Shirk (Polytheism): Its types and forms
Muhammad Adnan Chishti Attari Madani
Two types of Shirk (Polytheism)
In terms of whether or not Shirk is perceptible, it has two types:
1. Shirk Jali
2. Shirk Khafi
Committing Shirk Jali, even for a moment, immediately makes a person unbeliever. As for Shirk Khafi, there is no doubt that its perpetrator is sinful, although he will still remain a Muslim and not become a Kafir (disbeliever). There is a clear distinction between Shirk Khafi and Shirk Jali, and they have separate definitions and rulings. Believing Shirk Khafi to be Shirk Jali is utter ignorance and injustice, and it fuels mischief.
Shaykh Abdul Haq Muhaddis of Dehlwi رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه, writes under the commentary of a Hadees: ‘In summary, there are two types of Shirk: Jali and Khafi. To worship idols is open Shirk. The one who performs actions for other than Allah also covertly performs idolatry, as it is said, ‘کُلُّ مَا صَدَّکَ عَنِ اللهِ فَھُوَ صَنَمُکَ’ ‘Everything that turns you away from Allah Almighty is your idol.’ (Ashi'a-tul-Lam'aat, vol. 4, p. 272)
Shirk Jali and Shirk Khafi are also known as Shirk Akbar and Shirk Asghar respectively. Our Beloved Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said: ‘The thing that I fear most for you is Shirk Asghar.’ The companions رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُم replied, ‘وَمَا الشِّرْكُ الْاَصْغَرُ يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ؟’ ‘What is Shirk Asghar, O Messenger of Allah?’ He صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم responded, ‘الرِّيَاءُ’ meaning ‘Showing off.’ (Musnad Ahmad, vol. 9, p. 160, Hadees: 23692)
Why is showing off Shirk Asghar?
The Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم stated: ‘Whoever fasts to show off has committed Shirk. Whoever performed Salah to show off has committed Shirk. Whoever gave charity whilst showing off has committed Shirk.’ (Shu’ab-ul-Iman, vol. 5, p. 337, Hadees 6844)
A Mushrik (polytheist) desires to please his false deities through worship, and the one showing off intends to perform worship to accomplish his false objectives, i.e. please people. It is for this reason that the one showing off is a Mushrik of the lower degree, and his showing off is Shirk of a lower degree. The belief of the open Mushrik is corrupt, whereas the belief of the one who shows off is not corrupt, rather his action and intention are spoilt; this is the reason that showing off has been deemed as the lesser or smaller Shirk. (Mirat-ul-Manajih, vol. 7, p. 144, summarised) It can be said that Shirk I’tiqaadi (polytheistic belief) is clear Shirk, whereas Shirk ‘Amali (Shirk in action) is to show off.
Various forms of Shirk
Focussing on the essence of Shirk makes one thing very clear; its foundation is built on equating something or someone to Allah Almighty. So long as someone is not equated to or considered like Allah Almighty, there is no Shirk. On the Day of Judgement, it is this equating that the disbelievers will speak of about their idols in the following way:
تَاللّٰهِ اِنْ كُنَّا لَفِیْ ضَلٰلٍ مُّبِیْنٍۙ(۹۷) اِذْ نُسَوِّیْكُمْ بِرَبِّ الْعٰلَمِیْنَ(۹۸)
‘By Allah, we were indeed in open error.’ ‘Since we took you equal to the Lord of all the worlds.’
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 19, Surah Al-Shu’araa, Verses 97-98)
This equating has numerous forms
1. Equating beings (zaat)
2. Equating names
3. Equating actions
4. Equating commands
5. Equating worship
6. Equating attributes
Equating to the being of Allah Almighty refers to considering anyone other than Him to be God or like God. This is also called شِرک ِفی الذَّات [Shirk fi al-zaat]. Allah is one, and He has no partner. He Himself states:
وَ هُوَ الَّذِیْ فِی السَّمَآءِ اِلٰهٌ وَّ فِی الْاَرْضِ اِلٰهٌؕ-وَ هُوَ الْحَكِیْمُ الْعَلِیْمُ(۸۴)
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 25, Surah Al-Zukhruf, Verse 84)
Furthermore, it is stated in Surah al-Ikhlas:
لَمْ یَلِدْ ﳔ وَ لَمْ یُوْلَدْۙ(۳) وَ لَمْ یَكُنْ لَّهٗ كُفُوًا اَحَدٌ۠(۴)
‘He has no children, nor is He born from anyone.’
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 30, Surah Al-Ikhlaas, Verses 3-4)
Allah Almighty has no partner in the names that are specific to Him. Similar to His being and attributes, He is also one in His names. To deem someone from creation a partner in the names specific for Allah Almighty is called شِرک ِفی الْاَسْماء [Shirk fi al-asmaa], such as calling someone ‘Allah.’ The Glorious Quran states:
هَلْ تَعْلَمُ لَهٗ سَمِیًّا۠(۶۵)
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 16, Surah Maryam, Verse 65)
In relation to this verse, Sayyiduna Imam Umar Bin Ali Hanbali رَحْمَةُ الـلّٰـهِ عَلَيْه mentions:
‘ليس له شريك فی اسمه و ذلك لأنهم وان كانوا يطلقون لفظ الإله على الوثن فما اطلقوا لفظ الله تعالى على شیء’
‘Allah Almighty also has no partner in His names, and this is because although the disbelievers and polytheists would call their idols ‘god’, they too would not apply the word ‘Allah’ for something.’ (Al Lubab fi ‘Uloom-ul-Kitab, vol. 13, p. 102)
In Khazaain-ul-‘Irfan, it states: ‘Even in His name, nobody has partnership with Him. His oneness is so clear that even the polytheists did not name any of their false deities ‘Allah.’ (Khazaain-ul-‘Irfan, p. 579)
Declaring someone else to have partnership in those actions of Allah Almighty that are specific to Him is called شِرک ِفی الْاَفْعال [Shirk fi al-af’aal]. For example, granting prophethood and Messenger ship to someone is the action of Allah Almighty, as He states:
اَللّٰهُ یَصْطَفِیْ مِنَ الْمَلٰٓىٕكَةِ رُسُلًا وَّ مِنَ النَّاسِؕ-اِنَّ اللّٰهَ سَمِیْعٌۢ بَصِیْرٌۚ(۷۵)
Allah chooses the Messengers from the angels (e.g. Jibra’eel, etc.) and from men. Indeed, Allah is All Hearing, All Seeing.
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 17, Surah Hajj, Verse 75)
For this reason, to believe that anyone other than Allah Almighty grants Prophethood is Shirk in action.
Believing there to be a partner in the commands of Allah Almighty or equating the command of anyone other than Allah to His command is called شِرک ِفی الْاحکام [Shirk fi al-Ahkam]. The Glorious Quran states:
وَّ لَا یُشْرِكُ فِیْ حُكْمِهٖۤ اَحَدًا(۲۶)
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 15, Surah Al-Kahf, Verse 26)
To learn about the remaining types of Shirk and to gain other beneficial knowledge, refer to part 3, entitled 'This is not Shirk', in the next edition.