Description: Form of Syirik; 2nd. Syirik in al-Asma was-Sifat ; 3rd. Syirik in al- Ibadah.
Dr. Abu Bilal Philips
Syirik in this category includes both the common pagan practice of giving Allah the attributes of His creation as well as the act of giving created beings Allah's names and attributes.
A. Syirik by Humanization
Major Syirik 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 Syirik. 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, Michael mass Day, as St. Michael,  as well as to human saints, whether real or fictitious.
Muslims whose acts of worship fall into this category of Syirik are those who pray to Prophet Muhammad (saws) 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: Much emphasis has been placed on the evils of Syirk 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."
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 (saws) said, "The worshipper of the Dirham will always be miserable"  and Allah said in the Qur'an:
The Prophet SAW 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".85 Love of the Prophet SAW 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,"
Taaghut 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 Syirik in al-Asma was-Sifat. Love which is worship is the total surrender of one's will to God. Consequently, Allah told the Prophet SAW to tell the believers: This form of Syirik 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 Taaghut (false gods)"
The theory also implies that mass and energy are eternal having no beginning or end since they are supposed to be uncreated and transform into each other. However, this attribute belongs only to Allah who alone is without beginning or end.
Darwin's theory of evolution is also an attempt to explain the evolution of life and its forms from lifeless matter without the intervention of God. One of the leading Darwinists of this century, Sir Aldous Huxley expressed this thought as follows:
"Darwinism removed the whole idea of God as the creator of organisms from the sphere of national discussion." 
Syirik In al-'Ibadah
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-Syirik al-Akbar (Major Syirik)
This form of Syirik in al-Asma was-Sifat relates to cases where created beings or things are given or claim Allah's names or His attributes. For example, it was the practice of the ancient Arabs to worship idols whose names were derived from the names of Allah. Their main three idols were: al-Laat taken from Allah's name al-Elaah, al-'Uzza taken from al-'Azeez and al-Manaat taken from al-Mannan. During the Prophet Muhammad's era there was also a false prophet in a region of Arabia called Yamamah, who took the name Rahman which only belongs to Allah.
Among the Shi'ite sects is the Nusaireyah of Syria, who believe that the Prophet Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, was a manifestation of Allah and give him many of Allah's qualities. Among them is also the Ismai'ils also known as Agha Khan who considers their leader, the Agha Khan, to be God incarnate. Also included in this category is the Druze of Lebanon who believes that the Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim bi Amrillah was the last manifestation of Allah among mankind.
Claims of Sufis (Muslim mystics) like al-Hallaj that they have become one with God and as such exist as manifestations of the Creator within His creation may also be included in this aspect of Syirk in al-Asma was-sifaat. Modern-day spiritualists and mediums like Shirley Maclaine, J.Z. Knight, etc., often claim divinity for themselves as well as mankind in general. Einstein's Theory of Relativity (E = mc2, Energy is equal to mass times the square of the speed of light) taught in all schools is in fact an expression of Syirik in al-Asma was-Sifat. The theory states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; it merely transforms into matter and vice versa. However, both matter and energy are created entities and they both will be destroyed as Allah clearly states:
"Allah is the creator of all things..."[ 80]
"Everything in (the world) will perish..."
B. Syirik by Deification
In this aspect of Syirik in al-Asma was-Sifat, Allah is given the form and qualities of human beings and animals. Due to man's superiority over animals, the human form is more commonly used by idolaters to represent God in creation. Consequently, the image of the Creator is often painted, moulded or carved in the shape of human beings possessing the physical features of those who worship them. For example, Hindus and Buddhists worship countless idols in the likeness of Asian men and consider them manifestations of God in creation. Modern day Christian belief that Prophet Jesus was God incarnate; that the Creator became His creation is another good example of this type of Syirik. There have been many so-called great Christian painters like Michelangelo (d. 1565), who painted pictures of God as a naked old European man with long flowing white hair and beard on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. These pictures have in turn, been held by the Christian world in the highest of esteem.
"Say: If you love Allah, follow me and Allah will love you."
"Say: Obey Allah and obey the Prophet..."
"Have you not seen the one who takes his desires as his god?" 
"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."[92 ]
B. Ash-Shirik al-Asghar (Minor Syirik)
Mahmud ibn Lubaid reported, "Allah's messenger (saws) said: "The thing I fear for you the most is ash-Syirik al-Asghar (minor syirik)." The companions asked "Oh! Messenger of Allah, what is minor Syirik?" He replied "Ar-Riya' (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.'" Mahmud ibn Lubayd also said, "The Prophet SAW came out and announced, 'O people, beware of secret Syirik!' The people asked, 'O messenger of Allah, what is secret Syirik?' He replied, 'When a man gets up to pray and strives to beautify his prayer because people are looking at him; that is secret Syirik.'" 
Riya' is the practise 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 knowledgable true believers would commit ash-Syirik al-Akbar is small, since its pitfalls are so obvious. But, for the true believer like everyone else, the chance of committing Riya' 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 'Abbas alluded to this reality when he said; "Syirik 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 Dua’s (informal prayers) have also been prescribed by the Prophet SAW 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 SAW also provided protection against the inevitable acts of Syirik by teaching certain specific prayers which may be said anytime. Abu Musa said, "One day Allah's messenger delivered a sermon saying 'O people fear Syirik 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 Allaah?' He replied, 'Say: Allaahumma Innaa na'udhu bika an nushrika bika shai'an na'lamuh, wa nastaghfiruka limaa laa na'lamuh (O Allah, we seek refuge in you from knowingly committing syirik with you and we ask your forgiveness for what we do not know about).'"
80. Surah az-Zumar, 39:62.
81. Surah ar-Rahman, 55:26.
82. Quoted in Francis Hitching's, The Neck of the Giraffe, (New York: Ticknor and Fields, 1982), p.254 from Tax and Callender, 1960, vol.111, p.45.
83. Surah an-Nahl, 16:36.
84. Surah Ali-'Imran, 3:31.
85. 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, and no.71).
86. Surah an-Nisa, 4:80.
87. Surah Ali-'Imran, 3:32.
88. Reported by al-Bukhari (Sahih Bukhari, (English-Arabic), vol.8, p.296, no.443).
89. Surah al-Furqan, 25:43.
90 Surah adh-Dhariyat, 51:56.
91. William Halsey (ed.), Colliers Encyclopedia, (U.S.A: Crowell-Collier Educational Foundation; 1970, vol.16, p.110.
92. Surah al-An'aam, 6:40.
93. Reported by Ahmad. at-Tabarani and al-Baihaqi in az-Zuhd. See Taysir al-'Aziz al-Hamid, p.118.
94. Collected by Ibn Khuzaimah.
95. Reported by Ibn Abi Hatim and quoted in Taysir al-'Aziz al-Hamid, p. 587
96. Collected by Ahmad and at-Tabarani.
See: The Categories Of Tawhid #6