Answering MIAW’s third principle of shirk

Muhammed Ibn Abdul Wahab writes:

The third principle is that the Prophet (may Allaah’s peace and blessings be upon him) encountered people differing in their worship. Amongst them were people who worshipped the angels, some who worshipped the prophets and the righteous men and others who worshipped stones, trees, the sun and the moon. The Messenger of Allah (may Allaah’s peace and blessings be upon him) fought them and did not differentiate between them.

The proof is the saying of Allaah, the Most High, “And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allaah) and all the deen is for Allaah (Alone).” [2:193]

And the proof that sun and the moon is the saying of the Most High, “And from among His signs are the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. Do not prostrate to the sun or the moon.”[41:37]

And the proof that the angels is the saying of the Most High, “Nor would he order you to take angels and Prophets for lords (gods).” [3:80]

And the proof that the prophets is the saying of the Most High: “And when Allaah will say “O Iesa ibn Maryam did you say unto men, ‘Worship me and my mother as two gods besides Allaah’.” He will say, “Glory be to You! It was not for me to say what I had no right. Had I said such a thing I do not know what is in Yours, truly You are the All-Knower of all that is hidden.” [5:116]

And the proof that the righteous is the saying of the most high, “Those whom they call upon desire means of access to their Lord, as to which of them should be nearest and they hope for His Mercy and fear His Torment.” [17:57]

And the proof that stones and tress is His, the Most High’s saying, “Have you considered al-Laat and al-Uzza. And Manaat, the other third?” [53:19-20]

And the hadeeth of Abu Waaqid al Laythee(may allaah be pleased with him) who said: “We departed with the Prophet (may Allaah’s peace and blessings be upon him) to Hunain and we had recently left kufr. The muhrikeen used to have a tree which they used to devote themselves to and hang their weapons upon, they used to call it ‘Dhaat Anwaat’. We passed by a tree and said, “O Messenger of Allaah, appoint for us a Dhaat Anwaat like they have a Dhaat Anwat. He said, “ allaahu Akbar, allaahu akbar, allaahu akbar! By the One in whose Hand is my soul, these are the ways. The like of what you have said is what bani Israeel said to Musaa, “ Make for us a god as they have gods.” He said, “Verily you are an ignorant people.” [7:1387]

[reported by at trimidhi 2180 who said the hadeeth is Hasan saheeh, and Ahmad 5/218, Ibn Abi Aasim in As-sunnah 76, Ibn Hibban in his saheeh 6702 and it was authenticated by ibn hajr in al-isaabah 4/216.]



1)    The intention behind inclusion of this odd principle seems to be because of the authors concern in responding to an argument that is at times raised against his accusation of polytheism upon Muslims. The argument accuses him of quoting verses revealed regarding the idolaters, and misapplying it upon Muslims who have nothing to do with idolatry. With the inclusion of this principle, he seems to be making the point that the objects the polytheists worshiped varied and was not merely restricted to idols.

This apologetic in any case though misses the point of the argument that is made against him. The Quranic verses which makes mention of the senseless, powerless and unresponsive state of the stone idols of the polytheists, cannot be equated with living souls, as Allah says {…Not alike…..are the living and the dead….}[Quran 35:12] and also says{Do not say that those who are killed in God’s cause are dead; they are alive, though you do not realize it.} [Quran 2:154].  That the polytheist worshiped something other than idols is therefore irrelevant here, as the verses which he applies upon Muslims were revealed with a meaning specific to those real stone idols and not regarding conscious living beings.

Secondly, if someone is to say that there are other verses such as {Do not call upon anyone alongside Allah} [Quran 72:18], that would apply to all objects besides Allah and not restricted to stone idols, then this is only partly true. Such verses would apply to all objects, but only in context to the polytheists to whom this verse was revealed. The actions of the polytheists are merely an outcome and expression of their polytheistic belief. These verses therefore would apply only to those individuals who carry such polytheistic beliefs. The polytheist would not seize being a polytheist on mere account of a pause in their outward act of calling someone besides Allah. Their belief is the foundation of their actions. These verses cannot be applied upon an individual without taking into context the belief of the individual, which takes us to the next point;

2)    He makes no mention of the belief, these polytheists held, regarding these various objects they worshiped, despite the Quran in clear terms implying that they took the prophets and angels as Lords [Quran 3:80], the Jinn’s as partners to God [Quran 6:100], Jesus as a son of God in a Trinitarian formula [Quran 4:171] and al-Laat, al-Uzza and Manaat as daughters of God [Quran 53:19-21].

3)    Moreover, he gives no space to even define “worship”, even though the knowledge of its meaning is fundamental in making sense of this principle. It is incumbent on him to define what constitutes worship of an object or when an “act” would be considered as an “act of worship”.

Worship is linguistically defined or can be made synonym, to servitude, which is an act or state of being a slave. Its primary and significant aspect is obedience but broadens as, obedience with humbleness or humility. It also includes actions like love and fear, as is essential to servitude in humbleness and humility. This meaning is significant to understand, because, the essential linguistic meaning of worship is not some mere religious rituals or outward acts, as some people suppose.

Now clearly obedience does not necessitate worship, for Allah says {Obey God and the Messenger} [Quran 3:32] and the obedience of the messenger here does not constitute taking the messenger as an object of worship. Similarly, Quran says: {If you fear high-handedness from your wives} [Quran 4:34], yet the fear of wives high handedness here does not constitute taking the wife as an object of worship. Allah says :{ You [Prophet] cannot guide everyone you love….} [Quran 28:56], yet the love, the Prophet (peace be upon him) had for them here, does not constitute worship of them. Allah says: {Those who turn for protection to God, His Messenger, and the believers [are God’s party]: God’s party is sure to triumph.}[Quran 5:56], yet the protection sought from the Messenger and the believers does not constitute taking the Messenger or the believers as an object of worship. {If any of your slaves…..}[Quran 24:33], yet the possession of slaves here does not entail the slaves are worshiping the owner of the slave. Therefore, none of this is what constitutes the essential meaning of worship.

The meaning of worship as servitude instead is the utmost or highest servitude. This utmost servitude can be seen to occur from the perspective of the subjective state as well as objective state [1].

The utmost servitude occurs subjectively when the subjective self believes in devoting his utmost or highest submission to the object. This subjective state of worship is essentially a belief and inward act. The outward actions are an outpouring or continuation of this belief.[2]  Therefore shirk or the association of a partner in worship, in such a subjective state occurs only when the subjective self believes in giving an “equal” subjective servitude/submission to an object besides Allah. Hence, the obedience and love for the messenger of Allah does not constitute worship devoted to the messenger himself because the obedience and love that is given here is not with the belief of devoting an equal or greater or as a rival to Allah.

The ultimate servitude on the other hand occurs objectively when the object is believed to be attributed with divinity or Lordship in one form or the other. Because, when attributing the object with Divinity or Lordship, it also necessitates the belief that the subject is in ultimate servitude to that object, as a result of the Lordhood and Divinehood the object has over the subject. The act of “believing” is in and of itself an action(of the heart and mind), and it thereby constitutes an act of worship even if further outward acts of worship by the tongue and hands and legs may not have been done. By having this belief and knowledge and submitting to it, he establishes to whom his highest and utmost servitude is.

Therefore, worship whether objectively or subjectively is essentially founded and emerging from inner belief and not separate from them. The outward actions would entail worship when it is emerging from such inner belief. It is due to ignorance on part of these newly emergent protestant groups, in understanding the basic meaning of “worship”; that caused them to slander the Muslim Ummah of being polytheists.

This understanding is unlike the definition being innovated by the Wahhabiyyah, where worship is defined in ways like “seeking an object”. For worship is the ultimate servitude and submission to an object even linguistically, rather than mere seeking from an object. Worship is not based on the treatment of an object as some kind of a vending machine up in the clouds. Seeking Allah would indeed constitute worship but only when Allah is sought in worship, i.e., when Allah is sought with belief in ultimate servitude to Him. It is in this sense that invoking Allah constitutes the essence or core of worship (i.e., essence or core of ultimate servitude). The inconsistency in the Wahhabi understanding can be seen clearly in that the criteria which they apply to “seeking” or “invoking” they do not apply upon other acts of worship like humility, love, fear, obedience, reverence, etc and declare people as shirk for fearing, loving, obeying an object or someone besides Allah.


There is no real outstanding point made by this principle. Despite him claiming that the polytheists worshiped various objects he does not explain the belief they held regarding each of these objects. And furthermore despite claiming that they worshiped various objects, his principle lacks the essential definition of worship.



[1] Imam Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (d. 333/944) in his tafsir of the verse “You we worship” (Quran 1:5), says :

ثم قوله: { إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ } يتوجه وجهين:

أحدهما: إلى التوحيد، وكذا رُوِيَ عن ابن عباس – رضي الله عنهما – أنه قال: ” كُلُّ عبادةٍ في القرآنِ فهو توحيدٌ “.

والوجه الآخر: أن يكون على كل طاعة أن يعبد الله بها، وأصلها يرجع إلى واحد؛ لما على العبد أن يوحد الله – تعالى – في كل عبادة لا يُشرك فيها أحداً، بل يخلصها فيكون موحِّداً لله تعالى بالعبادة والدين جميعاً.

[2] Also note that this is not concerned with involuntary actions like fearing a lion or by attempting to somehow quantify emotions and then comparing the emotion quantitatively with some measured standards. Rather as mentioned above, it is an outcome of conscious belief and inward state.


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