[A couple of years ago (maybe longer?) some sisters asked me to come up with a Ramadan quiz for them to work on during Ramadan in the hope that it might encourage them to learn throughout the month. I’ve decided to post the answers to those questions as a series this month Inshallah.]

Today’s question:

 2) What does the word ‘Shirk’ mean? Give one example of Shirk in each of the three areas of Tawheed.

Shirk is the opposite of Tawheed. So if Tawheed is the belief that Allah is the one and only God and that He alone is worthy of worship, then Shirk is the belief that Allah is not the one and only God and that others are worthy of worship besides Him – I seek refuge from Allah for me and you from ever committing such a sin. In essence, Shirk is associating something – anything – with Allah in worship, power, or any of His attributes.

The thing about Shirk, though, is that it’s not always very obvious. In fact, it’s often oh so subtle. To understand this better, let’s take a look at Shirk in the three different areas of Tawheed:

 1)   Shirk in Tawheed Ar-Rububiyyah (Unity of Lordship).

 Shirk in the belief of Allah’s power and dominion over the entire universe and beyond can manifest in many ways, but we can broadly define them according to two categories:

a)      Shirk by association:

Perhaps the most common and insidious example of this is superstition. Now, especially in the modern world, we laugh at superstition as being an ignorant practice of the past, yet one someone’s going for an exam they say ‘Good luck!’, people still avoid walking under ladders, and ‘touch wood’ is an everyday expression. And who the heck is Lady Luck anyway?

 Rationally, we know that these things don’t affect the outcome of events in our life, yet they become a part of the fabric of our lives – and every time we make reference to these we are associating these actions with Allah’s dominion over the universe and what occurs within it. Whether we mean it or not, what we’re saying is Shirk. And wishing people good luck is something I especially need to work on.

b)      Shirk by negation:

Completely denying the existence of Allah is Shirk by negation, and best exemplified by Pharoah. Today, this consists of many categories of atheists and various philosophical schools of thought. But I won’t bore you with those details.

2)   Shirk in Tawheed Al-Asmaa Wa Sifat (Unity of Allah’s Names and Attributes).

 Shirk in recognising and believing in all of the names and attributes (descriptions) of Allah that He has revealed to us in the Qur’an and through the Hadith of the Messenger ( صلى الله عليه وسلم ) can happen in one of two ways:

a)      Shirk by Humanisation:

This is where people reduce Allah’s names and attributes to the human level, and represent and describe Him in human terms. The best example of this is the depiction of Allah as a man in Christian art – think the Sistine chapel. Another would be making jokes about or involving Allah as these frequently involve belittling Allah the Most High.

 b)      Shirk by deification:

This is where people treat other people like demi-Gods. An example is when people treat a scholar like he radiates blessings – trying to get a hold on him or rubbing him thinking that the blessings will literally rub off on them. Sounds crazy, I know, but Oh My God does it happen. May Allah Guide the Ummah.

 Another more common example is that of celebrities in society – they are put on a pedestal, people go crazy when they see them (have you seen the way Americans react to meeting Oprah?! Cray-cray!) and spend time and money trying to be like them. In short, they are ascribing to these celebrities an important and worth that is due to Allah and Allah alone.

 3)  Shirk in Tawheed Al-Uloohiyah / Al-Ibadah (Both mean Unity of worship).

 Shirk in this area of Tawheed is probably the most well-known due to quite a bit of discussion in Islamic circles. It too can be subdivided into two categories:

a)      Shirk Al-Akbar (major shirk):

This involves physically worshipping other than Allah. Do this and you are so not Muslim.

b)      Shirk Al-Asghar (minor shirk):

This is the biggie: Minor shirk is called Riyaa’ – or doing things for appearances, or for other people, a.k.a. showing off.  This is very common, very easy to fall into and so difficult to spot. An example? Oh which to pick! How about a person who prays Tarawih in the mosque every year with a neighbour, but finds that s/he doesn’t get as much out of it as they used to, but continues to go because they don’t want the neighbour to think they’re slacking.

Or how about someone who prays very carefully when they’re in a group, but kinda cuts corners (you know what I mean) when they’re by themselves – especially at fajr? Riyaa’ is a massive topic about which entire books have been written, so this is as far as I’ll go in explaining it here.

Subhanallah – I haven’t read up on this stuff for ages! I’m liking this blogging thing. 😀 anyone who wants to look up anymore info on these matters, I refer you to the books of Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, especially his Islamic Studies series.

Now, for a change in pace, the next question Inshallah is: From the time of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه وسلم  ) until now, which major victories by Islamic armies took place during Ramadan?

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