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Featured Idolatry ("Shirk") vs excessive emphasis on Monotheism: the eye of the beholder

Discussion in 'Comparative Religion' started by LuisDantas, Jul 19, 2017.

  1. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    (Some musings about religious balance, the eye of the beholder, the ability to understand other people's beliefs and the relative dangers of obsession with monotheism vs supposed idolatry)

    It has become plenty clear that Muslim perspectives on religious concepts are often difficult to reconcile with what is perceived here from the outside, to the point that it appears that several words hold different for Muslims when contrasted with non-Muslims. Far too often that happens without enough of a proper warning and explanation of the respective contexts. My goal in this thread is to shed some light over this thorny situation, hopefully contributing to better mutual understanding and more effective communication.

    One theme that has proven recurrent is that of the worry of Muslims over what they perceive as idolatry, often associated with the ideas of polytheism and paganism (apparently the Muslim concept of "Shirk" does not particularly differentiate the three ideas from each other) and illustrated by the claim that one should not associate partners with God (Qur'an 7:191-192). More about that in a moment.

    Part of the puzzle is that Islaamic doctrine is indeed, and emphatically, monotheistic. There is just no room in Islaamic thought for even such a harmless doctrine as henotheism. We are not talking about monolatry here, not even about an emphasis on monotheism, but about monotheism as a fundamental, necessary premise for the whole doctrine.

    Beyond that, Islaamic monotheism is presented by Muslims, often and emphatically, as an inarguable virtue in and of itself. For some reason there is the perception of significant value in the belief of the existence of exactly one (and only) God, with the corollary that any claims involving a deity are either misguided or ultimately refer to the exact same God that the Qur'an describes.

    That is significant, and leads to frequent confusion. By a Hindu, secular or even Christian perspective idolatry, polytheism and paganism are very different things. Yet Muslims often seem to have trouble even realizing that there is any distinction to be made there. There is even some indication that somehow Shirk also includes such things as atheism and anthropomorphic conceptions of God.

    All of that may appear very natural and intuitive for someone raised inside a Muslim culture. But it really isn't.

    Or that is how I currently understand things, anyway. Anyone willing to offer your own input?
     
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  2. Muslim-UK

    Muslim-UK Well-Known Member
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    To add to your post, here a Christian Scholar who has studied the issue of Monotheism in Islam. He's a bit off the mark on parts of Islam, but this gives a balanced introduction from a non Muslim perspective.

     
  3. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    I'm not too sure what is being offered up for discussion. There is monotheism and then there are other perceptions and practices.
     
  4. Saint Frankenstein

    Saint Frankenstein Before there was love, there was silence
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    The OP seems unfinished.
     
  5. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    It was a bit hurried, indeed.
     
  6. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    How accurate are the terms and perceptions for idolatry, paganism and polytheism in Islaam, and what can be done to improve the understanding of the differences among those largely unrelated concepts?

    Is there a point to clarifying the difference, or are the three ideas not supposed to be told apart by Muslims?

    And going on the opposite direction, what can be done to improve the understanding of Shirk and related concepts such as Mushrikeen by non-Muslims?

    When a Muslim says that they do not associate partners with their God, how does (and how should) that compare and contrast with the much more casual approach towards the divine and the sacred that most anyone else has? Particularly with the common Christian perception that people are supposed to have a personal relationship with God?

    Is it possible or advisable to revise the understanding of Shirk in order to allow for Hindu henotheism and Christian Trinitarianism? If it is not, what are the consequences from an interfaith dialogue perspective?
     
  7. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    I hope this does not sound rude, but I was hoping for some degree of personal perspective here.

    I am not very likely to have 90 minutes of my time to watch a video that probably has little new to add to me. And if you find it to be off-mark, all the more reason to speak your mind and clarify things to us.
     
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  8. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    The good news is that words can be extremely malleable.
    The bad news is that words can be extremely malleable.
    In either event, to embrace henotheism is to reject monotheism.
    Or, to quote one of my favorite dialogues, ...


    I stand with Alice on this one ...
     
  9. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Way to avoid considering the matter, Jay.
     
  10. RedDragon94

    RedDragon94 Love everyone, meditate often

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    According to a Monotheistic worldview they basically have the concept of idolatry correct. The thing about Paganism is that certain deities have jurisdiction over certain things as opposed to one God being lord over it all. When you place a deity over something (according to Monotheists) you are actually in effect worshiping the thing the deity is over rather than the deity itself. This is idolatry to the Monotheist.

    Please note: A lot of Monotheists are simply unaware of all that the Pagan (non-Abrahamic) community does to connect with their deities via meditation, evocation, invocation, and other rituals. Pagans can't look into a book for answers, instead they look into themselves.
    How does one worship something they can't relate to? And the moment you do relate to it, it's sin.

    It's all about controlling people.
     
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  11. Epic Beard Man

    Epic Beard Man Bearded Philosopher

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    From a theological perspective in accordance with Islam, one must not worship gods and/or God's creation (which you've mentioned paganism since it has a naturalistic view of worship). In your post you've mentioned something that was peculiar to me:

    "One theme that has proven recurrent is that of the worry of Muslims over what they perceive as idolatry."

    Yes because I believe that Muslims do not want to take away exaltation away from God by revering things that are of material substance or things that are created by God or venerate human beings to deification. I believe the following comes to mind when referencing idol worship:

    "And the Day We will muster them altogether, thereafter we say to the ones who associated (other gods with Allah), "To your place, you and your associates!" Then We will distinguish between them, and the associates will say, (i.e., to the associators) "In no way did you worship us." (Surah Yunas 10:28)

    In the above verse I interpret as like someone who worshipped a crafted doll their whole life and upon that day, the doll animates itself and says "hey dude I'm just a damn doll, you f**ked up."

    I think the whole point of Islamic monotheism is to revere God, not nature, not things composed of atoms that were created by God, not the stars or lightning or rain, or clouds, or moons, not even things associated to Wiccan beliefs no matter how noble it may be.
     
  12. Deidre

    Deidre Follow thy heart

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    I'm thinking that Jesus is considered a ''partner'' in Christianity, and diverts the believer away from the one true 'God,' according to how perhaps some devout Muslims might see Christian belief, in general. That Christians are creating a partner between God and man, but in Islam, believers don't believe in another ''partner'' in order to mediate for God. That's how I've interpreted it?
     
  13. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    I will have to read some of these answers carefully, but is anyone suggesting that Muslims disapprove of worship of the God of the Qur'an? I am not certain, but some answers make me wonder.
     
  14. Epic Beard Man

    Epic Beard Man Bearded Philosopher

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    In response to point (1) The conceptual ideas of idolatry, paganism, and polytheism it would seem under the Islamic concept of Tawhid would be considered as a conglomerate category where all are essentially seen as the same (taking reverence from Allah). Revisiting my other post, to worship nature as something that has an effect on your life or as if its some sort of god would be considered a big sin. Nature, in Islam is a creation it can neither help you or assist you other than provide you with an atmosphere to breathe and sustenance which allows you to continue to exist but this is done by God (Allah). Polytheism (and I'll address this in the last point), is on a similar plane. Worshipping deities aside from Allah even if you think those deities are mere avatars of Allah is still a sin because for one, Allah has no avatars because in Islam there is unlike God. Angels themselves are not avatars (although in Christian theology there was a hint that angels could be avatars of the One), angels themselves are deities of their own like humans, birds and insects etc. Worshipping deities representative of aspects of God is perceived as an ignorance of worship in Islam, again like the aforementioned, still on the same plane of sinning.

    Regards to point (2) I believe I answered it in the above I believe all three are seen as a conglomerate in Islam.

    Regards to point (3) The only thing to improve understanding is o demonstrate pure monotheism and what it means in Islam and how it contrasts from other faiths but in reality one cannot reconcile with other faiths (outside Christianity and other faith that practices a form of tri-theism) outside that.

    In regards (4) I have to ask, what do you mean by a casual approach towards the divine can you be more specific?

    In regards to point (5) Well the Christian perception regarding having a personal relationship with God has a lot to do with having a personal relationship with Jesus as God's Son, something that in Islam is irreconcilable.

    In regards to point (6) The only dialogue I see, is for better understanding of each other's faiths because all around there are still misunderstandings between them.
     
  15. Epic Beard Man

    Epic Beard Man Bearded Philosopher

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    Where are you getting this? Quite the opposite....I spent this whole time writing and you came up to this conclusion?
     
  16. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Sounds like a rather remote variety of deity. I almost feel that such a deity would be out of character in supporting prophets and scriptures. Or even giving any notice whatsoever to this world.



    Implying that it is inherently and deeply wrong to see the sacred nature of their Creator God reflected in existence itself, it seems to me.

    I am not sure that can be made logically coherent.

    Even if it can, it is such a sad, desolate conception of the sacred that I just don't see the point.

    I feel slightly less certain now about what Muslim worship would be than I was when I created this thread.

    That verse is utterly alien to any of the varities of worship that I am aware of. It does not sound remotely like worship as I understand it, but more like... sponsorship of a military leader, I suppose. And not a very admirable one at that.


    Again, that suggests an weird, almost fully contradictory stance towards worship. One that attempts to show gratitude for Creation while also insisting on the claim that this same supposed Creation is not connected to its own Creator God in any significant way.

    I can't help but wonder why even conceive of such a deity, let alone why bother to worship it. Odds are that it would not even notice the worship, and that it would feel slighted or offended if it did.

    Honestly, I am not sure I believe that to be typical Muslim thinking.

    That may well be. Sounds somewhat similar to other statements that I have seen.
     
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  17. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    How accurate are the terms and perceptions for idolatry, paganism and polytheism in Islaam, and what can be done to improve the understanding of the differences among those largely unrelated concepts? (1)

    In response to point (1) The conceptual ideas of idolatry, paganism, and polytheism it would seem under the Islamic concept of Tawhid would be considered as a conglomerate category where all are essentially seen as the same (taking reverence from Allah). Revisiting my other post, to worship nature as something that has an effect on your life or as if its some sort of god would be considered a big sin. Nature, in Islam is a creation it can neither help you or assist you other than provide you with an atmosphere to breathe and sustenance which allows you to continue to exist but this is done by God (Allah). Polytheism (and I'll address this in the last point), is on a similar plane. Worshipping deities aside from Allah even if you think those deities are mere avatars of Allah is still a sin because for one, Allah has no avatars because in Islam there is unlike God. Angels themselves are not avatars (although in Christian theology there was a hint that angels could be avatars of the One), angels themselves are deities of their own like humans, birds and insects etc. Worshipping deities representative of aspects of God is perceived as an ignorance of worship in Islam, again like the aforementioned, still on the same plane of sinning.

    How odd. This, too, hints to me that Islaam somehow believes both that God should be worshipped and that it is pointless and even disrespectful to even want to worship him.


    Is there a point to clarifying the difference, or are the three ideas not supposed to be told apart by Muslims? (2)

    Regards to point (2) I believe I answered it in the above I believe all three are seen as a conglomerate in Islam.

    Apparently so. Or at least I have never seen any indication to the contrary, despite such an indication being sorely needed and sought.



    And going on the opposite direction, what can be done to improve the understanding of Shirk and related concepts such as Mushrikeen by non-Muslims? (3)

    Regards to point (3) The only thing to improve understanding is o demonstrate pure monotheism and what it means in Islam and how it contrasts from other faiths but in reality one cannot reconcile with other faiths (outside Christianity and other faith that practices a form of tri-theism) outside that.

    That is probably correct.



    When a Muslim says that they do not associate partners with their God, how does (and how should) that compare and contrast with the much more casual approach towards the divine and the sacred that most anyone else has? (4)

    In regards (4) I have to ask, what do you mean by a casual approach towards the divine can you be more specific?

    Basically, that other theisms are more vital, almost consistently more inclined to both acknowledge and show some form or another of sympathy for the worshipper and his or her sincerity of understanding and of effort.

    It is perhaps more evident in Hinduism and Paganism, but I think it is true of most any theism.



    Particularly with the common Christian perception that people are supposed to have a personal relationship with God? (5)

    In regards to point (5) Well the Christian perception regarding having a personal relationship with God has a lot to do with having a personal relationship with Jesus as God's Son, something that in Islam is irreconcilable.

    Probably correct. But there are other theistic perspectives that do not necessarily involve Jesus or any other anthropomorphic aspect of the sacred, yet have more of a place for acknowledging the person of the adherent himself /herself.



    Is it possible or advisable to revise the understanding of Shirk in order to allow for Hindu henotheism and Christian Trinitarianism? If it is not, what are the consequences from an interfaith dialogue perspective? (6)

    In regards to point (6) The only dialogue I see, is for better understanding of each other's faiths because all around there are still misunderstandings between them.

    Sometimes I can't help but feel that such misunderstandings actually protect some reputations beyond their actual merits.
     
  18. Epic Beard Man

    Epic Beard Man Bearded Philosopher

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    It seems that you just inherently have an issue with Islamic theology. Look, Muslims believe in one incorporeal God. Their theology does not reconcile with the beliefs of avatars in the form of Allah as Hinduism. There is no division in Allah as there is in Hinduism as we see with the various deities being the avatars of Brahman. That is not Islam. Allah stands alone incorruptible, absolute, with no division, and no likeness in representation. You can have dialogue amongst people of different faiths in detail so that each may understand each other but you cannot reconcile certain philosophies that are concrete otherwise the fluidity in those principles would be susceptible to change which means there would nothing certain. You cannot reconcile the belief that Christians are like Muslims in the sense that Tri-theism is still monotheism to Muslims. Tawhid is clear on this, there is no division. There is no triune deity in Islam. Judaism is the same way. Judaism believes in the absolute Oneness of God as do Muslims so you cannot reconcile both Judaism and Christianity in accepting Trinitarians. You cannot reconcile idol worship with Islam. Wood, marble, stone are all created elements and in Islam it is very clear hat any created elements, elements containing atoms which were created by the Creator ought to not be worshipped. Again the best you can do in this situation is for people to sit down and dialogue and at least outside the metaphysical issues come to a common ground on other issues to which can create a human bond.
     
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  19. Muslim-UK

    Muslim-UK Well-Known Member
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    Not a leaf falls off a tree anywhere on the Planet, except by the leave of ALLAH swt. He alone has power over all things. We are told to study, explore and see for ourselves, God is the creator behind all things, from how our fingers operate to how distant Galaxies are formed. We marvel at His creation, and call upon Him alone for help.

    We may praise fellow humans for the gifts bestowed upon them by God, so and so is wise, generous, beautiful, compassionate etc, but never ever think anyone has any power to help you, rather God alone is the helper, it is He who sends people to assist you by inclining their hearts towards you. We tell our fiends that we love each other for the sake of Allah swt as all Muslims are considered one community. We can not get by without God, the job we have, the home we live in, the family we are blessed with, all of this is purely because God bestowed it upon us.

    There is nothing like unto God, anything you can picture or imagine is unlike God, He is the eternal, the all knowing, the Majestic.
    Every soul is born with a jinn and five Angels, two of which record every thought and deed. For this reason God is closer to us than our jugular vein, and loves us more than our own Mother, Eighty times more to give you an idea.

    This is why we submit ourselves, body and mind to God. When we do this our hearts are filled with peace and well being.

    Those who call upon favours from their friends without believing God is the one who sends help commit minor shirk (taking partners besides God); this is forgivable as it can sometimes happen unintentionally. The bank manager agrees to your car loan, and you're over the moon about it, without stopping to think it was God who allowed it.

    More serious shirk is calling upon Saints, Prophets, Jinn and other gods for help. This is what will lead people to serious trouble when they return to their Lord. Asking a Monk or Holy man to pray on your behalf is also shirk because God is so close, always ready to hear you, that you should pray to Him directly, not think others are closer to him than you.

    Ultimately we have to rely on God, and remove any forms of shirk.
     
  20. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    I don't understand an inability to "see the sacred nature of their Creator God reflected in existence itself" without deifying material substances and human beings.
     
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