Part I: Belief (Al-Emaan)

Chapter 04

False Beliefs – Kufr and Shirk

         Al-Kufr is opposite of Al-Emaan, and Ash-Shirk is opposite of At-Tauheed. In other words, Al-Kufr means not to believe in God and Ash-Shirk means to believe in more gods than one. Both these creeds are against Islam and therefore a Muslim and a believer should know them and avoide them at every cost. Sometimes these false and anti-Islam creeds are so much mixed up with Emaan and Tauheed that it is hard to distinguish them. So a Muslim should be very careful to protect himself from falling in the trap. Let us discuss both these creeds in detail.


Its Meanings

         Al Kufr (called disbelief in English) means to disbelieve, not to believe, to refuse to believe, to be ungrateful, etc. It also means to cover up the truth. According to Islamic terminology, it means to disbelieve in God, not to believe in God, to refuse to believe in God, to deny the existence of God, or to defy the commandments of God, or to deny the favours of God, or to be ungrateful to Him. Kufr is, however, open denial or rejection of belief, not the hidden or concealed denial as in case of Nifaq or hypocrisy.

         Al Kufr not only means absence of belief in God but also means disbelief in all or in any fundamental elements of Islamic faith which are: to believe in Allah, to believe in Allah’s Messengers, to believe in Allah’s books, to believe in Allah’s Angels, to believe in the Hereafter, etc. In the Qur’an, the word Kafir refers mostly to idol worshippers, pagans, non-believers, atheists.


Verses of the Quran

         These are many verses in the Qur’an which highlight its meanings and its manifestations, and also throw light on those who indulge in it. Some of these verses are reproduced below:

1)            As for those who disbelieve, it is alike to them whether you warn them or you warn them not; they are not going to believe. Allah has set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing, and on their eyes there is covering; for them is an awful doom.  — (2:Al-Baqarah:6-7).

2)            And (remember) when We said to the angels: Prostrate yourselves before Adam. So they fell prostrate, all save Iblees. He refused in his arrogance and thus became one of the disbelievers.  — (2:Al-Baqarah:34).

3)            Lo! Those who disbelieve and die while they are disbelievers, it is they upon whom is the curse of Allah and of His angels and of all mankind. They will live in it for ever, neither their punishment will be lightened nor they will be reprieved.  — (2:Al-Baqarah:161-162).

4)            The life of this world has been beautified for those who disbelieve, and they mock at those who believe. But those who (believe and) fear Allah will be above them (in rank) on the Day of Resurrection…… — (2:Al-Baqarah: 212)

5)            Allah is the patron of those who believe and He brings them out of darkness into light. As for those who disbelieve, their patrons are devils who take them out of light into darkness. They are the ones who are the companions (dwellers) of the Fire and they will abide there in. — (2:Al-Baqarah:257).

6)            (On that Day) Those who disbelieve, neither their wealth nor their children will avail them aught against Allah; and they are such who will be fuel for the Fire. — (3: Al-e-Imran:10)

7)            Those who disbelieve the revelations (or signs) of Allah and slay the Prophets unjustly and slay also those people who enjoin equity, intimate to them of a painful doom. They are the ones whose deeds have been wasted in this world and in the Hereafter, and they have no helpers. — (3: Al-e-Imran:21-22)

8)            Those who purchase disbelief at the price of belief, they do no harm to Allah; (rather) they will have a painful doom. And let not the disbelievers think that the respite which We give them is good for their souls. We only give them respite that they may add more to their sins. And theirs will be a humiliating doom. — (3: Al-e-Imran:177-178)

9)            O you who believe! Believe in Allah and in His messenger and the Book which He has revealed unto His messenger, and the book which He revealed before him. He who disbelieves in Allah and in His angels and in His books and in His messengers, and in the Last Day, he has indeed strayed for away. — (4: An-Nisa:136)

10)         Surely those who disbelieve in Allah and His messengers and want to make a distinction between Allah and His messengers, and say: We believe in some and reject the others, and seek to take a way in between. They are the ones who are in truth disbelievers; and for (such) disbelievers We have prepared a humiliating doom. — (4: Al-Nisa:150-151)

11)         They are surely disbelievers who say: Allah is the messiah (Jesus) son of Mary, whereas the Messiah himself had said; O Children of Israel! Worship Allah my Lord and your Lord. Verily, he who ascribes partners unto Allah, for him Allah has forbidden Paradise. His habitation is the Fire. And for the wrong doers there is no helper. Surely, they have disbelieved who say: Allah is (one of the Trinity and) the third of the three; when (the fact is that) there is no God but the One God. If they do not stop from saying so, a painful doom will fall on those of them who disbelieve. — (5: Al-Maidah:72-73)

12)         If they deny you (O Muhammad), so were denied (Our messengers) before them by the people of Noah and 'Ad and Thamud; and people of Abraham and people of Lot; and dwellers of Madyan. And Moses was also denied. But I gave respite to all those disbelievers for a while, then I seized them; and how terrible was my punishment. — (22: Al-Hajj:42-44)

13)         Who is more unjust than he who invents a lie against Allah and denies the Truth when it comes to him. Is there not an abode in Hell for the disbelievers? — (39: Az-Zumar: 32)

14)         And they say: There is nothing but our life of this world, we die and we live and nothing destroys us but the time. In fact they have no knowledge what so ever of that; they do but guess. — (45: Al Jathiyah: 24)

15)         Say: O disbelievers! I worship not that which ye worship. Nor worship you that which I worship. And I shall not worship that which you worship. Nor will you worship that which I worship. To you your religion, and to me my religion. — (109: Al-Kafirun: 1-6)

         Thus in the verses reproduced above, the Qur’an has explained kufr and given its examples. It has also discussed the consequences of adopting kufr and the fate of the kafir.

Examples of Kufr

         According to Ulema and Fuqha (scholars and jurists of Islam), following acts, claims, rituals or things are either clearly kufr or look like kufr and hence be avoided by a believer:

1)            Claim of someone that he is God or God’s son or he has powers of God or he can provide sustenance or children to those who beg him of these things or his claim that he is exempt from religious injunctions or he is not required to offer daily prayers, etc.

2)            To regard someone other than Allah as the bestower of honour and disgrace, gain and loss, riches and poverty.

3)            Not to believe in God, His messengers, His books, His angels and the Last Day; or to ridicule those who believe.

4)            To criticize Allah’s commandments or His messengers’ orders or to find fault with them or to regard them as the stories of the old, or to consider them against expediency of the time.

5)            To reject or deny Allah’s signs or His revelations or His verses, or to ridicule Allah’s messengers or to regard them magicians, poets or madmen.

6)            To regard someone else than Allah as one’s real patron, helper and controller of destiny and to call him for aid in difficulties and miseries.

7)            To regard someone other than Allah as Omnipotent, Omnipresent, knower of the unseen, intercessor with Allah, etc.

8)            To love the ideas and actions of the pagans, disbelievers, atheists and secular persons and to prefer them over Islamic injunctions and tenets or to feel and express pride on paganic rituals instead of Islamic customs.

9)            To misinterpret Qur’an or Hadith according to one’s own wishes or wishful thinking or for the purpose of deriving any worldly benefit.

10)         To prefer customs, rituals, conventions, sayings or actions of forefathers over commandments of Allah and His messenger.

11)         To consider the regulations and restrictions imposed by Islamic Shariah regarding drinking, dress, scarf, etc. as impediment or obstruction in the way of progress.

12)         To prefer man-made laws or rules over the laws and rules made by God and His messengers.

13)         To approach the astrologers, palmists and fortune tellers to enquire about one’s fortune or future and to trust in what they say, or to wear stones considering them as source of good luck.

14)         To express disappointment or despondency with Allah or to complain to Him or utter words of disobedience over death of a relative or over suffering or heavy loss or disease or hardship or calamity or accident. To get disappointed with Allah’s mercy over such happenings is the act of a disbeliever according to the Qur’an.

15)         To impose fatwa of kufr on a believer on the basis of sectarian differences or to murder him on such differences.

16)         To murder an innocent Muslim brother or an innocent human being unjustly or without any lawful cause.


Kinds of Kufr

         Al-Kufr or Disbelief according to scholars of Islam is of two types: Kufr-al-Akbar (The Major Disbelief) and Kufr-al-Asghar (The Minor Disbelief). The manifestations of kufr-al-Akbar (the Major Disbelief) which excludes one from the fold of Islam are five, namely: (1) Kufr-al-Takzib i.e. disbelief in the truth of Allah in any of the elements of faith or uttering a lie against Allah; (2) Kufr-al-Iba i.e. denial to submit to Allah’s commandment as Satan did at Allah’s commandment to prostrate before Adam; (3) Kufr ar-Raib i.e. to doubt or to lack conviction in elements of Belief; (4) Kufr –al-Irad i.e. turning away from the truth knowingly; and (5) Kufr-an-Nifaq which implies hypocritical disbelief. The second type of Kufr is Kufr-al-Asghar (the Minor Disbelief). It does not exclude one from the fold of Islam although it brings sin to him. It is also called kufr-an-Nimah. It manifests itself in ungratefulness to Allah for His favours and blessings.


Its Meanings

         The literal meaning of Shirk is to make one a shareek or a partner or a shareholder with other. It also means to make one an equal of other. In religious terminology, it means belief in more gods than one or belief in and worship of many gods. In English Shirk is called polytheism. It implies ascribing partners to Allah in His Lordship or in His worship or ascribing Allah’s names and attributes to others.

         Ash-Shirk is opposite of At-Tauheed which is belief in One God i.e. Allah. Ash-Shirk is belief in many gods along with belief in Allah or belief in many gods besides Allah. Mushrikeen (those who indulge in Shirk i.e. the polytheists), as history of religion tells us, have been worshipping sun, moon, stars, earth, angels, Jinn, animals, rivers, trees, prophets, saints, kings, graves, etc. Christians believe in and worship three Gods which is called Divine Trinity. The Zoroastrians believe in two Gods, while the Hindus believe in thirty three million gods or more but their major gods are three (Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva)

         The basic teaching of Islam is, as is that of previous revealed religions, that there is only One God of the whole of universe and that is Allah who alone should be worshipped. There is no god but Allah. He has no partner, no equal, no associate. He has no parents, no wife, no son, no offspring. Al-Quran, the revealed book of Islam, condemns those, in the severest possible terms, who associate partners to God i.e., who do shirk. According to the Quran, ascribing partners to Allah i.e. to practice shirk is the greatest and the only sin which Allah will not forgive, although He may forgive all the other sins if He will. The Quran quotes Jesus Christ (Surah 5, verse 72), who told the Israelites that whoso ascribes partners to Allah, for him Allah has prohibited Paradise.

Verses of the Qur’an about Shirk

         Following are some of the verses of the Qur’an which condemn shirk and threaten the Mushrikeen (the polytheists) with severe punishment:

1)            Certainly Allah does not forgive that partners should be joined with Him, and He forgives all save that to whom He pleases. Whoso sets up partners with Allah, he has indeed invented the most heinous sin. — (4: An-Nisa:48)

2)            Surely they (the Christians) have disbelieved who say: Allah is (one of the Trinity and) third of the three; when (the fact is that) there is no God but the One God (Allah). If they do not stop from saying so, a painful doom will fall on those of them who disbelieve. — (5: Al Maidah: 73)

3)            Yet they (the polytheists) make the Jinn partners with Him (Allah), though He has created them, and they ascribe to Him sons and daughters without knowledge. All glory be to Him. He is highly exalted and far above that they ascribe to Him. — (6: Al Anam: 100)

4)            Do they associate as partners with Him who created nothing but are themselves created? No ability they have to help them, nor can they help themselves. — (7: Al Araf: 191-192)

5)            The Jews say: “Ezra is the son of Allah” and the Christians say: “Messiah (Jesus) is the son of Allah”. That is their saying with their mouths. They imitate the saying of the disbelievers of old times. May Allah destroy them. How are they deluded away from the truth. They have taken their rabbis and monks as Lords beside Allah, and the Messiah son of Mary (also), while they were commanded to worship only One God, save whom there is no other God. Be He glorified, (far above is He) from all that they ascribe as partners to Him. — (9: Al Taubah: 30-31)

6)            Say (O Muhammad). If there had been other Gods along with Him, as they (the Polytheists) say, then they would have certainly sought a way (to rebel) against the Lord of the Throne (Allah). — (17: Al Isra: 42)

7)            If there were other gods therein besides Allah, then verily both (the heaven and the earth) had been in great disorder. Glorified be Allah, the Lord of the Throne, above all that they attribute to Him. — (21: Al Anbiya: 22)

8)            He (Abraham) said: Do you then worship beside Allah such things that can neither benefit you in the least nor can harm you. Shame on you and on all that you worship instead of Allah. Have you then no sense? — (21: Al Anbiya: 66-67)

9)            O Mankind! A similitude is coined, so listen to it attentively. Verily those on whom you call beside Allah, can never create a fly though they combine together for it. And if a fly snatches away something from them, they cannot even get it back from her. How weak are (both) the seeker and the sought. — (22: Al Hajj: 73)

10)         Of His (Allah’s) signs are the night and the day and the sun and the moon. Do not prostrate to the sun nor to the moon, but prostrate to Allah who created them, if it is He whom you really worship. — (41: Ha Mim As-Sajdah: 37)

11)         And who is more astray than the one who calls on such beings beside Allah who cannot answer him till the Day of Resurrection and who are even unaware of their calls. — (46: Al Ahqaf: 5)

Ahadith of the Prophet about Shirk

         The Prophet of Islam, in many of his Ahadith, has condemned shirk and has declared it a major sin which takes its doer to Hell. Some of these are:

1)            Jabar reported that the Messenger of Allah said: There are two things which ensure Paradise or Hell (for its doer)……. A person who died while associating partners with Allah will surely go to Hell. And a person who died while he was not associating partners with Allah, he will go to Paradise…. – (Muslim)

2)            Abdullah bin Masood reported that a man asked the Prophet: O messenger of Allah! Which is the greatest sin near Allah? The Prophet said: You assign partners with Allah, although He has created you. – (Bukhari, Muslim)

3)            Abdullah bin Umar reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Major sins are these: To join partners with Allah, to disobey the parents, to murder a person (unjustly), and to swear false oath.  – (Bukhari)

Kinds of Shirk

         According to the Muslim Ulema and Fuqha, shirk is of three  types or kinds; (1) Shirk-al-Akbar,  (2) Shirk-al-Asghar, and (3) Shirk-al-Khafi.

Shirk al-Akbar:  It means major Shirk, which according to Dr. Mohsin Khan, has four aspects: (1) shirk-al-Dua: It is invoking or praying to others besides Allah. (2) Shirk al-Ibadah. It is worshipping others besides Allah. (3) Shirk-at-Ta’at i.e. rendering obedience to others in clear disregard of commandments of Allah. And (4) Shirk-al-Hubb i.e. to love others with a love which is only due to Allah.

Shirk al-Asghar: It means minor shirk. It comprises all acts of Ibadah (worship of Allah), all religious and righteous acts, charity, Jihad, etc. which are performed, not for the love of Allah or in obedience to His orders, but for display or show off or gaining praise from people or for fame.

Shirk al-Khafi: It is the concealed or inconspicuous shirk. It means to feel dissatisfied or discontented with what Allah has given you in terms of wealth, children, fortune, etc. or to complain and grudge against the fortunes of others.

Important things to remember regarding Shirk

1-            Allah will not pardon Shirk, al-though He may forgive all other sins at His will.  (An-Nisa:48 and 116)

2-            Shirk is a major sin and God has forbidden Paradise for a sinner of Shirk. (Al-Maidah:72).

3-            Although a Muslim has been commanded by Allah to do good and obey his parents, yet he has been forbidden to obey them if they force him to do shirk. – (Al-Ankbut:8)

4-            Allah has prohibited the Prophet and the believers to pray for the forgiveness of the Mushrikeen (those who join partners with God). – (Al-Taubah: 113)

5-            Mushrikeen (the polytheists or the associators) are unclean, so they are not allowed to enter sacred Mosque (Kaabah). – (Al-Taubah:28)

Examples of Shirk

         Following beliefs, superstitions, acts and things are clearly Shirk or they convey sometimes the impression of Shirk and hence should not be done by a true believer:

1)            To consider someone other than Allah as patron and capable of having control over your destiny, benefit or loss, etc. or capable of help in difficulties and hardships, as some people call or cry to the saints or their graves for support.

2)            To pray to others than Allah for the fulfillment of one’s needs or for the grant of wealth and offspring.

3)            To let off or sacrifice animals in the name of others than Allah or to wear amulets (of magic) for averting evil or safe-guarding oneself or one’s children from evil, etc.

4)            To stand before others humbly with folded hands or fall prostrate or bow down as one is obliged to do before Allah.

5)            To kiss the graves, to stand before them with folded hands or to touch them with the forehead, or to bow down before them, or to put mantles on the graves of saints or to celebrate Urs of saints or to dance for pleasing them or to make offerings to them.

6)            To believe that there are some persons or entities among the creations of Allah who have knowledge of the Unseen and power of Intercession as Allah has.

7)            To believe that there are persons who are omnipresent and omnipotent like Allah and who know our open and hidden things.

8)            To believe that there are some persons and entities in the universe who do not die and who have eternal life like God.

9)            To believe that there are some persons who are free from defects and weakness or errors and sins as God is.

10)         To believe that the pious persons and the saints lying in the grave are alive and they listen to the prayers or cries of the suppliants, and that they have powers to grant such prayers or get them fulfilled from God.

11)         To seek good fortune in stones or stars or to believe in such things.

12)         To swear or take oath in the names of persons or things other than God or to make vows or offerings to others than God.

13)         To give such names to the children which give the impression that they are slaves of created beings instead of Allah. For example; Abdul Shams, Abdul Harith, Abdul Nabi, Ghulam Muhammad, Ghulam Ali, Ghulam Ishaq, Ghulam Ghaus, Ghulam Farid, Kaneez Fatima, etc. The names of the children should be either after the attributive names of Allah or after the names of the Prophets, companions of the Prophet, wives of the Prophet or heroes of Islam such as Abdullah, Muhammad, Ali, Umar, Fatima.

14)         To name the children after saints or others as a mark of gratitude to them for their birth.

15)         To seek refuge of someone other than Allah and call or cry to it for deliverance from sufferings and misfortunes.

16)         To keep a picture or image of a saint or a peer for the sack of blessing and to venerate and deify it.

17)         To move around somebody’s house or grave out of devotion and to hold it with the same reverence as is due to Kaabah.

18)         To regard connection with a saint or a pious man sufficient for one’s salvation in the Hereafter instead of possessing belief and good deeds and to think that his intercession would influence God’s Judgment.

19)         To fear others with the fear which is due to God or to fear others more than one must fear God and to consider that their displeasure can destroy him.

20)         Patriotism, nationalism, hero-worship, sectarianism, worship of wealth, saint-worship, grave-worship, power-worship, opportunism, etc. are all examples of Shirk.

21)         Many superstitions shown by us in everyday life look like doing shirk such as slaughtering black goat on alters at the order of a peer, swearing by the divining arrows, piercing nose or ears of the children on the orders of a peer or as mark of gratitude to him, to consider figure of 13 or Tuesday or a particular thing as a mark of misfortune, to hang shoe in the neck of a precious animal to ward off evil from it, to make a son slave of the grave of a saint to show as if the saint has given him the son, to consider it a misfortune if a black cat passes through his way, the violence of the peers on the sick persons in the name of warding off evil spirits from them, etc, etc.

         Many of the Muslims living in Pakistan, India and Bangla Desh induldge in one or the other act mentioned above. Seeing the multitudes of Muslims visiting graves of the saints and performing polytheistic acts there, a Hindu is reported to have remarked: “How the Muslims can be better than us? We worship the idols and they worship the graves.



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