Q: My native language is Chinese. Chinese language itself contains many daily used common words and phrases that can be classified as containing shirk. Of course, the majority of Chinese speakers never know what shirk is. For example, the Chinese word for “mind, thought, attitude”, which is a commonly used word, literally means “spirit/god” in Chinese. It derives from their kufr belief that humans can become fake so called gods or spirits. I tried very hard to bypass these words, even though they are common, when talking with my mom and other Chinese speakers. However, since the language’s vocabulary system contains many shirk words, a lot of times there is only one word choice, otherwise you cannot express the meaning precisely, or not at all close.
I was talking with my mom and used the phrase that translates into “heavenly (the heaven in Chinese religion) flower falling down” (which means someone is bragging). I know you cannot understand how Chinese works, but it employs a lot of euphemisms and metaphors so the literal meaning maps to a derived meaning. I was talking and it is hard to go against your native language when I was in emotions (it is instinctive; unless I deliberately find a substitute of the word, which may or may not happen as it needs deliberately doing it). Is that kufr (disbelief) to use these words and phrases? But as you can see, a lot of times it is hard or impossible to avoid as the language itself contains these words that has shirk (imagine that english word for “brain”, or “eating a lot” are phrases that contain shirk, how do you speak it?
A: If the general usage is different from the literal meaning and people don’t apply the literal meaning then it will not amount to kufr. Even then, it is better to try and use some alternate words.
And Allah Ta’ala (الله تعالى) knows best.
Mufti Ebrahim Salejee (Isipingo Beach)