The Qur’an doesn’t call the
Christians mushrik (the polytheists). However, it accuses many of them of doing
shirk (polytheism). The reason why the Qur’an doesn’t call the Ahl-i Kitab
mushrikun is that, despite their shirk, they claimed that what they were doing
was not shirk. In other words, they believed that tawhid was the right point of
view, and they did not consider their shirk as going against the requirements of
tawhid. The mushrikun of Makkah, on the other hand, claimed that what they were
doing was shirk and that shirk is the right religion from Allah Almighty.
Therefore, they deserved to be called mushrikun.
The condemnation of shirk in the Qur’an is for all types of
shirk, whether done by those who admit that what they are doing is shirk or not.
In other words, if an individual is doing shirk, whether he is a mushrik, a Jew,
a Christian, or a Muslim, the condemnation of shirk in the Qur’an is applicable
to all of them.
Shirk primarily means ascribing partners to Allah in His
physical existence, His attributes, or His rights. For instance, to believe that
God has a son, a daughter, or a wife tanatamounts to doing shirk in His physical
existence. To believe that like Allah Almighty there is somebody else who knows
everything would be considered as doing shirk in His attributes. Likewise, it is
only Allah Almighty’s right that He should be worshipped or prayed to. If a
person worships somebody else, then he is doing shirk in His rights.