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Taghut (ar. طاغوت, ṭāġūt, pl. ṭawāġīt) is an Islamic terminology denoting a focus of worship other than Allah. In traditional theology, the term often connotes idols, Satan and jinn. The term is also applied to earthly tyrannical power, as implied in surah An-Nisa verse 60. The modern Islamic philosopher Abul A'la Maududi defines taghut in his Qur'anic commentary as a creature who not only rebels against God but transgresses his will. Due to these associations, the term may refer to any person or group accused of being anti-Islamic and an agent of Western cultural imperialism. The term was introduced to modern political discourse since the usage surrounding Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini during the 1979 Iranian Revolution, through accusations made both by and against Khomeini.
The Arabic word ṭāġūt is derived from the three-letter Arabic verbal root of ط-غ-ت T-G-T which means to "cross the limits, overstep boundaries," or "to rebel." From this, Taghut denotes one who exceeds their limits. This notion is associated with the three stages of disbelief in the Islamic context. The first stage of error is fisq (i.e. disobeying God without denying that one should obey Him), the second is kufr, (i.e. rejection of the very idea that one should obey God). The last stage would be not only to rebel against God but also impose their rebellion against the will of God upon others. Those who reach this stage are considered as taghut.
In the Qur'an
"Do you not see how those given a share of the Scripture, [evidently] now believe in idols and evil powers? (Taghut) They say of the disbelievers, 'They are more rightly guided than the believers."— Qur'an, Sura 4 (An-Nisa), ayat 51
This is taken to refer to an actual event in which a group of disbelieving Meccans went to two eminent Jewish figures for counsel on the truth of Muhammad's teachings and were told that the pagans were more rightly guided than Muslims.
"Do you [Prophet] not see those who claim to believe in what has been sent down to you, and in what was sent down before you, yet still want to turn to unjust tyrants for judgement, although they have been ordered to reject them? Satan wants to lead them far astray."
"The believers fight for God's cause, while those who reject faith fight for an unjust cause. Fight the allies of Satan: Satan's strategies are truly weak."
Again, this term taghut has been used here.
"There is no compulsion in religion: true guidance has become distinct from error, so whoever rejects (taghut) false gods and believes in God has grasped the firmest hand-hold, one that will never break. God is all hearing, all knowing."
- Momen, Moojan. (1995). "Țāghūt". In John L. Esposito. The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Mawdudi, 1988, vol.1, pp.199-200
- Understanding the Islamic Scripture 2007 Mustansir Mir p.55
- Arabic Dictionary of Islamic Terms
- The Pure Islam project
- SunnahOnline. PDF
- Quran 7:51
- See Abdel Haleem Oxford Translation p.87 notes
- Quran 4:60
- See Abdel Haleem Oxford Translation of the Qur'an p.89
- Abdel Haleem Oxford Translation p.91
- Quran 4:76
- Quran 7:256