What is shirk?

Last month (Muharram 1428 AH), we discussed the issue of tawheed and its importance. In this edition, we will examine its opposite shirk; its gravity and origin. Perhaps by knowing its gravity and origin, one might be able to avoid it. This is in the same vein of what Hudhafah (RA) used to do, he said, "People used to ask Allaah's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) about the good things while I would ask him about evil things lest I might commit them." (Abu Dawud).

Shirk means devoting any kind of worship to anyone other than Allaah. It is to ascribe partners to Allaah and it is a violation of Allaahs right upon His servants. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

"Allaah's right upon the creatures is that they worship Him without taking any partners with Him. "(Muslim)

Most people usually think of shirk only when one is actually worshipping/ bowing down for idols, but there are other acts that are equally grave but not well known as shirk. While some acts of shirk do actually take one out of the fold of Islaam (these are referred to as major shirk), some other acts of shirk affect only the act of worship associated with it (these are referred to as minor shirk). Some of the major forms that shirk takes are: worshipping idols, sorcery, astrology, divination, seeking refuge with created things (human or non-human), giving the attribute of Allaah to some of His creatures etc. Some form of minor shirk includes swearing by other than Allaah, riyaa (ostentation or pride) in acts of worship etc. It is usually through these subtle acts of shirk that Shaytaan uses to trick the people. The evils of Shirk It is the greatest sin: The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was asked, "What is the greatest sin?" He replied: "It is to ascribe partners to Allaah, and He is the One who created you!" (Muslim)

Loss and rejection of deeds: Allaah says:

"this is the Guidance of Allaah with which He guides whomsoever He will of His slaves. But if they had joined in worship others with Allaah, all that they used to do would have been of no benefit to them." (Q6:88).

This was said with regards to the Prophets of Allaah, how much more for other people? Abode in the fire: Allaah says:

"Verily, whosoever sets up partners in worship with Allaah, then Allaah has forbidden Paradise for him, and the Fire will be his abode." (Q5:72)

And the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings be upon him) said:

"He who dies while invoking a partner with Allaah enters the Fire."(Bukhari)

Losing hope of Allaahs forgiveness: Allaah says:

"Verily, Allaah forgives not that partners should be set up with him in worship, but He forgives except that (anything else) to whom He pleases, and whoever sets up partners with Allaah in worship, he has indeed invented a tremendous sin. "(Q4:48)

This is however for those who die upon shirk before repenting to Allaah, because the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessing be upon him) said:

"Whoever among you fulfills his pledge will be rewarded by Allah. And whoever indulges in any one of them (except the ascribing of partners to Allah) and gets the punishment in this world, that punishment will be expiation for that sin. And if one indulges in any of them, and Allah conceals his sin, it is up to Him to forgive or punish him (in the Hereafter). "(Bukhari)

Why would people commit shirk?

Despite the great dangers that shirk poses to ones affairs, why would anyone go near it? People commit shirk because of the deception of Shaytaan. This he does in various ways depending on the people he wants to mislead. He starts the people off on what seems to be harmless then urges them on to that which is prohibited for them. This is what he did with the people who started the sin of worshiping other than Allaah as we shall see. The beginning of shirk Ibn Abbas (RA) said, "Between Nuh and Adam were ten generations, all of which followed the law (of Allaah), upon the truth. But they differed (amongst themselves), so Allaah then sent prophets, as bearers of glad tidings, and warners of punishment."(al-Haakim) Also, regarding Allaah's words;

"And theysaid: Do not abandon your idols! And do not abandon Wadd, Suwa, Yaguth, Yauq,and Nasr."(Q71 :23);

Ibn Abbaas (RA) relates: "These were all idols from Nuhs nation, which eventually ended up amongst the Arabs. Wadd was the idol which was worshipped by the Kalb tribe in the region of Dawmatul-Jandal; Suwap was for the Hudhayl tribe; Yaghooth by the Ghutayf tribe at Jurf near the region of Sabaa; Yaooq for the Hamdaan tribe and Nasrwas the idol worshipped by the Dhul-Kalaa of the Himayr tribe. Indeed these five idols were the names of righteous men from the nation of Nuh. When they died, Shaytaan whispered to their people to make statues of them in honour of them, and to place these statues in their places of gathering as a reminder of them, so they did this.

However, none from amongst them worshipped these statues, until when that generation passed away and the purpose of the statues was forgotten, the next generation then began worshipping them." (Bukhari)

So, the greatest sin committed by the people of Nuh is that of associating partner with Allaah. Then, as it is bound to happen, they would deny the Prophet sent to them (since he is going to ask them to abandon their ways), and thereafter take after any sin that is of their fancy. Nuh (peace be upon him) with his people The Warning Allaah says:

"Verily, We sent Nuh to his people (Saying): "Warn your people before there comes to them a painful torment." He said: "0 my people! Verily, I am a plain warner to you, "That you should won.hip Allaah (Alone), be dutiful to Him, and obey me, "He (Allaah) will forgive you of your sins and respite you to an appointed term..Verily, the term of Allaah when it comes, cannot be delayed, if you but knew." (Q71 :1-4).

And he (Nuh (peace be upon him)) will also say,

"Will you not then be afraid (of Him i.e. of His Punishment because of worshipping others besides Him)?" (Q23:23)

The Glad tidings As he warned them, he also gave the glad tidings of what they would attain if they obeyed him. He said,

"I said (to them): Ask forgiveness from your Lord; Verily, He is Oft-Forgiving; He will send rain to you in abundance; And give you increase in wealth and children, and bestow on you gardens and bestow on you rivers. " (Q71 :10-12)

The Mode of His Call He called his people at all available times. He never abandoned calling them. Allaah says:

"He said: "0 my Lord! Verily, I have called my people night and day. " (Q71:5).

He also called them but in public and in private:

"Then verily, I called to them openly (aloud); "Then verily, I proclaimed to them in public, and I have appealed to them in private." (Q71:8-9).

Their response, Allaah says: 

"And We never punish until We have sent a Messenger (to give warning). And when We decide to destroy a town, We (first) send a definite order (to obey Allaah and be righteous) to those among them who are given the good things of this life. Then, they transgress therein, and thus the word (of torment) is justified against it (them). Then We destroy it with complete destruction." (Q17:15-16)

this is exactly what happened with the people of Nuh (peace be upon him). They made all sort of allegations against the Messenger of Allaah sent to them. Allaah says:

"The chiefs of the disbelievers among his people said: "We see you but a man like ourselves, nor do we see any follow you but the meanest among us and they (too) followed you without thinking. And we do not see in you any merit above us, in fact we think you are liars." (Q11:27).

And "He is no more than a human being like you, he seeks to make himself superior to you. Had Allaah willed, He surely could have sent down angels; never did we hear such a thing among our fathers of old. "He is only a man in whom is madness, so wait for him a while." (Q23:24-25)

They also said, "Verily, we see you in plain error." (Q7:60).

And sometimes when was preaching to them,

"they thrust their fingers into their ears, covered themselves up with their garments, and persisted (in their refusal), and magnified themselves in pride." (Q71: 7).

They even threatened to kill him if he does not stop his preaching. Allaah says:

"They said: "If you cease not, 0Nuh I You will surely be among those stoned (to death)." (Q26:116)

Till they said, You shall not leave your gods, nor shall you leave Wadd, nor Suwa, nor Yaghuth, nor Yauq, nor Nasr (names of the idols); (Q71:23).

And when they found out that Nuh (peace be upon him) will not relent in his admonitions, they got tired and said,

"0 Nuh I You have disputed with us and much have you prolonged the dispute with us, now bring upon us what you threaten us with, if you are of the truthful." (Q11:32).

And this continued for nine hundred and fifty years! Yes 950 years. Allaah says:

"And he stayed among them a thousand years less fifty years, and the Deluge overtook them while they were Zalimun (wrong- doers, polytheists, disbelievers, etc.)." (Q29:14)

His complaint to Allaah Nuh (peace be upon him) complained to Allaah about his people, he said:

"My Lord! Verily, my people have believed me. Therefore judge You between me and them, and save me and those of the believers who are with me." (Q26:117-118).

Allaah told him, "None of your people will believe except those who have believed already. So be not sad because of what they used to do.(Q11:36)

The construction of the Ark Allaah then asked him to construct an ark. He constructed it, his people still mocked him, wondering why he would build a ship on dry land. This must have added certainty to their accusation of him being a mad man. Allaah says:

"And construct the ship under Our Eyes and with Our Inspiration, and address Me not on behalf of those who did wrong; they are surely to be drowned." And as he was constructing the ship, whenever the chiefs of his people passed by him, they made a mockery of him. He said: "If you mock at us, so do we mock at you likewise for your mocking. "And you will know who it is on whom will come a torment that will cover him with disgrace and on whom will fall a lasting torment." The flood (So it was) till then there came Our Command and the oven gushed forth (water like fountains from the earth). We said: "Embark therein, of each kind two (male and female), and your, family, except him against whom the Word has already gone forth, and those who believe. And none believed with him, except a few. " And he [Nuh ] said: "Embark therein, in the Name of Allaah will be its moving course and its resting anchorage. Surely, my Lord is Oft- Forgiving, Most Merciful. " Nuuhs son So it (the ship) sailed with them amidst the waves like mountains, and Nuh called out to his son, who had separated himself (apart), "0 my son! Embark with us and be not with the disbelievers." The son replied: "I will betake myself to a mountain, it will save me from the water. " Nuh said: "This day there is no savior from the Decree of AIlaah except him on whom He has mercy." And a wave came in between them, so he (the son) was among the drowned. And it was said: "O earth! Swallow up your water, and 0 sky! Withhold (your rain). " And the water was diminished (made to subside) and the Decree (of AIlaah) was fulfilled (i.e. the destruction of the people of Nuh. And it (the ship) rested on Mount Judi, and it was said: "Away with the people who are Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doing)!" And Nuh called upon his Lord and said, "0 my Lord! Verily, my son is of my family! And certainly, Your Promise is true, and You are the Most Just of the judges. " He said: "0 Nuh! Surely, he is not of your family; verily, his work is unrighteous, so ask not of Me that of which you have no knowledge! I admonish you, lest you be one of the ignorants. " Nuh said: "0 my Lord! I seek refuge with You from asking You that of which I have no knowledge. And unless You forgive me and have Mercy on me, I would indeed be one of the losers. "(Q11 :37-47)

  • Lessons from the story

Firstly: That Shirk began during the time of Nuh (peace be upon him), due to the excessive love and veneration that the people had for certain dead pious Muslims.

Secondly: "That Shaytaan is eager to misguide mankind and to plot against them. He comes from he angle of exploiting mans emotions, and deceives them into doing acts that are (apparently) good. Thus, when Shaytaan saw amongst the people of Nuh their great love and esteem for the righteous, he tricked them into going beyond the bounds in their love, and he got them to make and place statues of these dead pious Muslims in their places of gatherings. The objective of this was to make them swerve away from the right path.

Thirdly: That Shaytaan does not only observe the present generation, and seek to deceive only them; but he also wishes to misguide and deceive future generations. Thus, when he could not deceive the present generation, from the people of Nuh, into Shirk, he eagerly awaited the next generations arrival, in order that he could misguide them."

May Allaah purify our thought and actions from associating partners with Him [Aamin]



This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited


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