Fanaticism towards Personalities – A Gateway to Shirk
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
To my family in faith, may Allah grant you an unbridled desire to strive for his cause, a successful outcome to all your endeavors, & the unfathomable reward prepared for his most righteous servants.
Social hierarchy among mankind is a well-known establishment instituted by the infinite wisdom & justice of Allah. He legislated that some of his servants will outrank others in knowledge, wealth, physical prowess, & spirituality.
Allah says: “These are the Messengers, We have made some more excellent that others”.
He also says: “The men are maintainers & providers of women”.
He also says: “The most noble of you with Allah is the most pious”.
These alpha males/ females become role models for the remaining population & are admired, emulated, & sought after for guidance, which is an inherent trait of man, yet extremely dangerous as adoration can effortlessly mutate into fanaticism, a gateway to shirk.
It is in the highest esteem that I hold you my colleagues in seeking knowledge, & on account of our mutual zeal to ensure the acceptance of our deeds by our Almighty & Most Gracious Lord that I caution against fanaticism towards personalities
Fanaticism towards personalities has its history dating back to the people of Nuh. Allah the Most Wise said: “And they have said: ‘You shall not leave your gods, nor shall you leave Wadd, nor Suwa’, nor Yaghuth, nor Ya’uq, nor Nasr
(names of the idols);
The names (of the idols) formerly belonged to some pious men of the people of Noah, and when they died Satan inspired their people to prepare and place idols at the places where they used to sit, and to call those idols by their names. The people did so, but the idols were not worshipped till those people (who initiated them) had died and the origin of the idols had become obscure, whereupon people began worshipping them.
The obsessional love the people held towards those alpha males of that era lead them to create their images until they eventually sat in the places they used to sit and thus worshipped them at their graves.
Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah said: “ More than one scholar from the Salaf said: “When the pious men from the generation Nuh died people busily engaged at their graves until they made images of them, following this they began to worship those men.” 
Fanaticism towards personalities has many doors of admittance into our temperament. Extremism connects itself to us through four entrances.
- The Heart : this is manifest by the immense love or fear for a person
- The Tongue which occurs when a person goes overboard in praising or disparaging someone.
- By actions; for instance a person standing for another or throwing a hugh stone at the Jamaraat.
- A method of practice in belief. This is similar to the Khawarij, Al-Murji’, Al-Qadariyyah and other people and groups who alter the meanings of Allah’s names.
The four points above illustrate how fanatics are born with their obsession. Tawheed is the most important part of our religion which we must constantly learn and review to keep intact; otherwise we risk the danger of giving someone or something a right that belongs solely to Allah. The over excessive praise or dispraise for a human being is an outward appearance of extremism toward personas Allah warned against. 
He said : O people of the Scripture ! Do not exceed the limits in your religion, nor say of Allah aught but the truth… 
Al-Hafith Al-‘Ala’ee (761H) said: “This address is directed at the Jews and Christians about the Son-of Mary. The Jews are fanatical towards Jesus to point they reject him as a Prophet while slandering his mother and the Christians are so obsessed with him they call him the son of God.”
Obsession for or against anyone deteriorates our Oneness for Allah and as result causes destruction. The Prophet (ﷺ) said: “And beware of going to extremes in religious matters, for those who came before you were destroyed because of going to extremes in religious matters.”
As monotheists we must take precaution from having no concern in this topic, so that our feelings towards the person we admire and follow won’t lead us to shirk. Blind following a righteous person can make us slip into obsession the same way the Raafidah and Sufi cult do. Both groups are so fascinated with their leaders they give them the Lordship that belongs to Allah. This is considered major Shirk. Reason being, they believe that some of their Imams can cause things to happen in this universe and are aware of the unseen. Likewise the mania of their behavior drives them to Shirk in the Uluhiyyah when they supplicate to, or appeal to the deceased for help. We seek refuge in Allah from these acts.
Praising and extolling leaders/ religious figures is probably something in our DNA, nevertheless when it becomes unbalanced the problem begins. Shaykh Ahmed An-Najmi said: “It’s in people’s nature to go too far in their praise towards the person they believe has godliness. This kind of action turns the one praised into an object of worship.” The Prophet (ﷺ) warned from being over excessive in praising him. He (ﷺ) said : “Do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians praised the son of Mary, for I am only a Slave. So, call me the Slave of Allah and His Messenger.”
Let’s stop here for a second and think. If this is about the rights of Allah’s Messenger for praising him than everyone less than him doesn’t deserve as much honor. For this reason when we exceed the limits in praising Muhammad or anyone else we are disobeying Allah the Most High. What’s more is the person who calls for us to practice this behavior or when we perform it, we’re rejecting the Sunnah. Such practice then becomes an exchange of following the Prophet’s (ﷺ) Sunnah for an unquestioning adoption of beliefs and practices similar to the Jews and Christians in their misguidance. Allah prohibited the people of the book from being fanatical and bigoted and He told them to follow truth over their desires. He said : “O people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians)! Exceed not the limits in your religion (by believing in something) other than the truth, and do not follow the vain desires of people who went astray in times gone by, and who misled many, and strayed (themselves) from the Right Path.” [ Al-Ma’idah 77]
Fanaticism towards personalities influences a person to endlessly praise and exalt a person from the respect he’s gained from others through his achievements or his identify. The Prophet (ﷺ) warned us from this nature of speech. Anas ibn Malik reported: A man said, “O Muhammad! O master, son of our master! O best of us, son of the best of us!” The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “O people, say what you must say but do not allow Satan to deceive you. I am Muhammad the son of Abdullah, the servant of Allah and His Messenger. By Allah, I do not love that you raise my status above what Allah the Exalted has granted me.”
Shaykh Khalid Al-Uthman said : It’s a essential for the student to discriminate between showing respect for his sheikh and believing his sheikh is flawless; the first is must and Islam orders this character while the second is extreme and Haraam. In actual fact its major Shirk similar to the faith the Sufis and the Rafidah have in their Imams.
We are allowed to praise and honor people in Islam; although we are required to do it in a certain manner with precaution. In Sahih Muslim there’s a chapter titled, “ The Prohibition of Praising if it involves Exaggeration and if There is Fear that it may be a Source of Temptation for the One Who is Praised.” Abu Bakrah said “A man praised another man in the presence of the Prophet (ﷺ). Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ), said: Woe to you, then he said you have cut your friend’s neck several times . Following this he said: “If any of you has to praise his friend, he should say: I assume him to be such and such, but Allah knows best and I do not confirm anyone’s conduct before Allah.”
Imam An-Nawawi said : “ There are many Ahadeeth in Bukhari and Muslim about praising a person in his face. The scholars said: The proper way to act by those ahadeeth is the prohibition refers to the foolhardiness in praising, adding extra descriptions to the praised, or fear that the person praised will fall into self-amazement, if he heard the praise. Otherwise the person who has a decent level of Taqwa and is intelligent then it’s not prohibited to praise him in his face so long as the praise isn’t undue. This is recommended if it promotes good activities from him regularly or causes others to follow his pattern.
Fanaticism towards personalities gives a grandiose sense of self-importance, manifest in a persistent self-referential attitude. Whenever someone tries to give advice the fanatic shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes believing others are often envious of him . Shaykh Abdur Rahman Al-Mu’allimi said: “You’ll notice that whenever facts are presented that go against what the fanatic’s shaykh considers proof it becomes troublesome for him. Thus he gets agitated and angry then starts to provoke discord. Any piece of evidence that doesn’t support his belief he calls it, “ Shubha or falsehood that goes against the confirmed proofs.” He screams out those people are upon falsehood and only deviants follow them… He then turns to support his group with praises for them and praises for his shaykh . His mission is to circulate the biography and well-known recognitions his shaykh has, those that are emphatic with a title of honor while at the same time he propagates events to stain and disgrace the honor of his opponent even though he knows they’re incorrect or an outright lie.
This is the strongest proof a person is a fanatic. You’ll notice they are practicing a religion other than Islam with double standards and opinions they view as legislation. Consequently they are just as Allah described, “each group rejoicing in its belief.” [ Al-Mu’minun 53] ” 
Fanaticism towards personalities can cause an addictive disorder in which a person becomes exceedingly occupied with the details of a Shaykh’s personal life. For instance a person gets caught up in the appearance, actions, piety, and even the shaykh’s place of worship until that scholar becomes his icon. Ibn Taymiyah said: An origin toward falsehood is fanaticism towards scholars; like fanatics towards Ali, Jesus, etc. In fact every fanatic towards the living or pious makes that person a kind of deity.
The point of reference is that he’s referring to the living which is the trajectory of shirk in modern society & rivals Allah in His Uluhiyyah. Shaykhul Islam also said: “ Extolling a person is a form of worship towards other than Allah.”
Muslims who fall deeply into personalities are just abnormal and weak in their Tawheed and worship. The fact that this weakness comes out in the form of an idolization of a Shaykh by mentioning the chance to sit in his car or pray in his masjid makes one Shaykh struck. A pattern is developing when more attention is placed on the going and coming of a personality than on our actual worship or that of our Prophet’s (ﷺ).Not only did the Prophet warn against sin & shirk but he also warned against the means. Whatever leads to it is similar in reward. We revere the Prophet with respect to Allah’s rights. Scholars state that if a passionate love leads to emulating good qualities & righteousness then its not blameworthy.
Extolling living personalities / cult of personality (ta’theem al-ashkhas) is among the most existing manifestation of shirk in modern Western society.Our children aren’t leaving Islam for other formalized religions. They’re falling victim to the over-glamorization of an unvirtuous lifestyle called hip-hop culture. This culture glorifies & extols personalities on the basis of financial opulence, criminal affiliation, & promiscuous behavior. They begin to idolize & copy these deviant traits until disbelief in action overwhelms them. They in most part stay firm on the statement of Tawheed as their core belief. What good is it to teach our children not to worship the dead if they’re worshipping the living?
Allah’s Help is sought!
Abu Aaliyah Abdullah ibn Dwight Lamont Battle Sr.
PhD Student (Hadith & Its Sciences)
Doha, Qatar ©
 Quran :Nuh: 23
 Al-Bukhari : Vol. 6, Book 60, Hadith 442
 Al-Ighathtu Al-Lahfan ,by Ibn Al-Qayyim Vol 1/203
 At-Ta’seel wa At-Taqeed li dabt kitabit Tawheed, by Sh Khalid ibn Ali, pg 251
 Quran :An-Nisa’ :171
 Majmu’ Rasa’il Al-Ala’ee, Tafseer( Ya Ahl Kitabi la Taghlu fee deenekum, vol 1/139)
 Collected by Ahmed(1/215), An-Nisa’(5/268),Ibn Majah (3029), Ibn Hibban(3871) by way Ibn Abbass (Radi Allahu anhu) Imam An-Nawawi graded this hadith as being Sahih based on the conditions of Muslim.(refer to Al-Majmou’)
 Sharh Tasheel Al-Aqeedah Islamiyah, by Dr Abdullah ibn Abdil Aziz Al-Jibrin, pg 324
 Ash-Sharul Mujaz Al-Mumahad lit Tawheed, By Shaykh Ahmed An-Najmi , pg 93
 Sahih Al-Bukhari , #3445
 Musnad Ahmad 12141,Graded as being Sahih (authentic) according to Ahmad Shakir
 Ta’asub liShuyouk, pg 151]
 Sahih Muslim #7501
 Sharh Sahih Muslim, by Imam An-Nawawi , Vol 18/ 99
 At-Tankeel, Shaykh Abdur Rahman Al-Mu’allimi, vol 2/296
 Majmou 3/395, By Shaykhul Islam ibn Taymiyyah
 Majmou 1/370 , By Shaykul Islam ibn Taymiyyah