The Meaning of At-Tāghūt

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Having presented the evidence indicating how declaring disbelief in the Tāghūt is a fundamental condition for the correctness of one’s Eemān, we must now study what the definition of Tāghūt is so that we know what is included as Tāghūt and what is not. And we also need to study the characteristics of how to declare disbelief in Tāghūt so that we know how to distinguish between a person who truly declares disbelief in Tāghūt amongst those who do not.

The definition of at-Tāghūt is as follows,

‘All things that are worshipped besides Allah (swt) even from a single aspect of worship, and he is accepting of that status is a Tāghūt.’

The specification of, ‘…is accepting…’ is to exclude the Prophets (as), the Angels and the Sāliheen, those who the people may worship besides Allah (swt), them from being described as Tāghūt as they obviously reject being worshipped besides Allah (swt) and prohibited people for doing such.

We can conclude from the above definition that whatever is worshipped from the angle of being prostrated to (sujood) or bowed towards (rukou’) is a Tāghūt. Whoever is worshipped from the angle of Du’a and requesting (talab) besides Allah (swt) is a Tāghūt. Whoever is worshipped from the angle of fear (khouf) and hope (rajā’) besides Allah (swt) is a Tāghūt. Whoever is worshipped from the angle of obedience (ta’ah) and arbitration (tahākum) besides Allah (swt) is a Tāghūt. Whoever is worshipped from the angle of love (mahaba), allegiance (wala’a) and disassociation (bara’a) besides Allah (swt) is a Tāghūt.

Everything that is worshipped for its own sake is Tāghūt and under this definition comes the rulers, the priests and monks, scholars, leaders of political parties amongst others. The one who follows such peoples for their own sake are worshipping Tawagheet besides Allah (swt) knowingly or unknowingly.

Similarly everything that is loved for its own sake instead of Allah (swt) is a Tāghūt. The object which is loved for its own sake will specify who you should make allegiance to and whom you should hate without caring for what Allah (swt) has ordered; nor whether such requests agree with truth or falsehood.

Shaykh Ibn Taymiyyah commented,

“If a person who is worshipped besides Allah (swt) does not reject such a status he becomes Tāghūt. And the Prophet (saw) called the idols Tawagheet in a Saheeh hadith when he (saw) said, ‘The one who follows the worshippers of Tawagheet are themselves Tawagheet.’ The one who is obeyed in transgressing Allah’s (swt) order, or the one who is obeyed in a matter which is not based upon the guidance but acceptable to the people, if it contravenes the order of Allah (swt) then he is a Tāghūt. For this reason those people who arbitrate to other than the Qur’an are called Tāghūt. And Allah (swt) called Firaoun and the people of Ā’d Tughāt.” [Ibn Taymiyah, Fatwa Vol 28 Pg 200.]

Ibn Qayyim said,

“The Tāghūt are all things that go beyond their boundaries in terms of being worshipped, followed or obeyed. Therefore, the Tāghūt are everyone that the people go to arbitrate instead of Allah (swt) or His Prophet (saw), or they worship besides Allah (swt), or their follow upon guidance other than from Allah (swt), or they follow them blindly even in matters which are obedience to Allah (swt). These are examples of Tawagheet of the world. If you think about the situation of the people of this time, you would find that most of them have left the worship of Allah (swt) to worship these Tawagheet; and have left the arbitration to Allah (swt) and His Prophet (saw) to arbitrate to the Tāghūt; as well as leaving following and obeying the Prophet (saw) to obey the Tawagheet and their followers.”

If this was the situation at the time of Ibn Qayyim what about the current times we live in? The various types and forms of Tawagheet have increased manifest fold. The divine texts from the Sunnah indicate that there is not a generation except that the one following it is worse. We ask Allah (swt) to protect us and give us a good ending!

Shaykh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahab commented,

“Tāghūt generally is anything that is worshipped besides Allah (swt) and is happy with such worship including the one who is worshipped, followed or obeyed besides Allah (swt); these are all Tāghūt.”

And Sayyid Qutb said in ‘The Shade of the Qur’an’ regarding the verse, ‘some He transformed into apes and swine and those who worshipped Tāghūt’ [5:60],

“The Tāghūt is any authority that contravenes the ruling of Allah (swt); and any judgement that is not based upon the Shari’ah of Allah (swt). Any assault against the Ulouhiyyah (divinity) or Hākimiyyah (right to rule and judge) of Allah (swt) is the worst type of assault and the most evil Tughyān. Such type of action fully enters under Tāghūt by word and meaning. The Jews and Christians (Ahl Kitāb) never physically worshipped their Priests and Monks; however they followed their judgements and laws, instead of the law of Allah (swt) yet Allah (swt) called them Mushrikeen (associators). They are worshippers of Tāghūt meaning that they are following an authority that went beyond its boundaries. They do not worship it by the meaning of making prostration or bowing to it; however they are worshipping them by the meaning of following and obedience. Such type of actions removes one from the worship of Allah (swt) and subsequently even from the Deen of Allah (swt).”

So be careful O servant of Allah from being a worshipper of Tāghūt, or from their helpers, knowingly or unknowingly as it would destroy your deeds and make you loose whatever you have in this life and the hereafter!

Declaring Disbelief in Taghut

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Amongst the conditions which one needs to ensure correctness of one’s Tawheed is that of declaring disbelief in the Tāghūt. There can be no Eemān in one’s heart except after declaring disbelief inwardly and outwardly to all the Tawagheet. We will present the evidences regarding this condition as follows;

Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says in the Qur’an,

“Whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks.” [Surah al-Baqarah 2:256]

The ‘trustworthy hand-hold’ here means the testimony that there is no god but Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), as stated by the scholars of knowledge and Tafsīr (explanation). The above ayah shows that whoever presents firstly declaring disbelief in the Tāghūt then follows this by declaring Eemān (belief) in Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) they are those who have attained the trustworthy hand-hold i.e. the Shahadah.

And conversely, regarding the person who does not declare disbelief in Tāghūt even if they go on to declare belief in Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), they have not fulfilled its conditions and cannot be said they have ‘…grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold…’.

It is reported in the Tafsīr of Ibn Katheer in relation to the above verse,

“This means whoever rejects the false rivals (andād) to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), the idols (awthān) and everything that the Shaytān calls people to worship besides Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) and then makes Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) the only One worthy of worship in all matters, and bears witness that there is no god but Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) he has ‘grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold’ meaning that he has become firm upon the best and the straight path and he has come to grasp the Deen from its strongest way. The use of the word hand-hold indicates something that is fixed, will not ever break which has been tied firmly. Mujāhid said that the hand-hold is Eemān (true belief). Saeed bin Musayab and Al-Dahāk said that the hand-hold means there is no god but Allah (سبحانه و تعالى).”

I see no contradiction or inconsistency between the two explanations given by Mujāhid or al-Dahāk for the meaning of al-Urwa tu Wuthqa. Imām Qurtubi commented in his Tafsīr,

“‘Whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah’ this is the assertion of the condition and ‘has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold’ is the response to the condition.”

Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) said,

“For We assuredly sent to each nation an apostle, (with the Command), ‘Worship Allah, and shun the Tāghūt.” [Surah an-Nahl 16:36]

This was the work of the Prophets and the Messenger throughout the different ages and subsequently this must also be the message of those who claim to tread upon and follow their methodology and path in calling to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى).

In a Saheeh hadith it is reported that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وعلى آله وسلم) said,

“Whoever says there is no god but Allah and rejects and disbelieves all that is worshipped besides Allah (سبحانه و تعالى); his wealth and blood will be protected and his account will be with Allah (سبحانه و تعالى).” [Muslim, Tabarani]

When the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وعلى آله وسلم) said, ‘And disbelieves in all that is worshipped besides Allah (سبحانه و تعالى)’, that infers the condition of Kufr bit Tāghūt. Someone may say that the first part of the Shahadah already contains the condition of Kufr bit Tāghūt in the form of negation when one says, ‘there is no god,’ so why would the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وعلى آله وسلم) stipulate this condition twice as in the above hadith?

My answer is that the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وعلى آله وسلم) did such to confirm the importance of the matter and explain it accordingly as Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahab explained in his Majmou’ at-Tawheed,

“To declare disbelief in all objects of worship other than Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) is proof of negation. One’s wealth and blood cannot become protected except by doing so. If a person has any doubt or hesitation regarding this then his wealth and blood will not be protected… Know that a person can only remain a true believer except by declaring disbelief in Tāghūt and the evidence for this is when Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says, ‘Whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold.’”

One’s wealth and blood not being protected is a clear indication of the annulment on a person’s Eemān (belief) regarding the one who believes in Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) but does not declare disbelief in Tāghūt. Irrespective of how often a person may repeat the Shahadah, if he does not reject the Tāghūt, he is like a person who believes in one thing and the exact opposite of it at the same time. He may say there is no god but Allah, but worships other false deities with or besides Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) at the same time.

And as we mentioned before that in the heart of a person, one cannot find belief and disbelief at the same time, nor Tawheed and Shirk as the hadith states, ‘Eemān (belief) and Kufr (disbelief) cannot co-exist in the heart of a person. [Silsalat us-Saheeha for Sheikh Albānee no. 1050]

Someone may ask, ‘What is the wisdom behind placing the aspect of negation before confirmation in the statement of the Shahadah?’

I answer that there are a number of different wisdoms behind placing the negation prior to confirmation in the Shahadah and some of these are as follows;

a) The person who is not careful in implementing the negation prior to the affirmation may be afflicted with worshipping Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) and by worshipping the Tāghūt at the same time or by having shirk and tawheed at the same time. And in so doing, is following the religion of the Mushrikeen (idol worshippers) who combine between worshipping Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) and others besides Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) concurrently. Despite believing in Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) they remain Musrikoon as Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) said regarding them,

“Most of those who believe in Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) do not do so except with associating (other as partners) with Him.” [Surah Yusuf 12:106]

b)Failing to comply with the negation before affirmation would lead to all of one’s actions to be rejected and redundant in the Hereafter. If one began to worship Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) without firstly rejecting all other false deities, then one will also be performing all manner of Shirk actions in addition to their actions of obedience to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى). And as me mentioned before, by performing shirk all actions are consequently rejected and prevents its companion from any benefit. Therefore the one who prays, fasts and performs the hajj, if he does so before declaring disbelief in the Tāghūt and disassociation from it, such actions of worship will not benefit him one iota and he will be amongst the regretful people in the Hereafter.

Sheikh Muhammad bin Abdul Wahab said,

“Whosoever prays night and day to Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) and then goes to a grave and makes Du’a (petition) to the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وعلى آله وسلم) or the Awliyā (those close to Allah), it is as if they have taken another lord besides Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) and they have rejected the Shahadah since the Lord is the only One who can be called upon for Du’a. As the Mushrikeen do such at the graves of Zubair and Abdul Qadir amongst others… Whosoever slaughters 1,000 sacrificial animals in the name of Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) and then sacrifices a sole animal in the name of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وعلى آله وسلم) or anyone else for that matter, he has taken that person as a second lord besides Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) as Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) says, ‘Say: Surely, my prayer, my sacrifice, my life and my death are for Allah (سبحانه و تعالى), the Lord of the worlds who has no partner.” [Ar-Risala Ash-Shaksiya, pg. 166]