Chapter 8: Categories of Polytheists

In this discourse, we will refer to some of the categories of polytheists which have been mentioned in the Glorious Qur’an.

The first category: calf-worshippers

“The People of the Book ask you to bring down for them a Book from the sky. Certainly, they asked Moses for [something] greater than that, for they said, ‘Show us Allah visibly,’ whereat a thunderbolt seized them for their wrongdoing. Then, they took up the Calf [for worship], after all the manifest proofs that had come to them. Yet We excused that, And We gave Moses a manifest authority.”1

Even if the above quoted verse does not explicitly state that they took up the Calf for worship, but still interpreters of the Holy Qur’an have asserted that they had taken the Calf for a god. It has thus been written in “Majma‘ al-Bayān”, “They used to worship the Calf and used to believe that it was a god.” It has thus been written in “Tafsīr al-Mīzān”, “This was idolatry, and the Calf had been taken for a god.”

The second category: worshippers of Jesus Christ and Mary

There have been people who used to worship Jesus Christ and Mary and the following verse denotes this assertion:

“And when Allah will say, ‘O Jesus son of Mary! Was it you who said to the people, ‘Take me and my mother for gods besides Allah’?’ He will say, ‘Immaculate are You! It does not behoove me to say what I have no right to [say]. Had I said it, You certainly would have known it: You know whatever is in my self, and I do not know what is in Your Self. Indeed, You are knower of all that is Unseen’.”2

It can be deduced from the above quoted verse that Christians used to believe that Jesus Christ and Mary were gods.

It has thus been stated in “Tafsīr al-Mīzān”, “This verse means that besides Allah, they had taken Jesus Christ (‘a) and Mary (‘a) for gods; [this verse does] not [mean] that they had opted for Jesus Christ (‘a) and Mary (‘a) instead of Allah. In other words, some people imagine that Christians have forsaken Allah and only worship Jesus Christ (‘a) and Mary (‘a), but this is not what this verse means. It means that besides believing that Allah is God, they also believed in the divinity of two other gods, and this is what is called ‘the Trinity’.”3

It has thus been written in “Majma‘ al-Bayān”, “Why does the Holy Qur’an state that Christians used to worship Jesus Christ (‘a) and Mary (‘a) despite the fact that some Christians never worshipped Mary? There are two probable answers to this question: 1) that god in the above quoted verse does not denote literal meaning, but denotes honoring, because Christians respect Jesus Christ (‘a) and his mother to the same extent that they respect Allah. It is for this reason that the Holy Qur’an has employed the word ‘gods’ [ilāhayn]. In reality, the above quoted verse does not mean that Christians considered these two as gods; 2) there were some Christians who used to worship Mary, as has been recounted by Shaykh Tūsī.”4

Shaykh Tūsī’s statement regarding the existence of a group of Christians who used to worship Mary has been recounted in “Tafsīr al-Mīzān”. “Tafsīr al-Mīzān” has also quoted from “Tafsīr al-Minār” that the statue of Mary had been placed in all Christian churches, but Protestants abstained from worshipping Mary centuries after the advent of Islam. However, Catholics continued to worship Mary and used to take pride in doing so. Initially, both groups used to worship Mary, and placed her statue in their tabernacles and bowed down to it.

Third category: worshippers of the jinn

“They make the jinn partners of Allah, though He has created them, and carve out sons and daughters for Him, without any knowledge. Immaculate is He and exalted above what they allege [concerning Him]!”5

  • 1. Sūrat al-Nisā’ 4:153.
  • 2. Sūrat al-Mā’idah 5:116.
  • 3. Tafsīr Al-Mīzān, vol. 6, p. 243.
  • 4. Majma‘ al-Bayān, vol. 3, p. 268.
  • 5. Sūrat al-An‘ām 6:100.