Buddhism: An Idolatrous Religion
About 2500 years ago, Buddhism arose in northeast India and, in time, extended its influence throughout Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Kampuchea, China, Japan, Tibet, Mongolia, Manchuria, Korea, and Nepal. Today, it has about 330 million followers.
Definitions of Buddhism have always varied, along with how Buddhists understand life's meaning. For some, Buddhism is a religion; others regard it as a sect or school of philosophy. But from its view of life and all its practices, it is ultimately clear that the doctrine of Buddhism is idolatrous and superstitious. Since Buddhism is an atheist religion that lacks any belief in God, it also rejects the existence of angels, the eternal afterlife, Hell, and the Day of Judgment.
Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, was born in the Indian city of Kapilavastu and lived between 563 and 483 B.C. At this time, India's dominant religion was Brahmanism, the religion of Aryan invaders. According to the Aryans' rigid and unbreachable caste system, all of society was divided into four groups, each of which in turn was divided into sub castes. Brahman priests formed the very highest segment of society and they pitilessly oppressed the people of lesser status.
Gautama was born the son of a wealthy prince by the name of Suddhodana, in the noble Sakya family. After spending his youth in comfort and ease, Gautama left the palace at the age of 29 and began a mystic search that lasted until his death at the age of 80. During his lifetime, he established certain principles that over the course of time, evolved into the doctrine we now call Buddhism.
The word Buddha means "the awakened, or enlightened one," signifying the spiritual heights that Siddhartha Gautama is supposed to have attained. Those Buddhist teachings and texts that have come down to us do not date from the period in which he lived, but were written down between 300 and 400 years after his death. In the following pages of this book, we will examine these texts in detail and we will see that they contain false beliefs, practices that go beyond all logic and present Buddha perversely as an idol to be worshipped.
Those Who Associate Buddha with God
In its basic beliefs, philosophy and practices, this religion is idolatrous. Buddhists hold Buddha in a heightened sense of love, deep respect and fear, even accepting him as a god.
Although we have no documents from Buddha's time that suggest that he urged his followers to worship him; the Brahmans—who were already worshipping idols—quickly began to make statues of Siddhartha. And in time, those who nurtured an excessive love towards Buddha came to worship these idols and consider him a god.
However, all religions based on God's revelations adhere to a monotheistic faith that recognizes Him as single and unique. In the Qur'an (22: 34), God states, "Your God is One God, so submit to Him." To deny the supremacy of God and worship the idols of an ordinary person, as the Buddhists do, is described in the Qur'an as to "associate something with God." In hundreds of places in the Qur'an, God reminds us that this "association" is a very serious sin. For example:
God does not forgive anything being associated with Him, but He forgives whoever He wills for anything other than that. Anyone who associates something with God has committed a terrible crime. (Qur'an, 4: 48)
The word "associate," or shirk, means partnership. The Qur'an uses it in the sense of associating His creatures with Him, as in treating any thing, person, or any idea as equal to or higher than God. The idolater reveres whatever image, relic, or object that he associates with God more highly than he does God Himself, directing toward it all his love and respect, interest and adoration. The Qur'an (15:96;17: 39; 51: 51) refers to this perverse way of thinking as "setting up another god together with God."
The Islamic religion is based on the belief in the oneness of God (tawhid). God often repeats the phrase La ilahe illahu ("there is no other God but He"), which is the first condition of faith. Therefore, the most basic meaning of shirk is deviating from this truth into the mistaken idea that there are other beings besides God who possess "power and might." In the Qur'an, our Lord makes Himself known by describing His attributes and tells us in many verses in the Qur'an that there is no other god but He. In verse 59: 22-24, God reveals His sublime names in these words:
He is God—there is no god but Him. He is the Knower of the Unseen and the Visible. He is the All-Merciful, the Most Merciful.
He is God—there is no god but Him. He is the King, the Most Pure, the Perfect Peace, the Trustworthy, the Safeguarder, the Almighty, the Compeller, the Supremely Great. Glory be to God above all they associate with Him.
He is God—the Creator, the Maker, the Giver of Form. To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names. Everything in the heavens and earth glorifies Him. He is the Almighty, the All-Wise.
God manifests His attributes for human beings to perceive. For example, He has endless mercy and manifests His attribute as the "Merciful" in human beings. His qualities can be seen in those people, although they do not enjoy these qualities as a result of their own efforts or merits. By themselves, no other beings can possess or create the attributes of God. To assert that they do have this ability is to "set up another god together with God." Like Buddhists, they make the mistake of associating His creatures with God, attributing some of His qualities to other, lesser beings.
For example, God is All-Seeing and knows "what is even more concealed." When someone acts in secret, with no one around, believing that no one sees him, our Lord does see him and knows everything that he does. He sees and knows every event that happens in the universe, down to its smallest details, because He is the One God Who created them all. In the Qur'an (6: 103), God affirms that, "Eyesight cannot perceive Him, but He perceives eyesight. He is the All-Penetrating, the All-Aware."
Wherever a person is, it's absolutely true that God is with him. God knows what you're thinking at this very moment, as you're reading these words. God tells us that He sees us wherever we are:
You do not engage in any matter or recite any of the Qur'an or do any action without Our witnessing you while you are occupied with it. Not even the smallest speck eludes your Lord, either on earth or in heaven. Nor is there anything smaller than that, or larger, which is not in a Clear Book. (Qur'an, 10: 61)
It is He Who created the heavens and the earth in six days, then established Himself firmly on the Throne. He knows what goes into the earth and what comes out of it, what comes down from heaven and what goes up into it. He is with you wherever you are—God sees what you do. (Qur'an, 57: 4)
This point reveals Buddhists' idolatrous understanding, as do many others. Buddha's followers regard him as all-seeing and all-knowing. The proliferation of statues of Buddha in countries where it is the dominant religion, and the eyes of Buddha painted on every temple all bear witness to Buddhists' deviant belief that Buddha sees them at every moment with his eyes made of stone or wood, and hears them with his wooden ears. For this reason, they fill their houses with his statues, in front of which they perform acts of reverence.
In this, they are acting contrary to intelligence and committing a grave sin. In the Qur'an (7: 195), God tells us that people who associate others with God are greatly deceived; and that whatever things they have made into gods have no power over anything: "Do they have legs they can walk with? Do they have hands they can grasp with? Do they have eyes they can see with? Do they have ears they can hear with?" Never forget, "idolatry" does not mean only the worship of material idols. Anyone who honors another person for his possessions, thinking that they belong to him and derive from some power of his own, deifies that person, not realizing that these transient objects are a test that God has posed for him. As God warns in the Qur'an (2: 165):
Among the people are those who take other than God as equals [to Him], loving them as they should love God. But those who believe have greater love for God. If only you could see those who do wrong at the time when they see the punishment, and that truly all strength belongs to God, and that God is severe in punishment.
Buddha was a powerless servant whom God created and tested in this world; he had no ability or will of his own to influence people. It was by God's will that he spoke, and he lived the life that God gave him, according to the fate that God had determined. Abraham's (peace be upon him) prayer in the Qur'an (26: 78-82) expresses most clearly the helplessness of human beings before God's absolute might:
He Who created me and guides me; He Who gives me food and gives me drink; and when I am ill, it is He Who heals me; He Who will cause my death, then give me life; He Who I sincerely hope will forgive my mistakes on the Day of Reckoning.
Buddha lived the fate that God had ordained for him, and when his time came, he died. It must not be forgotten that apart from God's will, no one can have faith; it is God Who guides human beings. Unless God wills it, no one can guide another to the right path. Again, it is God Who guides people toward truth and beauty. Invitations and communications influence the human heart only insofar as God wills it. Indeed, He is the only absolute power that must be magnified, adored and entreated for help. As God announced this truth in the Qur'an (22: 74): "They do not measure God according to His true power. God is All-Strong, Almighty."
The Qur'an gives a number of examples of people who worship idols. As just one example, the polytheist people of Abraham carved representations of their gods, worshipped them, and listened to their calls. In the Qur'an (21: 52-53), our Lord relates: "When he [Abraham] said to his father and his people, 'What are these statues you are clinging to?' they said, 'We found our fathers worshipping them.' "
As these verses show, human beings have adopted this kind of worship as an inheritance that their ancestors have passed down to them. Thus idol worship, no matter how illogical, can be a kind of social activity remembered from childhood and not regarded as strange, even in the most modern societies.
In the Qur'an (27: 24-25), God says that the people of Sheba (Saba') were idolaters, just like the people of Abraham:
I found both her [the Queen of Sheba] and her people prostrating to the sun instead of God. Satan has made their actions seem good to them and debarred them from the Way so they are not guided and do not prostrate to God, Who brings out what is hidden in the heavens and the earth, and knows what you conceal and what you divulge.
These verses draw our attention to another important point: that Satan has made idolatrous religions seem valid and meaningful to people, to bar them from God's Way. Satan knows, for example, that the sun is not a god to be worshipped; but a creation of God like all the rest of the universe. In other words, every idolatrous religion that opposes God's revelation is actually based on the revelations of Satan, who does this so that men and women will not prostrate themselves before God.
Another example of idolatry that God gives In the Qur'an concerns the Children of Israel. While they were escaping Pharaoh and his people with Moses (peace be upon him), they met a people that worshipped idols and they wanted Moses to make them a similar idol. In the Qur'an (7: 138-139), God tells about this:
We conveyed the tribe of Israel across the sea, and they came upon some people who were devoting themselves to some idols that they had. They said, "Moses, give us a god just as these people have gods." He said, "You are indeed an ignorant people. What these people are doing is destined for destruction. What they are doing is purposeless."
From this account, we see that the Children of Israel, acting in ignorance, wanted a god they could see with their eyes, before which they could bow down and perhaps perform elaborate ceremonies. This indicates they did not conceive of, much less appreciate, God's might. Although Moses explained the truth to them, as soon as he left them, they made themselves an idol—a great perversion. In the Qur'an (7: 148-149), God tells us that immediately after, regret overcame them:
After he left, Moses's people adopted a calf made from their ornaments, a form which made a lowing sound. Did they not see that it could not speak to them or guide them to any way? They adopted it, and so they were wrongdoers.
When they took full stock of what they had done and saw they had been misled, they said, "If our Lord does not have mercy on us and forgive us, we will certainly be among the lost."
But to those who had made the calf into a god, God gave this answer (Qur'an, 7: 152):
As for those who adopted the Calf, anger from their Lord will overtake them together with abasement in the life of this world. That is how we repay the purveyors of falsehood. The above verses show that if God wills, He can forgive or punish those who associate His creatures with Him. Those who do so are actually fabricating falsehood, since the evident truth is that there is only one God. To bow before these invented gods is a terrible crime against God. As stated in the Qur'an (4: 48), God may forgive those who commit every other sin and error, but never one who associates His creatures with Him:
God does not forgive anything being associated with Him but He forgives whoever He wills for anything other than that. Anyone who associates something with God has committed a terrible crime.
There is No Deity Except God
The basis of Islam is the knowledge that God exists, and the understanding that there is no god but Him. In the Qur'an, the divine source of Islam, God tells us (2: 163) that this is the greatest foundation of religion: "Your God is God Alone. There is no deity except Him, the All-Merciful, the Most Merciful."
Indeed, there is only one Absolute Being, and everything else is His creation. God made the universe we live in and, before He created it, no material thing existed. Nothing, animate or inanimate, had been brought into existence; there was nothing but a complete void. The moment the universe was created, only then did time, space and matter come into being, created by the Eternal God Who is not subject to any of them. In one verse (2: 117) of the Qur'an, God speaks of Himself as the flawless Creator of the universe:
[He is] The Originator of the heavens and earth. When He decides on something, He just says to it, "Be!" and it is.
God creates everything that is happening at this moment, and every moment. God constantly creates every rain drop that falls, every child who is born, the photosynthesis occurring in leaves, the functions of living bodies, the courses of the stars in their galaxies, every seed that sprouts, all we know and everything we do not. Everything in the universe, great and small, functions according to His command (Qur'an, 27: 64):
He Who originates creation and then regenerates it and provides for you from out of heaven and earth. Is there another god besides God? Say: "Bring your proof if you are being truthful."
From the cells of living things to the stars in the universe, all systems exist in wonderful order and function perfectly. This amazing order, controlled at every moment, continues in perfect harmony because our Lord embraces all existing things with His eternal knowledge (Qur'an, 67: 3-4):
He created the seven heavens in layers. You will not find any flaw in the creation of the All-Merciful. Look again—do you see any gaps? Then look again and again. Your sight will return to you dazzled and exhausted!
To reject God as Creator and to attribute consciousness to any of the objects He has created shows a great lack of intelligence. The wonderful order in the universe and the flawless design in all living things show us that one Creator created them all. In one verse (23: 91), God announced that there is no other god besides Him, and that no other existing thing in the universe possesses power, apart from Him:
God has no son, and there is no other god accompanying Him, for then each god would have gone off with what He created, and one of them would have been exalted above the other. Glory be to God above what they describe.
God is everywhere and encompasses all things. He is the one true, absolute Being, and all things obey His will. God is in every moment and in every place. There is no place where He is not; no living thing exists that is beyond His control. He is All-sufficient and free from all weakness (Qur'an, 2: 255):
God, there is no god but Him, the Living, the Self-Sustaining. He is not subject to drowsiness or sleep. Everything in the heavens and the earth belongs to Him. Who can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them but they cannot grasp any of His knowledge save what He wills. His Footstool encompasses the heavens and the earth and their preservation does not tire Him. He is the Most High, the Magnificent.