After the pass away of Prophet Muhammad, during the Companions Period, a chaotic environment; and eventually different sects emerged. Negligence of the sects opened a door to joining others with God (shirk). Although joining others is decreed as the deadliest sin,which will never be forgiven by God, it has not been covered as a matter of faith. The problem of worship to others, besides God, was ignored. Many Qur’an verses describe calling in and seeking someone else’s help other than God, as the most distinctive characteristics of a polytheist (who joins others with God). In spite of these verses, calling in and asking help were not considered as matters of faith basis, and they were not noticed to be different aspects of joining others.
None of the prophets made an effort to prove God’s existence; instead they all devoted their energy to prove that there are no other gods but God. Because, everyone knows that God exists and He is one. In theology books, on the contrary, major place is given to proving the existence and oneness of God. The belief of “Lāʾilāhaʾillā l-Lāh / there is no god but Allah” eventually evolved into “existence and oneness”, namely the belief of knowing that God exists and one. Since everybody on earth intrinsically knows that God exists and is one, distinguishing Islam and describing the deniers of truth has become a confusing deal.
A polytheist knows that God exists and is one, but assumes Him to be distant, paralleling to the kings on Earth. As a king is reached via his close friends or relatives, a polytheist attributes mediation to ones he assumes close to God. This is why Christians believe Jesus as Son of God, polytheists in Mecca personified their idols as daughters of God, and some others seek help from souls of their fathers, assuming them friends of God.
God decrees about today’s Christians:
لَقَدْ كَفَرَ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ ثَالِثُ ثَلَاثَةٍ وَمَا مِنْ إِلَهٍ إِلَّا إِلَهٌ وَاحِدٌ وَإِنْ لَمْ يَنْتَهُوا عَمَّا يَقُولُونَ لَيَمَسَّنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ.
“Those who said: ‘God is third of the Three’, certainly they concealed (the truth), for there is no god save the One God. And if they do not give up this claim, all who have concealed among them shall be subjected to painful chastisement.” (Al-Ma’ida/The Feast 5:73)
However, ‘God is the one and there is no god besides Him’, according to them. He is the truth itself. He created heavens and the earth on His own. He sets the creation pattern and governs the world. He is close to the man and knows everything.
He always exists, there is no beginning or end of His existence. Everything owes its existence to Him. Everything we have comes from Him. He is self-existent. He is called ‘the Father’ because, he is the beginning of everything, He has superior authority and He is interested in human beings just the way that a father would take interest in his children who are dependent on him. God is neither male nor female; God is God.
Although they say these, they are counted as concealing the truth, because they place Jesus and Holy Spirit between themselves and God, assigning some of the attributes of God to them. Christians say:
“Jesus, with the Father, advocates for Christians. He is always alive to mediate in favor of them. Jesus stands before God. He has the power to save those who get close to God via himself.” Following statements are from the Letters of Paul to Romans regarding the Holy Spirit:
“Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself mediates for us through wordless groans. And He (God) who searches hearts knows what is in the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit mediates for the saints according to the will of God.”
Qur’an reports what Meccan polytheists said about their idols:
وَالَّذِينَ اتَّخَذُوا مِنْ دُونِهِ أَوْلِيَاءَ مَا نَعْبُدُهُمْ إِلَّا لِيُقَرِّبُونَا إِلَى اللَّهِ زُلْفَى
“We only serve them for that they may bring us nearer to God.” (Az-Zumar/The Companies 39:3)
They also believed their gods would intercede for them near the God. God commands:
وَيَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَضُرُّهُمْ وَلَا يَنْفَعُهُمْ وَيَقُولُونَ هَؤُلَاءِ شُفَعَاؤُنَا عِنْدَ اللَّهِ قُلْ أَتُنَبِّئُونَ اللَّهَ بِمَا لَا يَعْلَمُ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَلَا فِي الْأَرْضِ سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ.
“And they serve before God what can neither harm them nor profit them, and they say: ‘These are our intercessors with God.’ Say: ‘Do you inform God of what He knows not in the heavens and the earth?’ Exalted is He, and He is high above what they join with Him.” (Jonah 10:18)
Can it be said that the Christians and Meccan polytheists did not believe in existence and oneness of God? Due to the confusion arisen from this assumption, exegeses of Qur’an have made the verses about polytheism (joining others with God) incomprehensible and paved the way for superstitions.
Here is how: Qur’an mentions both ibadah (عبادة) and dua (دعاء). Ibadah is ‘being servant to’; ‘dua’ is ‘calling in somebody’ and ‘asking for help’.
Qur’an exegeses assigned the meaning of ‘worship’ to ‘dua’ and distorted the actual meaning of ‘calling in’, or ‘asking for help’.
There is a strong relationship between these two words, though. ‘Worship’ aims to have the ‘help’ that is asked from God. Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) says:
“Calling in (God) is the essence of worship”.
However, once ‘dua’ is translated as ‘worship’, the meaning of ‘ibadah’ is distorted, which originally is ‘to ask help from someone in extraordinary ways’. Let’s see where we end up if we replace ‘dua’ with ‘worship’, giving examples from 4th, 5th, and 6th verses of Surah Al-Ahqaf:
قُلْ أَرَأَيْتُمْ مَا تَدْعُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ أَرُونِي مَاذَا خَلَقُوا مِنَ الْأَرْضِ أَمْ لَهُمْ شِرْكٌ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ ائْتُونِي بِكِتَابٍ مِنْ قَبْلِ هَذَا أَوْ أَثَارَةٍ مِنْ عِلْمٍ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ. وَمَنْ أَضَلُّ مِمَّنْ يَدْعُو مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ مَنْ لَا يَسْتَجِيبُ لَهُ إِلَى يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ وَهُمْ عَنْ دُعَائِهِمْ غَافِلُونَ. وَإِذَا حُشِرَ النَّاسُ كَانُوا لَهُمْ أَعْدَاءً وَكَانُوا بِعِبَادَتِهِمْ كَافِرِينَ.
“Tell them, (Oh Prophet): “Hey look! What do you call in from near Allah? Show me, what is there on earth that they created? Or do they have any share from heavens? Bring to me any Scripture earlier than this one or any vestige of knowledge on this subject if you are truthful. (4) Who is farther strayed than he who calls in those (people) from near Allah who cannot answer his call till the Day of Rising? Though, these are unaware of their calling in them? (5) When all human beings will be gathered together those who had been called in will become the enemies to their votaries and will disown their worship. (6)” (Al-Ahqaf/The Curved Dunes 46:4-5-6)
When “dua” is translated as ‘worship’, meaning distortions became inevitable. Mistakes begot other mistakes and actual meanings of the verses get lost. This difference can be seen in the most common translations in various languages:
“Tell them, (O Prophet): “Have you thought about what you worship besides God? Show me, what is there on earth that they created? Or do they have any share from heavens? Bring to me any Scripture earlier than this one or any vestige of knowledge on this subject if you are truthful. (4) Who is farther strayed than he who worships the things beside Allah which cannot answer him till the Day of Rising; though, these are unaware of their worship? (5) When all human beings will be gathered together polytheists will become the enemies to the things they worship and will deny that they worshiped them. (6)” (46:4-5-6)
“Calling in” was replaced with “worship”; “people” with “things” and “things” was explained as “idols”. Therefore, the meaning of the verse was completely distorted. There is huge difference between “he who worship idols”, and “he who calls in, besides Allah, those (people) who will never answer him until the Day of Rising”. In order to ascribe these meanings to the verses, following five mistakes became inevitable:
- Ascribing the meaning ‘worship’ to the word ‘dua (دعو)’.
- Ascribing the meaning of word ‘ma (مَا)’ to the word ‘men (مَنْ) ’.
In Arabic ‘men’ means ‘the ones/who’ or ‘the ones/those who’ and is used only for reasonable beings; for humans. On the other hand, ‘ma’ stands for ‘thing/object’ or ‘things/objects’. In (46:5), the word ‘men(مَنْ)’ is mentioned three times. Those that ascribed the meaning ‘worship’ to ‘dua’ had to assign the meaning ‘men (مَنْ)’ to two of them and the meaning ‘ma(مَا)’ to the other.
- Ascribing the meaning of ‘hiya (هي)’ to the pronoun ‘hum (هم)’.
The pronoun ‘Hum’, which means ‘these’ in Arabic, is used for reasonable male beings; for men. In Qur’an, it includes women, too. Since ‘men مَنْ’ was ascribed the meaning ‘things/objects’, the pronoun ‘hum’ had to be assigned either the meaning ‘huwa’ to denote the statement of “men(مَنْ)”, or the meaning ‘hiya’ to denote the modified meaning of “men(مَنْ)”. This has been a critical mistake.
- Assigning incorrect meaning to ‘regular plural male’ form
The word ‘ghafiloon’, translated as ‘these are unaware (of their calling in them)’ is used for reasonable male beings in plural form; that is, male people. In Qur’an it includes women, too. Ascribing the meaning ‘things/objects’ to the word‘men (مَنْ)’ has discarded this detail in the meaning, too.
- Replacing ‘human-beings’ with ‘idols’
Idols are inanimate objects. The ones that will be resurrected after death and will talk to the ones that demand help from them are human beings. Therefore, the expression: “Who is farther strayed than he who worships the things beside Allah which cannot answer him till the Day of Rising” is incorrect.
As a result, this verse has been translated as erroneously as it is impossible to be defended. The situation is similar in a considerable number of the Arabic exegeses.
Such mistakes in Qur’anic interpretations led to the following belief about visiting tombs:
“Allah has granted certain authorities, potentials and qualifications to these beloved servants. These are our intercessors, with the help of those, our wishes may come true because we are sinful and cannot dare ask directly from Allah.”
Consequently, attributing holiness to the deceased who were religiously respected, and the affliction of reaching God by the mediation of others have troubled the Muslims and their belief.
 Tafsir al-Tabari, Beirut1412/1992. V. 11, p. 519, Surah An-Najm/ The Star 19th verse.  Catechism of the Catholic Church; par. 200 & 212. Here, God is used for Allah.  Catechism of the Catholic Church; par.215, 216, and 222.  Catechism of the Catholic Church; par. 206.  Catechism of the Catholic Church; par. 208.  Catechism of the Catholic Church; par. 212.  Catechism of the Catholic Church; par. 224.  Catechism of the Catholic Church; par. 212.  Catechism of the Catholic Church; par. 239.  Catechism of the Catholic Church; par.519.  Catechism of the Catholic Church; par. 2634.  The Bible/Romans 8:26-28. Catechism of the Catholic Church; par. 741.  Al-Tirmidhi; Dua, 1, hadith no. 3371.  For further information please see Abdulaziz Bayindir; Duada Evliyayi Araci Koyma ve Sirk; Istanbul 2001. P. 8-9. (The book can be accessed at www.suleymaniyevakfi.org in Turkish)  Hayrettin Karaman, Ali Özek, Ibrahim Kafi Dönmez, Mustafa Çagrici, Sadrettin Gümüs, Ali Turgut, Kur’ani Kerim ve Aciklamalı Meali, TDV yayinlari, Ankara 2005. (This version of translation has been given as gift to Turkish pilgrims by The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for years. In Saudi edition, there are non-substantial differences) The following exegeses may be seen for instance: Jalaluddin al Mahalli Tafsir al Jalalayn; Abdullah b. Ahmad an-Nasafi, Tafsir un Nasafi; Muhammad Bin Ahmad Al-Qurtubi , Al-Jami li-Ahkam al-Qur’an; Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Tafsir al-Tabari; Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Tafsir al-Kabir. Hayrettin Karaman, “Ramazanda Türbe Ziyaretleri”, Newspaper: Yeni Safak, Date: 10. 12. 2000.