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What is Shirk in Islam?

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Surely Allah does not forgive associating ˹others˺ with Him ˹in worship˺, but forgives anything else of whoever He wills. Indeed, whoever associates ˹others˺ with Allah has clearly gone far astray.
(Qur’an – 4 : 116)

But before that lets know, What is shirk?
One of the most important obligations is to know the meaning of shirk, its seriousness and its different types, so that our Tawheed (belief in the Oneness of Allah) and our Islam may be complete, and our faith may be sound. We say, And Allah is the Source of strength and true guidance comes from Him:

Shirk is an Arabic word which means “associating someone with Allah Almighty” or you can say “partnership”. It is the opposite of oneness of Allah Subahanahuwata’ala that is Tawheed. The Qur’an calls people to accept the oneness of Allah Almighty and firmly prohibits people from associating partners with His personality or attributes. In the Holy Qur’an, Allah Almighty stated that Shirk is a big sin that Allah Subahanahuwata’ala will never forgive. As shirk is the major sin that will never to be forgiven so it is important for us to know about the seriousness and different acts of shirk that we are committing in our daily life but we don’t realize.@Entire_Path

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The scholars have stipulated guidelines to distinguish major shirk from minor shirk when shirk is mentioned in the texts of shari’ah. These guidelines include the following. The texts of the Qur’an and Sunnah indicate that shirk and the ascribing of rivals to Allah sometimes puts a person beyond the pale of Islam and sometimes does not. Hence the scholars divided shirk into three types of Shirk, namely:

(1) Ash-Shirk-al-Akbar, i.e. major Shirk
(2) Ash-Shirk-al-Asghar, i.e. minor Shirk
(3) Ash-Shirk-al-Khafi, i.e. inconspicuous Shirk


(1) Ash-Shirk-al-Akbar (The major Shirk):
The major and serious polytheistic form, it has four aspects:

(a) Shirk-ad-Du’a, i.e. invocation:-
This aspect implies invoking, supplicating or praying to other deities besides Allah (Glory be to Him).

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Almighty Allah says: “And when they embark on a ships they invoke Allah, making their Faith pure for Him only, but when He brings them safely to land, behold, they give a share of their worship to others,”
(Qur’an – 29 : 65)

(b) Shirk-al-Niyyah wal-Iradah wal-Qasd:-
This aspect implies intentions, purpose and determination in acts of worship or religious deeds not for the sake of Allah (Glory be to Him) but directed towards other deities.

Almighty Allah (Glory be to Him) says: “Whosoever desires the life of the world and its glitter, to them We shall pay in full (the wages of) their deeds therein, and they will have no reduction therein. They are those for whom there is nothing in the Hereafter but Fire; and vain are the deeds they did therein. And of no effect is that which they used to do.”
(Qur’an – 11 : 15, 16)

(c) Shirk-at-Ta’a:- This aspect implies rendering obedience to any authority against the Order of Allah (Glory be to Him).

Almighty Allah (Glory be to Him) says:
“They (Jews and Christians) took their Rabbis and their monks to be their lords besides Allah (by obeying them in things which they made lawful or unlawful according to their own desires without being ordered by Allah), and (they also took as their lord) Messiah, son of Maryam (Mary), while they (Jews and Christians) were commanded (in the Torah and the Gospel) to worship none but One Ilah (God i.e., Allah), La ilaha 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).”
(Qur’an – 9 : 31)

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Once, while Allah’s Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) was reciting the above verse, ‘Adi bin Hatim (R) said, “O Allah’s Prophet! They do not worship them (rabbis and monks).” Allah’s Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ)said, “They certainly do. They (i.e. Rabbis and monks) made legal things illegal, and illegal things legal, and they (i.e. Jews and Christians) followed them; and by doing so they really worshipped them.”
(Narrated by Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi, and Ibn Jarir). (Tafsir At-Tabari). Entire Path

(d) Shirk-al-Mahabbah:-
This implies showing the love which is due to Allah (Glory be to Him) Alone, to others than Him.

Almighty Allah (Glory be to Him) says:
“And of mankind are some who take (for worship) others besides Allah as rivals (to Allah). They love them as they love Allah. But those who believe, love Allah more (than anything else). If only those who do wrong could see, when they will see the torment, that all power belongs to Allah and that Allah is Severe in punishment.”
(Qur’an – 2 : 165)


(2) Ash-Shirk-al-Asghar – Ar-Riya’ (The minor Shirk, i.e. acts performed to show off):-
Any act of worship or any religious deed done in order to gain praise, fame or for worldly purposes, falls under this minor form.

Almighty Allah (Glory be to Him) says:
“Say (O Muhammad (May Allah honour Him and grant Him peace)): ‘I am only a man like you, it has been inspired to me that your Ilah (God) is One Ilah (God i.e Allah). So whoever hopes for the meeting with his Lord, let him work righteousness and associate none as a partner in the worship of his Lord.’ ”
(Qur’an – 18 : 110)

(3) Ash-Shirk-al-Khafi (The inconspicuous Shirk):- This type implies being inwardly dissatisfied with the inevitable condition that has been ordained for one by Allah (Glory be to Him); conscientiously lamenting that had you done or not done such and such or had you approached such and such you would have had a better status, etc.

1 – When the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) states clearly that this action is minor shirk, such as in al-Musnad (27742)
where it is narrated that Mahmud ibn Labid said: The Messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said: “The thing that I fear most for you is minor shirk.” They said: “O Messenger of Allah, what is minor shirk?” He said: “Showing off, for Allah will say on the Day when people are recompensed for their actions: ‘Go to those for whom you were showing off with your deeds in the world, and see what reward you find with them.’” (Classed as sahih by al-Albani in al-Silsilah al-Sahihah, 951)

Allah Almighty has declared that He will not forgive the sin of shirk unless the person repents from it, in the Holy Qur’an Allah says: “Surely Allah forgives not that a partner should be set up with Him, and forgives all besides that to whom He pleases”
(Qur’an – 4 : 48).

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Allah Almighty has forbidden Paradise to those who do not repent from committing shirk, condemning him to Hell for eternity, in the Holy Qur’an Allah says: “Surely whoever associates (others) with Allah, Allah has forbidden to him Paradise and his abode is the Fire.”
(Qur’an – 5 : 72)

Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said in one of his hadiths about shirk: “Whoever dies to claim that Allah has a rival, will enter Hell” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Having a belief that an individual is a Prophet or a companion of Prophet or a righteous man has the knowledge of unseen is an act of Shirk. Holy Qur’an says: “And with HIM are the keys of Ghaib (all that’s hidden), none knows them but HE.”
(Qur’an – 6 : 59)


Allah Almighty forbids setting up rivals with Him and He condemns those who take them (rivals) as Gods besides Allah Subahanahuwata’ala in many verses of the Holy Qur’an: “Then do not set up rivals unto Allah (in worship) while you know (that He Alone has the right to be worshipped).”
(Qur’an – 2 : 22)

The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said: “Ash-Shirk-al-Khafi in the Muslim nation is more inconspicuous than the creeping of black ant on black rock in the pitch-darkness of the night.” And this inconspicuous Shirk is expiated by saying thrice the following sentences within a day and a night: “O Allah! I take Your refuge from that I should ascribe anything as partner in Your worship, being conscious of that, and I beg Your pardon for that sin which I am not aware of.”
(Ahmad 4/403. See also Al-Albani, Sahihul-Jami’ 3731, As-Saghir 3/233 and Sahihut-Targhib wat- Tarhib 1/19.
Hisn al-Muslim 203)

Dua to Protection from Shirk:
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ أَنْ أُشْرِكَ بِكَ وَأَنَا أَعْلَمُ، وَأَسْتَغْفِرُكَ لِمَا لا أَعْلَمُ‏.‏
Allahumma inni a`udhu bika an ushrika bika wa ana a`lamu wa astaghfiruka lima la a`lamu
“O Allah! I seek refuge in you lest I associate anything with you while I know it, and I seek your forgiveness for what I do not know.’”

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it’s mentioned in the Hadith,
Maqil bin Yasar (ra) said that he came to the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) with Abu Bakr (ra). He said, “O Abu Bakr, polytheism enters your people more quietly (secretly) than the movement of ants.” Abu Bakr asked, “Is there a kind of polytheism besides associating anything with Allah?” The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said,” By him who has my life in his power, polytheism is more concealed than the movement of ants. Shall I not teach you something which if you say will eliminate minor or major (polytheism)?” He then said, “Say `O Allah! I seek refuge in you lest I associate anything with you while I know it, and I seek your forgiveness for what I do not know.’”
(Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 716)

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