Al-Tawhid (2)

Approving and Disapproving Mu'tazilas

Although some of al-Tawhid stances are similar to that of Mu'tazilas. Some accepted areas are:

  • The objective same-ness of divine essence and divine attributes
  • Denying the concept of objective addition of divine attributes to the divine essence
  • Denying divine anthropomorphism
  • Rejecting negative reductionism in understanding essential attributes like diminishing the state of Omnipotence as merely "not being incapable"
  • The corporeal nature of the divine word and the corporeality of the Qur'an (along with avoiding the use of adjective "created" for Qur'an).

There are disagreements with them in certain areas. Some disputed areas with Mu'tazilas are:

  • Rejection the notion and implications of Tafwid (the belief that God has no role in worldly affairs)
  • Recognition of the shortcomings of intellect in comprehending the true reason of things or the ultimate objective distinction between right and wrong
  • The belief that the fulfillment of commination by God is not necessary
  • The belief that Major Sins are forgivable.

In addition to these, the great emphasis on the limitations of human intellect in understanding Divine essence and the knowledge of Asma' (divine attributes) and reserving the intellectual discourse to the Divine Greatness and whatever is beneath 'Arsh (the Throne) and generally, the insufficiency of intellectual capacity in understanding divine realities is a clear contrast to the excessive reliance of Mu'tazilite on the reason.

The Application of Kalam

In this work, al-Saduq criticizes theology and theologians. Historically speaking, however, opposition to theology and equating it with polytheism and Bid'a (heresy in religion) by creating a chapter on the prohibition of theology and warning of its perishing nature and absolute rejection against theology are coexisting and correlated with certain movements such as Mu'tazilite and Jahmiyya; that's because no other theological movement existed within the period of those narrations, that is from Imam al-Baqir (a) to Imam al –Rida (a). Nevertheless, the author's own opinions and inferences in different occasions to explain the meanings of certain narrations are presented in a complete theological design while theological concepts and methods are applied in them. In addition to this, the book al-Tawhid is a precious source for understanding early differences and schisms within Shi'a community. Like:

  • The Analogous (Tashbihi) theory attributed to Hisham b. Salim Jawaliqi and Maythami and Abu Ja'far al-Taq
  • The Corporeal Theories of the Divine essence which is attributed to some other individuals
  • The belief in the objective distinction between the Divine essence and its attributes
  • The disagreement among some companions of Imam al-Baqir (a) about the Divine pre-creation knowledge
  • The discussion about whether or not the Holy Qur’an was created (correspondent to the discussion of its eternal -uncreated in time- or temporal –created in time- essence)
  • Disagreement in predestination and absolute freewill


Methodologically speaking, al-Saduq has adopted a particularly unique attitude in this book. He has documented certain narrations of some companions of the holy Prophet (s), that is, narrations transmitted through:

  • 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar
  • Abu Hurayra
  • 'Uthman b. 'affan

His concern over the accuracy of the selected narrations and their coherence between titles and contents is so considerable that even a single repeated, unrelated narration is not found in his book. However, in certain occasions, he immediately reconciles the seeming contradiction by a proper explanation. A quick comparison between this book and its equivalent in Sunni hadith circles reveals al-tawhid's incomparable level of rationality and coherence of logical structure. Distinction between the Attributes of Essence (Hearing, Seeing, Knowledge, Power etc.) and the Attributes of Action (Speech, Will, Creation etc.) is discussed in this book too. There is an objective unity between the Divine Essence and its attributes, otherwise the problem of multiplicity of the Divine Essence or that of multiple eternals would rise. Instead, the attributes of action are objectively distinct from the Divine Essence. According to the author, the Attributes of Essence are the sign of negation-originated concepts (Divine Knowledge originally means: not being ignorant) and they are the only eternal attributes. However, the attributes of action have positive denotations but they are not eternal.

Moreover, al-Saduq relies on the narrations to explain certain verses that apparently suggest the corporeality of the Divine Essence. Verses that apply certain types of limbs like: hand, face, leg, eyes and ears) or present some anthropomorphic conditions and descriptions for God like:

  • Being beside
  • Being on the throne
  • Deception
  • Derision
  • Coming
  • Pleasure
  • Wrath

In addition to reconciling the seeming contradiction between these verses and the accepted beliefs of Shi'a, al-Saduq makes use of other Qur'anic verses and expressions like: Subhan Allah (exalted be Allah) and Allahu Akbar (God is [the] greatest) to reinforce his points. He also proves the accordance of Tawhid to the innate human nature based on the verse:

فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا ۚ فِطْرَ‌تَ اللَّـهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ‌ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا ۚ لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّـهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الدِّينُ الْقَيِّمُ وَلَـٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ‌ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ"

So set your heart as a person of pure faith on this religion, the original nature endowed by Allah according to which He originated mankind (There is no altering Allah’s creation; that is the upright religion, but most people do not know.)

Qur'an, 30:30

In these chapters –which occupy a large proportionate of the book- plus presenting Tafsir narrations and the author's explanations, his viewpoints in Tafsir and even Ta'wil can be found. In terms of the Divine Justice and the great foundation of rational distinction between good and evil ( al-Husn wa al-Qubh al-'aqliyyan) al-Saduq firstly excludes them from the scope of emotions and natural desires and attributes them to the faculty of reason and then, describes rationality of a given action as having a rational reason according to which human intellect adjudicates on its goodness.

Available Manuscripts

There are many manuscripts of al-Tawhid in the libraries of Iran. Some researchers have mentioned about 92 copies to be available. This book was printed for several times in Tehran, Mumby, Najaf, Beirut and Qom.


Considering its great theological position, many commentaries have been written on al-Tawhid. In 1083/1673, Sayyid Muhammad Khalil b. Rukn al-Din Husayni Kashani, a student of Mulla Muhsin Fayd Kashani, finished his concise philosophical-theological commentary on the book. In 11th/17th century, Shah Muhammad b. Shams al-Din Muhammad Istahbanati Shirazi wrote a translation along with a short explanation on al-tawhid titled Hal al-'aqa'id. Mulla Muhammad Baqir, famous as Muhaqqiq Sabziwari (d.1090/1680) wrote a Persian commentary on it. Qadi Sa'id Qummi paid special attention to the philosophical, theological and mystical bases within the book and wrote an extensive commentary on al-Tawhid. Sayyid Ni'mat Allah Jaza'iri wrote a couple of commentaries on al-Tawhid titled:

  • Nur al-barahin fi bayan akhbar al-sadat al-tahirin
  • Anis al-wahid fi sharh al-Tawhid

Also Amir 'Ali Na'ib al-Sidara wrote a commentary on al-Tawhid. Four concordances have been made to the narrations of al-Tawhid.