To contradict the purpose of one’s creation is then the greatest evil that a human being can commit. Abdullaah reported that he asked God’s Messenger (peace be upon him) which sin is the gravest in God’s sight and he replied,
“To ascribe a partner to God, even though He created you.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
Worshipping others besides God, called shirk in Arabic, is the only unforgivable sin. If a human being dies without repenting from his or her sins, God may forgive all their sins, except shirk. In this regard, God stated:
“Surely God will not forgive the worship of others besides Him, but He forgives sins less than that to whomever He wishes.” (Quran 4:116)
Worshipping others besides God essentially involves giving the attributes of the Creator to His creation. Each sect or religion does this in their own particular way. A small but very vocal group of people down through the ages have actually denied God’s existence. To justify their rejection of the Creator, they were obliged to make the illogical claim that this world has no beginning. Their claim is illogical because all of the observable parts of the world have beginnings in time, therefore it is only reasonable to expect the sum of the parts to also have a beginning. It is also only logical to assume that whatever caused the world to come into existence could not have been a part of the world nor could it have a beginning like the world. The atheist assertion that the world has no beginning means that the matter which makes up the universe is eternal. This is a statement of shirk, whereby God’s attribute of being without beginning is given to His creation. The numbers of genuine atheists have historically always been quite small because, in spite of their claims, they instinctively know that God does exist. That is, in spite of decades of communist indoctrination, the majority of Russians and Chinese continued to believe in God. The Almighty Creator pointed out this phenomenon, saying:
“And they denied [the signs] wrongfully and arrogantly, though within themselves they were convinced of them.” (Quran 27:14)
To atheists and materialists, life has no purpose beyond the fulfillment of their desires. Consequently, their desires also become the god which they obey and submit to instead of the One True God. In the Quran, God said:
“Have you seen the one who takes his desires as his god?” (Quran 25:43, 45:23)
Christians gave Prophet Jesus Christ the attributes of the Creator by first making him co-eternal with God, then by making him a personality of God whom they titled ‘God the Son.’ Hindus, on the other hand, believe that God has become man in many ages, by incarnations called avatars, and then they divided God’s attributes between three gods, Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer.
Shirk also occurs when human beings love, trust or fear the creation more than God. In the last revelation, God said:
“There are among men those who worship others besides God as equals to Him. They love them as only God should be loved. But those who believe have a stronger love for God.” (Quran 2:165)
When these and other similar emotions are directed more strongly to the creation, they cause human beings to disobey God in a effort to please other humans. However, only God deserves a complete human emotional commitment, for it is He alone who should be loved and feared over all creation. Anas ibn Maalik narrated that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“Whoever possesses [the following] three characteristics has tasted the sweetness of faith: he who loves God and His Messenger above all else; he who loves another human being for God’s sake alone; and he who hates to return to disbelief after God has rescued him as he hates to be thrown into a fire.” (As-Suyooti)
All the reasons for which humans love other humans or love other created beings are reasons to love God more than His creation. Humans love life and success, and dislike death and failure. Since God is the ultimate source of life and success, He deserves the full love and devotion of mankind. Humans also love those who benefit them and help them when they are in need. Since all benefit (7:188) and help (3:126) come from God, He should be loved above all else.
“If you try to count God’s blessings, you will not be able to add them up.” (Quran 16:18)
However, the supreme love which humans should feel for God must not be reduced to the common denominator of their emotional love for creation. Just as the love humans feel for animals should not be the same as what they feel for other humans, the love of God should transcend the love humans feel towards each other. Human love of God should be, fundamentally, a love manifest in complete obedience to the laws of God:
“If you love God, then follow me [the Prophet] and God will love you.” (Quran 3:31)
This is not an abstract concept, because human love of other humans also implies obedience. That is, if a loved one requests that something be done, humans will strive to do it according to the level of their love for that person.
The love of God should also be expressed in the love of those whom God loves. It is inconceivable that one who loves God could hate those whom God loves and love those whom He hates. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was quoted by Aboo Umaamah as saying:
“He who loves for God and hates for God, gives for God and withholds for God, [and marries for God] has perfected his faith.” (As-Suyooti)
Consequently, those whose faith is proper will love all those who love God. In Chapter Maryam, God indicates that He puts love in the hearts of the believers for those who are righteous.
“Surely, God will bestow love [in the hearts of the believers for] those who believe and do righteous deeds.” (Quran 19:96)
Aboo Hurayrah also related that God’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said the following in this regard:
“If God loves a servant He informs angel Gabriel that He loves so-and-so and tells him to love him, so Gabriel loves him. Then Gabriel calls out to the inhabitants of the heavens: ‘God loves so-and-so, therefore love him.’ So the inhabitants of the heavens love him. Then he is granted the love of the people of the earth.” (Saheeh Muslim)
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