The disbelievers tried to bargain with the Prophet r, saying:
“O Muhammad! Come, let us worship what
you worship and you worship what we worship so that you and we share the
matter. If what you worship is better than what we worship, we will take a
share of it. And if what we worship is better than what you worship, you will
take a share of it.”
The answer came
down in Ayat revealed from heaven1:
(Say: “O disbelievers! I do not worship what you
worship. Nor are you worshipers of what I worship. Nor will I be a worshiper of
what you worship. Nor will you be worshipers of what I worship. For you is your
religion, and for me is my religion.”)2
The Arabs before Islam did not deny Allah U,
but at the same time they did not know Him in the true essence He described
Himself with: The One God, The Self-Sufficient Master, Whom all creatures need.
They set up partners with Allah in worship and did not make a just estimate of
Allah such as is due to Him, nor worship Him such as is due to Him.
They worshipped idols besides Him, which they made to symbolize
their pious ancestors, great figures of the past or the angels whom they claimed
to be the daughters of Allah. Or else they just forgot the symbols and
worshiped them as gods. In all cases, they used these idols as mediators
between themselves and Allah U, as the Noble Qur’an
quotes them as saying: (“We
worship them only that they may bring us near to Allah.”)3
They admitted that it is Allah Who created the heavens and the
earth, controls the sun and the moon, and sends down rain from the sky, as
quoted in Surat Al-‘Ankabut: (If
you asked them, “Who created the heavens and earth and subjected the sun and
the moon?” they would surely say, “Allah.”)4 And: (If you asked
them, “Who sends down rain from the sky and thereby gives life to the earth
after its lifelessness?” they would surely say, “Allah.”)5 Moreover, Allah superseded their gods in
their oaths and supplications (i.e. they said, “by Allah” and “O
But in spite of their faith in Allah, their Shirk
corrupted their beliefs, as well as their traditions and rites, to the extent that they assigned to their alleged
gods a portion of their harvest, their cattle, and even their offspring. This
portion often obliged them to sacrifice their own children.
The Arabs also believed that they were the true followers of
the religion of Ibrahim (Abraham r); that they were more
rightly guided than the People of the Scripture (the Jews and Christians)
inhabiting the Arabian Peninsula at that time.
The Jews and Christians preached respectively that Ezra r
and ‘Isa (Jesus r)
were the sons of Allah, whereas they, the Arabs, worshiped the angels and jinn
– the true offspring of Allah as they alleged. Therefore, they considered
themselves more rightly guided because (as they alleged) the kinship of the
angels and jinn with Allah was closer than that of Ezra r
and ‘Isa r,
which is all absolute Shirk: (They
join the jinn as partners in worship with Allah, although He has created them
(the jinn), and they falsely attribute sons and daughters to Him without
knowledge. Be He Glorified and Exalted above (all) that they attribute to Him.)6
Therefore, when Prophet
Muhammad r came to them and declared his religion to be
that of Ibrahim r, they argued that there was no reason for them to forsake their beliefs and follow Muhammad’s instead.
At the same time, they
tried a plan for a middle ground between them and the Messenger of Allah r. They suggested to him that he should
prostrate himself before their gods in return for their prostration before his
God! And that he should stop censuring their
gods and their manner of worship in return for whatever he stipulated!
The confusion in their beliefs and their worshiping various
gods while acknowledging Allah made them feel that the gap between them and
Prophet Muhammad r
was not unbridgeable. They believed that an agreement was somehow possible by splitting into two camps that would meet in
the middle and grant him some personal
To clear up this
muddle in their minds and block any future attempts, and to firmly distinguish
between one worship and another, one doctrine and belief and another, this
Surah was revealed to the Prophet r
in such a decisive, assertive, repetitive tone to demarcate Tawhid7 from Shirk, and to establish a true
criterion, allowing no bargaining or vain arguments.8
1 Ibn Hisham, As-Sirah An-Nabawiyyah:
Circumstances of the revelation of Surat Al-Kafirun, vol. 2; Safi-ur-Rahman Mubarakpuri, Ar-Rahiq Al-Makhtum; Second Phase (Open Preaching): Compromises and Concessions.
Translated meanings of Al-Kafirun 109: 1-6.
Translated meanings of Az-Zumar 39: 3.
Translated meanings of Al-‘Ankabut 29: 61.
Translated meanings of Al-‘Ankabut 29: 63.
6 Translated meanings of Al-An‘am 6: 100.
Monotheism; belief in the Oneness of Allah U.
8 Sayyid Qutb, In the Shade of the
Qur’an, interpretation of Surah Al-Kafirun , thirty-sixth
edition, Dar Al-Shorouk.