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Essence of Polytheism (4)
Amin Ahsan Islahi
(Tr. by:Nikhat Sattar)


Polytheism of the Hypocrites


The hypocrites were Muslims for all obvious intents and purposes. They professed belief in all the requirements of faith. They believed in the prophethood of the Prophet (sws) and of all other apostles. They also recited the kalimah-i shahadah, offered the salah according to the established norm in mosques and paid the zakah as well. They also offered hajj of the Ka‘bah and participated in battles. In fact, it seems from the Qur’an that they expressed their desire for jihad more vehemently than true Muslims. Their show for their faith in prophethood was such that when they came to the Prophet (sws), they swore repeatedly that they believed in him fully. However, the Qur’an accepted none of these; instead, it called them devoid of faith, deniers of prophethood, friend of Satan, worthy of the lowest levels of Hell and guilty of polytheism in clear words.

Covering all related verses will be difficult here, but we will quote some that address this polytheism here and discuss these briefly. The Qur’an has declared hypocrites guilty of obeying instructions of the devil and crossing all boundaries and termed this as polytheism.


Instructions of the Devil

 It is stated in Surah Nisa’: 

 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 hath revealed, and to the Messenger: Thou seest the Hypocrites avert their faces from thee in disgust.” (4:60-61) 

In the verse above this one, Muslims have been instructed to obey those in authority, and in case any difference of opinion arises, they should refer to God and His Messenger. Then the Qur’an describes the situation of hypocrites, who, in spite of claiming their allegiance to God and His Prophet (sws), wish for their matters to be decided by evil forces and not bring the former to the court of God and His Prophet (sws).

We have discussed the word taghut above. In this verse, the words “Come to God and His Messenger” have been used. It is clear that taghut means the instructions that go against the decisions of God and the Prophet (sws) . It is also clear from the context of the verse that this means the authorities of the People of the Book and their courts. This is the situation of those times when an effective Islamic centre had been set up and all matters of Muslims had begun to be settled after being presented before the Prophet (sws) and implemented accordingly. However, a parallel government of the Jews was also in place and continued to operate. A difficulty in the presence of this system was that the hypocrites would go to Jewish courts for their problems. There were two reasons for this. One was that it was easy for them to bribe Jewish authorities to obtain decisions in their favour: this was impossible in the Prophet (sws)’s court. Secondly, the hypocrites were afraid that the Madinan state was still in its infancy, even though it had broken the might of the Quraysh. It had not come against the unified groups of Jews yet. If this came to pass later in future and the Jews won, their relationship would be useful. Otherwise, the Jews would destroy them along with the Muslims and Islam. Due to this evil perception, they took their issues to the Jews. However, if they thought that decisions from an Islamic court could go in their favour, they would present themselves before the Prophet (sws) with great humility.

On the other hand, the Jews would play another game. In important matters of the penal code for which they did not wish to have decisions according to their own shari‘ah, they would advise the parties concerned to go to the Prophet (sws)’s court. They would also tell them that if the Prophet (sws) gave a certain decision, they were to accept it; if not, they were to return to them. Such matters were usually related to wealthy Jews from whom rabbis would take heavy bribes to avoid promulgation of the shari‘ah of God. If the decision in the Prophet (sws)’s court was acceptable to them, their objective would be met and the responsibility would be the Prophet (sws)’s; if the ruling was against their wishes, they would revert to their court and decide according to their wishes.

It is important to keep the context in which the above and similar verses were revealed to understand them better.

It was said about these hypocrites that taking problems to authorities of evil forces, i.e. un-Islamic courts and then claiming to believe in God and the Qur’an were two contrary things. Faith in God should be preceded by denial of evil and acceptance of God’s Oneness should be preceded by denial of there being another deity “who denied in evil and believed in God,” (2:256). In another place, it is stated: “worship only God and stay away from evil,” (16:36). Faith in both God and evil cannot remain together. If they took their matters to courts of the Jews, their claim of faith was a blatant lie. Faith in God required necessarily that God be obeyed in all matters without exception, and the path to this was that the Prophet (sws) be followed. Otherwise, this was not faith in God, faith in what was revealed by God or faith in the Prophet (sws). A prophet was not there to be believed in for being a prophet, but he was to be obeyed and obedience to God comes forth from within obedience to the prophet . It was stated in subsequent verses:  

How then, when they are seized by misfortune, because of the deeds which they hands have sent forth? Then they come to thee, swearing by God: “We meant no more than good-will and conciliation!” Those men,- [God] knows what is in their hearts; so keep clear of them, but admonish them, and speak to them a word to reach their very souls. We sent not an apostle, but to be obeyed, in accordance with the will of God. If they had only, when they were unjust to themselves, come unto thee and asked God’s forgiveness, and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found God indeed Oft-returning, Most Merciful. But no, by the Lord, they can have no [real] faith, until they make thee judge in all disputes between them, and find in their souls no resistance against Thy decisions, but accept them with the fullest conviction. (4:62-65) 

In the above verse, (We sent not an apostle, but to be obeyed, in accordance with the will of God) needs particular attention. It is a refutation of the claim of hypocrites that they thought of themselves faithful to God as well as to the Prophet (sws), inspite of their obedience of false authorities. The apostle did not come to be believed in verbally, or the belief in his prophethood be placed within the heart. He came because he was to be obeyed, his instructions in all matters were to be followed, his orders were to be implemented without objection, one was to surrender oneself to him, and those who rebelled against him were to be fought against. Thus, an oath has been taken in this verse that until these people accepted the authority of the Prophet (sws) in all of their matters, agreed to his decisions with full respect and became obedient to him in all aspects of their lives, they would not be faithful to God, but faithful to evil.

Some may doubt that we have used our imagination to determine the context of revelation of the above verses. For their satisfaction, we refer to verses 41-54 of Surah Ma’idah. Those who ponder deeply on these verses would find the source of what we have said within the Qur’an itself. We state the meaning of these verses with brevity below for ease:

First, the Prophet (sws) has been reassured that he must not be concerned about the hypocrites and Jews not reverting to him for resolution of their problems. The jews who come to him do not do so in order to have their issues addressed or to seek decisions about their conflicts. Rather, they were buyers of lies and agents of Jewish leaders who did not come forward but remained in the background, manipulating these people as their puppets. They snipped and cut away at the religion of God and sent them to him with the instruction that if the decision was in their favour, they were to accept it; otherwise they were to return. To be sorrowful at the condition of such people was useless. God did not wish to cleanse their souls, or else they would become faithful to Him according to the Torah; proceed towards faith and obedience to God instead of denial. For them was humiliation in this world and great punishment in the Hereafter. They believed in falsehood and thrived on bribery. However, if they brought their matters to him, it was his decision whether to handle these or not. If he did decide to do so, he was to give rulings based on God’s shari‘ah.

The next few verses censure the Jews; what kind of people were these who made the Prophet (sws) the authority and then refused to follow his orders? Even though they had the Torah, that contained the law of God and they knew that the Prophet (sws)’s decision was not against God’s law, they refused to obey. Then the way of previous apostles and scholars is explained: how they gave rulings based on this book. The verses then state that they were instructed not to allow hypocrisy or dishonesty in their religion and not to make their shari‘ah the path to gain illegal wealth in this world. Instead, they were to decide their matters according to the book of God and if they went against this, they would be kafir. This is followed by the Torah’s laws of qisas, since the distortions of the Jews were mainly in the areas of qisas and boundaries as given by God in the Torah. This is followed by a statement about the Bible, whose followers had been instructed also to take decisions according to the shari‘ah of God and if they did not, they would be considered transgressors.

After this, the Qur’an is referred to. This book is according to the predictions given in the Torah and Bible and corrected the changes and adulteration that had been made in them. Hence, it was the Prophet (sws)’s responsibility to make decisions according to the Qur’an and not to follow the innovations which they had included in their books. He would not be held accountable for their faith and guidance. They had become stagnant in their ways and had become so blind in their prejudice that they would not follow the Prophet (sws). Had God wished, He would have brought them to the right path but coercion was not according to His sunnah. He had bestowed choice upon humans and had challenged everyone according to his circumstance, to see who moves on the path to goodness and obedience and who becomes mired in ignorance and prejudice, thus making his way and group his deity.

The verses then address Muslims in general, but the direct addressees are the hypocrites who conspired with the Jews and took their issues to their courts. They were instructed to cut off their relations with the Jews and Christians and told that those who were friends with these people would be counted amongst them. The hypocrites are then referred to in clear words, saying that they were afraid that if Jews and Muslims fought and the former won, the hypocrites would be the worse off. Hence, they took their matters to Jewish courts so that they may be considered members of their group. The verses then tell Muslims that God did not care about those who became apostates: He would bring many more who loved Him and who He loved. They would be soft hearted and noble towards the believers and hard to the unbelievers; they would fight for God and not be concerned about anyone’s reproach.

We have provided this level of detail to clarify the nature of politics of the Jews at that time and their relations with the hypocrites so that readers may understand the true concept of authority of taghut and the benefits which hypocrites expected from this can be clarified. It also makes it clear how merely this aspect was enough to destroy all beliefs and claims made for religion and kill all worship and good deeds. This is so much so that the Qur’an has likened it to refusal of religion and has declared that God did not want such wicked, weak hearted, cowardly and profiteering people, who were puppets in the hands of the Jews. He loved only those who were steadfast in their character, firm as iron in their resolve and intentions and who entered Islam after breaking the idols of benefiting from compromises and profiteering and who would devote their entire lives to the service of God: “Enter obedience of God completely,” (2:208). Those who wished to worship God merely for their benefit could choose for themselves any faith they wanted: God and His religion did not want them: “And there are some people among them who serve God while standing on the verge; if good befalls them, they are, therewith, well content; but if a trial comes to them, they turn on their faces: they lose both this world and the Hereafter: that is loss for all to see! (22:11)


For a full understanding of the above, please keep these verses of Surah Nur in mind:  

They say: “We believe in God and in the apostle, and we obey.” But even after that, some of them turn away: they are not [really] believers. When they are summoned to God and His apostle, in order that He may judge between them, behold some of them decline [to come]. But if right is on their side, they come to him with all submission. Is it that there is a disease in their hearts? or do they doubt, or are they in fear, that and His Messenger will deal unjustly with them? Nay, it is they themselves who do wrong. The answer of the believers, when summoned to God and His Messenger, in order that He may judge between them, is no other than this: they say: “We hear and we obey.” It is such as these that will attain felicity. It is such as obey God and His Messenger, and fear and do right, that will win [in the end]. They swear their strongest oaths by that, if only thou wouldst command them, they would leave [their homes]. Say: “Swear ye not; Obedience is [more] reasonable; verily, God is well acquainted with all that ye do.” Say: “Obey God, and obey the Messenger, but if ye turn away, he is only responsible for the duty placed on him and ye for that placed on you. If ye obey him, ye shall be on right guidance. The Messenger’s duty is only to preach the clear [Message]. God has promised, to those among you who believe and work righteous deeds, that He will, of a surety, grant them in the land, inheritance [of power], as He granted it to those before them; that He will establish in authority their religion - the one which He has chosen for them; and that He will change [their state], after the fear in which they [lived], to one of security and peace: They will worship Me (alone) and not associate aught with Me. If any do reject faith after this, they are rebellious and wicked.” (4:47-55)


Those who have understood faith to mean only belief in a few things must reflect on these verses. Hypocrites claimed to believe in all of these, but the Qur’an did not accept their belief. Rather, it said clearly that these people were not people of faith. What kind of Islam and faith was this that they did not accept the authority of God and His Prophet (sws) in all their matters? When they deemed it of benefit, they ran towards the Prophet (sws); but when they feared worldly loss, they took their problems to Jewish courts in order to take advantage from the falsehoods and bribery of the Jews. They were suffering from hypocrisy and were doubtful about the power of Islam and did not believe in the justice of God and the Prophet (sws). The Qur’an then said that the faithful were only those who presented their matters in front of God and the Prophet (sws) and accepted all decisions made there without any objection. The words of the last verse are of particular significance. True Muslims are given tidings that although the hypocrites were in doubt of Islam’s power, God would bestow victory to the faithful, give glory to the religion of truth and transform the situation of fear that still existed because of the Jews and hypocrites, to peace and tranquility. God’s special servants shall only serve Him and not associate anyone with Him.

This was an accusation directed towards the hypocrites: that they served those other than God and considered them His partners. Obviously this was because they took their matters to Jewish courts. People who do not believe that obedience is a part of worship and think that if they pray and fast, it does not matter whether they are obeying an evil being as it does not affect their worship should ponder upon this verse. If obedience of someone other than God does not affect worship, what crime had those hypocrites committed that they were called polytheists and believers in polytheism?

Since this issue is of utmost importance and people have fallen into such decadence due to ignorance of the Qur’an that the foundations of religion are being destroyed, we present some additional verses for further clarification. It is stated in Surah Nisa: 

If anyone contends with the Messenger even after guidance has been plainly conveyed to him, and follows a path other than that becoming to men of Faith, We shall leave him in the path he has chosen, and land him in Hell,- what an evil refuge! God forgiveth not [the sin of] joining other gods with Him; but He forgiveth whom He pleases other sins than this: one who joins other gods with God, has strayed far, far away [from the right]. (4:115-116) 

These verses make it clear that objecting to what has been instructed by the Prophet (sws) and adopting a way other than that of the faithful is polytheism and its punishment is Hell. In this matter, the issue of whether it comes from God or the Prophet (sws) can be discussed, but in case it is determined thus, then whispering about it, declaring it against wisdom, and adopting another way of one’s own thinking or following someone else would be polytheism and God would not forgive polytheism. This verse about polytheism comes twice in the same Surah: once in case of polytheism of People of the Book, as given above and second, in case of polytheism of the hypocrites. A person with a keen mind would observe in both situations that there are many similarities. Three kinds of polytheism are given where the verse occurs for People of the Book. One, that they gave precedence the guidance of their nation to that from God; two, that they preferred to follow spirits and magic rather than God and three, that they preferred the way of Makkans to that of people of faith. Here, the verse preceding the above verse states: لَا  خَیۡرَ  فِیۡ  کَثِیۡرٍ  مِّنۡ نَّجۡوٰىهُمۡ  اِلَّا مَنۡ اَمَرَ بِصَدَقَةٍ اَوۡ مَعۡرُوۡفٍ اَوۡ اِصۡلَاحٍۭ  بَیۡنَ النَّاسِ ؕ وَ مَنۡ یَّفۡعَلۡ ذٰلِکَ ابۡتِغَآءَ مَرۡضَاتِ اللّٰهِ فَسَوۡفَ نُؤۡتِیۡـهِ اَجۡرًا عَظِیۡمًا (In most of their secret talks there is no good: But if one exhorts to a deed of charity or justice or conciliation between men, (secrecy is permissible): To him who does this, seeking the good pleasure of Allah, We shall soon give a reward of the highest [value], (4:114) In other words, the whispers which these hypocrites made against the person of the Prophet (sws), his instructions and his teaching did not possess any good. Blessings only existed in the whisper that was made for encouragement to sadaqah, doing good and reform of people. People who believed that their thinking was superior to the instructions of God and the Prophet (sws) were claimants to their own godliness, and, if they gave preference to someone else’s opinion, they considered him a deity. In both cases, they were polytheists, not believers in tawhid.


(Translated by Nikhat Sattar)

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