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SHINTO: The Ancient Religion in Japan and the islamic response to Shintoism


In order for us to have a complete appreciation of Islam and also be in a position to explain our beliefs in the most excellent manner to others, we must be interested in learning the teachings, practices and beliefs of some other major religions. This is where the study of comparative religion comes in to play. Under which we compare the moral, social and ethical concepts of 2 religions. However the study of comparative religion has deteriorated over the years.

In Japan, there are two major religions; Shinto and Buddhism. Shinto is a very old religion, just as the Japanese culture while Buddhism was basically imported in the 6th century from the mainland. Ever since then, they 2 religions have been complementing each other to some extent and living harmoniously in co-existence.


More than 112 million people practice Shinto. It is a very old religion meaning the way of gods. Most important thing to note is there is no sacred text, nobody founded the religion, no deity and no central doctrines. What is very important is the worship of kami which is the reason why spirits are within all living things. Shinto is a way of life of a Japanese, it is lean red through experience. It is not a universal religion so it doesn't preach or try to convert people to Shinto. It is mostly practiced by Japanese.

Beliefs of Shinto


The Major belief which is the heart and vessel of Shinto is the kami. “Formless spirits that animate anything of greatness.”

Kami does not tell them what is right and wrong, they don’t have supreme powers like gods. They are just morals but they don’t engage in reward and punishment. Examples; when one gets struck by a tsunami, it means it has a kami but it isn't a form of punishment

2. Purity and Impurity

These terms are changeable in Shinto. They are also temporary. Purification gives peace of mind and not to fulfil a doctrine although purity is compulsory under kami. They do not believe in original sin, humans are born in the purest forms. Things such as pollution, death, sickness and menstruation causes the impurities and it is very easy to go back to the purified state. Once you are impure, then you become separated from kami.

3. Shinto engages in animalistic belief system: they worship at Mount Fuji

4. In Shinto, they have a belief that they can communicate with the spirit world

5. They also believe there could be come form of mediation between the spiritual and human world

6. Good or bad can come from spirits and also animals are very crucial as they can engage in the good luck/fortune process.

Shinto Practices

1. Visiting Shrines (Omairi)

The shrines were built to cover the kami so it is like the houses of kami. We are all welcomes to take a visit to the shrines to observe some rituals such as purifying one’s self before entering, quiet reverence etc. To worship the kami, it must necessarily be done in public shrines, it can be done in private shrines in our homes.

2. Purification

To remove the impurities of someone, they undergo the ritual of purification which takes many forms; cleansing by salt or water, prayers recited by priests etc. Impurities that be transferred from people to objects and then destroy the objects later.

3. Kagura (Ritual Dances)

To energize kami, the people engage in ritual dance called the kagura. The nature of the dance is different within communities. It is also related to Japanese history when kami danced for Amaterasu.

4. Prayers and Offerings

In order to communicate with kami, prayers and rituals are necessary. The types of prayers;

a. Norito: These prayers are like praises to kami and can be done by both worshipers and priests. It includes a lists of requests and other offerings. Before entering the shrine, the worshippers narrate the Norito in addition to the purification

b. Ema

These are woods where worshippers write prayers for the kami. Worshipers buy them in the shrines and they keep them there waiting for kami to receive them. One can write all the requests that he has such as travelling safely or curing sickness.

c. Ofuda

These are good luck charms in the form of amulets. They are also purchased at the shrine and hung at home to bring good luck.

d. Omikuji

This is also for good fortune. They come in the form of small papers that are also purchased at the shrines. There are good luck charms written in them so once one opens the paper, good fortune befalls on him.


Buddhism mustn’t necessarily be described as a religion. It involves a set of guidelines and principles that enhances one’s life.

Belief and teachings

1. One of the major beliefs in Buddhism is the concept of reincarnation; humans are reborn after they die. Human beings undergo through cycles of birth, death and rebirth. There is a difference between reincarnation and rebirth.

2. The Four Noble Truths

a. The meaning of life is suffering

b. Attachment is the origin of suffering

c. The suffering can be brought to an end

3. “The Eightfold Path”

1. The Four Noble Truths (right view)

2. “Right Intention”

3. “Right Speech”

4. The Precepts (right action)

5. “Right Livelihood”

6. “Right Effort”

7. “Right Mindfulness”

8. “Right Concentration”

4. “Buddhist Virtues (The Four Immeasurable)”

1. “Compassion 2. Loving Kindness 3. Empathetic Joy 4. Equanimity”

“The Three Poisons (The Roots of All Suffering)”

• Anger and Hatred • Attachment and greed • Ignorance

5. Some major teachings;

a. Abstain from harming living things

b. abstain from killing animals, hunting and fishing

c. abstain from stealing

d. abstain from illicit sexual activities, pornography and prostitution

e. Abstain from lying, false speech and other forms of deceit

f. abstain from dining alcohol

g. The 2 guiding principles; compassion and kindness

Practices of Buddhist

1. The first step is known as “the veneration of the Buddha or other Buddha, bodhisattvas, or saints”. This is done by giving gifts, imitating the qualities of Buddha and showing great respect to the saints. The gifts are dropped in places where the Buddha is perceived such as his foot prints.

2. The second practice is some kind of exchange between common people and monks. The monks appear to have the highest level of spirituality which they want to share with the common people. So the common people drop gifts to them as a sacrifice or a condition for their prayers to be answered.

Islamic view on Shinto

Shinto is a religion that don’t believe in the oneness of God. They engage in good luck charms which is shirk in Islam.

“Say (O Muhammad)): "He is Allah, (the) One. Allah-us-Samad (The Self-Sufficient Master, Whom all creatures need, He neither eats nor drinks). He begets not, nor was He begotten; and there is none co-equal or comparable unto Him." (Suratul ikhlas) Below is another emphasis on the uniqueness and oneness of Allah Indeed, We sent Nuh (Noah) to his people, and he said: “O my people! Worship Allah! You have no other Ilah (God) but Him. Certainly, I fear for you the torment of a Great Day!” [Al-A’raf 7: 59] “Uqbah ibn ‘Amir reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, received a group of men and he accepted the pledge of nine of them, while he refrained from one. They said, “O Messenger of Allah, you accepted the pledge of nine men and left this one out?” The Prophet said, “Verily, there is an amulet upon him.” The man took it in his hand and cut it, then the Prophet accepted his pledge and he said, “Whoever hangs an amulet around his neck has committed an act of idolatry.”

Source: Musnad Aḥmad 17388 Breach of tawheed asma was sifat. Giving the amulets Allah’s attributes of ability to cure. Conclusion Having pointed out in the introduction, it is very vital to know the practices and doctrines of other religions to fully understand and explain our own religion. The word Islam was not named after a person, a philosopher, a legal expert as the case where Christianity was named after Christ and Buddhism named after Buddha. Islam which means complete submission to one and only true God is named by Allah himself. It is a beautiful religion that is open to anyone interested, there are no need for intermediaries, whatever happens one prays directly to Allah and he will listen and answer his prayer. Bibliography

1. Averbuch, Irit (1995). The Gods Come Dancing: A Study of the Japanese Ritual Dance of Yamabushi Kagura. Cornell University publishing.

3. Averbuch, Irit (1998). Shamanic Dance in Japan: The Choreography of Possession in Kagura Performance. Asian Folklore Studies.

4. Chopra, R. M. (2015) A Study of Religions. New Delhi publishing.

5. Merv Fowler (1999). Buddhism: Beliefs and Practices. Sussex Academic Press.

6. McVay, Kera. (2012). All about Shinto. Delhi University Publications.

7. Muhiyaddin, M. A. (1984). A Comparative Study of the Religions of Today. Vantage Press.

8. Shaw, Jeffrey M. (2014). Illusions of Freedom: Thomas Merton and Jacques Ellul on Technology and the Human Condition. Wipf and Stock publishing

9. Smith, Huston (1991) The World's Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions. Rev Rep publishing.

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