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Shirk (Islam)
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In Islam, shirk (Arabic: ???? �irk) is the sin of practicing idolatry or
polytheism, i.e. the deification or worship of anyone or anything besides the
singular God,[1] i.e. Allah. Literally, it means ascribing or the establishment of
"partners" placed beside God. It is the vice that is opposed to the virtue of
Tawhid (monotheism).[2] Those who practice shirk are termed mushrikun.[3] Mushrikun
(pl. of mushrik) are those who practice shirk, which literally means "association"
and refers to accepting other gods and divinities alongside the god of the Muslims
- Allah (as God's "associates").[4] In Islamic law shirk as a crime, can just be
attributed to Muslims, since only a Muslim is legally responsible not to associate
any partner to Allah.[5]

Within Islam, shirk is an unforgivable crime if it remains unpardoned before death:

Allah may forgive any sin if one dies in that state except for committing shirk.[2]

The word �irk comes from the Arabic root �-R-K (? ? ?), with the general meaning of
"to share".[7] In the context of the Quran, the particular sense of "sharing as an
equal partner" is usually understood, so that polytheism means "attributing a
partner to Allah". In the Qur'an, shirk and the related word mu�rikun
(??????)�those who commit shirk and plot against Islam�often refer to the enemies
of Islam (as in verse 9.1�15).

1 Quran
2 Theological interpretation
3 Greater and lesser shirk
3.1 Greater shirk
3.1.1 Rububiyah (Lordship)
3.1.2 al-Asma was-Sifat (names and attributes)
3.1.3 al-'Ibadah (worship)
3.2 Lesser shirk
4 See also
5 Notes
6 References
7 External links
Islamic commentators on the Quran have emphasized that pre-Islamic Arabic idolatry
made a number of godlings (most memorably the three goddesses al-Manat, al-lat
and ?Uzza) equal associates of Allah (as the Qur'an discusses in the 53rd surat)
and the word mushrikun (singular: mushrik) is often translated into English as

The Quran and what the people of Nuh's community would say in an effort by the
idolaters to ignore and mock Nuh. "They (idolaters) have said: "You shall not leave
your gods nor shall you leave Wadd, nor Suwa', nor Yaghuth, nor Ya'uq nor Nasr."
(Qur'an 71:23)

Other forms of shirk include the worship of wealth and other material objects. This
is pointed out in the Qur'an in one of the stories of the Children of Israel, when
they took a calf made of gold for worship,[8] and for which Moses ordered them to

Another form of shirk mentioned in the Qur'an is to take scholars of religion,

monks, divines, or religious lawyers as Lord(s) in practice by following their
doctrines, and/or by following their rulings on what is lawful when it is at
variance to the law or doctrines prescribed by Allah's revelation.[9][10]

Theological interpretation
Medieval Muslim (as well as Jewish) philosophers identified belief in the Trinity
with the heresy of shirk, in Arabic, (or shituf in Hebrew), meaning
"associationism", in limiting the infinity of God by associating his divinity with
physical existence.[11]

In a theological context one commits shirk by associating some lesser being with
Allah. This sin is committed if one imagines that there is a partner with Allah
whom it is suitable to worship. It is stated in the Quran: "Allah forgives not that
partners should be set up with Him, but He forgives anything else, to whom He
pleases, to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin most heinous indeed"
(Qur'an 4:48). Many Islamic theologians[who?] extend the sense of worship to
include praying to some other being to intercede with Allah on one's behalf, rather
than taking one's case to God Himself. The limits of the concept of worship are
quite elastic and theologians often describe excessive veneration of some artifact
here on earth as shirk.

Atheism is described as shirk because it denies the position of Allah as the unique
creator and sustainer of the universe (tawhid ar-rububiyya, the Unity of Lordship)
and muslims who declare that they are atheists are being punished in Muslim
countries.[12] In the same way, the act of shirk is extended to include such things
as the notion that God possesses human-like anthropomorphic qualities as well as
acts of worship or piety whose inward goal is pride, caprice, or a desire for
public admiration, although public prayer is a core Islamic aspect of faith,
encouraged and supported in the Quran.

The status of the People of the Book (ahl al-kitab), particularly Jews and
Christians, with respect to the Islamic notions of unbelief is not clearcut.
Charles Adams writes that the Quran reproaches the People of the Book with kufr for
rejecting Muhammad's message when they should have been the first to accept it as
possessors of earlier revelations, and singles out Christians for disregarding the
evidence of God's unity.[13] The Quranic verse 5:73 ("Certainly they disbelieve
[kafara] who say: God is the third of three"), among other verses, has been
traditionally understood in Islam as rejection of the Christian Trinity doctrine,
[14] though modern scholarship has suggested alternative interpretations.[note 1]
Other Quranic verses strongly deny the deity of Jesus Christ, son of Mary and
reproach the people who treat Jesus as equal with God as disbelievers who will be
doomed to eternal punishment in Hell.[15][16] Quran also does not recognize the
attribute of Jesus as the Son of God or God himself, it respects Jesus as a prophet
and messenger of God sent to children of Israel.[17] Some Muslim thinkers such as
Mohamed Talbi have viewed the most extreme Quranic presentations of the dogmas of
the Trinity and divinity of Jesus (5:19, 5:75-76, 5:119) as non-Christian formulas
that were rejected by the Church.[18]

Cyril Glasse criticizes the use of kafirun [pl. of kafir] to describe Christians as
"loose usage".[19] According to the Encyclopedia of Islam, in traditional Islamic
jurisprudence, ahl al-kitab are "usually regarded more leniently than other kuffar
[pl. of kafir]..." and "in theory" a Muslim commits a punishable offense if he says
to a Jew or a Christian: "Thou unbeliever".[20]

Historically, People of the Book permanently residing under Islamic rule were
entitled to a special status known as dhimmi, while those visiting Muslim lands
received a different status known as musta'min.[20]

Greater and lesser shirk

Shirk is defined in various ways. Some argue that there is only one type of shirk.
Muhammad has classified shirk into two categories:[2]

Greater shirk (Shirk-al-Akbar)

Open and apparent
Lesser shirk (Shirk-al-Asghar)
Concealed or hidden
Greater shirk
Greater shirk or Shirke-al-Akbar means open polytheism. Muhammad describes major
shirk in two forms:[2]

To associate anyone with Allah Taala as His partner (to believe in more than one
To associate Allah's attributes with someone else. (Attributing, considering, or
portraying Allah's knowledge or might to being those of anyone else)
Other interpretations also derived from the Qur'an and the prophetic tradition
(Sunnah) divide shirk into three main categories. Shirk can be committed by acting
against the three different categories.

Rububiyah (Lordship)
This category of shirk refers to either the belief that others share Allah's
Lordship over creation as His equal or near equal, or to the belief that there
exists no Lord over creation at all.

Shirk by association
This is the shirk concerned with associating "others" with Allah.
Shirk by negation
This is shirk in Rububiyah (Lordship).
al-Asma was-Sifat (names and attributes)
Shirk in this category includes both the non-believer practices of giving Allah the
attributes of his creation as well as the act of giving created beings Allah's
names and attributes.

Shirk by humanization
In this aspect of shirk, Allah is given the form and qualities of human beings and
animals. Due to man's superiority over animals, the human form is more commonly
used by idolaters to represent Allah in creation. Consequently, the image of the
Creator is often painted, moulded or carved in the shape of human beings possessing
the physical features of those who worship them.
Shirk by deification
This form of shirk relates to cases where created beings or things are given or
claim Allah's names or his attributes. For example, it was the practice of the
ancient Arabs to worship idols whose names were derived from the names of Allah.
Their main three idols were; Al-lat (taken from Allah's name al-Elah), al-'Uzza
(taken from al-'Aziz), and al-Manat (taken from al-Mannan). During the era of
Muhammad there was also a man in a region of Arabia called Yamamah, who claimed to
be a prophet and took the name Rahman which, in Islam, belongs only to Allah.
al-'Ibadah (worship)
In this category of shirk, acts of worship are directed to others besides Allah and
the reward for worship is sought from the creation instead of the Creator. As in
the case of the previous categories, shirk in al-'Ibadah has two main aspects.

This form of shirk occurs when any act of worship is directed to someone else
besides Allah. It represents the most obvious form of idolatry, against which the
prophets were specifically sent by Allah, calling the masses of mankind to give it
up. Examples of this shirk are asking for forgiveness, admittance to paradise, etc.
that only Allah can provide, from others besides Allah.

Lesser shirk
Lesser shirk or Shirke-e-Asghar means hidden polytheism. A person commits hidden
polytheism when he professes tawhid (there is no god except Allah) but his thoughts
and actions do not reflect his belief.[2]

"One who offers the ritual prayers in an ostentatious way is a polytheist. One who
keeps the fast, or gives alms, or performs the Hajj to show the public his
righteousness or to earn good name is a polytheist."

Mahmud ibn Lubayd reported, "Allah's messenger said: 'The thing I fear for you the
most is ash-Shirk al-Asghar.'"

The companions asked, "O messenger of Allah, what is that?"

He replied, "Ar-Riya (showing off), for verily Allah will say on the Day of
Resurrection when people are receiving their rewards, 'Go to those for whom you
were showing off in the material world and see if you can find any reward from
Mahmud ibn Lubayd also said, "The Prophet came out and announced, 'O people, beware
of secret Shirk!'"

The people asked, "O messenger of Allah, what is secret Shirk?"

He replied, "When a man gets up to pray and strives to beautify his prayer because
people are looking at him; that is secret Shirk."
Umar Ibn Al-Khattab narrated that the Messenger of Allah said: "Whoever swears by
other than Allah has committed an act of kufr or shirk." (graded hasan by Al-
Tirmidhi and saheeh by Al-Hakim)

Ibn Mas�ood, one of Muhammad�s companions, said: "That I should swear by Allah upon
a lie is more preferable to me than that I should swear by another upon the

See also
icon Religion portal
God in Islam
Islam and blasphemy
Pre-Islamic Arabia
Taghut (idolatry)
Shahada (confession)
That this verse criticizes a deviant form of Trinitarian belief which overstressed
distinctiveness of the three persons at the expense of their unity. Modern scholars
have also interpreted it as a reference to Jesus, who was often called "the third
of three" in Syriac literature and as an intentional over-simplification of
Christian doctrine intended to highlight its weakness from a strictly monotheistic
Nonbelief: An Islamic Perspective
Kamoonpuri, S: "Basic Beliefs of Islam" pages 42�58. Tanzania Printers Limited,
Glass�, Cyril; Smith, Huston (2003-01-01). The New Encyclopedia of Islam. Rowman
Altamira. p. 429. ISBN 9780759101906.
Gimaret, D. (2012). "S_h_irk". In P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van
Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd ed.). Brill. doi:10.1163/1573-
Cenap �akmak Islam: A Worldwide Encyclopedia [4 volumes] ABC-CLIO 2017 ISBN 978-1-
610-69217-5 page 1450
"Qur'an 4:48".
see e.g. A. A. Nadwi, "Vocabulary of the Qur'an"
"Qur'an 7:148�150".
"Qur'an 9:31".
"Yusuf Ali translation of 9:31, footnote 1266".
Learning from other faiths Hermann H�ring, Janet Martin Soskice, Felix Wilfred -
2003 - 141 "Medieval Jewish (as well as Muslim) philosophers identified belief in
the Trinity with the heresy of shituf (Hebrew) or shirk (Arabic): 'associationism',
or limiting the infinity of Allah by associating his divinity with creaturely
"Atheists and Islam: No God, not even Allah". The Economist. 24 November 2012.
Retrieved 3 March 2018.
Charles Adams (rev. by A. Kevin Reinhart) (2009). "Kufr". In John L. Esposito. The
Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
doi:10.1093/acref/9780195305135.001.0001. ISBN 9780195305135. (Subscription
required (help)).
Thomas, David (2006). "Trinity". In Jane Dammen McAuliffe. Encyclopaedia of the
Qur?an. Brill. (Subscription required (help)).
Joseph, Jojo, Qur�an-Gospel Convergence: The Qur�an�s Message To Christians,
Journal of Dharma, 1 (January-March 2010), pp. 55-76
Mazuz, Haggai (2012) Christians in the Qur?an: Some Insights Derived from the
Classical Exegetic Approach, Journal of Dharma 35, 1 (January-March 2010), 55-76
Schirrmacher, Christine, The Islamic view of Christians: Qur�an and Hadith,
Carr�, Olivier (2003). Mysticism and Politics: A Critical Reading of Fi ?ilal Al-
Qur'an by Sayyid Qu?b. Boston: Brill. pp. 63�64. ISBN 978-9004125902.
Glasse, Cyril (1989). The New Encyclopedia of Islam (Revised 2001 ed.). NY:
Altamira Press. p. 247. ISBN 978-0759101890.
Bj�rkman, W. (2012). "Kafir". In P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van
Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. Encyclopaedia of Islam (2nd ed.). Brill. doi:10.1163/1573-
"Kitab At-Tawheed" by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, chapter 40
External links
Nonbelief: An Islamic Perspective
Zebiri, Kate (1995). "Relations Between Muslims and Non-Muslims in the Thought of
Western-Educated Muslim Intellectuals � Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations".
Islam and Christian�Muslim Relations. 6 (2): 255�277.
Shirk in legislation
People and things in the Quran
Categories: Islamic terminologyIslamic theologyPolytheismSinIdolatry
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