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Shirk (Islam)

Shirk (polytheism))

Shirk (Arabic: ‫ )شرك‬is the Islamic concept of the sin of polytheism specifically, but in a
more general way refers to worshipping other than Allah, associating partners with him,
giving his characteristics to others beside him, or not believing in his characteristics.
Within Islam, Major Shirk is a forgivable sin if one repents from it while one is alive, but
according to Islamic texts, anyone who dies upon this sin will never enter paradise. It is
the vice that is opposed to the virtue of Tawhid, literally "declaring [that which is] one",
often translated into the English term monotheism.

The word shirk is derived from the Arabic root Š-R-K (‫)ش ر ك‬. This consonantal root
has the general meaning of "to share" (A. A. Nadwi, Vocabulary of the Qur'an). In the
context of the Qur'an, the particular sense of "sharing as an equal partner" is usually
understood, so that polytheism is "attributing a partner to Allah". In the Qur'an, shirk and
the related word (plural Stem IV active participle) mushrikūn (‫" )مشركون‬those who
commit shirk and plot against Islam" often clearly refers to the enemies of Islam (as in
verse 9.1-15) but sometimes it also refers to erring Muslims.

Shirk is defined in various ways.


Islamic commentators on the Qur'an have emphasized that pre-Islamic Arabic idolatry
made a number of godlings (most memorably the three goddesses al-Manāt, al-Lāt and
ˤUzzā) equal associates of Allah (as the Qur'an discusses in the 53rd surat) and the word
mushrikūn is often translated into English as "polytheists".

Other forms of shirk include the worship of wealth and other material objects. This is
pointed in the Qur'an in one of the story of the Children of Israel, when they took a calf
made of gold for worship (Qur'an 7:148-150). Another form of shirk is to revere a leader
(religious or not) beyond limits, as mentioned in Qur'an (9:31).

In a theological context one commits shirk by associating some lesser being with Allah.
This sin is committed if one imagines that there is some other spirit than Allah whom it is
suitable to worship. Many Islamic theologians 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 creation). In the same
way, the act of shirk is extended to include such things as the notion that God possesses
humanlike anthropomorphic qualities as well as acts of worship or piety whose inward
goal is pride, caprice, or a desire for public admiration.

Categories of Major Shirk

Derived from the Qur'an and the prophetic tradition (Sunnah), there are three main
categories of Shirk in Islam.

Shirk in Rubūbīyah (Lordship)

This category of Shirk refers to either the belief that others share God'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
• Shirk by negation - This is Shirk in Rubūbīyah (Lordship)

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

Shirk in al-Asma was-Sifat (the names and attributes of Allah)

Shirk in this category includes both the common pagan practice of giving God the
attributes of His creation as well as the act of giving created beings God's names and

• Shirk by humanization - In this aspect of Shirk in al-Asma was-Sifat, God 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 God 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 in al-Asma was-Sifat relates to cases
where created beings or things are given or claim God'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 God. Their main three idols were: al-Lat
taken from God'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 God.

Shirk In al-'Ibadah (Worship)

In this category of Shirk, acts of worship are directed to other than 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-'Ebadah has two main aspects.

• Ash-Shirk al-Akbar (Major Shirk) - This form of Shirk occurs when any act of
worship is directed to other than Allah. It represents the most obvious form of
idolatry which the prophets were specifically sent by God to call the masses of
mankind away from. Examples of this shirk, asking forgiveness, admittance to
paradise and other things that only Allah can provide, from other than Allah.

Ash-Shirk al-Asghar (Minor Shirk)

o Minor Shirk

Mahmud ibn Lubayd reported, "God's messenger said: "The thing I fear for you
the most is ash-Shirk al-Asghar (minor shirk)."
The companions asked "Oh! messenger of God, what is minor Shirk?"
He replied "Ar-Riya (showing off), for verily God 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

• Secret Shirk

Mahmud ibn Lubayd also said, "The Prophet came out and announced, 'O people,
beware of secret Shirk!'
The people asked, 'O messenger of God, 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."

Swearing by other than Allah

This is considered minor Shirk, unless the one who swore believes that whoever he swore
by is equal to or worthy of Allah's worth.