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Shinto Belief System Today, its Development and Islam in Contrast to Shintoism in The Light of Worship

Shinto Belief System Today and Islam in Contrast to Shintoism in The Light of Worship (Download)

 

Shinto Belief System Today, its Development and Islam in Contrast to Shintoism in The Light of Worship

Abu Muhammad Abdullaah Flaming  St. Fleur

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contents

Worship. 5

Shinto Traditional Practices. 7

Shinto Purification. 8

Change and Development of Shinto. 10

Japan Prior to Recognized Shinto. 10

Syncretism with Buddhism.. 11

Fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate. 12

The Meiji Restoration (The Ending of Shogunate and The new state). 13

Post-World War 14

Shinto Sects. 15

Islam in Contrast to Shintoism in The Light of Worship. 16

Surah Al-Ikhlas. 18

Ibrahim (Abraham) When Breaking the Idols. 21

Conclusion. 23

 

 

 

Based on Live Population statistics of Japan, majority of Japan adhere to the Shintoism faith. Shintoism faith is deeply rooted with Japan’s history and is well known as Japans native religion. Besides Shintoism as a faith, Shintoism for many in Japan is also a form of identity for many Japanese. However, Shintoism today slightly differs from its original presence in Japan. Such differences range from various reasons such as its syncretism with the Buddhism faith, Imperial Family alterations, State Shinto era, Meiji restoration era, post-war etc. From Shintoism development through history and is changes through the time came to influence different types of Shinto today such as Folk Shinto, Shrine Shinto, Sect Shinto. This paper will analyze the Shintoism tradition today and its development throughout history sighting its changes from its first appearance. In addition to analyzing the Shinto tradition, this paper will also examine the Islamic perspective pertaining to its fundamental belief in worship in comparison with the Shinto tradition. Along with the analyzing of Islam and Shinto in the aspect of worship, this paper will also briefly inspect the rational of what is worthy of being worshipped.

 

 

According to the population of Japan (2020)[1], Japan’s population by religions, Shintoism is the largest faith system in Japan. Shintoism is 79% of Japan’s population with more than 100 million adherences. With Shintoism holding such a strong following in Japan, it is central to analyze the Shinto tradition to have a better understanding of its tradition wholesomely.  Shintoism is the native religion of Japan and at a time was once recognized as the state religion. Shintoism is originally an oral tradition. An oral tradition entails human communication where ideas, knowledge, art, information, culture are preserved and transmitted orally from generation to generation (often without script). The forms of transmission are usually through speech, storytelling, songs, narratives, hymns, poems etc. Therefore, being an oral tradition early Shinto did not have any formal revered scriptures or text neither oaths, nor code nor dogmas. Historically recorded, the Shinto tradition originates back to late 7th century, early 8th century however human history and prehistory from its sites and examination of articles shows traces back to the 6th century. Shintoism is also an animistic tradition, believing and attributing of a soul essence or spiritual essence to inanimate objects, and usual miracles. Shintoism is also viewed as a polytheistic religion as it worships, idolize, and admire many different deities. The name of the tradition, Shinto means “the way of the Kami” also known as “the way of the Gods”. Shinto scholars and historians could not confirm a founder of the indigenous tradition however some of its scholars do advocate it (Shintoism) possibly came about from 7 immigrants from East Asia and Central Asia. Nevertheless, there is no consensus upon who its founders are. The name came about as often, Japanese frequently done things to counter foreign and outside influence. However, the name Shinto itself is originally from the Chinese words Shen (divine existence) and Toa (path or way) meaning “path of the divine” or “the way of spirits”.  The origin of the term Shinto being used is also traced back to the 6th century. The name became a differentiating factor in Japanese faith and identity differentiating it from Buddhism which came to Japan in early 6th century and in the 8th century. In fact, Shinto did not have a name; until it became necessary for the people to distinguish it from Buddhism.  As Buddhism was adopted by the Japanese court system, differentiating it was necessary to make apparent from Shintoism. Later many foreign influences influenced Shintoism including Buddhism which also had a profound impact on Shintoism. With the introduction to writing in approximately 5th century and Buddhism arriving in Japan from the 6-century erecting from the Korean Peninsula, aided in shaping and forming Shintoism beliefs today. What was seemed like conflict in early Japanese history both Shintoism and Buddhism developed and eventually cohabited through syncretism remaining a major role of Japanese lives today.  Kami worship later also acquired elements from Chinese Taoism and Confucianism in worship. Shintoism does not necessitate its followers to observe it as their only religion. In fact, many Japanese do not see Shintoism as a religion rather a feature of Japanese life in general and more ritualistic (than beliefs) enabling Japanese to connect, communicate with Kami. Shintoism have many fundamental concepts ranging from Purity (physical, spiritual cleanliness) Family and ancestral admiration and solidarity, living and being in harmony with all things, reverence of nature, procreation and fertility, collectivism. One of the most primary concepts in Shinto, is the worship of kami.

Worship

Worship in Shintoism can take place in private places such as the home or public in Shrines. Shinto shrines are structures which purpose serves not only to worship kami, but also safeguard sacred objects of the faith and culture in general. Shrines are also visited at the people’s convenience for several reasons such as festivals, weddings, milestone events, spiritual connection, to pay homage: spiritual guidance in life, for supplication to kami etc. Shrines are also a haven for pregnant women who wish to give birth securely, also used to protect homes from fires, earthquakes, and disasters. They’re more than two hundred thousand shrines in Japan including small shrines, portable shrines, and private shrines in residential homes. Worship in Shintoism is customary, follows pattern, which are rigorous and procedural. However, such pattern in Shinto worship came about the 19th century when the faith became consolidated and systematized. In Shinto, there is no belief in the concept of an absolute god who is authoritative, controller, sustainer who created mankind. Shinto entails its adherence’s the worshipping of kami. The deities worshipped in the Shinto tradition are called kami and such kami ranges from sacred or divine beings, particular places, landscapes some within nature (i.e., mountains, trees, rocks, rivers etc.), or even spiritual beings. The understanding of the Shinto tradition regarding the kami is that everything is considered to possess a spiritual essence. Family ancestors can also be kami, as when a family affiliate dies it is believed that the family member becomes a kami. Thus, family members may venerate and adore their ancestors as deities. Joseph Cali described kami as “Kami are seen to inhabit both the living and the dead, organic and inorganic matter, and natural disasters like earthquakes, droughts, and plagues…” (Cali & Dougil, 2013). According to Jinja honcho Association of Shinto Shrines mentions the view of the 18th century scholar, Norinaga Motoori “Whatever seemed strikingly impressive, possessed the quality of excellence and virtue, and inspired a feeling of awe is called kami.” From the diverse deities worshipped as kami, is the most honored and revered deity, the sun goddess Amaterasu (The Great God enlightening Heaven). Amaterasu full name Amaterasu Omikami, which the imperial family asserts their descendance to, mandating their divine rule. The Emperor of Japan (Tenno), who founded the nation, performed rituals in the Imperial Palace, requesting for the country’s peace and prosperity mainly from the sung goddess Amaterasu. Theses rituals from the emperor was habitual throughout the year at the imperial palace. Thus, The Grand Shrine of Ise is primary Shinto shrine of Japan, where the sun goddess, Amaterasu is worshiped. The Grand Shine of Ise is amongst one of the places honored in Shinto tradition, which the Shinto faith is rich of traditional practices.

   Shinto Traditional Practices

Shintoism is not known for propagation of its faith outside Japan as its local and Japanese rooted. However, Shinto initially being an oral tradition has many traditional practices that have been passed down through generations within Japanese history. As mentioned earlier one of the traditional Shinto practices is visiting Shinto shrines built to contain the kami. The visiting of shrines is called omairi. These shrines are often visited for many different occasions which varies with various occasions, festivals, ceremonies and personal spiritual needs, prayers, offerings to kami. One of the most typical Japanese visits to a Shinto shrine is usually on New Year’s Day where many pray for a fruitful, prosperous good luck in the new year, while offerings of rice etc. It has been documented in the new year of 2009 first three days alone, had more than 80 million people visiting Shinto Shrines. Other Shinto rituals include the Kagura, a ritualistic dance with Shamanistic origin. The Kagura includes pieces of shamanism, animism, emperor worship, worship, and adoration of nature etc. Music is also played as an important role in Kagura performance as the goal is to bring out deities out of landscapes, inanimate objects, and sacred ritualistic objects. Besides Kagura, Shintoism also has various forms of traditional prayers and offerings to the kami which varies. Ema which are wooden tablets in the image of a horse, or snake, are purchased by visitors which would write a wish or prayer on the tablet and hang it on a shrine. Such wishes or request ranges from good exam results to successful businesses to good health, blissful marriages etc. Norito is another traditional prayer said by priests and visitors of the shrine, praising kami by words and purifying visitors prior to the entrance of a shrine. Noticeably from the many traditions of Shintoism, Shinto funerals do not take place on the land or property of the shrines as activities connected with death or the deceased are viewed as impure. Therefore, such funerals are taken to other places whether in family homes, or public places of the community. In general, the corpse is left to those specialized in the field to take care of what’s required. Therefore, most and many Japanese funeral services are held in Buddhist ritual ceremonies. Thus, the view of impurity and purification in Shinto is very vital for its adherences.

Shinto Purification

Physical and spiritual cleanliness is also a major part of Shintoism. Harae-or purification is done through specific customary practices that purifies the body and mind. One of the simplest purifications in Shinto is the washing of the hands, cleaning the mouth often to visit the kami in a pure state. They’re many ways of purification such as Misogi Harai where purification is done culturally by going entirely underwater, in a body of water. Shubatsu is another form of purification to purify ministers or worshippers or even the ground itself.  This form of purification is used with salt being scattered on the person or object to cleanse it (spiritually). According to the BBC website, it mentions in its religion’s column “…an example of this is seen in sumo wrestling where the salt is scattered around the ring for purification.”  Imi is another form of purification but more so a prevention. Imi is avoidance of impurity prior to getting ready for specific service. Imi (avoidance) are done in different ways prior to different festivals. William George Aston mentions it as “…abstaining from speech and noise, and ate food cooked at pure fire for six days before the celebration of a festival at the Great Shrine of Idzumo there is no signing or dancing, no musical performances, the shrine was not swept out, no building operations were carried on, and no rice pounded. Everything was done in stillness.” (Aston, 2012) Another form of imi called araimi done by priest before going to superior commemorations. Different class of people will require different number of days imi (avoidance) and sufficiency.  William in his book noted the norm of imi today is avoidance from meat and vegetables of the onion class. Haraigushi (wand) is another form of purification where its goal is to transmit the impurity of a person on to an inanimate object where the object is later demolished.  Oharae is one of the much seasonal purification which takes place to purify the entire people. This is done as ritual afterwards following disasters or even for businesses.  It is done to remove sin and contamination for masses. Oharae is usually performed at the end of the year, or end of June and December by the Imperial Household and other shrines. Originally the main festivals where the New Years Festival and the autumn festival. The later was celebrated as shrines with symbols of different deities were carried on by men through the roads. The New Years festival had everything from girls dressed up lodging and scattered rice, dancing while music playing. Additional festivals would take place more and more for protection against evil sicknesses, diseases, depending on the year and epidemics if any. Matsuri another tradition in Shinto, which sacred occasion’s worshippers attend the local Shinto shrines bringing attention to kami, of their wants, request etc. This occasion also requires purification and offerings to the kami, food distribution by priests; highly designed floats carried down by worshippers.

Change and Development of Shinto

Shintoism today though originally an oral tradition took on several changes throughout history which reflect its current tradition today. To better comprehend Shinto today in its currents form, it is important to know several of its changes and developments throughout Shinto history.

 

Japan Prior to Recognized Shinto

As mentioned earlier, Shinto faith being a folk religion did not have any formal code or creed in fact did not have a name until the arrival of Buddhism. Early history prior to Shinto, the primitive people were more likely known to be animists, focus more so on the devotion to the spiritual side of nature. Besides animists, the primitive people where also possibly considered shamanistic before the formal Shinto faith.  Earhart was noted for his commenting that Shinto ultimately emerged from the beliefs and practices of prehistoric Japan (Earhart, 2002).

In line with this view, it is noted many clans prior to the recognized Shinto, being animist and shamanistic did not adhere or subscribe to a specific religion neither were they structured in to one creedal belief system. Rather many of the clans during the primitive period were known to be local, and diverse. It should be noted in the early centuries were diverse kami, no hierarchy nor descendance between the worshippers and the kami. In fact, though early ceremonies involved rock and altars as sacred space, there were no physical form or representation of kami. Kami was seen as formless and pure in the prior to the systemized Shinto.

Syncretism with Buddhism

Perhaps one of the most influential change and development to Shinto is the syncretism with Buddhism. Up until the 6th century Shinto tradition has been the only form of belief in Japan until Buddhism was introduced quickly infusing with way of life of Japanese citizens. The merging of both traditions was unique as no fight, nor did inconsistency occur. The Shinto tradition slowly adopted elements from Buddhism. As such, at time Shinto shrines were found in Buddhist temples, also served as Buddhist temples and even with Buddhist priests inside the shrines regulating the Shinto shrines. At a time in Japan history, even the emperor, Tenno deified both deities of Buddhism and Shinto. Shintoism not mandating its adherences to follow one specific tradition, plus the mixture of both traditions in Japan, many Japanese viewed Shinto and Buddhism the same or could not make a distinction between them. Shinto also later took elements of Chinese Taoism and Confucianism, helping shaping Shinto beliefs. However, the syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism was expected to be the leading feature of Japan religion. Buddhism eventually expressively grew and made apparent influences in the courts and government system. One reason for the expansion of Buddhism was Shinto being a folk tradition at first, was not codified nor held neither any creedal doctrines, oaths, codes nor any specific philosophy. Therefore, many Japanese took the philosophy and theology from foreign religions which were in Japan such as Buddhism and Confucianism. Strengthening the Shinto and Buddhism syncretism was the emperor and court systems bearing the religious obligations such rituals, observances were done for kami contained not only Buddhist elements also Confucian elements eventually over time ingraining in Japanese courts, culture, and citizens. Japanese Buddhist monk, scholar Kokai, even held the view kami was a tangible manifestation of Buddha’s themselves. He connected the sun goddess, Amaterasu, and the ancestor of Imperial family to the principal physical manifestation of Buddha, Danichi Nyoral.  Kokai theory was the kami and Buddha’s was the same, rather just another name. Another theory of the 6century was that kami had a role in protecting Buddhism allowing its teachings of compassion to surge. The fusion of Buddhism and kami worship was known as shinbutsu-shugo, which was the norm in medieval Japan. The theory largely held from the 18th century continued up until the Meiji restoration era. Even until today, when studying the history of Shinto, one must delve into the history of Buddhism arriving in Japan which was a crucial factor which helped shape Shinto then and even now in many ways.

Fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate

The Tokugawa shogunate (warring emperor) was founded approximately 1600 by Ieyasu Tokugawa after taking control of the government of Edo (which is now Tokyo). The city, Edo under the Tokugawa shogunate period developed as one of the biggest cities in Japan at the time. Tokugawa period also known as the Edo period families was more connected with Buddhist temples than Shinto Shrines.  Therefore, Priests officials systematized by the government instructed the youth of a Shinto theology based on the divinity of Japans national origins and its Emperor lineage back to Amaterasu (the sun goddess). In an authoritative feature, the Edo period, Tokugawa shogunate began the movement of the Shinto theology based and its propagation. Though its original and primary goal was to reinstate control in the country at the time it was disarray.  From the Boshin war, the shogunate army was defeated and conquered which lead to the Meiji Emperor declared full renewal of the Imperial force. Keynote to keep in mind from Tokugawa’s downfall in 1867, eventually lead to a unified government in Japan for the first time.

The Meiji Restoration (The Ending of Shogunate and the new state)

In the 18th century various Japanese scholars such as Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801) attempted to separate Shinto from Buddhism and all other foreign influences. Though his campaign for separation was not largely successful, yet it started a trend which would soon rise. 1867 Emperor Meiji, the 122nd Emperor of Japan rose to the power, while the shogun clashed to maintain control and order. The same year 1867 Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu released its authority to Emperor Meiji.1868 Emperor Meiji established full power, the state religion was officially made Shinto by the Meiji restoration and brought a rapid change to the atmosphere of the country and religious setting. With Shinto being the official state religion of the country, Shinto shrines were promoted and established by government funding. Under the Meiji restoration Buddhism was no longer revered and devalued as Buddhist priests were removed and replaced with Shinto priests, Buddhist pictures taken down, Buddhist rituals and deities were made inferior as State Shinto progressed. Buddhism was essentially outlawed, and the state and scholars of Shinto held the view Shinto would be the unifying factor for the country and Emperor restoring Japanese distinctiveness. The Meiji gave a new understanding of Shinto then previously understood before as its focus was geared towards establishing divine creed and commencing a new Japan based on its national philosophy and its support of the state government.  Those of military authority, leadership and power propagated the understanding of the emperor being deified by ensuring the Emperor direct derivation from the gods creating the Japanese lands. Such deification created of the emperor gave a divine ruling of the state. In 1890’s the Imperial family applied changes in the education system obligating recitation of the oath to offering themselves to the state. Also, in the same oath in education system, advocating to protect the Imperial family was put forth. Imperial deification spread and promoted as portraits (of the Imperial family) was spread for esoteric veneration. Shinto ultimately became the unifying factor for Japan by mixing the worship of kami, Japanese patriotism and collective allegiance and loyalty for the imperial family and nation.

Post-World War

1945 post World War 2 results had a profound impact in Japan and state Shinto. Some Japanese held the view of the US occupation vehemently wanted to terminate state Shinto. The Shinto state perhaps was seen by the US as a government backed religious military movement with a patriotism and nationalism ideology which caused a possible threat. After the war, American occupations lead to a new make-up of principals and concepts which would later affect the beliefs of Japanese citizens. The occupation implemented influential secularist ideas in the rebuilding after the war. Freedom of Religion was constituted, which was allowing the liberty of any person or group to openly manifest their faith, beliefs teachings, practices, worship, or non-belief in public and/or private. No one was to be forced to take place in any form of religious acts, festivals, or practices. With the combination of allowing such liberty was also the option to switch religions or negate religion in its totality. Another devesting blow to the state Shinto during US occupation was the promotion and creation of a secular state eradicating the standard connection between the state and Shinto. Thus, the state and its counterparts would refrain from indulging in religious matters such as its education, activity; worship etc. 1946 inline with the US occupation the emperor denounced his divinity, no longer claiming to be a kami. The same year the Association of Shinto Shrines was established enabling its members to organize their efforts since dismantlement of the state Shinto. Many Japanese felt the country’s downfall was due to hubris of the Empire and yearning for foreign territory blinded their leaders. Believing such qualities such as exaggerated pride and territorial gain was given more importance than the country itself. Japanese citizen’s belief as Shinto declined however the practice itself remained steady. Shinto became more practice than principles persisting in ancestor worship, community festivals, superstitions etc. Shinto became more traditional, more of a folk religion culturally ingrained rather than forced upon.

Shinto Sects

Shintoism is considered to have many different sects within Shinto. However, though their often labeled as sects, they’re more so groups within Shinto focusing on different aspects within the Shinto tradition. The most popular types of Shintoism are Shrine Shinto, Sect Shinto, Folk Shinto, and State Shinto. Shrine Shinto is the oldest and most prevalent of the Shinto types.

Shrine Shinto is dated back to Japan history and is the current Shinto today. Sect Shinto is of the 19th century and is break down into 13 of them which are government recognized which in general has no Shrines. Some of the sects include emphases on mountain worship, faith healing sects, purification sects, Confucian sects, rival sects etc. Some names of these sects are as follow: Fusokyô (1882), Izumo Oyashirokyô (1882), Shinto Shusei-ha (1876), Taiseikyô (1882), and Tenrikyô (1908) etc.…Folk Shinto traditionally is the common folk Shinto dealing with their local shrines. Folk Shinto entails more folk beliefs in deities and spirits. Their practices include divination, spirit procession etc. State Shinto is that which is connected and emerged from the Meiji restoration and the downfall of the Shogunate. State Shinto brought forth the state’s ideology of the emperor being divine, while attempting to eradicate and separate all foreign influences from Shinto. State Shinto was held to be the unifying factor between the country, the Emperor and Japanese identity.

Islam in Contrast to Shintoism in The Light of Worship

Though Shintoism being a beautiful culture which often seen manifesting in the hearts and actions of the Japanese people nevertheless Islam and Shinto fall on opposite ends of the spectrum. Shinto “The Way of Gods” does not have the concept of a God such as Islam believing in one and only, supreme deity of absolute oneness, uniqueness, perfection free of any deficiency, error, fault etc. Unlike Islam, In Shintoism there is no belief in the concept of an absolute Creator who is omnipotent, omnipresent, maintainer, sustainer, of all creation, all that exist, He (alone) who created mankind. The kami deities are spirits, marvels, which can be anything which are venerated as mentioned earlier such as landscape, powers of nature, as well as beings which can be venerated existing or dead. Everything animate and inanimate is considered to have a spiritual essence which can be venerated.  As the 18th century Shinto scholar Motoori mention the kami is of “enormous power which has great influence over many things. It is beyond human power or human capability and brings good fortune and happiness to man at the same time it may bring misfortune or evil as well.” In opposition to Shinto, the Islamic creed of tawheed, which constitute the belief in the absolute oneness and uniqueness of Allah (God)alone. Tawheed, obligates Muslims to believe and affirm worship in the oneness of Allah, The All Mighty, the Majestic, alone, entailing He is one and unique without no partner, nor peer, no equal in His essence and attributes (with none like Him). Meanwhile it also requires negation of any other deity deserving to be worshiped besides Allah alone, The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful. A formal explanation of Tawheed in Islam is the belief in Allah as one, and unique with no partner nor equal in His Lordship, His divinity, and His names and attributes. The concept of tawheed is the first and foremost, central, and fundamental aspect of Islam which every other part of the faith relies upon. The theory of tawheed makes a clear prominent distinction between the creation and the Creator, mandating the worship of Allah alone, the Exalted in Might, the Praiseworthy, who is the sole Creator, sustainer, fashioner, law giver, and Lord of mankind. In adherence to tawheed sincerely, with sound reasoning and understanding, knowledge (of Islamic Law), wisdom and capability from Allah, The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful brings about various adorning features that varies such as abstaining from what Allah, the law giver has forbidden, doing what He, has obligated, calling to good; counseling against evil, being dutiful to and honoring one’s parents, upholding family kinship, morally maintaining one’s family, spouse and children virtuously, giving charity and aiding those less fortunate, visiting the sick, being kind and hospitable to one’s neighbor, being truthful, honorable with integrity, loving the elderly amongst us, showing mercy to the youth, in all having a positive contribution in one’s society sincerely for his Creator. These essential beliefs coupled with sincere actions (good deeds) in Islam is in attempt to attain the upmost reward and be of those who are successful entering their final abode in the hereafter(heaven). In opposition to tawheed is the greatest form of sin in Islam which is Shirk (idolatry or polytheism). Shirk is any form of deification or worship of anyone or anything besides Allah or made association with Allah. In committing shirk; in essence it is ascribing partners, peers, associates (that is not worthy) to Allah, or making one equivalent to Allah, The All Hearing, the All Seeing. Allah alone is the ultimate source of all existence. Everything, everyone depends on Him and needs Him, and He is free from any want, need or dependence from His creation. Consequently, when anyone associates partners or makes equals to Allah and believes someone or something else is independent of Allah; thus, the polytheists is lead astray dedicating his entire life, and worship to other than Allah, who alone in truth is deserving to be worship. Therefore, the idolater or polytheist is left to the upmost abomination in the life after (hellfire) becoming one of those who failed their greater purpose of life[2]. Subsequently, all and any form of worship in Islam is for the Creator alone. The understanding of tawheed and shirk in relationship to Shinto or any other belief system brings rational clarity of what or who is worthy of being worshipped as we will further analyze briefly.

Surah Al-Ikhlas

Islam takes an upmost staunch approach against shirk as it is in absolute contrary to the fundamental belief in Islam, tawheed. In the light of the Qur’an and the Sunnah (the authentic prophetic tradition) Shinto is viewed as a polytheistic religion, as the worship of kami is giving worship to other than Allah, the one and unique true God deserving to be worshipped alone. Therefore, in essence is committing the greatest and grievous of sin shirk; associating rivals and/or partners with Allah. The Qur’an addresses this matter throughout the entirety of the book as is the fundamental theme addressing the atheist and polytheist again and again. Another Shinto fallacy from the Islamic perspective is a matter which the Qur’an addresses frequently, is the issue of worshiping that which cannot bring any harm or benefit to the worshipper.

One the shortest chapters of the Qur’an which our beloved Prophet Muhammad (May Allah peace and blessings be upon him) called it equal to one- third of the Qur’an addressed who is Allah? The well-known chapter Al-Ikhlas also known as the chapter of At-Tawheed, the 112th chapter declares Allah’s complete oneness and uniqueness and the essence of tawheed. If we analyze the surah (chapter) Al-Ikhlas it describes who is Allah? And His attributes? Such description alone entails why He, The Most Merciful, is the one and only true God, and the one and only deserved to be worship alone. Allah being the one and only deserved to be worship should be understood as for one, because there is nothing like unto Him, neither in being, His attributes, nor magnitude neither close to His majesty worthy of worship. The surah Al-Ikhlas addresses many and all polytheistic religions in the utmost matter which negates any polytheistic views being a faith or tradition. Surah Al-Ikhas proceeds:

  1. “Say (Tell Them Muhammad) He is Allah, The One and Only.”
  2. “Allah, As –Samad.”
  3. “He begetteth not, Nor is He begotten.”
  4. “And there is none Like unto Him”

 

In this surah we are taught to avoid the downfalls of mankind and its numerous nations which have fallen into while trying to comprehend who is their Lord, their sole Creator. Many religions fell into this fundamental error trying to comprehend Allah’s nature which is beyond our limited capacity and limited understanding.  “Say He is Allah The One and Only” This verse is a declaration of Allah’s absolute unity of divine being, a declaration of His Uniqueness and Oness rejecting all and any forms of polytheism. Allah, The Most High, is eternal with no beginning or ending, which expounds the error in Shinto understanding as its belief lies on spiritual essence in animate and inanimate objects or being. However, like all creation they (the animate and inanimate objects or beings) have a begin and will also come to an end (by Allah’s decree). Therefore, it (the animate and inanimate) is amongst the creation which negates it or them being worthy of worship or having any true power, control, or authority. In surat-l-tur Allah says (meaning of the ayah) “Were they created by nothing, or were they themselves the creators?” (52; 35, Mosin Khan) A rhetorical question put forth as mankind or any creation (in Shinto case) has no control in its becoming, nor had any choice in its creation to be put into existence. This declaration from the first verse also is a warning that He (Allah) being The One and Only, is the only God worthy of being worship as nothing is like him. Another fallacy from Shinto we can take from this verse is He, The Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful is not like any other person, being or thing that we know or can imagine: His characteristics and nature are unique. Thus, worshiping anything within nature invalidates the notion of worshipping that which is greater and beyond the creation.

The second verse “Allah, As-Samad” means He, The Lord to which all and every creation is dependent on, and He Himself is free from any dependence from His creation. This rebuts the idea of god and goddess whose human like who eats, drinks, or in need of offerings from its worshippers. Such attributes of eating, drinking implies a need, which Allah is As-Samad. All needs Him, and He is free from any want or need neither can the creation benefit Him, or harm Him, nor increase Him in status or divinity.  The third verse states “He begetteth not, Nor is He begotten” in relation to Shinto is a negation of any being, human like deserving to be worshipped. As some Shinto adherences venerate beings believed to be highly enlighten, or family ancestors which are or were born at a point of time. Therefore, deification of family ancestors or enlightened beings deifies a prominent principle of tawheed. Allah has negated any attribution to Himself of being born or reproducing which is a feature of mammals and animals not befitting of being worship.

“And there is none Like unto Him” sums up the entire argument put forth for the polytheist as there is nothing comparable to Allah. Thus is a norm amongst mankind and polytheistic traditions to make apparent the Creator in like their likeness whether human being likeness in color, race, physic, tribe, lineage etc. This verse “…none Like unto Him” is also a denunciation on the incarnation theory often held in Shinto and many other faith systems of Asia as Allah does not die, He is the Ever-Living, and nothing is similar.

 

Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) When Breaking the Idols

Another example taking from the noble Qur’an invalidating the Shinto belief system in polytheism and worship of nature is that of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) (May God peace be upon him) when breaking the idols. Prophet Ibrahim in objection to the idol-worshipping of his people made an example which is well noted in the Qur’an for people to take heed. The people of Prophet Ibrahim, whom where idol-worshippers was made apparent that their idols where found destroyed except for the biggest of them. The Qur’an makes mentions of this in surat-l-anbiyaa (in meaning) “They said: “We heard a young man talking (against) them (the idols) who is called Ibrahim (Abraham).”  “They said: “Then bring him before the eyes of the people, that they may testify.” Ibrahim was then taken to the ruler in accusation of breaking the idols mentioned by the people. Ibrahim was then questioned about the destroyed idols “They said: “Are you the one who has done this to our gods, O Ibrahim (Abraham)?” The reply of Prophet Ibrahim is what I want to bring focus to, as it requires some contemplation in relation to Shinto. The Prophet Ibrahim (May God peace be upon him) answered when question, if he was the one who destroyed the idols apart from the biggest. His reply to them was: “Nay, this one, the biggest of them (idols) did it. Ask them, if they can speak!” The idols were taken as gods by the people, yet they could bring neither benefit nor harm. Keeping that in mind (that the idols could not bring benefit neither harm) they were also not able to defend themselves. This is the same condition of the adherences of Shinto, as they worship inanimate nature, or ancient family ancestors who died which cannot bring any harm or benefit and in truth just as the idols of the people of Prophet Ibrahim. The Prophet Ibrahim argument with his people was superb as it brought them to recollect with sound reasoning and conclude, he wanted them to, by his question posed. Their response was noted in the Qur’an said: “So they turned to themselves and said: “Verily, you are the Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doers).” (21:64, Mohsin Khan) They did not know what to say as the argument put forth was very sound hence clear and precise. What could they say? It’s also the same question I pose to those who adhere to Shinto tradition. The idol worshipper’s response to Ibrahim was mentioned in the Qur’an “Then they turned to themselves (their first thought and said): “Indeed you [Ibrahim] know well that these (idols) speak not!” (21:65, Mohsin Khan) They knew very well instantly what the Prophet was allocating to them, which was the worship of ineffective useless idols? Whom they mentioned cannot even speak admitting alluding to it helplessness. Ibrahim response to their comment we can say is the ultimate blow as it sums up his entire argument: [Ibrahim] said: “Do you then worship besides Allah, things that can neither profit you, nor harm you? Fie upon you, and upon that which you worship besides Allah! Have you then no sense?” (21:66-67, Mohsin Khan) Perhaps the most daunting statement of this dialogue Ibrahim stated as it renders pure rational to understand such idols were of no benefit and not worthy of worship. The statement “have you no sense?” a rhetorical statement which is not meant to be answered rather for his people to make sense of their idol worshipping and its contrary to reasoning. These verses in surat l-anbiyaa in relation to Shinto gives a wonderful example of the creed Tawheed as it implies nothing is worthy of worship in truth except Allah, the One and Only and there is nothing like Him.

Conclusion

In conclusion Shinto is a profound culture and religion deeply rooted in Japan and Japanese history. It’s the native religion of Japan and holds the largest population of adherences in Japan. The Shinto faith manifested today has been through various changes which affected its current condition now. Yet Shinto being deeply rooted in Japans culture still plays a major role in many Japanese lives today. In contrast to Islam both belief systems are opposite to one another, as one belief lies in veneration of spiritual essence within all creation living and non-living, inanimate, and animate. While the other (Islam) holds the belief of pure monotheism, worshipping the one Creator who is One and Only, Unique, omnipotent, nothing comparable and deserves to be worshipped alone. The religion of Islam put forth, the original belief of mankind set by Allah from Adam and on, is monotheism. Later, throughout time people departed and fell into polytheism and even atheism today. Surah Al-Ikhlas sets a resilient illustration for mankind and many of its nations to come until the last day, the essence of faith which is the declaration of the belief in tawheed (the Oneness and Uniqueness of God), and that Allah is the only one truly deserved to be worshipped. The creed of tawheed affirms the worship of Allah alone in truth while negating any other deity worshipped besides Allah as they hold neither power nor authority nor truth or proof worthy of being worship. The same message of tawheed can be extracted from Ibrahim dialogue with his people after breaking the idols they worshipped. Ibrahim, the Friend of Allah, made it clear such idols were not able to bring benefit or harm. Neither were the idols capable to bring themselves or anything else in existence or take out anything of existence (thus not deserving to be worshipped). Both cases put forth display the fallacy of not only the Shinto belief system but many other polytheistic faiths and traditions which fall into such enormous error according to the creed of tawheed.

References

 

Aston, W. G. (1907). Shinto: The Ancient Religion of Japan. United Kingdom: A. Constable &

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Aston, W. G. (2012). Shinto: The Way of the gods. United Kingdom: Forgotten Books

 

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BBC. (2009, September 16). Harae: Purification Rites. https://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/shinto/ritesrituals/harae.shtml

 

Cali, J., & Dougill, J., (2012). Shinto Shrines: A Guide to the Sacred Sites of Japan’s Ancient Religion. Hawai’i. University of Hawai’i Press.

 

Earhart, H.B., (2002). Japanese Religion: Unity and Diversity: 4th (fourth) Edition. United States: Wadsworth, Inc.

 

Hardacre, H. (2017). Shinto: A History. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

 

Hirai, N. (2019, September 13). Shinto Religion. Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Shinto

 

Mason, J. (2007). The Meaning of Shinto. United Kingdom: Trafford Publishing.

 

Toshio, K., Dobbins, J., & Gay, S. (1981). Shinto in the History of Japanese Religion. Journal of Japanese Studies, 7(1), 1-21. doi:10.2307/132163

 

Underwood, A. C. (2013). Shintoism: The Indigenous Religion of Japan. United States: Read Books Limited.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] https://www.livepopulation.com/country/japan.html

[2] It should be noted according to Islamic Jurists, the Mukallaf (religiously accountable person) is one who is baaligh (adult), mentally sane (aql), pubescent or mature (tamyiz), ability to either see or hear (to receive the message of Islam), and one who received the message of Islam undistorted.

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