Major Shirk and Minor Shirk: Imam al-Sa’di

In his concise explanation of the famous Kitaab al-Tawheed of Sheikh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhaab, Sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di brings the following definitions of major and minor shirk:

 الشرك في توحيد الإلهية والعبادة ينافي التوحيد كل المنافاة وهو نوعان: شرك أكبر جلي، وشرك أصغر خفي. ـ

al-Shirk in regards to al-Tawheed al-Uloohiyyah – which is also known as [al-Tawheedal-‘Ibaadah – contradicts al-tawheed in every way, and it is made up of two categories: 1) open shirk al-akbar (major shirk), and 2) concealed shirk al-ashgar (minor shirk).

فأما الشرك الأكبر: فهو أن يجعل لله ندا يدعوه كما يدعو الله أو يخافه أو يرجوه أو يحبه كحب الله، أو يصرف له نوعا من أنواع العبادة، فهذا الشرك لا يبقى مع صاحبه من التوحيد شيء، وهذا المشرك الذي حرم الله عليه الجنة ومأواه النار. ولا فرق في هذا بين أن يسمي تلك العبادة التي صرفها لغير الله عبادة، أو يسميها توسلا، أو يسميها بغير ذلك من الأسماء فكل ذلك شرك أكبر، لأن العبرة بحقائق الأشياء ومعانيها دون ألفاظها وعباراتها. ـ

So as for al-shirk al-akbar (major shirk), it is that one takes an equal with Allah and supplicates to it just as one would supplicate to Allah or he fears it or he places his hope in it or he loves it as one would love Allah, or he diverts some form of worship to it. So this shirk does not leave anything of al-tawheed remaining with the one who commits it, and he is a mushrik for whom Allah has forbidden al-Jannah and his final abode is the Hell-fire. And there is no distinction as to whether this worship which is diverted to other than Allah is called ‘ibaadah (worship), or if it is called tawassul (intermediation), or if it is called by some other name, for all of that is shirk al-akbar, because the final consideration is according to the reality of a thing and its meaning rather than its wording and terminology.

وأما الشرك الأصغر: فهو جميع الأقوال والأفعال التي يتوسل بها إلى الشرك، كالغلو في المخلوق الذي لا يبلغ رتبة العبادة، وكالحلف بغير الله ويسير الرياء ونحو ذلك. ـ

And as for al-shirk al-asghar (minor shirk), it is all of the statements and actions which bring one near to al-shrik, such as extremism in regards to the created beings – none of which have attained the rank of being worshiped – and such as swearing by other than Allah or committing al-riyaa’ (doing actions in order to be seen by others) and the likes of these.

فإذا كان الشرك ينافي التوحيد ويوجب دخول النار والخلود فيها وحرمان الجنة إذا كان أكبر، ولا تتحقق السعادة إلأ بالسلامة منه، كان حقا على العبد أن يخاف منه أعظم خوف وأن يسعى في الفرار منه ومن طرقه ووسائله وأسبابه، ويسأل الله العافية منه كما فعل ذلك الأنبياء والأصفياء وخيار الخلق. ـ

So it is the case that al-shirk contradicts al-tawheed and necessitates entrance into the Hell-fire and remaining therein eternally and being deprived of al-Jannah if it is major shirk, and ultimate happiness is not realized except through safety from that. It is a duty of the slave to fear this with the greatest of fear and to hasten in fleeing from it as well as from its pathways, the factors leading to it and its causes. And the slave asks Allah for security from this just as the prophets and the elite ones and the best of creation have done.

وعلى العبد أن يجتهد في تنمية الإخلاص في قلبه وتقويته، وذلك بكمال التعلق بالله تألها وإنابة وخوفا ورجاء وطمعا وقصدا لمرضاته وثوابه في كل ما يفعله العبد وما يتركه من الأمور الظاهرة والباطنة، فإن الإخلاص بطبيعته يدفع الشرك اكبر والأصغر، وكل من وقع منه نوع من الشرك فلضعف إخلاصه. ـ

And it is incumbent upon the slave to strive in cultivating al-ikhlaas (sincerity towards Allah) in his heart and strengthening it. And that is done through clinging to Allah in glorification and turning to Him in reverential fear and places one’s sincere hope in Him, and aiming for His pleasure and reward in everything that the slave does as well as everything that he leaves off doing in terms of both the outwards and inward affairs. For indeed al-ikhlaas by it’s very nature repels both major and minor shirk, and whatever occurs of some kind of shirk, then that weakens one’s ikhlaas.

[Qawl al-Sadeed Sharh Kitaab al-Tawheed pg. 31 (chapter 4)]

See also: A Comprehensive Statement regarding Bid’ah: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: The Three Categories of Tawheed according to the Qur’an: Imam al-Shinqitee

See also: Tafsir of Surah al-‘Asr: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: Allah does not forgive shirk but He forgives what is less than that: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

See also: Khutbah on the Fundamentals of the Religion: Imam al-Sa’di

See also: Does the term “al-Mushrikoon” include the Ahl al-Kitaab? – Imam al-Shinqitee

See also: Major Nifaq and Minor Nifaq in the Qur’an: Tafsir ibn Kathir