The Meaning of Taghoot: Sheikh al-Fawzan

The following question was posed to sheikh Saalih al-Fawzan:

نص السؤال : ما معنى الطاغوت‏؟‏ وهل كل طاغوت كافر‏؟ ـ

Question: What is the meaning of “Taghoot“, and is every taghoot a disbeliever?

‏نص الإجابة : الطاغوت في اللغة مشتق من الطغيان وهو مجاوزة الحد ومجاوزة الحق إلى الباطل ومجاوزة الإيمان إلى الكفر وما أشبه ذلك والطواغيت كثيرون وكل طاغوت فهو كافر بلا شك‏‏  ـ

Response: Linguistically, the word “al-taghoot” comes from “al-tughyaan” which is overstepping the limits, crossing over from truth into falsehood, stepping out of eemaan into disbelief, and so on. There are many taghoots, and every taghoot is a disbeliever. There is no doubt about this.

والطواغيت كثيرون ولكن رءوسهم خمسة كما ذكر ذلك العلامة ابن القيم وغيره‏‏ الأول‏‏ إبليس – لعنة الله – فإنه رأس الطواغيت وهو الذي يدعو إلى الضلال والكفر والإلحاد ويدعو إلى النار فهو رأس الطواغيت‏‏

There are many taghoots but five of them are the main ones, as has been stated by the great scholar ibn al-Qayyim and others.

The first is Iblees, may Allah curse him. He is the head of all the taghoots, and he is the one who calls to misguidance, disbelief, and atheism, and to the hellfire. So he is the head of the taghoots.

والثاني‏‏ من عبد من دون الله وهو راضٍ بذلك فإن من رضي أن يعبده الناس من دون الله فإنه يكون طاغوتًا كما قال تعالى‏‏ ‏( ‏وَجَعَلَ مِنْهُمُ الْقِرَدَةَ وَالْخَنَازِيرَ وَعَبَدَ الطَّاغُوتَ ) ‏[‏المائدة : 60‏]‏ فالذي يعبد من دون الله وهو راضٍ بذلك طاغوت أما إذا لم يرض بذلك فليس كذلك‏‏

The second is anyone who is worshiped besides Allah while being pleased with that worship, for whoever is pleased with people worshiping him alongside Allah is a taghoot. This is as Allah said

‏وَجَعَلَ مِنْهُمُ الْقِرَدَةَ وَالْخَنَازِيرَ وَعَبَدَ الطَّاغُوتَ

… and he made some of them into apes, swine and worshipers of the taghoot … [5:60]

So whoever is worshiped besides Allah while being pleased with that is a taghoot. As for if he is not pleased to see that take place, then he does not fall under this label.

والثالث‏‏ من ادعى شيئًا من علم الغيب فمن ادعى أنه يعلم الغيب فهو طاغوت؛ لأن الغيب لا يعلمه إلا الله سبحانه وتعالى‏‏ ‏( ‏قُلْ لَا يَعْلَمُ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ الْغَيْبَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ ) ‏[‏النمل : 65‏]‏ والذي يدعي أنه يعلم الغيب يجعل نفسه شريكًا لله عز وجل في علم الغيب فهو طاغوت‏‏

The third is anyone who claims that he has any knowledge of the Ghaib – the Unseen. Whoever claims to have knowledge of the Ghaib is a taghoot. That is because no one knows the ghaib except for Allah:

قُلْ لَا يَعْلَمُ مَنْ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ الْغَيْبَ إِلَّا اللَّهُ

Say: None in the heavens of the earth know the ghaib except Allah … [27:65]

Whoever claims to know the Ghaib has made himself out to be a partner with Allah in knowing the Ghaib, and thus he is a taghoot.

والرابع‏‏ من دعا الناس إلى عبادة نفسه وهذا كما يفعل بعض أصحاب الطرق الصوفية والمخرفين الذين يسيطرون على عباد الله ويجعلون لأنفسهم مقام الألوهية في أنهم ينفعون ويضرون وأنهم إلى آخره ويستغل العباد ويترأس عليهم بالباطل

The fourth is anyone who calls people to worship him. This is like what some people of the Sufi orders and those charlatans who hold sway over the people do, they place themselves in the role of god, saying that they can bring about benefit or harm or whatever else. They take advantage of people and fraudulently gain positions of power over them.

‏‏ والخامس‏‏ من حكم بغير ما أنزل الله عز وجل؛ لأن الله سبحانه وتعالى يقول‏‏ ‏( ‏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 ضَلَالًا بَعِيدًا ) ‏[‏النساء : 60‏]‏ فالذي يحكم بغير ما أنزل الله فهو يرى أن حكمه بغير ما أنزل الله أصلح للناس وأنفع للناس أو أنه مساوٍ لما أنزل الله وأنه مخير بين أن يحكم بما أنزل الله أو يحكم بغيره أو أن الحكم بغير ما أنزل الله جائز فهذا يعتبر طاغوتًا وهو كافر بالله عز وجل‏‏ هذه رءوس الطواغيت

The fifth is anyone who rules by something other than what Allah has sent down. That is because Allah says:

‏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 ضَلَالًا بَعِيدًا

Haven’t you seen those who claim to have believed in what was revealed to you and what was revealed before you? They wish to refer legislation to taghoot, while they were commanded to reject it; and the shaytaan wishes to lead them far astray. [4:60]

So whoever rules by something other than what Allah revealed and he believes that his ruling by something besides what Allah revealed is more suitable and beneficial for the people, or that it is equal to what Allah revealed and that he has a choice between ruling by what Allah revealed or ruling according to something else, – such a person is referred to as a taghoot and he is a disbeliever in Allah.

These are the heads of the taghoots.

[Original Arabic text found on the sheikh’s official website here]

See also: The Meanings of Kufr, Thulm, and Fisq: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: The Meanings of the Word Fitnah in the Qur’an: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: The meaning of al-Ma’roof and al-Munkar: Ibn Rajab

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