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TAGHUT. The term taghut, from the root tghy (“to rebel, transgress, or overstep the mark”), occurs eight times in the Qur’an, where it denotes a focus of worship other than God and so is often translated as “idols” or “Satan.” But its meaning is wider than this: surah 4.6o refers to taking cases for judgment before tdghut, implying earthly authorities that have taken the place of God.

The modern Islamic ideologue Abu al-A’la Mawdudi defines tdghut in his Qur’an commentary as a creature who exceeds the limits of creatureliness and arrogates to himself godhead and lordship—one who not only rebels against God, but imposes his will on others in disregard of God’s will (Mawdudi, 1988, vol. I, pp. 199-200). In Shi’i Islam, tdghut and the associated word tdghtydn refer to those who have opposed the rightful imam (see, for example, Husayn ‘All Muntaziri, Mabani -yi fiqhi-i hukumat-i Islami, Tehran, AH 1367/1988 CE, pp. 238, 376), and they were therefore often applied to the Sunni authorities.

Because of these associations, the word taghut became a general appellation for any person or group accused of being anti-Islamic, in particular those thought to be leading people away from Islam. The modern Shi’i scholar Muhammad Husayn Tabataba’i, for example, in his twenty-volume Qur’anic commentary, Mizdn alhaqq, along with the usual definitions of idols, satans, and jinn, defines tdghut as “those leaders who lead mankind astray and are obeyed despite God’s displeasure” (Beirut, n.d., VOL 2, p. 344).

In particular, tdghut was used during and after the Iranian Revolution of 1:979 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to designate the shah and what Khomeini identified as the illegitimacy, false values, and corruption of his regime; the United States of America (“the accursed Satan,” shaytan-i rajim) and its taghuti agents, the shah and his supporters, were accused of trying to lead people away from Islam and toward false gods.

Khomeini was himself accused of being tdghut by his principal religious rivals, the Hujjatiyah. This group was founded to oppose the Baha’i faith, and consequently one of its main principles is that any claim to leadership before the advent of the Hidden Twelfth Imam usurps the rights of the imam. Since the Hidden Imam will, according to the hadith, bring justice to a world filled with injustice, Khomeini’s claim that he was establishing a more just society was also considered by the Hujjatiyyah as an attempt to usurp the functions of the imam. In Shiism, anyone who usurps the rights of the imams is tdghut, which explains why the Hujjatiyah accused Khomeini of this. [See also Hujjatiyah.]

Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the term tdghut has entered into political discourse in both Iran and the Sunni world, referring to any person, group, or government who is portrayed as being anti-Islamic and a supporter of the materialism and irreligious values of the West. It is used to refer to those who are seen as agents of Western cultural imperialism and are trying to import these values into the Islamic world.


There has been no extensive study of the word taghut in relation to modern discourse. The Qur’anic references to tdghut include surahs 2.256, 2.257 4.6o, 4.76, 5.6o, 16.36, and 39.17. Associated words from the same root also occur in the Qur’an, but the derivative adjective tdghuti, which frequently occurs in modern political discourse, is not found in the Qur’an. See also Sayyid Abu al-A’la Mawdudi, Towards Understanding the Qur’an: a translation of Mawdudi’s Tafhim alQur’an: by Zafar Ishaq Ansari (Leicester, 1988; 4 vols. to date); and Mahmud Taleqani, “Jihad and Shahadat,” in Jihad and Shahadat: Struggle and Martyrdom in Islam, edited by Mehdi Abedi and Gary Legenhausen, pp. 51-53 (Houston, 1986), an analysis of the term by a modern Shi’i political cleric. Said Amir Arjomand, in his work The Turban for the Crown (New York and Oxford, 1988), discusses the term as applied to the Pahlavi regime on pages 103-105.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/taghut/

  • writerPosted On: July 7, 2018
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