Associating Partners with Allah in Worship (Shirk)

  • Shirk contradicts the belief that Allah alone is worthy of worship. While the belief that Allah alone deserves to be worshipped and that all acts of worship must be directed to Him constitutes the greatest and most important duty of a Muslim towards his Lord, shirk is considered to be the greatest sin in the sight of Allah and is the only sin which He never forgives without sincere repentance. The Qur’an says, “Allah does not forgive anything being associated with Him in worship, but He forgives whoever He wills for anything other than that.” (Soorat An-Nisaa’, 4:48) When the prophet ﷺ was asked about the greatest sin in the sight of Allah, he replied, “To set up a rival to Allah in worship though He alone created you.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhaaree: 4207; Saheeh Muslim: 86)
  • Indeed, shirk renders acts of worship invalid and worthless, as the Qur’an states, “If they had associated others with Him, nothing they did would have been of any use.” (Soorat Al-An‛aam, 6:88) Those who commit the unpardonable sin of shirk will be doomed to Hellfire for all eternity, as the Qur’an states, “Those who associate anything with Allah in worship, for them Allah has forbidden Paradise and their abode will be the Fire.’” (Soorat Al-Maa’idah, 5:72)

Shirk is of two Types: Major Shirk and Minor Shirk

  1. Major Shirk: This involves directing any act of worship to other than Allah. Therefore, directing words or deeds that Allah loves to Him alone testifies to monotheism and true faith, while directing them to other than Allah constitutes an act of unbelief and shirk.

Examples of this type of shirk include asking someone other than Allah to cure one of an illness or to increase one’s wealth, relying on other than Allah and prostrating to other than Him. Allah says, “Your Lord says, ‘Call on Me and I will answer you.” (Soorat Ghaafir, 40:60)

“Put your trust in Allah if you are indeed believers.” (Soorat Al-Maa’idah, 5:23)

“Prostrate before Allah and worship Him.” (Soorat An-Najm, 53:62)

Therefore, whoever directs any act of worship to other than Allah is, strictly speaking, an unbeliever.

  1. Minor Shirk: This involves those words or deeds which serve as a vehicle to commit the major shirk. Examples of this type of shirk include making one’s prayer sometimes a little longer or reciting the Qur’an a little louder for the sake of showing off. The prophet ﷺ once observed, “The thing that I fear most for you is the minor shirk.” His Companions asked, “What is the minor shirk, Messenger of Allah?” He replied, “Showing off.” (Musnad Ahmad: 23630) However, if a person performs acts of worship entirely for showing off, and were it not for the sake of people he would never offer the prayer or observe a fast, then he is definitely a hypocrite. Doing so is undoubtedly a major shirk which takes one out of the fold of Islam altogether.

Does Asking People Amount to Committing Shirk?

Islam aims to free the human mind from the shackles of superstitions and from submitting to none other than the One True God-Allah ﷻ

Therefore, it is not permissible to ask the dead or inanimate beings for anything or humbly submit to them; doing so constitutes sheer superstition and is a blatant act of shirk.

It is permissible, however, to ask the living for whatever they can possibly do, such as saving us from drowning or asking them to pray to Allah for us.

  • Are we allowed to ask for anything from a dead person or an inanimate being?
    • Yes: This is a blatant act of shirk which contradicts Islam and faith (eemaan), for the dead and inanimate beings are not able to hear the prayer; even if they could hear it, they be would not be able to respond to it. In fact, invocation is an act of worship, and thus directing it to other than Allah is an act of shirk. The Arab polytheists before the advent of Islam used to invoke the dead and inanimate beings.
    • No: We can only ask the living who can hear our request. Are they, however, able to grant your request regarding matters which they can possibly do?
      • Yes: This is permissible and is one of the forms of human relationships and one of people’s daily dealings.
      • No: Asking the living for something that they cannot possibly do is a major shirk which contradicts Islam, for it amounts to invoking other than Allah. A sterile person asking a person to grant him righteous children, for instance, is a case in point.

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