Ego – the heart of idolatory?

“God never forgives the idolization of anything besides Him, and forgives all lesser offenses for whomever He wills. Anyone who sets up any idol besides God, has forged a gross blasphemy.”  4 : 48.

 

 “God does not forgive the idolization of any idols besides Him, and He forgives all lesser offenses for whomever He wills. Anyone who idolizes any idol besides God, has gone far astray.” – 4 : 116

 

“Those who believe, then disbelieve, then believe, then disbelieve, then plunge deeper into disbelief, God will not forgive them, nor will He guide them to any path.” – 4 : 137.

 

“And race towards forgiveness from your Lord, and a paradise that encompasses the heavens and the earth; it awaits the righteous who are charitable during the times of prosperity and the times of hardship. They control their anger, and they pardon the people. God loves those who are charitable. When they fall into gross sin, or wrong their souls, they remember God and ask forgiveness for their sins; and who forgives the sins except God? They never persist in sinfulness, knowingly.” – 3 : 133-135.

 

God says that whilst the sin of idolatry will never be forgiven, yet He forgives all sins of the one who is quick to the remembrance of God upon the realisation of his wrong and sincerely repents. I suggest that from the verses above, sincere repentance is evidenced by one who refrains from persistently and knowingly repeating a wrong.

 

Does God’s forgiveness extend also to the sin of idolatry? When God says that He will not forgive the idolator, does this mean that even the sincerely repentant idolator will never be forgiven his past idolatry?  We need to reflect on this because even as we regard ourselves as believers, God says that most of the believers cannot believe in Him without also associating others with Him. “And most of them believe not in God without associating with Him!” – 12 : 106.

 

If indeed there is no forgiveness for the sin of idolatry, both past and present, and given that God says that even the believers cannot believe in Him without falling into idolatry, it is critical that we understand what is idolatry; what it means to associate another with God.

 

As always, God does not leave us without guidance. He cites several instances of idolatry in the Qur’an.

 

“They even set up idols from among the jinns, though He created them. And they invented sons and daughters for Him, without knowledge. Most glorified and most exalted He is, over and above anything they describe.”  6 : 100.

 

“During his absence, the people of Moses sculpted from their jewelry a calf that produced a sound. Did they not see that it could not speak to them, nor help them in any way? They worshipped it and turned wicked.” – 7 : 148.

 

“However, when He gives them a good healthy baby, they set up an idol out of God’s gift to them. Most exalted is God, over and above anything they idolize.” – 7 : 190.

 

They have taken their priests and rabbis as lords besides God, as well as Christ the son of Mary. They were commanded not to worship but the one God; there is no god except He, much too glorious to have partners.” – 9 : 31.

 

“What about the one who idolizes his own ego? Can you do anything for him?” – 25 : 43.

 

Jinns, things sculpted by the hands of man, our children, the clergy and our own desires. These, God tells us, are some of the things that set us on the path to idolatry. 

 

We claim to have come to believe in the Qur’an to the exclusion of all other innovations of man. We believe we have rid ourselves of the ulamak and human intercessors. Perhaps we have also come to realise that “our” children are not really “ours” but mere trusts placed with us by God for a time; that they, like us, belong to Him.

 

What of our egos? Have we, then, rid ourselves of our egos? Or do we still exalt our own vain desires? Have we made ourselves gods, our own desires always displacing the guidance of God?

 

What does it mean to deify one’s own desire? Let us look to the Qur’an for guidance.

 

 “We created you, then shaped you, then said to the angels, ‘Fall prostrate before Adam’. They fell prostrate, except Iblis; he was not with the prostrators. God said, ‘What prevented you from prostrating, when I ordered you?’. He said ‘I am better than he; You created me from fire and created him from clay’.” – 7 : 11-12.

 

Did Iblis feel remorse and regret for his arrogant disobedience? No! “He said, ‘Since you willed that I go astray, I will always skulk on Your straight path, and mislead them. Then I will come to them from their front, from behind them, from their right, and from their left, and you will find most of them unappreciative’.” – 7 : 16-17.

 

Iblis had given in to his own vain impulse, disobeyed God and was unrepentant. “God said, ‘You are evicted therefrom, despised and debased. Those who follow you, will join you in hell.” – 7 : 18.

 

Iblis was condemned to hell. That would mean God did not forgive Iblis for his unrepentant disobedience. Might this mean that unrepentant disobedience to God borne of our own vain impulse is a specie of idolatry for which there is no forgiveness?

 

Compare the position of Iblis with that of Adam. Adam was induced by the promise of immortality ( “Then began Satan to whisper suggestions to them, bringing openly before their minds all their shame that was hidden. He said, ‘Your Lord only forbade you this tree, lest you should become angels or such beings as live forever’” – 7 : 20 ) and everlasting kingship ( “But Satan whispered evil to him. He said, ‘O Adam, shall I lead you to the tree of eternity and to a kingdom that never decays?’” – 20 : 120 ) to disobey God’s command not to approach the one prohibited tree ( “We said, ‘O Adam, dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden, and eat of the bountiful things therein as you will, but approach not this tree, or you run into harm and transgression.” – 2 : 35).

 

What was Adam’s reaction when he was rebuked by God for his disobedience?

 

“They said, ‘Our Lord, we have wronged our souls and unless you forgive us and have mercy on us, we will be losers’.” – 7 : 23.

 

“God said, ‘Go down therefrom, all of you, as enemies of one another. When guidance comes to you from Me, those who follow My guidance will never go astray, nor suffer misery’.” – 20 : 123.

 

“Then Adam received from his Lord words, whereby He redeemed him. He is the redeemer, the merciful.” – 2 : 37.

 

Adam disobeyed God, giving in to his own vain desire, but was remorseful and heeded the guidance of God. For this, God redeemed him of his wrong.

 

“He accepts the repentance of His servants and pardons the sins. He is fully aware of everything you do.” – 42 : 25

 

“O you who believe, if you observe God, He will enlighten you, remit your sins, and forgive you. God possesses unlimited grace.” – 8 : 29.

 

“Say to my servants who exceeded the limits, ‘Never despair of God’s mercy; God forgives all sins; for He is the forgiver, the merciful.” – 39 : 53.

 

“Anyone who falls in sin, or wrongs his soul, then turns to God for forgiveness, he will find God forgiving, merciful.” – 4 : 110. 

 

“Yet your Lord regards those who fall in sin out of ignorance, then repent and reform; your Lord thereafter is forgiving, merciful.” – 16 : 119.

 

My understanding is that both Iblis and Adam had committed the sin of idolatry in that they had both allowed their respective egos, their own vain desires, to lead them into disobedience to God’s command. However, Iblis showed no remorse and swore that he would endeavour to divert as many of God’s servants as he could from God’s way. For this, God condemned Iblis to hell. Adam, on the other hand, immediately realised his wrong and turned to God beseeching forgiveness. Whilst God did punish Adam by despatching him to live on earth for a time, He promised Adam that guidance would be sent to him and that if Adam would hold on to that guidance, God would redeem him. We are told that Adam was indeed redeemed.

 

If the above analysis is correct, this might suggest that even the sin of idolatry is forgiven of one who sincerely repents. My understanding is that idolatry borne of our own ego occurs when we disobey God’s commands by exalting and giving in to our own vain desires. There is sincere repentance for such acts of idolatry when, having come to realise or know that our acts in furtherance of our own desires are at odds with that which God commands, we forthwith refrain from such acts. God says that those who are conscious of Him never persist in a wrong knowingly.

 

Are we idolators of our own vain desires? Do we disobey God’s commands by exalting and giving in to our own whims and fancies? This can only be ascertained if we honestly measure our own actions against God’s commands.

 

Take for instance the matter of forgiveness.

 

“Ask the believers to forgive those who do not expect the days of God. He is the one who judges the people for whatever they do.” – 45 : 14.

 

“Whatever you possess is the temporary material of this life. What God possesses is far better and everlasting, for those who believe and trust in their Lord. And they avoid gross evil and sins, and whenever provoked, they forgive.” – 42 : 36-37.

 

“Many followers of previous scripture wish to revert you back to paganism, due to jealousy on their part, now that the truth has been manifested to them. You shall forgive and forget them, for God is the one who will judge them. God is omnipotent.” – 2 : 109.

 

To forgive, as I understand it, necessitates one ridding oneself of the feeling of hate and anger towards the wrongdoer. Perhaps the Christians have aptly described how a believer might abide by the enjoinment to forgive – hate the sin, not the sinner!

 

What of God’s command to deliver His message? Do we honour this?   

 

You shall invite to the path of your Lord with wisdom and compassionate enlightenment, and debate with them in the best possible manner. Your Lord knows best who is deviating from His path, and He knows best who are the guided ones. And when you avenge any aggression against you, you shall inflict an equivalent punishment. But if you resort to patience, it would be best for the patient. You shall resort to patience; and your patience will be aided by God. Do not grieve over them, and do not be annoyed by their schemes. Surely, God is with those who observe righteousness, and those who are pious.” – 16 :125-128. 

 

God is precise. Invite others to Him “with wisdom and compassionate enlightenment”. God tells us to debate with them “in the best possible manner”. God enjoins us to be patient”, “not to grieve over them” and “not to be annoyed by their schemes”.

 

See what are some of the things that God commands of the believers.

 

“… be not divided amongst yourselves” – 3 : 103

 

“If two parties among the believers fall into a quarrel, make peace between them…”

– 49 : 9.

 

“O you who believe, avoid excessive suspicion, for suspicion in some cases is a sin. And spy not on each other, nor speak ill of each other behind their backs. Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his brother? No! You would abhor it. Fear God, for God is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.” – 49 : 12

 

Do we “hear and obey” our Lord? And if we do not, is it to our own desires that we harken? Have we not then fallen into idolatry?

 

Will we not turn to God for forgiveness as did Adam? Will we not say, ‘Our Lord, we have wronged our souls and unless you forgive us and have mercy on us, we will be losers’.”

 

Is there forgiveness for our idolatry?

 

“And race towards forgiveness from your Lord, and a paradise that encompasses the heavens and the earth; it awaits the righteous who are charitable during the times of prosperity and the times of hardship. They control their anger, and they pardon the people. God loves those who are charitable. When they fall into gross sin, or wrong their souls, they remember God and ask forgiveness for their sins; and who forgives the sins except God? They never persist in sinfulness, knowingly.” – 3 : 133-135.

 

The command to each of us is to invite all to the path of our Lord. What is this “path”?

 

“If anyone desires a way of life other than one of attainment of peace by submission to God, never will it be accepted of him, and in the hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost.” – 3 : 85.

 

The path of attainment to peace by submission to God.

 

“O believers, enter into complete peace and do not follow in the footsteps of Satan; for he is truly your manifest enemy.” – 2 : 208.

 

“God guides those who seek His good pleasure to the path of peace, brings them out of the shadows of darkness into the light, by His leave, and guides them to a straight path.”  – 5 : 16.

 

O you tranquil soul ! Return to your Lord , well-pleased and well-pleasing Him. Enter then among my devotees ; enter then My garden.” – 89 : 27-30.

 

 

We will never attain to the path of peace until we submit ourselves completely to God (2 : 112). I believe that we will never be able to submit ourselves completely to God until we rid ourselves of our egos. Until then, we will never enter His garden. Look at some of the things that God enjoins upon us as mentioned above : to forgive; to be patient; to avoid undue suspicion of others; to abstain of speaking ill of others in their absence. Think of the last time that you disobeyed any one of these commands and honestly ask yourself what drove you to such disobedience.

 

“What about the one who idolizes his own ego? Can you do anything for him?” – 25 : 43.

 

“…God will never change the condition of a people until they change it themselves…”

-13 : 11.

 

Salam.

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Published in: on April 7, 2008 at 6:54 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. To me it is abundantly clear, whenever you are ready to set aside your ego and submit, there is forgiveness.

    Even iblis, were he to seek forgiveness, can be forgiven. But he will not submit. And therefore will never be forgiven.

  2. Ego is the forerunners of ALL Idols,coarse or subtle.Habits to set aside Ego is good,but it will be far superior if one realise the illusionary nature of ego and be grouded in Allah.The door of Tawhid is recommended for mordern man,when blind faith in ‘Inshaallah’sprouts so many doubts.


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