What is major Shirk?

This deed is one of the two forms of Shirk (polytheism) and the opposite of Tawheed (monotheism). If a Muslim were to perform this deed, he will be considered an apostate (Murtad) and idolater (Mushrik).

Major Shirk is ascribing partners to Allah. That can be done by believing that someone or something beside Allah is a god. It can also be practised by giving away an Attribute of Allah to someone or something else.

The deed of major Shirk is also called Shirk Akbar. It is the biggest sin in Islam and anyone that performs this is not a Muslim.

  1. Can major Shirk forgiven?
  2. Examples of major Shirk
  3. Excuses for major Shirk

Can major Shirk be forgiven?

The deed of major Shirk can be forgiven by Allah if one were to ask forgiveness from Allah (Tawbah) in this world. But Allah does not forgive this deed if one were to die without having asked forgiveness from it. That persons abode will be Hellfire forever, since his death was upon idolatry and not Islam. This act will cause a Muslim to be expelled from the religion. It is also an act that is not forgiven when a person dies with it. That is why Muslims are scared to commit this great crime.

Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly fabricated a tremendous sin.
[Soera Nisaa, 48]

Examples of major Shirk:

  • Say/Believe that another besides Allah is The Creator. (Tawheed Rububiyyah)
  • Say/Believe that another besides Allah has power over creation. (Tawheed Rububiyyah)
  • Giving His Names to another. As it says, "my friend is Ar-Rahmaan (The Most Merciful)." That statement would be major Shirk. Even if someone doesn't believe in it. (Tawheed Asma Wa Sifaat)
  • Worship of one in love and obedience. love one more than Allah, or love one on the same level as That of Allah, obey and believe in the fight against what Allah says. (Tawheed Uluhiyyah)

People who commit Shirk in the Tawheed of Allah are unbelievers. This is reflected in the stories of the prophet's stories and the countless Quran verses about events of peoples where major Shirk was committed.

Indeed, Allah does not forgive that Shirk is made with Him, but He forgives what is beneath it to whomever He desires.
[Surah-Nisa' 4:48]

What are the excuses for major Shirk?

In the Quran, Allah indicates that there are certain excuses for committing major Shirk. These excuses are given under certain circumstances. There are some situations that are excused:

  • Unawareness
  • Being threatened

So when a person is faced with these situations, he has an excuse. Let's look at the named excuses and where they are named.

1. The excuse of unawareness

The Prophet (ﷺ) said:
"The pen has been lifted from three: From the sleeper until he wakes up, from the minor until he grows up, and from the insane until he comes back to his senses or recovers."
(Sunan An-Nasa'i Book 27, Hadith 44)

So the people who are unaware of their actions have an excuse. They will not be punished for the things they do outside of their consciousness. That is the justice of Allah, and none is more just than He.

For example, a person is excused for saying something of Shirk in a language he does not know of. It is only when you are aware of it and then say it that you have committed major Shirk.

2. The excuse of being threatened

An act or statement of major Shirk can be made when someone is in a situation where there is a threat to life. Thus, a person can follow the orders of a person who is armed. There is, however, a certain condition attached to this excuse. Namely, that your heart must still keep faith.

Whoever rejects his faith in Allah after having believed in Him - not the one who is compelled (to utter a word of disbelief) under duress while his heart is at peace with Faith, but the one who has laid his breast wide open for disbelief - upon such people is the wrath of Allah, and for them there is a heavy punishment.
(Surah An-Nahl, 106)

Is there an excuse of ignorance ('Udhr bi Jahl) for major Shirk?

There is no doubt that worshiping other besides Allah is major Shirk. We are all created with a natural disposition (Fitrah) so that we know Allah.

A predisposition that makes us recognize major Shirk when we see or hear the something of idolatry. So you do not need any knowledge of books or other matters to know this. The basis of Tawheed is the recognition and rejection of Shirk.

The Prophet (ﷺ) said:
"No child is born except on Al-Fitra (Islam) and then his parents make him Jewish, Christian or Magian.
(Sahih al-Bukhari 4775)

Following the Fitrah will lead to the rejection of Shirk. The Fitrah contains knowledge that we all automatically received from Allah when we came into this world.

And recall when Your Lord summoned the offspring1 of the children of Adam from their loins and made them testify about themselves, “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Yes, we do testify.” Thus you2 cannot sayon the Day of Resurrection, “We were oblivious of this.”
(Surah Al-A'raf, 172)

The Messenger of Allah said:
"Someone came to me from my Lord and gave me the news (or good ttimes) that if one of my followers dies and worships no one (in any way) along with Allah, he will enter Paradise." I asked, "Even if he committed illegal sexual intercourse (adultery) and theft?" He replied, "Even if he committed illegal sexual intercourse (adultery) and theft."
(Bukhari Book 23, Hadith 1)

Testing on Day of Judgement

There are those who claim that the ignorant will be tested on Judgment Day. Thus they bring up the verse from Surah Iraa verse 15 to indicate that no one will be punished except if those have been given a messenger (proclaiming the message and warning of Shirk).

The time of the Intermediate Period, or Ahl Fatrah, will indeed be tested on Judgment Day. Thus they will hope to get an excuse from Allah based on their situation.

Will Ahl Fatrah be excused?

Will the people of the Ahl Fatrah be excused after their test? The Salaf Saliheen believe they will not. The people after the Salaf Saliheen do believe so.

The people who believe that the ignorant will be excused include: Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn Qayyim. And one of many among the Salaf Saliheen who believe that Ahl Fatrah will not be excused include: Yahya ibn Salaam and Hasan al Basri.

It is recorded in the Tafsir 2/658 of Yahya ibn Salaam that there will be four groups who will be tested on the Day of Judgment:

Athar in Arabic
وَحَدَّثَنِي قُرَّةُ بْنُ خَالِدٍ، عَنِ الْحَسَنِ، قَالَ: أَرْبَعَةٌ يُرَجُّونَ الْعُذْرَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ: مَنْ مَاتَ قَبْلَ الإِسْلامِ، وَمَنْ أَدْرَكَهُ الإِسْلامُ وَهُوَ هَرِمٌ قَدْ ذَهَبَ عَقْلُهُ، وَمَنْ وَلَدَتْهُ أُمُّهُ لا يَسْمَعُ الصَّوْتَ، وَالَّذِي يَتَخَبَّطُهُ الشَّيْطَانُ مِنَ الْمَسِّ، فَكُلُّ هَؤُلاءِ يُرَجُّونَ الْعُذْرَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ، قَالَ: فَيُرْسِلُ اللَّهُ تَبَارَكَ وَتَعَالَى إِلَيْهِمْ رَسُولا، فَيُوقِدُ نَارًا فَيَأْمُرُهُمْ أَنْ يَقَعُوا فِيهَا فَمِنْ بَيْنِ وَاقِعٍ وَمِنْ بَيْنِ هَارِبٍ.

Hasan al Basri reported: Four groups hope of getting excused on the Day of Resurrection: Who died before Islam came, the old man, the deaf and the disturbed person. They will hope for an excuse on the Day of Resurrection, so God will send them a Messenger who will say: I command you to enter the Fire. And some will obey and some will not.

Yahya ibn Salaam's commentary on this Athaar about the four groups on Day of Resurrection:

Commentary in Arabic:
قَالَ يَحْيَى: بَلَغَنِي أَنَّهُ مَنْ وَاقَعَهَا نَجَا مِنَ النَّارِ، وَمَنْ لَمْ يَقَعْهَا دَخَلَ النَّارَ. قَالَ يَحْيَى: نَرَى أَنَّ الَّذِي يَنْجُو مِنَ النَّارِ: مَنْ وَلَدَتْهُ أُمُّهُ لا يَسْمَعُ الصَّوْتَ، وَالَّذِي يَتَخَبَّطُهُ الشَّيْطَانُ مِنَ الْمَسِّ، وَالاثْنَانِ الآخَرَانِ لَيْسَ لَهُمَا عُذْرٌ: الَّذِي مَاتَ قَبْلَ الإِسْلامِ، وَمَنْ أَدْرَكَهُ الإِسْلامُ وَهُوَ هَرِمٌ قَدْ ذَهَبَ عَقْلُهُ، وَهُوَ قَوْلُ اللَّهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ: {إِنَّهُمْ أَلْفَوْا آبَاءَهُمْ ضَالِّينَ {69} فَهُمْ عَلَى آثَارِهِمْ يُهْرَعُونَ {70} } [الصافات: 69-70] .

Tafsir 2/658 of Yahya ibn Salaam

Yahya ibn Salaam said: I was told that whoever enters the Fire will come out of the Fire, and whoever does not enter it would enter the Fire.

We believe that those who will be excused: The ones who are deaf and the people who are deranged/crazy.

The remaining two groups have no excuse: Who died before Islam (message) came to them and the old men because Allah says: Verily they found their forefathers in error. So they (also) hastened in their footsteps. [As-Saffat 69-70]. Tafsir 2/658 of Yahya ibn Salaam

Abu Athari writes about basic principles within Islam. He uses his critical and well-researched way to spread knowledge of the first three Muslim generations.

Questions about Islam?

Do you have questions that came to mind while reading our pages? Or do you have general questions that you would like an answer to? We answer you within 48 hours.

Ask question