Polytheism (Shirk) : The Worst Sin


Shirk or Polytheism is one of the most serious issues that Islam tackles, but what is Shirk and how should we understand it?


Shirk is the Arabic term for "joining" or "partnering". There is the common Arabic phrase ashraka baynahuma, meaning that he joined two things together. Islamically, the term shirk refers to joining partners with Allah, this is absolutely against the principles of Islam. Islam has the principle of strict monotheism, called tauheed, this article will outline that more clearerly.

The issues I want to tackle in this article are :

  1. What exactly is Shirk from a Quranic perspective?
  2. What actiions or intentions constitute shirk, eg Asking for help from other than Allah?
  3. How does intercession work? Is it shirk?


I have copied extensively from the book "Greater Sins – Volume 1" by Scholar Sayyid Abdul Husayn Dastghaib.


The following verse of the Holy Qur’an asserts:

“Surely Allah does not forgive that anything should be associated with him, and forgives what is besides that to whomsoever He pleases, and whoever associates anything with Allah, he devises indeed a great sin.” (Surah an-Nisā’ 4:48)

“Surely whoever associates (others) with Allah, then Allah has forbidden to him the garden, and his abode is the fire; and there shall be no helpers for the unjust.” (Surah al-Mā’ida 5:72)

It means that whoever dies as a polytheist, there is no chance of his salvation. Some may say that anyone who even does shirk once and repents will not be forgiven, and they base this logic on the verse above, however as always we must see all the relevant verses together to paint the complete pictures. Allah says :

4|153|The People of the Scripture challenge you to bring down to them a book from the sky. They had asked Moses for something even greater. They said, “Show us God plainly.” The thunderbolt struck them for their wickedness. Then they took the calf for worship, even after the clear proofs had come to them. Yet We pardoned that, and We gave Moses a clear authority.

So here, the Israelites took the calf for worship, they became polythiests, but they quickly repented and Allah forgave them.

Also the Holy Qur’an states:

“Do not associate aught with Allah; most surely polytheism is a grievous inequity.” (Surah Luqmān 31:13).

“And whoever associates anything with Allah, he devises indeed a great sin.” (Surah an-Nisā’ 4:48)

“And worship Allah and do not associate anything with Him.” (Surah an-Nisā’ 4:36)


Mushrik (Polythiest) is the opposite of Muwahhid (Monotheist). Tawhid is the primary pillar of faith. It has various aspects. In the same way Shirk also consists of different types:

1) Tawhid and Shirk with regard to the Essence of Allah (S.w.T.)

2) Tawhid and Shirk with regard to the Attributes of Allah (S.w.T.)

3) Tawhid and Shirk in Actions

4) Tawhid and Shirk in Obedience

5) Tawhid and Shirk in worship


Tawhid in the Essence of Allah (S.w.T.)

Tawhid with regard to the Essence of Allah (S.w.T.) denotes confessing that the Essence of the Lord of the worlds is one, and that He is Eternal. He is the Orignator of every action and phenomenon, whether perceptible through senses or not. There is no other cause except Him. Belief in multiple causes is Shirk.


6|19|Say, “What thing is more solemn in testimony?” Say, “God is Witness between you and me. This Quran was revealed to me, that I may warn you with it, and whomever it may reach. Do you indeed testify that there are other gods with God?” Say, “I myself do not testify.” Say, “He is but One God, and I am innocent of your idolatry.”


16|51|God has said: “Do not take two gods; He is only One God; so fear only Me.”


4|171|O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion, and do not say about God except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, is the Messenger of God, and His Word that He conveyed to Mary, and a Spirit from Him. So believe in God and His messengers, and do not say, “Three.” Refrain—it is better for you. God is only one God. Glory be to Him—that He should have a son. To Him belongs everything in the heavens and the earth, and God is a sufficient Protector.​


The Christians say God is one, but has different manfiestations or aspects. Islam rejects this notion and say Allah is one, unified, without parts or partners and can not be limited.

The Zoroastrians believe in the existence of two powerful forces in the Universe, both being equal and eternal. One is good, the other, evil. The god of good is Yazdan and the god of evil is Ahriman. The following ayat of the Holy Qur’an is a clear refutation of this false hypothesis.


“Say (O Muhammad): All is from Allah.” (Surah an-Nisā’ 4:78)


The claim of the Dualists can be refuted with a simple statement that there is no one except Allah (S.w.T.), who has been in existence since eternity. Whatever was in past, present or future is nothing but good. Or, at least we can say that good exceeds evil and that evil does not hold sway over good.

The Christians believe in the trinity of the Godhead. The Father (God), The Son (Jesus) and the Holy Ghost (Jibrīl). They believe that each of them have a special quality and that together they constitute the Godhead. The Qur’an flays their assertion thus:


“Certainly they disbelieve who say, ‘Surely Allah is the third (person) of Three’; and there is no god but One God.” (Surah al-Mā’ida 5:73)


The Holy Qur’an clearly states that Allah (S.w.T.) is not one-third of a god. He is the One and only One God.

The belief in Trinity is not exclusive to the Christians. Hindus and Buddhists also ascribe to it.

Some people allege that there are separate gods for every phenomenon. That is, god of wind, god of sea, etc. This is another form of Polytheism. These people consider different creations to be the handiwork of different gods. These idolaters and polytheists worship multiple deities. Their polytheistic belief has also been denounced in the Holy Qur’an:


“Are diverse lords better or Allah, the One, the Supreme?” (Surah Yūsuf 12:39)


When we say that Allah is one, we do not mean numerically one, we mean that in terms of God, there is only one all powerful force and there is no potentional for more or less, so it is more accurate to say that there is no other God, and He is infinite. If someone says we mean Allah is one numerically, then they are limiting Him, they are saying that He is limited by numbers, just like I am limited by numbers. It would be the same as limiting Allah to a place, weight or time. These are all created attributes that do not apply to Allah. To confirm this Allah says :


57|3|He is the First and the Last, and the Outer and the Inner, and He has knowledge of all things.


So how can there be any other god besides Allah when He is the First and the Last and all of creation is from Him?


Tawhid in the Attributes of Allah (S.w.T.)

Tawhid with regards to the attributes of Allah (S.w.T.) means the realization that the positive attributes of Allah (S.w.T.) and His Essence have only one and the same sense, and not any multiple and diverse sense. Divine attributes like Divine Eternity, Divine Knowledge and Divine Power, are the same as his Essence without any duality between His Essence and His attributes.

This concept must be clearly distinguished from the fact that Allah, the Almighty and the Exalted has applied some of His names to His creatures, and although the names are common to both the Creator and the created, the connotation is quite different; For example Zaid has knowledge, so the name “one who knows” is common to both the creator and the created. But in Zaid’s case, it is implicit that this quality in a limited measure was acquired by him (by Allah (S.w.T.)’s Grace) at a certain stage prior to which he did not have it; and it is also possible that he may also lose this quality at a later stage, but for Allah (S.w.T.) this attribute signifies that He is the knower of all things, past, present and future. He knows what is in the Heavens and the Earth and not an atom weight, or less than that or greater escapes Him. His knowledge is all encompassing. If we consider the Attributes of Allah (S.w.T.) as being qualities independent of Allah (S.w.T.) as we know them to be with His creatures, then we have committed Shirk. Accordingly the belief of the Ashairas is absolutely false.

To consider all the good qualities of the created to be from Allah (S.w.T.), the creator, is true Tawhid. It is our belief that all the qualities possessed by the Prophets and the Imams (a.s.) were given to them by Allah (S.w.T.)’s Grace. They did not come to acquire any of these qualities on their own. Rather Allah (S.w.T.) bestowed upon them superior knowledge, character, power and perfect morals and exalted their position.

Consequently all that exists has not come into existence on its own. But everything is dependent upon the Creator of the Universe. All the good qualities have also been given to them by Allah (S.w.T.). If Allah (S.w.T.) so desires, He increases their good qualities and gives them sustenance.


A discerning person realizes that our qualities are not our own and that we are not capable of acquiring such qualities without Divine assistance. Yet at times we mistakenly introduce our qualifications as, “my knowledge, my strength, my intention, my wealth etc. Rather one should say, my knowledge, which is bestowed upon me by Allah (S.w.T.), my strength which is imparted to me by Allah (S.w.T.), my intention that is assisted by Allah (S.w.T.), my wealth which is from Allah (S.w.T.).” This constant realization that all which we have is because of Allah (S.w.T.)’s Grace; is true Tawhid.

One can be a true believer in the Oneness of Allah (S.w.T.) if his words and actions both are in consonance with each other. Such a person is more humble and lowly when he addresses his Creator and is in constant dread of the sin of thanklessness. Another distinguishing characteristic of such a person is that he is never pleased when others praise him.


The Chief of the Believers, ‘Ali (a.s.) while describing the qualities of the pious says, in one of his sermons:

“When any one of them is spoken of highly, he says: ‘I know myself better than others, and my Lord knows me better than I know myself. O Allah do not deal with me according to what they say, and make me better than what they think of me and forgive me (those shortcomings) which they do not know.’3


A true believer in Tawhid does not attribute any partners to Allah (S.w.T.), nor does he praise anyone in the manner that Allah (S.w.T.) is praised. Everyday he repeats, “SubhanAllah” [Glory be (only) to Allah]. This implies that he does not deem it fit to praise anyone or anything except Allah (S.w.T.). When he says “Alhamdu lil-Lah” (Praise is only for Allah (S.w.T.)), he implies that all praise is exclusive to Allah (S.w.T.) only. No one is more deserving of praise and glorification but the one and only Allah (S.w.T.).


When a person becomes a true Muwahhid (a believer in the Oneness of Allah (S.w.T.)) he does not consider anyone the true possessor of perfect qualities. All of these are dependent upon Allah (S.w.T.) who is only one, absolutely independent. The Holy Qur’an says:

“O men! you are they who stand in need of Allah. And Allah is He who is self-sufficient, the praised one.” (Surah Fāt’ir 35:15)

That is the reason why pious people refrain from praising themselves and also fear the praise of others for them. ‘Ali (a.s.) has mentioned this in the sermon quoted above. We must also refrain from words, which imply the independence of man from Allah (S.w.T.) and instead attribute uniqueness to him. For example one should not say, “I possess such and such quality.”


Once a man approached the door of the exalted Prophet Muhammad Mustafa (S) and knocked. The Holy Prophet (S) enquired who he was. The person replied, “I” The Prophet came out and said, “Who was the one to say ‘I’? Let it be known that except Allah (S.w.T.) no one is qualified to use this word. Allah (S.w.T.) says about Himself, I am the Powerful, I am the Punisher.’


Qarūn became a polytheist because he dared to say that all he had come to possess was due to his knowledge of alchemy. Thus, when Qarūn made himself an accomplice of the One and only God in possessing the Divine attributes, Allah (S.w.T.) replied,

“Did he not know that Allah had destroyed before him the generations who were mightier in strength than he, and Greater in assemblage?” (Surah al-Qaŝaŝ 28:78)

Later, we see that Qarūn was not able to save himself from destruction even though he claimed to possess strength and power. Thus we must understand that any qualities of the creatures are not of their own but given to them by the Most Powerful Almighty Allah.


Tawhid and Shirk in Actions

Tawhid in deeds construe that we have conviction that the Lord and Master of every form of life whether material or spiritual is Allah (S.w.T.). He alone controls and regulates life. We must also have the conviction that Allah (S.w.T.) does not have anyone to share in His Lordship and control. His authority extends over the entire earth and the skies. No one is an accomplice of Him in this regard.

As the Qur’an says:

“Allah is He who created seven Heavens, and of the earth the like of them; the decree continues to descend among them, that you may know that Allah has power over all things and that Allah indeed encompasses all things in (His) knowledge.”(Surah at-Talāq 65:12)

We must acknowledge that Allah (S.w.T.) is the creator of the Heavens. We must have a firm belief that He has created the countless stars. Their number has not been ascertained till today. Modern science has computed that there are approximately ten million stars, each of them capable of having a habitation similar to the earth. Each one of them possess a different light and they revolve in their own orbits without clashing with the other Heavenly bodies.

“And the stars are made subservient by His commands.” (Surah an-Nahl 16:12)

One of such stars is the Sun, the volume of which is 1.3 million times more than our Earth. It has been bestowed with such a powerful light that within seconds it traverses the distance between the Sun and the Earth. The Earth is illuminated by solar light and the life on Earth is sustained by the nourishment received from this light. “Glory be only to Allah the Mighty Creator.”


It is the Unique Allah (S.w.T.) who has caused the growth of plants and trees from the bosom of the earth. These plants bear flowers with color and fragrance. The green leaves of the trees and the colourful vegetation is but by the uncomparable power of Creator. The Creator has also given to the human beings the ability to see and appreciate the colourful herbage and the floral outgrowths.

Hence man must contemplate upon the Creator who has caused all this to come into existence. He must also acknowledge the One who has created him.


The Master of the Universe is one who causes the seed to split. A part of it grows towards the depths of the earth and becomes the root. The root absorbs nourishment from the earth and supplies it to the main body. The plumule develops into stem and bears leaves. These leaves help in processing of the food which is supplied by the roots. Gradually the plant puts forth colourful and fragrant flowers and tasty fruits. All this is made to come in existence by the combination of the earth, air and water, all Three of which combine to provide different kinds of tastes, smells and colours. The human beings are made capable of discerning the myriad tastes and colours so that they can appreciate the bounties of Allah (S.w.T.) and know their Creator.


Allah (S.w.T.) is that uncomparable Being who has caused the creation of every animal from the unclean sperm. The human being is conceived in the triple covering of the womb. Later, he is bestowed with the discriminating intellect which enables him to ponder upon the qualities and the signs of Allah (S.w.T.) and also so that he may compare his ownself with other creatures by the help of his inward eye.


Allah (S.w.T.) is the One who created milk from the dirty red blood and caused it to flow from the mammary glands of the animals and humans so that it may reach the gullets of infants.

“And most surely there is a lesson for you in cattle; We give to drink of what is in their bellies from betwixt the faeces and the blood -pure milk, easy and agreeable to swallow for those who drink.”(Surah an-Nahl 16:66)

When the young ones are not yet capable of digesting solid food it is only milk which nourishes them. And the provider of this milk is Allah (S.w.T.). He is the bestower of every benefit.

“Say: All is from Allah..” (Surah an-Nisā’ 4:78)


Allah (S.w.T.) is the sustainer of all living creatures. He distributes His bounties freely to one and all. He gives sustenance to whom He chooses without measure. His unlimited Mercy spreads over His entire creation. He accepts the invocation of all those who plead to Him and removes the difficulties of whomsoever He wishes.

The absolute belief in Tawhid implies that one should understand fully, the meaning of the phrase, “There is no Power or Might except By Allah.” In other words it is the essence of the Kalima “La ilahā illa-Allah.”(There is no god except Allah (S.w.T.)).


Allah (S.w.T.) is the origin of every life. He is the origin of the characteristics of life imparted to each and every creature. The characteristics of all creation are manifested by the Will of Allah (S.w.T.). Therefore it is no wonder if the established quality of a particular thing may undergo a sudden change if Allah (S.w.T.) so wishes; as it happened in the case of fire lighted by Namrūd, which became cool by the Will of Allah (S.w.T.). The details of such phenomena shall be explained in the following pages.


Allah (S.w.T.), the Almighty is the One who brings assistance to the needy beseechers, provides relief to the afflicted who cry out for help and in His hands is all the good. “He is Allah the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner, the Sustainer, the Giver of life and death the Bestower of benefits, the Punisher, the Acceptor of prayers, the Obeyed One and the Praised.” The names and attributes of Allah manifest His greatness. The phrase ‘Rabbul Ālamīn’ (Lord of the worlds) is central to the Divine names. But intellect and reason is bewildered in understanding His attributes, and speech and expression is dumbfounded by His greatness.4

The Holy Qur’an says:

“Say, if the sea were ink for the words of my Lord, the sea would surely be consumed before the words of my Lord are exhausted, though we were to bring the like of that (sea) to add thereto.” (Surah al-Kahf 18:109)


Whatever a human being is able to achieve, is by the strength, the capacity, intellect and will power bestowed on him by Allah (S.w.T.). By thought and perseverance, he can make use of these favours to distinguish between good and evil and perform his deeds. Anyone who does not ponder upon the designs which embellish the doors and walls of this world is himself lifeless like the walls. The observation of the creations around him offer enlightenment to the intelligent mind. But one who does not deliberate (ponder), cannot know Allah (S.w.T.) through His creations and thus he rejects the existence of Allah (S.w.T.).

Is there anyone who could produce sweet fruits from woods (of trees)? Does anyone possess the miraculous capability of growing colourful flowers from (among) the thorns? He is that Pure and Flawless God who by His Divine plan and order created the day and the night and gave the light to the sun and the moon.

He is an incomparable king who neither requires a constitution nor a treasure. He is that designer who does not need paints or the tools of designing.

He causes the water springs to erupt from the stones and makes the rain to descend from the clouds. He creates honey from the bee and silk from the silkworm.

If all the creatures come together to discuss the bounties of Allah (S.w.T.) and continue upto the Day of Qiyāma, they will not have accomplished even a thousandth fraction of their task.

“And if you count Allah’s favours, you will not be able to number them; most surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (Surah an-Nahl 16:18)


The strength and the capacity of all the human beings is surrounded by the Divine decree and Allah (S.w.T.)’s will. As we see that a person makes an intention to do something but at the last moment his plans are foiled.

He is unable to complete the task that he had initiated due to the loss of capacity. Actually, what he intended to do was against the Divine will and thus he is hindered from the task. A person inquired from Amir ul-Mu’minīn ‘Ali (a.s.), “My Master! How did you recognise (realize) Allah?” He replied, “I recognised Him by witnessing the abrogation of intention and the failures of strengths.” Allah, undoubtedly is the initiator of all that moves in the Universe and He is the original cause of the various effects in the created world. To acknowledge Allah as the base of everything and to have a firm belief in this is the pinnacle of Tawhid (Belief in the Oneness of Allah).

However very few people are able to achieve this stage of Tawhid. But if one develops a firm conviction that the cause of every effect, whether material or spiritual is Allah, alone, he develops some peculiar characteristics. One of such characteristics is the Fear of Allah (S.w.T.).


A believer who has reached the highest stage of belief fears nothing but the Might of Allah (S.w.T.) and his own sins. It is because he has realized that all the creatures from Adam (a.s.) to the angels and all the animals, birds and insects are the obedient soldiers of Allah (S.w.T.). None of them move a step without His command. Hence they could not cause any harm or benefit without Allah (S.w.T.)’s permission. When a person develops this belief he is not fearful of anything. Even if all the swords of the world come to attack. If Allah (S.w.T.) wills, not a single nerve could be cut by them.

The opposition of both the friend and the foe is from Allah (S.w.T.). Because the hearts of both are in the control of Allah (S.w.T.). However evil the claimant may intend, only that which Allah (S.w.T.) permits comes to pass. There is a tradition that,

“The extreme kind of belief consists of not fearing anything except Allah.”

The Holy Prophet (S) used to recite this in prostration.

“O Allah if Your anger is not upon me then there is nothing I care for.”


When a believer has developed a firm and complete conviction that apart from Allah (S.w.T.) no one is the Lord of the creation and none is the cause of all the causes except Him, He does not repose hope in anyone except Allah (S.w.T.). Hazrat ‘Ali (a.s.) states:

“You must not rely upon anyone except the Lord.”5

As we have mentioned before, the origin of everything is Allah (S.w.T.) and the centre of all creation is He alone. In the same way every goodness of man for his fellowbeings also originates from Allah (S.w.T.). As it is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an,

“Good actions are only from His (Allah’s) hands.”

At the end of Surah Yūnus Allah (S.w.T.) says,

“And if Allah should afflict you with harm, then there is none to remove it but He, and if He intends good to you there is none to repel His grace; He brings it to whom He pleases of His servants; and He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” (Surah Yūnus 10:107)

At another place the Qur’an says, “And whatever favour is (bestowed) on you, it is from Allah…” 
(Surah an-Nahl 16:53)

Thus, it is clear from the above discussion that all that is present in the material and the ethereal spheres is subservient to Allah (S.w.T.).

“There is no one in the heavens and the earth but will come to the Beneficient God as a servant.” 
(Surah Maryam 19:93)

If someone reposes hope in anyone except Allah (S.w.T.) his hopes are extinguished so that he can realize his true master, i.e. Allah (S.w.T.).

“I will severe the ties of hope of those who repose hope in others.”


The master of the Universe is Allah (S.w.T.) and He bestows all the bounties, hence He must be thanked for these. Because all the good deeds are only through His hands. He gives whatever goodness He likes to anyone of His choice. That is why we say with a firm belief, “Al-hamdu lil-Lah” (The praise is only for Allah (S.w.T.)).


If we are receiving sustenance or help from some means, we must be thankful for these too. However we should not consider these means or intermediaries to be independent of Allah (S.w.T.). We must accept them only as the agents through whom Allah (S.w.T.) is causing His Mercy to reach us. These agents only act as a medium of passing the bounties of Allah (S.w.T.) and hence they must also be acknowledged; as ordered by the Masūm (a.s.).

“One who does not thank his apparent giver (the agent or the means), it is as if he has not thanked his real giver (Allah (S.w.T.)).”6

“The most thankful amongst you towards Allah is the one who is most thankful to the people (who have helped you).”7

There is no doubt that if one considers his helper to be the original doer of good (independent from Allah (S.w.T.)), he has surely committed Shirk.


“And most of them do not believe in Allah without associating others (with Him).” (Surah Yūsuf 12:106)

While explaining this verse, Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) informed that one form of Shirk is,

“Like the saying of someone that if so and so had not been there I would have been destroyed. If so and so had not been there I would have got that thing. In the same way is to say that if so and so had not been there my children would have perished.”

Such utterances signify the type of belief the speaker possesses. If he really has such a belief then he is surely a polytheists (mushrik). After this Imam (a.s.) said,

“If one says, ‘If Allah had not helped me through such and such person I would have perished,’ there is no harm in it.” In fact this is the essence of Tawhid.


Masma bin Abdul Malik relates that Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) was at Mina (in Makkah) when a beggar approached him. Imam (a.s.) ordered that a bunch of grapes be given to him. The beggar said, “I do not need these, if possible give me money.” Imam (a.s.) did not give him anything but said, “May Allah make you self-sufficient.” After this another beggar approached. Imam (a.s.) picked up three grapes from the bunch and offered them to him. The beggar picked them up and said, “All Praise is for Allah (only) who has given me sustenance.” Imam (a.s.) said, “Wait”, and he placed as many grapes as his hands could hold. Twice again he gave him the same quantity. The beggar thanked Allah (S.w.T.) again. Imam (a.s.) again stopped him and asked his slave how much money he had.

The slave replied, “Twenty dirhams.” Imam (a.s.) ordered him to give these to the beggar. The beggar took the money and said, “All praise is for Allah alone. O Allah You are the sustainer, You are One, there is no partner for You. Imam (a.s.) again stopped him. Then the Imam (a.s.) removed his shirt and gave it to the beggar and said, “Wear it.” The beggar put the shirt on and thanked Allah who had bestowed him with the dress and made him happy. At this stage the beggar turned towards Imam (a.s.) and said, “O slave of Allah may Allah reward you for this.” After this he went his way. The narrator says that if the beggar had not addressed the Imam (a.s.) as such, Imam (a.s.) would have continued to give him gifts for his thankfulness to Allah.


It must be remembered that all the causes are in the hands of the One who is the final cause. Those who believe in the Oneness of Allah (S.w.T.) should rely only upon the Almighty Allah (S.w.T.) for all their affairs. They must realize that all the effects owe their cause to Allah (S.w.T.). Even if all the venues for his success are open he will not achieve success if Allah (S.w.T.)’s will is contrary to it. On the other hand if all the ways of success are closed he will definitely succeed if Allah (S.w.T.) wills. Even if all the means of causing him injury come together no harm shall come if Allah (S.w.T.) intends to protect him.


One who believes in Tawhid should accept all the Divine decrees with humility. He should believe that various factors like honour and dishonour, health and ailments, richness and poverty, death and life are all according to the Divine decree. He should not oppose any of these either by speech or by actions. He should not even express his opinion in such affairs. For example, “Why has this happened? It should have been like this.” Or to say, “Why did it not rain? Why is it so hot?” One should not say, “Why has Allah (S.w.T.) not given me wealth or children?” “Why did such and such person die in his youth and why did the other attained old age?” “Why has Allah (S.w.T.) prohibited this and made obligatory that?”

One who utters such things makes himself a partner in the absolute authority of the Almighty Allah (S.w.T.).

There maybe people who worship the One and only God, establish prayers, pay the Zakat, perform Hajj and also fast during the month of Ramadhan. But if they have any objection against those obligations prescribed by Allah (S.w.T.) or His Prophet (S) and say, “Why was it not this way?” or even if they have such thoughts and do not express them in words, still they are polytheists (mushrikūn).

“But no! by your Lord! they do not believe until they make you a judge of that which has become a matter of disagreement among them, and then do not find any straitness in their hearts as to what you have decided and submit with entire submission.” (Surah an-Nisā’ 4:65)

Allama Majlisi comments, “…any objection against the Divine decree and the utterances of the Pure Imams (a.s.) is tantamount to Shirk.”

Thus it is obligatory for the believers of Tawhid that when they fall into misfortune and calamities they should restrain their tongues and hearts from objecting against the Divine decree. However the weeping and expression of grief at the death of friends and relative is allowed and rather recommended. What is not permitted is to say, “Why has this happened? It should not have happened.”


The worshippers of the unique God should accept that Allah (S.w.T.) is the provider of him and all the existing things. Whatever he gets is due to the beneficence of the Almighty. The apparent causes and the effects are also in control of Allah (S.w.T.). Then it is Him only who deserves unlimited love and attachment. If someone else deserves to be loved it is only due to his being the beloved of Allah (S.w.T.). This is because such a love is itself commanded by Allah (S.w.T.). Divine personalities like the Holy Prophets (a.s.), Imams (a.s.), the angels and the true believers are those whose love is commanded by Allah (S.w.T.).

In the same way, to show attachment to the gifts of Allah (S.w.T.) is allowed if such an attachment would exhibit our thankfulness for the bounties. To love our family, possessions and the worldly life is also worship in this way. However, to love all such things without considering the divine aspect renders one to be a mushrik (polytheist). If one loves something more than he loves Allah (S.w.T.), then it is a kind of Shirk. If he prefers something above the love of Allah (S.w.T.) it is totally Harām. Consequently he becomes liable for punishment. For example if someone loves monetary wealth more than Allah (S.w.T.) then it would be difficult for him to fulfill the religious obligation of Zakat etc. Various ayats of the Qur’an and traditions mention this fact.

1) Someone inquired from Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) the meaning of the following verse:

“The day on which property will not avail, nor sons. Except him who comes to Allah with a heart, free (from evil).” (Surah ash-Shūrā 26: 88-89)

Imam (a.s.) replied,

“The heart free (from evil) is the one when it meets Allah it does not have the love of anyone but Allah. Every heart which has Shirk and doubt is condemned to be destroyed. (al-Kāfi)

2) Imam as-Sadiq (a.s.) states,

“By Allah the Imān (faith) of a person cannot be pure till he loves Allah more than his near ones; his mother, his father, children, wife, other people and wealth.”10

3) During the rule of Prophet Sulaiman (a.s.) a male sparrow told its mate,

“Why do you stop me from mating? I possess such might that if I want I could pick up the dome of (the palace) of Hazrat Sulaiman (a.s.) and drop it in the river.” When Hazrat Sulaiman (a.s.) came to know of this, he summoned both the birds and asked the male bird if he could substantiate his claim by putting it into practice. The bird replied that he had only tried to impress his mate by the false claim. He said that he loved his companion hence could not afford to lose her. When Hazrat Sulaiman (a.s.) asked the female bird for her opinion she said that her suitor did not love her and his affections were for someone else. Upon hearing her grievance Hazrat Sulaiman (a.s.) became remorseful. He retired into his prayer niche and did not come out for forty days. He prayed, “O Allah purify the heart of this male bird from the love of everything except his own mate.”


Tawhid and Shirk in Obedience

We are obeident to Allah, this is key, from this obiedence Allah may order us to follow someone, like a prophet or a parent.

A believer knows that the creator of all is the one and only Allah (S.w.T.) and He also is the only sustainer of all His creatures. He does not have any partner in his Lordship and authority. Such a believer does not regard anyone else fit for obedience, except Allah (S.w.T.). This believer knows that apart from Allah (S.w.T.) none of the existing things could command obedience. They are all helpless before the Might of Allah (S.w.T.). All the creatures are incapable of benefitting themselves, nor can they protect themselves from harm. They do not have any power upon their death and life and neither upon the Day of Judgement and the reckoning

“…they control not for themselves any harm or profit, and they control not death, nor life, nor raising (the dead) to life.” (Surah al-Furqān 25:3)

Thus total obedience and Wilāyat is reserved for Allah (S.w.T.) only. However if Allah (S.w.T.) Himself designates someone to be the center of authority then His obedience is also obligatory due to the Divine command.


The chain of the Divine Wilāyat extends from the noble Prophets (a.s.), the Imams (a.s.) and also consist of the Nawwāb ul Khassa12 during the period of Minor occultation. Discussing this the Qur’an says,

“Whoever obeys the Apostle, he indeed obeys Allah…” (Surah an-Nisā’ 4:80).

And also,

“and whatever the Apostle gives you, accept it and from whatever he forbids you, keep back, and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; surely Allah is severe in retributing (evil).” (Surah al-Hashr 59:7)

Further Allah (S.w.T.) says,

“O ye who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those who have authority among you.” 
(Surah an-Nisā’ 4:59)


Concerning the “Ūli’ l-’Amr” the opinion of the Ahl ul-Sunna is unsupported by proofs. They claim that Ūli’ l-’Amr means the ruler! What if the ruler is unjust? What if he is not an expert in religious affairs? What if he is a slave of material desires? Is obedience obligatory towards him even if he himself disobeys his Lord? Such a situation creates contradictions. However, all these things are beyond the scope of our discussion.

As Umar ibn al-Khattab said, “Two muta’as (Muta’a of Hajj and Muta’a of women) were permitted in the time of the Holy Prophet (S), I prohibit both.” Hence those who consider Allah (S.w.T.) and the Prophet (S) as Ūli’ l-’Amr would regard Muta’a as Halāl. But if they also wish to obey Umar ibn al-Khattab, it will create a contradiction.


Muawiya considered it obligatory to fight ‘Ali (a.s.) whereas the Holy Prophet (S) had made it Harām. The Prophet (S) said, “War against ‘Ali (a.s.) is war against me.” Muawiya used to order people to hate ‘Ali (a.s.) while the Holy Prophet (S) made ‘Ali’s love obligatory and Allah (S.w.T.) made the love of ‘Ali (a.s.) the compensation of the Prophetic message. The Holy Qur’an says,

“Say: I do not ask of you any reward for it but the love of my near relatives.” (Surah Ash-Shūrā 42:23)

On the basis of this, the result of the obedience of Allah (S.w.T.) and His Prophet (S) would be love for ‘Ali (a.s.). To consider Muawiya as Ūli’ l-’Amr would necessitate hatred for ‘Ali (a.s.), and in this case too a contradictory situation would arise.


To consider the command of obedience of Ūli’ l-’Amr to be restricted to a particular group is against the import of the Qur’anic ayat. This is because Allah (S.w.T.) has not ordered the obedience of Ūli’ l-’Amr separately. He has included the obedience of Ūli’ l-’Amr alongwith that of the Holy Prophet (S). Thus the obedience of Ūli’ l-’Amr is the obedience of the Holy Prophet (S). There is no difference between the obedience of the Prophet (S) and the obedience of Ūli’ l-’Amr. The obedience of the Holy Prophet (S) and the Ūli’ l-’Amr is compulsory upon everyone. It is not restricted to a few people. If we consider Ūli’ l-’Amr to include all types of rulers it would not be correct. Ūli’ l-’Amr are those who are purified from every kind of mistakes and sins. So that they could be obeyed without any reservations.


Some scholars claim that by Ūli’ l-’Amr is meant the religious leaders (Ālims). But, the Ālims are not infallible (Masūm). All the Ālims are prone to commit mistakes. That is the reason why there are differences in the religious rulings. Secondly infallibility is an inward quality which cannot be perceived by the people. That is the reason why the Ūli’ l-’Amr could only be designated by Allah (S.w.T.) and appointed by the Holy Prophet (S).


Numerous books of the Sunnis as well as Shia record traditions that the Ūli’ l-’Amr are the Twelve Imams. The following tradition is regarded as authentic by the Sunnis as well as the Shias.


Jabir ibn Abdullah Ansari (a.r.) reports, “I asked the Holy Prophet (S) that I know Allah (S.w.T.) and His Prophet (S), but I do not know the Ūli’ l-’Amr.” The Holy Prophet (S) replied,

“They are my Caliphs, O! Jabir, and Imams of the Muslims after me. The first of them is ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (a.s.), then Hasan, then Husain, then ‘Ali ibn Husain, then Muhammad bin ‘Ali known in the Tawrat as Al-Baqir, thou wilt shortly meet him O Jabir; so when you meet him, convey to him my Salām; then Ja’far ibn Muhammad, then Musa bin Ja’far, then ‘Ali bin Musa, then Muhammad bin ‘Ali, then ‘Ali ibn Muhammad, then Hasan bin ‘Ali, then my name sake and one having my kunniyat. They are the decisive argument of Allah on this earth and the mainstay of His religion among mankind. The last of them is the one whom Allah will give victory over the east of the earth and the west; and it is he who will disappear from his Shias and friends. A long concealment, during which no one will remain firm in the belief of his Imamat except those whose hearts Allah has tested for faith.” Jabir (a.r.) asked, “Will his Shias derive benefit from him during his concealment?” “Yes”, said the Apostle of Allah, “By him Who raised me up with Prophethood,verily they will obtain light from his ‘Nūr’ and will benefit by his Wilāyat during his concealment, like people derive benefit from the sun when it is covered with clouds.”13

So, it could be concluded from this tradition that the obedience of the Holy Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.) is equivalent to the obedience of Allah (S.w.T.). Those interested in more details can refer to the book ‘Ghayatul Marām’. In the fifty-ninth chapter of this book, four traditions from the Sunni sources and fourteen from the Shia sources are mentioned. In the same book, in the 121st chapter, four traditions from the Sunni books and twenty-eight from the Shia sources are recorded.


Now we can say that during the Major occultation the obedience of a qualified Mujtahid is also compulsory. His obedience is actually the obedience of Imam az-Zaman (a.s.). Imam (a.s.) says,

“Look carefully at those people who relate our traditions with deliberation upon our permitted and prohibited things, and know our precepts and commandments. Select one of them for adjudication, since I have appointed such a person for the said task. If his verdict is rejected then it is as if the command of Allah is deemed light and our ordinance refuted. Certainly the one who refutes our ordinance has refuted the ordinance of Allah. Verily such a person has stepped into the boundary of Shirk (Polytheism).”


One of the conditions of a Faqih is that he should be free from worldly desires. He should not be in pursuit of material benefits and worldly honour. The Faqih who is free from such weaknesses is fit to be followed even if there are people more pious (in performing good deeds) than him. In this regard the great scholar Shaykh Ansari quotes a tradition from Imam Hasan Askari (a.s.) in his book ‘Ihtijāj’.

“And among jurists (Fuqaha) those who protect themselves (from sins), guard their religion, defy their carnal desires and are obedient to their Master, it is incumbent upon the people to follow them. Such characteristics are found only in a few of them and not all.”


Obeying Parents is Obeying Allah (S.w.T.)

Obedience to parents is obedience to Allah (S.w.T.). To obey parents and not to cause them any kind of distress or discomfort is of extreme importance. This importance can be judged by the fact that in the Holy Qur’an, Allah (S.w.T.)’s command to serve Him is immediately followed by His command to treat parents with gentleness and humility.

“And your Lord has commanded that you shall not serve (any) but Him; and goodness to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them (so much as) ‘Uff’ nor chide them, and speak to them a generous word. And make yourself submissively gentle to them with compassion, and say: O my Lord! have compassion on them, as they brought me up (when I was) little.” (Surah al-‘Isrā’, 17:23-24)


It should be known that the parents are not the absolute authority upon all the affairs of Harām and Halāl. Their authority is restricted by the dual dictum, that they must not prohibit a Wajib thing and nor should order something Harām. If a situation demands the parents have to be disobeyed in absolute obedience to the commands of Allah (S.w.T.) and His Prophet (S).

“And We have enjoined on man goodness to his parents, and if they contend with you that you should associate (others) with Me, of which you have no knowledge, do not obey them; to Me is your return, so I will inform you of what you did.” (Surah Al-’Ankabūt 29:8)

Obedience to parents is highly stressed so that they may not be caused even the slightest discomfort by the disobedience of their children. It is totally prohibited by the Qur’an. Thus if the disobedience of the parents would incur their wrath then it is compulsory for the children to obey them.


Further Details Regarding Obedience to Parents

Sometimes the parents may disallow something or order their children to do something. But if the child does not obey they are not angry. In such cases it is permitted for the child to follow his choice. For example the parents refrain their son to proceed on a journey that would cause hardship. But they do not mind if he insists on it. In this case it is Mubah for the son to go on this journey. However if this journey would cause the anger of one’s parents, it is a journey of sin and during this journey one has to pray Salāt as complete (not Qasr) and also observe the obligatory fasts.


The Almighty Allah (S.w.T.) and the Holy Prophet (S) have commanded the wife to obey her husband. The Holy Qur’an informs,

“Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded.” (Surah an-Nisā’ 4:34)

Allah, the Almighty has given men superiority over women and appointed them as the protectors of women. This is due to the fact that men have been provided by Allah (S.w.T.) with many qualities in great measure as compared to women, like strength, bravery etc. Further they spend their wealth upon their women. So the best women are those who are loyal to their husbands and obedient to their commands. They protect his property and their own chastity in the absence of their husbands.

The Holy Prophet (S) has also said,

“Prostration of a human for another human being is not permitted. (If it had been) I would have ordered the wife to prostrate before her husband.”15


Numerous traditions emphasise that women should be obedient to their husbands. Apart from this, women should know that it is highly recommended that they please their husbands in all matters. It is the best worship of a woman. However to satisfy the sexual desires of the husband is absolutely Wajib according to the consensus of the scholars.

Similarly the husbands permission is required by the wife if she intends to go out. Even if she goes to visit her relatives or parents it is obligatory for her to seek the husbands permission. If she leaves the husband’s house without his permission, the angels curse her till she returns.


Apart from the necessary expenses, the wife should obtain the husband’s permission for other things even if she wants to spend from her personal wealth. But in case of obligatory expenses she does not need the husband’s permission. For example, Hajj, Zakat, Khums and even for spending upon her parents. Even if the husband restrains her she must carry out these obligations. If a woman obeys her husband to please Allah (S.w.T.), she has undoubtedly obeyed the Divine commands and the instructions of the Holy Prophet (S). It is certainly the best worship for a woman.


So far, we have seen that obedience to Allah (S.w.T.) is obligatory and so is the obedience to the Holy Prophet (S) and his Twelve Successors (Imams a.s). and whoever else Allah (S.w.T.) has ordered to obey. Their obedience is also a must i.e. of the Fuqaha, in case of religious matters. It is absolutely ‘Harām’ to appeal for justice in the courts of the unjust rulers. Referring to them is the same as seeking the help of Satan. Whatever benefit is derived through such cases is also Harām even if one is the rightful claimant. Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says,

“If one files a suit of law in the court of a ruler, even if the plaintiff is on the right, his claim would tantamount to his making Satan (false deity) his judge. And whatever he gets through this Judgement is Harām even though it was from his rights.”

“…then if you quarrel about anything, refer it to Allah and the Apostle…” (Surah an-Nisā’ 4:59)


Like it is prohibited to seek the counsel of the unjust ruler even if one is on the right; in the same way it is not allowed to seek religious advice from the scholars who pursue material wealth and worldly honour. The qualifications of a Faqih have been mentioned in the foregoing pages. Anyone who does not fulfill these qualities is not to be followed. It is Harām to refer to them. A couple of traditions are quoted below in this regard.


It is narrated from Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.): “When you see a religious scholar in love of this world, do not consider him religious. Certainly one who loves an object, his condition and disposition is like that of his beloved. (It means that one who loves this world will not care for the Hereafter). Allah revealed upon Hazrat Dawūd (a.s.) :

“O Dawūd do not make an Ālim an intermediary between you and Me, who is involved in the love of this world. He will hinder you from My path (i.e. he will make you too a worshipper of the world like himself). Certainly such Ālims are bandits who waylay the people approaching My abode. The least that I would do to them is that I shall remove from their hearts the love of conversation with Me and sweetness too.”16


Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) states,

“If one obtains knowledge in order to become conceited or to argue with the foolish people or to obtain wealth or to attract people towards himself then he has certainly made the Fire his abode. Verily, acquisition of wealth is not permitted but for ones own family (needs).”


People who leave aside the scholars of Ahl ul-Bayt (a.s.) and refer to others in order to satisfy their selfish desires, are termed as ‘deficient’ (which means those who willfully neglect the Divine commands). They are mentioned in the following verse of the Holy Qur’an:

“Have you then considered him who takes his low desire for his god.” (Surah al-Jāthiya 45:23)

Tawhid and Shirk in Worship

The Almighty Allah has invited all the creatures to pay obeisance to Him in order that His Majesty may become manifest. The people can obtain numerous blessings and unlimited mercy and achieve such a position which even imagination cannot visualise.

“So no soul knows what is hidden for them of that which will refresh the eyes; a reward for what they did.” (Surah as-Sajda 32:17)


The human being is a lowly creature. So lowly that he cannot even seek nearness to the Almighty, let alone achieve it. That is why Allah (S.w.T.), by his unsurpassed Wisdom and infinite Mercy appointed the Last Prophet (S) as an intermediary to form a firm link between the lowly man and the Almighty Allah.

Due to the presence of this Wasilah (intermediary) the soul of man is affected to such a degree that it undergoes a transformation. Just as alchemy changes the base metal into pure gold, the heart of the worshipper become pure and is filled by the light of the Creator, repelling the darkness of Ignorance. Gradually he rises in status as his worship enables him to rise up towards the Divine. He thus achieves the best of both the worlds.


There are some conditions for acceptance of the acts of worship. The most important condition is purity of intention (Niyyat). Purity of intention with respect to a deed has the same significance that the soul has for the body. Absence of the purity of intention during worship takes man further away from Allah (S.w.T.).

The Holy Qur’an contains numerous verses in this regard. A few of them are quoted below:

1) “And they were not enjoined anything except that they should serve Allah, being sincere to Him in obedience.” (Surah al-Bayyina 98:5)

2) “Say: I am commanded that I should serve Allah, being sincere to Him in obedience.” (Surah az-Zumar 39:11)

3) “Say: My Lord has enjoined justice, and set upright your faces at every time of prayer and call on Him, being sincere to Him in obedience.” (Surah al-Ar’āf 7:29)

4) “Say: I am only a mortal like you; it is revealed to me that your god is One God, therefore whoever hopes to meet his Lord, he should do good deeds, and not join anyone in the service of His Lord.”(Surah al-Kahf 18:110)


It is concluded from the authentic traditions that one who tries to show-off in religious matters is a mushrik and a hypocrite. He is inevitably condemned to Divine punishment. It is one and the same whether his show-off concerns the obligatory acts or the recommended acts.

Similarly he may simply exhibit outward piety or his aim may be to acquire honour and respect among the people. Even if he has a dual aim (of showing off and fulfilling his obligation) his act is classified as Shirk. A few Qur’anic verses are quoted for the benefit of the readers:

1) “Surely the hypocrites strive to deceive Allah, and He shall requite their deceit to them, and when they stand up sluggishly; they do it only to be seen of men and do not remember Allah save a little. Wavering between that (and this), (belonging) neither to these nor to those.” (Surah an-Nisā’ 4:142)

2) “So woe to the praying ones, who are unmindful of their prayers, who do (good) to be seen.” 
(Surah Ma’ūn 107:4-6)


Outward Piety (Riyah) is the Lesser Shirk

The Holy Prophet (S) said,

“Certainly what I fear for you most is the lesser Shirk.”

Someone enquired, “O Prophet (S), what is meant by lesser Shirk?” He replied,

“It is Riyah when Allah would reward His creatures for their deeds on the Day of Judgement He would address those who committed Riyah thus, ‘you approach those, to please whom you had performed all the deeds in the world. And obtain your rewards for your deeds from them.’18

Is it possible to receive rewards from them? Absolutely not!


Someone enquired from the Holy Prophet (S) as to how could salvation be attained on the Day of Judgement? He replied,

“It could only be possible if one does not deceive Allah. Certainly if anyone tries to deceive Allah he is himself deceived by Allah (i.e. he is repaid for his deceit) and Allah takes away belief from him. If he possesses reason he should know that in trying to deceive Allah, he is only deceiving himself.”

“How can Allah be deceived and defrauded?” a person asked. The Prophet (S) continued,

“The person fulfills all his religious obligations but his aim is to please someone other than Allah. Fear Allah and restrain from ‘Riyah’. On the Day of Judgement the deceiver (Riyakār) will be addressed by four titles, ‘O Kafir, O Sinful, O Crafty one, O Loser, your deeds are nullified and the reward of your deeds is lost. Today you have no worth whatsoever. Go and seek the reward of your deeds from those, to please whom you performed your acts.’19


It is narrated from Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) and Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.):

“If a person performs a good deed to achieve Allah’s pleasure and the reward in the hereafter; but also intends to please other people, then he will be termed as a Mushrik.”20

The Holy Prophet (s.a.w) has informed,

“Certainly the fire of Hell and the people of Hell would cry for help due to the deceitful ones.”

Someone asked, “O Prophet of Allah (S). How would the fire cry?” He replied,

“The fire would scream and cry for help due to the intensity of the heat of that fire in which the Riyakār people would be burning.”

Amir ul-Mu’minīn ‘Ali (a.s.) says,

“Certainly, Allah sent His messenger, so that He may extricate the humankind from the worship of people and direct them to the worship of Allah.”


Abu Basir has narrated from Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) that he said,

“On the Day of Judgement a person would be brought forward. He had performed Salāt in his life. He would be told that you have prayed but your intention had been to show-off, so that people may appreciate your worship. This person would be cast into the fire. Then a reciter of the Qur’an would be brought. He would be told, ‘at the time of reciting the Qur’an, your intention had been to exhibit your sweet voice so that people may appreciate your tone.’ This one shall also be tossed into the fire. The third person to be presented shall be one who had died a martyr in Jihad. He would be told that, ‘Your intention while fighting was to make a show-off your strength and valour.” He shall also be led towards the fire. The fourth person had been a charitable man. He would be told, ‘your intention in giving charity was that people may call you generous.’ Then he would also be led towards Hell.21

Numerous traditions confirm that the Riyakār person is a Mushrik. This is sufficient for the believing and the thoughtful people.


Apart from the punishment in the Hereafter and cancellation of good deeds the Riyakār person will also fail to achieve his aim in this world. In the world it had been his intention to achieve honour among the people but instead he would have to face humiliation and shame. The noble Qur’an tells us,

“…he loses this world as well as the hereafter; that is a manifest loss.” (Surah al-Hajj 22:11)

On the contrary, one who performs good deeds for the Hereafter will achieve honour in this world too. The following verse of Surah al-Kahf says:

“…therefore whoever hopes to meet his Lord, he should do good deeds, and not join anyone in the service of his Lord.” (Surah al-Kahf 18:110)

The tafsir of this ayat is as follows: “Someone performs a good deed not for seeking Allah’s pleasure, but to obtain praise and admiration from people, so that people may see and hear him and he may become famous. He is like the one who has an associate with Allah in his worship. One who conceals his worship acts from the people (and reserve them solely for Allah would finally be given an honourable position among the people, by Allah. While one who exhibits his worship; his weaknesses are exposed by Allah and consequently he is degraded.


Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) says,

“If one intends to do a small act with the sole intention of pleasing Allah, Allah causes this small deed of his to be manifested on a greater scale upon the people. (On the contrary) if someone performs the greatest of deeds which causes him physical tiredness and exhaustion due to wakeful nights, while his intention had been to acquire the praise of people, his deed would be reduced to a trifle by Allah and manifested on the people.” (till the people begin to dislike him.)


If someone has committed Shirk with regard to the acts of worship, he must repent sincerely and have a firm determination not to repeat his mistake. He should intend to perform all his deeds in the future for the sole purpose of achieving Allah (S.w.T.)’s pleasure. First of all it is Wajib upon him to seek forgiveness of his past sins. Secondly he must repeat all the worship acts in which he had committed Riyah, even if a part of that worship had been contaminated with the intention of showing off. Suppose he had begun his act with pure intention but later he was involved in Riyah, even so his deed is nullified. Like the person who gives Zakat to a needy man but later tries to obtain some benefit in return. In this case he has to first repent for his sin and then again give Zakat with the sole intention of achieving Allah (S.w.T.)’s pleasure.

Similarly in the case of Salāt the person may exhibit a part of it (Be it a mustahab part) e.g. Qunūt or he may perform Salāt in congregation or sit in the front row to show-off. In all such cases he has to perform this Salāt again.

Riyah in the Acts of Worship

There is no firm proof that Riyah is Harām in the pure worldly acts, which are not considered acts of worship. Consequently the Fuqaha have not given any verdict concerning this. But the true believers refrain from all types of Riyah; even with the worldly acts and the mubah actions. The root of Riyakāri is the love of this world. Hence if one falls into this habit, he may even begin to make it a part of his worship.

The respected scholar, Faiz al-Kashani writes in his book, ‘Muhajjatul Baidha’, “People resort to Riyakāri in five types of actions.

(1) Bodily Riyah

(2) Riyah of beauty and dress

(3) Riyah of speech

(4) Riyah of actions

(5) Riyah of the outward kind.”

The above types of Riyah are explained below.


Bodily Riyah with regard to the actions pertaining to the hereafter is that someone tries to show that his body has become weak due to excessive fasting and night worship. Or he may keep his lips dry so that people think that he is fasting. Or he may show himself to be pious so that people praise him, and day and night he remains busy in religious acts. Bodily Riyah with regard to worldly matters is that he displays his body and tries to create a position in the eyes of the people.


This type of Riyah with regard to the hereafter consists of shaving ones moustache so that people think that he is following the recommended acts or walking slowly with head turned downwards or wearing dirty clothes to show that one has disregard for the world.

The riya of beauty and dress with regard to this world is to show off ones dress and handsome appearance so that people are attracted towards the person.


Riyah of speech with regard to the hereafter is for example uttering Zikr (i.e. Alhamdu lil-Lah) to show-off to the people. To exhibit one’s knowledge and greatness by preaching to the people in assemblies. To forbid evil and enjoin good to the audience by making people fearful of Divine wrath without having any pure intention.

In the worldly connection this Riyah could take the form of boasting of ones achievements and capabilities so that the people adore him. To be extremely social and greet beyond limit, even strangers, to achieve popularity, etc.


In connection with actions of the hereafter Riyah consists of praying Salāt to show-off. For example reciting lengthy chapters or remaining for a long time in Ruku or as-Sajda. To pray Salāt extremely slowly. Performing the Wajib and the mustahab fast, Hajj and Ziarat, giving charity and feeding people so that one is regarded as pious.

With regard to the worldly actions, it is to behave with people in consonance with their way of thinking and to spend in similar ways. That is, to strive to become honourable in the eyes of these people. To spend lavishly upon people by inviting them in large numbers for dinner etc.


All the four types of Riyah explained above are concerned with the person himself. The fifth type of Riyah is that which is connected with the external affairs. This type of Riyah also is with regard to the Hereafter as well as this world. With regard to the Hereafter it consists of a person sitting in the assembly of the learned people without any pure intention; just to exhibit his interest in religion etc. Or to go out to meet pious people or invite the learned scholars to his home for dinner so that people consider him to be religious. In the same way Riyah is prohibited with regard to the worldly actions. For example visiting frequently the courts of Kings and rulers so that people realize his influence and reputation and the gullible people are deceived by his outward show.


It must be understood that Riyah of a person depends upon his intention. In other words all such actions which a person performs to show off are Riyah whether those actions are related to the hereafter or this world. In all types of actions related above, riyah is not committed till one has the intention to show-off. But if one performs an action solely for the pleasure of Allah (S.w.T.) it is worship. For example if one dresses up nicely or decorates his house with the intention of fully expressing the bounties of Allah (S.w.T.); this action is worship. However if his intention is to show-off to people it is Riyah.

Medina Minds Team

Medina Minds Team

A group of contributors who are working to publicize the reality of Islam and Muslims.

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