What is the meaning of idol worship?
A simple definition of idol worship is to believe that anything beside God can help us, or to hold something as more important to us than God. Thus if we hold our property (for example) as more important than God /or give our jobs more time and attention than God - we are committing idol worship. Unfortunately, the majority of people who believe in God commit this gross offense without even realizing it. If you ask them, "Who is your god?", they will be outraged to hear this question. "What do you mean, `Who is your god?' they will ask, `My god is the Creator of the heavens and the earth.' " And most of these people will be shocked to find out that their proclamation that their god is the Creator of the heavens and the earth is no more than lip service, and that they are in fact destined for Hell (12:106). Idol worship is a gross injustice, the violation of the first commandment in all the scriptures of God, and is an unforgivable sin if maintained until death.
[31:13] Recall that Luqmaan said to his son, as he enlightened him, "O my son, do not set up any idols beside GOD; idolatry is a gross injustice."*
Footnote: *31:13 How will you feel if you take care of a child, give him the best education, and prepare him for life, only to see him thank someone else? Thus is idolatry; injustice.
[12:106] The majority of those who believe in GOD do not do so without committing idol worship.
The Unforgivable Sin
[4:48] GOD does not forgive idolatry,* but He forgives lesser offenses for whomever He wills. Anyone who sets up idols beside GOD, has forged a horrendous offense.
[4:116] Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly gone far astray.
Footnote: *4:48 Idol worship is not forgivable, if maintained until death. One can always repent from any offense, including idolatry, before death comes (see 4:18 & 40:66).
God tells us that idol worship nullifies all work
Any work we do, if not devoted absolutely to God, does not serve to grow our souls. On the day of Resurrection, if our souls have not grown strong enough to withstand the presence of God - we will have to forsake God's kingdom on our own volition. Everything we have done in this world will be nullified.
[39:65] It has been revealed to you, and to those before you that if you ever commit idol worship, all your works will be nullified, and you will be with the losers.
The natural instinct of monotheism that God has placed in us ( 30:30; to make it easier for us to choose the right path) commands us to dedicate our worship to God Alone, and not associate anything with God. All places of worship should be dedicated to God Alone. Belief in God includes the understanding that He alone is worthy of worship.
[72:18] The places of worship belong to GOD; do not call on anyone else beside GOD.
Many Christians commit this same mistake by exalting Jesus to the same level as God, or sometimes by even calling him God. This is idol worship. In Matthew 7:21-23: Jesus clearly disowns those who call him “Lord.”
Types of Idols
Idol worship is not just restricted to worship of any statues or picture frames, etc. The Quran cites many forms of idol worship.
1. Calf, statues as idols.
[2:51] Yet, when we summoned Moses for forty nights, you worshiped the calf in his absence, and turned wicked.
[21:51-53] Before that, we granted Abraham his guidance and understanding, for we were fully aware of him.He said to his father and his people, "What are these statues to which you are devoting yourselves?" They said, "We found our parents worshiping them."
2. Worshipping other gods (is worshipping the devil).
[4:117] They even worship female gods besides Him; as a matter of fact, they only worship a rebellious devil.
3. Jesus as idol.
[5:72] They have certainly disbelieved who say, " Allah is the Messiah, the son of Mary" while the Messiah has said, "O Children of Israel, worship Allah , my Lord and your Lord." Indeed, he who associates others with Allah - Allah has forbidden him Paradise, and his refuge is the Fire. And there are not for the wrongdoers any helpers.
4. Jinns as idols.
[6:100] Yet, they set up beside GOD idols from among the jinns, though He is the One who created them. They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.
5. Children as idols.
[7:190] But when He gives them a good baby, they turn His gift into an idol that rivals Him. GOD be exalted, far above any partnership.
6. Humans as idols.
[7:194] The idols you invoke besides GOD are creatures like you. Go ahead and call upon them; let them respond to you, if you are right.
7. "Intercessors" as Idols.
[10:18] They worship beside GOD idols that possess no power to harm them or benefit them, and they say, "These are our intercessors at GOD!" Say, "Are you informing GOD of something He does not know in the heavens or the earth?" Be He glorified. He is the Most High; far above needing partners.
8. Satan as an idol.
[14:22] And the devil will say, after the judgment had been issued, "GOD has promised you the truthful promise, and I promised you, but I broke my promise. I had no power over you; I simply invited you, and you accepted my invitation. Therefore, do not blame me, and blame only yourselves. My complaining cannot help you, nor can your complaining help me. I have disbelieved in your idolizing me. The transgressors have incurred a painful retribution."
9. Property as an idol.
[18:32-36] Cite for them the example of two men: we gave one of them two gardens of grapes, surrounded by date palms, and placed other crops between them. Both gardens produced their crops on time, and generously, for we caused a river to run through them. Once, after harvesting, he boastfully told his friend: "I am far more prosperous than you, and I command more respect from the people." When he entered his garden, he wronged his soul by saying, "I do not think that this will ever end. "Moreover, I think this is it; I do not think that the Hour (the Hereafter) will ever come to pass. Even if I am returned to my Lord, I will (be clever enough to) possess an even better one over there."
[18:42] Indeed, his crops were wiped out, and he ended up sorrowful, lamenting what he had spent on it in vain, as his property lay barren. He finally said, "I wish I never set up my property as a god beside my Lord."
10. The prophets as idols.
[3:79] It is not for a human [prophet] that Allah should give him the Scripture and authority and prophethood and then he would say to the people, "Be servants to me rather than Allah ," but [instead, he would say], "Be pious scholars of the Lord because of what you have taught of the Scripture and because of what you have studied."
11. God's servants as idols.
[18:102] Do those who disbelieve think that they can get away with setting up My servants as lords beside Me? We have prepared for the disbelievers Hell as an eternal abode.
The idol need not be an image in front of you.
12. Ego as an idol.
This is a common form of idolatry. Most humans, because of their ego cannot bring themselves to worship God, nor can they make their opinion subordinate to God's opinion spelled out in the Quran because of their ego. If we disobey God and His messenger, we are committing idol worship even though there is no image in front of us. This is because we would be giving our opinion more importance than God's words.
[25:43] Have you seen the one whose god is his own ego? Will you be his advocate?
[45:23] Have you noted the one whose god is his ego? Consequently, GOD sends him astray, despite his knowledge, seals his hearing and his mind, and places a veil on his eyes. Who then can guide him, after such a decision by GOD? Would you not take heed?
13. Upholding sources other than God's words, as an idol
As a Submitter (Muslim) if we follow a source other than the Quran and the example of His Messenger for religious guidance it would be idolatry.
[6:19] Say, "Whose testimony is the greatest?" Say, "GOD's. He is the witness between me and you that this Quran has been inspired to me, to preach it to you and whomever it reaches. Indeed, you bear witness that there are other gods beside GOD." Say, "I do not testify as you do; there is only one God, and I disown your idolatry."
14. Leaders and scholars as idols.
Upholding the Teachings of Leaders, Instead of God's Teachings
[9:31] They have taken their scholars and monks as lords besides Allah , and [also] the Messiah, the son of Mary. And they were not commanded except to worship one God; there is no deity except Him. Exalted is He above whatever they associate with Him.
15. Creating sects in religion is idol worship.
The Quran forbids dividing ourselves into sects. Those who divide into sects are termed as idol worshippers.
[30:31-32] You shall submit to Him, reverence Him, observe the Contact Prayers (Salat), and - whatever you do - do not ever fall into idol worship. Of those who divide their religion into sects; each party rejoicing with what they have.
16. Dividing believers and providing comfort to those who oppose God and His messengers is practicing idol worship.
[9:107] There are those who abuse the masjid by practicing idol worship, dividing the believers, and providing comfort to those who oppose GOD and His messenger. They solemnly swear: "Our intentions are honorable!" GOD bears witness that they are liars.
We learn from the Quran that idols cannot judge (40:20), idols cannot create anything and are powerless (13:16, 46:4) and idols do not bring us closer to God (39:3). We learn that idolaters follow conjecture (6:148) and that idolaters deny idol worship - now & on the Day of Judgment (6:22-24).
God grants perfect security and happiness for believers who are devoted to Him alone without committing idol worship.
[6:82] Those who believe, and do not pollute their belief with idol worship, have deserved the perfect security, and they are truly guided.
[39:17] As for those who discard the worship of all idols, and devote themselves totally to GOD alone, they have deserved happiness. Give good news to My servants.
May God protect us from worshiping idols.
[14:35] Recall that Abraham said, "My Lord, …. protect me and my children from worshiping idols.
[6:162-164] Say, "My Contact Prayers (Salat), my worship practices, my life and my death, are all devoted absolutely to GOD alone, the Lord of the universe.He has no partner. This is what I am commanded to believe, and I am the first to submit." Say, "Shall I seek other than GOD as a lord, when He is the Lord of all things? No soul benefits except from its own works, and none bears the burden of another. Ultimately, you return to your Lord, then He informs you regarding all your disputes."
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