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Essence of Polytheism (3)
Amin Ahsan Islahi
(Tr. by:Nikhat Sattar)

Polytheism of People of the Book


The two groups of People of the Book mentioned in the Qur’an are the Jews and Christians. They accepted all basics which the Qur’an invited them to believe in, including that of belief in the Oneness of God that was common between them and the Muslims, except the prophethood of the Prophet (sws). These people were neither deniers of the Oneness of God in principle, nor was it possible to refute it in presence of clarifications in the Torah and Bible. However, despite their belief in this principle, they were involved in many practices and beliefs that were liable to shirk and kufr. Treating this as the basis for debate, the Qur’an demanded that they cleanse their deeds and beliefs of such errors: they were to either refute tawhid, thus relieving themselves of the responsibilities of accepting its requirements and stumble along, or accept its demands and requirements, and in its light, assess all of their actions and remove the mistakes and innovations, in contradiction of tawhid, that had crept in them.

The debate with the Arabs had started on the question that when the creator of the heavens and earth, inventor of strengths and capabilities, originator of the earth and sky was God, and if they did not deny these principles, why did they believe in things that shredded these principles? In the same manner, taking one step forward and using belief in tawhid to be the basis, the debate with People of the Book was initiated. If this belief was common between the Muslims and People of the Book, they should assess its validity on its basis. The Qur’an said: 

Say: “O People of the Book! come to common terms as between us and you: That we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than Allah.” If then they turn back, say you: “Bear witness that we [at least] are Muslims [bowing to Allah’s Will].” (3:64) 

From this, we know that worshipping one God, not ascribing associates to Him, not accepting a Lord other than God was common between the Muslims and People of the Book. Neither Jews nor Muslims denied any of these points. But they considered not accepting anyone as Lord other than God as merely not calling anyone else as Lord. For them it made no difference if others were included in the attributes and characteristics reserved for God. For example, framing of the shari‘ah laws is one of God’s specific rights. It is not legitimate for anyone else to intervene in any way in this right. If any person does so, he is daring to share the Godly attributes of God. If we accept this as the right of someone else, although we many not call him Lord or God, in reality we are considering him to be sharing the power and Godliness of God. However, the Jews and Christians did not consider this association of others in God’s rights to be wrong. Hence, the Qur’an indicted them both as committing this crime, in the sense that they considered their scholars to be the Lord other than God: 

They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in derogation of Allah, and [they take as their Lord] Christ the son of Mary; yet they were commanded to worship but One Allah. There is no god but He. Praise and glory to Him: [Far is He] from having the partners they associate [with Him]. (9:31) 

Related to this verse, a question of ‘Adi ibn Hatim to the Prophet (sws) has been quoted in Hadith: he said to the Prophet that the Jews and Christians did not believe that their scholars and monks were their Lord. The Prophet (sws) asked: was it not true that they had declared things that were stated to be halal by God to be haram and things that were stated as haram by God to be halal? ‘Adi replied that this was so. The Prophet (sws) said that this was akin to worshipping them.

From this, it is evident that ‘Adi thought that unless a person is declared to be God verbally, he cannot be God and the Lord, and unless he is worshipped ritually, he is not worshipped. The Prophet (sws) addressed this misunderstanding by clarifying that whether one called anyone Lord, if he was given the rights and powers that were the sole prerogative of God, he was being accepted as the Lord without saying so and he was being worshipped without being worshipped through standard rituals. Forming laws and the shari‘ah were reserved for God. If anyone was given this status, he would become God and one would become his servant, whether or not he was called God or servant.

This explanation is sufficient to understand the above verse. However, it would not be irrelevant to mention a few useful points here.

Two aspects of shirk of the Jews and Christians have been mentioned in this verse: making scholars and rabbis their Lord and making Jesus their Lord. We shall discuss both briefly here.  

1. Worship of Scholars 

We are aware of the fact that the Jews had forgotten many things about their shari‘ah. “But they forgot a good part of the message that was sent them ...” (5:14). They had altered the Torah in many places, for example, where it mentioned the coming of a final prophet from within the Ishmaelites, or the place of sacrifice by Abraham (sws). They had also hidden many instructions, especially those related to adultery, theft and deliberate murder. They had obfuscated many instructions through excuses. They would write many fatwas contrary to God’s laws, merely for the sake of worldly needs and then declare that these were exactly according to the instructions in the Torah. These points are given in the Qur’an. It is obvious that the rulings of God had been destroyed in all of these aspects of their shari‘ah and replaced by the self made laws of their scholars and rabbis.

Reading of the history of the Bible and the manner of law making of Jews shows that ijtihad was nonexistent. The qadhis who were assigned to deciding upon cases did not consider the instructions in the Torah, decisions made by their prophet and discuss and then make a decision for new issues for which clear instruction had not been provided. Instead, they would present the matter to their chief soothsayer who was considered to be the natural source for finding out the wishes of God. This person would go to the sacred centre of the tent of worship, where a chest had been placed behind a curtain. This place was believed to the centre of revelations by the Lord. There, he apparently received instructions by Jehovah (God) through revelation. He would then inform people of these instructions and they were bound to implement them. Bluntschli, in his book The Theory of State writes in the chapter on theocracy: 

The law of God was placed within a box painted in gold. Two workers were assigned to protect it and it was worshipped as a place occupying the centre of divine instructions. The box was placed in the sacred place behind a curtain and the soothsayers would make great efforts to protect it. Here, the chief soothsayer would obtain instructions from God and inform people. 

The qadhis who were assigned to promulgate the shari‘ah would do so under the name of God. Since law making was the right of God, if any matter that was difficult for them to resolve would be addressed by finding the wish of God through the Levites.

This is an exact imitation of idol worshippers and the Jews had adopted this during their period of downfall. Just as priests and pundits in the idol-temples of Egypt, Iraq and Nineveh etc would approach their idols when the need arose and attempt to gain information about their wishes from their guardian angels, or just as Arabs used to determine the instructions and decisions of their idols through use of spears, the Jews had similarly made this box their idol. Whatever difficulty they faced, their Chief Priest would find instructions and wishes of God from this box. To come near the box was enough to obtain revelation. These priests were considered innocent and free of all sin. The natural consequence of this method was that they were taken to be Lords other than God: “They take their priests and their anchorites to be their lords in derogation of Allah” (9:31) and all their statements and superstitions assumed the status of shari‘ah.

The situation among the Christians was even more ridiculous than the Jews. Christians were initially a reformed group of the Jews; not a separate, permanent religious sect. Jesus had himself said that he had come not to revoke the Torah, but to complete it. He had further said that not a single dot could be moved unless all of it had been completed. This is why he had not given any new shari‘ah. Instead, he had provided teachings of wisdom and spirituality to his followers and asked them to follow the laws and shari‘ah rules of the faith that was stated in the Torah. He had only corrected the distortions that had crept in it with time.

The early history of Christianity shows that the status of the companions of Jesus (sws) after him was exactly this. They obeyed the Torah in its instructions and decisions. Then Paul distorted Christianity in its entirety, both externally and internally. He made it famous by giving it a separate and permanent identity and name and restricted the following of the Torah to the Israelites only. He banned following the Torah by non Israelites and made pork and alcohol legitimate. The true followers of Jesus (sws) debated with him on these issues, but Paul’s innovations were so appealing to the Romans that they gained wide acceptance. Christianity thus gained a permanent status, but one that was without a book and shari‘ah, because the Bible is empty of instructions and people had been freed from following the Torah. The result was that Christians were made subject to the innovations of their priests in all matters of life. Whatever their scholars would say would become an instruction from God. From the times of Constantinople, when the sword of Roman monarchs became a supporter of the Christians instead of their enemy, the Pope was elevated to such a status that as soon as he gave instructions, the Emperor would issue statements for these instructions to be followed as if they were God’s injunctions. This assumed such heights that whatever these sacred scholars said on earth was taken to be true for the heavens and vice versa. In other words, they were not followers of God’s instructions: God forbid, He followed their instructions. 

2. Making Jesus (sws) the Lord      

Similarly the Christians made Jesus (sws) their Lord. The history of logical arguments and religious debates in Christianity shows that the person behind this was also Paul. It is known that the students of Jesus (sws) were uneducated, whereas Paul was an expert in Greek mysticism and Greek philosophy. He presented the Bible with a new explanation and claimed that it was not necessary for him to follow the uneducated disciples of Jesus (sws), who were unable to understand true facts and realities; instead, his knowledge was based on revelation of secrets directly from Jesus (sws). The strange thing was that Paul was completely ignorant of Hebrew which was the original language of the Bible. His relationship with the true language of the Bible was the same that could be of a non-Arab with the language of the Qur’an. We see in the history of Islam that many innovations in the religion came into being through non Arabs who were generally ignorant of the language of the Qur’an and Hadith and whose minds were occupied with non Arabic philosophy and mysticism. Similarly, Paul, who did not know the language of the Bible and was well versed with Greek mysticism and philosophy, changed the core of Christianity completely. Gnosticism was his main characteristic and the thing that seems to be most evident in all his actions was that he was keen to make Christianity popular among the Romans. With this overpowering desire and driving force, he would not have been interested in the real life and teachings of Jesus (sws). His preferences would have been those that were aligned with the philosophy of Gnosticism and which could match Roman mythology easily. Hence, this inclination is also to be found in all of his innovations. However, here we would only discuss the innovation of the divinity of Jesus (sws).

The Bible uses the word ibn (son) and the “word of God” for Jesus and ab (father) for God. In many places, he is also called Ibn Adam and the message of tawhid is repeated often in clear words. The true disciples of Jesus (sws) had no difficulty in understanding these points. In Hebrew, the word ibn is used both for son and servant and the word ab is common for both father and lord. They would have had no problem with either ibn or abb. They would have understood ibn Allah to be ‘Abdullah (servant of God) and Abi to be Rabbi (the Lord). Even if confusion had arisen because of the shared meanings, the clear teachings of tawhid should have been enough to remove it. People of truth never use doubtful elements as foundations for their beliefs. They develop their arguments on the basis of clear teachings and absolute principles. But for Paul, these few words opened the door for a game of arguments and mischief. His sources for the Bible were Greek copies because he was ignorant in Hebrew. Once translated into Greek, the meaning of the words ab and ibn became completely different from what they were in Hebrew. Paul’s tendency towards Gnosticism gained further sustenance from this. Jesus (sws) was also called the word of God. Using this as the basis, Paul created the philosophy that kalimah (logo, word) was a supreme divine power in the universe and Jesus (sws) was an incarnation of this Supreme Being. The innovation of Jesus being ibn Allah (son of God) started from here.

Paul died in 64 AD. From that time onwards until the beginning of the 4th century, the history of the riots that arose on this issue and the sects that were created on its basis is a long one. But the student of this era will find three main sects:

i. Arians who were followers of Arius and believed that Jesus (sws) was a creation.

ii. Sabellians who believed that the soul passes into the body. They considered Jesus to be an avatar (vicegerent of God) or one of His aspects. For them God was everything: Creator, the Forgiver and the Holy, just as the same person can be a father, patron and guest simultaneously.

iii. Trinitarians: these people were believers in trinity and Athansios was their leader.

From among these sects, the Arians were those who remained from true believers in the original teachings of Christianity, although they, too, had begun to believe that Jesus (sws) was superior to humans due to the pressure from other sects and general trends in society. But the efforts of this sect to refute the other two sects are unparalleled. A particular incident related to the divinity or slavery (servantship to God) at the end of the 3rd and beginning of the 4th centuries had caused the different sects of Christianity to be at war with each other. By this time, Christianity had gained prominence among Roman monarchs and these differences might have been beneficial for their enemies. This is why Constantinople found it expedient to abandon its policy of destroying Christianity and support it instead. The first attempt made was to get the warring factions to develop unity so that their differences would not harm the government. In 314, Athansios organised a council of the Church in Arles, but the required objectives were not met. In 325, with his backing, a general council of the Church was organised in Nicea. Although he had not accepted Christianity formally, he chaired the meeting. This council was very important. It had representatives from all factions of Christianity and all churches. The main battle was between the Arians and believers in divinity of Jesus (sws). The account of this council is very interesting. When the elderly Arius stood up to talk about Jesus (sws) being a created being, a man slapped him and many bishops and priests left the meeting with fingers in their ears, saying that they would not listen to the blasphemies of that old man. The majority of the council was against Arius. Hence, his party and supporters were defeated. After many days of debate and discussions, the council drafted the Christian belief in the following words. This became known as the Nicene Creed and is the most accepted and important document in Christian beliefs since the 4th century until now.

 We believe in one God who is the most Powerful; Creator of all things and all that is present and absent; and we believe in one lord, Jesus Christ; son of God; born of God, the only; from the essence of the Father; the sovereign of God; light of Lights; source of God from the source of God; begotten: not created; from the essence of God. He created all things in the sky and earth; who came down for us humans for our redemption; in the form of man. He bore pain, then became alive on the third day and climbed to the sky. He will return to hold court for the dead and living and we believe in the Holy Spirit. 

And those who say that he was not present earlier, and was nonexistent before being born and he came into being from nonexistence; or those who say that the son of God is from another matter or source, or a creation, or a man: they are damned by the Catholic and apostolic  church.  

 This is the real creed of the Christian world since the Council of Nice. It has openly declared Arius and his supporters as being disbelievers. After the council, this creed not only became the religion of the church but also of the state and the sword of the latter was available to ensure that it was followed. Many supporters of Arius found it expedient to go along with it.

How amazing and what a lesson it is to see that the Christians who spent three centuries to deny the divinity of humans and bore the brutal torture of Roman monarchs were cut into pieces by swords; burned in fire; torn by animals, but continued to deny that men could be gods. The same Christians gathered in Nicea, and, led by a King who was a disbeliever, put their stamp of agreement upon the divinity of Jesus (sws) with full determination and approval.

Many councils were held in the centuries that followed. Partial differences came to light; sometimes the supporters of Arius gained the upper hand, to the extent that some people from the heirs of Constantinople accepted the Arius faith. However, all of these were short lived and temporary changes. The main belief remained as quoted above and, according to the historian Gibbon, Christianity is now confined to dealing with this creed’s mysteries and codes.

These are the polytheistic beliefs of Christians which the Qur’an has refuted in much detail. We quote some verses here:      

The Jews call ‘Uzayr a son of Allah, and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; [in this] they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth! (9:30) 

“And that is a saying from their mouth”. That is, God has not said it: it is their fabrication. There is no evidence of it in the Book of God. “[in this] they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say.” In other words, they repeat what their predecessors used to say without thinking, and even after the Qur’an has been explained and clarified, they do not reflect upon what is the reality.

In another place, the same people have been addressed: 

Say: “O people of the Book! exceed not in your religion the bounds [of what is proper], trespassing beyond the truth, nor follow the vain desires of people who went wrong in times gone by – who misled many, and strayed [themselves] from the even way.” (5:77) 

That is, all of this mischief is due to worship of ancestors, an accursed practice that has been going on for ages. They are following it without thinking and blind imitation has prevented them from paying attention to true teachings.

In some verses, this shirk has been stated as being denial of truth, the reason being that shirk is, in reality, denial of truth. In religion, it is not enough to believe only in God, but He needs to be believed in along with His total attributes and features. If He is believed in, but without His attributes, such as the Idolaters did, this means that, in fact, He is not being believed in: 

In blasphemy indeed are those that say that Allah is Christ the son of Mary. Say: “Who then hath the least power against Allah, if His will were to destroy Christ the son of Mary, his mother, and all every one that is on the earth? For to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between. He creates what He pleases. For Allah has power over all things.” (5:17)  

The addressees of this verse are those who considered Jesus the vicegerent of God and because their argument for the divinity of Jesus (sws) was his miraculous birth, the verse has refuted it towards the end. This presumption has been refuted by the Qur’an in various places in many different ways. In some places, Jesus (sws) has been likened to Adam (sws): if, being born without a father is evidence of divinity, then Adam (sws) should also be a deity. In some verses, the birth of John (sws) has been declared the preface to the story of Jesus (sws). If being born without normal circumstances is proof of divinity, birth of a boy despite the man’s old age and a woman’s infertility is extraordinary. In that case, why did they not believe that John (sws) was a god? It is said in Surah Ma’idah:  

They do blaspheme who say: “[Allah] is Christ the son of Mary.” But said Christ: “O Children of Israel! worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.” Whoever joins other gods with Allah,- Allah will forbid him the garden, and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrong-doers be no one to help. They do blaspheme who say: “Allah is one of three in a Trinity” for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word [of blasphemy], verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them. Why turn they not to Allah, and seek His forgiveness? For Allah is Oft- forgiving, Most Merciful. Christ the son of Mary was no more than an apostle; many were the apostles that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their [daily] food. See how Allah doth make His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth! (5:72-75)  

This verse refutes believers of both the transposition of the soul into a body and the trinity. In contradiction to the claims of these sects, the teaching of Jesus (sws) himself has been quoted: “Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord,” (5:72). The Bible frequently mentions the quote of Jesus (sws): “My Father and your Father” and the Qur’an has explained this in the meaning of “your Lord and my Lord”. It has been clarified above that the word for father is the same for lord in Hebrew.

At the end of the verse, the fact that both mother and son ate and drank has been given as proof of their being humans. Eating was an argument for being mortal that was accepted among the Israelites. The angels who had come to Abraham (sws) in the form of men did not turn to food when he presented it to them and Abraham (sws) immediately suspected that they must be angels and not humans.

It is mentioned in the Gospel of Luke that once Jesus (sws) consumed food to convince his disciples of his human nature. When he was lifted up and returned to his disciples, the latter became very nervous, thinking that a spirit was addressing them. The details of how he reassured them are given in the Bible as follows:  

He said to them: why do you worry? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; it is me. Touch me and know that the spirit does not have flesh and bone as you see in me. Saying this, he showed them his hands and feet. When they could not believe in happiness and were surprised, he said to them: do you have something to eat here? They gave him a piece of roasted fish and he took it and ate it in front of them. (Luke, 24:39-43)  

Together with this, the great surah of the Qur’an which is the most comprehensive refutation of the polytheistic tendencies of Christians, i.e. Surah Ikhlas should be read: 

Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begets not, nor is He begotten;  And there is none like unto Him. (112:1-4)

To understand the actual meaning of each and every word of this surah, it would be useful to deliberate upon the words of the Christian creed drafted by the Nicene Council, as quoted above. Comparison of the two would indicate the extent to which this surah is shattering every aspect of this creed. Hence, this is the reason why Christians had hated this surah at one time, so much so, that when they would accept anyone into their religion, they would get him to curse the god (God forbid) whose attributes are stated in this surah.

Until now, details of considering rabbis, monks and Jesus as God have been provided. But the Qur’an has also declared the People of the Book to be guilty of other forms of shirk: 

O you People of the Book! believe in what We have [now] revealed, confirming what was [already] with you, before We change the face and fame of some [of you] beyond all recognition, and turn them hindwards, or curse them as We cursed the Sabbath-breakers, for the decision of Allah Must be carried out. Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with Him; but He forgives anything else, to whom He pleases; to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin most heinous indeed. Hast thou not turned Thy vision to those who claim sanctity for themselves? Nay-but Allah Doth sanctify whom He pleases. But never will they fail to receive justice in the least little thing. Behold! how they invent a lie against Allah. but that by itself is a manifest sin! Hast thou not turned Thy vision to those who were given a portion of the Book? they believe in sorcery and Evil, and say to the Unbelievers that they are better guided in the [right] way Than the believers! (4:47-51) 

In these verses, the People of the Book have been asked to believe in the Qur’an, along with the threat that if they did not do so, they would be worthy of God distorting their faces and, just as those who had destroyed the sanctity of Sabbath has been cursed, they, too would be cursed. God has given eyes, ears, brain to benefit from. If a nation does not make use of these in spite of possessing them, and neither sees the verses of God, nor hears them, it deserves to become deprived of these blessings. Moving on, the verses say that God shall never forgive shirk. Other than this, all other sins may be forgiven as He sees fit. Three forms of shirk of people of the Book are then listed:

i. Claims of Purity and Superiority

ii. Belief in Jibt and Taghut

iii. Support to Polytheism  

Here we shall explain the above, but in order to avoid length, shall be brief.


i. Claims of Purity and Superiority

 “Hast thou not turned thy vision to those who claim sanctity for themselves” (4:49) is a reference to the beliefs of Jews and Christians which have been mentioned in the Qur’an in various places. It is said in Surah Ma’idah:  

[Both] the Jews and the Christians say: “We are sons of Allah, and his beloved.” Say: “Why then does He punish you for your sins? Nay, you are but men – of the men he has created: He forgives whom He pleases, and He punishes whom He pleases: and to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between: and unto Him is the final goal [of all].” (5:18) 

It is stated in Surah Jumu‘ah: 

Say: “O you that stand on Judaism! If ye think that ye are friends to Allah, to the exclusion of [other] men, then express your desire for Death, if you are truthful!” (62:6) 

It would be useful to look again at what we have written above about the self worship of Idolaters to understand these verses. The Qur’an has mentioned similarities between the thinking of People of the Book and Idolaters many times. This is similar to the Idolaters falling prey to the presumption that whatever they possessed was because it was their right, the consequence of their noble lineage and the result of their personal intelligence. This belief was based on the fact that they had become the centre of visits by all because of the Ka‘bah and because of living lives of luxury and comfort. They believed that they would remain in the same situation: the respect, esteem and leadership status was the inheritance coming to them from their predecessors, Abraham (sws) and Ishmael (sws), that had been paid for by them through their good deeds. They, therefore, did not need to do anything further. The People of the Book were similarly caught in this delusion that because they had remained in political and religious power due to inherited leadership, leadership and control over other nations and this was their natural status, at which they had been placed because they were the chosen people of God; His beloved and favoured and the children of those whom He had loved and chosen.

They associated the honour and reputation that had been linked with morality and attributes in the Torah entirely with themselves, their nation and race. Once they succumbed to this mania, their belief was restricted only to being the progeny of Abraham (sws), Isaac (sws) and Jacob (sws) and that this was the only condition necessary for closeness to God and redemption of their sins. They were not required to obey or do good deeds. They also came to believe that the fire of Hell would not touch them for more than a few days. Eternal Hell was not for them. At the same time, they believed that the world could gain the light of faith and religion only from them: no other nation could be its source. They believed that their nation was the nation; their prophet was the prophet and guidance was their guidance. He who was within them was guided; all others were on the wrong path.

It was this haughtiness of the Jews for which Jesus had reprimanded them not to be vain about being children of Abraham (sws). God could create his progeny from particles of sand. The Qur’an has quoted these thoughts in Surah Baqarah and other surahs and called them false desires, baseless premises and enameled words. It has refuted each and every premise, and because of these beliefs, has declared them deprived of guidance from God and accused them of discriminating between prophets of God. They were also considered deprived of Islam [submission to God, subservience to Him and tawhid] and replaced their statement “They say: ‘Become Jews or Christians if you would be guided [to salvation], (2:135)” by the middle ummah, ie. the words of Muslims:  

Say you: “We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to [all] prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah [in Islam].” So if they believe as you believe, they are indeed on the right path; but if they turn back, it is they who are in schism; but Allah will suffice you as against them, and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing. [Our religion is] the Baptism of Allah. And who can baptize better than Allah. And it is He Whom we worship. Say: “Will you dispute with us about Allah, seeing that He is our Lord and your Lord; that we are responsible for our doings and you for yours; and that We are sincere [in our faith] in Him.”  (2:136-139) 

The words “And we bow to Allah [in Islam]”, “And it is He Whom we worship” and “We are sincere [in our faith] in Him” are particularly significant. The People of the Book are told that they are not Muslims, not worshippers of God and not believers in Oneness of God. The person who is God’s servant and worshipper and who believes in Him only would dye himself in the colour of God. Why would he concern himself with the colour of Judaism or Christianity? He would follow guidance from God, in whatever form or language it came and would believe in all messengers, regardless of whichever nation they came to. He would not pick and choose between them, believing in one and disbelieving in another. All of these things were against tawhid and truth. They were not worshipping God; instead they were engaged in worship of their own nation and their own prophet.

This verse is worthy of attention of those Muslims who are involved in the bias of different imams and consider truth and guidance to be restricted only to their imam or scholar. They should recognize that if it was not legitimate to limit oneself to only one messenger and his nation and to deny others, and this was refutation of tawhid, how could limiting of truth only to the group of a single imam or scholar be aligned with God consciousness, obedience to guidance from God and Sunnah of the Prophet (sws) and the spirit of tawhid?


ii. Belief in Jibt and Taghut

This means magic, fraudulent tricks, spells, use of amulets and making predictions. A study of the history of the Bible and Jews suggests that the latter had learnt all the black magic of the Chaldeans, These things have always been a source of mischief for people of religion in all ages. When the simple but bitter teachings of religion become distasteful and the soul is in search of spice, these things become the norm. These are actually the mark of the demise of the real spirit of religion. The day this mischief begins in any nation, it is the first day of the downfall of the pure teachings of religion. The connection of people who become involved in these matters breaks with the Book of God. The sources of both results are two. One is the centre and source of Satan and the other is God. If people connect with Satan, it becomes essential that they cut themselves from God and put aside the teachings of prophets and God’s Book. The same happened with the Jews. This worship of Satan is mentioned in Surah Baqarah: 

And when there came to them an apostle from Allah, confirming what was with them, a party of the people of the Book threw away the Book of Allah behind their backs, as if [it had been something] they did not know! They followed what the evil ones gave out [falsely] against the power of Solomon: the blasphemers were, not Solomon, but the evil ones, teaching men Magic, and such things as came down at Babylon to the angels Harut and Marut. But neither of these taught anyone [such things] without saying: “We are only for trial; so do not blaspheme.” They learned from them the means to sow discord between man and wife. But they could not thus harm anyone except by Allah’s permission. And they learned what harmed them, not what profited them. And they knew that the buyers of [magic] would have no share in the happiness of the Hereafter. And vile was the price for which they did sell their souls, if they but knew! If they had kept their Faith and guarded themselves from evil, far better had been the reward from their Lord, if they but knew!” (2:101-103) 

The word طاغوت (taghut) in terms of the dominion of spirits comes from طغی which means exceeding one’s limits. If something goes beyond its boundaries, it is said in Arabic: 

 ء طغی الما; the water has reached beyond its limits. The disaster that destroyed the nation of Thamud has been called طاغیة in the Qur’an. It means a disaster that has gone beyond its limits. From this, the word has been used for going beyond one’s limits in worship and what overreaches oneself from one’s boundaries is called leader of evil. Later, all those things that could be the source or cause of exceeding limits came under this term. Linguists clarify this word as follows: “anything that exceeds limits and every deity other than God who is worshipped.” The Qur’an has used this word in many places and by providing its opposite, has shed light on its various meanings. For example, it is said in Surah Baqarah:  

Truth stands out clear from error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah hears and knows all things. (2:256)  

Here, the comparison with God makes it clear that the word طاغوت means other than God. It is said in Surah Nahl:  

For We assuredly sent amongst every people an apostle, [with the Command]: “Serve Allah, and eschew evil,” of the people were some whom Allah guided, and some on whom error became inevitably [established]. (16:36) 

Surah Nisa says: “Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah, and those who reject faith fight in the cause of evil.” (4:76). After this, the Qur’an says: “… So fight you against the friends of Satan: feeble indeed is the cunning of Satan.” (4:76). This means that طاغوت means Satan and includes devils among humans and jinn both. This is a comprehensive meaning for preaching and worship of deities other than God. Similarly, the word has been used in another place for the opposite of the Book of God and the way of the Prophet (sws): 

Hast thou not turned thy vision to those who declare that they believe in the revelations that have come to thee and to those before thee? Their [real] wish is to resort together for judgment [in their disputes] to the Evil One, though they were ordered to reject him. But Satan’s wish is to lead them astray far away [from the right].When it is said to them: “Come to what Allah has revealed, and to the Messenger, thou sees the Hypocrites avert their faces from thee in disgust.” (4:60-61) 

In these verses: “When it is said to them: ‘Come to what Allah has revealed, and to the Messenger;” is compared with “ …Their [real] wish is to resort together for judgment (in their disputes) to the Evil One…” and this shows that taghut is a comprehensive term for the opposite of the Book of God and Sunnah of the Prophet (sws).

We learn from these verses that whatever goes beyond worship of and subservience to God, or is the cause or reason for it is included in the meaning of taghut. Hence, Satan, sorcerers, magicians, idols, altars, the Pharaoh and Nimrod, leaders who lead people away from the guidance of God, irreligious governments, courts, educational institutions and monasteries, all come within its purvey. People of the Book were involved in this type of shirk: 

Say: “Shall I point out to you something much worse than this, [as judged] by the treatment it received from Allah. those who incurred the curse of Allah and His wrath, those of whom some He transformed into apes and swine, those who worshipped evil;- these are [many times] worse in rank, and far more astray from the even path!” (5:60) 

iii. Support to Polytheism

  The third polytheism of the people of the Book is their support of it. God had bestowed His book to the People of the Book, taken their promise to implement His shari‘ah, placed responsibility upon them to believe and support the coming messenger and to introduce him to people. He had told the Jews: “I shall send a messenger like you for them, from among their brothers, and whatever I ask him, he shall say to them.” (Deuteronomy 18:18-19). Jesus (sws) had said clearly to his disciples: “I need to say many things to you but now you will not be able to tolerate them. But when the spirit of truth comes, he shall show you the path to every truth.” (John 16:12-13). The Jews were waiting for this messenger and they believed in the predictions in the books. These were that this messenger would be the means of their victory over disbelievers: “…although from of old they had prayed for victory against those without faith…” (2:89). Christians were also waiting eagerly. The parables which Jesus (sws) had narrated as stated in the Bible, if clarified, will indicate that a large part of these parables is nothing more than the story of the last prophethood.

It is obvious that in this situation, it was the responsibility of the People of the Book that once the last prophethood had been realized, they assess it under the terms of their earlier knowledge. If they found it according to their predictions, they should have believed it; communicated it to people, lent it their full support and then sacrificed everything they possessed in order to establish the religion brought by the last messenger. But these people suffered the same fate as that of the virgins who were described in a parable by Jesus (sws). He had said that the virgins kept their lamps lit the whole night as they waited for their grooms; when it was time for them to come, their flames died out, the oil in them finished and they went to sleep. These people waited for centuries for the last messenger and when he arrived, and they even recognized him, instead of belief, they exceeded others in their denial and, in addition, in their eagerness borne of their malice and rancour, stood up openly to support the Idolaters and polytheists who were trying their best to resist the messenger’s invitation. They ridiculed his teachings, started wars to put a stop to his work and went so far ahead in their enmity that they gave preference to the religion of the Idolaters and declared the disbelievers to be more guided and truthful than the messenger’s followers “they say to the Unbelievers that they are better guided in the (right) way Than the believers!” (4:51) What possibility remains for tawhid in such a condition of support to shirk? Thus, God cursed them: “They are (men) whom Allah hath cursed: And those whom Allah hath cursed, thou wilt find, have no one to help.” (4:52)


(Translated by Nikhat Sattar)




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