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Bismillah Ar Rahman Ar Rahim In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful وَمَا يُؤْمِنُ أَكْثَرُهُم بِاللَّهِ إِلَّا وَهُم مُّشْرِكُونَ And most of them do not believe in Allah without associating others (with Him). Holy Quran. 12:106 One of the main purposes of the Holy Month of Ramadan, and especially the later part of Ramadan, which includes the three Laylat Al Qadrs (Nights of Power) is to purge our hearts and our souls of Shirk. Shirk are those things which we worship besides Allah(s.w.a) and those things which we believe have power that is independent of Allah(s.w.a). In the ancient times, people used to make statues of wood and stone and worship these and ascribe power to these and this is what is commonly known as Shirk or Polytheism. Many people, and even many muslims believe that the verses in the Quran that talk of the mushrikeen (or polytheists) only refer to certain very specific groups, such as the inhabitants of Mecca before the rise of Islam, or some of the modern groups in places such as India or parts of Africa who make figures out of wood or stone and worship them. In fact, as the above verse says, most people (unfortunately this also includes most muslims) 'do not worship Allah(s.w.a) without ascribing partners to Him'. In other words, the verse above is saying that most people worship Allah(s.w.a), i.e. they do not deny the existence of Allah(s.w.a) and they do not deny that Allah(s.w.a) is the source of Creation, or that He(s.w.a) is All Powerful, Mericiful, Just, etc. This includes most people, including most non muslims, because all religions have a concept of Allah(s.w.a), i.e. 'The God' in English, The Father in Christianity, Brahma in Hinduism. But at the same time, these same people ascribe power, glory, and they worship (meaning they follow these things wholly with their time and attention and obey them always) things besides Allah(s.w.a). From a religious perspective, the main difference between Islam and other religions, is that other religions include Shirk in the theology of the religion itself, for example the idea of Trinity in Christianity, or the idea of Krishna and Shiva in Hinduism (i.e. entities which are powerful in themselves and act independently of each other and which people worship) whereas in Islam, there is not concept of Shirk withing the theology of the religion. At the same time, it does not mean that there are not muslims, i.e. people who follow the religion of Islam, who do not include Shirk in their life vis a via concepts and practices which are outside of the religion. In this breif article, I would like to identify three classes or groups of Shirk in the modern world. There is actually more than three, including idols made of stone and wood which people still worship, but as these are not very common nowdays compared to the other three, I don't see the need to spend time on them and there is no controversy, at least amoung muslims, that these are obviously Shirk. The three classes or group are 1) The Taghut(no Good word to word English Translation) 2) The Asnab (Idols, false Objects of Worship) 3) Hawa (vain Desires) 1. The Taghut لاَ إِكْرَاهَ فِي الدِّينِ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ فَمَنْ يَكْفُرْ بِالطَّاغُوتِ وَيُؤْمِن بِاللّهِ فَقَدِ اسْتَمْسَكَ بِالْعُرْوَةِ الْوُثْقَىَ لاَ انفِصَامَ لَهَا وَاللّهُ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ Holy Quran 2:256 THERE SHALL BE no coercion in matters of faith. Distinct has now become the right way from [the way of] error: hence, he who rejects the taghut and believes in God has indeed taken hold of a support most unfailing, which shall never give way: for God is all-hearing, all-knowing. اللّهُ وَلِيُّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ يُخْرِجُهُم مِّنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّوُرِ وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ أَوْلِيَآؤُهُمُ الطَّاغُوتُ يُخْرِجُونَهُم مِّنَ النُّورِ إِلَى الظُّلُمَاتِ أُوْلَـئِكَ أَصْحَابُ النَّارِ هُمْ فِيهَا خَالِدُونَ Holy Quran 2:257 God is the wali of those who have faith, taking them out of deep darkness into the light - whereas the wali of those who reject truth are the taghut, they take them out of the light into darkness : it is they who are destined for the fire, therein to abide. The Taghut are sentient beings, i.e they are being who are alive with free will, such as jinn or human beings. These beings call people to worship them, i.e. to obey and follow them besides Allah(s.w.a). They call people to do things which are against the religion of Islam and against Haqq (justice and right actions). When the people follow them and act against the religion and Haqq as a result of following these people, they commit Shirk, though they may repent afterward and may be considered muslim for purposes of fiqh, but while they are obeying the taghut when they ask them to act in opposition to the commands of Allah(s.w.a), they are in fact mushrik at that point. There are basically two main group of Taghut in modern times. First, secular leaders which don't even pretend to call people to worship God. Second, religious leaders who may call people to worship God when it is in their interest to do so, but also call people to act outside of the religion at times when it will benefit them (these leaders) personally or their group, party, or family to the detriment of others. As for the secular leaders, these probably obvious to most people and there are many of them. A few are Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton ,Teresa May, Angela Merkel, etc, etc. These are non muslims and they don't even pretend to follow the Haqq of Allah(s.w.a). The other group is more tricky and controversial amoung the muslims and I am not going to mention names here, but if you follow an alim or a religious leader, and this leader calls you to do something that is obviously not part of the religion or against the teaching of Imams of Ahl Al Bayt(a.s), then this leader is in fact, Taghut. You need to acknowledge that and stop following this leader, otherwise you will be counted not amoung the followers of Muhammad and Ahl Muhammad(a.s), but you will be counted amoung the followers of Taghut on the Day of Judgement. Allah(s.w.a) judges you by your actions and what is in your heart, rathers than by your ethnic background, family name, what kind of food you eat and where you were born. 2) The Asnab (Idols) The Asnab, as opposed to the Taghut, are things which are not alive and are false, but people ascribe things to them, such as life, power, etc. The Holy Quran describes the idols as such وَالَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللّهِ لاَ يَخْلُقُونَ شَيْئًا وَهُمْ يُخْلَقُونَ أَمْواتٌ غَيْرُ أَحْيَاء وَمَا يَشْعُرُونَ أَيَّانَ يُبْعَثُونَ Holy Quran 16:20-21 Now those things that some people invoke beside God cannot create anything, since they themselves are but created. They are dead, not living, and they do not [even] know when they will be raised from the dead! These are things which people ascribe life, consciousness, value, power, etc to but in fact they do not have any of these things. In the old days, people used to make statues out of wood and stone and bow before them. This form of idol worship has fallen out of fashion but there are still many things which people ascribe these things to. Here are a few Money Money is only paper and ink or bits and bytes stored in a computer. These things have no life, consciousness, power, etc, but people ascribe these to them. Most people in the world today would violate any and all parts of their religion if the amount of wealth they would get in return is a sufficient amount for them (i.e. people today are mostly bought and sold for money). The main goal in most peoples life is to gather as much money as possible and they will do anything to get it. This is worship, the textbook definition, when you are constantly thinking about something and will follow it in any direction. When it goes one way, you go that way, when it changes directions, you change directions with it. When it calls you, you always respond. This is a place in the heart that is only for Allah(s.w.a) but unfortunately most people fill this space with other things. Money is the modern form of Laat and Uzza', i.e. the most popular form of idol worship. That is not to say that there is no value in gaining money and in fact it is essential for survival. But it is only valuable in that it allows you to continue living and sustain yourself and your family so that you can worship and obey Allah(s.w.a). It is a means to an end, and not an end in itself. Beyond a means of survival, it has no value. The rest of the value of that people ascribe to it is making it into an Asnab(Idol). Position Most people spend their life seeking a degree, a title, a position of leadership within an organization, etc. They exert great effort, step on the necks of people, lie, backbite, defame innocent people, basically do everything under the sun to climb over people in a never ending quest to grab a spot or a place that they feel will give them a sense of honor and respect, then at the end of the day, they call themselves followers of the religion of Islam. This is something that, unfortunately, is extremely common in our communities. Because these people have a certain last name or come from a certain lineage, they are excused and glorified, and many people follow them. The act of seeking this position by acting contrary to the clear ordinances of Islam is the act of making this position into an Asnab. Although this position in itself has not life(it is amwat, as the Quran says), it is ascribed value by false thinking and Shirk. That is not to say that everyone who seeks a degree or position of leadership is doing Shirk, but when you put yourself in a position where you are constantly disobeying Allah(s.w.a) and going against the clear ordinances of Islam in order to attain that degree or that position, then you have made that position into an Asnab Hawa (vain desires) أَفَرَأَيْتَ مَنِ اتَّخَذَ إِلَهَهُ هَوَاهُ وَأَضَلَّهُ اللَّهُ عَلَى عِلْمٍ وَخَتَمَ عَلَى سَمْعِهِ وَقَلْبِهِ وَجَعَلَ عَلَى بَصَرِهِ غِشَاوَةً فَمَن يَهْدِيهِ مِن بَعْدِ اللَّهِ أَفَلَا تَذَكَّرُونَ 45:23 HAST THOU ever considered [the kind of man] who makes his own desires his deity, and whom God has [thereupon] let go astray, knowing [that his mind is closed to all guidance],  and whose hearing and heart He has sealed, and upon whose sight He has placed a veil? Who, then, could guide him after God [has abandoned him]? Will you not, then, be reminded ? This verse describes those people who insist on following an idea and sometimes attributing it to Islam, even after clear arguments have come to them from Quran and Hadith that their idea is false, yet they continue to follow it. So the idea itself is false, it has not life, it is amwat, as Quran states, yet because of their vain desires they attribute truth and life to it. There are so many example of this on ShiaChat, of people who present a wrong idea, it is thoroughly and totally debunked based on clear evidence from Quran and Hadith, yet they continue to follow it and accept it. These people have made this idea into an Asnab, and they are worshiping it besides Allah(s.w.a). It sometimes gets to a point where they leave the religion of Islam officially as a result of following this idea. May Allah(s.w.a) protect all of us during this Holy Month of Ramadan from succumbing to this fate, and may He(s.w.a) give us the Baseerat(far sightedness) and Hikmat(wisdom) to be able to avoid all the levels and forms of Shirk and attain an elevated status and place us in the company of Muhammad wa Ahl Muhammad(a.s)
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