Monday, 9 July 2018

Islam is Monolatrous not Monotheistic


بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

والصلى الله تعالى على نبيه الكريم

والعاقبة للمتقين

Now I have taken the bold decision to write something quite controversial which many Muslims might not have the appetite to digest. From childhood we Muslims are taught that there is only one God, Allah Most High, and that apart from Him there is absolutely no other god. Certainly, this is how most Muslims understand the meaning of the Kalima:

لا اله الا الله

There is no god except Allah

Reza Aslan, a Muslim-American author and “intellectual”, even titled one of his books No god but God, despite the fact that the statement “no god but God” is somewhat incomprehensible, especially if the distinction between capitalized “God” and “god” with a lower-case “g” is not carefully noted. But it is more accurate to understand the meaning of the Kalima as not “no god but God”, but rather, as meaning, “there is none worthy of worship except Allah”. The word Ilah most often translated to mean “god” actually means “worshipped object” (Arabic-English Dictionary of Qur’anic Usage p.40)
The dual form Ilahayn occurs in the Qur’an:

وَإِذْ قَالَ اللَّـهُ يَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ أَأَنتَ قُلْتَ لِلنَّاسِ اتَّخِذُونِي وَأُمِّيَ إِلَـٰهَيْنِ مِن دُونِ اللَّـهِ

And when Allah said: O Jesus son of Mary, did you say to the people to “take me and my mother as two worshipped objects besides Allah?”

(Sura 5:116)

Most English translation actually render it: “two gods besides Allah”, inadverdently giving ammunition to the Christians who argue that they do not consider saint Mary a “goddess”. The Qur’anic narrative is not, however, concerned here with any formula of Christian doctrine, but rather with the actions of the Christians in offering acts of worship dedicated to Jesus and his mother Mary. It is because of this fundamental misunderstanding that many Christian apologists accuse the Qur’an of incorrectly defining the trinity to include Mary (in reality, this Verse is not addressing the trinity doctrine). Yet by invoking and supplicating saint Mary, though she is beyond the grave, the Christians, especially the Catholics, have made her into an Ilaha, that is, a worshipped object. Hence, it is more accurate to translate Ilahayn as “two worshipped objects” rather than “two gods”. Now returning to the most critical testimony and creed of Islam:

لا اله الا الله

There is none worthy of worship except Allah

I argue that the words La ilaha are not a negation of the existence of any other object of worship, rather, it is a negation of anyone or anything being worthy of worship (except Allah). Before I elaborate on this vital point, understand that now I have essentially said that Islam is NOT a monotheistic religion. For “monotheism” means a belief that there exists only a single deity, whereas I argue that Islam does not necessarily negate the existence of Alihat (plural form of Ilah). More accurately, Islam enjoins monolatrism, meaning, there are many objects of worship in existence, but only One (Allah) should be worshipped. The Christians worship Jesus son of Mary, even considering him to be God incarnate. If the Kalima meant that there are no other objects of worship in existence apart from Allah, that would necessitate that Jesus son of Mary doesn’t exist, or for that matter that any historical human being that is worshipped did not actually exist. Of course that is absurd. Islam does not necessarily deny the existence of the objects of worship. There are even those pagans who worship the sun, moon, stars, trees, and other things that are present in nature. It would be absurd to deny the existence of the sun, moon, stars, planets, trees, etc. What Islam denies is that they are worthy of being worshipped. One sees then how, practically speaking, being true to monotheism does not hinder someone from idolatry. For as long as someone acknowledges there is only a single God, meaning supreme deity, he may worship any number of mortal human beings, angels, spirits, animals, stars, stones, etc., provided he does not consider any of those things to be “God”. Therefore, Islam is not monotheistic but rather, monolatrous. It has to be admitted that most of the objects of worship of the various polytheistic religious and cults in the world do in fact have some historical basis as having been ancient humans known for their exceptional qualities or feats. A personality cult developed around them and they eventually became worshipped objects for their respective peoples. There may be examples of polytheists worshipping someone or something that is completely fictional, but consider that the Christians worship Jesus and Mary, real, historical human beings, while the Buddhists worship Buddha, believed to be the historic Siddhartha Gautama. Now let us examine the holy Qur’an and see what it says concerning this matter:

فَمَا أَغْنَتْ عَنْهُمْ آلِهَتُهُمُ الَّتِي يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّـهِ مِن شَيْءٍ لَّمَّا جَاءَ أَمْرُ رَبِّكَ

And their gods, which they invoked other than Allah, did not avail them in anything, when the command of your Lord came

(Sura 11:101)

Here I have translated aalihatuhum as “their gods” to demonstrate my point. Of course, it obviously means “their objects of worship”. In this Ayah, Allah is not negating the existence of those aalihat but only the fact that they cannot avail their worshippers in anything, hence it is useless to worship such worthless things:

وَاتَّخَذُوا مِن دُونِهِ آلِهَةً لَّا يَخْلُقُونَ شَيْئًا وَهُمْ يُخْلَقُونَ

And they have taken besides Him gods which cannot create anything but are themselves created

(Sura 25:3)

“Gods which cannot create anything” would otherwise seem to be an oxymoron, but that is only when one understand the term aalihah to means “gods” in the sense the word is often used in the English language, itself due to the strong influence of Christian theology on both English language and culture.

فَرَاغَ إِلَىٰ آلِهَتِهِمْ فَقَالَ أَلَا تَأْكُلُونَ

Then he [Abraham] turned to their gods and said: “Do you not eat?”

(Sura 37:91)

The idols which the people of Ur worshipped, which the patriarch Abraham destroyed, were idols carved out of stone, wood and metal, just like the idols of the Hindus, Buddhists, Catholics and Pagans. It would be absurd to deny the existence of such idols as they are made from real, tangible material. Hence, the Verse refers to them as aalihah meaning objects of worship. In classical Islamic terminology, the term Tawhid al-Rububiyya refers to our belief that there is only a single supreme being, Who is the Lord and Creator of all things, namely, Allah Most High. However, this belief is more or less common to most of the world’s major religions. Apart from the atheists, dualists and some other rare exceptions, most of humanity acknowledges the existence of a single Supreme Being and hence claim to be monotheists. One may be surprised to learn that many Hindus, particularly their philosophers, claim to be monotheistic. Likewise, Jews, Christians and even Sikhs all claim to be monotheists. In reality, what they refer to as their monotheism is what is called Tawhid al-Rububiyya in our classical Islamic terminology. But there is another Tawhid, known as Tawhid al-‘Ibada or Tawhid al-Uluhiyya, which means that only Allah, the Supreme Being and Lord, Creator of all things, is alone worthy of worship. This is the type of Tawhid which distinguishes Islam from all other religions. In other words, it is not sufficient to merely acknowledge the existence of a single Lord or God, one must dedicate all one’s acts of worship to Him alone. There are many so-called “monotheists” who claim to believe in only one God but who, often in the name of intercession, worship various prophets, saints and angels imagining that such worship does not constitute a breach of monotheism. But the fact of the matter is that all of the Prophets and Apostles which Allah Most High sent to mankind to warn them made Tawhid al-Uluhiyya the focus of their preaching and call.

2 comments:

  1. Monolatrism should not be confused with henotheism. In monolatrism, the existence of other objects of worship is acknowledged while only One is declared worthy of worship and the worship of any other is condemned, whereas in henotheism, only one is worshiped though the worship of others is not necessarily condemned. Furthermore, henotheism does not preclude the possibility of other "gods" being powerful or even equal and perhaps even superior to the "god" which one singly worships or is attached to. The Mormon church (LDS) is essentially a polytheistic, henotheistic religion, and interestingly, uses the statement of Paul of Tarsus as justification for its belief in the existence of many gods possessing divine powers: For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (1 Corinthians 8:5-6 NIV)

    ReplyDelete
  2. The kalimah is clear there's only one God. No one's denying that some false Gods don't exist but at the end of the day there only creations not the creator.

    ReplyDelete

Taliban, Huthis and Near Future Emergence of the Mahdi

  بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم الصلاة والسلام على سيد المرسلين وعلى اهل بيته الطيبين الطاهرين The changes to the geopolitical chessboard is acc...