Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, sent the prophets and the messengers with glad tidings and warnings to humanity. Their main duty has been to call people to worship Allah Alone, ie to the faith of tawheed, and warn them against shirk, or associating partners with Allah. This monotheistic creed is what distinguishes between Islam and kufr, between a believer and a non-believer, between entering Paradise and entering Hellfire. Indeed, Allah and His messengers have placed great emphasis in warning us against falling into shirk; which has two categories: major and minor.
Major shirk itself divided into four types: shirk in supplication, in intention, in loving and in obedience.
The first category of major shirk is “association in supplication” ie, shirk al-du’a. This involves directing one’s supplications to other than Allah as a means of gaining provisions or being cured from a sickness or obtaining help during a crisis or for any other purpose. Allah says: “Do not call on any other than Allah. Such can neither profit you nor hurt you. And if you do, you shall certainly be of those who do wrong,” (Qur’an 10:106). Allah also says: “Now, if they embark on a boat, they call on Allah, making their supplication sincerely and exclusively to Him Alone. But when He has delivered them safely to land, they associate others in their worship,” (Qur’an 29:65).
It is narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “Whoever dies while supplicating to someone other than Allah whom he considers equal to Allah, will enter Hellfire.” In another verse of the Qur’an, Allah says: “Say: Call upon the other gods besides Allah whom you pretend. They have no power, not even the weight of an atom in the heavens or on earth. Nor do they have a share in them, nor is any of them a helper to Allah. No intercession can avail with Him, except for those who He has granted permission,” (Qur’an 34:22-23). In this verse Allah has closed four avenues of shirk, namely: owner besides Allah, sharer with Allah, helper for Allah, intercessor without Allah’s permission. It has been narrated that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said in his advice to Ibn Abbas, radiallahu anhu: “Know that if the people were to gather together to benefit you with anything, they would benefit you only with something that Allah has already prescribed for you, and that if they gather together to harm you with anything, they would harm you only with something Allah had already prescribed for you.” (Authentic hadith related by Al-Tirmidhi).
The second category of major shirk is “association in the intention.” That is, to perform deeds that may be good themselves but which are done for the sake of this worldly life and not for the sake of Allah. Allah says: “Those who desire this life and its glitter, to them We shall pay the price of their deeds in this same life in full measure. They are those for whom there is nothing in the Hereafter but the Fire. Vain are their designs and of no effect are their deeds,” (Qur’an 11:15-16).
The third category of major shirk is “association in loving Allah.” That is to love someone or something else more than or as much as one loves Allah. Allah says: “There are men who take others besides Allah as equal with Him. They love them as much as they should love Allah. But the believers have more love for Allah,” (Qur’an 2:165).
There are people who recognise Allah as the Creator, the Owner and the Sustainer of the universe, and yet love others more than Him. Some people love money more than they love Allah and for this reason, they do not pay zakat or they gain their money from unlawful sources. They are the slaves of Dirhams and Dinars, or in today’s terminology, the slaves of dollars. The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said, “He who became the slave of the Dinar or the Dirham will perish and be destroyed.” (This is part of a hadith related by Al-Bukhari).
Some people love their desires more than they love Allah. Consequently, they would follow their desires even when they lead to disobeying Allah: “Do you see the one who is taking as his lord his own desires?” (Qur’an 25:43). Therefore, loving Allah and His Messenger more than anything is a precondition for tasting the sweetness of faith. It has been narrated in an authentic hadith that the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “There are three qualities whosoever has them will taste the sweetness of Iman: loving Allah and His Messenger above all else, loving someone solely for the sake of Allah, and hating to return to disbelief after Allah has rescued him from it, as much as he would hate being thrown into Hellfire.” (Related by Al-Bukhari).
Allah has put two criteria to test whether one’s love for Him is more than the love of anything else. The first is following the Sunnah of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. Allah says: “Say (Muhammad), if you do love Allah, follow me, Allah will love you (in return) and forgive your sins,” (Qur’an 3:31). Thus, following the Sunnah in all aspects of our lives is absolutely essential. The second criterion to know if one’s love of Allah is more than anything else is through jihad for the sake of Allah: “Say: If it be that your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives or your kindred, the wealth that you have gained, the commerce in which you fear a decline or the houses in which you delight, are dearer to you than Allah or His Messenger, or the jihad for Allah’s sake; then wait until Allah brings about his decision; and Allah does not guide the rebellious,” (Qur’an 9:24).
The fourth category of major shirk is “association in obedience” which is to obey people when they make unlawful things lawful, and to believe that it is permissible to follow those who make such legislations. Allah says: “They take their priests to be their lords beside Allah,” (Qur’an 9:31). A hadith of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, relates that when Adiyy Ibn Hatim heard the Prophet reciting this verse, he said to him: “But they did not worship them (their priests)!’ The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: ‘Didn’t those priests make lawful some of the things that Allah has made unlawful and didn’t they make unlawful some of the things that Allah has made lawful? And didn’t they follow them in that respect? That is how they worshipped them!’”
So whoever obeys scholars or rulers when they legislate these kinds of laws while knowing that they are changing the religion of Allah and still believers that they have the authority to do so, is in fact committing an act of disbelief. However, if he does not believe that they have the authority to do so, but still follows them in disobeying Allah, he is committing a sin for which he may be punished according to the gravity of the sin. As for the scholar who makes this judgment while trying his best to find the truth with the intention of following the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and he fears Allah as much as he could but did not find the truth, he will not be punished for his mistake but he will be rewarded for his ijtihad, ie. the effort he exerted in searching for the truth. However, the scholar or a Muslim who knows what the rule of Allah should be in the matter under consideration but nevertheless chooses otherwise, has fallen into “the shirk of association in obedience” especially if he has been following his desires and has been propagating his ideas with the means at his disposal.
Today in many communities, there are people who get close to and even fall into one of these types of shirk, especially the shirk of obedience. If the rule of Allah coincides with their own desires, they will rush to apply it. But if it does not, they will shop around for a fatwa (legal ruling) that suits their whims. Eventually they may find a shaykh who will give them the fatwa they desire even though this does not legalise what Allah has forbidden. Unfortunately, we find such shaykhs gaining popularity. They are described to be the ones who are moderate, who are understanding, who can deal with the requirements of modern life when in fact, they are following the desires of the people.
In many communities, we find people who are very eager to follow Qur’an when it talks about striving to gain worldly provisions in such verses as, “Walk through the earth and enjoy the sustenance which Allah furnishes,” (Qur’an 67:15). They would exert efforts and spend much energy to gain more money and it will never cross their minds to sit at home without working and Allah will provide for them – and they are right in this respect. But when it comes to working for the Hereafter, such as avoiding sins, increasing their faith with righteous deeds, they would say: “This is the destiny of Allah” to justify their failure for performing their duty towards Allah. They would hope that Allah will guide them to the straight path, while unwilling to make any effort for getting guidance to it. What if somebody comes and begins beating a person, would he say this is the destiny of Allah or would he defend himself and take the necessary precautions to protect himself? Thus, relying on Allah means that one should exert his/her effort to the utmost while at the same time expecting the support and help of Allah.
Some of these people would say that some of the companions of the Prophet such as Uthman Ibn Affan, Abdulrahman Ibn Awf, and Sa’ad Ibn Abi Waqqas were wealthy. However, the comparison stops there because they want to be like them only in the aspect of being rich. They do not ask themselves: How did these companions earn their wealth? How did they spend it? How were their manners? How was their worship, their piety, their fear of Allah? How were their homes? How were their wives and children? What were their interests? Whom did they mix with? The companions never negotiated part of their religion to gain their worldly life, but that is precisely what most Muslims are doing today.
In Sahih Muslim, Jabir, radhiallahu anhu, reported that a man came to the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and said: “O Messenger of Allah, what are the two essential matter?” the Prophet sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, said: “Whoever dies without associating any partner with Allah will enter Paradise and whoever dies associating anybody with Allah will enter Hellfire.”
The second category of shirk besides major shirk is minor shirk. This means showing off, or having the desire to be praised about one’s actions. Minor shirk does not take a person out of the fold of Islam, but it is nevertheless a grave sin for which there is severe punishment. Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, may Allah have mercy on him, related on the authority of Labeed that Jabir, radhiallahu anhu, narrated that the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam said: “The thing I fear most for you to fall into is minor shirk”. They (the Companions) asked; ‘What is minor shirk?’ He, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, replied: Al-riya’”, ie ‘showing off’. Allah will say to the people who commit it on the Day of Judgment when every one will account for his deeds: “Go back to the ones whom you showed off your deeds for their sake and see if they can reward you.”
Umar Ibn al-Khattab said that he heard the Messenger of Allah, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, saying: “Actions are judged by their intentions and every person shall have but that which he intended. Thus, he whose migration was for the sake of Allah and His Messenger, his migration was for Allah and His Messenger. And he whose migration was to achieve some worldly benefit or to take some woman in marriage, his migration was for that which he migrated.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim). Allah says in warning us against spoiling our deeds, “O you who believe, cancel not your charity by reminders of your generosity or by harming; like those who spend their wealth to be seen of men,” (Qur’an 2:264).
Furthermore, the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, told us about those who will be thrown first into Hellfire on the Day of Judgment. Abu Hurairah, radhiallahu anhu narrated in Sahih Muslim: “I heard the messenger of Allah saying: ‘Among the people who will be punished first on the Day of Judgment is the martyr (ie, one who died while fighting in jihad). He will be brought before Allah and reminded of the bounties of Allah and he will acknowledge them. Then he will be asked; ‘What did you do with them?’ He will reply: ‘I fought for Your sake until I was killed.’ It will then be said to him: ‘You lied, you fought so that people will say you were a brave man and they have said so.’ Then he will be taken on his face and thrown in Hellfire. The second is a man who acquired sound knowledge of the religion, taught it, read it, and memorised the Qur’an. He will be brought before Allah and reminded of the bounties of Allah and he will acknowledge them. Then he will be asked: ‘what did you do with them?’ He will reply: ‘I have learned the knowledge and taught it to people and read the Qur’an for Your sake.’ Then it will be said to him: ‘You lied, you did it so that people will say you are a knowledgeable man and they have said so.’ Then he will be taken on his face and thrown into Hellfire. The third is a man whom Allah has given a lot of wealth. He will be brought before Allah and reminded of the bounties of Allah and he will acknowledge them. Then he will be asked: ‘What did you do with them?’ He will reply: ‘I never left any means to spend my wealth for Yours sake.’ Then, it will be said to him: ‘You lied, you did it so that people will say you are a generous man and they have said so.’ Then he will be taken on his face and thrown into Hellfire.’”
It must be noted here, that their entering Hellfire is not an everlasting one. Rather, they will be punished for their lack of sincerity and will then be allowed to enter Paradise.
We ask Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala to let our actions be directed by sincere intention which is done solely for His pleasure, and not to let our good deeds be destroyed by lack of good intentions. We also ask Him to let our deeds be in accordance with the directives of the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. May Allah accept our deeds and guide us to the Right Path.
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