The Meaning of “La-Ilaha-Illallah”
From The Book Shurootul-La-Ilaha-Illallah
The testimony of faith (Shahadah) means, “There are no gods or objects of worship which have the right to be worshipped except Allah.” It is built upon two fundamental pillars; the first which encompasses an absolute rejection and negation (nafee) of the presence of others gods which are worthy to be worshipped which is represented by the statement, “There is no god…” The second pillar encompasses the concept of confirmation (ithbaat) that the only one worthy to be worshipped is Allah (swt) alone which is represented by the statement, “…except Allah (swt).”
We have the following observations to be made regarding the above definition of the Shahadah,
Firstly: Whoever comes solely from the side of negation without confirming is not a true believer. And conversely whoever comes solely from the side of confirmation without negating is also not a true believer. A person can only be a true believer if he has both aspects of negation and confirmation present at the same time in their aqeedah (belief), speech and actions, outward and inner.
As Allah (swt) mentions regarding the companions of the cave,
“When you separate from them and the things they worship other than Allah, betake yourselves to the Cave.” [Surah al-Kahf 8:16]
They had both aspects of rejection and confirmation together; to separate from the disbelievers and whatever they worshipped in terms of false gods except Allah (swt). They did not reject to worship Allah (swt) since He is the only One worthy of being worshipped and to Him is the sole right for obedience and worship.
Similarly Allah (swt) said regarding the Prophet Ibraheem (as),
“Behold! Abraham said to his father and his people: ‘I indeed free myself of what you worship. (I worship) only Him Who made me, and He will certainly guide me.’” [Surah az-Zukhruf 43:26]
And Allah (swt) also mentions that Ibraheem (as) said,
“‘Do you see that which you have been worshipping, you and your fathers before you? For they are (all) enemies to me except the Lord and Cherisher of the Worlds (Allah).’” [Surah ash-Shua’ra 26:75-77]
In the previous ayaat, we find that the Prophet Ibraheem (as) is proclaiming his enmity and separation from all the other false gods which his people worshipped, and then confirming his worship of Allah (swt) who is the only One worthy to be worshipped.
These verses of the Qur’an and others beside them show that the previous mushrikeen(idolators) used to worship Allah (swt); however they used to associate and take others partners besides Him. Therefore, if Ibraheem (as) only declared his complete rejection(bara’a) of all that the mushrikeen had worship without excepting the Creator (swt), this would imply that Ibraheem (as) also was rejecting Allah (swt). However, as we mentioned, Ibraheem (as) was clear in his assertion that he is free from all that they took as objects of worship besides Allah (swt).
Secondly: In the definition we made mention, ‘…have the right…’ The purpose of this statement is to exclude all those false gods which are worshipped instead of Allah (swt) without having any attributes which grant them the right to be worshipped. They neither have the ability nor the functions to be included as gods encompassing the essence ofulouhiyyah (divinity) which would afford them the right to be worshipped instead of, or along side Allah (swt). Some one may state that we do find other gods and Tawagheet which are worshipped besides Allah (swt), how do we answer this? We say, you are correct that there are many things which are worshipped besides Allah (swt). However, each and every one of these objects do not have the attributes nor the qualities to be considered as objects of worship. In fact they are being worshipped falsely. Allah (swt) has all the attributes and the functions of ulouhiyyah such as Creating, Providing, giving life and taking it etc. which makes Him have the only claim for worship and the only One we must direct all our acts of worship to.
Thirdly: The definition of the Shahadah we stated exposes the falsity of accepting the understanding which unfortunately most of the Muslims have today, that, ‘There is no god but Allah,’ solely means there is no Khaaliq (Creator), no Daar (Harmer), no Naafi (Benefiter), no Raaziq (Provider), no Mumeet (causes death), no Muhyee (cause life) and no Maalik (Sovereign) except Allah (swt). This definition, even if it may be correct from the angle that Allah (swt) is the One and only who is described with all these Names and Attributes, it does not relate to what the essence of Shahadah was meant to be. The evidence for this is that the Mushrikeen of old used to confirm such facts that Allah (swt) had these attributes and did not disagree with the Prophets (as) in this matter. However, they disagreed with the Prophets regarding who was worthy of worship and therefore would offer worship to their gods and idols besides Allah (swt) in full knowledge that Allah (swt) was al-Khaaliq (the Creator), and al-Maalik (Sovereign)!
In spite of their belief in Allah (swt) they were still considered Mushrikeen (associators) and Kuffar (disbelievers) who were deserving of being fought against by the Prophets and Messengers (as).
As Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an,
“If you ask them, who is it that created the heavens and the earth. They will certainly say, ‘(Allah)’” [Surah al-Luqman 31:25]
And He (swt) also said,
“Say: ‘To whom belong the earth and all things therein if you know?!’ They will say, ‘To Allah.’ Say: ‘Yet will you not receive admonition?’” [Surah al-Mu’minoon 23:84-85]
Subsequently, any person who takes the Shahadah believing that it only carries the above meaning has not understood the Shahadah correctly as ordered by Allah (swt) and His Messenger Muhammad (saw); and this testimony will not benefit him in the Hereafter and there is no doubt that they are still from the disbelievers.
Fourthly: The testimony of faith also comprises the complete tawheed in all its forms namely, Tawheed al-Ulouhiyyah (the Onesness in Divinity), Tawheed al-Rubobiyyah (Oneness in Lordship) and Tawheed al-Asma was Sifaat (Oneness in Names and Attributes) 
Fifthly: What we see nowadays is that many people including the Tawaagheet have memorised the testimony of faith (Shahadah) as we have defined previously, such that if one were to ask them regarding the meaning of such a testimony they would reply swiftly, without hesitation that, ‘there is no one worthy of worship except Allah (swt)!!’ They bring forth such a definition without correctly pondering upon what it means nor considering the consequences and duties attached with it. They give you such a response whilst simultaneously worshipping other gods besides Allah (swt). They answer whilst they themselves are objects of worships besides Allah (swt). They respond by words only, devoid of meaning, such that they can deflect and protect themselves from the attacks or accusations of ignorance by others.
The example of such people is like the one who states the Shahadah but does not understand what he is saying or like the one who states it but does not carry out any of its duties or obligations. The mere statement of the Shahadah will be of no benefit for such people, nor for the one who has simply memorised it, nor will it protect them from the accusation of others in this life and the hereafter.
 The false claimants to Salafiyyah (who are really the Scholars of Irjaa’) claim that the callers to Tawheed of this age have invented a fourth division of Tawheed which they call Tawheed ul-Haakimiyah (Oneness is Ruling / Judgement). My answer is that this false allegation is full of lies and deceptions for the following reasons: firstly, this type of Tawheed which is known as Tawheed al-Haakimiyah is correct and one’s emaan cannot be complete except by believing in it. It essential means making Allah (swt) One in matters relating to ruling and legislation. To Allah (swt) belongs the right to ordain the destiny and the right to lain down legislation. Nothing from creation can associate themselves with Allah (swt) in these matters. In the way that the creation and managing of all things is for Allah (swt) alone, similarly, all matters of judgement and command is for Allah (swt) alone.
This definition of Tawheed al-Haakimiyah has numerous evidences backing it; for example when Allah (swt) says, “The command is for none but Allah. He has commanded that you worship none but He: that is the right religion, but most men do not understand” [Surah Yusuf 12:40], and He (swt) says, “Nor does anybody share with His Command” [Surah Kahf 18:26] and He (swt) said, “(Where) Allah commands, there is none to put back His Command” [Surah ar-Rad 13:41] and He (swt) said, “Do they then seek after a judgment of (the days of) ignorance? But who, for a people whose faith is assured, can give better judgment than Allah” [Surah al-Maida 5:51] and He (swt) said, “For Allah commands as He pleases” [Surah Maida 5:1] and He (swt) said, “Whenever you differ in a matter, the final decision is with Allah (swt)” [Surah al-Shura 42:10] and He (swt) said, “No! By your Lord, they can have no (real) Faith, until they make you the judge in all disputes between them, and find in their souls no resistance against your decisions, but accept them with the fullest conviction.” [Surah an-Nisa’ 4:65]. And it is reported in a Saheeh hadith that the Prophet (saw) said, “Allah (swt) is the Judge and to Him (alone) returns the judgement.” These are but a few of the numerous texts which indicate and provide evidence for Tawheed al-Haakimiyah. Whosoever rejects this type of tawheed rejects Emaan (belief) in its totality and discards the Quranic evidences we have mentioned above.
Secondly, no one who makes mentions of Tawheed al-Haakimiyah necessitates that it is made a compulsory fourth category in addition to the three agreed upon. In fact the concept of al-Haakimiyah transcends all three levels, with aspects of it applying to Ar-Ruboobiyah, Al-Ulouhiyyah and also to al-Asmaa wa-Sifaat. However, we must note that when the shirk of legislating by other than what Allah (swt) has revealed and arbitrating to the laws and orders of the Tawaagheet, has become widespread amongst this Ummah it becomes incumbent upon the Muslims to warn and highlight this aspect of al-Haakimiyah to their fellow brethren. One can equate the statement of saying, ‘Tawheed al-Haakimiyah’ to those who call the people to be aware of ‘Tawheed ul-Talab wa Dua’ (Oneness of seeking help from and asking Allah (swt) alone), or the ‘Tawheed of Mahaba wa Ta’aah’ (Oneness of loving and obedience to Allah (swt) alone) amongst other examples whenever you find the Muslims disregarding these aspects of Tawheed and instead associating with Allah (swt) in their actions. This is indeed the correct way as the Ulema have mentioned. However, we have never found one scholar accuse that by stating such types of Tawheed you are bringing an additional fourth or fifth type of Tawheed and innovating in this matter. Rather the one who brings such terms relating to Tawheed does so to give importance of the matter in view of the lack of knowledge of the people and their need to realise these fundamental aspects of the Deen. If this is the real intent and purpose then there is no harm in mentioning it as a separate catergory. Indeed, many of the people in our day and age when you tell them, ‘Do not forget Tawheed al-Ulouhiyah’ do not understand what you mean. However, if you explain it a different way making mention of its details such as saying, ‘Be mindful of Tawheed ud-Dua (petition) wa Talab (asking)’ or ‘Be mindful of Tawheed ul-Mahaba (love) and that Allah (swt) is the only One we are allowed to love for His own sake’ one finds it easier to understand and appreciate. This is the same reason why people make mention of Tawheed al-Haakimiyah to remind the people that the rule and judgement is for Allah (swt) alone and He has no partners in it.
If you understand the matter in this way, then you can realise the grave mistake which befalls the scholars of Irjaa who wish to lessen the importance of this aspect of Tawheed and Emaan. They wish to deceive the people telling them that the crimes that the Tawagheet in charge over our countries in changing the law and order from that of Allah’s (swt) Shariah to the law of Kufr (disbelief) is not so great that it affects one’s Tawheed and Emaan, nor does it affect one’s Aqeedah as such an action does not fit into one of the three divisions of Tawheed, nor is there any such thing as Tawheed al-Haakimiyah; consequently, one is not allowed to declare such people disbelievers making takfeer upon them!
Unfortunately, such persons do not do this for the purpose of sincerely seeking the truth but rather do so to fight on behalf of the tyrants in charge over our countries; lessening their crimes and beautifying their situation in the eyes of the people. And if ever you seek such people, you can almost guarantee to find them seated at the gates of the rulers vying for any scraps and morsels which are tossed at them.
At this juncture I would like to mention that on one occasion I was in the company of one of those Ulema of Irjaa and I warned him from what I called, “Ash-Shirk ul-Qusoor” (associating of the palaces as partners besides Allah (swt)). He did not rest except to reject such a notion asking, ‘Where did you bring this type of Shirk from?... What is your evidence stating it?... We only know about ash-Shirk ul-Quboor! Not a single of our scholars have ever made mention of that type of Shirk!’ So I responded by asking him where does he get his evidence to back up the concept of Shirk ul-Quboor (the associating with Allah (swt) which takes place at the graves). He answered, ‘When people begin to worship the graves from the angle of asking assistance, blessings or making dua’a at them then they are committing association (shirk) and therefore we call it Shirk ul-Quboor’. I told him that he spoke the truth and that he should apply the same principal for the Palace. He replied, ‘How do the people worship the Palaces so that we can call it a form of Shirk?’ I replied that the palaces are worshipped besides Allah (swt) because the people refer and arbitrate to the laws and orders which emanate from them and their inhabitants, instead of the Law of Allah (swt). And that it is worshipped besides Allah (swt) by people making allegiance (Walaa) to it and it’s tyrannical inhabitants and protecting them come what may until they die. It is worshipped from the angle of the people’s fear and dread of both it and it’s inhabitants; some people even fear the palace more than they fear their graves! It is also worshipped by those sick hearted people whose hearts are inclined towards it in the hope that they can get some paulty material benefit.
Just think for a moment about the statements we hear from the general public and the media which talk about, ‘the guards of the palace’, ‘the soldiers of the palace’, ‘the servants of the palace’, ‘that we should offer our allegiance and obedience to the palace’, ‘this is what the palace has passed’, ‘the peace and security of the palace,’ which if we truly investigate their meanings we find the stench of Shirk permeating such words! Everything we have mentioned is from the actions of Shirk when one directs them to or alongside other than Allah (swt).