Shirk (Polytheism) Amongst the Muslims
In this letter, Mujaddid Alf-e-Thaani brands as shirk, an act that resembles worship of other than Allah, despite the perpetrators maintaining that their intentions were aimed purely at Allah:
Volume 3, Letter 41
“Those animals that are offered on the names of the buzrugs [awliya] and they are slaughtered at the grave of the buzrug [awliya], according to the fiqhi [jurisprudent] ruling such acts are included as being amongst shirk [polytheism]. A great deal of discouragement from such acts has been recorded. Such offerings are in the same category as those which are made in the name of some jinnaat.
According to the Shariah such acts are prohibited and counted as shirk...Abstinence is also very necessary from such acts which bear resemblance to shirk. There are various ways of taking vows on the name of Allaah Ta`ala. What is the need for slaughtering an animal when taking a vow? Also for combining this slaughter with that which is made in the name of some jinnaat? There is a similarity between this is and the worship of jinnaats...
Included in such vows [which are made in the names of other than Allaah Ta`ala] are those rozas [fasts] which women keep, on the names of their peers [shaykhs]. For the iftaar of those rozas [fasts] they stipulate all special types of treats. They even specify a particular day for the roza. They combine their object and desire with the fast. Through the waseelah of these fasts they ask of their needs from their peers [shaykhs]. And they consider their shaykhs to be their helpers and solvers of difficulties [in the time of distress] through these fasts. This is shirk in ibadat...
One should clearly understand the gravity of making waseelah in the Ibaadat of anyone other than Allaah Ta`ala. When the evil and iniquity of this heinous sin becomes manifest, then the women aver that they kept the roza for Allah Ta`ala but they intended the thawaab [reward] for the peer [shaykh]. This is a glaring falsity. If they were true to their word, then why do they specify a particular day for the roza? And why do they stipulate all sorts of special and specific food for the Iftaar?”
The Views of Shah Waliullah
Another Mujaddid from the same region who has gained widespread acceptance by the Ummah, Shah Waliullah , mentions a view similar to the above, that merely changing the intentions behind acts that resemble worship, does not detract from the reality that they amount to abominable transgressions of the Deen. He highlights several times throughout his works, the lamentable state of the Muslims in his time and their involvement in acts of Shirk:
“And you should know that seeking to fulfill needs (hajat) through the dead with the belief that they are [merely] a means to fulfillment, is disbelief (kufr) which must be avoided; the Kalimah Shahadah regards it as prohibited, but nowadays people are excessively involved in these things.” (Al-Khayrul Katheer)
“All who go to the land of Ajmer or to the grave of Salar Mas’ud or those that resemble them in order to request [to fulfil] a need, it is indeed a sin more grievous than murder and adultery. Its likeness is not but the likeness of those who worship the creation or like those who call on Al-Lat and Al-’Uzza. However, we do not [unequivocally] declare disbelief [upon them] due to the absence of a text from the Lawgiver in this specific matter. All who assign life to the dead and request their needs from them, ‘his heart is surely sinful’ (Qur’an, 2:283), and [this act] is included in His statement (Exalted is He), ‘that is iniquity’ (Qur’an, 5:3)...
The definition of associating (shirk) [partners] with Allah (Glorified is He) in worship is glorifying (ta’zim) other than Allah, intending thereby to come closer to Allah (Exalted is He) and salvation in the Final Abode. One of the greatest diseases in this age of ours is their worship of their shuyukh when [they are] alive or [worship] of their graves when [they are] dead. The ignorant [Muslims] imitate the disbelievers of India [i.e. Hindus] in worshipping their idols [which is] amongst their [ritual] acts. The definition of associating [partners] with Allah in seeking help (isti’anah) is to seek one’s need from another while believing he has the power to accomplish it by applying [his] powerful will (sarf al-iradah al-nafidhah), like curing the sick, giving life and death, giving provision and creating a child, and other things that are contained in the Names of Allah (Exalted is He). The definition of associating [partners] with Allah in supplication (du’a) is to mention other than Allah (Glorified is He) while believing this action of his will benefit him in his afterlife or in coming closer to Allah, just as they mention their shuyukh when waking up in the morning..."
Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, ‘You will surely follow the ways of those who went before you, hand span for hand span, arm’s length for arm’s length, until if they were to enter the hole of a lizard, you would follow them.’ We said, ‘O Messenger of Allah! The Jews and Christians?’ He said, ‘Then who?’ Al-Bukhari and Muslim transmitted it. Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) spoke the truth for indeed we have seen men amongst the feeble of the Muslims taking the pious as lords besides Allah and adopting their graves as mosques just as the Jews and Christians would do.” (Al-Tafhimatul Ilaahiyyah)
“If you, dear reader, are hesitant in accepting the accuracy of what was said about the beliefs of the mushrikin and their deeds, look at the superstitious distorters of this age, especially those of them who reside in the borders of the Abode of Islam [i.e. India], what their conceptions of “sainthood” (wilayah) are; for, despite recognising the sainthood of the early saints, they believe the existence of saints in this age is impossible, and they attend the graves and holy places [of the early saints] and are afflicted by all kinds of shirk, bid’ahs and superstitions; and distortion (tahrif) and assimilation (tashbih) have taken root in them and penetrated into their minds until no tribulation amongst the tribulations and no trial amongst the trials contained in the judgement that has come in the authentic hadith, ‘You will surely follow the ways of those who went before you…’ remained but a group from amongst the groups that are Muslims by name plunged into it and became attached to it. Allah (Glorified is He) save us from that.” (Al-Fawzul Kabeer)
“Some of them [Mushrikin] believe that Allah alone is Noble and the Master, and He alone has influence over the world, but [they also believe that] sometimes He grants some servants the garment of highness and majesty and provides them with power and discretion (tasarruf) in certain matters of the world, just like the emperors give some of their slaves the robe of ruling and set them as rulers of some parts of their empires… And this is the illness of the majority of the Jews and Christians, and the idolaters, and some of the extremists of the hypocrites of the religion of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) in today’s time...
People who have been prevailed upon by paralogism [their bad knowledge about Allah]… are like the hypocrites of the Muslim community. They follow the religion of Islam and conceal in their hearts others who they associate with Allah in their worship, as in their asking others besides Allah for help (isti’anah). They have thought that the pleasure of God is confined to the pleasure of His worshipping devotees.” (Al-Budur al-Bazighah)
“And among that (the occasions where forbidden shirk is present): Surely they seek aid from [people] other than Allah for their needs — including cure for the ill and giving wealth to the poor; and they make vows (nadhr) and hope that their aims are successful on account of those vows; and they recite their [people's] names hoping to gain their blessings. Allah Most High has made it incumbent on them that they say in their prayers, ‘It is only you that we worship and it is only you that we seek aid from.’ Allah Most High says, ‘So, do not call with [the name of] Allah anyone else.’ And the meaning of du’a (supplication) is not ‘ibadah (worship), as the exegetes say, but it is isti’anah (seeking aid), according to the saying of God, may He be Exalted, ‘No, but you call upon Him and He removes the thing because of which you call upon Him’ (Qur’an, 6:41).” (Hujjatullah al-Baalighah)
“Explanation of Major Sin: Among the major sins is ascribing partners with Allah in worship and in seeking aid [in a matter that is not established by the natural means (asbab) or established in the Shari‘ah] for livelihood, cure, and other such things. And an indication to repent from these two [ascribing partners in worship and in seeking aid] is His utterance (Exalted be He) ‘It is You we worship and You we ask for help’ (verse five of Surah Fatihah).” (Al-Qawlul Jameel)
Note: Shirk has its levels and does not necessarily cause a person to become a Mushrik
Just as perpetrating an act of Kufr does not always equate to becoming a Kaafir, perpetrating an act of Shirk does not always equate to becoming a Mushrik: