“Idolatry; paganism; polytheism.” Ascribing plurality to the Deity. Associating anything with God.
According to Wahhabi writers, shirk is defined to be of four kinds: Shirku ‘l-ilm, ascribing knowledge to others than God; Shirku ‘t-tasarruf, ascribing power to others than God; Shirku ‘l-’ibadah, offering worship to created things; Shirku ‘l-’adah, the performance of ceremonies which imply reliance on others than God.
(1) Shirku ‘l-’ilm is illustrated by the statement that prophets and holy men have no knowledge of secret things unless as revealed to them by God. Thus some wicked persons made a charge against ‘Ayishah. The Prophet was troubled in mind, but knew not the truth of the matter till God made it known to him. To ascribe, then, power to soothsayers, astrologers, and saints is Polytheism.. “All who pretend to have a knowledge of hidden things, such as fortune-tellers, soothsayers, and interpreters of dreams, as well as those who profess to be inspired, are all liars.” Again, “should anyone take the name of any saint, or invoke his aid in the time of need, instead of calling on God, or use his name in attacking an enemy, or read passages to propitiate him, or make him the object of contemplation — it is Shirku ‘l-’ilm.”
(2) Shirku ‘t-tasarruf is to suppose that anyone has power with God. He who looks up to anyone as an intercessor with God commits Shirk. Thus: “But they who take others beside Him as lords, saying, ‘We only serve them that they may bring us near God,’ — God will judge between them (and the Faithful) concerning that wherein they are at variance.” (Surah xxxix. 4.). Intercession may be of three kinds. For example, a criminal is placed before the King. The Vizier intercedes. The King, having regard to the rank of the Vizier pardons the offender. This is called Shafa’at-i-Wajahah, or “intercession from. regard,” But to suppose that God so esteems the rank of anyone as to pardon a sinner merely on account of it is Shirk. Again, the Queen or the Princes intercede for the criminal. The King, from love to them, pardons him. This is called Shafa’at-i-mahabbah, or “intercession from affection.” But to consider that God’ so loves anyone as to pardon a criminal on his account is to give that loved one power, and this is Shirk, for such power is not possible in the Court of God. “God may out of His bounty confer of His favorite servants the epithets of Habib, ‘favourite,’ or Khalil, ‘friend,’ &c.; but a servant is but a servant, no one can put his foot outside the limits of servitude, or rise beyond ‘the rank of’ a servant.” Again, the King may himself wish to pardon the offender, but he fears lest the majesty of the law should be lowered. The Vizier perceives the King’s wish, and intercedes. This intercession is lawful. It is called Shafa’at-i-ba-’izn, “intercession by permission,” and such power Muhammad will have at the Day of Judgment. Wahhabis hold that he has not that power now, though all other Musalmans consider that he has, and in consequence (in Wahhabi opinion) commit the sin of Shirku ‘t-tasarruf. The Wahhabis quote the following passages in support of their view. “Who is he that can intercede with Him but by His own permission,” (Surah ii. 256) “Say: Intercession is wholly with God! His the kingdoms of the heavens and of the earth.” (Surah xxxix. 45). They also say: “Whenever an allusion is made in the Qur’an, or the Traditions to the intercession of certain prophets or apostles, it is this kind of intercession and no other that is meant.”
(3) Shirku ‘I-’Ibadah is prostration before any created being, with the idea of worshipping it; perambulating the shrines of departed saints. “Prostration, bowing down, standing with folded arms, spending money in the name of an individual, fasting out of respect to his memory, proceeding to a distant shrine in a pilgrims’ garb and calling out the name of the saint.” It is wrong to cover the grave with a sheet, to say prayers at the shrine, ‘to kiss any particular stone, to rub the mouth and breast against the walls of the shrine, &c.” This is a stern condemnation of the very common practice of visiting the tombs of saints and of some of the special practices or the pilgrimage to Makkah. All such practices as are here condemned are called Ishrak fl ‘l-Ibadah, “association in worship.”
(4) Shirku ‘l-’adah is the keeping up of superstitious customs, such as the Istikharah, seeking guidanee from beads, &c., trusting to omens, good or bad, believing in lucky and unlucky days, adopting such names as ‘Abdu ‘n-Nabi (slave of the Prophet), and so on. In fact, the denouncing of such practices and calling them Shirk brings Wahhabism into daily contact with the other sects, for scarcely any people in the world are such profound believers in the virtue of charms and the power of astrologers as Muslmans. The difference between the first and fourth Shirk, the Shirk ‘l-’ilm and the Shirku’l-adah, seems to be that the first is the belief say in the knowledge of a sooth-sayer, and the second the habit of consulting him.
To swear by the name of the Prophet, of ‘Ali, of the Imams, or of Pirs (Leaders) is to give them the honour due to God alone. It is Ishrak fi l-adab, “Shirk in association.” [WAHHABI.]
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam