Who can appreciate Tawḥīd without knowing Shirk? Anyone who does not know shirk will not be able to appreciate Tawḥīd.
Allāh the Exalted said:
Verily, Whoever associates partners with Allāh, Allāh has forbidden to him Paradise and his abode will be the Hellfire. And of helpers there are none for those who do wrong (Ẓālimūn) [5:72]
He also said:
Indeed Allāh does not forgive that partners are associated with him (in worship) but He forgives what is lesser than that to whomsoever He wills. And whoever associates partners with Allāh then he has strayed far away. [4:116]
This Khuṭbah is about Shirk – the grave sin of associating partners with Allāh in any form or fashion.
One of the ways Allāh uses in the Qurʾān is to explain things by giving their opposites, or mentioning their opposites along with them. For example He said:
Say: Are those equal those who know and those who do not?
And the seeing and the blind are not alike, nor the darknesses and the light.
Not alike are the companions of the Hellfire and the companions of Paradise.
This principle (of opposites) is something which we see all around us, in front of our eyes and something around which the whole world revolves around.
Who can appreciate the day if there was no night and vice versa?
Who can appreciate happiness if there was no misery?
Who can appreciate affluence if there was no poverty?
Who can appreciate well-being/fitness if there was no illness
Who can appreciate life if there was no death?
Allāh has explained both Tawḥīd (worshipping Allāh in His Oneness or Uniqueness, in the manner which He has required from His creation) and its opposite, Shirk, in a most comprehensive manner.
Who can appreciate Tawḥīd without knowing Shirk? Anyone who does not know shirk will not be able to appreciate tawḥīd. A poet said:
And by their opposites are things made manifest/clear.
So we will explain both Tawḥīd and Shirk to get to know the reality of Shirk. We will begin by Tawḥīd.
FIRSTLY: To believe that Allāh is the CREATOR, OWNER and REGULATOR of the whole of creation. He created everything from nothing and no one helped Him in this. He alone owns the whole of creation and no one shares with Him in respect to this. He alone regulates the affairs of the universe such as giving and taking life, sending the rain down, giving sustenance, alternating the night and the day, raising someone, giving him honour and humiliating someone, lowering him.
Allāh is the Creator of every single thing.
He also said:
To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and the earth.
He also said:
He arranges/regulates every affair from the heavens to the earth.
So Allāh is ALONE, UNIQUE in all of these three matters, CREATING, OWNING and REGULATING. He has no partners that help Him or who are equal or rivals to Him in any of these affairs.
SECONDLY: To direct all forms of worship to Allāh alone since His being the sole Creator, Owner and Regulator justifies such worship for Him. All forms of worship, whether actions of the heart (that is love, fear, hope, reliance, etc…) statements of the tongue (praising, dhikr, seeking help etc…) or actions of the limbs (prayer, supplication, sacrificing, repenting etc…)
NOTE: Just merely believing in Him in the way described above is not sufficient to make one a Muslim in the proper sense of the word since the mushriks (pagans) of Mecca whom the Prophet fought against and whom Allāh declared as disbelievers too affirmed these matters. They affirmed that Allāh is the creator of the heavens and the earth, gives and takes life, that He alone sends down rain from the sky, has power over sight and hearing, regulates the affairs of the universe, that He is the Lord of the Throne, that He is al-ʿAzīz and al-Raḥīm, even affirming some of His Names! But that did not enter them into the fold of Islām since they refused to direct their worship solely and exclusively to Him.
The above is contained in Sūrah Ikhlās, the Sūrah that is known to be equal to one-third of the Qurʾān (in its meaning)
Say He is the Allāh, the Unique – He is as-Samad (Eternal, Self-Sufficient Master which the whole of creation needs and depends upon) – He begets not nor is he begotten (He does not come out of or from anything and nothing comes out of or from Him) – And there is none co-equal or comparable to Him.
It is due to this Tawḥīd that the Muslims GAIN SUCCESS, VICTORY and AUTHORITY in this world and the next.
To the extent that the muslims as individuals fulfill this Tawḥīd, this requirement, this purpose of existence, to that same extent will Allāh aid them, help them, give them victory, rule and authority and the land.
To the extent that the Muslims fail in this Tawḥīd and go wrong, to that same extent will humiliation become their lot, will Allāh remove blessings from them, abandon them and punish them.
This is a very important point, the relevance of which we shall investigate in light of what is and constitutes Shirk.
Allāh the Exalted said:
And most of them do not believe in Allāh except while they commit shirk (illā wahum mushrikūn)
Shirk can be in terms of a BELIEF, a WORD or STATEMENT, and an ACTION. We will list examples of each one and I would like you to reflect upon how widespread some of these beliefs and actions are in the Muslim ummah. People would think them to be from Islām and in reality Islām is totally against them.
So with respect to Belief then:
1. To hold the belief that Allāh is everywhere in His Essence, or that everything is Allāh and Allāh is everything (wahdatul-wujood). This is a widespread belief and you may get called a disbeliever for believing its opposite, that Allāh the Sublime and Most High is above the seven heavens. In fact this point of belief that Allāh is above the seven heavens, separate from His creation is the only one which has more than a thousand beliefs, either direct or indirect in the Qurʾān. Allāh says:
And He is al-Qaahir, above His servants
And al-Raḥmān has ascended the Throne and how many times does Allāh say: The angels arise up to him, the angels descend, He sends down the rain, that He sent down the Qurʾān, and other such statements which make clear this belief that Allāh is separate from His creation and high above them. Furthermore, the verses of the Qurʾān, sayings of the Messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam), sayings of the Companions, their successors and those scholars who followed in their way, which establish this belief are numerous and easily accessible for the one who is in need of them for clarification.
2. To believe that it is not possible to reach Allāh directly, rather we have to go through intermediaries! And where does this belief stand in relation to the speech of Allāh:
And when My servants ask you concerning Me then verily, I am near. I respond to the call of the supplicant when He calls upon Me. Let them therefore obey Me (respond to Me) and believe in Me so that they may be led aright.
In fact this is the claim of the pagans of old, those of Mecca, since they said, as Allāh the Sublime quotes them:
We do not worship them except that they may bring us closer to Allāh.
3. To hold the belief that any individual has power, capability of bringing sustenance, or providing protection, granting offspring, etc… regardless of whether he is a pious person, an angel or a prophet. The Messenger of Allāh was commanded to say by Allāh:
Say: I do not have any control over any benefit or harm over myself except what Allāh wills
Yet the number of so called ‘Pirs’ and ‘Walīs’ who are resorted to for help, sustenance, male offspring and other such matters can be counted on the hairs on ones head! The number of tombs of dead people visited for the same matters is also staggering. It is a widespread practice in many of the Muslim lands.
A few days before the Messenger of Allāh died he said: May Allāh curse the Jews and the Christians for taking the graves of their prophets as places of worship.
He also said: Those before you took the graves of their prophets as places as places of worship. Do not take graves as places of worship for verily I forbid you to do so.
4. To hold the belief that anyone besides Allāh has knowledge of the unseen. Allāh commanded the Messenger (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam) to say:
Say: None who is in the heavens and the earth knows the Unseen except Allāh.
The Messenger of Allāh also said: The prayer of one who visits a fortune teller will not be accepted for forty days.
This would include things such as reading the stars or having ones fortune told by the various methods current in the present time. All such people are really imposters who derive their knowledge from the jinn. The jinn themselves try to get this knowledge from the angels in the sky. What they get is mixed with a hundred lies and this is what is passed on to the diviners and fortune-tellers.
Now we’ll show instances of Shirk which are can occur by our words
1. Swearing by other than Allāh
2. Saying for example, if it had not been for the pilot we would surely have crashed, or if it had not been for the dog, the burglar would have stolen everything, or if it had not been for you… and so on. Similar statements were said in the time of the Messenger of Allāh and he put and end to them. It was said to him (ṣallallāhu ʿalayhi wa-sallam): What you willed, and he replied: No, say what Allāh willed then what Muḥammad willed, and there are other such examples. This is equivalent to setting up partners and rivals to Allāh the Exalted.
And now some instances of Shirk which occur by our actions
1. Directing any of the acts of worship to other than Allāh, such as supplicating, sacrificing, ṭawāf etc… whether to an idol, a stone, an angel, a dead person, a prophet etc..
2. Wearing talismans, charms, hanging a horseshoe, touching wood, throwing salt behind your shoulder and other such matters. All these things constitute shirk.
Talismans is a multi rupee business amongst the Asians (especially the Pakistani and Bangladeshi peoples). How many a pir has had an early retirement due to the fortune he has made from the ignorant masses? ‘A ta’weez for all needs’
The Messenger of Allāh said: Whoever hangs/wears a talisman has committed shirk (man alaqa tameematan faqad ashrak). He also said: Verily, spells talismans and charms are shirk. He also said: May Allāh cause unrest and failure to whoever wears a talisman and wears it on others.
3. Accepting as lawful what the scholars make lawful despite the fact it is unlawful, and accepting as unlawful what the scholars have made unlawful despite the fact that it is lawful. Just like Allāh said:
They have taken their priests and their rabbis as Lords besides Allāh.
Thus there are people nowadays who allow such things as music, shaking hands with women, and other such matters. And the people follow them in that, because these are things which their souls desired in the first place
4. Seeking protection in other than Allāh. Such as calling on dead people for help, thinking that they can help. Asking them for help in those matters which Allāh alone can help.
5. Doing actions for other than the sake of Allāh, such as worldly motivations, seeking praise, honour etc…
This has been a short and not an extensive list of matters which constitute shirk.
Many if not most of the things which we have mentioned are WIDESPREAD amongst the Muslims. These things have become their accepted faith, the dīn of Islām and this is because Islām to them is to acknowledge Allāh’s ruboobiyyah, that His creatorship, ownership and regulation of the universe and that is it.
I hope we can see now why the ummah faces problems. Allāh has explained quite clearly to us that any good that befalls us is from Him and any evil that befalls us is from our ownselves, due to our sins. And what is the biggest sin???! And is the Muslim ummah free from it?? We all know with certainty that the Muslim ummah is rampant with it!!
And now we can understand why the Muslims suffer and are oppressed in the variety of ways that we can see and perceive. It is not because we do not have a leader! Nor because we do not have a Muslim state, these may be symptoms but certainly not the cause for the one who has eyes to see and a heart with which to perceive the truth. Allāh said:
If you aid Allāh, Allāh will aid you and establish your feet firmly (upon the ground).
Ibn Kathīr explains that aiding Allāh means to worship Him (alone).
And He also said:
Allāh has promised to those amongst you who believe and do righteous deeds that He will of a surety give them succession in the earth just like he gave it to those before them and He will grant them the authority to practice their religion that which He has chosen for them. And He will surely give them in exchange, a safe security after their fear (provided) they (the believers) worship Me and DO NOT ASSOCIATE ANYTHING IN WORSHIP WITH ME. But whoever disbelieved after this then they are the fāsiqūn (rebellious).
So four conditions have been mentioned in this verse for Allāh’s promise to be fulfilled and amongst them is not committing shirk. And have we fulfilled this condition?? Then why do we lament over our problems and worries and calamities when the cause is in front of our own hands and we can see it clearly, like the daylight???
The way to remedy this is to increase our knowledge. The starting point for every individual is to increase his knowledge of tawḥīd and shirk. The first type of knowledge that is obligatory upon every Muslim is to know and understand the meaning of the kalimah – lā ilāha illā-Allāha. Under this there are many issues, some of which we have touched upon today and which need to be clearly understood by all Muslims so that this unforgivable sin of is shirk is understood and recognised and eventually rooted out from our hearts and actions.
University of Essex. Colchester, Essex, U.K.
Friday 1st December 1995