Insofar as you are not intentionally worshipping or praying to the picture or the people and just had it there by accident, it is not shirk. However it is better not to pray in front of the picture (and you fixed that anyway so that is not a problem). Accidents happen!
In theory, atheism is different from shirk.
In practice, it is often the same. Atheism usually leads to replacing theism with some sort of -ism such as nationalism, tribalism, communism, scienceism, secularism, etc, and this results in something else being treated as a partner of God (for instance, as something to appeal to in a time of need, as the height of perfection to try to attain, as what you live your life for).
It is hard to say which is worse. On a social level, both atheism and degenerate polytheism cause harm. Places where there has been a push towards atheism often have a lot of problems such as totalitarianism, dictatorship, or corruption, as well as a sense of nihilsm or despair. Atheism as a state ideology has not brought happiness, justice, or a healthy and sustainable prosperity anywhere.
Similarly, although secularism is not inherently atheist, secular social service organizations and interventions can provide functional help, but generally don't have the same ability to spread compassion and build community that religious institutions often do. That is, they can take care of some material problems in society, such as providing housing services, but they largely have not yet been able to deal with the human aspect of building community, bringing peace in a neighbourhood, encouraging love and forgiveness, uplifting people, and eradicating misery.
On the other hand, historically, degenerate polytheism has also tended to reinforce social injustice - for instance, reinforcing unhealthy taboos, wastage of money for unnecessary religious ceremonies or priesthoods while people are in poverty, injustice towards women, superstition, or privileging the elite.
In fact, one can say that some of the problems in the Muslim world are due to various forms of lesser shirk - for instance, people worshipping traditions or national/tribal identity instead of God.
On a personal and spiritual level, it really depends. I think that the biggest personal challenge of atheism is the loss of meaning and greater purpose in life. Some atheists also do unethical things to other people because they don't see anything wrong with it. (Yes, you do not need to be a theist to be ethical, but, statistically speaking, it seems to help.)
Of course people who are atheists may have other life purposes, for instance, a dedication to family or the arts; but, even in those cases, something greater than themselves is taking the place of God as a focal point.
Today, atheism is sometimes confused with lack of adherence to organized religion. However, there is an increasing number of people who do not feel fulfilled by organized religion and are unaffiliated, but who do believe in things like heaven or life after death.
And, atheists come in all types. Some are seekers and just haven't been sold on theism or have been put off by some ways that theism has been co-opted (for instance, how Fox News in the US treats Jesus these days), or else had bad experiences with organized religion. In fact I have met some rather spiritually minded atheists.
Some people are just occupied with other things in life.
And then there are some atheists who are genuinely evil and end up using atheism as a front for something worse, such as dictatorship, or starting a cult (obviously, non-theistic cults). But, again, one could classify that as a form of shirk, in the same way that the Pharaoh in the Qur'an deified himself and was not merely an atheist.
So, basically, it's not easy to answer which is worse, atheism or shirk, except that I would go back to what I said in the beginning; and that is, that they tend to go together.
In any case, the Qur'an addresses both atheism and shirk with the main message that God exists and is present and involved in our lives, that the universe is meaningful, that our existences are meaningful, that we are part of a broader picture, and that theism is part of the road to success.
Atheism is denial of Allah as the Creator, while shirk is associating partners with the Creator.
Polytheism شرك is to worship with Allah some one or something else. Those who did polytheism in the past then left it and became Muslims will be forgiven because they have left polytheism, but those who insisted on polytheism and died with it, will not be forgiven as you read in (Quran 4:48).
Shirk is calling someone God, assigning divinity to someone other than God, or assigning the offices of divinity to someone other than God.
Saying "'Ali is the wali of God" is not shirk, because it is not doing any of the above.
Furthermore, the Qur'an speaks of the "awliya' Allah" (plural of wali) with respect to human beings. Therefore, it is not shirk to say that Imam 'Ali is the wali of Allah, since Allah uses that phrase Himself. Given his high level of spirituality and service to Islam, very few Muslims would disagree with the idea behind saying "'Ali is the wali of Allah," although this phrase has become associated with Shi'ism.
Therefore, the biggest objection that someone could put forward to saying this in the adhan is that it does not belong in the adhan, not that it is shirk or an untrue statement.
It is not necessary to say "'Ali is the wali of Allah" in the adhan or kalimah. It is optional to say that. Shi'is generally do not consider it part of the adhan or salat. If it is said in the adhan, it is said as an optional thing which is said for blessings, or because it is seen as recommended, not as an actual part of the adhan. This is similar to how one might recite salawat after the Prophet's name during the adhan - it is done as an optional thing and not out of the belief that it is a formal part of the adhan.
For matters of religious law, such as the salat or converting to Islam, it is enough to say "there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet".
However, due to the Shi'i belief in the Imamate, some Shi'is might feel it is a more complete or comprehensive statement of faith to also say "'Ali is the wali of Allah" (because the 3 statements cover monotheism, prophethood, and imamate); one might also say it to indicate a desire to convert specifically to Shi'ism. But it is not necessary.
Among Shi'is, it has become common to say "'Ali is the wali of Allah" during the adhan. There are some narrations indicating that this was said in the presence of the Prophet, for instance, that on the Day of Ghadir Salman al-Farsi recited it during the adhan, and the Prophet approved of it.
Similarly, regarding the kalimah, there are narrations in Sunni and Shi'i books connecting endorsement of Imam 'Ali to endorsement of Allah and the Prophet. For instance, it is said that it is written on the Throne of God: "There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is My servant and messenger, and 'Ali was his supporter."
Sadly, today, some Muslims attack each other over very small details of practice. They dislike some things because they are different from the Islam they are familiar with, or because they are symbolic of a different sect. It would be better to move towards a spirit of tolerance and acknolwedge that there are multiple ways in which Islam is lived today. After all, even if two people are reciting the adhan differently, they are still reciting the adhan. There are many people who don't care about God at all. Why not focus on the big things such as discussing the existence and relevance of God, rather than focusing on small details and trying to "prove" who is right?
(This is not directed at you personally since I am sure it is a genuine question, and it is a good question to ask and know about, but rather it is an overall comment regarding the situation of the Muslim world today and the types of arguments that are had over how to do wudhu and so forth.)
Accountability is determined by the exercise their own free will and understanding of what they are doing. So for example a 4 year old child hitting another child or stealing is wrong but does the child fully understand yet- the implications of their actions. Are they held accountable in the eyes of Allah swt- the answer is no. This is also because their aql and rational/intellectual faculty is not yet developed fully.
Hence those suffering with serious mental illness in which their aql is severely affected such as severe bi-polar or severe mood disorders, or forms of schizophrenia my have entire breaks from reality, they may for example even think "they are the president of the United States" and actually believe it. These are cases in which such a person is not rational whatsoever and hence would most likely not be held accountable by Allah. Otherwise we are expected to control ourselves and not attribute excuses to simply being "crimes of passion" whereas we are expected to control our passions/impulses and not be controlled by them as human beings that is what distinguishes us from other creatures on this Earth.
wa Allahu al-'Alim,
And Allah is all knowing,
as salam alaikum
The Qur'an says: "Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with Him but forgive anything else" (4:48). However many people who were mushrikin became Muslims and Allah forgave all their past sins. One of the interpretations of the above-mentioned verse is that as long as you are associating something with Allah, you won't be able to go back to Him through tawbah while it is possible if you are committing other sins.
With prayers for your success.
Those who insist on Shirk and die with Shirk will not be forgiven, but those who repented and left Shirk will be forgiven.
Millions of people who committed Shirk,then became Muslims, were forgiven.
The Hadeeth says: Believing in Islam cuts off whatever was before it الاسلام يجُبّ٫ ما قبله
Tawassul is in fact a form of worshiping Allah and sincere Tawheed, that is why Allah (SWT) ordered the believers to do Tawassul to get forgiveness. In Sura Annisaa' verse 64: (Had they when they did injustice to themselves (committed sins) come to you then seek forgiveness and the messenger prayed for their forgiveness, they would have found Allah accepting repent and Merciful.
Allah (SWT) has ordered the believers to do Tawassul ( Sura 5, verse 35).
Tawassul does not mean worshiping other than Allah ( to be looked at as Shirk by some ignorant Wahabis) but it means seeking the blessings of the most humble servants of Allah to seek from Allah (SWT).
We believe that no wish can be granted through Tawassul but only by Allah (SWT).
In Quran we read in Sura Yousuf when his brothers requested their father (Prophet Yaqoob) to seek forgiveness from Allah for them and he accepted and said: I will seek forgiveness for you. (Sura Yousuf, verse 97). If it was wrong, the prophet Yaqoob should have told them when they did Tawassul through him.
Shirk is worshipping or believing in worshipping any one or thing beside Allah (SWT). False oath or swearing is a sinful act but it is not Shirk.
It is not obligatory on new Muslim to change his non Muslim name as far as the name does not contain wrong meaning.
as salam alaikum
the Qur'an says: "Surely Allah does not forgive that a partner be associated with Him but He forgives everything else to whomsoever He wills" (4:48). On the other hand, He says: "Do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed He forgives all sins: (39:53).
To understand this, we need to understand that Allah forgives anyone who believes in Him: "Surely I am Forgiving to him who turns in repentance to Me and believes and do righteous deeds and sticks to the guidance" ( (20:82).
Shirk is not something to be forgiven by Allah in the sense that it is the mushrik to put himself out of Allah's mercy. A wrongdoing committed against yourselves can be forgiven through Allah's mercy, a wrongdoing committed against another person also can be forgiven in a similar way, as long as we are pure enough to turn to Him and be receivers of His mercy. Shirk however cannot be forgiven in such way because by limiting Allah's presence in your heart, you are limiting Allah's mercy on you as well. It is reported in a hadith qudsi that Allah said:
أنا عند ظن عبدي بي
"I am as My servant thinks I am"
It is only through faith and by fully relying on Him, that we can uproot shirk and hope in His mercy and Forgiveness.
In conclusion we can say that there is no limit to Allah's mercy as long as the servant does not limit himself and turns away from it.
With prayers for your success.