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Understanding Of Different Types Of Shirk In Islamic Theology.

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Tawheed, is the belief of unity of  Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and it means; Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is unique in His being, attributes and actions and no one equal to Him in these aspects. Tawheed cannot be fully understood without understanding its opposite – Shirk. Linguistically Shirk means to assosciate, to ascribe but in the termonology of religion of Islam Shirk is used to mean association of a equal partner in being, attributes, or actions of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). Adhering to Tawheed and distancing our selves from Shirk is fundamental for a Muslim. All sins will be forgiven by Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) but the sin of Shirk will be punished eternally in the fire of hell. A polytheist can give charity, feed/cloth the poor, speak good words, be kind to parents, but his works will be rejected due to Shirk in the creed.[1] A Muslim who holds to Tawheed having no good work will enter paradise on account of; there is no god except Allah.[2]

The Importance Of Tawheed:


Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) states: Rejection of Prophet-hood of RasoolAllah (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) is rejection of all the prophets that came before him. How can rejection of one Messenger of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) be reject of all the Messengers of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) that had come before him? Answer is very simple, every prophet had brought different rules and regulations which suited to the conditions of a particular nation. Every prophet was sent by Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) to take people back to the very reason for which Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) created us - His Worship. Without sound understanding of Allah’s (subhanahu wa ta’ala) Tawheed, worship of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) would have been vain. Therefore Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) sent Prophets/Messengers to distinguish between Tawheed and Shirk, then commonded them to teach their fallowers ways of worship of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). Therefore the fundamental message of all Prophets/Messengers was Tawheed. Rejection of RasoolAllah’s (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) Tawheedi message, would mount to rejecting all the Prophets/Messengers that had come before him. All Prophets had brought one thing which was unchanged throught ages from the Prophet Adam (alayhis salaam) to the last and the final Prophet - Muhammed (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam). This unchanged aspect of every Prophets message was Tawheed of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). In this context one who rejects the message of Tawheed given by RasoolAllah  (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) has rejected all the Prophets.

Tawheed Of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) A Constant:

Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) does not change. He was One but did not become two. Nor He was two that became One. He was not man that He became father of son/daughter. He was not young that the became old nor old that He became young. He was not weak that He became powerful nor powerful who had become weak. He was not dependent who became independent nor independent that who became dependent. He was not above that He came to below, nor below that He went to above. What was Shirk at the beginning of the creation will remain Shirk till the day of judgment. To attribute to him son was Shirk, is Shirk will remain Shirk till the day of judgment. To attribute to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) a god-partner, was Shirk in the beginning of creation, is Shirk at present, and will remain Shirk till the day of judgment and thereafter. To worship a idol-god was major Shirk, is major Shirk and will remain major Shirk till the dead are raised from graves and their after. To prostrate to other then Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) with intention of worship and with belief that other then Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) has the right to be worshiped was Shirk in the before the creation, after the creation of creation, is Shirk and will remain Shirk for eternity. The Ihkaam which He has subjected His Creation to, will change. Halal will become Haram, Haram will become Halal, according to particular situation of a people, but this change of Ihkaam will not be in the regards to Tawheed and Shirk. Tawheedi teaching will not become Shirk nor Shirki teaching will become Tawheed. It was Halal for a creation to prostrate to another creation – example; angels, the Prophet Yaqood (alayhis salaam) and his wife. Yet it became Haram in our Shari’a. The Halal became Haram but Shirki prostration was Haram then and has remained Haram in our Shari’a. Allah’s (subhanahu wa ta’ala) Tawheed in reality was constant but the knowledge of Tawheed was revealed to mankind to educate. The awareness of Tawheed changed not the Tawheed of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala).

Being, Attributes And Actions:

All living creatures have three essentials, Zaat (i.e. physical being - body), Sifat (i.e. attributes – hearing, seeing), and A’faal (i.e. actions). Attributes/Actions cannot exist without and independent of the Zaat but the Zaat can exist without and independent of attributes/actions.[2]  Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) has Zaat [which befits His majestay], Sifaat [which befit His majestay] and A’afal [which befit His majestay] but not like His creation. One cannot legitimately separate the attribute/attributes or action/actions from the being of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). If attribute/action is removed from the Zaat of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) then Zaat has lacks the removed attribute/action. Attribute/action cannot exist independent of the Zaat and if one believes attribute exists independent of Zaat then automatically that attribute/action is a separate Zaat and no longer part of original. Hence Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) should not be distinguished in a fashion that His attributes/actions become gods independent of Him or existing independent of Him. A mans attributes/actions are actions/attributes of the physical body therefore any increase in strenth of attributes is increase in ability of body. Point is attributes/actions exist in Zaat as such when Shirk in Sifaat or A’faal is warranted then automatically Shirk of Zaat is also warranted.

Shirk In Creed And Action:

Shirk in creed can be, associating with Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) a equale partner in His Zaat, Sifat, or A’fal. Or believing a creation is worthy of worship along with Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) or believing God has become a creation, or believing a creation has been elivated to status of god-hood with limited, restricted, humanly characteristics, or the one being elivated to the status of god has been bestowed godly attributes and humanly characteristics have been removed. Shirk in actions is, actions which can be interpreted to mean, actions of worship. These actions can be praising, seeking help, prostrating, bowing, performing other rituals acts to please, to gain favor of a idol-god.

Creed Is Essential In Determining Shirk:

If one prostrates to a human with creed; [one I am prostrating to is] a creation of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and not god-partner of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), worship is not due to him, but only respect, then Shirk is not warranted. This was the Tawheedi creed of angels when they prostrated to Prophet Adam (alayhis salaam) hence their action was interpreted to mean respect. We the Muslims, protrate to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) believing; he is Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), the One and the Only God and to Him all worship is due, with this creed our prostration is worship. Shirk can be committed in creed and action. Fundamental requirement for a action to be deemed as polytheistic is; polytheistic creed, due to this polytheistic creed the action is performed. Therefore while judging Shirk we must consider creed before we consider the action and if the creed on which the action was based was polytheistic then the action is also polytheistic.

Polytheistic Creed Is Fundamental To Shirk:

There are two types of Shirk, minor and major. There are two types of minor Shirk, pride and blameless Shirk. Shirk of pride invalidates righteous actions where as blameless Shirk is warrants no sin and person is blameless. Major Shirk invalidates ones belief in Islam and this Shirk always occurs in creed first. Monotheist becomes guilty of major Shirk primarily as result of change of creed - from Tawheedi to Shirki and then actions are performed according to the polytheistic belief.

Basic Definition Of Shirk:

Associating, joining, ascribing a god-partner with Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) in absolute [or perfectly like] or relative [or partialy like] terms, is Shirk. Ascribing in absolute terms  a partner with Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) in His attributes or actions, is Shirk. To believe that Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) has a inferior god-partner who shares with Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) in His attributes/actions in relative terms and as a inferior god-partner, is Shirk.

Shirk In Zaat Of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala):

Shirk of Zaat, essentially is ascribing to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) a being as a god partner. Commonly the associated god partner is in the form of a idol, either as daughters, son, parent, or wife. Who is/was made god partner in Zaat of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) entirely depends on the region of the world.

How Shirk Of Zaat Is Warranted:

Apart from the above mentioned occasions generaly when ever Shirk of Sifaat or Shirk of A’fal occurs Shirk of Zaat is automatically warranted. Suppose y creation is believed to possess attribute of all-seeing – just like Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is all-seeing, then one who believes y possesses the all-seeing attribute has committed major Shirk in attributes of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). Attributes are part of physical being or Zaat of a creature and if one possesses great attributes then these great attributes also elivate his Zaat by bringing prestiege. Apart from the physical appearance character of a person is juged on merits, qualities and attributes. Better the merits, qualities attributes more superior the Zaat of person will be judged and better the qualities and merits superior the person will be. If a attribute of the God is given to a creation then that merit, quality, attribute will elivate that Zaat to status of god-hood. The attribute of all-seeing maybe the only attribute which one ascribed to the being but fact remains the physical being of y is said to possess the attribute of all-seeing. Hence the physical-being/Zaat of y has also been elivated to status of god-hood due to one godly attribute/quality being attributed to y.

Shirk In Sifat Of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala):

Shirk of attributes is, a form of major Shirk in which attributes/attribute of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) are/is ascribed to a creation of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) in absolute sense – or in other words, ascribed to a creation in same capacity as it is believed for Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala).

Attributes Of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) And His Creation:

Seeing, hearing, knowing, these are all attributes of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). The creation of Allah does shares with Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) these attributes. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) as out of His will as confered these atributes to His creation and the ability of these attributes is restricted in creation. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) sees, hears,and  knows all. None is hidden from him not even atoms weight. He sees, hears absolutely everything and He knows absolutely everything of the past, the present, and the future. Allah’s (subhanahu wa ta’ala) seeing, hearing, knowing is absolute/perfect in every sense. He does not make mistake in identifying what he saw, heard, or knows, nor its part of His attributes to make such mistakes. Creation's attributes variy, some can see/hear more clearly then the other, some are blind/deaf, some become blind/deaf in old age, some become blind/deaf because of exidents. Their ability of knowing is dependant on the five senses with exception to Ambiyah (alayhis salaam) awliyah-Allah. Who depending upon their respected position, who are instructed by Wahi (i.e.revelation) or granted ilm e ladunvi (i.e.divine guidance – 18:65) as well as their five senses which they share with human beings and Jins etc. Since the quantity of these attributes deppences on the organs which collect the information. Then relay this information to the brain for processing, and then brain determines the quantity, what it saw, heard, and how much it knows. The inherent restrictions in a creations body hinder acquisition of knowledge on par with Allah’s (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and serve to limit and restrict our abilities of hearing, seeing, and knowing.

How Shirk Of Attributes Is And Not Warranted:

If y claims that he/she sees, hears, knows, everything – just like Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). Or takes any attribute of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and implies y is equale with Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) in this attribute, it would amount to major Shirk, which results in Kufr.  It would not mount to major Shirk; if a person states that I am seeing or he/she is seeing because for it to be major Shirk the similarity has be absolute, if there is similarity on partial basis, it is not Shirk.

Shirk In Actions Of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala):

Shirk of A’faal is, when a god-partner is said to perform a action instead of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). In other words, when any aspecting of managing affairs of the creation are attributed to a idol-god who is taken as partner of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) then Shirk of A’faal has occurred.

Actions Of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) And His Creation:

Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is possess attributes such as, creating, punishing, causing death, giving life, protecting, bringing rain from clouds, satisfying hunger, quenching thirst, causing harm, bringing benefit, and moving clouds from one place to another. All these are actions of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) in truest sense but his creation has power over some of these in arbitary sense. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is he true cause of death and not the accident or illness. Even though the creation creates they shape and mould what was already with them via knowledge given to them by Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). The true Creator is Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and all other creators are dependant upon the material to create with and dependant upon knowledge, power, permission of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). Where as He alone is independent and is not need of anothers knowledge, permission, power to create something etc. Creation of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is completely dependent upon Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) to perform their actions. Water quenches thirst, fire burns, clouds move, accident or sickness causes death with permission of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala).

How Shirk Of Actions Is And Not Warranted:

If one believes a idol-god possesses the action-attributes such as creating, punishing, causing death, giving life, protecting, bringing rain from clouds, satisfying hunger, quenching thirst, causing harm, bringing benefit, and moving clouds from one place to another, then Shirk of A’fal has occurred. Even if y believes z performs the actions of; creating, punishing, causing death, giving life, protecting, bringing rain from clouds, satisfying hunger, quenching thirst, causing harm, bringing benefit, and moving clouds from one place to another, without the permission, power, knowledge from Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), then Shirk of A’fal has occurred. Prophets (alayhis salaam) performed miracles, if one believes these miracles were performed by a god-partner [like in the case of Prophet Isa alayhis salaam] or independent of Allah’s (subhanahu wa ta’ala) will, power, and permission, then Shirk in A’fal has taken place. It is not Shirk if one believes miracles of the Prophets, such as Prophet Musa’s (alayhis salaam) miracle; staff turning into a snake, or Prophet Isa’s (alayhis salam) miracle; bringing the birds of clay to life, Prophet Muhammed (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) miracle; splitting the moon in half, were performed by the Prophets but with the power and permission from Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). One who believes the angel of death is independent from Allah’s (subhanahu wa ta’ala) authority, or holds to the beleife; angel of death takes life of out of his own choice – without permission from Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), such person commits Shirk in A’fal of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), such a person is guilty of major Shirk. It is not Shirk if one believes that angel of death takes life of a person with the permissision of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), with power given by Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala).

Hidden Blameless Shirk:

This form of Shirk, is of when  y attributes to z a attribute/quality which is not its own [or not its Zaati quality/attribute] but it has been conferred [Atah/Atahi] to it by Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala).

Blameless Shirk And Its Explanation:

It is commonly said, knife cuts or fire burns. The creed of monotheists is; its not knives nature to cut and it is not in the nature of fire to burn. Rather the cutting and the burning is in the control of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and He uses these as means to achieve His will.If knife’s nature was to cut then it would have cut the Hazrat Ismail (alayhis salaam) when his father the Prophet Ibrahim (alayhis salaam) wished to sacrifise him in the way of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). Similarly the fires nature is not to burn but Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) employs it as a tool to achieve His will and if it was in the nature of fire to burn then the Prophet Ibrahim (alayhis salaam) would have been burnt by it when he was thrown by the tyrant king into fire pit.

When Blameless Shirk Is Kufr And When Not:

Those who abstain from blameless Shirk are highiest level of monotheists. Hence such people are held in great honor by Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala). Blameless Shirk is not truly a form of Shirk, it is only termed as such. If anyone says, knife cuts, without explicitly denying Allah’s (subhanahu wa ta’ala) control over the knife or Allah's (subhanahu wa ta’ala) authority over it, such a person can not be labelled Mushrik. Just on apparent statement of knife cutting, one cannot charge Shirk unless explicit denial of Allah’s (subhanahu wa ta’ala) auhority or power is made. A atheist would be polytheist because he attributes qualities of cutting, burning to knife and fire. This is deduced - by not believing in a Creator, a atheist attributes all qualities to objects and not to the Creator. Polytheist atheist is a oxymoron. A Muslim believes in Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) hence he/she believes all qualities/attributes are in power of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) therefore any statement which attributes cutting, burning, quenching thirst to, knife, fire, water will be understood in light of Tawheedi belief of Muslim – i.e. that all these act as such bi iznillah (i.e. with the permission of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala).

Warning Regarding Blameless Shirk:

This Shirk is blameless meaning it does not in anyway negatively effect the creed or actions of a believer – it carrys no blame, no sin. Blameless Shirk understanding should not be used to invalidate the Tawheed of Muslims in anyway. The purpose of pointing this type of Shirk was to high light a aspect of Tawheed often neglected. One who makes Takfir of a believer due to y using sentences which indicate y ascribes, cutting, burning, hot, cold, to material objects, then one making Takfir has invalidated his own Islam – due to unwarranted/illegitimate Takfir returning to him.

Shirk In Worship:

Shirk in worship is to invoke; to praise, to seek help, or to show respect with actions and words, and to show submissiveness in actions and with words to a idol or a person or a object with belief one being respected, humbled infront of, invoked for help, praised is a god.

Types of Shirk In Worship:

Shirk in worship is of two types, one which nullifies ones belief in Islam - major Shirk, it involves worship of a creation of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) instead of Him. The second is one which nullifies the actions only, this is minor Shirk - Shirk of pride. Minor Shirk of pride is to perform a act for worship to show-off ones own self or to perform the act of worship to impress someone with outward show devotion, or feeling of pride when others praise the actions of worship, or feeling of pride when people give example of ones actions to teach others. This Shirk is the more dangerous then the trial of Dajjal because it nullifies all the good deeds of people without them knowing it.

How Major Shirk Of Worship Is And Not Warranted:

To respectfully stand [with hands folded or on sides, head down] infront of a creation , or to bow to a creation,  or to prostrate to a creation, with the intention of worship, it is Shirk in worship. Or to believe the the creation is worthy of worship or to believe one being respected, humbled infront of [with actions and words] is a god partner of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) is Shirk in worship. To invoke a creation for help, or to praise a creation – that creation maybe living or dead, man or woman, young or old, believing y is god is Shirk in worship.  To prostrate to y creation of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) without the polytheistic creed – believing one being prostrated to is creation of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), believing y is not to be worshiped, not intending to worship y, then prostration to y will be not counted as worship, instead mark of respect, hence not Shirk. We have two Quranic example of this type of Tawheedi prostrations, performed by angels for Prophet Adam (alayhis salaam) and performed by Prophet Yaqoob (alayhis salaam) and his wife to show respect to their son Prophet Yusuf (alayahis salaam). Note, in our religion of Islam, it is haram to perform prostration for anyones respect hence those who do perform prostration as mark of respect perform a act which is major sin.

Wama alayna ilal balaghul mubeen.
Muhammed Ali Razavi


- [1] Part One: The first question asked by the angels from the dead person is; who is your Lord? This indicates that Tawheed is foremost of importance and wrong answer such as; lord Shiva, lord Jesus, or mentioning anyone other then Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) will immediately will qualify the person to enter hell. A polytheist will fail the first qualifier hence he will be ordered to be punished due to his Shirk.  The remaining two questions will not be asked from the polytheist. Questions; what is your religion, and, what did you say about this man, or what you know about this man, will only be asked if one passes the first qualifier – question of Tawheed. A Muslim will be pass the first two qualifiers but the third qualifier [which is to distinguish between a Momin and Munafiq] will decides the fate of person – if the dead person will be punished or rewarded. A practicing Jew who will pass the first qualifier, supposing some Jews pass or fail the second qualifier we will move to next third qualifier. The third qualifier [which will be asked from the Jew to find out if he is Muslim or Kafir]: What did you say about this man (i.e. the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhi was’sallam)? A Munafiq will say; we believed he was a Prophet but just like on earthly life will say nothing good about beloved Prophet (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam) and the Jews who pass the second qualifier will mention their rejection/denial of Prophet-hood of Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam), hence the Munafiq and the Jew both will be punished. Munafiq punished more severly in hell-fire and Jew punished moderately but for eternity. Part Two: The relevent aspect of this dicussion to the footnote is that Tawheed if foremost of importants and one who fails on question of Tawheed: Who is your Lord, will enter hell-fire and no other questions will be asked.

- [2] A non-Muslim who holds to creed of Tawheed but rejects/disbelieves in anyone of the following will enter hell-fire: Prophet-hood of beloved Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam), finality of the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi was’sallam), books given to Prophets (alayhis salaam), Messengers, angels, day of judgment, ressurection, hell and paradise. These are the bare minimum requirements to be a Muslim. Or a non-Muslim who holds to all the mentioned but rejects the concept of Tawheed he will remain in fire of hell for eternity.

- [3] The polytheistic Trinitarian Christians believe; the holy spirit and the son of god are two attributes of a god appearing in two different identities. They argue that Prophet Isa (alayhis salaam) is son of god not in literal sense but he is a attribute of the God. The holy spirit is not a entity [Zaat i.e. physical being] but a attribute of the God. Hence these two are not seperate entities [Zawat i.e. physical beings] independent of the God but they are attributes of one and the same God.

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