By Bilal Phillips
Since the total submission of one’s will to Allah represents the essence of worship, the basic message of Allah’s divine religion, Islam is the worship of Allah alone and the avoidance of worship directed to any person, place or thing other than Allah.
Since everything other than Allah, the Creator all things, is Allah’s creation it may be said that Islam, in essence calls man away from the worship of creation and invites him to worship only its Creator. He is the only one deserving man’s worship as it is only by His will that prayers are answered. If man prays to a tree and his prayers are answered, it was not the tree that answered his prayers but Allah who allowed the circumstances prayed for to take place.
One might say, “That is obvious,” however, to tree-worshippers it might not Similarly, prayers to Jesus, Buddha, or Krishna, to Saint Christopher, or Saint Jude or even to Muhammad, are not answered by them but are answered by Allah. Jesus did not tell his followers to worship him but to worship Allah. As the Qur’an states:
And behold! Allah will say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Did you say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah’?” He will say: “Glory to You! never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, You would indeed have known it. You know what is in my heart, Thou I know not what is in Yours. For You know in full all that is hidden. (Al-Ma’idah 5:116)
Nor did he worship himself when he worshipped but rather he worshipped Allah. This basic principle is enshrined in the opening chapter of the Qur’an, Surat Al-Fatihah:
You alone do we worship and from you alone do we seek help. (Al-Fatihah 1:5)
Elsewhere, in the final book of revelation, the Qur’an, Allah also said:
And your Lord says: ”Call on Me and will answer your(prayer)”. (Ghafir 40:60)
It is worth noting that the basic message of Islam is that Allah and His creation are distinctly different entities. Neither is Allah His creation or a part of it, nor is His creation Him or a part of Him.
This might seem obvious, but man’s worship of creation instead of the Creator is to a large degree based on ignorance of this concept.
It is the belief that the essence of Allah is everywhere in His creation or that His divine being is or was present in some aspects of His creation, which has provided justification for the worship of creation though such worship may be called the worship of Allah through his creation.
However, the message of Islam as brought by the prophets of Allah is to worship only Allah and to avoid the worship of his creation either directly or indirectly.
In the Qur’an Allah clearly states:
For We assuredly sent amongst every People a messenger, (with the Command), “worship me, and avoid false gods”. (An-Nahl 16:36)
When the idol worshipper is questioned as to why he or she bows down to idols created by men, the invariable reply is that they are not actually worshiping the stone image, but Allah who is present within it. They claim that the stone idol is only a focal point for Allah’s essence and is not in itself Allah!
One who has accepted the concept of the presence of God’s being within His creation in any way will be obliged to accept this argument of idolatry. Whereas, one who understands the basic message of Islam and its implications would not ever concede to idolatry no matter how it is rationalized.
Those who have claimed divinity for themselves down through the ages have often based their claims on the mistaken belief that Allah is present in man. They merely had to assert that although Allah according to their false beliefs, is in all of us, He is more present in them than in the rest of us.
Hence, they claim, we should submit our will to them and worship them as they are either God in person or God concentrated within the person.
Similarly, those who have asserted the goodness of others after their passing have found fertile ground those who accept the false belief of God’s presence in man.
One who has grasped the basic message of Islam and its implications could never greet o worship another human being under any circumstances. God’s religion in essence is a clear call to the worship of the Creator and the rejection of creation-worship in any form. This is the meaning of the motto of Islam:
La Ilaha Illa Allah (There’s no god but Allah)
Its repetition automatically brings one within the fold of Islam and sincere belief in it guarantees one Paradise.
Thus, the final Prophet of lslam is reported to have said “Anyone who says: There’s no god but Allah and dies holding that (belief) will enter paradise.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
It consists in the submission to Allah as one God, yielding to him by obeying His commandments, and the denial of polytheism and polytheists.
The article is excerpted from Dr. Bilal Phillips’s book “The True Religion”.