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The Pillars of Tawheed

The first obligation upon every Muslim is Tawheed (to worship and obey Allah exclusively); and the first pillar of Tawheed is al-kufr bit-taghout, or to reject taghout. One cannot be a Muslim unless they reject all forms of taghout, whether it be in the form of an object or person.

Taghout has been defined by the Sahabah (Companions of the Messenger Muhammad, peace be upon him) and classical scholars who follow the Salaf (Pious Predecessors) as: “Anything that is worshipped, followed or obeyed besides Allah.”

Imam Malik bin Anas (rahimahullah) said:

الطاغوت ما عبد من دون الله
“Taghout is anything that is worshipped (or obeyed) besides Allah.” (Reported in Al-Jaami’ li-Ahkaam al-Qur’aan by Imaam al-Qurtubi)

Sheikh ul-Islam Muhammad bin ‘Abdil Wahhab (rahimahullah), died 1201 AH, said:

والطاغوت؛ عام في كل ما عبد من دون الله ورضي بالعبادة من معبود أو متبوع أو مطاع
“And the taghout, in general, is anything that is worshipped instead of Allah, and he consented to being worshipped, followed or obeyed.” (Risaalatun fee Ma’naa at-Taghout by Sheikh Muhammad bin ‘Abdil Wahhab)

Hence, any object or person besides Allah that consents to being worshipped, obeyed or followed is a taghout (false god). Examples of tawaagheet (plural for taghout) are:

  • Idols, stones, trees, shrines, statues, graves, amulets, and so forth, that are worshipped.
  • Desires, philosophies, laws, constitutions, celebrities, or false prophets that arefollowed.
  • Rulers, scholars and lawmakers (MPs) that legislate or judge by man-made laws and are obeyed.

A person can spend their whole life praying or speaking about Islam, Jihad, Hajj, Salat, Da’wah, Qur’aan, Sunnah, Siyam (fasting) and so forth, but if they do not reject and disbelieve in taghout none of their good deeds will be accepted. This is because rejecting taghout is the first condition of being Muslim, and this is exactly why it is even included in the first part of the Kalimah, Laa ilaaha illallah:

  1. Laa ilaaha “There is no god” (an-nafie – rejection of taghout and false deities)
  2. Illallah “except Allah” (al-ithbaat – affirmation of belief)

Therefore, by pronouncing the Kalimah and believing in it, one is actually declaring their rejection of all false deities, prior to affirming their belief in the One, true Lord – Allah.

It is not possible for any individual to be Muslim unless (and until) they disbelieve in all false gods and religions.

The key to understanding the Kalimah

Allah (SWT) says:

فَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِالطَّاغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِنْ بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَكَ بِالْعُرْوَةِ الْوُثْقَى لا انْفِصَامَ لَهَا وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ
“Whosoever rejects taghout and [then] believes in Allah, he has grasped the most trustworthy Knot of Islam [i.e. the Kalimah]…” (Al-Baqarah, 2:256)

Understanding the meaning of the Kalimah is the first condition of Tawheed and a duty upon all Muslims. Allah (SWT) informs us in the above verse that it is only those who reject taghout and then believe in Allah who have truly understood its meaning, and will thus achieve ultimate success in the Hereafter. The Messenger Muhammad (SAW) said:

من مات وهو يعلم أنه لا إله إلا الله دخل الجنة
“Whoever dies while understanding [the meaning of] Laa ilaaha illallah will enter Paradise.” (Saheeh Muslim, Book 1, Chapter 10, Hadeeth no. 26)

Therefore, the secret to understanding the Kalimah is in rejecting taghout. For this reason, it is absolutely vital for us to learn how to reject taghout – that is, if we wish to acquire the proper understanding of Laa ilaaha illallah.

How to reject taghout

There are five methods or ways to reject taghout, all of which are obligatory upon the Believer:

1. Declaring taghout to be falsehood (baatil)

The first way to reject taghout entails believing that all tawaagheet are false and not worthy of being worshipped or obeyed. Some people may not worship taghout, but they do not believe that it is falsehood. This is kufr (disbelief, apostasy) as a Muslim is required to believe that Islam is the only truth and all other religions are false, and that Allah is the only true Ilaah (Lord) and all other aalihah (plural for ilaah, god) are baatil. Allah says:

ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الْحَقُّ وَأَنَّ مَا يَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِهِ هُوَ الْبَاطِلُ
“That is because Allah – He is the Truth, and what they [the Kuffar, i.e. Disbelievers] invoke besides Him is baatil…” (Al-Hajj 22:62)

2. Keeping distant from taghout (ijtinaab)

Allah (SWT) sent a Messenger to every community (or people) with the same message: to worship and obey Allah alone, and keep away from taghout:

وَلَقَدْ بَعَثْنَا فِي كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ رَسُولا أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ وَاجْتَنِبُوا الطَّاغُوتَ فَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ هَدَى اللَّهُ وَمِنْهُمْ مَنْ حَقَّتْ عَلَيْهِ الضَّلالَةُ فَسِيرُوا فِي الأرْضِ فَانْظُرُوا كَيْفَ كَانَ عَاقِبَةُ الْمُكَذِّبِينَ
“And verily, We have sent among every ummah [community, people] a Messenger [proclaiming]: “Worship Allah [Alone] wajtaniboo [and keep away] from taghout.” Then of them were some whom Allah guided and of them were some upon whom the straying was justified. So travel through the land and see what was the end of those who denied [the truth].” (An-Nahl, 16:36)

The command to “ijtaniboo” (keep away) has greater implications than saying, for example, ‘Do not worship (or support).’ This is because in Usool ul-Fiqh, or Islamic Jurisprudence, a command to make ijtinaab (keep away from) is more decisive than a command not to do. For example, Allah (SWT) orders us to keep away from alcohol; so if coming close to alcohol is forbidden, for greater reason it is not allowed to be amongst those consuming it. Likewise, Allah has ordered us to keep away from taghout; if it is not allowed to go near taghout, for greater reason it is not allowed to be his assistant, ally, minister or mufti, or to be a member of his police force, army or government.

In fact, it is kufr (an act of disbelief and apostasy) to worship, serve, obey or follow any taghout, and whosoever does so will become a Disbeliever.

Worshipping (by obeying and serving) taghout is also one of the characteristics of the Jews and Christians, who took their rabbis and priests as lords besides Allah by obeying them at times when they clearly changed or contradicted the Scriptures that were revealed to them. Allah (SWT) says:

قُلْ هَلْ أُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِشَرٍّ مِنْ ذَلِكَ مَثُوبَةً عِنْدَ اللَّهِ مَنْ لَعَنَهُ اللَّهُ وَغَضِبَ عَلَيْهِ وَجَعَلَ مِنْهُمُ الْقِرَدَةَ وَالْخَنَازِيرَ وَعَبَدَ الطَّاغُوتَ أُولَئِكَ شَرٌّ مَكَانًا وَأَضَلُّ عَنْ سَوَاءِ السَّبِيلِ
“Say (to the People of the Scripture): ‘Shall I inform you of something worse than that, regarding the recompense from Allah: those (Jews) who incurred the Curse of Allah and His Wrath, those of whom (some) He transformed into monkeys and swines, those who worshipped Taghout (false deities); such are worse in rank (on the Day of Resurrection in the Hellfire), and far more astray from the Right Path (in the life of this world).’” (Al-Ma’idah, 5:60)

‘Omar bin al-Khattaab (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “Taghout is Shaytan.” Since every taghout is a Shaytan (devil), we should always bear in mind that it is apostasy to worship, obey or serve taaghout, because Shaytan cannot be a Muslim.

Every ruler or scholar that permits what Allah has forbidden is taghout and hence Shaytan; thus, it is apostasy to support them, join their ranks, defend them or fight for them. Verily, it is only the Disbelievers and Munaafiqeen (hypocrites) that support and fight for taghout:

الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا يُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا يُقَاتِلُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ الطَّاغُوتِ فَقَاتِلُوا أَوْلِيَاءَ الشَّيْطَانِ إِنَّ كَيْدَ الشَّيْطَانِ كَانَ ضَعِيفًا
“Those who believe fight in the Cause of Allah, and those who disbelieve fight in the cause of Taghout (Satan, etc.). So fight you against the friends of Shaytan (i.e. the Disbelievers); ever feeble indeed is the plot of Shaytan (Satan).” (An-Nisaa, 4:76)

If a scholar becomes taghout (by permitting what Allah forbids, for example) we should keep away from him, not study his books or attend his lectures. By doing so one is actually worshipping Allah by fulfilling His command of keeping away from taghout.

3. Showing animosity towards taghout (‘adaawah)

Every Believer must declare all tawaagheet to be their enemies as they are the enemies of Allah. If a person has not declared them to be falsehood, kept a distance from them and declared animosity towards them, they have not yet rejected taghout and entered into Islam. Naturally, if a person understands that the taghout (false god) is their enemy, they will never ally with him or become the grand mufti of his kufr (non-Islamic) regime. Allah (SWT) says:

قَدْ كَانَتْ لَكُمْ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ فِي إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَالَّذِينَ مَعَهُ إِذْ قَالُوا لِقَوْمِهِمْ إِنَّا بُرَآءُ مِنْكُمْ وَمِمَّا تَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ كَفَرْنَا بِكُمْ وَبَدَا بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكُمُ الْعَدَاوَةُ وَالْبَغْضَاءُ أَبَدًا حَتَّى تُؤْمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَحْدَهُ
“Indeed there has been an excellent example for you in Ibrahim (Abraham) and those with him, when they said to their people: ‘Verily, we are free from you and whatever you worship besides Allah, we have rejected you, and there has started between us and you, animosity and hatred forever, until you believe in Allah Alone.’” (Al-Mumtahanah, 60:4)

The Anbiyaa’ (Prophets) and Saliheen (good doers) could not tolerate and strongly forbade scholars from being at the gates of a tyrant Muslim ruler. So for a greater reason, it is not allowed to be at the gates of an apostate taghout ruler who has allied with the crusaders and replaced the Sharia.

4. Hating taghout (bughd)

After one has declared taghout to be falsehood, kept distant from it and declared it to be their number one enemy, they must then have hatred for taghout. In Islam, there is no such concept as “love your enemy”. In fact, it is prohibited to love your enemy and it is only the foolish who do so. Ibrahim (AS) said to his people, who disbelieved in Allah and worshipped taghout:

إِنَّا بُرَآءُ مِنْكُمْ وَمِمَّا تَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ كَفَرْنَا بِكُمْ وَبَدَا بَيْنَنَا وَبَيْنَكُمُ الْعَدَاوَةُ وَالْبَغْضَاءُ أَبَدًا حَتَّى تُؤْمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَحْدَهُ
“…We have rejected you, and there has started between us and you, animosity and hatred forever, until you believe in Allah alone…” (Al-Mumtahanah, 60:4)

It is not allowed to show any love or compassion to taghout (Shaytan), or to his armies, supporters, sponsors, assistants, endorsers, muftis, ministers, followers, worshippers, and so forth. Rather, one must worship Allah by hating them.

5. Declaring taghout to be Kafir (takfeer)

After declaring taghout to be baatil, keeping away from it, declaring animosity and hating taghout, one must then make takfeer upon taghout (Shaytaan). It is impossible for taghout (i.e. Shaytan) to be a Muslim since the taghout is that which is worshipped or obeyed besides Allah; consequently, it is a false god.

فَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِالطَّاغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِنْ بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَكَ بِالْعُرْوَةِ الْوُثْقَى لا انْفِصَامَ لَهَا وَاللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ
“…Whosoever declares kufr on [rejects] taghout then believes in Allah, he has grasped the most trustworthy Knot of Islam…” (Al-Baqarah, 2:256)

The one who does not perform takfeer by declaring Shaytan (taghout) to be Kafir (i.e. a Disbeliever) is a Kafir. This is because Allah (SWT) has declared Shaytan to be Kafir in the Qur’an. Furthermore, Allah (SWT) has also declared the one who worships taghout (by referring to him for judgment) to be a Kafir too:

أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ يَزْعُمُونَ أَنَّهُمْ آمَنُوا بِمَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكَ وَمَا أُنْزِلَ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ يُرِيدُونَ أَنْ يَتَحَاكَمُوا إِلَى الطَّاغُوتِ وَقَدْ أُمِرُوا أَنْ يَكْفُرُوا بِهِ وَيُرِيدُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَنْ يُضِلَّهُمْ ضَلالا بَعِيدًا
“Have you seen those [Hypocrites, i.e. Disbelievers] who claim that they believe in that which has been sent down to you, and that which was sent down before you, and they wish to arbitrate [go for judgement in their disputes] to the taghout [judges that do not judge by the Sharia] while they have been ordered to reject them. But Shaytan [Satan] wishes to lead them far astray.” (An-Nisaa’, 4:60)

It is Shaytan’s greatest aim to lead all Believers to apostasy and hence become Kafir like him, by tempting them to become closer to taghout instead of keeping away from it. Therefore, it is essential for us to understand Tawheed and how to reject taghout, for rejecting taghout (the fulfilment of the first pillar of Tawheed) is the key to understanding the Kalimah, being saved from Hell and attaining Paradise.


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