Beliefs or Creeds

In this chapter, we shall not discuss various types of religions adopted by mankind like Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, etc. Rather we will approach the subject of belief from another angle i.e. belief in One God (Monotheism or Tauheed), belief in more than one God or plurality of gods (Polytheism or Shirk), belief in no God (Disbelief or Kufr or Atheism) and position between belief and disbelief (Hypocrisy or Nifaq). And the discussion on the subject will be made strictly in the light of what the Qur’an says.

At-Tauheed or Monotheism

Concept and Meaning

Monotheism means belief in one God which in Islamic terminology is called Doctrine of Tauheed. Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which are sometimes called simitic or western religions, claim to be monotheistic religions, although this claim in respect of Christianity is open to serious objections as its followers believe in Trinity of Gods comprising God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit. Instead of making general discussion on the subject in the light of Jewish, Christian and Muslim beliefs, we will, however, discuss it in the light of the Qur’an and Islam as under:

God is one. There is no God save Him. Islam is strictly a monotheistic faith and is committed to hold that Allah is the only God of the whole of the universe and there is no God in any form or manifestation except Allah. Unity of Godhead is the fundamental teaching of the religion of Islam. The belief in the Oneness of God is the most important of the five major and fundamental articles of faith for a follower of Islam. None can embrace Islam and enter into the brotherhood of the Muslims until and unless he declares by tongue and also truly believes in his heart that there is no God but Allah.

It is rightly said that al-Qur’an, the revealed book of Islam, teaches directly or indirectly in almost every other verse the fundamental principle of Oneness of God and condemns those who hold or worship more than One God or who associate partners unto Allah. According to the Qur’an, the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah and His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. Jesus was neither son of Allah nor he was God. Thus the Qur’an rejects Christian doctrine of Trinity or three Gods (God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Ghost) in unambiguous terms. The Qur’an also dismisses the doctrine of two-Gods held by the Zoroastrians and idea of many gods held by polytheists like Hindus.

The Qur’an tells us in detail how the Prophets of God, right from Adam to Muhammad (may Allah’s peace by upon them), have been teaching the Oneness of God and how they have been enjoining their followers to believe in and worship only One God. Thus spoke Jesus, son of Mary, from the cradle: “Lo! I am the slave of Allah. He hath given me the scripture and hath appointed me a Prophet; And hath made me blessed wherever I may be, and hath enjoined upon me prayer and alms – giving so long as I remain alive, And (hath made me) dutiful towards her who bore me, and hath not made me arrogant, unblest,” (Al-Qur’an 19:30-32).

In the following verses, al-Qur’an promotes on the one hand the uncompromising principle of the absolute Oneness of God as taught by all the Prophets of God and on the other hand it rejects the belief held by some religions and philosophies that there is no God or there are many gods in the universe.

·        Your God is One God; there is no God save Him, the Beneficent, the Merciful.   –2:Al-Baqarah: 163

·        Allah! There is no God save Him, the Alive, the Eternal.    –3:Al-Imran: 2

·        He it is Who fashioneth you in the wombs as pleaseth Him. There is no God save Him, the Almighty, the Wise.   –3:Al-Imran: 6

·        Allah (Himself) is witness that there is no God save Him. And the angels and the men of learning (too are witnesses) maintaining His creation in justice, there is no God save Him, the Almighty, the Wise.   –3:Al-Imran:18

·        O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which he conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not “Three” Cease! (it is) better for you! Allah is only One God. Far is it removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah is sufficient as Defender.   (4:An-Nisa:171)

·        We sent Noah (of old) unto his people, and he said: O my people! Serve Allah. Ye have no other God save Him. Lo! I fear for you the retribution of an Awful Day.   (7: Al-A’raf:59)

·        And unto (the tribe of) A’ad (We sent) their brother, Hud. He said: O my people! Serve Allah. Ye have no other God save Him. Will ye not ward off (evil)?   (7: Al-A’raf: 65)

·        Now, if they turn away (O Muhammad) say: Allah sufficeth me. There is no God save Him. In Him have I put my trust and He is Lord of the Tremendous Throne.   –9: At-Taubah: 129

·        Allah has said: Choose not two gods. There is only One God.   –16:An-Nahl:51

·        If there were therein gods beside Allah, then verily both (the heavens and the earth) had been disordered. Glorified be Allah, the Lord of the Throne, from all that they ascribe (unto Him).   –21:Al-Anbiya: 22

·        And We sent no messenger before thee but (We inspired him (saying): There is no God save Me (Allah), so worship Me.   –21:Al-Anbiya:25

·        Allah hath not chosen any son, nor is there any god alongwith Him; else would each god have assuredly championed that which he created, and some of them would assuredly have overcome others. Glorified be Allah above all that they allege.   –23:Al-Muminun:91

Aspects or Types

According to the Muslim jurists, the Islamic doctrine of Tauheed has three aspects, namely: belief in oneness of the Lordship of Allah, belief in oneness of the worship of Allah, and belief in Oneness of the Names and Attributes of Allah. Let us discuss these aspects or types of Tauheed in a little detail.

Belief in Oneness of the Lordship of Allah is called in Islamic terminology “Tauhed-ar-Rububiyyah”. It means to believe and accept that Allah is the only and One Lord of the universe. He is the creator and sustainer of the heavens and the earth and of everything therein. He is the Owner, King, Master, Organizer, Planner, and the Giver of Security. He gives life and death and He will reward the good-doers and punish the evil doers on the Day of Judgment. He has no parents, no wife, no children, no partner in His kingdom.

Belief in Oneness of the worship of Allah is called “Tauheed-al-Uluhiyyah” in Islamic terminology. It means to believe that Allah is the only God (Ilah) of the whole of universe and of all the creatures. There is no God save Him (La Ilah Illallah). He alone has the right to be worshipped. He Alone has the right to be invoked and asked for help. Prayer, sacrifice, giving charity, slaughtering of animals, Fasting and Pilgrimage should be for Him or in His Name only.

Belief in Oneness of the Names and the Attributes of Allah is called “Tauheed-al-Asma wa as-Siffat.” It means to believe and accept that all the good qualities, all the best names and all the best attributes are for Allah and for none else. None can be named or qualified with the Names or Attributes of Allah. One must call Allah with the names and qualities which He Himself has mentioned for Him in the Qur’an or His messenger Muhammad has mentioned for Him in his Traditions. According to a Tradition, ninety nine attributive names of Allah have been mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. None is Allah’s sharer or partner in these attributes or names.

The Holy Qur’an in its verses, most of which are concerned with Allah, elaborates and highlights all the above mentioned aspects and types of Tauheed.

Ash-Shirk or Polytheism

Concept and meaning

Polytheism means belief in more than one God or belief in plurality of Gods. In Islamic terminology it is called Shirk. It implies ascribing partners to Allah in His Lordship or in His worship or ascribing Allah’s attributes to others besides Allah.

In a preceding section, we have already discussed at length the concept of Oneness of God. The basic teaching of Islam is, as is that of previous revealed religions, that there is no God but Allah and only He should be worshipped. God has no partners, no associates. Al-Qur’an, the revealed book of Islam, condemns those, in the severest possible terms, who hold associates of God and attribute partners unto Him. Ascribing partners unto Allah is the greatest sin which would not be pardoned although God forgives every other sin whom He will. In the words of Jesus Christ, whoso ascribes partners unto God, for him God has forbidden Paradise. According to the Qur’an, neither idols, nor Jinn, nor any human being, nor rabbis, nor monks, nor priests, nor Jesus Christ are God or partners of God.

Following are some of the very pertinent Verses of the Qur’an in which Shirk (polytheism) has been strongly condemned and the Mushrikeen (the polytheists) have been threatened with severe punishment:

·        Lo! Allah forgiveth not that a partner should be ascribed unto Him. He forgiveth (all) save that to whom He will. Whoso ascribeth partners to Allah, he hath indeed invented a tremendous sin.   –4:An-Nisa:48

·        They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary. The Messiah (himself) said: O children of Israel! Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. Lo! Whoso ascribeth partners unto Allah, for him Allah hath forbidden Paradise. His abode is the Fire. For evil-doers there will be no helpers.   (5:Al-Ma’idah:72)

·        Yet they ascribe as partners unto Him the jinn, although He did create them, and impute falsely, without knowledge, sons and daughters, unto Him. Glorified be He and high exalted above (all) that they ascribe (unto Him):    (6:Al-An’am:100)

·        Attribute they as partners to Allah those who created naught, but are themselves created. And cannot give them help, nor can they help themselves!   (7:Al-A’raf:191-192)

·        They have taken as lords beside Allah their rabbis and their monks and the Messiah son of Mary, when they were bidden to worship only One God. There is no god save Him. Be He glorified from all that they ascribe as partner (unto Him)!   (9:At-Taubah:31)

·        O mankind! A similitude is coined, so pay ye heed to it: Lo! those on whom ye call beside Allah will never create a fly though they combine together for the purpose. And if the fly took something from them, they could not rescue it from it. So weak are (both) the seeker and the sought!   (22:Al-Hajj:73)

Aspects or Types

The Muslim jurists have held that Shirk has the same three aspects which Tauheed has got with the only difference that in case of Tauheed they are positive while in case of shirk they are negative. Thus shirk in case of Allah’s Rububiyyat means not to believe in the oneness of the Lordship of Allah, rather to hold associates with Him in His Lordship. Shirk in case of uluhiyyat of Allah means not to worship Allah Alone rather to worship others besides Him. And similarly Shirk in case of Names and Attributes of Allah means to ascribe names and attributes of Allah to others or hold others as sharers of Allah in His attributes. However, the famous and known classification of the types of shirk made by the scholars of Islam is: i) shirk-al-Akbar, ii) shirk-al-Asghar and iii) shirk-al-Khafi.

Shrik-al-Akbar means Major Shirk which, according to Dr. Mohsin Khan, has four aspects, namely: i) Shirk-al-Dua i.e. invoking or praying to other gods besides Allah; ii) Shirk-al-Ibadah i.e. worshipping others besides Allah; iii) Shrik-at-Ta’at i.e. rendering obedience to others in clear disregard of commandment of Allah, and iv) Shrik-al-Hubb i.e. to love others with a love which is only due to Allah.

Shirk-al-Asghar means Minor Shirk which comprises all acts of Ibadah (worship of Allah), all religious and righteous acts, charity, etc. which are performed, not for love of Allah or in obedience to His orders but for show off or for gaining praise or fame.

Shirk-al-Khafi is the concealed or inconspicuous Shirk. It means to feel dissatisfied or discontented what Allah has given you in terms of wealth, children, fortune, etc, or to complain and grudge against the fortune of others.

The Qur’an in its various verses, has directly or indirectly thrown light on almost all the above mentioned types of Shirk.

Al-Kufr or Disbelief

            Al-Kufr means not to believe, to disbelieve, to refuse, to be ungrateful, etc. It also means to cover up the Truth, to reject Allah. Kufr is the denial of the or defiance to the commandments of God. It is open denial and not the hidden or the concealed rejection as in case of a hypocrite. However, in this section we will discuss this term with reference to disbelief. Al-Kufr or disbelief means absence of belief in the existence of God or it means disbelief in all or any fundamental elements of Islamic faith which are: To believe in Allah, His messengers, His books, His angels, the Last Day or Day of Resurrection, and destiny. In the Qur’an, the word Kafir refers mostly to idol worshippers and pagans and sometimes to atheists.

Disbelief according to Dr. Mohsin Khan is of two types: The Major Disbelief (Kufr al Akbar) and the Minor Disbelief (Kufr al Asghar). The manifestations of Major Disbelief which excludes one from the fold of Islam are five, namely Kufr-al-Takzib i.e. disbelief in the Truth of Allah or in any above mentioned elements of faith or uttering a lie against Allah; Kufr-al-Iba i.e. denial to submit to Allah’s commandments as Satan did (refer to Al-Qur’an 2:34). Kufr-ash-Shak i.e. to doubt or to lack conviction in elements of Faith; Kufr-al-Irad, i.e. turning away from the Truth knowingly; and Kufr-an-Nifaq which implies hypocritical disbelief.

Minor Disbelief which does not exclude one from the fold of Islam is also called Kufr-an-Nimah. It manifests itself in ungratefulness to Allah for His favours and blessings.

An-Nifaq or Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy in simple dictionary meanings is pretence of virtue or simulation of virtue or goodness. It is the act or practice of simulating or feigning feeling or beliefs, especially the false appearance of piety or virtue. Hypocrisy is, in fact, concealment of true character or belief, a feigning to be what one is not. Hypocrite is a person who practices hypocrisy. Synonyms of hypocrisy are deceitfulness, dissembling, duplicity, imposture, pretence, deception, two-facedness. As a religious term, hypocrisy is of two types: Hypocrisy in belief and hypocrisy in actions and deeds. 

According to the Qur’an, the revealed book of Islam, the hypocrites are those who say: We believe in Allah and the Last Day, when they believe not; they utter with their mouths a thing which is not in their hearts. When they stand up to worship they perform it languidly and to be seen of men, and remember Allah but little; swaying between this and that belonging neither to these nor to those. The likeness of a hypocrite in the view of Qur’an is that of one who worships Allah upon a narrow marge so that if good befalls him he is happy, but if a trial befalls him he falls away. Thus the tongue and the mind of a hypocrite or what he says and what he does is not one. A believer, on the other hand, is one in mind and tongue as he believes in Allah and His apostle in heart and utters the same from his tongue.

During the early period of a revolutionary or reform or religious movement, there emerges a class who joins hands with the revolutionaries and reformers and apparently acts and speaks like them. But actually it is a class of hypocrites who are, in their heart of hearts, deadly opposed to the movement being agents of the old order. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his followers also faced such a class when they migrated to Madinah and were trying to establish themselves there. A group of Madinites apparently embraced Islam, professed allegiance to the Prophet, performed acts of Islamic faith like Muslims, but secretly connived with the enemies of Islam and missed no opportunity to harm the Muslims and their cause. This group of people was led by Abdullah bin Ubayy, the chief of the tribe of Banu Khazrij. They joined hands with the Jews of Madinah and pagan Quraish of Makkah and left no stone unturned to ruin Islam and the Muslims. Therefore they were called hypocrites. The Prophet and the believers were warned to be vigilant about their activities. They were condemned by Allah as disbelievers and were threatened with a painful doom.

Islam condemns hypocrisy in the severest possible terms. According to the Qur’an, the hypocrites will be in the lowest deep of Hell. The holy Prophet was exhorted to fight against the hypocrites as against the disbelievers. The Prophet was forbidden to seek forgiveness for the hypocrites as Allah would not forgive them even if the forgiveness for them is sought seventy times. The Prophet and the believers were also forbidden to offer the funeral prayer on the death of a hypocrite. Thus the sin of hypocrisy, according to Islam, is bigger than that of disbelief.

Following are the verses of the Holy Qur’an and Ahadith of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) which explain hypocrisy, highlight the traits of hypocrites and discuss the consequences of this evil of hypocrisy.

·        And of mankind are some who say: We believe in Allah and the last Day when they believe not. They think to beguile Allah and those who believe, and they beguile none save themselves; but they perceive not. In their hearts is a disease, and Allah increaseth their disease. A painful doom is theirs because they lie.   (2:8-10)

·        And that He might know the hypocrite, unto whom it was said: Come, fight in the way of Allah, or defend yourselves. They answered: If we knew aught of fighting we would follow you. On that day they were nearer disbelief than faith. They utter with their mouths a thing which is not in their hearts. Allah is best aware of what they hide. Those who, while they sat at home, said of their brethren (who were fighting for the cause of Allah): If they had been guided by us they would not have been slain. Say (unto them, O Muhammad): Then avert death from yourselves if ye are truthful.   (3:167-168)

·        Lo! the hypocrites seek to beguile Allah, but it is Allah Who beguileth them. When they stand up to worship they perform it languidly and to be seen of men, and are mindful of Allah but little; Swaying between this (and that), (belonging) neither to these nor to those. He whom Allah causeth to go astray thou (O Muhammad) will not find a way for him.   (4:142-143)

·        Lo! the hypocrites (will be) in the lowest deep of the fire, and thou wilt find no helper for them;   (4:145)

·        The hypocrites, both men and women proceed one from another. They enjoin the wrong and they forbid the right and they withhold their hands (from spending for the cause of Allah). They forget Allah, so He hath forgotten them. Lo! the hypocrites, they are the transgressors. Allah promiseth the hypocrites, both men and women, and the disbelievers fire of Hell for their abode. It will suffice them. Allah curseth them, and theirs is the lasting torment.   (9:At-Taubah:67-68)

·        Ask forgiveness for them (O Muhammad), or ask not forgiveness for them; though thou ask forgiveness for them seventy times, Allah will not forgive them. That is because they disbelieved in Allah and His messenger, and Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk.   (9:80)

·        And never (O Muhammad) pray for one of them who dieth, not stand by his grave, Lo! they disbelieved in Allah and His messenger, and they died while they were evil-doers. Let not their wealth nor their children astonish thee! Allah purposeth only to punish them thereby in the world, and that their souls shall pass away while they are disbelievers.   (9:84-85)

·        And among mankind is he who worship Allah upon a narrow marge so that if good befalleth him he is content therewith, but if a trial befalleth him, he falleth away utterly. He loseth both the world and the Hereafter. That is the sheer loss.   (22:11)

·        When the hypocrites come unto thee (O Muhammad), they say: we bear witness that thou art indeed Allah’s Messenger. And Allah knowth that thou art indeed His messenger and Allah beareth witness that the Hypocrites are speaking falsely. They make their faith a pretext so that they may turn (men) from the way of Allah. Verily evil is that which they are wont to do. That is because they believed, then disbelieved, therefore, their hearts are sealed so that they understand not.   (63:1-3)

·        Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: The signs of a hypocrite are three. When he talks, he speaks falsehood; and when he promises, he breaks and when he is entrusted, commits treachery. (Bukhari and Muslim). (And Muslim add: Even though he keeps fasts, prays and thinks that he is a Muslim).

·        Abdullah-b-Amr reported: That the Messenger of Allah said: Whoso has got four things in him is a true hypocrite, and whoso has got a habit therefrom in him has got in him a habit of hypocrisy till he gives it up; when he is trusted, he is unfaithful; and when he speaks, he speaks falsehood; and when he makes promise, he proves treacherous, and when he quarrels, he commits sin.   (Bukhari and Muslim)

·        Ibn Omar reported that the Messenger of Allah said: The parable of a hypocrite is as a goat roaming between two goats going once unto this and once unto that.   (Muslim)

·        Huzaifa reported: Hypocrisy existed at the time of the Messenger of Allah. As for now, it is either infidelity or faith.   (Bukhari)

·        Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Two traits cannot unite in a hypocrite-good conduct and knowledge of religion.   (Tirmizi)


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