Shirk” basically means “Polytheism”, i.e., the worship of others along with Allah. It also implies attributing divine attributes to any other besides Allah. It is the belief that the source of power, harm, or blessing is from others besides Allah.

The word ‘Shirk’ comes from the Arabic word with the general meaning “to share” or “associating someone/something with Almighty Allah. The Quran encourages Muslims to accept Allah Almighty’s oneness and forbids them from identifying partners with His identity or qualities. Shirk is a major sin that Allah (SWT) would never forgive, according to the Holy Quran. Because shirk is a severe sin that cannot be forgiven, it is important for us to understand the gravity of the sin and the various acts of shirk that we perform on a regular basis but we are unaware of.

 Shirk is the one unforgivable sin in Islam; if one dies in this position, one has rejected Islam and is no longer a believer. Even if people try their best to live a virtuous and generous life, their efforts will count for nothing if they are not built on a foundation of faith.

“If you join others in worship with Allah, then surely all your deeds will be in vain, and you will certainly be among the losers.” (Q39:65)

 “Verily, Allah forgives not the sin of establishing partners in worship with Him,” the Quran states, Allah does not forgive the worship of others beside Him- though He does forgive whoever He will for lesser sins- for whoever does this has gone far, far astray. (Q, 4:116). In the Holy Quran, Allah proclaims shirk to be the biggest sin, saying, “Indeed, to attribute partners (unto Him) is a terrible sin.” (Q,31:13).

Allah Almighty has declared that He will not forgive the sin of shirk unless the person repents from it, in the Holy Quran Allah SWT says: “Surely Allah forgives not that a partner should be set up with Him, and forgives all besides that to whom He pleases” (Q, 4:48).

Allah Almighty has forbidden Paradise to those who do not repent from committing shirk, condemning him to Hell for eternity, in the Holy Quran Allah says: “Surely whoever associates (others) with Allah, Allah has forbidden to him Paradise and his abode is the Fire.” (Q, 5:72)

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said in one of his hadiths about shirk: “Whoever dies to claim that Allah has a rival, will enter Hell” (Bukhari)

Almighty Allah forbids setting up rivals with Him and He condemns those who take them (rivals) as gods besides Allah (SWT) in many verses of the Holy Quran: “Then do not set up rivals unto Allah (in worship) while you know (that He Alone has the right to be worshipped).” (Q, 2:22)

Many verses in the only Quran stressed that Allah (SWT) does not share his powers with any partner (shirk). It warns those who believe their idols will intercede for them that they, together with the idols, will become fuel for hellfire on the Day of judgment (Q, 21:98).

Throughout the doctrinal evolution of Islam, however, shirk obtained a significant enlargement of meaning. It started to be employed as the reverse of thawed (God’s oneness) and became synonymous with any belief or behavior condemned by a specific sect, rather than merely a name for the idolatry that existed outside of Islam.

Aside from pure and obvious polytheism, many kinds of shirk have been identified. There is shirk al-dah (“customary shirk”), which encompasses all superstitions, such as believing in omens and consulting soothsayers. The belief in the powers of created things—for example, reverencing saints, kissing holy stones, and praying at a holy man’s grave—is known as shirk al-ibadah (“worship shirk”).

There is shirk al-Ilm (“knowledge shirk”), which is when someone, such as astrologers or dream interpreters, is credited with knowledge of the future. In comparison to polytheism, all of these varieties of shirk are shirk Aghr (“small shirk”).

“Say. “Call upon those whom you claim (to be your gods) beside Allah. They do not possess (any thing) even to the measure of a particle, neither in the heavens nor in the earth. They have no contribution at all in either of the two, nor is any of them a helper for Him (Allah). (Q,34:22)

 “Say [Prophet], ‘Consider those you pray to other than God: show me which part of the earth they created or which share of the heavens they own; bring me a previous scripture or some vestige of divine knowledge––if what you say is true.’!” (Q46:4)

“Behold, Luqman said to his son by way of instruction: ‘O my son! join not in worship (others) with Allah. for false worship is indeed the highest wrong-doing.'” (Q31:13)

Ash-Shirk al-Akbar: Major shirks, Ash-Shirk al-Asghar: minor shirk, Ash-Shirk al-Khafi: Inconspicuous Shirk or hidden shrik.

  The main difference between ash-Shirk ul-Akbar and ash-Shirk ul-Asghar is that the former takes one beyond the Islamic fold, whereas the latter does not (though it can lead to major shirk).

MAJOR SHIRKS (ASH-SHIRK UL-AKBAR) are the most serious sins, and people who commit them will never be pardoned, as Allah (SWT) says in the holy Quran

  “Verily, Allah forgives not that partner should be set up with him in worship, but He forgives except that (anything else) to whom He pleases, and whoever sets up partners with Allah in worship, he has indeed invented a tremendous sin.” (Q4: 48)

The major and serious polytheistic form has four aspects:

SHIRK-AD-DU’A (THE INVOCATION): This aspect implies invoking or praying to other (deities) besides Allah.

SHIRK-AD-NIYYAHWAL-IRADAHWAL-QASD: This aspect implies intentions and determination in acts of worship or religious deeds not for the sake of Allah but directed towards other deities.

 SHIRK-AD-TA’AH: This aspect implies rendering obedience to any authority against the order of Allah.

The minor shirks include acts performed to simply show off, or acts done to gain praise and fame. Almighty Allah says: “Say (O Mohammad), I am only a man like you, it has been revealed to me that your Allah is one Allah, so whosoever hopes for the meeting with his Lord let him do righteousness and associate none as a partner in the worship of his Lord. (V: 18:110)”

AR-RIYAA (showing off): is any activity carried out with the goal of gaining honor, renown, or any other worldly benefit. It’s a sort of shirk because instead of doing things for Allah’s sake, you start doing things for yourself (worship yourself).

 It is narrated in the Musnad of Imaam Ahmad and at–Tabaraani that the messenger Muhammad (saw) said: 

“The thing I fear most for you is ash-Shirk ul-Asghar (The Small Shirk). The Sahaabah then asked him: ‘What is The Small Shirk?’ He (saw) replied: Ar-Riyaa (showing off).”

One’s prayers, Da’wah, or good deeds should never be used to brag about. Any activities performed just for the sake of displaying your superiority will never be rewarded, as they were carried out for your own benefit, not for the benefit of Allah (SWT).

To swear by someone other than Allah (SWT) is Ash-Shirk Al-Asghar, such as saying, “I swear by my mother,” “I swear by my child,” and so on.


The hidden shirk can either be Major or Small Shirk, depending on the area shirk was committed. Hidden Shirk is one of the most dangerous forms of shirk as it is hidden and people cannot see that they are committing shirk.

This type of Shrik implies being inwardly dissatisfied with the inevitable condition that has been ordained for one by Allah, lamenting that had you done or not done such and such, or had you approached such and such, you would have been in a better status, etc.

 Prophet Mohammad (SAW) said: “Ash-Shirk Al-Khafi in the Muslim nation is more inconspicuous than the creeping of the black ant on a black rock in the pitch darkness of the night”.

This inconspicuous shirk is expiated by saying thrice the following sentences everyday:

Allāhumma innī a`ūdhu bika an ushrika bika wa anā a`lam,

“O Allah, I seek refuge in you lest I associate anything with you knowingly, and I seek your forgiveness for what I know not.