Civilized and primitive polytheism
IDOLS, GODS, AND transgressors include everything which is worshipped other than Allah. It is, indeed, of ignorance that one should think that this includes only trees, stones, stars, and such things which are worshipped other than Allah.
The worship of such things was consistent with the primitive mind of the Arab in the Days of Ignorance. This is seen in the tales of those who even worshipped idols made from dates, so that when they became hungry they ate these very gods. There was also the case of Abu Raj‚Äô al-Ataridi who used to search in the desert for four stones; three of these he made a tripod for his kettle. He used to face the fourth of these stones and pray to it. If he did not find stones he would scatter some dirt over an area then milk his goat on it and worship it.
If this was consistent with the uncultured Arab mind, as it still is with the understanding of primitive peoples today, the affluent material civilized generations also contain numerous forms of paganism which are in accord with the minds of its people. These range from the worship of desires, intellect, material, as well as the Pharonic deification of persons and earthly constitutional systems.
Therefore, it is plain that shirk includes the obedience to human beings in matters which involve the disobedience to Allah. And thus, people are obeyed after they were given the absolute right to legislate and determine what is lawful and unlawful; making the right to enjoin and forbid exclusively to others instead of Allah. Indeed, they are treated with reverence, requests, awe, fear, hope, love, and other forms of worship.
In the same manner, it is also clear that polytheism includes the following of man-made laws govern the wealth, blood, honor, and bodies of people. They forcefully impose upon people obligations which they are incapable of resisting or lifting from their shoulders. Likewise it involves granting loyalty, love, and submission to unbelievers and hypocrites. These, in effect, are all forms of shirk.
The Prophets of Allah propagated the monotheistic creed which necessitated the singling out of Allah in worship and full surrender to Him from every shade of polytheism. They presented these teachings to people in a manner which was clear and easy. Worship Allah alone: you have no deity other than Him. (Surah Al-Araf: 59) It is the duty of those who call to Islam that they should likewise present the message in the same manner as the Prophets did. It is not in the interest of Islam that they should give people the impression that Tawhid ‚Äď worship of Allah without associating partners to Him, is something difficult or incomprehensible and which only a few people are capable of practicing. All of this is contradictory to the reality of this natural faith and contrary to what the life of the Prophet Muhammad illustrated. For example, a Bedouin who spend all his life in polytheism and paganism would sit for a few moments with the Prophet and listen to his explanation of Islam and the meaning of monotheism; in the end the Bedouin would leave as a Muslim ‚Äď indeed as a believer and a caller to Allah‚Äôs religion. He would then go to his people and proclaim: ‚ÄúVerily the idol of al-Lat is no god and the idol of ‚ÄėUza has no honor, I disbelieve in them and those who worship them instead of Allah.‚ÄĚ So entrenched would be his conviction that when his wife comes to him he would rebuke her and drive out saying: ‚ÄúIslam has decreed separation between you and I.‚ÄĚ
With this ease, passion and depth they understood Islam and thus became its propagators from the moment they became convinced of its tenets. In this light it is not fitting for us to create unnecessary confusion for people. The religion is crystal clear to all, both the common people and the learned understand Allah‚Äôs signs and the prophetic traditions related to monotheism. Our duty, therefore, is only to explain the meanings of some texts that may appear difficult to them.
Neither is it proper for those who have inherited the mantle of the Prophets to obscure the tenets of the faith in order to derive material gain from over lengthy periods of instruction. Nor should we be like those university lecturers who make others believe that they have no right to speak or give their views about a matter on the pretext that others do no understand or perceive the dimensions of the issue. In other words, as if they alone have been endowed with comprehending minds.
A Muslim reading of Surah Al-Ikhlas (the 112th Surah) with its five verses is enough to fill his heart with the love, praise, knowledge, and Tawhid of Allah. It is enough to confirm all the qualities of Allah‚Äôs perfection; and more so, absolve Him from all faults and shortcomings: and which Muslim does not know this Surah? And shall we not proceed from this great things which he knows, so that we may explain to him its meaning, lay bare before him its proofs, and call him to take from the Qur‚Äôan
this rich knowledge. Without creating a barrier between him and this knowledge with modern jargon, imported terminology or ‚Äėlogical‚Äô deductions that render the adoption of this faith to become like the taking of mathematics or algebra!
What is the conflict about?
IT HAS BECOME clear and self-evident that the battle between the Prophets and their adversaries was actually centered around this great pillar ‚Äď the Tawhid of Allah, and singling Allah out with the entirety of worship acts. This battle was never about secondary juridical differences, or about elements of legal intricacies, or about an issue for independent judgement. Instead, we recognize that the laws of the Prophets themselves were numerous, each according to the time, place, and those addressed. That these laws were brought in order to organize people‚Äôs lives in such a manner which sooner rather than later guaranteed their interests. The Prophets were, therefore, brothers; their religion ‚Äď Tawhid ‚Äď as was reported by the Messenger was one even though their laws were somewhat different.
In this light, will not those who are concerned with the affairs of Islam become enlightened? Will they not renew the Call of the Prophets and their followers, and fight the same battles that the Prophets fought? Will they not cease to preoccupy themselves with insignificant matters that distract them from the real issue? For surely, this great battle of truth against falsehood has been the concern of the reformers and renewers throughout history.
The battle which Shaykh Al-Islam ibn Taymiyyah, for example, fought against his adversaries was first and foremost a battle of Tawhid. It was a war against every form of shirk in worship, against transgression, and misguidance. Similarly, the battle waged by Imam Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahab, the renewer, was one against various forms of polytheism which had become rooted on the Arabian Peninsula. He invited the people to the worship of Allah Almighty alone and to abandon all forms of paganism and polytheism. His struggle was never about side issues or juridical differences. For this reason one cannot ascribe to Shaykh Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahab, his followers, or students an independent school of jurisprudence. Their legal thought is the same as the Imams who preceded them. Thus, they always chose that which was closes to the evidence but never aspired to establish a fifth school of Fiqh, as some falsely claim.
And so while many people still collect the books of Shaykh Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahab, read them, listen to, and even memorize them, some are nevertheless ignorant, or consciously ignore the real nature of the conflict which the Shaykh inspired. Indeed, many of those who profess knowledge and identify with the Islamic Call keep themselves busy in petty quarrels, lost in emptiness with those around them. They engross themselves with books, dissertations, and audiocassettes on secondary issues leading to time-consuming debates, big and small; refuting, rebuking and rebutting each other in issues that completely overwhelm them, producing nothing of benefit akin to an empty windmill!!! All of this relates to issues that are more often than not minor and where a difference of opinion is tolerated. These issues do not usually contain elements of absolute guidance or clear-cut misguidance. Instead, they invariably bear elements which are partially right and partially wrong. Possibly part of the right may be here while another part is somewhere else. And the issue should remain within these limits.
In this light we are obliged to express our concern about the share of the Tawhid of Uluhiyyah (maintaining the unity of Allah‚Äôs worship and exclusively of rule) amid these great efforts that are being expended. How many books do we possess on this subject? How many research papers? How many articles! How many discussions! How many cassettes concerning this matter?