Major Shirk & Minor Shirk

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All praise be to Allaah.

One of the most important obligations is to know the meaning of shirk, its seriousness and its different types, so that our Tawheed (belief in the Oneness of Allaah) and our Islam may be complete, and our faith may be sound. And Allaah is the Source of strength and true guidance comes from Him.

The word ‘shirk’ in Arabic means taking a partner, i.e., regarding someone as the partner of another. It is said (in Arabic) ashraka baynahuma (he joined them together) when he regarded them as two of equal status; or ashraka fi amrihi ghayrahu (he introduced another into his affair) when he made two people involved in it.

In terms of sharee’ah or Islamic terminology, shirk means ascribing a partner or rival to Allaah in ruboobiyyah (Lordship), ibadah (worship) or in His al-asma’ wa’l-sifaat (names and attributes).

A rival is an equal or counterpart. Hence Allaah forbids setting up rivals with Him and he condemns those who take them (rivals) as gods instead of or besides Allaah in many verses of the Qur’aan. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“Then do not set up rivals unto Allaah (in worship) while you know (that He Alone has the right to be worshipped).”
[Surah al-Baqarah 2:222]

“And they set up rivals to Allaah, to mislead (men) from His path! Say: ‘Enjoy (your brief life)! But certainly, your destination is the Fire (of hell)!’”
[Surah Ibraaheem 14:30]

In the books of hadeeth (Bukhaari – 4497; Muslim – 92) it is narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever dies claiming that Allaah has a rival, will enter Hell.”



The texts of the Qur’aan and Sunnah indicate that shirk and the ascribing of rivals to Allaah sometimes puts a person beyond the pale of Islam and sometimes it does not. Hence the scholars divided shirk into two types which they call shirk al-akbar (major shirk) and shirk al-asghar (minor shirk). Following is a brief description of each type.



This means ascribing to someone other than Allaah something that belongs only to Allaah, such as ruboobiyyah (Lordship), ibadah (worship) and His al-asma’ wa’l-sifaat (names and attributes).

This kind of shirk may sometimes be outward (such as the shirk of those who worship idols and graves, or the dead or absent). Or it may sometimes be hidden (such as those who put their trust in other gods besides Allaah, or the shirk and kufr of the hypocrites).

Major Shirk in the form of ‘Beliefs’:

–          Such as the belief that there is someone else who creates, gives life and death, reigns or controls the affairs of the universe along with Allaah.

–          Or the belief that there is someone else who must be obeyed absolutely besides Allaah, so they follow him in regarding as permissible (halaal) or forbidden (haraam) whatever he wants, even if that goes against what the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) conveyed to us.

–          Or they may associate others with Allaah in love and veneration, by loving a created being equally as they love Allaah.

–          Or the belief that there are those who know the Unseen as well as Allaah. This is very common among some of the deviant sects such as the Raafidis (Shi’ah), extreme Sufis, and Baatinis (esoteric sects) in general. The Raafidis believe that their imams have knowledge of the unseen, and the Baatinis and Sufis believe similar things about their awliya (saints), and so on. It is also shirk to believe that there is someone who bestows mercy in a manner that is befitting only for Allaah, so he shows mercy as Allaah does and forgives sins and overlooks the bad deeds of his worshippers.

Major Shirk in the form of ‘Spoken Words’:

–          Such as those who make du’aa’ or pray to someone other than Allaah, or seek his help or seek refuge with him with regard to matters over which no one has control except Allaah, whether the person called upon is a Prophet, a wali (saint), an angel or a jinn, or some other created being. This is a kind of major shirk which puts one beyond the pale of Islam.

–          Or such as those who make fun of religion of Allah

–          Or who liken Allaah to His creation, or say that there is another creator, provider or controller besides Allaah. All of these are major shirk and a grave sin that is not forgiven.

Major Shirk in the form of ‘Actions’:

–          Such as one who sacrifices, prays or prostrates to something other than Allaah

–          Or who promulgates laws to replace the rulings of Allaah and makes that a man-made law to which people are obliged to refer for judgement

–          Or one who supports the kaafirs and helps them against the believers

–          And other such acts that go against the basic meaning of faith and put the one who does them beyond the pale of Islam.



This includes everything that may lead to a major shirk, or which is described in the texts as being shirk; but does not reach the extent of being major shirk in itself. This is mainly of 2 main types:

  1. Being emotionally attached to some acts which have no basis in religion; and  for which Allaah has not given permission. Example: Hanging up “hands”, “turquoise beads”, etc. on the grounds that they offer protection or that they ward off the evil eye. But Allaah has not made them the means of such protection, either according to sharee’ah (Qur’an and Sunnah) or according to the laws of the universe.
    [Translator’s note: the “hands” referred to are objects made of metal, pottery, etc. usually blue or turquoise in color, that in some cultures are hung up to ward off the evil eye, according to their mistaken belief]
  2. Over-respecting some people or things thinking it to be divine, in such a way however that it does not go so far as ascribing lordship to them. (If the person/thing is over-respected to the level of divinity so much that it is ascribed lordship, then that will classify as Major Shirk)

Minor Shirk in the form of ‘Beliefs’:

–          Such as the belief that something may be a cause of bringing benefit or warding off harm, when Allaah has not made it so; or believing that there is barakah (blessing) in a thing, when Allaah has not made it so.

Minor Shirk in the form of ‘Spoken Words’:

–          Such as when some people, “We have been given rain because such and such event” without believing that the events could independently cause rain to fall. This is because it is Allah who gives rains as He wills.

–          Or swearing by something other than Allaah, without believing in godship of the thing sworn by or regarding it as equal with Allaah. (If someone swears by something believing in its godship, then it is major shirk)

–          Or saying words like, “Whatever Allaah wills and you will”. (Even it is said for the Messenger of Allah sallallahu alayhi wa sallam)

Minor Shirk in the form of ‘Actions’:

–          Such as hanging up amulets or wearing a talisman or string to dispel or ward off calamity, because everyone who attribute powers to a thing when Allaah has not made it so either according to sharee’ah (Qur’an & Sunnah) or according to the laws of the universe, has associated something with Allaah. This also applies to one who touches a thing seeking its barakah (blessing), when Allaah has not created any barakah in it, such as kissing the doors of the masjid, touching the thresholds of the masjid and seeking healing from its dust, and other such actions.



Major shirk puts a person beyond the pale of Islam, so the one who does that is judged to be out of Islam and to have apostatized therefrom, so he is a kaafir and an apostate. Minor shirk does not put a person beyond the pale of Islam immediately, rather it may be done by a Muslim but he still remains in Islam. But the one who does that is in great danger because minor shirk is a major sin; and minor shirk eventually leads a person to major shirk.

A Muslim must avoid shirk in both its minor and major forms. The greatest sin is shirk and transgression against the unique rights of Allaah, which are to be worshipped and obeyed alone, with no partner or associate.

Allaah has decreed that the mushrikeen will abide forever in Jahannam, and He has told us that He will not forgive them, and He has forbidden Paradise to them, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):

“Verily, Allaah forgives not that partners should be set up with Him (in worship), but He forgives except that (anything else) to whom He wills; and whoever sets up partners with Allaah in worship, he has indeed invented a tremendous sin.”
[Surah al-Nisa’ 4:48]

After reading this, a sincere believer’s fear of shirk should increase, as should his desire for his Lord to keep him away from it, and he should say the great du’aa which the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam) taught to his companions when he said to them: “Shirk among you will be more subtle than the footsteps of an ant, but I will teach you something which, if you do it, both minor and major shirk will be kept away from you. Say: Allaahumma inni a’oodhu bika an ushrika bika wa ana a’lam wa astaghfiruka lima la a’lam (O Allaah, I seek refuge with You from associating anything with You knowingly, and I seek Your forgiveness for that of which I am unaware).”

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