The opposite of tawheed (oneness if Allaah) is shirk, which means polytheism, or the association of partners with Allaah. One must have knowledge of shirk in order to avoid falling prey to it. Allaah says:
”Indeed. Allaah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allaah has certainly gone far astray." (Q4[Nisaa]: 116)
Giving His names or attributes to other than Allaah
Abdullah ibn Mas'ood (RA) narrated that the Prophet (salallaahu alayhi wa sallam) said:
"Whoever dies while still invoking anything other than Allaah as a rival to Allaah will enter hell.” (Bukhari)
To clarify, if a person dies in a state of polytheism, while associating partners with Allaah, then this is the only sin that is not forgiven. However, if a person commits shirk during his or her lifetime and repents from it, turning to worshipping Allaah alone, then Allaah may forgive him or her.
In the context of Allaah's names and attributes, shirk can be committed in a number of ways. Abu Hurayrah reported that the Prophet (salallaahu alayhi wa sallam) said:
"The most wretched person in the sight of Allaah on the Day of Resurrectron and the worst person and target of His wrath, would be the person who is called the 'King of Kings' for there is no Sovereign but Allaah.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
The Prophet (salallaahu alayhi wa sallam) once said to Abu Shurayh (RA), because the latter answered to the title of Abul-Hakam (Father of Justice):
"Allaah is al-Hakam (the Judge); His is the judgment. Abu Shurayh replied (in his own defense): -My people come to me for adjudication of their disputes, and when I judge between them, both parties are pleased with my judgment. The Prophet (salallaahu alayhi wa sallam) responded: “How excellent this is! Do you have any children?" He replied: "Shurayh, Muslim, and Abdullah." The Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) asked: Who is the eldest?" Abu Shurayh answered: "Shurayh." He (salallaahu alayhiwa sallam) said: “Very well then, you are (henceforth to be called) Abu Shurayh." (Abu Dawood and an-Nasa'i)
Allaah's names and attributes are for Him alone. No one and nothing is comparable to Him; therefore, giving A1laah'snames to other than Allaah constitutes shirk. At the time of the Prophet (salallaahu alayhi wa sallam), idols were worshipped on the Arabian Peninsula. Al-Lot and al-'Uzza were names of idols Al-Lot is derived from the Arabic word Ilah, meaning 'deity', something worshipped as a god; al-'Uzza derives from al- 'Azeez, one of the names of Allah by calling their idols al-Lat and al-'Uzza, the people committed shirk using Allaah's names.
GivingAllah the names or attributes of creation
Allaah is perfect and above the imperfect, limited, flawed nature of His creation. It is not permissible to name Allaah with names of the creation or to attribute to Allaah something from the attributes of creation; for example, by calling Him 'the Father' as the Christians do 'the effective cause' as philosophers do, or the popular 'Mother Nature', or, as a group of Jews are quoted as saying in the Qur'an:
"Indeed, Allaah is poor, while we are rich ..." (Q3[Aal-lmran]:181)
"..and leave the company of those who belie or deny [or utter impious speech against1 HisNames. They will be requited for what they used to do." (Q7[A'raf]: 180)
Ibn 'Abbas (RA) commented, "The phrase 'belie His names' means to give Him names implying shirk." This can be further explained by the words of Shaykh 'Umar al-Ashqar, who mentions three ways of committing heresy with respect to Allaah's names: denying them, describing Allaah with attributes of creation. and describing created beings with Allaah's names or attributes.
Affirming attributes that Allaah has negated for Himself
"So do not assert similarities to Allaah. Indeed, Allaah knows and you do not know." (Q16[Nahl]: 74)
As we have seen, Allaah has negated certain attributes from Himself, attributes that imply imperfection or fault in some way - for instance, that He has a son, that He becomes tired or that He sleeps.
Shirk can be committed by affirming for Allaah that which He negated from Himself. For example, if people refer to Jesus (alayhi salam) as the son of Allaah, they have committed shirk in Allaah's attributes. Likewise, those who make pictures of Allaah have likened Allaah to the creation; it is not possible to imagine something outside the realm of their experience, something of which they have no knowledge.
In this way they have affirmed for Allaah a likeness to creation, while Allah has negated or rejected that likeness from Himself.
Denying His names and attributes
This was mentioned previously among the fundamentals for belief in Allaah's names and attributes. Anyone who denies some or all of Allaah's names and attributes has committed shirk in this area. Allah says:
"Indeed, those who disbelieve in Allaah and His messengers and wish to discriminate between Allaah and His messengers and say: We believe in some and disbelieve in others. And wish to adopt a way in between - those are the disbelievers, truly. And we have prepared for the disbelievers a humiliating punishment. (Q4[Nisaa]: 150-151)
It is imperative to believe in all of the revelation: all of the revealed names of Allaah that belong to Him, as well as all of the attributes that have been revealed, without denying anyone of them. Denying even one attribute is like denying them all, and this constitutes disbelief.
Shaykh 'Abd ur-Rahman as-Sa'di mentioned:
"The basis of faith and its foundational guidelines are belief in Allaah, in His Names, and His attributes. The stronger one's knowledge of these while worshipping Allaah, the stronger his tawheed ... So whoever denies any of Allaah's Names or Attributes, he initiates what contradicts and nullifies tawhid, and this is a branch of disbelief. When seeking knowledge of Allaah, it is essential for individuals to be aware of the ways in which they can commit shirk, or associate partners with Allaah, which could cancel their Islam."
This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited