Referring to Other than the Qur’an and Sunnah for Judgment is Characteristic of Non-Muslims
Ayaat previous to this carried the command to revert back to the mandate given by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and the Messenger sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam in all matters. In the present ayah, the act of reverting to laws contrary to the Shariah has been censured.
In this ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala chastises those who claim to believe in what Allah has sent down to His Messenger and to the earlier Prophets, yet they refer to other than the Book of Allah and the Sunnah of His Messenger for judgment in various disputes.
Ayah 60 exposes the claim of those who say that they have believed in earlier scriptures, the Torah and the Gospel, and now believe in the Book (the Qur’an) revealed to the Prophet Muhammad sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam. That is, earlier in time, they were part of the community of the people of the Book, then they entered the fold of Islam and became a part of the Muslim community.
أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ يَزْعُمُونَ أَنَّهُمْ ءَامَنُواْ بِمَآ أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكَ وَمَآ أُنزِلَ مِن قَبْلِكَ
“Have you not seen those who claim to have believed in what was revealed to you, [O Muhammad], and what was revealed before you?”
The ayah warns that this claim of theirs is simply a verbal camouflage for their hypocrisy. Their hearts are stuffed with the same old disbelief which has come out in the open during this dispute when Bishr, bypassing the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam, proposed that the Jewish chief, Kaab ibn Ashraf be the judge in that dispute and, in addition to that, later when the Prophet sallAllahu aalyhi wa sallam gave a clear and just decision, he found it unacceptable.
Chastising all those who refrain from referring to the Qur’an and Sunnah for judgment preferring the judgment of whatever they chose of falsehood, which befits the description of Taghoot here, Allah subhanhu wa ta’ala says,
أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ يَزْعُمُونَ أَنَّهُمْ ءَامَنُواْ بِمَآ أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكَ وَمَآ أُنزِلَ مِن قَبْلِكَ يُرِيدُونَ أَن يَتَحَاكَمُواْ إِلَى الطَّـغُوتِ وَقَدْ أُمِرُواْ أَن يَكْفُرُواْ بِهِ
“They wish to refer legislation to Taghoot, while they were commanded to reject it..”
Taghoot primarily means “one who exceeds the limits”. In usage, the Shaytan is referred to as Taghoot. In this ayah, carrying the dispute to Kaab ibn Ashraf has been equated with carrying it to the Shaytan. The reason could be that Kaab ibn Ashraf was himself a shaytan personified, or it could be that bypassing a decision under the God-given law and preferring a decision contrary to it can only come from the teaching of the Shaytan. About anyone who follows this course, it is clear that he has virtually taken his case to the court of none else but the Shaytan.
Therefore, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala ends this ayah by saying,
وَيُرِيدُ الشَّيْطَـنُ أَن يُضِلَّهُمْ ضَلَـلاً بَعِيداً
“…and Satan wishes to lead them far astray.”
The mufasireen have also interpreted Taghoot here as the authority that makes decisions in accordance with laws other than Divine and the system of judiciary which acknowledges neither Allah as the Supreme Sovereign nor His Book as the final authority. Hence, this ayah explains that it is contrary to Faith to take one’s case for decision to a law court which by its nature is, that of taghoot. Belief in Allah and His Book makes it obligatory on the Believer that he should refuse to acknowledge such a court as lawful. According to the Qur’an, belief in Allah and disbelief in taghoot are correlatives; therefore to acknowledge both at one and the same time is nothing but hypocrisy itself.
Describing polytheists, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says in Surah al-Baqarah ayah 170, “When it is said to them: “Follow what Allah has sent down.” They say: ‘Nay! We shall follow what we found our fathers following’.”
This is different from the conduct of the faithful believers, whom Allah describes in Surah an-Nur ayah 51 as, “The only saying of the faithful believers, when they are called to Allah and His Messenger, to judge between them, is that they say: ‘We hear and we obey’.”
May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala enable us to follow the conduct of faithful believers, aameen.