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What is Shirk (Polytheism)?

Belief: Shirk (polytheism) means to believe in anyone other than Allah as being Waajib ul Wajood and worthy of worship, in other words, associating any partner to Allah. This is the worst form of kufr. With the exception of this, no matter how serious any other kufr may be, it will not amount to Shirk (polytheism) in reality. It is for this reason that the Holy Qur’an made a clear distinction in regards to the rules related to the mushrikeen (polytheists) and the rules related to the Ahle Kitaab (People of the Book). The Zabiha (animal sacrificed) by a Kitaabi (person of the book) is thus regarded as Halaal1 and that of a mushrik is regarded as carrion. Nikah with a Kitaabi female is permitted, whereas Nikah with a mushrik is not. According to Imam Shafa’i collection of Jiziya (Tax) from a Kitaabi is allowed, whereas collection of Jiziya from a mushrik is disallowed.

In certain instances the word shirk is used to imply absolute kufr. The command of the Quran is that; No Shirk will be forgiven, is actually in this context. In other words that in actuality no type of kufr will be pardoned. With the exception of shirk and kufr, Almighty Allah, (through His Mercy) may forgive any other sin He Wills.

Belief: One who is charged with committing Kabeera (a major sin) is still regarded a Muslim and will enter Jannat. This is either through the Grace of Allah or by virtue of the intercession of the Holy Prophet صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم, or after being punished for some of his sins. Thereafter, he shall never be evicted from Jannat.

Law: Any person who makes Dua-e-Maghfirat for a kaafir after his death or refers to a dead murtad (apostate) as Marhoom or Maghfoor or refers to a dead Hindu as a heavenly soul is himself a kaafir.

Belief: It is from amongst the Essential and Fundamental Principles of Deen to regard a Muslim a Muslim and a kaafir a kaafir, even if one is not definite in regards to whether a particular individual died as a Muslim, or (Allah Forbid) as a kaafir; until such time that his condition at the time of death is not established in the light of evidence from the Shariah. This however does not mean that one should doubt the kufr of any person who has definitely committed kufr because to doubt the kufr of an absolute kaafir also causes one to become a kaafir. The issue regarding whether a person really died a believer or unbeliever, will be established on the Day of Qiyaamat, but the law of Shariah is based on that which is apparent. This can be better understood by the following example: If an unbeliever such as a Jew, Christian or idol worshipper dies, one cannot say with complete conviction that he died as an unbeliever but the command of Allah and His Rasool صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم is that we should regard him as an unbeliever. We will deal with him in his lifetime and after his death in the manner that has been stipulated for an unbeliever, in other words in the issues of association with him, weddings, marriage and his funeral prayer and shrouding and burial etc. If he has committed kufr then it is Fard (obligatory) upon us to regard him a kaafir. We should leave the issue of his actual condition at the time of death to the Divine Knowledge of Allah. Similarly is the ruling of a person who is apparently a Muslim and whose actions and statements do not contradict Imaan in any way. It is Fard for us to regard such a person as a Muslim, even though we are unaware of the actual condition of his Imaan at the time of his death. Nowadays, there are those who say, eIn the amount of time you spend calling him a kaafir, it is better you spend it in the remembrance of Allah, as this is deserving of reward.f In response to this, it must be said: eWhere do you find us compelling people to chant kaafir, kaafir all day long? The actual aim of what we are saying is that a kaafir should be regarded as a kaafir, and if asked regarding such a person, it should be clearly declared that he is a kaafir. This does not mean that you should hide his kufr by way of your Sulah Kul (corrupt compromising policy).