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Q / A
Answering Common Misconceptions

03. Idols and Idolators 


Do Muslims consider Catholics to be idolaters because they pray directly to the idols and not through them to God? Also, Christians are considered pagan in Judaism. Is this the case in Islam?


Idolatry is the same whether one prays “to” idols or “through” them.Both are deviations from the pure eternal truth of monotheism, i.e., the belief in the One Perfect Creator, not shared in any aspect or attribute by any else, such as prophets, saints, priests or any institution. Monotheism is the natural, instinctively inspired, faith of every human being. According to the Qur’an (English meaning):

 “And (remember) when your Lord brought forth from the Children of Adam, from their loins, their seed (or from Adam’s loin his offspring) and made them testify as to themselves (saying): “Am I not your Lord?” They said: “Yes! We testify,” lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection: “Verily, we have been unaware of this.” (9, Al-A`raf: 171).

The same meaning was emphasized by the Prophet of Islam:

“Every child is born with a true faith of Islam (i.e. to worship none but Allah alone) and his parents convert him to Judaism or Christianity or Magianism”

 In Islam, no sanctity or sacredness can be bestowed or claimed to any human being, nor to their words, laws, deeds, nor to any action not directly ordained by the One God. The same applies to any physical item symbolyzing a person, an event or creed. Sanctitizing anything human or physical is idolatry. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Spells, charms, and love potions are polytheism”

 All nations have been originally guided to monotheism through the teachings of Messengers and Prophets since the dawn of history, starting with Adam, Noah, …. Moses and Jesus, e.g.:

“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth below or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them to worship them.” (Exodus 20: 3-5).

“Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and Him alone.” (Matthew 4: 10).

Yet, Idolatry has repeatedly crept into most of the world religions along history. Gradually people tend to forget the pure divine enlightment, or follow their own passions towards a person(s), or are intentionally misguided by certain leaders, clergy or by those whom the pure faith is against their own interests.

 The weakness lies in the limited human senses that cannot alone sense or grasp the vast universe and the major realities, unless guided by the All-Knowing Creator. So they are tempted to adore and sanctify certain physical beings (human or animal), idols, pictures, icons or other material items. Taking statues and pictures was originally to comemorate a human prophet, a pious leader or the like, out of love or respect. Gradually, different degrees of holiness were ascribed to these.

 A common self-delusion of pagan beliefs is to claim that this is not worshipping or praying “to” idols, but rather taking them as intercessors to God. This miconcept and self-delusion was clearly exposed in the Qur’an (English meaning):

“Surely the religion (i.e. the worship and obedience) is for Allah only. And those who take Awlia’ (Patrons, protectors, helpers, lords, gods) besides Him (say): “We worship them only that they may bring us near to Allah.” Verily Allah will judge between them concerning wherein they differ. Truly, Allah guides not him who is a liar, and a disbeliever.” (39, Az-Zumar: 3).

Also: “And they worship beside Allah things that hurt them not, nor profit them, and they say: “These are our intercessors with Allah.” Say: “Do you inform Allah of that which He knows not in the heavens and on the earth?” Glorified and Exalted is He above all that which they associate as partners (with Him)!” (11, Yunus: 18).

 Examples of idols or holy items in different faiths all along history are abound: the Egyptian Horus and his mother Isis and father Osiris, and the divine pharoahs considered the sons of Re the Sun god; Idols of the people of Noah: Wadd, Suwa`, Yaghuth, Ya`uq and Nasr (Originally pious predecessors who were beloved and revered);The statues of Buddha, the Hindu gods and goddesses Krishna, Siva …etc, and the their sacred animals;The Greek gods and goddesses;The pictures and statues of Prophet Jesus and his Virgin mother (How could one prove that theirs are authentic replications of the original !!), and the Cross… etc

 Further, Islam also consider the holiness ascribed to the clergy of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism as a form of polytheism; for although they are not actually worshipped, their words and decisions are given the same authority and holiness as that of God. This was the right interpretation given by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to the Qur’anic verse (English meaning):

“They (Jews and Christians) took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords beside Allah (by obeying them in things which they made lawful and unlawful according to their own desires without being ordered by Allah), and (they also took as their Lord) Messiah, son of Maryam (Mary), while they (Jews and Christians) were commanded [in the Tawrah (Torah) and Injeel (Gospel)] to worship none but one Ilah (God – Allah) La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He). Praise and glory is to Him (far above is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him).” (9, At-Tawbah: 31)

Finally, Allah guides us all to the simple pure truth.