ash-Shirk al-Akbar & ash-Shirk al-Aṣghar: A Short Study

Within Islām, the worst of sins is associating partners with Allāh or declaring others as equals with Him, which is known as Shirk (polytheism); as mentioned within the Ḥadīth narrated by ‘Umayr رضي الله عنه:

 A Companion said, “O Messenger of Allāh! What are the major sins?” The Prophet ﷺ replied: “They are nine, and the severest of them are: committing Shirk with Allāh…”

Sunan Abū Dāwūd #2875Sunan an-Nasā’ī #4012al-Mustadrak ʿala aṣ-Ṣaḥīḥayn 1/59al-Mu’jam al-Kabīr 17/47Sunan al-Bayhaqī 3/408Sharḥ Mushkil al-Athār 1/383Tahdhīb al-Kamāl 2/767 | Ṣaḥīḥ to Imām al-Hākim an-Nishāpurī — Ḥasan to Shaykh al-Albānī

Shirk is of two types:

  1. ash-Shirk al-Akbar (Major Shirk): That which takes one out of the fold of Islām by devoting any form of worship towards other than Allāh; such as supplicating to other than Allāh, praying to other than Allāh, sacrificing to other than Allāh, & the likes.
  2. ash-Shirk al-Aṣghar (Minor Shirk): That which doesn’t take one out of the fold of Islām but threatens one’s Tawḥīd which could lead to Major Shirk; such as wearing amulets or specific jewelry to repel evil eye, swearing by other than Allāh, showing off, doing a deed for worldly benefits, & the likes.

Though Allāh forgives all sins, as mentioned in al-Qurʾān:

Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allāh. Indeed, Allāh forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful.”
– Sūrah az-Zumar, ʾĀyah 53

He does not forgive Shirk (as long as one did not die upon it), as mentioned in al-Qurʾān:

Indeed, Allāh does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allāh has certainly fabricated a tremendous sin.
Sūrah an-Nisāʾ, ʾĀyah 48

Due to the generality of this ʾĀyah, one may question: is this in regard to all acts of Shirk or only Major acts of Shirk? — Shaykh Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-‘Uthaymīn رحمه الله (d. 1422 AH/2001 CE) explains: “The people of knowledge differ concerning this ʾĀyah. Does it include all forms of Shirk or is it specific to Major Shirk? Some say that it includes every type of Shirk, (including) even the Minor Shirk like swearing by other than Allāh and that all of it will not be forgiven by Allāh. Others say that it is specific to Major Shirk and this is the type of Shirk which Allāh will not forgive. Shaykh al-Islām ibn Taymīyyah’s speech concerning the issue is inconclusive, sometimes he is supportive of the first position (that it’s every type of Shirk) while other times he seems to support the second position (that it’s specific to Major Shirk).

In any event, it is necessary that a person be weary and cautious concerning all forms of Shirk. This is because it is possible that Minor Shirk is intended by the statement ‘association with Him’, because the preposition (أن) is used. The preposition (أن) and whatever follows after it is understood in the same fashion as the omitted verbal noun which conveys the meaning of ‘committing Shirk with Him.’ So the preposition here is considered indefinite within the context of negation, which indicates the generality of this ruling.”

I ask Allāh to keep us firm upon Tawḥīd & protect us from all acts of Shirk.

All praise is due to Allāh, may His peace & blessings be upon our final Prophet Muḥammad, his family, his companions, & all those who follow him in guidance.

Sharḥ Kashf ash-Shubuhāt (شرح كشف الشبهات) by Shaykh Muḥammad ibn Ṣāliḥ al-‘Uthaymīn | Pages 124-125

Ṣafīullāh Labīb ibn Salīm ʿAbd al-Malik
2nd of Ṣafar 1444