Explaining Idolatry and Monotheism
Your God is One God. There is no deity but Him, the All-Merciful, the Most Merciful.
Most people believe in Allah. However what deviates them from the path of Allah is their putting other deities before Him. The Qur’an calls this idolatry, and someone who does this is called an idolater. The essence of Islam is monotheistic, namely, humanity must serve only the one true God, Allah.
It is interesting that nearly everyone who puts other deities before Allah does not believe that they are idolaters. On the contrary, they offer many excuses as to how they are ideal Muslims, such as: “…We only worship them so that they may bring us nearer to Allah…” (Surat az-Zumar: 3). The Qur’an tells us about this and other ways by which the idolaters try to deny that they are associating Allah with His creatures:
On the Day that We gather them all together, We will ask those who associated others with Allah: “Where are the partner-deities for whom you made such claims?” Then they will have no recourse but to say: “By Allah, our Lord, We were not idolaters.” See how they lie against themselves and how what they invented has forsaken them. (Surat al-An‘am: 22-24)
Today’s unbelieving society is one of idolaters. However, its members claim to be ideal Muslims. As far as they are concerned, idolatry means prostrating to idols or totems made of wood or stone. They think that putting other deities before Allah only means worshipping lifeless, three-dimensional forms. However, prostrating before something or someone is a symbol of servitude. Even if a person does not prostrate to them, he or she may be their servant. To associate the attributes that belong to Allah with anything or anyone else means that one is an idolater.
Allah is the only being worthy of worship. If people try to please other beings besides Allah (e.g., trying to get others to like them or trying to make them happy), they will be putting them before Allah. Even by expecting help from other beings, they take them as deities. If they decide to live according to these other people’s rules, they have, in effect, deified them. On the other hand, true believers do not associate Allah with any of His creatures and do not recognize any other Lord, teacher, friend, master, or deity besides Allah. Surat al-Fatiha expresses this pure faith:
You alone do we worship. You alone do we ask for help. (Surat al-Fatiha: 3-4)
Human beings are, by nature, inclined to believe in one God and to live their lives according to this belief: “I only created jinn and humanity to worship Me.” (Surat adh-Dhariyat: 56). In light of this, people are responsible for conforming to the purpose of their creation and worshipping Allah alone. Since doing so is in tune with their creation, it is also the most natural and easiest way:
So set your face firmly towards the Religion, as a pure natural believer, Allah’s natural pattern on which He made humanity. There is no changing in Allah’s creation. That is the true Religion, but most people do not know it. (Surat ar-Rum: 30)
The basic message communicated to all non-Muslims is their need to put Allah first and to avoid associating Him with any of His creatures. They must be told that their society associates Allah with His creatures in many ways and that they must abandon all such mistaken views and practices.
They must be told that people commit the greatest sin when they associate Allah with His creatures and even when they put their own desires above His commands and prohibitions. Such people are described as one “who has taken his whims and desires to be his deity” (Surat al-Furqan: 43). Allah also says:
Have you seen him who takes his whims and desires to be his deity, whom Allah has misguided knowingly, sealing up his hearing and his heart, and placing a blindfold over his eyes? Who then will guide him after Allah? So will you not pay heed? (Surat al-Jathiyya: 23)
The most important piece of information that will save a person from idolatry is the “essential knowledge” about the real and basic nature of matter. If they sense that the material universe is an “illusion”, that is “a figment of their imagination” and thus has no foundation in reality, and that existing things are no more than “shadows” manifesting Allah’s glory, they will understand that Allah is the only real being and, therefore, the only deity.
One’s salvation from idolatry can only be achieved by putting Allah above all things, loving Him above all else, and recognizing no other law but His. In other words, they must replace their former worldview with that of the Qur’an. Indeed, this is what is expected of them. Otherwise, they may be rewarded by Allah with a terrible punishment in return for not conforming to the message.
This undertaking is a process that requires the active involvement of patient believers who can impart the true teachings of Islam and Qur’anic morality in a way that new believers can easily understand and apply to their lives. This is because the kind of religion that he knew in ignorant society is a perverse mélange of legends and superstitions from which he will have learned many prejudices against Islam. Or he may know nothing at all about religion. For this reason, such individuals must be taught very carefully about religious morality.