Bismi’Llāhi ir-Ramān ir-Raīm

In the Name of God, the Universally Merciful, the Singularly Compassionate


And when your Lord took from the loins of the Children of Adam their progeny and made them bear witness concerning their souls, “Am I not your Lord?” they said, “Yes. Surely we bear witness”—lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection, “Truly, we were not aware of this,” or lest you should say, “[It is] only that our fathers ascribed partners with Allāh beforehand, and we were their progeny after them. Will You destroy us because of the deeds of the falsifiers?” (Al-A’raf, 7:172-3)

We witnessed that Allāh ﷻ is our Lord ﷻ, and thereby formed a covenant with Him ﷻ through our testimony. Some remember while others have forgotten. Either way, we are responsible for our choices, and we bear the consequences.

The greatest transgression against Allāh ﷻ is to ascribe partners alongside Him ﷻ. Most believers can say with honesty and confidence that they do not worship any false deities or idols. The Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ said, “By Allāh! I am not afraid that you [my community] will worship others alongside Allāh after my death, but I am afraid that you will fight with one another over worldly things.”

What many of us are guilty of, however, is the subtle idolatry of the heart, which is perhaps the most significant kind —forgetting the Allāh ﷻ when our attention is absorbed into the things of this world, sometimes to the point of believing that they, in and of themselves, are the sole bearers of the experiences they seem to deliver. It is no accident that the second half of the prophetic narration mentions the things of the world. True fidelity to the Beloved ﷻ is no small achievement. Since we live in the realm of forms, it is quite difficult to not be enamored and preoccupied by forms and the excitement they engender. At times, it might seem as if there is no way around it. This fact contains many secrets. Consider one point. Since we cannot get away from forms in this life, they must serve a divine purpose. It follows that we are left to rectify our relationship with forms, rather than merely trying to obliterate them.

This subtle perspective on the subject of idolatry is a critical one. Consider the question: where do you turn in your moment of need? Initially, when pressed, we may turn to the world —family, friends, food, shelter. The heart, however, is usually the last stronghold of idolatry coming between you and Allāh ﷻ. We often take refuge in our own selves first before we might, if at all, turn to the Almighty ﷻ. Consider your accomplishments in life. Who is it that accomplished them? Consider the faculties you have been given, that you may take for granted, such as your intellect. Whose intellect is this? The answer should be obvious. Recall the words of the Wise and All-Knowing Lord ﷻ: “…Wheresoever you turn is the Face of Allāh…” (Al-Baqarah, 2:115)

Indeed, to be truly faithful to your Lord ﷻ, you must empty yourself completely and become utterly transparent before Him ﷻ. Shaykh Aḥmad ibn ʿAṭā’illāh al-Iskandarī challenges us:

How can the heart be illumined while the forms of creatures are reflected in its mirror? Or how can it journey to Allāh while shackled by its passions? Or how can it desire to enter the Presence of Allāh while it has not yet purified itself of the stain of its forgetfulness? Or how can it understand the subtle points of mysteries while it has not yet repented its offenses? (Al-Ḥikm—the Book of Wisdom, tr. Victor DannerAphorism #13, tr. by Victor Danner)

There are no divinities, only Allāh ﷻ. There are no realities, only Reality ﷻ. There are no selves, only the Supreme Self ﷻ. Let us recognize our true place before the Almighty ﷻ, that we may realize humility and find ultimate fulfillment as His ﷻ devoted servants and intimate friends. And Allāh ﷻ knows best.


© Ḥakīm Ilyās Kāshānī