In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Abu Bakr As-Siddeeq [radiyallaahu anhu] reported that Allaah’s Messenger [sallal laahu alayhi wasallam] said, “By the One in whose hand my soul is, Shirk is more hidden than the creeping of an ant. Shall I not tell you something to say to rid you of it both minor and major? Say, [اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ أَنْ أُشْرِكَ بِكَ وَأَنَا أَعْلَمُ وَأَسْتَغْفِرُكَ لِمَا لا أَعْلَمُ- O Allaah! I seek refuge in You lest I associate partners with You while I know, and I seek Your forgiveness for what I do not know.” [Ref 1]
There is also another hadeeth – reported by Abu Moosaa Al-Ash’ari [radiyallaahu anhu] – that testifies to the text of this hadeeth. He [radiyallaahu-anhu] said, “One day, Allaah’s Messenger [sallal laahu alayhi wasallam] gave us a sermon and said, ‘O people! Beware of this Shirk, for indeed it is more hidden than a creeping ant’. Then the one whom Allaah wished to speak said to him, ‘O Messenger of Allaah! How can we beware of it whilst it is more hidden than a creeping ant?’ He said, ‘Say,
[للَّهُمَّ إِنَّا نَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ أَنْ نُشْرِكَ بِكَ شَيْئًا نَعْلَمُهُ ، وَنَسْتَغْفِرُكَ لِمَا لَا نَعْلَمُ -O Allaah! We seek refuge in You lest we associate partners with You through something we know and we seek Your forgiveness for what we do not know]. [Ref 2]]
This hadeeth mentions the greatest evil about which a person seeks refuge with Allaah’s against it, because Shirk is the greatest wrong and the greatest sin. Allaah [The Exalted] said:
وَإِذۡ قَالَ لُقۡمَـٰنُ لِٱبۡنِهِۦ وَهُوَ يَعِظُهُ ۥ يَـٰبُنَىَّ لَا تُشۡرِكۡ بِٱللَّهِۖ إِنَّ ٱلشِّرۡكَ لَظُلۡمٌ عَظِيمٌ۬
And (remember) when Luqman said to his son when he was advising him: “O my son! Join not in worship others with Allah. Verily! Joining others in worship with Allah is a great Zulm (wrong) indeed. [Surah Luqmaan. Aayah 13]
Allaah [The Exalted] said:
إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يَغۡفِرُ أَن يُشۡرَكَ بِهِۦ وَيَغۡفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَٲلِكَ لِمَن يَشَآءُۚ وَمَن يُشۡرِكۡ بِٱللَّهِ فَقَدِ ٱفۡتَرَىٰٓ إِثۡمًا عَظِيمًا
Verily, Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with him in worship, but He forgives except that (anything else) to whom He pleases, and whoever sets up partners with Allah in worship, he has indeed invented a tremendous sin. [Surah An-Nisaa. Aayah 48]
Allaah [The Exalted] said:
وَمَن يُشۡرِكۡ بِٱللَّهِ فَقَدۡ ضَلَّ ضَلَـٰلاَۢ بَعِيدًا
Whoever sets up partners in worship with Allah, has indeed strayed far away. [Surah An-Nisaa. Aayah 116]
The Aayaat of the Qur’aan regarding the danger of Shirk and the greatness of its crime are numerous.
In the hadeeth there is a clarification regarding the fact that Shirk can be hidden in a manner similar to the hidden crawling ant. It may be so hidden that a person commits it and enters into it discreetly without knowing. This shows the great caution one should have regarding it and the obligation of knowing it, so that one is cautious of it and keep away from it, together with holding onto the path of Allaah path, asking Allaah to protect you from all the types of Shirk, from its evil and its disastrous consequences. This is the Messenger’s [sallal laahu alayhi wasallam] in this hadeeth by teaching his Ummah how to seek Allaah’s refuge against all types of Shirk- that which a person knows and that which he does not know.
[An Excerpt from ‘Fiqh Al-Adiyah Wal Ad’kaar’ Vol 4. Pages 501-502]
[Ref 1: Saheeh Adabul Mufrad 554]
[Ref 2: Saheeh At-Targheeb Wat-Tarheeb 36]