Al-Albaani: The reality is that the case with every beginner student of knowledge, and I was like that and probably still am, I used to read this hadith and it would be problematic, because in some narrations [there occurs], “There is nothing between a man and disbelief except abandoning the prayer. So whoever abandons the prayer has disbelieved,” and in some narrations, “… then he has committed shirk.”
Al-Albaani: I used to ask how can he have committed shirk? Yaa akhi, this person who has left praying, especially the one who does so out of laziness, how has he committed shirk?
I used to think that maybe there was a mistake on behalf of the narrator [of the hadith], I was a student of knowledge, then later our Lord granted me success in understanding, even if it was when I was older alhamdulillaah, [he granted me success in understanding it] such that I recognized that legislatively, as opposed to linguistically, there is no difference between kufr and shirk.
So all kufr is shirk and all shirk is kufr there is no difference between them legislatively, linguistically there is, because in the language kufr means to cover. Shirk is to make something a partner of another, like the polytheists who make equals with Allaah.
But later I came to recognise that every unbeliever, even if he wasn’t a polytheist linguistically, he was in reality. No unbeliever is free from being anything but a polytheist [mushrik], our Lord said, “Have you seen he who has taken as his god his [own] desire?” [Jaathiyah 45:23] He took as his god his own desires, so, everyone who follows his desires has made it a partner with Allaah, thus, any kufr–[for example] if someone were to reject a letter from the Noble Quraan it would mean that he has put his intellect in charge and has taken it as a god and it is from this angle that the shirk has come.
So, the one who said that all disbelief is polytheism and all polytheism is disbelief spoke truthfully, not like the one who says that not all kufr is shirk like you heard from at-Tahawi.
In reality this is knowledge which is very rare and is something through which many, many problems are resolved, from them being the verse, “Indeed, Allaah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills.” [Nisaa 4:48]
I read [a mention of] a problem about this verse in the Al-Manaar magazine which Sayyid Rashid Rida used to publish. An objection came his way which stated that the meaning of the aayah is that these unbelieving Europeans who believe in ‘nature’, they call it nature, i.e., that this universe has a creator and who do not know any more than that, it is possible that Allaah will forgive them because they are not polytheists. And so Sayyid Rashid Rida at that time was not able to give an answer like this one which if he had known then would have been the sound judgement [about this topic], [i.e., that] all kufr is shirk and all shirk is kufr.
Al-Hudaa wan-Noor, 341.
Questioner: O Utsaadh! Are there people who have now entered Paradise or people who have entered the Fire? Like the aayah in Surah Yaa Seen, “It was said to him, ‘Enter Paradise.’” [Yaa Seen 36:26]
Al-Albaani: This is about what will be. As for now, there is nothing but the life of al-Barzakh. Entering Paradise or the Fire is appointed at the Reckoning … [at] the resurrection on the Day of Resurrection.
Questioner: Even the martyrs and Prophets?
Al-Albaani: All of them. But their souls are in a specific state of bliss as he عليه السلام said, “The souls of the martyrs are in the crops of green birds, eating from the fruits of Paradise,” and likewise, “The souls of the believers are in the bellies of green birds, eating from the fruits of Paradise.” So this bliss is that of the souls, as for the bliss of the body and soul together and likewise the torment [of them both together], that will not be except after the resurrection.
Questioner: Okay, O Ustaadh! What we understood, according to our intellect, is that when a person is living, his soul and body are interconnected …, when Allaah the Mighty and Majestic says, “Think not of those who are killed in the Way of Allah as dead. Nay, they are alive …” [Aali-Imraan 3:169] what I mean is [i.e., what I understand from the aayah is], ‘Nay, they are alive …’ i.e., alive as in the soul is in the body, connected.
Al-Albaani: This is something well-known which does not need to be asked about, the Prophet explained it for you and gave you the answer and I mentioned it to you earlier … the souls of the martyrs are in the crops of green birds, what does this mean? That firstly, the life of a martyr is commensurate with his rank before Allaah and, secondly, [at the same time it is also commensurate] with his existence in barzakh.
Life differs. Life in Barzakh differs from life in this world, and life in the Hereafter differs from both of those forms of life together, life in the Hereafter is different from life in al-Barzakh and life in this world too.
For this reason it is not permissible for a person to employ analogical reasoning [qiyas] … making an analogy of that which is Unseen based upon that which is, such that you say, ‘We don’t know life except in this manner!’
Don’t use this life which you are familiar with to make an analogy of that life which you are not acquainted with; especially when some texts have been related which totally clarify for you the fact that the life of martyrs which our Lord the Mighty and Majestic affirmed in the Quraan, saying, “Nay, they are alive, with their Lord, receiving provision …” … what is their provision?
It is not [various] dishes like those we have, their provision is that they eat by way of what that green bird eats, this is the provision [being referred to], the hadith explains the Quraan.
Questioner: When the Prophet عليه الصلاة والسلام saw Paradise and the Fire and found those who were being punished therein and those who were in bliss, how is that then?
Al-Albaani: Yes, the [differing] states that the Companions of Paradise and those of the Fire will be in [i.e., after Barzakh, on the Day of Judegement] was unveiled to him–this is the true unveiling [kashf] which the Sufis have stolen and attributed to themselves; it [i.e., such kashf] is only for the Prophets and Messengers.
Al-Hudaa wan-Noor, 28.