Chapter 2: Tawḥīd al-Rubūbiyyah (Oneness of Lordship)
Concerning its meaning, then linguistically, the word rubūbiyyah is the verbal noun of rababa, from which the word rabb (lord) has been derived. The word rubūbiyyah is an attribute of Allah, having been derived from the noun al-Rabb (the Lord), which further suggests a host of meanings in the Arabic language, such as an owner of something, an obeyed master or sovereign, and a reformer. As for the legislative meaning of the word, then it means to believe that Allah is One and Unique in all His actions. These includes His acts of creating, providing, possessing, shaping, bestowing, denying, inflicting harm, giving life, and causing death. As well as belief in His preordainment, sovereignty, kindness, perfect control and management, and all others acts that have mentioned as being exclusive to Him. A person must believe in all of them.
Concerning the proofs for this from the Qur’an, Allah says,
“He created the heavens without pillars that you see and has cast into the earth firmly set mountains, lest it should shift with you, and dispersed therein from every creature. And We sent down rain from the sky and made grow therein [plants] of every noble kind. This is the creation of Allah. So show Me what those other than Him have created. Rather, the wrongdoers are in clear error.” (Q, 31:10-1)
“Or were they created by nothing, or were they the creators [of themselves]?” (Q, 52:35)
As for the proofs from the sunnah, we have that which has been recorded by Imām Aḥmad and Abū Dāwūd on the authority of ‘Abdullāh b. al-Shikhīr that Allah’s Messenger said,
“Allah is the Master, glorified and exalted is He.”
In another ḥadīth, the Prophet advised ibn ‘Abbās with the following,
“Know that if people were to unite to do you a favor, they would only be able to do so to the extent of what Allah has decreed for you. If they were to unite to inflict any harm upon you, they would only be able to do so to the extent of what He has decreed to befall you. The Pen has been lifted and the pages have already dried.”
Concerning the rational proof for this, then it is that Allah’s existence, His exclusive qualities of Lordship, and His absolute power and control over His entire creation are all indisputable. This is a fact even when logical reasoning is employed, which involves pondering over the signs of Allah, which are simultaneously proofs for His existence. Reflecting on those signs and consequently deriving proof of Allah’s Lordship from them is usually done through different means, the most common being: First, pondering over the signs of Allah regarding creation of the human soul. The human soul is one of Allah’s great signs suggesting clearly that He is the only and unique Lord, who has neither associates nor partners. Allah says,
“Also in your selves [there are signs], so will you not then see?” (51:21)
“[By] the soul, and Him who perfected it.” (Q, 91:7)
Whoever reflects deeply upon the marvelous works of Allah, as manifested in the very making of his own the soul, will realize the existence of the All Wise and the All Aware Lord and Creator. It is impossible for a person to create a drop of sperm, which is the genesis of his own creation. Neither is it conceivable that he himself converted that drop of sperm into a clot, nor that he transformed that clot into a little lump of flesh, nor that he fashioned that little lump of flesh into bones and then clothed the bones with flesh.
Second, reflecting upon the signs of Allah regarding the creation of the universe. It constitutes another great sign of Allah which is of his Lordship. Allah says,
“We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth.1 But is it not sufficient concerning your Lord that He is, over all things, a Witness?” (Q, 41:53)
Whoever ponders deeply over the entire universe: the heavens, the earth, and all that is between them in terms of the stars, the sun, the moon, the mountains, the trees, the oceans, the rivers, and all that which is encompassed by the day and the night, along with the impeccable running of the entire universe, will conclude that such as great creation must have a creator and administrator who is solely responsible for its administration. Additionally, the more sensible the person is who ponders with deep contemplation over these amazing and unprecedent creations of Allah, the closer he will come to realizing that they are all created for the truth and with the truth. That they are scrolls of signs and books of evidence and proof for all that which Allah has informed us concerning Himself and His tawḥīd.
It has been related that some people came to Abū Ḥanīfah to argue with him on the question of believing in Allah as the only and unique Lord (tawḥīd al-rubūbiyyah). The Imām said to them, “Before we begin to speak on this matter, may I ask you to inform me of a boat found on the Tigris River, which leaves the coast by itself, get itself filled with provisions and other things, and then returns to the coast and anchors itself without the intervention of anyone?” The said, “This is implausible; absolutely impossible!” The Imām then said, “If that is impossible in the case of an ordinary boat, then how can it be feasible with regard to the entire universe with all its heights and depts?” Thus, Imām Abū Ḥanīfah highlighted the congruity of the universe, the accuracy of its making, and the perfection of its creation as clear evidence for the oneness and uniqueness of the Creator.
Belief Alone in Tawḥīd al-Rubūbiyyah Cannot Save the Believer from Punishment
It has been mentioned previously that belief in the Tawḥīd al-Rubūbiyyah is one of the three constituent parts of Islamic monotheism, and so belief in Allah’s oneness cannot be valid without it. However, this aspect of tawḥīd has never been the sole reason for sending Allah’s Messengers to their people, and so it cannot alone earn a person immunity from Allah’s punishment if he does not supplement it with another inherent component of tawḥīd, which is Tawḥīd al-Ulūhiyyah (Oneness in Divinity). Allah says,
“And most of them believe not in Allah except while they associate others with Him.” (Q, 12:106)
The thing of importance here is that although most of them may fulfill the requirements of Tawḥīd al-Rubūbiyyah, believing in Allah as their Lord, Creator, and Provider, and in whose Hands is the control of all affairs, yet they associate partners with Him by worshipping other things, such idols, which are neither capable of inflicting harm or extending benefit, nor have the ability to bestow or deprive any good. What has been given here as the meaning of this verse in in fact a representation of the opinion of the exegetes among the Companions of the Prophet as well as their followers.
Ibn ‘Abbās said, “It was part of their faith that whenever they were asked, ‘Who created the heavens, the earth, and the mountains?’ They would say, ‘Allah.’ But they were polytheists.”
‘Ikrimah said, “If you ask them, ‘Who created them, the heavens and the earth?’ They will say, ‘Allah.’ But their faith is all about this, and they still worshipped others besides Him.”
Mujāhid, another prominent scholar, said, “Their faith was just what they declared of their belief in Allah as their Creator, who sustains them and would eventually cause them to die. That was nevertheless, a faith coupled with polytheism, since they also worshipped others with Him.”
‘Abd al-Raḥmān b. Zayd b. Aslam b. Zayd said, “No one worships something besides Allah, unless he has certain belief in Him and knows that He is his Lord, Creator, and Provider, even though he associates partners with Him. Do you not ponder over how Ibrāhīm addressed his people when he said, ‘Then do you see what you have been worshipping, you and your forefathers! They are all indeed an enemy to me, except the Lord of the worlds.’” [Q, 26:75-77]
The statements of the salaf in this regard are numerous. Besides, pagans in the days of the Prophet also believed in Allah as their Lord, Creator, and Provider, and that he controls and manages all things. They were, however, unbelievers on account of their worship, having set up partners with Allah. They would invoke and call upon them for help, whenever they were in need.
It is mentioned in many places in the Qur’an that the polytheists, in spite of worshipping other things, believed in the Lordship of Allah. Allah says,
“If you asked them, ‘Who created the heavens and earth and subjected the sun and the moon?’ They would surely say, ‘Allah.’ Then how are they deluded?” (Q, 29:61)
“If you asked them, ‘Who sends down rain from the sky and gives life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness?’ They would surely say, ‘Allah.’ Say, ‘Praise be to Allah,’ but most of them do not reason.” (Q, 29:63)
“If you asked them who created them, they would surely say, ‘Allah.’ So how are they deluded?” (Q, 43:87)
“Say, ‘To whom belongs the earth and whoever is in it, if you should know?’ They will say, ‘To Allah.’ Say, ‘Then will you not remember?’ Say, ‘Who is Lord of the seven heavens and Lord of the Great Throne?’ They will say, ‘Allah.’ Say, ‘Then will you not be conscious of Him?’ Say, ‘In whose hand is the realm of all things, and He protects while none can protect against Him, if you should know?’ They will say, ‘Allah.’ Say, ‘Then how are you deluded?’” (Q, 23:84-9)
At no time have the polytheists considered heir idols to be the one sending the rain or providing the needs of Allah’s creation. Neither did they believe that the idols have control of the affairs of the world. All this they regarded as distinctive qualities of Allah, as they admitted that the idols that they called upon instead of Him were ordinary creatures that could neither benefit nor harm themselves or their worshippers. Equally, they believed that those idols possessed neither death, life, nor power to raise the dead, and that they do not hear or see. They acknowledged that the ability to do all this belongs only to Allah, and that neither they nor their idols have any share of it. Furthermore, they held that Allah alone is the Creator and the Lord, and all that which exists other than him is created by Him and under His authority. Those polytheists, however, attributed to Allah partners and intermediaries from His own creation, whom they thought could intercede with Him on their behalf an bring them closer to Him. Concerning this Allah says,
“Those who take protectors besides Him [say], ‘We only worship them that they may bring us nearer to Allah in position.’” (Q, 39:3)
So that they may intercede with Allah on their behalf, to gain His provision and help in whatever may befall them of worldly calamities.
The polytheists were not regarded as Muslims, despite this general attestation concerning their belief in Allah’s Lordship. On the contrary, Allah declared them as unbelievers and polytheists, and threatened to punish them with the everlasting torment of Hell, and the Messenger also said that fighting against them is lawful. This is all because of their failure to confirm their belief in Allah’s Lordship through worshipping Him alone.
It should not be clear that solely believing in Allah’s Lordship, without believing in Him as being the only One that should be worshipped, is not enough and cannot save one from His punishment; rather, such faith in Allah’s Lordship must be seen as substantial evidence which indicates that the religion should be solely for Him and that none should be worshipped besides Him.
Aspects of Deviation Concerning Tawḥīd al-Rubūbiyyah
Humanity generally has a natural disposition to believe in Allah’s oneness, along with a great amount of evidences that point to this as well. In spite of this, certain errors are committed by some people, some of which are: First is the outright denial of Allah’s Lordship. Disbelief in His very existence constitutes a major aspect of this deviation. This can be observed in the behavior of the atheists who see Allah’s creation as a mere manifestation of nature or just mere coincidence of time, or something similar. Allah says,
“They say, ‘There is not but our worldly life; we die and live, and nothing destroys us except time.’” (Q, 45:24)
A second deviation is denying some of Allah’s attributes or part of the features of His Lordship. For example, a person disbelieves in Allah’s power to cause him to die or be resurrected after his death. Or he denies Allah’s ability to bring him any good or repel from him any harm, as well as other things.
A third deviation is to give any of Allah’s exclusive attributes of Lordship to someone or something. It is an act of polytheism to regard someone or something as having a share with Allah in His dominion of the universe from any aspect, such as creation or destruction, giving life or extinguishing it, or bring benefiting or warding harm, as well as any other feature of Lordship.
 Tirmidhī no. 2516 and Aḥmad 1/307.