Shall we then change [the topic] from knowledge concerning the types of Ilhaad to that regarding knowledge of the types of Shirk?
We mentioned earlier that Tawheed comprises negation and affirmation aspects, and that confining it to mere negation is Ta’teel (denial), while restricting it to the aspect of affirmation does not does prevent sharing in the ruling. 66 That is why it is inevitable that Tawheed comprises the aspects of affirmation and denial. Hence, whoever does not affirm the Right deserved by Allaah based upon this perspective of Tawheed, then indeed he has set up associates in worship along with Him (i.e. committed Shirk).
‘Alaam An-Nubalaa’, Imaam ath-Thahabee, may Allaah’s Mercy be upon him, commented, “This statement is true...” Shirk is of two types: Greater shirk (Shirkun Akbar), which causes the person to leave the Religion, and a lesser shirk (Shirkun Asghar). So, the Major Shirk is unrestricted Shirk termed as such in the Legislation (Sharee’ah), and it causes the person to leave the folds of his Religion (deen), just as if he directs any share of the types of worship to other than Allaah ( ), like if he prays, fasts, or offers sacrifice for anyone other than Allaah. Similarly, it is from Major Shirk to invoke anyone other than Allaah ( ), like calling upon an occupant of a grave or someone who is absent requesting his help in something which none but Allaah has Power over it.
And with regards to the types of Shirk, they are known in that which the people of knowledge have written.
And as to the second type, which is the lesser Shirk, then it is every action or saying defined by the Sharee’ah as being Shirk, but which does not take a person out of the Religion. Like swearing by other than Allaah, for the Prophet () said: “Whoever swears by other than Allaah, then he has committed unbelief or Shirk.” 67 So, the one who swears by other than Allaah whilst believing that none has an exaltedness equal to that of Allaah, The Most High, then we say that he has committed shirk of the lesser type, regardless whether the one by whom an oath is being made is venerated by the people or not. So it is not permissible to swear by the Prophet (), nor by a president or a minister. And it is also not allowed to swear by the Ka’bah (Sacred House of Allaah), nor by Jibreel or Meekaa’eel and the like. Since this is considered Shirk, but it is a lesser Shirk that does not take the person out of the fold of Religion.
And from the types of lesser Shirk is minor Riyaa’ (showing off in good works). Like for example, if a person stands to pray for Allaah ( ) but then he beautifies its performance because he knows that somebody amongst the people sees him. So, he beautifies his prayer in order to show off before the people. Such a person is a Mushrik but his Shirk is of the lesser type, since he performed the worship for Allaah but introduced on it this beautification as show off before the creatures. And similarly, if he spends his wealth in a way that draws him closer to Allaah, but he intended that people praise him for his spending, then he is a Mushirk of the lesser Shirk. Like with the major Shirk, the types of the lesser Shirk are many and they are known in the books of the people of knowledge.
66 See pages 25-27, and 50.
67 Reported by at-Tirmithee (no.1535, Arabic) and Ahmad (2:69, Arabic).