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Worshiping Idols in the Heart

Islamic Knowledge

By Idris Tawfiq*

When our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) finally entered Makkah at the head of a Muslim army, he entered the holy Ka`bah and destroyed the idols inside, which had been worshiped by the pagans for centuries. In doing so, he put an end, once and for all, to idol worshiping. As Muslims, at least five times a day, we declare that there is no god but Allah. To be precise, we profess that there is no deity, no created being that is worthy of worship except Allah.

Words, though, are very easy to say. We could train a parrot to say as much. In trying to live as good Muslims, submitting our whole lives to the will of Almighty Allah, we should always strive to mean with our whole heart what we say with our lips. And therein lies the problem. How many of us really submit every fiber of our being to Allah's will? How many of us find our total happiness with Him alone? How many of us have destroyed all the idols in our lives that keep us from living as good Muslims?

On the contrary, don't we always find excuses for not praying as soon as we hear the adhan? We can spend four or five hours in one evening watching silly programs on the television and we can spend ages talking about nothing on the telephone, and yet we can hardly find three or four minutes to pray. Maybe this is because what is most important to us is perhaps not Allah at all. Maybe there are idols, deep within our hearts, which we still cling to, which we still refuse to smash, and which keep us from being the Muslims we want to be.

Think of any funeral you have been to. After the funeral service prayers are all finished and after listening to the Qur'an, someone might get up to say a few words about the person who has died. His family and friends would certainly talk about him as they sit together. But no one will stand up and say how many pairs of shoes he had. On such an occasion, no one will say that the man had a good job and a big car or that he used to have two holidays a year. They might say that he was a good husband, a loyal friend, or a devoted father to his children. They might talk about what a good Muslim he had been, how he had been faithful to prayer and generous to the poor.

In other words, in death, we come face to face with what was really important to us in life. All the wealth that people have cannot save them. All the things they consider so important in life, such as football, gardening, or even having a good reputation, cannot prevent people going to the grave.

In fact, more than this, many of these things which we cling to in this life can actually take us away from Allah. They can even keep us away from the people we love most of all. If we save and hoard money to such an extent that we are not spending money on our family, hasn't money then become an idol? If working so hard at the office means that we have no time to spend with our spouses and children, hasn't work then becomes an idol? If our love for football or certain television programs is so important to us that we regularly have to delay our prayers or can't find the time to help our children with their homework, then hasn't that too become an idol?

Idols of gold or silver may not be the greatest threat to modern-day New York or Paris, and there are not many of us who display wooden or stone statues in our homes and are prepared to worship them. We would all agree that this is haram. Muslims don't believe in or worship statues. All of us would loudly proclaim that idol worship is the worst possible sin because it denies the oneness of Almighty Allah. And yet, actions speak louder than words. Our children more readily copy what we do than what we say. Deep down in our hearts, we all know what is most important to us. Sometimes, we can't even concentrate for a few moments on our prayers without thinking of something else.

The Children of Israel, having been led out of Egypt by Prophet Musa (peace be upon him) were quick to fall back to their old ways. Even though Almighty Allah had led and guided them, they chose to backslide and to bow down to what they had once worshiped. Life is sometimes easier that way, isn't it? It is sometimes a lot easier to settle for second best, for those things that pull us down, rather than to strive each day in the cause of Allah.

Life puts a lot of rubbish on our shoulders. We sometimes spend our whole lives struggling with the weight of this baggage and never manage to break free of it. The idols in our hearts are like this, they drag us down, destroying our real humanity, which is given to us by Allah alone. The idols that seem to please us and bring us fleeting happiness cannot answer the deepest need of our heart the need for Allah alone.

When we hear the adhan, that sweet cry which summons us to the worship of one God, blessed be He, we are encouraged as Muslims not only to repeat the words of that call, but also to say "La hawla wa la quwat illa billah" (there is neither strength nor power save in Allah). Idols of gold and silver or of wood and of stone cannot save us. Nor can the deceptions which lurk within us, whispering to us to turn away. Allah alone is our strength.

If we constantly remind ourselves of that fact, we can avoid the dangers of shirk. By immersing ourselves in knowledge of the Qur'an and in the life and example of our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), we can steer our lives in the right direction and find the joy and the peace that Islam alone can bring. It is for this reason that Almighty Allah tells us:

Say: I seek refuge

With the Lord

And Cherisher of Mankind,

The King (or Ruler)

Of Mankind,

The God (or Judge)

Of Mankind, -

From the Mischief

Of the Whisperer

(Of Evil) who withdraws

(After his whisper), -

Who whispers

Into the hearts of Mankind,

Among Jinns and among Men.

(Surat An-Nas 114:1-6)



*  Idris Tawfiq is a British writer who became a Muslim five years ago. For many years, he was head of religious education in different schools in the United Kingdom. Before embracing Islam, he was a Roman Catholic priest. He now lives in Egypt. You can visit his website here.


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