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The Alleged Shirk of Abraham

27 December, 2016
Q As-salamu `alaykum! What is the definition of shirk, and was Abraham (Ibrahim) committing shirk when he referred to the sun as his Lord (Al-An`am 6:78)? I do believe that it is a false allegation, but how to convince the non-believers? Thank you for your answer! Wa as-salam!

Answer

Asalamu Alaikum Abdul Rahman,

Thank you very much for your question.

The word “shirk is often translated as “idolatry”. It literally means “partnership” or “association.”

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From the Quranic point of view, shirk is associating a thing, person, or concept with God; believing him, her, or it to be equal to God or to possess qualities only God possesses.

If a person loves, worships, or fears someone as God should be loved, worshiped, or feared; he or she is then committing shirk. The following verses explain further:

{Yet there are men who take (for worship) others besides God, as equal (with God): They love them as they should love God. But those of the Faith are overflowing in their love for God. If only the unrighteous could see, behold, they would see the penalty: that to God belongs all power, and God will sternly enforce the penalty.} (Al-Baqarah 2:165)

And:

{But it has already been revealed to you, as it was to those who went before you, “If you were to associate other gods with God, truly fruitless would your work in life be,” and you would surely be in the ranks of those who lose all spiritual good.} (Az-Zumar 39:65)

Here are the verses that describe how Allah the Almighty guided Abraham (peace be on him-PBUH) to the true path:

{So, also did We show Abraham the power and the laws of the heavens and the earth, that he might (with understanding) have certitude.

When the night covered him over, he saw a star. He said: “This is my Lord.” But when it set, he said: “I love not those who set.” 

When he saw the moon rising in splendor, he said: “This is my Lord.” But when the moon set, he said: “Unless my Lord guides me, I shall surely be among those who go astray.”

When he saw the sun rising in splendor, he said: “This is my Lord; this is the greatest (of all).” But when the sun set, he said: “O my people! I am indeed free from your (guilt) of giving partners to Allah.

For me, I have set my face, firmly and truly, towards Him Who created the heavens and the earth, and never shall I give partners to Allah.”

His people disputed with him. He said: “(Come) you to dispute with me, about Allah, when He (Himself) has guided me? I fear not (the beings) you associate with Allah: Unless my Lord wills, (nothing can happen).

My Lord comprehends in His knowledge all things. Will you not (yourselves) be admonished? How should I fear (the beings) you associate with Allah, when you fear not to give partners to Allah without any warrant having been given to you?

Which of (us) two parties has more right to security? (Tell me) if you know. It is those who believe and confuse not their beliefs with wrong that are (truly) in security, for they are on (right) guidance.”

That was the reasoning about Us, which We gave to Abraham (to use) against his people: We raise whom We will, degree after degree: for your Lord is full of wisdom and knowledge.} (Al-An`am 6:75–83)

There are a few noteworthy points about the Quranic passage translated above. First, it is Allah Himself Who narrates the story. And Allah says that He showed Abraham:

{the power and the laws of the heavens and the earth; that he might (with understanding) have certitude.} (6:75).

And then again at the end of the narration:

{That was the reasoning about Us, which We gave to Abraham (to use) against his people: We raise whom We will, degree after degree: for thy Lord is full of wisdom and knowledge.} (6:83)

These verses show that Allah Himself was grooming Abraham (PBUH) to be a model to his people. Allah says in the Quran:

{That was the reasoning about Us which We gave to Abraham (to use) against his people.}

That is to say, Allah in His Wisdom was making Abraham (PBUH) to raise the arguments used by his people and find a proper answer for them himself. In short, Allah was guiding Abraham (PBUH) {“degree after degree”} away from the wrong path of his people towards the right path of worshiping none but Allah.

Seen from the right perspective, the Quranic narration shows the illogicality of shirk, and through “the power and the laws of the heavens and the earth” the certitude of tawheed.

And throughout the Noble Quran, the example of Abraham (PBUH) is upheld as a model to the whole of humankind. He is repeatedly described as Hanifan Musliman: a straight-thinking Muslim, who never ever could be labeled as a mushrik (one who committed shirk).

Allah Most High says “maa kaana minal mushrikeen” (he was never a person who ascribed partners to Allah). And remember, Abraham (PBUH) was the prophet whom Allah honored by calling him “khalilullah” (friend and companion of God).

This only emphasizes the fact that we have no right to find fault with Abraham’s search for Truth as a type of shirk. Let alone that he has been described by Allah Almighty as an Ummah (nation of faith) by himself!

And Allah knows best. I hope this helps answer your question. Please keep in touch.

Walaikum Asalam.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

The Courageous 5: Prophet Abraham

The Courageous 5: Prophet Abraham Part 2

Prophetic Respect for Christians and Jews

Miracles of the Prophets

Is Prophet Muhammad Superior to Other Prophets?