Abd Al-Kareem Al-Shahrastani (d. 548H) Explains the Tawheed of the Messengers - 'Wahhabism' in 6th Century Khurasan
Posted by Abu.Iyaad on Monday, October, 14 2013 and filed under Articles
Key topics: Al-Shahrastani Tawhid Al-Uluhiyyah Tawhid Al-Ibadah

The Book Niyaahat al-Iqdaam

To the right is a book "Niyaahat ul-Iqdaam Fee Ilm al-Kalaam" by the 6th century Ash'ari scholar Abd al-Kareem al-Shahrastani (d. 548H) - (Maktabah al-Thaqafah al-Deeniyyah, Cairo. 1430H). The book comprises the explanation of twenty principles and starts off with the standard treatment of the cosmological argument, huduth al-ajsaam (origination of bodies) which the Ahl al-Kalaam founded their religion upon and on account of which they denied the names, attributes and actions (to varying degrees) and assaulted the revealed texts through tahreef (distortion) in the name of ta'weel. You can learn more about that by following our systematic deconstruction of standard Ash'ari and Maturidi curriculum starting here. We have an interesting passage that relates to the issue of Tawhid and it will augment and support our previous articles (indicated earlier) establishing that the call to Tawhid al-Uluhiyyah (or Tawhid al-Ibadah) as distinct from affirmation of mere Rububiyyah is not the invention or fabrication of Ibn Taymiyyah or Ibn Abd al-Wahhaab. Let us see this passage and make the relevant comments upon it:

Tawhid and Shirk and The Point of Dispute Between the Messengers and Those to Whom They Were Sent

This passage occurs under the discussion of ta'weel (negation, divestment) and it is between pages 121-122:

As for denying the knowing, able, wise creator for the universe, then I have not observed this as the statement of anyone. Nor do I know any person holding a statement to be upon this (view) except what is cited from a small faction of materialist atheists, that they said: The universe was in distributed parts in eternity, without having any arrangement (order) then it shook, knocking together and through it the universe that you see in its current form took place. Then the orbital bodies took (spherical) shape and composite things came to be. But I do not consider the person holding this statement to be from those who deny a creator. Rather, he acknowledges a creator but he attributes the cause of the existence of the universe (as it currently is) to chance and coincidence so as to avoid affirming an actual cause. So I did not consider this issue from the theories for which an evidence can be established. For sound, innate human disposition bears witness to a knowing, powerful creator by necessity of its innate disposition and most elementary thinking, "Is there any doubt concerning Allaah, the Originator of the heavens and the earth?" ((14:10), "And if you were to ask them who created them, they will surely say, 'Allaah'." (43:87), "And if you were to ask them who created the heavens and the earth, they will surely say Allaah, the all-Mighty and all-Knowing created them" (43:8).

But (rather) they became heedless of (what) this innate disposition (necessitated from them) in the period of happiness (prosperity), for there is no doubt that they seek recourse (refuge) with Him in the time of hardship (calamity), "They invoke Allaah, making worship (deen) purely and sincerely for Him alone" (10:22), "And when harm touches you upon the sea, those that you call upon besides Him vanish from you except Him (Allah alone)" (17:67). For this reason, the obligation (takleef) did not come as (merely) having knowledge of the existence of the creator, rather it came as knowing Tawhid and negating (any) partner(s) [in worship], "I have been ordered to fight the people until they say, 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allaah'." And for this reason the point of contention between the Messengers and the creation was made with respect to Tawhid, "That is when Allah alone is invoked you disbelieved and if partners are associated with Him you believe" (40:12), "And when Allah Alone is mentioned, the hearts of those who believe not in the Hereafter are filled with disgust" (39:45), "And when you make mention of your Lord alone in the Qur'an [as worthy of worship], they turn on their backs, fleeing in extreme dislikeness." (17:46)

Comments and Notes

In the above citation, al-Shahrastani establishes that no one up until his time, not even the Dahriyyah (materalists) denied a creator in principle, and that the affirmation of a creator that is knowing and powerful is a matter rooted in the fitrah (innate disposition). This is the Ruboobiyyah that is rooted in the souls. After establishing this through verses of the Qur'an and through the verbal affirmation of the Mushriks to whom the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) was sent, he says:

But (rather) they became heedless of (what) this innate disposition (necessitated from them) in the period of happiness (prosperity), for there is no doubt that they seek recourse (refuge) with Him in the time of hardship (calamity)

And here he has produced the argument in the Book of Allaah the Exalted, and that which is found in the writings of Shaykh al-Islam Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahhab around 6-7 centuries later, that affirmation of Ruboobiyyah necessitates singling out Allaah in his Uloohiyyah (sole right to be worshipped), that the latter is binding from the affirmation of the former by necessity. Al-Shahrastani then cites part of the verse which in full is as follows:

هُوَ الَّذِي يُسَيِّرُكُمْ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ حَتَّى إِذَا كُنتُمْ فِي الْفُلْكِ وَجَرَيْنَ بِهِم بِرِيحٍ طَيِّبَةٍ وَفَرِحُواْ بِهَا جَاءتْهَا رِيحٌ عَاصِفٌ وَجَاءهُمُ الْمَوْجُ مِن كُلِّ مَكَانٍ وَظَنُّواْ أَنَّهُمْ أُحِيطَ بِهِمْ دَعَوُاْ اللّهَ مُخْلِصِينَ لَهُ الدِّينَ لَئِنْ أَنجَيْتَنَا مِنْ هَـذِهِ لَنَكُونَنِّ مِنَ الشَّاكِرِينَ

He it is Who enables you to travel through land and sea, till when you are in the ships and they sail with them with a favourable wind, and they are glad therein, then comes a stormy wind and the waves come to them from all sides, and they think that they are encircled therein, they invoke Allah, making their Faith pure for Him Alone, saying: "If You (Allah) deliver us from this, we shall truly be of the grateful." (10:22)

So al-Shahrastani says that in the time of prosperity, ease and safety they neglected this binding necessity of fitrah (innate disposition) despite seeking refuge with Allaah in times of hardship and calamity, knowing only invoking Him is going to save them in reality. Then he says:

For this reason, the obligation (takleef) did not come as (merely) having knowledge of the existence of the creator, rather it came as knowing Tawhid and negating (any) partner(s) [in worship]

Meaning that the obligation was not to come to know Allaah is the creator, unique in His actions of creating, owning, providing, giving life, taking life, providing benefit and removing harm, since all of that is fitriyy (innate knowledge) but it was to know Tawhid (of worship) and negate partners from Him in that worship. Then he cites a number of verses which make mention of the issue of da'wah (invocation, calling, supplicating) and that those who worship other deities are repulsed and become averse when only Allaah is mentioned and asked to be invoked alone.


What you have here essentially is the core elements of the introduction of the treatise Kashf al-Shubuhaat of Shaykh al-Islaam Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahhaab and it is similar to what is found in the writings of Fakhr al-Din al-Razi as we have discussed in more detail in the article, Fakhr ud-Din ar-Razi (d. 606H) : The Grave Worshippers Who Seek intercession Are Equivalent to the Idol Worshippers Who Seek Intercession (see here). The above information has extremely serious implications for todays Ash'arites many of whom are steeped in what al-Shahrastani (d. 548H) indicated here of a people invoking and seeking refuge in other than Allaah in times of ease (nay, the contemporaries invoke their deities in hardship too), and he preceded Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728H) and Ibn Abdul-Wahhaab (d. 1175H) in this notification by many centuries.

We ask Allaah on this blessed Day of Arafah, in the month of Dhul-Hijjah, 1434H to guide those misguided Ash'aris and Maturidis whose language of Aristotelian Tawhid has blinded them from truly understanding the reality of the Tawhid of the Messengers, even though its understanding can be found littered in some of the writings and statements of their very own Scholars in past history.

Further Reading and Study

Fakhr ud-Din ar-Razi (d. 606H) on Du'a (Invocation), Intermediaries, intercession, and Grave Worship:

  • (Part 1) - On grave worship, idol worship and Intercession
  • (Part 2) - Taking Prophets, Angels and Jinns as Intermediaries
  • (Part 3) - Taking the Prophets and Righteous Dead as Intermediaries
  • (Part 4) - Seeking the intercession of the Prophets and Righteous Dead
  • (Part 5) - Du'a (Invocation) Is the Greatest Form of Worship
  • (Part 6) - The Pagans Intend Worship of the Righteous Dead
  • (Part 7) - Soliciting intercession From the Created Leads to Prevention From It

    The essence of what is in these articles (all quotes from ar-Razi's tafsir) is the nature of idol-worship is the seeking intercession from the heavenly-spirits, angels, prophets, jinn, the righteous dead by offering worship to "focal-points" which are often statues or representations and which include the graves and tombs of the righteous dead, however it is not these "focal-points" that are the object of worship, the worship is really for the heavenly-spirits, angels, prophets, jinn and the righteous dead. These are venerated and worshipped with a view to winning their intercession. And ar-Razi considers all of this to be Shirk (associationism) and idol-worship. We can summarize the articles with the following:

    We have established previously that al-Razi, the Ash'ari scholar of the 6th and early 7th centuries, affirmed: a) That shafaa'ah (intercession) belongs to none but Allaah alone, and intercession can never take place except with Allah's permission - (see this article), b) That du'a (supplication) is the loftiest of the stations of al-ubudiyyah (servitude, worship), is the most excellent of the types of worship, and the reality of du'a is such that incorporates other forms of worship such as humility (dhull), servitude (uboodiyyah), incapacity (inkisaar), poverty, need (maskanah) - (see this article), c) That none of the pagans ever intended to worship the statues or idols, rather the acts of worship they performed were directed to those in the graves, and their reason was that they were intending to solicit their intercession - (see this article and this article), d) That many were found in the time of al-Razi who flocked to the graves and venerated them with the desire of soliciting the intercession of the righteous dead - (see here), e) That no nation in history ever believed in Ruboobiyyah for other than Allaah (with an exception for the Dualists) and that none of those who worship other than Allaah believe that what they worship has any independent power or control. And that what actually led people to worship things were certain philosophical and other reasons and from them were the soliciting of the intercession the pious, righteous dead. And further, that whatever they took as focal points of worship (pictures, idols, statues, graves, tombs) were never intended for worship at all, rather they were simply focal points to allow the direction of worship to the righteous dead - (see here), f) That whoever solicited and requested intercession from other than Allaah, has relinquished the intercession for Himself and invalidated it for himself - (see here).