What is Shirk?
Fatwa No: 82456

Question

What is Shirk?

Answer

Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds; and blessings and peace be upon our Prophet Muhammad and upon all his Family and Companions.

Shirk (polytheism) is of two kinds: major and small or little.
The major Shirk is what Ibn Al Qayyim said: "That a person takes (for worship) others besides Allah as equal (with Allah) he loves them as he loves Allah. Shirk also includes putting idols as equals, or on the same level with Allah". Allah Says (interpretation of meaning): {Yet there are men who take (for worship) others besides God, as equal (with God): they love them as they should love God.}[2: 165]. The Prophet was once asked about the greatest sin and he said: "To set up rivals unto Allah though He Alone created you".
Many things enter into the category of equalizing Allah, The Almighty, with others: Supplicating them, making vows to them, sacrificing for them, asking their help in what is pertains to Allah such as: asking them to relieve distress, or to have children, or the like. Allah Says (interpretation of meaning): {Or, who listens to the (soul) distressed when it calls on Him, and who relieves its suffering, and makes you (mankind) inheritors of the earth? (can there be another) God besides God? Little it is that ye heed! Or, who guides you through the depths of darkness on land and sea, and who sends the winds as heralds of glad tidings, going before His Mercy? (can there be another) God besides God? - High is God above what they associate with Him! Or, who originates Creation, then repeats it, and who gives you sustenance from heaven and earth? (can there be another) God besides God? Say, "Bring forth Your argument, if ye are telling the truth!"}[27: 62-64].
So, it is strictly forbidden to perform any kind of worship for anyone other than Allah, as such an act nullifies Islam. The scholars are agreed that: "Whoever puts an intermediary between him and Allah, calling this intermediary for help in relieving distress and asking him for mediation, is a Kafir (disbeliever). There is a consensus over this verdict".
Among Shirk is to put someone at the level of Allah, The Almighty, in making legislation, such as taking a legislator other than Allah, or accepting the legislation of someone other than Allah, in passing verdicts and in deciding on what is Haram and what is Halal. Allah Says (interpretation of meaning): {They (Jews and Christians) took their rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allâh (by obeying them in things which they made lawful or unlawful according to their own desires without being ordered by Allâh), and (they also took as their Lord) Messiah, son of Maryam (Mary), while they (Jews and Christians) were commanded [in the Taurât (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)) to worship none but One Ilâh (God - Allâh) Lâ ilâha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He). Praise and glory be to Him, (far above is He) from having the partners they associate (with Him)."}[9: 31].
It is narrated about this verse that Adiyy Ibn Hatim entered while the Prophet was reading this verse and said: "They did not worship them". The Prophet said: "In fact they did. Did not they forbid the lawful and make the forbidden lawful and these (people) follow them. This is indeed their worshipping". [Al Tirmizi].
The Prophet made clear to Adiyy that the lawful and the prohibited are set only by Allah and that whoever does this without permission from Allah, he should not be followed. Whoever follows such a person, he is then worshipping him and making him as substitute to Allah. This is indeed a major form of Shirk.
Another form of Shirk is to describe someone by the Noble Attributes of Allah or to give a person the Names of Allah, for the verse: {The Most Beautiful Names belong to God; so call on Him by them; but shun such men as use profanity in His names; for what they do, they will soon be requited.}[7: 180]. By calling someone by the Names peculiar to Allah or describing him with the Attributes of Allah, The Almighty, is distorting His Names.
This is a few statements about the major forms of Shirk; details would require much more and one should consult books on the subject what we have given here are some principles and rules to recognize Shirk. Moreover, know that the major form of Shirk is not forgiven by Allah, unless one repents from it before dying. If one dies with this Shirk he will stay permanently in Hell as Paradise is forbidden for him. Allah Says (interpretation of meaning): {God forgiveth not (the sin of) joining other gods with Him; but He forgiveth whom He pleaseth other sins than this; one who joins other gods with God, Hath strayed far, far away (from the right).}[4: 116].
The Prophet said: "No one shall enter paradise except a Muslim soul." [Al Bukhari and Muslim].
It is well known also that attributing a son or wife to Allah is a major form of Shirk which lead whoever says it or believes in it to living permanently in Hell. Allah Says (interpretation of meaning): {They do blaspheme who say: "God is Christ the son of Mary" but said Christ: "O children of Israel! Worship God, my Lord and your Lord". Whoever joins other gods with God, - God will forbid him The Garden, and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrong-doers be no one to help. They do blaspheme who say: God is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no God except One God.}[5: 72-73]. The Prophet said: "By Him in whose hand is the life of Muhammad, he who amongst the community of Jews or Christians hears about me, but does not affirm his belief in that with which I have been sent and dies in this state (of disbelief), he shall be but one of the denizens of Hell Fire". [Muslim].
As for the minor forms of Shirk, they include anything that the Sharia forbids and which could lead to major Shirk and are a means to fall in major Shirk called in the texts Shirk such as swearing by something other than Allah as it might lead to major Shirk. This is why the Prophet forbade to swear but by Allah. He said: "Whoever swears by other than Allah he has committed Shirk".
Imam Ibn Al Qayyim said: "As for the minor Shirk it is like the little boasting, mannerism towards people, swearing with other than Allah…. A man saying to another man: 'If Allah wills and you will….'. [Madarij Al-Salikeen 1/344]. Little boasting (Riya) is like lengthening the prayer sometimes as to have people see him, or reading loudly or saying the name of Allah loudly as to show people that he is a good Muslim and get their praise.
Imam Ahmad narrated from Mahmud Ibn Labeed (a companion of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that he said that the Prophet said: "The thing that I fear the most on you is the small Shirk: Riya (dissimulation and boasting)". But if the person prays, fasts, recites the Qur'an or says the Name of Allah only if he is in front of people, he is Mushrik and his Shirk is major.
Please read: The Fatwas of the Permanent Council of Scientific Research and Fatwa volume one about Aqeeda the Creed 1: 746-750.
May Allah guide you and us to the right path.

Allah knows best.            

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