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The Origins of Shirk

Imām Muḥammad Nāṣir al-Dīn al-Albānī

A truly atharī historical account of how the disease of shirk was first released upon mankind through the whisperings of Shayṭān.

From that which has been established in the Sharīʿah (prescribed law) is that mankind was—in the beginning—a single nation upon true Tawḥīd, then Shirk (directing any part or form of worship, or anything else that is solely the right of Allāh, to other than Allāh) gradually overcame them. The basis for this is the saying of Allāh – the Most Blessed, the Most High:

كَانَ النَّاسُ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً فَبَعَثَ اللَّـهُ النَّبِيِّينَ مُبَشِّرِينَ وَمُنذِرِينَ ﴿٢١٣﴾

“Mankind was one Ummah, then Allāh sent prophets bringing good news and warnings”
[al-Baqarah 2:213].

Ibn ʿAbbās – raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu – said: “Between Nūḥ (Noah) and Ādam were ten generations, all of them were upon Sharīʿah (law) of the truth, then they differed. So Allāh sent prophets as bringers of good news and as warners.”2

Ibn ʿUrwah al-Ḥanbalī (d.837 AH) – raḥimahullāh – said: “This saying refutes those historians from the People of the Book who claim that Qābil (Cain) and his sons were fire-worshippers.”3

I say: In it is also a refutation of some of the philosophers and atheists who claim that the (natural) basis of man is Shirk, and that Tawḥīd evolved in man! The preceding āyah (verse) falsifies this claim, as do the two following authentic ḥadīth:

Firstly: His (ﷺ) saying that he related from his Lord (Allāh):

I created all my servants upon the true Religion (upon Tawḥīd, free from Shirk). Then the devils came to them and led them astray from their true Religion. They made unlawful to people that which I had made lawful for them, and they commanded them to associate in worship with Me that which I had sent down no authority.4

Allāh (عزَّ وجلَّ) in a ḥadīth Qudsī (related by Muslim (8/159))

Secondly: His (ﷺ) saying: “Every child is born upon the fitrah5 but his parents make him a Jew or a Christian or a Magian. It is like the way an animal gives birth to a natural offspring. Have you noticed any born mutilated, before you mutilate them?” Abū Hurayrah (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu) said: Recite if you wish:

فِطْرَتَ اللَّـهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا ۚ لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّـهِ ۚ﴿٣٠﴾

“Allāh’s fitrah with which He created mankind. There is to be no change to the creation (Religion) of Allāh”
[al-Rūm, 30:30].6

After this clear explanation, it is of the utmost importance for the Muslim to know how Shirk spread amongst the believers, after they were muwahhidīn (people upon Tawḥīd) Concerning the saying of Allāh – the most perfect – about the people of Nūḥ:

وَقَالُوا لَا تَذَرُنَّ آلِهَتَكُمْ وَلَا تَذَرُنَّ وَدًّا وَلَا سُوَاعًا وَلَا يَغُوثَ وَيَعُوقَ وَنَسْرًا ﴿٢٣﴾

“And they have said: You shall not forsake your gods, nor shall you forsake Wadd, nor Suwāʾ, nor Yaghūth, nor Yaʿūq, nor Naṣr”
[Nūḥ 71:23].

It has been related by a group from the Salaf (Pious Predecessors), in many narrations, that these five deities were righteous worshippers. However, when they died, Shayṭān (Satan) whispered into their people to retreat and sit at their graves. Then Shayṭān whispered to those who came after them that they should take them as idols, beautifying to them the idea that you will be reminded of them and thereby follow them in righteous conduct.

Then Shayṭān suggested to the third generation that they should worship these idols besides Allāh – The Most High – and he whispered to them that this is what their forefathers used to do!!! So Allāh sent to them Nūḥ (ʿalayhi al-Salām), commanding them to worship Allāh alone. However, none responded to his call except a few. Allāh – the Mighty and Majestic – related this whole incident in Sūrah Nūḥ.

Ibn ʿAbbās relates: “Indeed these five names of righteous men from the people of Nūḥ. When they died Shayṭān whispered to their people to make statues of them and to place these statues in their places of gathering as a reminder of them, so they did this. However, none from amongst them worshipped these statues, until when they died and the purpose of the statues was forgotten. Then (the next generation) began to worship them.”7 The likes of this have also been related by Ibn Jarīr al-Tabarī and others, from a number of the Salaf (Pious Predecessors) – raḍī Allāhu ʿanhum.

In al-Durr al-Manthūr (6/269): ʿAbdullāh Ibn Humayd relates from Abū Muttahar, who said: Yazīd Ibn al-Muhallab was mentioned to Abū Ja’far al-Bāqir (d.11H), so he said: He was killed at the place where another besides Allāh was first worshipped. Then he mentioned Wadd and said: “Wadd was a Muslim man who was loved by his people. When he died, the people began to gather around his grave in the land of Bābil (Babel), lamenting and mourning. So when Iblīs (Satan) saw them mourning and lamenting over him, he took the form of a man and came to them, saying: I see that you are mourning and lamenting over him. So why don’t you make a picture of him (i.e. a statue) and place it in your places of gatherings so that you may be reminded of him. So they said: “Yes”, and they made a picture of him and put it in their place of gathering, which reminded them of him. When Iblīs saw how they were (excessively) remembering him, he said: “Why doesn’t every man amongst you make a similar picture to keep in your own houses, so that you can be (constantly) reminded of him.” So they all said “Yes.” So each household made a picture of him, which they adored and venerated and which constantly reminded them of him. Abū Ja’far said: “Those from the later generation saw what the (previous generation) had done and considered that…to the extent that they took him as an ilāh (deity) to be worshipped besides Allāh. He then said: “This was the first idol worshipped other than Allāh, and they called this idol Wadd.”8

Thus, the wisdom of Allāh – the Blessed, The Most High – was fulfilled, when He sent Muḥammad (ﷺ) as the final Prophet and made his Sharīʿah the completion of all divinely Prescribed Laws, in that He prohibited all means and avenues by which people may fall into Shirk – which is the greatest of sins. For this reason, building shrines over graves and intending to specifically travel to them, taking them as places of festivity and gathering and swearing an oath by the inmate of a grave, have all been prohibited. All of these lead to excessiveness and lead to the worship of other than Allāh – The Most High. This being the case even more so in an age in which knowledge is diminishing, ignorance is increasing, there are few sincere advisors (to the truth) and Shayṭān is co-operating with men and jinn to misguide mankind and to take them away from the worship of Allāh alone – The Blessed, The Most High.


  1. Taken from Tahdhīr al-Sājid min Ittikhādh al-Qubūri Masājid (p. 101-106) of Shaykh al-Albānī.
  2. Related by Ibn Jarīr al-Tabarī in his Tafsīr (4/275) and al-Ḥākim (2/546) who said: “It is authentic according to the criterion of al-Bukhārī.” Imām al-Dhahabī also agreed.
  3. Al-Kawākib al-Durarī fī Tartīb Musnadil-Imām Aḥmad ʿalá Abwābil-Bukhārī (6/212/1), still in manuscript form.
  4. Related by Muslim (8/159) and Aḥmad (4/162) from ’Iyāḍ Ibn Himaar al-Mujāshi’ī (raḍī Allāhu ʿanhu).
  5. Translator’s Note: Ibn al-Athīr said in al-Nihāyah (3/457): “Al-Fiṭr”: means to begin and create, and al-Fiṭrah is the condition resulting from it. The meaning is that mankind was born upon a disposition and nature which is ready to accept the true Religion. So if he were to be left upon this, then he would continue upon it. However, those who deviate from this do so due to following human weaknesses and blind following of others.” Al-Ḥāfiẓ Ibn Ḥajar said in al-Fath (3/248): “The people differ concerning what is meant by al-Fiṭrah and the most famous saying is that it means Islām.” Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr said: That is what was well known with most of the Salaf (pious predecessors), and the scholars of tafsīr are agreed that what is meant by the saying of Allāh – The Most High – “Allāh’s fitrah with which He created mankind.” is Islām.
  6. Related by al-Bukhārī (11/418) and Muslim (18/52).
  7. Related by al-Bukhārī (8/534).
  8. Related by Ibn Abī Ḥātim also, as is in al-Kawākibud-Durarī (6/112/2) of Ibn ʿUrwah al-Ḥanbalī, along with an isnād which is Ḥasan, up to Abū Muttahar. However, no biography could be found for him, neither in ad-Dawlābī’s al-Kunā wa-al-Asmāʾ, nor Muslim’s al-Kunā, nor anyone else’s. And the hidden defect here is that he is from the Shīʿah, but his biography is not included in at-Tūsī’s al-Kunā – from the index of Shīʿah narrators.
Published: May 11, 2007
Edited: January 15, 2022

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