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SHIRK Polytheism and its various Manifestations

Theism is a person who believes in a God. Theism generally has two categories i.e. Monotheism and Polytheism. Monotheism is believing and worshipping only one God and Polytheism is believing and worshipping more than one God.


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Shirk basically is polytheism, i.e., the worship of others along with Allah (Glory be to Him). It also implies attributing divine attributes to any other beings or things besides Allah (Glory be to Him). It particularly implies associating partners in action or name and attributes or worship along with Allah (Glory be to Him) or to believe that the source of power, harm or blessings is from others besides Allah (Glory be to Him).



There are 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).


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.Surah Ankabuth 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.Surah Hud 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.Surah Taubah 9:31


Once, while Allah's Messenger (May Allah honour Him and grant Him peace) was reciting the above Ayath, 'Adi bin Hatim (R) said, "O Allah's Prophet! They do not worship them (rabbis and monks)." Allah's Messenger 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).


(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.Surah Baqarah 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.Surah Kahf 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.


The Prophet Muhammad (May Allah honour Him and grant Him peace) 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."


Difference between Kufr & Shirk

From Shaykh ul Islaam Imaam Muhammad ibn abdul wahhab’s (May Allah have Mercy on Him) kashful shubuhaat, From an Islamic perspective, kufr (disbelief) is the opposite of Islam, a person is either a Muslim or not. There are many types of kufr. One type is the kufr of denial, in which a person denies the truthfulness of the prophet and the authenticity of the Qur’an. Another type is the kufr of arrogance, in which a person realises the truth but is too arrogant to follow it. Such is the kufr of Iblees and Firawn. Another type of kufr is the kufr of doubt, where a person is not sure of the prophet’s truthfulness or the authenticity of the Qur’an. This type of kufr can only exist in an ignorant non-Muslim, for anyone who studies the life of the prophet Muhammad (May Allah honour Him and grant Him peace) or the quran cannot have any doubts regarding them. Yet another type is the kufr of Nifaaq, in which a person outwardly claims to be Muslim but in his heart does not believe in Islam. Shirk is one type of kufr.


Shaykh  ul Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (May Allah have Mercy on Him) writes: whoever does not submit to what the prophet Muhammad (May Allah honour Him and grant Him peace) came with is a kafir. It is irrelevant whether he believes that the prophet is a liar, or was simply too arrogant to believe in him, or turned away from him wanting to follow his desires instead, or was in doubt as to the authenticity of what he came with. So whoever denies what he has come with is a kafir. In fact, one might even be a kafir even if one does not deny him that is if one does not believe in him”.


Thus, any person who rejects the total religion of the prophet is a kafir. And one of the ways in which a person rejects the message of the prophet is by committing an act of shirk.


Therefore, every single act of major shirk is a type of kufr, but not every single act of kufr involves shirk. Thus, kufr is the general name given to any act, statement, or belief that might expel a person from the fold of Islam. Shirk is merely one type of kufr, even though the most common and evil form. It is possible for a person to reject Islam without necessarily falling into shirk, as is the case with Iblees, and some orthodox Jews (since they worship only Allah, and follow the torah, yet deny the prophet hoods of Eesa and Muhammad, which is kufr). It is also possible to reject Islam by falling into shirk and kufr simultaneously, such as the Christians (since they claim that Eesa is the son of god- which is kufr; and give him divine powers, and direct acts of worship to him- which is shirk).


May acts have elements of both kufr and shirk in them, even though each act might be more representative of one of these two matters for example, atheism is pure kufr, but can also be considered a type of shirk as well and idolatry is pure shirk, but is also a manifestation of kufr. So kufr is in fact more general than shirk. “Every shirk is kufr, but not every kufr is shirk.”


Safeguarding from Shirk

Belief in monotheism and purification of one's servitude to Allah (Glory be to Him) can be achieved by


  • Not worshipping anything or anyone other than Allah (Glory be to Him) nor glorifying something or someone as one glorifies Allah (Glory be to Him)

That we do not worship other than Allah (Glory be to Him) and we do not associate Him with any other and we do not make others as gods beside Allah (Glory be to Him). Qur’an.Surah Ale  Imran 3:64.


  • Not taking anything besides Allah (Glory be to Him) as one's protector and benefactor and loving it as one should love Allah (Glory be to Him)

And amongst man there are those who worship others beside Allah (Glory be to Him) and they love them as they should love Allah (Glory be to Him). Qur’an.Surah Baqarah 2:165. 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 (Glory be to Him).


  • Not taking a lawgiver besides Allah (Glory be to Him) nor giving obedience to any other as one obeys Allah (Glory be to Him)


Verily, the decider for all human affairs should be Allah (Glory be to Him). 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 (Glory be to Him) and His Prophet Muhammad (May Allah honour Him and grant Him peace) has actually fallen out of Eeman into obedience to shaytan. Qur’an.Surah Nisa 4:60-61.



Appendix II, Translation of the Nobel Qur’an by Dr. M Taqi Uddin Hilali and Dr.Muhammad Muhsin Khan


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