Table of contents
- Belief and Worship Systems
- Worldly System
- ISLAMIC RESPONSE
‘In The Name of Allah, we praise Him, and we seek His guidance in all matters”
Shinto is the indigenous religion of Japan. It is a complicated belief system revolving around nature and focuses on supernatural gods or spirits called ‘Kami’. The natural force is seen as divine, that inspires and gives a feeling of admiration. This relation between Kami and the natural world has steered Shinto to be considered as pantheistic and animistic. There are many forms & levels of kami, and each one has its own function as part of a hierarchy. They do not have the independence trait of some polytheistic systems. At this source of hierarchy is one kami supreme named Amenominakanoshi no Okami, which makes Shinto polytheistic and monotheistic at once. Devotees venerate natural objects believed to embody spirits including mountains, rivers, rocks, trees and deceased ancestors. It also refers to the essence of existence that is found in everything. It is uncommon that a living person may be viewed as Kami. Since the Japanese language does not discriminate between singular and plural, the term Kami can be translated as an individual spirit or a group of spirits. Shinto evolved out of the life experiences of Japanese people and is considered an ethnic faith meant only for the people of Japan, thus there are no missionary efforts in Shinto.
Belief and Worship Systems
Another point is that Shinto is a religion of without dogma, sacred scriptures, codes, and laws. The Kojiki and Nihonshoki are ancient Chronicles of Japan not Holy Scriptures. As reported in the Kojiki, gods are understood to have fashioned Japan as an image of heaven on earth. The Emperor of Japan, the ruler, is a direct descendent of the Sun-goddess Amaterasu and is considered the high priest. Shintoism was originally an amorphous fusion of nature worship, hero worship, fertility cults, divination practices, and shamanism. Worship in Shinto is a personal matter that can happen at home or shrines. The core of Shinto is devotedness to Kami that can act kindly or destructively toward humans. Correct ritual is thus important for successful communication with Kami to enlist the blessings and support of the deity. There are usually four stages of worship: purification, offerings, prayer, and a sacred feast. Out of these, offering is integral to Shinto worship. A worshiper may offer money or objects to the Kami so a request may be conceded. Various forms of divinations, Kagura and processions are arranged for worship and communal celebrations such as the Gion Festival to entertain Kami.
Most Japanese don’t have a clear way of explaining Shinto worldview or what it really is. It has its own distinctive worldview that cannot be adequately contained within the western concept of religion. It doesn’t have a founder, doctrine, precepts or objects of worship. Shinto looks at manmade philosophies or revelation to man as fallible hence unsuitable for spiritual development. The ideas of Purification are not based on fixed doctrine and sayings of Shinto thinkers like “revere Kami and respect ancestors“, cannot be interpreted as doctrines.
The goal of life in Shinto is to ‘become like a Kami’ through character refinement. It encourages a cheerful way of life to pursuit happiness rather than being constrained by rigorous dogmatic rules concerning suppose ‘sin’. Lacking of moral absolutes leads to measure the good or bad of an action or thought in the context in which it occurs: situations, intention, purpose, time, location, are al significant in evaluating whether an action is bad.
On theological level, the Kami serves the main role in Shintoism while Islam is based on a pure and well-defined understanding of Monotheism. Muslims believe in one Omnipotent God that created the universe and everything within it. He is the only one worthy of any worship without any associates and the fundamental purpose of all creation is to surrender to Him alone. Islam is based upon the revelation and it has set beliefs given in Quran and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Islam recognizes evil eye as well as supernatural creatures like Jinn and Angels, which are not divine in nature and are creations like Humans. According to the Quran, God created these to worship Him.
In Shinto, offering is an integral part of rituals to invoke Kami to get its protection and intercession in their lives while Islam ties this admiration of creatures to major sin, superstition and fear. Islam teaches to shun the evil spirits and learn ways to protect oneself from their mischief and evil doings by relying on God alone. This belief protects muslim from sorcery and malicious spirits. Resorting to talismans, offerings, statues and belief that creatures other than God can affect our lives is an aspect of polytheism. It is God who controls everything and nothing happens without His Will.
The notion of morality in Islam centers on firm uncomplicated beliefs and character of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ which guides muslims in all ethical matters including all aspects of life, death etc. While Shinto ethics teach its follower to live in harmony with the way of the kami. But it’s crucial to remember that the kami is not perfect – Shinto texts have many examples of kami making errors and doing the wrong thing. This clear difference with Islam whose God is perfect is probably why Shinto ethics avoids absolute moral rules.
A Muslim understands that the worship carried out in Shinto contains many elements of shirk. Whereas the emphasis on good and righteous behavior found in Shinto is praiseworthy, Islamic belief in One God, without partners is essential; it is the pivotal point of the religion. It is for this reason that Islam is considered purely monotheistic. It is not contaminated with strange ideas or rituals that exist in Shinto. God raise a question in Quran: “Is He [not best] who begins creation and then repeats it and who provides for you from the heaven and earth? Is there a deity with Allah? Say, ‘Produce your proof, if you should be truthful.”