Between Shirk and Ignorance
Author: Said Yai Ardiansyah, M.A.
قُلْ أَفَغَيْرَ اللَّهِ تَأْمُرُونِّي أَعْبُدُ أَيُّهَا الْجَاهِلُونَ (64) وَلَقَدْ أُوحِيَ إِلَيْكَ وَإِلَى الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ لَئِنْ أَشْرَكْتَ لَيَحْبَطَنَّ عَمَلُكَ وَلَتَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ (65) بَلِ اللَّهَ فَاعْبُدْ وَكُنْ مِنَ الشَّاكِرِينَ (66)
(O Prophet), say: “Ignorant people! Do you bid me to serve any other beside Allah?”. (Tell them clearly that) it was revealed to you and to all Prophets before you: “If you associate any others with Allah in His Divinity, your works will surely come to naught and you will certainly be among the losers.” Therefore, serve Allah alone and be among those who give thanks. “ (Chapter Az Zumar/The Troops :64-66)
“Say” O Messenger of Allah, to the ignorants who persuade you to worship deities aside from Allah, “”Ignorant people! Do you bid me to serve any other beside Allah?”. This bid came from your ignorance. Supposed that you have knowledge that Allaah is The All-Perfect from all sides, The One Who bestows all favors, and He is the only one that deserves the be worshipped – unlike those who have flaws from all of his sides, unable to give advantage, and unable to bring any harm -, then surely you would not bid me to do it, because shirk will extinguishes deeds and destroy the currently good condition. Therefore, Allah decreed (which means), “(Tell them clearly that) it was revealed to you and to all Prophets before you:, i.e., all prophets, “If you associate any others with Allah in His Divinity, your works will surely come to naught ..”, it includes all deeds. And it is mentioned in all prophets’ teaching that shirk will cause good deeds to come to naught, similar to what Allah revealed in chapter Al-An’aam (The Cattle), after Allaah mentioned some stories of the prophets and messengers. Allaah informed us about them,
ذَلِكَ هُدَى اللَّهِ يَهْدِي بِهِ مَنْ يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ وَلَوْ أَشْرَكُوا لَحَبِطَ عَنْهُمْ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
“That is Allah’s guidance wherewith He guides those of His servants whom He will. But if they ever associate others with Allah in His Divinity, then all that they had done would have gone to waste.”
“ and you will certainly be among the losers.”, i.e., in regards to both your religion and your Hereafter life. By committing shirk, deeds will be extinguished and anyone who commit it deserves to receive punishment and bad “reward”. “Therefore, serve Allah alone,” i.e., purify your worship for Allaah alone, and do not associate any partner to Him.
“and be among those who give thanks. “ to Allaah, for His guidance. As we are thankful to Allah for any worldly favor (that Allah has given to us), such as health, and physical well-being, provision, etc, we should also be thankful to Allah and praise Him for the favor (that Allah has given to us), such as: receiving guidance to be sincere in worshipping Him, and to be pious.
Furthermore, the favor of religion is a true favor. When someone reflected that all of those favors come from Allah, and he was thankful to Him for those favors, he will be able to escape from the disease of ‘ujub (in awe of himself) which infects many people who had done some deeds due to their ignorance. If a slave recognizes the truth, he will not be in awe of himself, and instead, will be more thankful to his Lord.
Explanation of The Verse
قُلْ أَفَغَيْرَ اللَّهِ تَأْمُرُونِّي أَعْبُدُ أَيُّهَا الْجَاهِلُونَ
(O Prophet), say: “Ignorant people! Do you bid me to serve any other beside Allah?”.
Tawheed is light, whereas shirk is darkness and ignorance. Allah The Glorified and Exalted has called upon mankind to ascribe no partner whatsoever to Him, and worship Him alone. He also ordered all messengers to convey to their followers that there is no deity (al ilah) that deserves to be worshipped but Allah. Allah the Glorified and Exalted decreed,
اللَّهُ وَلِيُّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا يُخْرِجُهُمْ مِنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا أَوْلِيَاؤُهُمُ الطَّاغُوتُ يُخْرِجُونَهُمْ مِنَ النُّورِ إِلَى الظُّلُمَاتِ أُولَئِكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ
“Allah is the Guardian of those who believe, He brought them out of all kinds of darkness into light. And those who disbelieve, their guardians are the evil ones; they bring them out of light into all kinds of darkness. These are destined for the Fire, and there shall they abide.” (Chapter Al Baqara/The Cow: 257)
In this verse, Allaah mentioned that He brings the believers out from every darkness into light. And vice versa, the guardians of the disbelievers are the evil ones, who drag them out from light into all kinds of darkness.
This is the true nature of shirk. Shirk is darkness, since it is performed based on ignorance on Allah. Therefore, Allaah the Glorified and Exalted ordered His messenger to deny the polytheists who persuaded him to worship their deities. Allaah the Glorified and Exalted decreed in the Qur’an,
قُلْ أَفَغَيْرَ اللَّهِ تَأْمُرُونِّي أَعْبُدُ أَيُّهَا الْجَاهِلُونَ
“say: “Ignorant people! Do you bid me to serve any other beside Allah?”.
Sheikh Muhammad Ath-Thaahir Ibn ‘Âsyur -may Allaah have mercy on him- wrote in his book of Tafseer, “In the said verse, there is a hint that points out that faith is the brother of knowledge. Both are lights and foundations to recognize the truth (ma’rifatul haqq). And indeed, disbelieving is the brother of astray. Indeed, kufr and astray are darkness and evil doubts.”
When Prophet Huud -peace be upon him- enjoined his people to abandon shirk, they went forward to defy him -peace be upon him-. Then he said that they were ignorants. Allah the Glorified and Exalted decreed,
وَاذْكُرْ أَخَا عَادٍ إِذْ أَنْذَرَ قَوْمَهُ بِالْأَحْقَافِ وَقَدْ خَلَتِ النُّذُرُ مِنْ بَيْنِ يَدَيْهِ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِ أَلَّا تَعْبُدُوا إِلَّا اللَّهَ إِنِّي أَخَافُ عَلَيْكُمْ عَذَابَ يَوْمٍ عَظِيمٍ (21) قَالُوا أَجِئْتَنَا لِتَأْفِكَنَا عَنْ آلِهَتِنَا فَأْتِنَا بِمَا تَعِدُنَا إِنْ كُنْتَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ (22) قَالَ إِنَّمَا الْعِلْمُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ وَأُبَلِّغُكُمْ مَا أُرْسِلْتُ بِهِ وَلَكِنِّي أَرَاكُمْ قَوْمًا تَجْهَلُونَ (23)
“ Recount to them the story of (Hud), the brother of (the tribe of) ‘Ad. Hud warned his people beside the sand-dunes – and there have been other warners before him and since his time – saying: “Serve none but Allah. Verily I fear that the chastisement of an awesome day shall come upon you.” (21). They said: “Have you come to us to turn us away from our gods? Then, bring upon us the scourge that you threaten us with. Do so if you are truthful.”(22). He replied: “Allah alone knows about this. I only convey to you the Message that I have been sent with. But I see that you are an ignorant people.” (23).” (Chapter Al Ahqaf/The Wind-Curved Sandhills :21-23)
Likewise, when the followers of Prophet Moses -peace be upon him- saw the polytheists worshipped their idols, they then asked Prophet Moses -peace be upon him- to make an idol for them to worship, Prophet Moses -peace be upon him- denied their request, and labeled them as ignorants. Allah the Glorified and Exalted decreed,
وَجَاوَزْنَا بِبَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ الْبَحْرَ فَأَتَوْا عَلَى قَوْمٍ يَعْكُفُونَ عَلَى أَصْنَامٍ لَهُمْ قَالُوا يَا مُوسَى اجْعَلْ لَنَا إِلَهًا كَمَا لَهُمْ آلِهَةٌ قَالَ إِنَّكُمْ قَوْمٌ تَجْهَلُونَ
“And We led the Children of Israel across the sea; and then they came upon a people who were devoted to the worship of their idols. They said: “O Moses, make for us a god even as they have gods.” Moses said: “You are indeed an ignorant people.” (Chapter Al A’raaf/The Height: 138)
The ignorants and those who blindly follow their desires will not be able to accept tawheed (worshipping Allaah alone).
The ignorants, no matter how smart they are in their worldly affairs; how clever they are in following the advancement of technology; how meticulous they are in mastering science; will not be able to accept tawheed rightfully. It is because only those who worship Allah alone that Allah mentions as the intelligent. Allah the Glorified and Exalted decreed,
أَفَمَنْ يَعْلَمُ أَنَّمَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِنْ رَبِّكَ الْحَقُّ كَمَنْ هُوَ أَعْمَى إِنَّمَا يَتَذَكَّرُ أُولُو الْأَلْبَابِ (19) الَّذِينَ يُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِ اللَّهِ وَلَا يَنْقُضُونَ الْمِيثَاقَ (20)
“He who knows that the Book which has been sent to you from your Lord is the Truth, is he like him who is blind to that truth? It is only people of understanding who take heed: those who fulfil their covenant with Allah and do not break their compact after firmly confirming it;,” (Chapter Ar Ra’d/The Thunder:19-20)
Allah also labeled the ignorants as deaf, mute, and blind, because they couldn’t use those senses to recognize and worship Allah alone -Glorified and Exalted be He-. Allah the Glorified and Exalted said,
وَمَثَلُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا كَمَثَلِ الَّذِي يَنْعِقُ بِمَا لَا يَسْمَعُ إِلَّا دُعَاءً وَنِدَاءً صُمٌّ بُكْمٌ عُمْيٌ فَهُمْ لَا يَعْقِلُونَ (171)
“Those who have refused to follow the Way of Allah resemble cattle; when the shepherd calls them they hear nothing except shouting and crying; they are deaf, dumb and blind, and so they understand nothing.” (Chapter Al Baqara/The Cow: 171)
Allah the Glorified and Exalted also decreed,
قَالَ أَفَتَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ مَا لَا يَنْفَعُكُمْ شَيْئًا وَلَا يَضُرُّكُمْ (66) أُفٍّ لَكُمْ وَلِمَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِنْ دُونِ اللَّهِ أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ (67)
“ Abraham said: “Do you, then, worship beside Allah a thing that can neither benefit you nor hurt you? (66). Fie upon you and upon all that you worship beside Allah. Do you have no sense?” (67).” (Chapter Al-Anbiyaa’/The Prophets:66-67)
However, even after indications after indications and real proofs were brought to them, they were still unwilling to accept the truth. It is because of their ignorance and evil desire. Allah the Glorified and Exalted decreed,
وَلَوْ أَنَّنَا نَزَّلْنَا إِلَيْهِمُ الْمَلَائِكَةَ وَكَلَّمَهُمُ الْمَوْتَى وَحَشَرْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ قُبُلًا مَا كَانُوا لِيُؤْمِنُوا إِلَّا أَنْ يَشَاءَ اللَّهُ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَهُمْ يَجْهَلُونَ
“Even if We had sent angels down to them and the dead had spoken to them, and even if We had assembled before them all the things, face to face, they would still not believe unless it be Allah’s will that they believe. Most of them behave in utter ignorance.” (Chapter Al-An’aam/The Cattle: 111)
He also decreed,
وَلَقَدْ أُوحِيَ إِلَيْكَ وَإِلَى الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ لَئِنْ أَشْرَكْتَ لَيَحْبَطَنَّ عَمَلُكَ وَلَتَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ (65)
Even though the textual message of this verse was for the Prophet -peace and prayer of Allaah be upon him-, its context doesn’t extend to him only, but also to all of his followers.
Allah the Glorified and Exalted decreed,
وَلَوْ أَشْرَكُوا لَحَبِطَ عَنْهُمْ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
“That is Allah’s guidance wherewith He guides those of His servants whom He will. But if they ever associate others with Allah in His Divinity, then all that they had done would have gone to waste.” (Chapter Al-An’aam/The Cattle:88)
Any muslim who has performed his hajj duty, then he renounced his religion, only to return to it (Islam) afterwards, should he repeat his hajj or not?
Likewise, if a muslim has performed the duhr prayer, then he renounced Islam, but before the ‘Ashr prayer time commences, he returns to Islam; shall he repeat his duhr prayer?
The scholars have different opinions regarding this matter. There are two opinions; the first one is that he is obliged to repeat his hajj and his prayer, whereas the second one states that there is no need for him to repeat his hajj and prayer.
The first opinion is the opinion of Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Malik -may Allaah have mercy on him-. They reasoned with the verse that we’re currently discussing, i.e.,
لَئِنْ أَشْرَكْتَ لَيَحْبَطَنَّ عَمَلُكَ وَلَتَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ
“If you associate any others with Allah in His Divinity, your works will surely come to naught and you will certainly be among the losers.”
They stated that the ruling mentioned in this verse is absolute, therefore, every deed one’s performed before renouncing his religion is nullified with it. They also stated that the apostates are the losers, as mentioned in the end of the said verse, thus he will not gain anything from the deeds he performed prior to his renouncement.
Whereas the second opinion is the stance of Imam Asy-Syâfi’i, Imam Ahmad, and Imam Ibn Hazm -may Allaah have mercy on them-. They stated that the verse doesn’t apply in absolute, because there is another verse that confines its ruling, i.e., (Allah the Exalted’s decree)
فَمَنْ يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ خَيْرًا يَرَهُ
“So, whoever does an atom’s weight of good shall see it;” (Chapter Az Zalzala/The Earthquake:7)
Also in Allah the Exalted’s decree:
أَنِّي لاَ أُضِيعُ عَمَلَ عَامِلٍ مِنْكُمْ مِنْ ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنْثَى
“I will not suffer the work of any of you, whether male or female, to go to waste; (Chapter Aali ‘Imraan/The Family of ‘Imran:95)
These two verses contain general meaning, and thus shouldn’t be narrowed down. Hence, the argument used to support the first opinion is incorrect. It can only be applied for the apostates and those who die in infidelity (kufr, disbelieving in Islam).
As for the statement in the first opinion which said that they are the losers, it is also invalid to use as indication, since anyone who renounces Islam, then returns to embrace it, they are not losers; rather, they are fortunate with their religion (Islam).
بَلِ اللَّهَ فَاعْبُدْ وَكُنْ مِنَ الشَّاكِرِينَ (66)
“Therefore, serve Allah alone and be among those who give thanks. “
Allah the Glorified and Exalted ordered His prophet -peace and prayer of Allaah be upon him- to worship Allah alone, and to be among those who give thanks. This order, even though it was directed to Prophet Muhammad -peace and prayer of Allaah be upon him-, isn’t specific for him only ; rather, it is valid for all of his followers.
The Messenger of Allaah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- is the most thankful to Allah the Glorified and Exalted, among His servants. Mother of the believers, ‘Aisha -may Allaah be pleased with her- once chastised the Messenger of Allaah -peace and prayer of Allah be upon him- because he woke up in almost the entire night to perform the night prayer and he stood for a long time until his feet were chapped. Mother ‘Aisha -may Allah be pleased with her- said,
لِمَ تَصْنَعُ هَذَا يَا رَسُولَ اللهِ وَقَدْ غَفَرَ اللَّهُ لَكَ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِنْ ذَنْبِكَ وَمَا تَأَخَّرَ قَالَ أَفَلاَ أُحِبُّ أَنْ أَكُونَ عَبْدًا شَكُورًا
“Why did you do it, O Messenger of Allaah? Hasn’t Allaah forgive your sins in the past and in the future?,” He replied, “Wont I like it to be a slave who loves to give thanks?,”
The Pillar of Thankfulness
A slave isn’t said as a thankful one to Allaah unless he has fulfilled the pillars of thankfulness.
Ibn al-Qayyim Al-Jauziyya -may Allaah have mercy on him- said,
الشكر وهو مبني على ثلاثة أركان : الاعتراف بها باطنا والتحدث بها ظاهرا وتصريفها في مرضاة وليها ومسديها ومعطيها فإذا فعل ذلك فقد شكرها.
“Thankfulness is built on three pillars, namely: admitting/acknowledging Allaah’s favor in one’s heart, mentioning the favor by showing it to people, and use it in Causes that its Owner, Giver, and Bestower pleases of. If a believer has performed these three things, then he has given his thanks.”
Therefore, Allaah the Glorified and Exalted decreed,
وَأَمَّا بِنِعْمَةِ رَبِّكَ فَحَدِّثْ
“and proclaim the bounty of your Lord.” (Chapter Dhuhaa/The Morning Hours:11).
That is because proclaiming favor or bounty is among the forms of thankfulness to Allah.
اعْمَلُوا آلَ دَاوُودَ شُكْرًا وَقَلِيلٌ مِنْ عِبَادِيَ الشَّكُورُ
“Work, O house of David, in thankfulness (to your Lord). Few of My servants are truly thankful.” (Chapter Saba’/Saba:13)
It is because fulfilling Allaah’s order and abandoning Allaah’s prohibition as well as performing other pious deeds are among the forms of being thankful to Allah the Exalted.
From the explanations above, there are some conclusions that can be drawn, i.e.,:
- One who uses his brain and intelligence well according to what Allaah wishes, he will worship Allah alone (tawheed) and will not commit shirk, because shirk is based on one’s ignorance.
- Faith/beliefs and knowledge will lead one to acquire truth.
- Shirk can erase all deeds a muslim has ever performed, and he is included among the losers if he dies in that condition.
- A muslim who has performed his hajj duty, then he renounced his religion, then returned to Islam, isn’t required to repeat his hajj.
- One is said to be thankful if he is being thankful with his heart and words, and he uses the favors that he receives to perform things that Allah the Glorified and Exalted is pleased of.
This is the end of this article. May it be beneficial, and may Allah the Glorified and Exalted do not include us among the ignorants, may He guide us to be the ones who worship Him alone, and give thanks to Him. Amin.
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