In this category of Shirk, acts of worship are directed to other than God and the reward for worship is sought from the creation instead of the Creator. As in the case of the previous categories, Shirk in al-'Ibadah has two main aspects.
(A) Ash-Shirk al-Akbar (Major Shirk):
This form of Shirk occurs when any act of worship is directed to other than Allah. It represents the most obvious form of idolatry which the prophets were specifically sent by Allah to call the masses of mankind away from. This concept is supported by Allah's statement in the Qur’an:
"Surely we have sent to every nation a messenger saying, worship Allah and avoid Taaghoot (false gods)" [Surat An-Nahl: 36]
Taaghoot actually means anything which is worshipped along with Allah or instead of Allah. For example, love is a form of worship which, in its perfection, should only be directed to Allah.
In Islam, the love of God is expressed by total obedience to Him. It is not the type of love which man naturally feels toward creation; towards parents, children, food, etc.
To direct that type of love towards God is to lower Him to the level of His creation which is Shirk in al-Asmaa was-Sifaat.
Love which is worship is the total surrender of one's will to God. Consequently, Allah told the Prophet (Peace be upon him) to tell the believers:
"Say: If you love Allah, follow me and Allah will love you." [Surat Al 'Imran: 31]
The Prophet (Peace be upon him) also told his companions, "None of you is a true believer until I become more beloved to him than his child, his father and the whole of mankind".
Love of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) is not based on his humanity but on the divine origin of his message. Thus, like the love of Allah, it is also expressed by total obedience to his commands.
Allah said in the final revelation:
"Whoever obeys the Messenger has obeyed Allah," [Surat An-Nisa’: 80]
"Say: Obey Allah and obey the Prophet..." [Surat Al 'Imran: 32]
If man allows the love of anything or anyone to come between himself and Allah, then he has worshipped that thing.
In this way, money can become one's god or even one's desires could become a god.
The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said:
"The worshipper of the Dirham will always be miserable"
and Allah said in the Qur’an:
"Have you not seen the one who takes his desires as his god?" [Surat Al-Furqan 25: 43]
Much emphasis has been placed on the evils of Shirk in 'Ibadah (worship) because it contradicts the very purpose of creation as expressed in Allah's statement:
"I have not created Jinn or mankind except for my worship." [Surat Adh-Dhariyat: 56]
Major Shirk represents the greatest act of rebellion against the Lord of the Universe, and is thus the ultimate sin. It is a sin so great that it virtually cancels out all good a person may do and guarantees its perpetrator eternal damnation in Hell.
Consequently, false religion is based primarily on this form of Shirk. All man-made systems in one way or another invite their followers to the worship of creation. Christians are called upon to pray to a man, a Prophet of God named Jesus, whom they claim to have been God incarnate.
Catholics among Christians pray to Mary as the "mother of God", to the angels like Michael who is honored on May 8 and September 29, Michaelmas Day, as St. Michael, as well as to human saints, whether real or fictitious.
Muslims whose acts of worship fall into this category of Shirk are those who pray to Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) or to mystics in the Sufi hierarchy of saints believing that they can answer their prayers, though Allah has clearly said in the Qur’an:
"Say: Think to yourselves, if Allah's punishment came upon you or the Final Hour, would you then call on other than Allah? (Reply) if you are truthful." [Surat Al-Anaam: 40]
(B) Ash-Shirk al-Asghar (Minor Shirk):
Mabmood ibn Lubayd reported, "Allah's Messenger (Peace be upon him) said:
"The thing I fear for you the most is ash-Shirk al-Asghar (minor shirk)." The companions asked "Oh! Messenger of Allah, what is minor Shirk?" He replied "Ar-Riyaa (showing off), for verily Allah will say on the Day of Resurrection when people are receiving their rewards, 'Go to those for whom you were showing off in the material world and see if you can find any reward from them. '"
Mahmood ibn Lubayd also said, "The Prophet (Peace be upon him) came out and announced, 'O people, beware of secret Shirk!' The people asked, 'O messenger of Allah, what is secret Shirk?' He replied, 'When a man gets up to pray and strives to beautify his prayer because people are looking at him; that is secret Shirk.'"
Riyaa is the practice of performing any of the various forms of worship in order to be seen and praised by people.
This sin destroys all the benefits that lie in righteous deeds and brings on the one who commits it a serious punishment.
It is particularly dangerous, because it is natural for man to desire and enjoy the praise of his fellow men. Doing religious acts to impress people or in order to be praised by them is, therefore, an evil which deserves man's utmost caution.
This danger is really significant to the believers whose goal is to make all of the acts of their lives religious acts dedicated to God.
In fact, the likelihood that knowledgeable true believers would commit ash-Shirk al-Akbar is small, since its pitfalls are so obvious.
But, for the true believer like everyone else, the chance of committing Riyaa is great because it is so hidden. It only involves the simple act of changing one's intention.
The motivating forces behind it are also very strong, since it comes from man's inner nature. Ibn 'Abbaas alluded to this reality when he said:
"Shirk is more hidden than a black ant creeping on a black stone in the middle of a moonless night."
Thus, great care has to be taken to ensure that one's intentions begin pure and remain pure whenever righteous deeds are being done. In order to ensure this, the saying of Allah's name is enjoined in Islam before all acts of importance.
A series of Du'as (informal prayers) have also been prescribed by the Prophet (Peace be upon him) before and after all natural habits like eating, drinking, sleeping, sex, and even going to the toilet, in order to turn these everyday habits into acts of worship and develop in Muslims a keen awareness of Allah. It is this awareness, called Taqwa, which ultimately insures that intentions remain pure.
The Prophet (Peace be upon him) also provided protection against the inevitable acts of Shirk by teaching certain specific prayers which may be said anytime. Abu Moosaa said,
"One day Allah's Messenger delivered a sermon saying "'O people, fear Shirk for it is more hidden than the creeping of an ant.' Those whom Allah wished asked, 'And how do we avoid it when it is more hidden than the creeping of an ant, O Messenger of Allah?' He replied, 'Say: Allahumma Innaa na'oodhu bika an nushrika bika shay'an na'lamuh, wa nastaghfiruka limaa laa na'lamuh (O Allah, we seek refuge in you from knowingly committing shirk with you and we ask your forgiveness for what we do not know about).'"
In the following chapters a more detailed look will be taken of the most prominent areas in which Shirk in all its three aspects most commonly occurs.
 Reported by Anas and collected by al-Bukhari (Sahih Bukhari (English- Arabic), vol.1, p.20, no.13) and Muslim (Sahih Muslim (English Trans.), vol.1, p.31, no.71).
 Reported by al-Bukhaaree (Sahih Bukhari, (English-Arabic), vol.8, p.296, no.443).
 William Halsey (ed.), Colliers Encyclopedia, (U.S.A: Crowell-Collier Educational Foundation; 1970, vol.16, p.110.
 Reported by Ahmad. at-Tabaraanee and al-Bayhaqee in az-Zuhd. See Tayseer al-'Azeez al-Hameed, p.118.
 Collected by Ibn Khuzaymah
 Reported by Ibn Abee Haatim and quoted in Tayseer al-'Azeez al-Hameed, p. 587
 Collected by Ahmad and at-Tabarani.
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