Al-Tawhid (1)

Kitāb al-Tawḥīd (Arabic: کتاب التوحید ) (lit. The Book of Divine Unity) is one of the earliest and the most significant theological sources which is compiled by the reputable Muhaddith (hadith scholar) of fourth/tenth century, Muhammad b. 'Ali b. Babiwayh, known as al-Shaykh al-Saduq. This book is about monotheism in its general sense (knowing about Allah) and comprises narrations about the unity of the Divine essence, affirmation and negation attitudes in understanding Divine attributes, attributes of essence and attributes of action and their relation to the Divine essence, eternity and temporality, predestination and divine providence, determinism and absolute freewill and the related topics.

This book is a hadith collection wherein al-Shaykh al-Saduq, with the slightest degree of interference in the texts of narrations, presents theological discussions. His motive for compiling such a book was to respond to the accusations which were made against Shi'a beliefs by the enemies of Shi'a. This book has always been at the center of Shi'a scholar's attention as one of the most authentic hadith sources whose content would be cited for various theological discussions.

Author

Main article: Shaykh al-Saduq

Abu Ja'far Muhammad b. 'Ali b. Al-Ḥusayn b. Musa al- Qummi (after 305/917 — 381/991), commonly known as al-Shaykh al-Saduq, or Ibn Babawayh, was one of the greatest Shi'a Muhaddiths (hadith scholar) and the compiler of Man la yahduruh al-faqih, one of the four major books of Shi'a.

Al-Shaykh al-Saduq was the most prominent Muhaddith and scholar of the hadith school of Qom. Al-Saduq began teaching and narrating hadiths from a young age, and continued to do so during his travels. He had many students, and many scholars narrated hadith on his authority. His epithet, al-Saduq (the Truthful), indicates his reliability as a hadith transmitter in the eyes of Shi'a scholars.

Attribution to al-Shaykh al-Saduq

There's no doubt that this book was compiled by al-Shaykh al-Saduq and he himself mentions this book in his other works. According to al-Majlisi, the reliability of attribution of all available works of al-Saduq to him, except for few, is not less than the reliability of attribution of the four books to their authors.

Motivation

Ibn Babiwayh says that he had written this book to respond to the enemies or critics of Shi'a who accused Shi'a of believing in divine corporeality or predestination, because of their propaganda, and caused many not to join this sect. To understand the root of such a problem one needs to look into some of the Ghulats who fabricated many narrations about divine corporeality and predestination. Such accusations were mainly made by Mu'tazilas of the time, like Khayyat who repeatedly mentions these allegations in his book Intisar. Sometimes even some Shi'a theologians criticized the theological school of Qom, which was largely founded on narrative basis in matters of theology, with the fact that these bases would lead to the aforementioned problems. In early fourth century, Abu al-Hasan Ash'ari attributed to Shi'a the belief in Tajsim (divine corporeality) and Tashbih (divine anthropomorphism) even the traditionalist and narrative-inclined body of Sunnis that was remarkably involved in more excessive forms of belief in corporeality and predestination, accused Shi'a of exaggerations in affirming divine attributes and corporeality.

Significance

Background

The title "al-Tawhid" in early centuries of Islam, had been an indication of theological outlines and directions of different sects and schools; for the same reason, many theorists in different Islamic sects used such manifestos with the title al-Tawhid, to introduce the teachings of their sect. Some of such theorists are as follows:

  • Some figures among Khawarij
  • Some of Mu'tazilas
  • Hisham b. Hakam (the known pupil of Imam al-Sadiq (a))
  • Hasan b. Musa al-Nawbakhti
  • Hasan b. Salih b. Hay (from Zaydis)

Likewise, Hadith promoters from among Sunnis and Shi'a, set forth particular books with the title al-Tawhid to present their opinions based on verses of the Qur'an and narrations. Aside from al-Tawhid lil-Mufaddal -that is believed to have been stated under the authority of Imam al-Sadiq (a) - some individuals like: Ibn Abi al-Khattab (d.262/876) and 'Ali b. Husayn Babiwayh (d.329/941), the father of al-Shaykh al-Saduq, have authored books about al-Tawhid too. Furthermore, within Hadith collections like al-Kafi, a specific chapter titled: al-Tawhid, is dedicated to this topic. Similar situation existed among Sunnis in the late third to fourth centuries; in addition to Ibn Khuzayma, some individuals like: Ibn Minda (310/922-395/1005) in al-Tawhid wa ma'rifat asma' Allah ta'ala, and Hafiz Darqutni (306/918-385/995) in al-Tawhid wa al-sifat and each of Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud and Ibn Maja within their Hadith collections and under titles like: Kitab al-Iman (the chapter on Faith) or al-rad ala al-jahmiyya (refuting Jahmiyya) have dealt with the issues of Tawhid and divine attributes. Historically speaking, in the fourth/tenth century, with the emergence of a gradual weakness in Mu'tazila school and the start of consolidation of Ash'ari school, the field of narrations started to play major roles in theological matters and among the theological works within this narrative-inclined movement, probably the book al-Tawhid written by Ibn Khuzayma and the chapter al-Tawhid of al-Kafi were noteworthy to al-Saduq.

Reception by Shi'a Scholars

Considering the background discussions about divine essence and attributes, and taking into account the narrative and theological Shi'a heritage and observing the effects of Sunni hadith movement, al-Shaykh al-Saduq started to compile al-Tawhid to deny the accusations of the belief in divine corporeality and predestination and to set forth foundations of Shi'a belief based on verses of the Qur'an and narrations.

About the historical position and the significance of this book, in addition to what has already been said, one must take into account the status of the author as one of the three great jurists and Muhaddiths of Shi'a Imamiyya who compiled the four major books of Shi'a hadith collections. Al-Tawhid has been at the center of Shi'a scholars' attention and is deemed as one of the most authentic Hadith sources whose content would be cited. For example, in volumes dedicated to al-Tawhid and Divine Justice from Bihar al-anwar, al-'Allama al-Majlisi in numerous occasions has used the narrations of this book from its old manuscripts which were at his disposal.

Book's Content

The book al-Tawhid in which al-Saduq has used narrations as substantive bases for proving or explaining theological concepts is in fact a well-established theological discipline founded on the bases of the texts of hadith with the least interference possible. However, in this work al-Saduq has put greater emphasis on the issue of Divine attributes from among various topics related to Tawhid and the Divine Being; this in turn shows the polemic attitude of the book towards other opposing movements or its defensive nature amid accusations against Shi'a theological structure. The main opponents in such polemic discussions are Mushabbiha (those who believe in analogous anthropomorphism of the Divine essence) and Mujassima (those who believe in divine corporeality) although this does not necessarily reflect that Shi'a and Mu'tazilas are in the same theological stances.

The topic of this book is Tawhid in its general sense, therefore in addition to discussing the Unity of Divine Being and its attributes, it comprises issues like:

  • Eternity and temporality (of the creation)
  • Predestination and divine providence
  • Determinism and absolute freewill and the related topics with divine justice and human freewill

Latter topics in later periods of theological discussions, turned to be a subdivision of Divine actions. In later periods to this day, these issues are addressed under an independent title for Divine Justice in theological works. It seems that in the use and application of such great notion of Tawhid which comprises all related aspects to the Divine Being, al-Saduq follows the footsteps of al-Kulayni in al-Kafi. This is when Ibn Khuzayma (d.311/923) the author of al-Tawhid who is contemporary with al-Kulayni, discussed such topics as divine providence and predestination, determinism and freewill in his al-Qadar.

Continue in the next article: ( Al-Tawhid (2) )