What is the true meaning of shirk?
June 03, 2011
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 Allaah) and our Islam may be complete, and our faith may be sound. We say – And Allaah is the Source of strength and true guidance comes from Him:
Know – may Allaah guide you – that the word shirk in Arabic means taking a partner, i.e., regarding someone as the partner of another. It is said [in Arabic]: ashraka baynahuma (he joined them together) when he regarded them as two of equal status; or ashraka fi amrihi ghayrahu (he introduced another into his affair) when he made two people involved in it.
In terms of sharee’ah or Islamic terminology, shirk means ascribing a partner or rival to Allaah in Lordship (ruboobiyyah), worship or in His names and attributes.
A rival is a peer or counterpart. Hence Allaah forbids setting up rivals with Him and he condemns those who take them (rivals) as gods instead of or besides Allaah in many verses of the Qur’aan. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“Then do not set up rivals unto Allaah (in worship) while you know (that He Alone has the right to be worshipped)”
“And they set up rivals to Allaah, to mislead (men) from His path! Say: ‘Enjoy (your brief life)! But certainly, your destination is the (Hell) Fire!’”
In the hadeeth it is narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever dies claiming that Allaah has a rival, will enter Hell.”
Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 4497; Muslim, 92.
The types of shirk:
The texts of the Qur’aan and Sunnah indicate that shirk and the ascribing of rivals to Allaah sometimes puts a person beyond the pale of Islam and sometimes does not. Hence the scholars divided shirk into two types which they call shirk akbar (major shirk) and shirk asghar (minor shirk). There follows a brief description of each type:
1 – Major shirk
This means ascribing to someone other than Allaah something that belongs only to Allaah, such as Lordship (ruboobiyyah), divinity (uloohiyyah) and the divine names and attributes (al-asma’ wa’l-sifaat).
This kind of shirk may sometimes be outward, such as the shirk of those who worship idols and graves, or the dead or absent.
Or it may sometimes be hidden, such as those who put their trust in other gods besides Allaah, or the shirk and kufr of the hypocrites. For even though their (hypocrites’) shirk puts them beyond the pale of Islam and means that they will abide forever in Hell, it is a hidden shirk, because they make an outward display of Islam and conceal their kufr and shirk, so they are inwardly mushriks but not outwardly.
Shirk may sometimes take the form of beliefs:
Such as the belief that there is someone else who creates, gives life and death, reigns or controls the affairs of the universe along with Allaah.
Or the belief that there is someone else who must be obeyed absolutely besides Allaah, so they follow him in regarding as permissible or forbidden whatever he wants, even if that goes against the religion of the Messengers.
Or they may associate others with Allaah in love and veneration, by loving a created being as they love Allaah. This is the kind of shirk that Allaah does not forgive, and it is the shirk of which Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):
“And of mankind are some who take (for worship) others besides Allaah as rivals (to Allaah). They love them as they love Allaah”