What is Shirk?


During the Self Improvement study circle in the Imam Ali Center on Tuesday evenings, we have been discussing the issue of Shirk. Today’s summary will be on the issue of Shirk of the Essence of Allah.


The following verse of the Holy Qur’an asserts:


“Surely Allah does not forgive that anything should be associated with him, and forgives what is besides that to whomsoever He pleases, and whoever associates anything with Allah, he devises indeed a great sin.” (Surah an-Nisā’ 4:48)


“Surely whoever associates (others) with Allah, then Allah has forbidden to him the garden, and his abode is the fire; and there shall be no helpers for the unjust.” (Surah al-Mā’ida 5:72)


It means that whoever dies as a polytheist, there is no chance of his salvation. Some may say that anyone who even does shirk once and repents will not be forgiven, and they base this logic on the verse above, however as always we must see all the relevant verses together to paint the complete pictures. Allah says :


4|153|The People of the Scripture challenge you to bring down to them a book from the sky. They had asked Moses for something even greater. They said, “Show us God plainly.” The thunderbolt struck them for their wickedness. Then they took the calf for worship, even after the clear proofs had come to them. Yet We pardoned that, and We gave Moses a clear authority.


So here, the Israelites took the calf for worship, they became polytheists, but they quickly repented and Allah forgave them.

Also the Holy Qur’an states:


“Do not associate aught with Allah; most surely polytheism is a grievous inequity.” (Surah Luqmān 31:13).

“And whoever associates anything with Allah, he devises indeed a great sin.” (Surah an-Nisā’ 4:48)

“And worship Allah and do not associate anything with Him.” (Surah an-Nisā’ 4:36)


Mushrik (Polythiest) is the opposite of Muwahhid (Monotheist). Tawhid is the primary pillar of faith. It has various aspects. In the same way Shirk also consists of different types:


1) Tawhid and Shirk with regard to the Essence of Allah (S.w.T.)

2) Tawhid and Shirk with regard to the Attributes of Allah (S.w.T.)

3) Tawhid and Shirk in Actions

4) Tawhid and Shirk in Obedience

5) Tawhid and Shirk in worship


Tawhid in the Essence of Allah (S.w.T.)

Tawhid with regard to the Essence of Allah (S.w.T.) denotes confessing that the Essence of the Lord of the worlds is one, and that He is Eternal. He is the Originator of every action and phenomenon, whether perceptible through senses or not. There is no other cause except Him. Belief in multiple causes is Shirk.


6|19|Say, “What thing is more solemn in testimony?” Say, “God is Witness between you and me. This Quran was revealed to me, that I may warn you with it, and whomever it may reach. Do you indeed testify that there are other gods with God?” Say, “I myself do not testify.” Say, “He is but One God, and I am innocent of your idolatry.”


16|51|God has said: “Do not take two gods; He is only One God; so fear only Me.”


4|171|O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion, and do not say about God except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, is the Messenger of God, and His Word that He conveyed to Mary, and a Spirit from Him. So believe in God and His messengers, and do not say, “Three.” Refrain—it is better for you. God is only one God. Glory be to Him—that He should have a son. To Him belongs everything in the heavens and the earth, and God is a sufficient Protector.


The Christians say God is one, but has different manifestations or aspects. Islam rejects this notion and say Allah is one, unified, without parts or partners and can not be limited.

The Zoroastrians believe in the existence of two powerful forces in the Universe, both being equal and eternal. One is good, the other, evil. The god of good is Yazdan and the god of evil is Ahriman. The following ayat of the Holy Qur’an is a clear refutation of this false hypothesis.


“Say (O Muhammad): All is from Allah.” (Surah an-Nisā’ 4:78)


The claim of the Dualists can be refuted with a simple statement that there is no one except Allah (S.w.T.), who has been in existence since eternity. Whatever was in past, present or future is nothing but good. Or, at least we can say that good exceeds evil and that evil does not hold sway over good.

The Christians believe in the trinity of the Godhead. The Father (God), The Son (Jesus) and the Holy Ghost (Jibrīl). They believe that each of them have a special quality and that together they constitute the Godhead. The Qur’an flays their assertion thus:


“Certainly they disbelieve who say, ‘Surely Allah is the third (person) of Three’; and there is no god but One God.” (Surah al-Mā’ida 5:73)


The Holy Qur’an clearly states that Allah (S.w.T.) is not one-third of a god. He is the One and only One God.

The belief in Trinity is not exclusive to the Christians. Hindus and Buddhists also ascribe to it.

Some people allege that there are separate gods for every phenomenon. That is, god of wind, god of sea, etc. This is another form of Polytheism. These people consider different creations to be the handiwork of different gods. These idolaters and polytheists worship multiple deities. Their polytheistic belief has also been denounced in the Holy Qur’an:


“Are diverse lords better or Allah, the One, the Supreme?” (Surah Yūsuf 12:39)


When we say that Allah is one, we do not mean numerically one, we mean that in terms of God, there is only one all powerful force and there is no potential for more or less, so it is more accurate to say that there is no other God, and He is infinite. If someone says we mean Allah is one numerically, then they are limiting Him, they are saying that He is limited by numbers, just like I am limited by numbers. It would be the same as limiting Allah to a place, weight or time. These are all created attributes that do not apply to Allah. To confirm this Allah says :


57|3|He is the First and the Last, and the Outer and the Inner, and He has knowledge of all things.


So how can there be any other god besides Allah when He is the First and the Last and all of creation is from Him?

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