, every illusion, and every delusion. He is not above, below, or at one side. He does not have a place. Every being is below the ’Arsh. And the ’Arsh is under His Power, under His Omnipotence. He is above the ’Arsh. Yet this does not mean that the ’Arsh carries Him. The ’Arsh exists with His favor and in His Omnipotence. He is the same now as He was in eternity, in eternal past. He will always be the same in the everlasting future as He had been before creating the ’Arsh. No change occurs in Him. He has His own Attributes. His Attributes called As-Sifat ath-Thubutiyya are eight: Life, Omniscience, Hearing, Seeing, Omnipotence, Will, Speech, and Creativeness. No change ever occurs in these attributes of His. Change implies deficiency. He has no deficiency or defect. Though He does not resemble any of His creatures, it is possible to know Him in this world as much as He makes Himself known and to see Him in the Hereafter. Here He is known without realizing how He is, and there He will be seen in an incomprehensible way.
Allahu ta’ala sent prophets to His human creatures. Through these great people, He showed His human creatures the deeds that bring happiness and those which cause ruination. The most exalted prophet is Muhammad ’alaihis-salam, the Last Prophet. He was sent as the Prophet for every person, pious or irreligious, for every place, and for every nation on Earth. He is the Prophet for all human beings, angels, and genies. In every corner of the world, everybody has to follow him and adapt himself/herself to this exalted Prophet. (Kimya-i Sa’adat)
Tawhid and iman
Question: Could you give us information about tawhid, that is, believing in that there is no god other than Allah?
Hadrat Imam-i Ghazali states:
Tawhid is like a fresh walnut. Everybody knows two shells of a walnut as well as its kernel. And the kernel of its kernel is its oil. Munafiqs [hypocrites, people who pretend to be a Muslim though being a disbeliever] say “La ilaha ill-Allah” with the tongue only, and they do not believe it with the heart. This is the first grade of tawhid.
The second grade: This is the heart’s believing in the meaning of tawhid. This belief is either by seeing, hearing from others, e.g. the belief of us, the ignorant people, or one believes through proofs, with mind’s proving. So is the belief of the scholars of the religion, of the masters of the knowledge of Kalam.
The third grade: This is to see that one Creator creates everything, to realize that all work is done by one agent only and that none else does anything. This seeing and understanding requires a nur [light, halo] being lit in the heart. Such an iman [belief] is unlike the iman of the ignorant or of the scholars of Kalam. For example, there are three kinds of believing that the resident of a house is in the house:
1. To believe it by hearing someone say so. The iman through imitation is a reminiscence of this.
2. To believe by seeing the things used by the resident every day, such as his mount, his headgear and shoes in the house. This is an example for the iman of the scholars of Kalam.
3. To believe by seeing the resident in the house. This is an example for the tawhid of ‘arifs. Though such tawhid has a very high grade, its owner sees the creatures and knows that they were created by the Creator. Since the creatures are seen, the tawhid cannot be perfect.
The fourth grade: Such a person sees one being. It is not seen more than one. Sufis call this state Fana in tawhid.
Of the four grades above:
The first one is the tawhid of munafiqs, and it is like the outer shell of a walnut. As the outer shell of a walnut is bitter and looks ugly from within though a lovely green from outside, and when burned it makes lots of smoke and puts the fire out and is useless except that it protects the walnut for a few days. As to the tawhid of munafiqs, since it is not known by people that they are munafiq, people consider them Muslims.
The second grade is the tawhid of the ignorant and of the scholars of Kalam. It is like the wooden second shell of the walnut. As this wooden shell of the walnut does not avail except to protect the walnut for a while, so this grade of tawhid avails only in protecting people from Hell fire.
The third grade is like the walnut’s kernel. It is the edible and useful part.
The fourth grade is like that the kernel of a walnut is eaten and digested until it has reached to your cells.