Modern Idol Worship & How to Avoid It
4:116 GOD does not forgive idol worship (if maintained until death), and He forgives lesser offenses for whomever He wills. Anyone who idolizes any idol beside GOD has strayed far astray.
As believers, we know better: idol worship is the biggest sin, and GOD should be our “god.” As modern people, we can be tempted to interpret the commandment to avoid idol worship as, “Avoid bowing to statues,” and dismiss this sin as an error of the past which we are above. But that definition of idol worship oversimplifies, and idol worship has many subtle forms. The obvious kind of idol worship (statues) is just one kind. Avoiding all forms of idol worship is powerfully relevant to being a genuine monotheist in modern life.
We each were drawn to Submission because we recognize that worshiping the Great Creator is the only worship that is worth our time. We know rationally and intellectually that we are helpless, and that there is no other entity with the power to help us, heal us, or hear us. We were created to worship, and we have no higher purpose than to be God’s servants. So let’s ensure worshiping God is how we spend our time, and inshallah, not be sent astray. Otherwise, we are wasting our breath and our time. As God reminds us: [25: 77] Say, “You attain value at my Lord only through your worship. But if you disbelieve, you incur the inevitable consequences.”
Modern era forms of idol worship include: when something is more important to you than God, depending on yourself or others instead of God, or when our hearts and minds are overtaken by love or thoughts for something other than God. And even succumbing to worry is a form of idol worship.
When something else becomes more important and takes priority, that’s idol worship. For example when one stops doing prayer, attending services, or praying with reverence, we are in trouble. If we don’t
conduct our lives and fulfill our religious duties while being mindfully reverent, then we are not treating or valuing God as we should. Individually, we should strive to be honest with ourselves and ask God for guidance on how to change our lives to be better servants if we have found something else overriding our worship. We should ensure we are not cutting corners on our soul, may God forgive us and guide us to a better future. We may need to re-evaluate our lifestyles, reduce the distractions, and change how we operate.
It is also idol worship when you ask for or depend on someone other than God for help. But to clarify, Submitters are not discouraged to use taxis, medicine, or money. What we are encouraged to do is, in our hearts or aloud, whenever we are in need of something, we should be asking God for help first and foremost. Before asking a doctor for an antibiotic prescription when you’re sick, ask God. Ask God to deliver you home before calling a taxi for a ride. And first request from God more provisions before you meet with your human boss to discuss a raise. The Submitter knows the ultimate source of all goodness is God, so we ask God. These other earthly things are just proxies, the avenue through which we get the help from God. God reminds us, He is the source, and to implore Him.
[16:73] Yet, they worship beside GOD what possesses no provisions for them in the heavens, nor on earth, nor can provide them with anything.
Another challenge for us modern monotheists is worry. When you worry about something happening, or you are fearful of some other entity (even a person with a weapon), you are assigning power to something other than God. However, we know from the Quran: Lã Quwwata Ellã Bellãh. All power belongs to God. We also know God is in full control, and certainly, that God is good. So taken together, this sends the message to us that however events in life or the world unfold, it is all in God’s plan. Listen to Abraham’s speech in the Quran:
[6:80-81] His [Abraham’s] people argued with him. He said, “Do you argue with me about GOD, after He has guided me? I have no fear of the idols you set up. Nothing can happen to me, unless my Lord wills it.
My Lord’s knowledge encompasses all things. Would you not take heed? Why should I fear your idols? It is you who should be afraid, since you worship instead of GOD idols that are utterly powerless to help you. Which side is more deserving of security, if you know?”
So to be a Submitter, we should strive to embody the phrase, “Don’t worry, be happy.” God reminds us continuously that we shall not fear nor grieve. Instead, we ought to be glad and hang onto God for confidence. Pray for patience and certainty. Glorify and thank Him when things end up going well. By God’s immense grace, they often do!
Even though sometimes we may not understand right away why something is happening in the world at large, be it war, famine, or natural disaster, as a Submitter, we know that God sees and controls the Big Picture. Satan’s incompetence as a god causes a number of problems. But ultimately God controls all things and crafts events in our lives to shape us and to “distinguish those among you who strive, and steadfastly persevere. We must expose your true qualities.” (47:31)
Perhaps the hardest part of keeping a life centered on God alone and free of idol worship is keeping God as the center where one’s thoughts are focused. What a Submitter should strive to think about most is God, because thoughts are what motivate activities and how we use our finite, limited energy and time. It can be hard to keep the mind focused on God when we perceive that we have so many worldly responsibilities.
One hint to help keep your thoughts on God is keeping up all the “little commandments” in the Quran, from saying “Bismillah” before the start of every meal, to saying “Salaam alaykum” to your fellow submitters, to not cursing, and so forth. Another method to keep your thoughts on God is to choose music that is God-centric. As a bonus, when the music stops playing, our mind automatically keeps it replaying which becomes an easy way to continue the God-centered thoughts! Definitely, of course, taking time to read the Quran also helps focus our mind on God while we are reading, much better than a celebrity or sports news article ever could.
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