Despite the claim of the Jews that they are upon pure monotheism, they have fallen into polytheism in a number of ways. Their polytheism is spread across all three well-known categories of Tawheed. The Jews have been repeatedly rebuked by God and His Messenger (pbuh) for failing to worship God alone without any partners.
Polytheism in God’s Lordship – A group among the Jews took the Prophet Ezra (pbuh) as the son of God just as the Christians took Prophet Jesus (pbuh) as the son of God. God Said in the Quran:
And the Jews say: ‘Uzair (Ezra) is the son of God, and the Christians say: Messiah is the son of God. That is their saying with their mouths, resembling the saying of those who disbelieved aforetime. God’s Curse be on them, how they are deluded away from the truth! (Quran 9:30)
In this verse God criticizes a group among the Jews who took Ezra as a son of God. He likens them to the ignorance of the nations before them who committed polytheism and attributed to God wives and children as was well known during the times of Prophet Abraham and Moses (peace be upon them both).
Another form of polytheism under this category among the Jews is monism. The Jewish doctrine affirms the belief that God is the source Deity to all that exists in the universe. However, this belief led some of the Jewish sages to believe that God, “whose ultimate existence is not dependent on anything else, perceived God as interpenetrating the universe, which itself has been thought to be a manifestation of God’s existence.” 1 This is a clear form of polytheism by equating God to His creation by physically incorporating Him into it. And God clearly Says in the Quran:
Nor is there to Him any equivalent. (Quran 112:4)
Polytheism in God’s Worship – There were a number of ways in which the Jews committed polytheism in this category. Among them is what God mentioned about them in His revelation when He Said:
They (Jews and Christians) have taken their scholars and monks as lords besides God, and [also] the Messiah, the son of Mary. And they were not commanded except to worship one God; there is no deity except Him. Exalted is He above whatever they associate with Him. (Quran 9:31)
When ‘Adi bin Hatim, a devoted Christian, accepted Islam and heard this verse from the Prophet (pbuh), he told him that they (the followers) did not worship their monks and scholars. The Prophet (pbuh) responded:
Yes they did. They (rabbis and monks) prohibited the allowed for them (Christians and Jews) and allowed the prohibited, and they obeyed them. This is how they worshipped them. (Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Tafsir ibn Khatir)2
According to Ibn Abbas, the cousin of the Prophet (pbuh) and considered the leader of the interpreters of the Quran, in explanation to the verse above (9:31), “that the Christians and Jews obeyed their monks and rabbis in whatever they allowed or prohibited for them.” 2
So they gave preference to the judgments of their scholars over the judgment of God. God Alone Has the right to legislate the permissible and the prohibited. And because the Jews and Christians followed the legislations of their rabbis and monks over the established legislations of God, they were equated with those who are guilty of polytheism by taking lords besides God.
Another form of polytheism under this category for the Jews is their taking the graves of their prophets as a place of worship. The Prophet (pbuh) said:
God cursed the Jews and the Christians, for they built the places of worship at the graves of their prophets. (Bukhari Book#23 Hadith# 472)
This is another indication of their deviance from pure monotheism and worship of God alone without any partners by attributing acts of worship towards the graves of their prophets. Some Jewish scholars, such as, Nachmanides “was of the opinion that it is permitted to ask the angels to beseech God on our behalf.”3
Polytheism in God’s Names and Attributes – In this last category, the Jews committed polytheism by attributing weaknesses and shortcomings towards God and understanding His divine Attributes as only metaphors without actual existence. For example, God Says in the Quran:
The Jews say: God’s Hand is tied up (i.e. He does not give and spend of His Bounty).’ Be their hands tied up and be they accursed for what they uttered. Nay, both His Hands are widely outstretched. He spends (of His Bounty) as He wills. (Quran 5:64)
Indeed, God has heard the statement of those (Jews) who say: Truly, God is poor and we are rich!’ We shall record what they have said and their killing of the Prophets unjustly, and We shall say: ‘Taste you the torment of the burning (Fire). (Quran 3:181)
It is also well known that the Jews believe that God rested on the seventh day after creating the creation. God is Perfect in all His Names and Attributes without any shortcomings or weaknesses. God is not in need of any rest rather the creation is in need of Him but He is not in need of anyone or anything. The Jews’ understanding of God having shortcomings and weaknesses is a clear rejection of this category of Tawheed.
Lastly according to Judaism, “all statements in the Hebrew Bible and in rabbinic literature which use anthropomorphism (towards God) are held to be linguistic conceits or metaphors.”4 This is clear contradiction to the Muslim belief that God’s Attributes in the Quran and Sunnah are to be understood in the literal sense without any resemblance to His creation. In other words, they are to be understood that they exist as He stated them but we do not know the exact nature of how they exist.
From the above it is clear that Judaism contains traces of polytheism in one form or another and is not on the path of pure monotheism as understood by Islam.