Categories of Shirk
Just as Tawheed has categories, Shirk also contains has categories. Shirk consists of two categories: minor Shirk and major Shirk. Thus, not every person becomes an idol worshiper when committing minor Shirk. It is also a minor form which leads to the large variant of Shirk.
Then when a Muslim commits major Shirk, he should return to Islam by performing Tawbah and by pronouncing the declaration of faith.
1. Minor Shirk (Shirk Asghar)
This minor category of Shirk in Islam, also known as Shirk Asghar, often remains somewhat in the background when discussing the subject of Shirk. This is because this category deals less damage than the major form. Moreover, a person who commits this has committed a greater crime than murder and drinking alcohol.
So it is a matter that should be dealt with where people are aware of the damage involved in committing this sin. But what acts are minor Shirk?
Examples of minor Shirk
The most well known examples are Ar-Riyaa and swearing on others besides Allah. Committing Ar-Riyaa involves a person performing worship in order to be seen and praised. So the intention is for Allah but also for others to see.
The Prophet (ﷺ) said:
“Verily, my greater fear for you is the lesser idolatry.” They said, “What is the lesser idolatry, O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet said, “It is ostentation. Allah Almighty will say to them on the Day of Resurrection, when people are being recompensed for their deeds: Go to those for whom you made a show in the world and look, do you find any reward with them?”
(Musnad Ahmad hadith 23119)
We often see today that people swear on others besides Allah. Whether it's the mother or a prophet they take an oath by, it's worse than the act of murder. That is why this is quite a bad thing to do.
2. Major Shirk (Shirk Akbar)
The major form of idolatry involves assigning partners to Allah. Rights of Allah are then assigned or shared with the creation.
In pronouncing the Shahada we learn that it is essential to know who Allah is and what His Attributes are. We should not share these Attributes with anyone to avoid major Shirk.
Allah has emphasised in the Quran about idolatry and why it is the greatest crime in Islam. Moreover, it is so great that a person is not forgiven if he comes to die with it without asking forgiveness.
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]
What acts are major Shirk?
We can think of different scenarios when it comes to assigning partners to Allah. These scenarios are divided into three forms. Since Shirk is the opposite of Tawheed, we get to see that the three scenarios go against the forms of Tawheed.
Shirk in Asmaa wa Sifaat (Namen and Attributes)
Thus, we can remember that the great Shirk is when a person shares Allah's Names with others. For example: Claiming that a person is Ar-Rahmaan besides Allah. That will then mean that another person is equal to Allah in being the Most Merciful. And of course that is not possible.
Shirk in Uluhiyyah (Worship)
To worship a person or object in love, obedience, fear, or deeds. That would be major Shirk in the worship of Allah, for no one has the right to be worshiped besides Allah.
Shirk in Rububiyyah (Dominion)
Also when a person, for example, claims that someone or an object is able to have power over the creation. No one has those powers except Allah. It would be major Shirk to claim someone has the power to give life or death. Or to rise the Sun from the east.