Tāghūt (طاغُوت) is an Arabic term that is specifically used to denounce everything that is worshipped instead or besides Allah.
The Arabic term Tāghūt (الطَّاغُوت) can refer to idols, a tyrant, an oracle or an enemy of Muhammad. Tāghūt means “one who has crossed the limits”, in plain language: a rebel. It is any power or being that rebels against Allah and demands loyalty and obedience. In a broader sense, it stands for everything that may direct a Muslim into evil things. In Arabic, it can be interpreted as singular or plural. Therefore, it is commonly translated as the powers of evil.
This expression was used in Tunisia recently by Moncef Marzouki, a Tunisian politician who was the president of Tunisia from 2011 to 2014. He defamed his rival party Nidaa Tounes (نِداء تُونِس) by this term and caused a lot of criticism. The term is mentioned in the Qur’an, for example in sura 2 The Cow – in Arabic: al-Baqara (سُورة الْبَقَرة); or in sura 4 Women – in Arabic: al-Nisā’ (سُورة النِّساء):
Do you [Prophet] not see those who claim to believe in what has been sent down to you, and in what was sent down before you, yet still want to turn to unjust tyrants for judgement, although they have been ordered to reject them? Satan wants to lead them far astray.
أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ يَزْعُمُونَ أَنَّهُمْ آمَنُوا بِمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكَ وَمَا أُنزِلَ مِن قَبْلِكَ يُرِيدُونَ أَن يَتَحَاكَمُوا إِلَى الطَّاغُوتِ وَقَدْ أُمِرُوا أَن يَكْفُرُوا بِهِ وَيُرِيدُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَن يُضِلَّهُمْ ضَلَالًا بَعِيدًا.