Polytheism is a belief in and worship
of many deities. Islam considers shirk illogical and totally unacceptable
when referring to deity.
If there were in the heavens
and the earth other gods beside Allah, there would be confusions
in both (heaven and earth) but glory be to Allah, the Lord of
,the throne; high is He above what they attribute to Him. (Al Anbiya:22)
As the verse above makes very clear,
the order of the universe, the ecological balance and the oneness
of the Creator is more logical than many gods and indeed several
wills and authorities.
In Islam, shirk is the greatest sin.
It is the only sin that cannot be forgiven by Allah (s.w.t.) on
the Day of Judgment. As said in the Qur'an:
Verily, Allah forgives not
that rivals should be set up in the worship with Him. He forgives
save that (anything else) to whom He pleases and whoever set up
rivals with Allah he has indeed done a tremendous sin. (Al Nisa:48)
Why does shirk occupy such a serious
position in Islam?
Several of the main reasons are:
1. Shirk causes the greatest downfall
of human status and dignity
Man is the best creation of Allah
(s.w.t.), created in 'the highest of forms' (Al Tin:4). He is the
khalifatul fir ardh [the vicegerent of Allah (s.w.t.)]. He
falls 'to the lowest of the low' (Al Tin:5) when he takes any other
creation of Allah (s.w.t.) as deities or gods.
Turn unto Allah (only), not
ascribing partners unto Him, for whoso ascribes partners unto
Allah, it is as if he had fallen from the sky and the birds had
snatched him or the wind had blown him to a far off place. (Al
2. Shirk is the root of evil and
It is because of shirk that man can
believe in the powers of jinn, spirits and particular human beings.
Some believe that they can predict future events or cause an event
to occur or not to occur. All these can give rise to various forms
of evil or ignorant practices.
Shirk is tyranny and injustice
An injustice is to withhold someone's
rights or treat someone in an unfair manner. In praising and worshipping
deities that have no power whatsoever to control his life, man forgets
Allah's (s.w.t.) sole right to be worshipped. He ignores his Creator,
Who had given him his life and thus is ungrateful and unjust to
When Luqman said to his son
while advising him "Oh my son! Do not ascribe partners to
Allah. Indeed shirk is a great injustice." (Luqman:13)
4. Shirk is the cause of anxiety
Because the mushrik believes in the
powers of his various deities, he is always living in constant fear,
whereas the only one to be feared is Allah (s.w.t.), as all other
things are dependent upon Him.
We shall cast terror into the
hearts of those who disbelieve because they ascribe partners unto
Allah for which no warrant has been revealed. (Al Nisa:151)
Shirk denies rewards in the hereafter
For those who associate partners
with Allah (s.w.t.), heaven has been made haram for them.
Indeed they do blaspheme those
who say that Allah is Jesus, the son of Mary, but Jesus said "O
children of Israel! Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord".
Whoever joins other gods with Allah, Allah will forbid him heaven
and the fire will be his abode. (Al Maidah:72)
FORMS OF SHIRK
There are two forms of shirk. One
is known as shirk akbar and another as shirk asghar.
is a 'major' act of shirk that cannot be forgiven by Allah (s.w.t.)
and whoever dies while committing it will not be able to enter Jannah.
are 'minor', more unnoticeable acts of shirk that, if done continuously,
might take one 'out of' iman.
There are two kinds of shirk akbar
Shirk akbar jali (clear)
This type of shirk akbar is to worship
a god or several gods besides Allah (s.w.t.). These 'gods' can be
in any kind of form, whether cosmic objects, animals, spirits, jinn
or human beings such as priests, kings or rulers.
2. Shirk akbar khafi (subtle)
These types of major shirk include:
* when one prays or supplicates
to something other than Allah (s.w.t.)
For example: pious ancestors, dead
persons, saints etc. Some say that praying or supplicating to them
does not necessarily mean worshipping them. However, Islam stresses
that praying or supplicating to something or someone is actually
worshipping. (Refer to Tafsir Al Mu'minum:60)
* when one takes a lawgiver or
lawmaker other than Allah
This includes all kinds of laws governing
human life. The right to make something halal or haram, or to judge
in human affairs belongs solely to Allah (s.w.t.). This pertains
to both 'religious' and 'secular' in life in Islam. According to
Islam, obeying someone while disobeying Allah (s.w.t.), even in
the realm of mundane life, is like worshipping it.
There are many forms of shirk asghar
or minor shirk. The term 'minor' here does not mean that they are
not as grave or serious. Rather it means that these forms of shirk
are more inconspicuous and unnoticeable compared to the others.
This form of shirk has been described
by the Prophet (s.a.w.s.):
Shirk in the Muslim nation is
more inconspicuous than the creeping of the black ant on a black
rock in the pitch darkness of the night.
Hence, Muslims should shun and guard
themselves very carefully from these kinds of shirk because the
most 'minor' shirk may incur a heavier penalty than the most serious
sin in Islam. Committing or practicing any act of shirk, whether
major or minor, can make one's deeds unacceptable by Allah (s.w.t.).
Common forms of shirk asghar:
* to swear with names other than
This was a common practice of the
Arabs during the Prophet's (s.a.w.s.) time. They used to swear with
the Ka'aba's name, with a pious ancestor's name, or more commonly,
with the names of the idols they worshipped, e.g. Al-Latta, Az-Uzza
etc. This is shirk because indirectly it gives some recognition
of power or glorification to the being named. Says the Prophet (s.a.w.s.):
Whoever swears with other than
Allah, he has committed an act of shirk and kufr.
* to adorn something that is believed
to be a form of 'protection from misfortune'
Again, this was a common practice
of the early Arabs and is to some extent still prevalent today.
Wearing certain bangles, necklaces and amulets was believed to be
able to weaken jinn or evil spirits or protect oneself from 'al-ain',
misfortune etc. From Imam Ahmad, narrated by Umran bin Hussain:
Once the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) saw
a man wearing a yellow bangle and asked him, "What is this?"
The man answered, "It is al-wahinah (that which weakens)."
The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) said, "Take it off! Verily it will
not increase you in anything, except sickness and if you die adorning
it, no happiness will come to you forever."
This emphasis and serious attention
given by the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) shows the need to shun all forms
of shirk and close all doors that might lead to it.
to practice, involve or believe
in any form of sihir (sorcery) including charms, incantations,
This is stated in a Hadith:
There are three kinds of people
that will not enter paradise: the drinker, the one who acknowledges
sorcery and the one who breaks silaturahim (kinship). (Ahmad and
Astrology is said to be part of this
because of the Hadith:
Whoever partakes in one part of
astrology (the art of the stars), verily he has partaken in sorcery.
This, however, does not include using
the stars in navigation, traveling, etc.
* to believe in 'fortune-telling'
From a Hadith by Muslim, the Prophet
(s.a.w.s.) once said:
Whoever approaches a fortune-teller,
inquires him/her and acknowledges him/her, his prayers will not
be accepted for forty days.
A Hadith by Abu Dawood relates:
Whoever approaches a fortune-teller
and acknowledges him/her that person has committed kufr to revelation
* to believe in evil omens
This happens when a person intends
to do something, but decides not to do it because of experiencing
or 'seeing' certain evil signs or omens. Says the Prophet (s.a.w.s.):
"Whoever cancels one's intention
to do something because of attiyarah (an evil omen), that one
has committed shirk". The companions asked, "What is
its kafarah (penalty for repentance)?" The Prophet (s.a.w.s.)
answered, saying, "O Allah, there is no good except from
You and there is no misfortune except from You. Indeed, there
is no god but You". (Imam Ahmad)
* to have riya
This means to perform acts or to
show off in order to gain praise or fame, or for worldly purposes.
* to have no redha
This implies being inwardly dissatisfied
with an inevitable condition that has been ordained for one by Allah
(s.w.t.); to continuously lament that if one had not done such and
such a thing, one would have had a better result.
* to be excessive in one's reverence,
respect and 'glorification' of prophets, pious leaders, sheikhs
This has brought to the practice
of rituals and ceremonies in glorification of these people and the
act of beautifying, building upon, lighting up and even worshipping
* to use ambiguous words that
might involve shirk
This includes phrases like 'In the
name of Allah and the name of so and so' (e.g. a leader), or 'if
it was not for so and so', or to use a name that is exclusively
Allah's (s.w.t.) in naming something or even to curse Allah's creation.
Belief in monotheism and purification
of one's servitude to Allah (s.w.t.) can be achieved by:
* not worshipping anything or
anyone other than Allah (s.w.t.) nor glorifying something or someone
as one glorifies Allah (s.w.t.)
All that is worshipped and glorified
other than Allah (s.w.t.) should be 'dethroned'. From the Qur'an:
That we do not worship other than
Allah and we do not associate Him with any other and we do not
make others as gods beside Allah. (Al Imraan:64)
* not taking anything besides
Allah (s.w.t.) as one's protector and benefactor and loving it as
one should love Allah (s.w.t.)
And amongst man there are those who
worship others beside Allah and they love them as they should love
Allah. (Al Baqara:165)
The early Arabs, for example, had
loved and revered their idols and their leaders and had felt both
fear and awe towards them. This kind of love and glorification should
be given only to Allah (s.w.t.).
* not taking a lawgiver besides
Allah (s.w.t.) nor giving obedience to any other as one obeys Allah
Verily, the decider for all human
affairs should be Allah (s.w.t.). he alone has the best knowledge
about His creation; has the deepest love for them and has full knowledge
of what is right and wrong, good and evil.
The Qur'an has stated that whoever
judges with other than Allah (s.w.t.) and His Prophet (s.a.w.s.)
has actually fallen out of Iman into obedience to shaytan. (See
We must think and realize that there
are many traps in our society which could lead us to all forms of
As Muslims, we must also be careful
not to follow the ways of the non-believers.
We must lead our lives as true Muslims,
following Islam as correctly as we can, being conscious of these
traps of shirk that the world invites us to.
Yusof Qardawi The Meaning of Tawheed
(Malay translation by Pustaka Salam) 1987