A discourse on what is not Shirk (Polytheism)

Islamic beliefs and information

A discourse on what is not Shirk (Polytheism)

Adnan Chishti Attari Madani

In the previous issue, there was discourse on the following various types of shirk: equating beings, names, actions and commands [to those of Allah Almighty respectively]. Here, another two forms of shirk will be discussed.

Equating someone or something in worship to Allah Almighty

Worship is for none other than Allah Almighty. To make a partner for Allah Almighty in worship, or consider someone else worthy of worship, is called shirk fi al-Ibadat (shirk in worship). For example, the Mushrikeen (polytheists) of Makkah had placed 360 idols inside the Ka’bah that they would worship. Worship is exclusively the right of Allah Almighty as the Quran states:

وَ اعْبُدُوا اللّٰهَ وَ لَا تُشْرِكُوْا بِهٖ شَیْــٴًـا

And worship Allah and associate no one with Him;

[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 5, Surah Al-Nisa, Verse 36)

The Quran states in another place:

قُلْ اِنِّیْ نُهِیْتُ اَنْ اَعْبُدَ الَّذِیْنَ تَدْعُوْنَ مِنْ دُوْنِ اللّٰهِؕ-

Say you (O Beloved), ‘I have been forbidden that I worship those whom you worship other than Allah.’

[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 7, Surah Al-An’aam, Verse 56)

Equating attributes to Allah Almighty’s attributes

To make creation a partner in any of Allah Almighty’s attributes, or to accept anyone or anything else as having attributes in the same manner as Him, is called shirk fi al-Sifaat (shirk in attributes). For example, being Qadeem [Pre-Eternal] is an attribute of Allah—He always has existed and will always exist. For a person to now claim that someone or something from creation always has existed and always will exist, is equating someone to Allah Almighty in an attribute that is exclusive to Him.

Understanding what is not shirk

It is necessary to understand that shirk in attributes is only found if one accepts someone else to have an attribute in the same manner as for Allah Almighty. Shah Wali-Ullah رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه, the Hadees scholar of Delhi, states: ‘(اَلشِّرک ُ اَنْ يَّثبُتَ لِغَيرِ اللهِ سُبحانَه وَ تَعالٰی شيئًا مِنَ الصِّفاتِ الْمُختَصَّةِ بِه الخ)’ Translation: ‘To establish an attribute to other than Allah Almighty from those attributes that are exclusive to Him is shirk. (Al-Fouz-ul-Kabeer, p. 21) Some of the attributes that are specific to Allah Almighty are His Ilm-e-Zaati [knowledge that has not been given to Him by anyone else], Azali [eternal], Abadi [everlasting], Qadeem [Pre-Eternal], etc.

Furthermore, it is also of paramount importance to understand that applying the ruling of shirk simply based on two words that appear the same or have the same meaning is reckless [an example is given ahead]. This is because we find in numerous places of the Quran that one particular word or attribute that has been used for Allah Almighty has also been used for His creation. Had the use of these words in this manner constituted shirk, then their use would not have been found in the Quran; because the Quran was sent to remove shirk and not, we seek refuge in Allah, to promote it.

Both, Allah and His Messenger, are compassionate and merciful

Allah Almighty has made the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم the manifestation of His attributes. It is for this reason that we find in many places of the Quran that an attribute which has been used for Allah Almighty has also been used for the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم. For example, Allah Almighty states:

اِنَّ رَبَّكُمْ لَرَءُوْفٌ رَّحِیْمٌۙ(۷)

Indeed, your Lord is Most Compassionate, Most Merciful.

[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 14, Surah Al-Nahl, Verse 7)

In this verse, Allah Almighty has mentioned two of His attributes: compassion and mercy. At another place in the Holy Quran, it has been said regarding the Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم:

لَقَدْ جَآءَكُمْ رَسُوْلٌ مِّنْ اَنْفُسِكُمْ عَزِیْزٌ عَلَیْهِ مَا عَنِتُّمْ حَرِیْصٌ عَلَیْكُمْ بِالْمُؤْمِنِیْنَ رَءُوْفٌ رَّحِیْمٌ(۱۲۸)

Indeed, there has come to you that Messenger from amongst yourselves; heavy upon him is your suffering, he immensely desires your wellbeing; utmost kind, merciful for the Muslims.

[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 11, Surah Al-Tawbah, Verse 128)

Here, compassion and mercy are two attributes that have also been ascribed to the Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم. Allah Almighty Himself has ascribed the same words to Himself and His beloved messenger صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم. No Muslim can ever think of this to be equating or comparing the Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم as being similar to Allah Almighty and therefore be shirk, for it most certainly is not.

To learn more about shirk, refer to the article ‘This is not Shirk’ in part 3 of the next issue.

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