In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Imaam As-Sadi [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said:
“We must mention some of the important problems of life, such as the problems (associated) with religion, knowledge, wealth and poverty, health and disease, war and peace, unity and disunity, love and hate, and other (affairs) about which people’s views and guidance differ, the righteous paths of the Islamic religion in dealing with these affairs and the benefits – which can neither be counted nor enumerated – it has contributed towards them. This problem (associated with religion and creed) is the most important and the greatest of life’s problems, and all affairs depend on the soundness, corruption or the absence of (religion and creed). Indeed, humankind have divided and taken various paths in religion and beliefs, and all these paths are perverted, crooked, harmful and not beneficial except for those guided to the true religion of Islam, because such a person will attain uprightness, good and peace of mind in all ways. And amongst the people are those who have been manipulated by shaytaan, so they worshipped (or worship) other things besides Allaah, such as trees, stones, images, prophets, angels, the righteous and the unrighteous, while acknowledging that Allaah is their Lord, Owner and Creator, alone without partner. These are the polytheists of different methodologies and groups. They acknowledged (or acknowledge) the Oneness of Allaah’s Lordship, but deviated (deviate) from singling Allaah out in worship. Indeed, the [uncorrupted divine books of the past and the final and seal of them (i.e. the Qur’aan)] show the wretchedness of these people and the path that leads them to destruction. All the Messengers agreed regarding the command to (establish) pure monotheism and forbade polytheism, and that the person who associates partners with Allaah in worship will be prevented from entry in paradise forever (if he does not repent before death) and his abode is the fire. Sound minds and sound innate natural disposition (affirms and acknowledges) the corruption of polytheism, deification of other things besides Allaah, devotion to created things and objects made by people (as objects of worship)”.
Commentary: The author began with the most important and greatest affair, and that is religion and creed. He clarified how the one who wants to search for a creed – through which his heart will attain tranquility – other than Islam will not find except confusion, loss and misguidance. The rectification or corruption of all affairs is dependent on religion and creed because it is the foundation of deeds, acts of obedience that are devoted to Allaah and acts of worship. When the foundation is corrupt, then what is built upon it will be corrupt; therefore, the affair that must be given the most importance is rectification of the foundation so that the building will be established on a robust foundation and not on a an undetermined brink of a precipice ready to crumble down (see footnote a); but rather a person should work to strengthen the foundation and make it firmly established. The author mentioned the solutions which the people bring (or adopt) in this subject matter and that it has not led to anything, except loss and misguidance, besides the one blessed with the religion of Islam.
The first loss in this subject matter of creed and religion is that affair through which shaytaan manipulates (befools, or plays about with) the minds of the people, lead them to worship other than Allaah and attachment to (false objects of worship), such as stones, trees, shrines and the like, seeking for their needs through these things, turning towards them for the things they desire to attain, vowing to them, seeking closeness to them through acts of worship and other deeds that can only be devoted to Allaah. And amazing was the (false) perseverance and steadfastness of the people who committed these polytheistic acts when they came across the true path to guidance that was based on beneficial clear proofs. Allaah said:
[وَٱنطَلَقَ ٱلۡمَلَأُ مِنۡہُمۡ أَنِ ٱمۡشُواْ وَٱصۡبِرُواْ عَلَىٰٓ ءَالِهَتِكُمۡۖ إِنَّ هَـٰذَا لَشَىۡءٌ۬ يُرَادُ – And the leaders among them went about (saying): “Go on, and remain constant to your aliha (gods)! Verily, This (i.e. call to pure monotheism) is a thing designed (against you)!] [Surah Saad. Verse 6]
And Allaah stated that they stated boastfully: [إِن ڪَادَ لَيُضِلُّنَا عَنۡ ءَالِهَتِنَا لَوۡلَآ أَن صَبَرۡنَا عَلَيۡهَاۚ – He (Muhammad) would have nearly misled us from our aliha (gods), had it not been that we were patient and constant in their worship!] [Surah Al-Furqan. Verse 42]
So, this was how far they went in their misguidance! The beneficial proofs and evidences came to them, the noblest person amongst humankind came to them and they heard his speech that was accompanied with (sound) proofs and clarifications, but they persisted upon polytheism and advised one another to persist upon it. So, they worshipped others besides Allaah, such as trees, stones, pictures, prophets, angels, the righteous people and the impious people. The majority of humankind are upon this path. Allaah said: [وَمَآ أَڪۡثَرُ ٱلنَّاسِ وَلَوۡ حَرَصۡتَ بِمُؤۡمِنِينَ – And most of mankind will not believe (in pure Islamic monotheism) even if you desire it eagerly] – [Surah Yusuf. Verse 103] – even though they acknowledged that Allaah is their Lord, Owner and only Creator. When asked, “Who created you?” “Who is your Lord?” “Who controls your affairs?” “Who alone controls life and death?” They will say, “Allaah”. But despite this, they worshipped others besides Allaah and invoked those who are slaves of Allaah like themselves. Allaah said: [إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ تَدۡعُونَ مِن دُونِ ٱللَّهِ عِبَادٌ أَمۡثَالُڪُمۡۖ – Verily, those whom you invoke besides Allah are slaves (of Allaah) like you]. [Surah Al-A’raaf. Verse 194]
So, the author said that despite their acknowledgement that Allaah is their Lord, Owner and sole Creator without any partner in this affair, they deviated from worshipping Allaah alone. These are the polytheists of the different methodologies and paths. Polytheism is of different paths: some people worship idols, some worship the sun and the moon, and some worship trees and stones. The people upon this path have different objects of worship.
The Messengers were agreed upon the command to single out Allaah in worship and they forbade polytheism. Allaah said: [وَلَقَدۡ بَعَثۡنَا فِى ڪُلِّ أُمَّةٍ۬ رَّسُولاً أَنِ ٱعۡبُدُواْ ٱللَّهَ وَٱجۡتَنِبُواْ ٱلطَّـٰغُوتَۖ – And verily, We have sent among every Ummah (community, nation) a Messenger (saying): “Worship Allah (Alone), and avoid (or keep away from) Taghut (all false deities)”. [Surah An-Nahl. Verse 36]
Allaah said: [ وَسۡـَٔلۡ مَنۡ أَرۡسَلۡنَا مِن قَبۡلِكَ مِن رُّسُلِنَآ أَجَعَلۡنَا مِن دُونِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ءَالِهَةً۬ يُعۡبَدُونَ – And ask (O Muhammad ) those of Our Messengers whom We sent before you: “Did We ever appoint aliha (gods) to be worshipped besides the Most Beneficent (Allah)?][Surah Az-Zukhruf. Verse 45]
All the Messengers agreed upon nullifying Shirk and affirmed pure monotheism, and that the one who ascribes partners with Allaah in worship will be forbidden from entry in paradise forever (if he or she dies without repenting from such a sin).
And just as polytheism is considered corrupt in the divine revelation, likewise it is deemed corrupt by sound intellect and uncorrupted innate natural disposition. Polytheism is something in opposition to sound innate natural disposition, just as Allaah stated in the Hadeeth Qudsee: “I have created all of My servants with an innate natural disposition to worship Me (alone), but devils come to them and turn them away from their religion”. [Ṣaḥeeh Muslim. Number 2865](see ‘footnote b’ about Hadeeth Qudsee)
In another hadeeth, the Prophet [peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him] said, “Every child is born upon an innate natural disposition (i.e. Islam), but his parents make him a Jew, a Christian, or Magian”. [Ṣaḥeeh al-Bukhari. Number 1292 and Saheeh Muslim. Number 2658]
It is well known – both in the past and at present- that many people have adopted polytheism (i.e. worshipping others besides Allaah) as a means of solving problems through polytheistic deeds (i.e. invoking graves, shrines, tombs, prophets, angels, stones, jinns, trees, animals etc). (1)
Footnote a: The Only Robust Foundation That Will Never Crumble And Establishes a Person On Firmness In All Affairs! https://salaficentre.com/2020/04/02/the-only-robust-foundation-that-will-never-crumble-and-establishes-a-person-on-firmness-in-all-affairs/
Footnote b: Hadeeth Qudsee, see brief definition by Shaikh Abu Khadeejah [may Allaah preserve him]: https://abukhadeejah.com/the-hadith-and-the-sunnah-islam-1-7/
[Ref 1: From Ref 1: https://www.al-badr.net/detail/UY7sjBcaQE from 31mins 33secs to 45mins 38secs. paraphrased]