The message of Islam was revealed in a time when idol worship was common amongst the people. Therefore, the main purpose of the Islamic religion was to eliminate polytheism and restore monotheism amongst humanity and to remind people that there is no God worthy of worship except Allah. Associating partners with Allah (Shirk>) is the biggest sin in Islam and in fact, it’s the ONLY SIN that cannot be forgiven as mentioned in the Quran in chapter Al-Nisa, verse 48: “Surely Allah does not forgive that a partner be ascribed to Him, although He forgives any other sin for whomever He wills. He who associates anyone with Allah in His divinity has indeed forged a mighty lie and committed a great sin”. This verse provides a clear picture of how Merciful and Kind Allah is towards the believers as He gives hope that ALL sins can be forgiven, as long as the people stay away from shirk. So why is Shirk considered as the biggest sin in Islam? Part of the first pillar in Islam is to testify that there is no God but Allah. If a Muslim breaks this rule, then he/she is automatically taken out of the fold of Islam. In other words, committing shirk entirely contradicts the idea of being a Muslim altogether. Furthermore, associating partners with Allah is like saying Allah isn’t capable of handling and maintaining His own creation and that He needs help from others, which is a major sign of disrespect to the Almighty Allah.
Types of Shirk in Islam
Islamic scholars have divided shirk into two separate categories: 1) Major Shirk and 2) Minor Shirk.
Major shirk means to believe that there are other gods beside Allah or to believe that anyone/anything has the power to benefit or harm without Allah’s Will. A Muslim that indulges in major shirk is committing the biggest sin in Islam and therefore, it will send him/her straight to the Hellfire in the Akhira (next eternal life) unless he/she genuinely repents from this sin before dying. Historically, major shirk was much more apparent and easily recognized because people used to indulge in major shirk by openly worshipping idols or powerful public figures like kings or priests. In modern times however, people have taken their own desires (wealth, power, fame, etc.) as Gods. What I’m trying to say is that people are willing to do things to satisfy someone other than Allah in order to fulfill their worldly desires. For example, going to magicians or fortune tellers who seek the help of the jinn (demons) to resolve a problem or gain information. Another example of major shirk is making Dua (supplication) or praying to Allah by the graves of pious or religious saints while believing that the saints would act as intermediaries and increase the chance of acceptance from Allah.
Minor shirk was clearly defined in a hadith where the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “What I fear for you the most is the minor shirk, that is Riya’a. Allah will say on the Day of Judgement when He is rewarding the people for their actions: Go to those for whom you did riya for in the world then see if you find the reward with them” (Sahih Muslim). Riya’a means doing any good action with the intention of showing off to others instead of doing it for the sake of Allah. A good example of this is when someone donates money in a public setting with the purpose of showing others how good of a person, he/she is. If this person was to donate money secretly, then they would not be satisfied with the fact that no one knows or is praising them about it. Therefore, he/she is only doing it for public relations or to establish a certain reputation within the community. According to Islamic scholars, minor shirk doesn’t take a person out of the fold of Islam, but it’s still considered a big sin since it may lead to major shirk or nifaq (hypocracy).
How to Stay Away from the Biggest Sin in Islam?
Let’s establish something right from the start. The purpose of a true Muslim in this life is to worship and please Allah and in return, Allah promises every true Muslim a spot in the next life in the eternal paradise. Staying away from shirk is the first and main step to achieve that goal and that’s why I would like to share my personal formula that consists of five points which will not only prevent you from committing shirk but will also increase your eman (faith in Allah) and give you inner peace and happiness in this life. The first point is you MUST firmly believe that Allah is the ULTIMATE AUTHORITY in the universe and ONLY HE has the ability to fulfill all your wishes. So why would you ask anyone or fear anyone other than Allah? There is a beautiful hadith of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that will give you a detailed description of this point. It was reported by the companion Abdullah Ibn Abbas: “I was riding behind the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, when he said to me”, “Young man, I will teach you some words. Be mindful of Allah and He will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him before you. If you ask, ask from Allah. If you seek help, seek help from Allah. Know that if the nations gathered together to benefit you, they could not benefit you unless Allah has decreed it for you. And if the nations gathered together to harm you, they could not harm you unless Allah has decreed it for you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried” (Al-Tirmidhi).
The second point is no matter how busy your schedule is and no matter how many obstacles you’re facing in life, NEVER leave the Salat (5 daily prayers). Salat is the most important pillar in Islam and it’s the best way to keep your mind occupied with the remembrance of Allah. The more you do it, the closer you’ll get to Allah and the more peace you’ll obtain in the heart. Consider the salat as 5 daily short appointments (5 – 10 minutes each) that you must attend in order to connect with Allah, ask for His forgiveness, and ask for all your needs. If a CEO of a large corporation or a president of a country asked to meet you, I’m sure that you wouldn’t miss the opportunity for the world. So imagine if the meeting is actually with the ONE who created you and the ONE who has the ability to fulfill all your wishes?
The third point is to intend all good actions for the sake of Allah. The intention plays a big role in the life of a Muslim because it distinguishes between the truthful and the hypocrite. Doing good deeds for personal selfish reasons or to please others may lead a Muslim to commit minor shirk (showing off) or become a hypocrite. There is a well known hadith by Abu Hurairah, in which the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gave a clear explanation on this matter: “The first three types of people against whom judgment will be pronounced on the Day of Judgement will be a 1) Martyr: He will be brought and Allah will make known to him His favours and he will recognize them. Allah will say: And what did you do about them? The martyr will say: I fought for you until I died a martyr. Allah will say: You have lied, you did but fight that it might be said [of you: He is courageous. And so it was said. Then he will be ordered to be dragged along on his face until he is cast into Hellfire. 2) The Scholar: He will be a man who has studied knowledge and has taught it and who used to recite the Quran. He will be brought and Allah will make known to him His favours and he will recognize them. Allah will say: And what did you do about them? The scholar will say: I studied knowledge and I taught it and I recited the Quran for Your sake. Allah will say: You have lied, you did but study knowledge that it might be said [of you: He is learned. And you recited the Quran that it might be said [of you]: He is a reciter. And so it was said. Then he will be ordered to be dragged along on his face until he is cast into Hellfire. 3) The Rich Man: He will be a man whom Allah had made rich and to whom He had given all kinds of wealth. He will be brought and Allah will make known to him His favours and he will recognize them. Allah will say: And what did you do about them? The rich man will say: I left no path in which You like money to be spent without spending in it for Your sake. Allah will say: You have lied, you did but do so that it might be said [of you: He is open-handed. And so it was said. Then he will be ordered to be dragged along on his face until he is cast into Hellfire” (Sahih Muslim). Hence, purifying the intention is an essential step that each Muslim must take in order to increase their eman (faith in Allah) and protect themselves from shirk.
The fourth point is Tawakul (reliance) on Allah in everything. Allah gives a piece of advice and a promise to His believers in chapter At-Talaq, verse 3: “And whoever relies on Allah, then He ˹alone˺ is sufficient for them. Certainly Allah achieves His Will. Allah has already set a destiny for everything”. If Muslims take this advice seriously and truly apply it in their lives, then they would see miracles happen as a result. Unfortunately, many of us take the means to accomplish things without relying on Allah. Al-Mutawakilun are the ones who take the means in all matters but also believe that their efforts can’t achieve anything without Allah’s Will and they put full trust in Allah regardless of the outcome. Let me give you an example to simplify the concept of tawakul: Bilal applied to a job that is suitable for him and got a job interview scheduled for it. After spending days of preparation for the interview, Bilal prays to Allah that he gets the job. So far, Bilal did his part of trying to get the job (taking the means) but what comes after is where the important part of tawakul begins. When Bilal walks into that job interview, he should believe in his heart that Allah is in full control of this event and the job interviewer is only a tool that Allah puts in order to open a door of rizq (provision) for him. Bilal should also believe in his heart that if he didn’t get this job then Allah has planned something different for him and a much better opportunity is coming his way. The last thing that I want you to keep in mind is that Allah LOVES the ones who rely on Him and so if you truthfully place your trust in Allah, then be confident that He will not let you down.
The fifth and final point is being content. If you look around you, you’ll realize that most people are not happy about many things in their lives and overall situations. The poor want to become rich and the rich want to own an empire, the employee wants to own a business and the business owner wants to be to control the entire market, the weak wants to be strong and the strong is trying to become invincible and the list goes on. So it’s part of human nature to always want more and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, Islam encourages people to work hard and strive to achieve all their goals as long as it stays in line with the Islamic teachings. The real issue begins when people are not satisfied with what they currently have or can’t accept the fact that they won’t be able to get what they want. We as Muslims have to understand that everything we face in our lives, whether it’s good or bad is a test from Allah as mentioned in chapter Al-Ankboot, Verse 2: “Do people think once they say, “We believe,” that they will be left without being put to the test?”. The only way to pass the tests that Allah puts us through is to accept whatever comes from Allah and show patience by being content. Always keep in mind, being angry or ungrateful about your current situation is not going to change anything but will only make it worse. Showing gratitude for whatever you have by saying Al-Hamdu Wa Shujru Lilah (Praising and Thanking Allah), repenting for your sins by saying Astagfirullah (forgive me Allah) and making Dua (supplicating) to Allah will truly give you the changes that you are hoping for. Another important thing that Muslims need to know is they will never reach the status of a Mu’amin (believer in Allah) until they accept Allah’s decree/destiny as it is one of the six pillars of eman (faith). And let’s be realistic about one thing, we don’t have enough knowledge to know for certain what is best for us so who is better than the ALL KNOWING ALLAH to make the decisions and choices for us: “Fighting in Allah’s cause is ordained for you, whereas it is disliked by you; and it is possible that you hate a thing which is better for you; and it is possible that you like a thing which is bad for you; and Allah knows, and you do not know”(Al-Baqarah, Verse 216).
The Coming of the Dajjal (Anti-Christ)
Since this article is discussing the biggest sin in Islam, I thought it only make sense to mention the BIGGEST FITNAH (TEST) that humanity will ever face which involves shirk. As most of you already know, the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) warned us about this evil and powerful figure who is destined to appear as one of the major signs of the end times, which the prophet referred to him as Ad-Dajjal (the deceiver) and Al-Maseeh Ad-Dajjal (false messiah). The Christians also believe in his coming and they refer to him as the Anti-Christ. No one can claim to know when the dajjal is going to appear but our beloved prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gave us very descriptive information and signs of the dajjal’s era which can give us a sense of when the dajjal’s time is. From all hadiths that I’ve read or heard about the dajjal, there is one in particular that worries me because I feel it’s describing the current time (2022 and beyond) and maybe it’s a sign that we’re just a couple of years away from the dajjal’s arrival. The companion Anas Ibn Malik reported that the Messenger Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Verily, preceding the False Messiah will be years of deception, in which the truthful are disbelieved, the liars are believed, the trustworthy are discredited, the treacherous are trusted, and the disgraceful speak.” It was said, “Who are the disgraceful?” The Prophet said, “Little wicked men who speak about the affairs of common people”. This hadith is definitely applicable to our time since we have thousands of sources of media with different agendas which are confusing the people and people don’t know who to trust anymore. There are also thousands of social media figures who turned into celebrities with millions of followers over night without any real experience or credentials. I personally have lost trust in many well known imams/scholars that I used to listen to after I realized that they are puppets of their own corrupt leaders in the middle east and they are using the deen to mislead the masses with false information, just to fulfill their leaders’ agendas.
So how do we prepare ourselves for the coming of the Dajjal? The prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gave us a prophecy that the dajjal will claim to be God and the majority of people will fall into his deception except for the TRUE BELIEVERS who will recognize him by seeing the word “Kafir” (disbeliever) clearly on his forehead. This prophecy should concern every Muslim because it is indirectly saying the Muslims who are weak in faith will be deceived by the dajjal along with all the non-believers. And even if you’re a strong Muslim, don’t think that the dajjal will claim he’s God and give you the freedom of belief. The evil forces are currently preparing for his arrival and they’re trying to implement a world wide system that will make living under his ruling convenient for the obedient and very difficult for the one who disobeys. After reading and analyzing many of the dajjal’s end time prophecies, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to prepare for his coming is to: 1) Increase your eman and 2) Free yourself from worldly pleasures and materialism. I highly recommend that you read the five point formula that I’ve included above in the section “How to Stay Away from the Biggest Sin in Islam?“ as it will help you understand and achieve these two goals. The prophet also advised us to recite chapter Al-Kahf (The Cave) every Friday and to memorize the first 10 verses in the chapter as a protection from the dajjal. This chapter of the Quran is packed with beautiful reminders, but it starts off by mentioning a story of how a group of young men were able to escape a corrupt kingdom in order to avoid shirk by isolating themselves in a cave. I personally think that the wisdom behind reading the cave every Friday is to give a constant reminder to the believers that they will face moments in their lives where they are forced to sacrifice something for the sake of Allah in order to pass the test. The people of the cave sacrificed everything they had and isolated themselves from society to protect their faith, so are you willing to sacrifice your current lifestyle or all the things that you enjoy in order to protect yourself from the fitnah of the dajjal if he appears in your life time? I leave you to answer this question and Allahu A’alam (Only Allah Knows Best).