Question: What is Shirk?
Answer: According to the Koran, shirk is when man associates anyone or anything on the same level with God, giving Him a “partner,” and performing to the partner the same actions reserved for God alone, like acts of worship. In Islam it is the highest form of blasphemy anyone can commit and it is unforgivable unless repented of before death. It is basically a violation of the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). The Koran says in The children of Israel- 17.22 - Do not associate with Allah any other god, lest you sit down despised, neglected.
In Islam God “has no partner.” Muslims accuse Christians of committing this blasphemy by elevating Jesus to a level equal with God, when Muslims see Jesus as a prophet only.
It is important for the Muslim to understand that while the Koran forbids man to associate anyone with God, the Koran shows us that when God chooses to associate Himself with anyone, or directs us to give homage to another other, it is not blasphemy.
We have this example in the Koran. In Sura (chapter) 15.28-35-
And when your Lord said to the angels: Surely I am going to create a mortal of the essence of black mud fashioned in shape.
So when I have made him complete and breathed into him of My spirit, fall down making obeisance to him.
So the angels made obeisance, all of them together,But Iblis (did it not); he refused to be with those who made obeisance.
He said: O Iblis! what excuse have you that you are not with those who make obeisance?
He said: I am not such that I should make obeisance to a mortal whom Thou hast created of the essence of black mud fashioned in shape.
He said: Then get out of it, for surely you are driven away:
And surely on you is curse until the day of judgment. (Note: The Koran is written in Arabic, but the word Iblis is not an Arabic word. It was adapted by the Arabs from the Greek word, dlabolis which means devil.)
In this example from the Koran, God instructs the angels to bow down to Adam. - “So when I have made him complete and breathed into him of My spirit, fall down making obeisance to him.”
The word obeisance or bow, which means a gesture of respect or homage, is used in the Old Testament when God warns His people against committing “shirk” with other gods -
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous (meaning to desire His people for Himself ) God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; (Exodus 20:5).
Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images (Exodus 23:24).
In the Koran, God is telling the angels to “bow” to Adam, who Moses says is made in the image of God. -
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: …(Genesis 1:26).
In the New Testament Jesus is called the last Adam, (I Corinthians 15:45) and He is referred to as the image of God (Colossians 1:15), because God is an unseen Spirit and we are able to see His portrait in Jesus who represents Him –“he that has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
Christians have not committed shirk, because God has associated Himself or “partnered” with Jesus and Christians are merely obeying what God has told us to do concerning the Messiah.
Let’s explore how God has associated Himself with Messiah Jesus.
The Koran says that God gave the Holy Spirit to Jesus to strengthen Him. -
And most certainly We gave Musa (Moses) the Book (Torah) and We sent apostles after him one after another; and We gave Isa, (Jesus) the son of Marium, (Mary) clear arguments and strengthened him with the holy spirit, ( 2.87).
Jesus said God is a Spirit (singular), (John 4:24). God is one Spirit. Whenever we have more than one Spirit we have more than one God and that is polytheism. The Apostle Paul said, “God is one” – Galatians 3:20.
God is one unlimited Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a second spirit, but as Jesus said is “the Spirit of the Father.”
For it is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaks in you - Matthew 10:20. For it is not you that speak but the Holy Ghost - Mark 13:11.
The Holy Spirit is referred to as the Spirit of God throughout the Old and New Testaments.
The prophet David says in Psalm 104:30 - “You send forth Your Spirit, they are created.” God’s person or personality, will, intelligence, directs the operations of His Spirit. The Koran also recognizes God’s person and His Spirit as we have been shown. God, His person, chooses to strengthen Jesus with the Holy Spirit. – ( 2.87).
The prophet Isaiah collaborates this in his prophecy concerning the Messiah. God says, “I have put My Spirit upon Him” (Isaiah 42:1, Luke 4:18).
God is never disconnected from His own Spirit, therefore, when the Koran tells us that God gave His Spirit to Jesus to strengthen Him, God is joining or associating Himself with Jesus.
Jesus said, “As the Father has life within Himself, so He has given the Son to have life in Himself (John 5:26). To have life in oneself is a quality that only God can have, and Jesus is given this life though His union with God through His Holy Spirit.
The Koran confirms that Jesus was given life as a man by the Holy Spirit – “And Mary the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into (her body) of our Spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His books, and was one of the devout (servants)” (66.12).
Therefore Jesus’ life force is God’s Spirit, the “Life in Himself.”
Muhammad recognized that Jesus was more than a prophet when he said Jesus is “a spirit from God” ( 4.171). That Spirit as we have seen is God’s Holy Spirit. God is not separated from His Spirit, thereby making Himself one with the Messiah Jesus. Jesus said, “I and My Father are One” (John 10:30). Jesus and God are in complete union through God’s Holy Spirit. The Bible does not teach that Jesus is a second God, or that there are three gods, but that Jesus is one with God through the union of God's Holy Spirit.
Therefore it is not shirk to associate Jesus with God, because God Himself has joined Himself to the Messiah through His Holy Spirit. And again, according to the example we have in the Koran, when God chooses to associate Himself with anyone, it is not shirk.
Let’s not be like rebellious Iblis who refused to obey God and bow to the Messiah Jesus when God has so decreed.
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:10).
Please see also our answer to Is Jesus the Son of God?
Return | Got Questions? | Cafe Logos Home Page