Allah mentions the word ṭāghūt in the Qur’an on several occasions. He instructs us to shun and reject the ṭāghūt.
The Meaning of Ṭāghūt
Scholars have explained that the term can have several meanings:
- Iblīs (Satan)
- One who judges by other than what Allah has revealed
- The tyrannical ruler
- One who calls people to worship him/her
- One who is pleased that people worship him/her
However, even though Allah instructs us to shun and reject the above, some praise, support and even vote for those who are ṭāghūt.
The tyrannical de facto ruler of Arabia was described by a famous scholar, who should know better, as a “divinely inspired reformer”. Another well-known scholar praised the ruler of the UAE and the latter’s participation in the infamous Abraham Accords.
And recently, many Muslims have celebrated a ṭāghūt becoming the First Minister of Scotland, despite him saying in an interview when commenting about the issue of homosexuality and gay marriage: “But what I don’t do is I don’t use my faith as the basis of legislation.” This is clearly stating that he does not judge by what Allah has revealed, contradicting what Allah instructs us to do in the Qur’an (see here for more on this subject).
(And in another interview, when asked “Do you believe gay sex is a sin?”, his reply was “No” [see here])
Ṭāghūt in the Qur’an
Allah mentions the term on a number of occasions:
لَآ إِكۡرَاهَ فِي ٱلدِّينِۖ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ ٱلرُّشۡدُ مِنَ ٱلۡغَيِّۚ فَمَن يَكۡفُرۡ بِٱلطَّٰغُوتِ وَيُؤۡمِنۢ بِٱللَّهِ فَقَدِ ٱسۡتَمۡسَكَ بِٱلۡعُرۡوَةِ ٱلۡوُثۡقَىٰ لَا ٱنفِصَامَ لَهَاۗ وَٱللَّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ
“There is no compulsion where the dīn is concerned. Right guidance has become clearly distinct from error. Anyone who rejects ṭāghūt and believes in Allah has grasped the Firmest Handhold, which will never give way. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” [2:256]
Imam Qurtubi explains: “The word for ‘false gods’ (ṭāghūt) comes from the word ṭaghā which means ‘to exceed the bounds’. The world can indicate the plural or the singular…Al-Jawhari said that the word ṭāghūt refers to soothsayers, shaytāns and every leader into error. It can have a singular meaning as we see in 4:60 or a plural meaning as we see in 2:257…
Mujahid said that ‘the Firmest Handhold’ is true belief and al-Suddi says that it means Islam. Ibn ‘Abbas, Sa‘id ibn Jubayr and al-Dahhak said, ‘It is lā ilāha illa-Llāh.’ All these understandings actually amount to the same thing.” [see vol. 3, pp. 12-15 of Ustadha Aisha Bewley’s translation]
وَلَقَدۡ بَعَثۡنَا فِي كُلِّ أُمَّةٖ رَّسُولًا أَنِ ٱعۡبُدُواْ ٱللَّهَ وَٱجۡتَنِبُواْ ٱلطَّٰغُوتَۖ فَمِنۡهُم مَّنۡ هَدَى ٱللَّهُ وَمِنۡهُم مَّنۡ حَقَّتۡ عَلَيۡهِ ٱلضَّلَٰلَةُۚ فَسِيرُواْ فِي ٱلۡأَرۡضِ فَٱنظُرُواْ كَيۡفَ كَانَ عَٰقِبَةُ ٱلۡمُكَذِّبِينَ
“We sent a Messenger among every people saying: ‘Worship Allah and keep clear of (shun) all ṭāghūt. Among them were some whom Allah guided but others received the misguidance they deserved. Travel about the earth and see the final fate of the deniers.” [16:36]
Regarding the meaning of “shun all ṭāghūt”, Imam Qurtubi states, “Meaning: Abandon everything that is worshipped besides Allah such as Satan, the soothsayers, the idols, and everyone that calls to misguidance.” [Tafsir al-Qurtubi 10/103]
وَٱلَّذِينَ ٱجۡتَنَبُواْ ٱلطَّٰغُوتَ أَن يَعۡبُدُوهَا وَأَنَابُوٓاْ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ لَهُمُ ٱلۡبُشۡرَىٰۚ فَبَشِّرۡ عِبَادِ
“Those who shun the worship of ṭāghūt and turn towards Allah will have good news. So give good news to My slaves.” [39:17]
[See also 4:51, 4:76 and 5:60]
Ṭāghūt according to the classical scholars
In his famous dictionary of Arabic, Ibn Mandhur states: “Whatever is worshipped besides Allah, the Mighty and Majestic; and every leader into error is a ṭāghūt.” [Lisān al ‘Arab, 8/444]
“Ash-Sha‘bi, ‘Ata’ and Mujahid all said: ‘The sorcerer, the magician. Aṭ-ṭāghūt is: Satan, the soothsayer and every head of misguidance.”[Ibid., 15/9]
Imam Malik said: “Aṭ-ṭāghūt: Everything that is worshipped besides Allāh.” [Related by Al-Suyuti in Al-Durr al-Manthūr (2/22) by way of Ibn Abi Hatim with an authentic chain of narration]
Ibn Hisham said: “Aṭ-ṭāghūt: Everything that misguides from the truth.” [al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah, 3/100]
Ibn Taymiyyah said: “It is a generic title into which enters: the Satan, the idols, the soothsayers, the dirham, the dīnār (forms of currency) and other than that.” [Majmū‘ al-Fatāwā, 16/565-566]
And finally Ibn al-Qayyim said:
الطاغوت: كل ما تجاوز به العبد حده من معبود أو متبوع أو مطاع ، فطاغوت كل قوم من بتحاكمون إليه غير الله ورسوله أو يعبدونه من دون الله أو يتبعونه على غير بصيرة من الله أو يطيعونه فيما لا يعلمون أنه طاعة لله
“The ṭāghūt is all that which causes the person to exceed the limits with regards to that which is worshipped, followed, or obeyed. So the ṭāghūt in any nation is whosoever turns to other than Allah and His Messenger for matters of judgement; or is pleased to be worshipped besides Allah; or is followed without a clear proof from Allah; or is obeyed in that which is known to be disobedience to Allah.” [I‘lām al-Muwaqqi‘īn 1/53]