The Quran specifies different idols that a person can have in this world.
- Statues: (2:51, 21:51-53)
- Jesus (5:72)
- Jinns (6:100)
- Children (7:190)
- Humans/creatures (7:194)
- Intercessors (10:18)
- Satan (14:22, 16:100, 36:60)
- Property (18:32-36, 18:42)
- Provisions (68:17-32)
- Prophets/messengers/saints (16:20-21, 3:79)
- Ego (25:43, 45:23)
- Upholding religious sources besides God’s revelation (6:19)
- Religious leaders and scholars (9:31)
- Secetarianism (30:31-32)
- Dividing believers and giving comfort to enemies of God (9:107)
According to the Quran, a simple definition of idol worship is to believe that anything independent of God has the power to harm or benefit a person.
[5:76] Say, “Would you worship beside GOD powerless idols who can neither harm you, nor benefit you? GOD is Hearer, Omniscient.”
قُلْ أَتَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ ٱللَّهِ مَا لَا يَمْلِكُ لَكُمْ ضَرًّا وَلَا نَفْعًا وَٱللَّهُ هُوَ ٱلسَّمِيعُ ٱلْعَلِيمُ
|2||ataʿbudūna||أَتَعْبُدُونَ||“Do you [all] worship|
|8||yamliku||يَمْلِكُ||it has power|
|9||lakum||لَكُمْ||to (cause) you [all]|
We see that even the messengers could not harm or benefit themselves.
[7:188] Say, “I have no power to benefit myself, or harm myself. Only what GOD wills happens to me. If I knew the future, I would have increased my wealth, and no harm would have afflicted me. I am no more than a warner, and a bearer of good news for those who believe.”
قُل لَّآ أَمْلِكُ لِنَفْسِى نَفْعًا وَلَا ضَرًّا إِلَّا مَا شَآءَ ٱللَّهُ وَلَوْ كُنتُ أَعْلَمُ ٱلْغَيْبَ لَٱسْتَكْثَرْتُ مِنَ ٱلْخَيْرِ وَمَا مَسَّنِىَ ٱلسُّوٓءُ إِنْ أَنَا۠ إِلَّا نَذِيرٌ وَبَشِيرٌ لِّقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ
If we put this concept into practice, we should realize that no one’s command should ever override a direct command given by God. Because this would imply another entity’s words have the ability to harm or benefit us rather than God’s words. This concept is best described in the following verse, where we are informed if we take a different command, and thus disobey God, then we would be idol worshipers.
[6:121] Do not eat from that upon which the name of GOD has not been mentioned, for it is an abomination. The devils inspire their allies to argue with you; if you obey them, you will be idol worshipers.
وَلَا تَأْكُلُوا۟ مِمَّا لَمْ يُذْكَرِ ٱسْمُ ٱللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ وَإِنَّهُۥ لَفِسْقٌ وَإِنَّ ٱلشَّيَـٰطِينَ لَيُوحُونَ إِلَىٰٓ أَوْلِيَآئِهِمْ لِيُجَـٰدِلُوكُمْ وَإِنْ أَطَعْتُمُوهُمْ إِنَّكُمْ لَمُشْرِكُونَ
So, for example, when Adam listened to Satan instead of God’s command not to approach the tree, he momentarily fell into idol worship.
[7:19] “As for you, Adam, dwell with your wife in Paradise, and eat therefrom as you please, but do not approach this one tree, lest you fall in sin.”
وَيَـٰٓـَٔادَمُ ٱسْكُنْ أَنتَ وَزَوْجُكَ ٱلْجَنَّةَ فَكُلَا مِنْ حَيْثُ شِئْتُمَا وَلَا تَقْرَبَا هَـٰذِهِ ٱلشَّجَرَةَ فَتَكُونَا مِنَ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ
[7:20] The devil whispered to them, in order to reveal their bodies, which were invisible to them. He said, “Your Lord did not forbid you from this tree, except to prevent you from becoming angels, and from attaining eternal existence.”
فَوَسْوَسَ لَهُمَا ٱلشَّيْطَـٰنُ لِيُبْدِىَ لَهُمَا مَا وُۥرِىَ عَنْهُمَا مِن سَوْءَٰتِهِمَا وَقَالَ مَا نَهَىٰكُمَا رَبُّكُمَا عَنْ هَـٰذِهِ ٱلشَّجَرَةِ إِلَّآ أَن تَكُونَا مَلَكَيْنِ أَوْ تَكُونَا مِنَ ٱلْخَـٰلِدِينَ
Another example can be seen with Joseph, where he momentarily forgot God and implored his prison mate to remember him at his lord. This implied that he thought his prison mate’s lord was going to help him get out of prison, rather than realizing that this decision was determined by God alone.
[12:42] He then said to the one to be saved “Remember me at your lord.” Thus, the devil caused him to forget his Lord, and, consequently, he remained in prison a few more years.
(٤٢) وَقَالَ لِلَّذِى ظَنَّ أَنَّهُۥ نَاجٍ مِّنْهُمَا ٱذْكُرْنِى عِندَ رَبِّكَ فَأَنسَىٰهُ ٱلشَّيْطَـٰنُ ذِكْرَ رَبِّهِۦ فَلَبِثَ فِى ٱلسِّجْنِ بِضْعَ سِنِينَ
When Joseph begged his companion to intercede with the king on his behalf, he exhibited dependence on other than God to be saved from the prison. This does not befit a true believer, and such a serious slip cost Joseph a few years in the prison. We learn from the Quran that only God can relieve any hardship that might befall us. A true believer trusts in God and depends totally on Him alone (1:5, 6:17, 8:17, 10:107).
For both Joseph and Adam, God redeemed them. Similarly, by informing us of this information, God is allowing us to be redeemed by renouncing our past transgressions and striving not to make the mistake of ever falling into idol worship again.
[30:31] You shall submit to Him, reverence Him, observe the Contact Prayers (Salat), and—whatever you do—do not ever fall into idol worship.
(٣١) مُنِيبِينَ إِلَيْهِ وَٱتَّقُوهُ وَأَقِيمُوا۟ ٱلصَّلَوٰةَ وَلَا تَكُونُوا۟ مِنَ ٱلْمُشْرِكِينَ
Idol worship is the only unforgivable sin if maintained till death, but if we repent then God will transform our sins into credit.
[4:116] GOD does not forgive idol worship (if maintained until death), and He forgives lesser offenses for whomever He wills. Anyone who idolizes any idol beside GOD has strayed far astray.
(١١٦) إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يَغْفِرُ أَن يُشْرَكَ بِهِۦ وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَٰلِكَ لِمَن يَشَآءُ وَمَن يُشْرِكْ بِٱللَّهِ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ ضَلَـٰلًۢا بَعِيدًا
[25:70] Exempted are those who repent, believe, and lead a righteous life. GOD transforms their sins into credits. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.
(٧٠) إِلَّا مَن تَابَ وَءَامَنَ وَعَمِلَ عَمَلًا صَـٰلِحًا فَأُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ يُبَدِّلُ ٱللَّهُ سَيِّـَٔاتِهِمْ حَسَنَـٰتٍ وَكَانَ ٱللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا
So we must assess every aspect of our life to ensure we are not committing such a heinous act and thus nullifying all our good works.
[18:103] Say, “Shall I tell you who the worst losers are?
[18:104] “They are the ones whose works in this life are totally astray, but they think that they are doing good.”
[18:105] Such are the ones who disbelieved in the revelations of their Lord and in meeting Him. Therefore, their works are in vain; on the Day of Resurrection, they have no weight.
[18:106] Their just requital is Hell, in return for their disbelief, and for mocking My revelations and My messengers.
[18:107] As for those who believe and lead a righteous life they have deserved a blissful Paradise as their abode.
[18:108] Forever they abide therein; they will never want any other substitute.
(١٠٣) قُلْ هَلْ نُنَبِّئُكُم بِٱلْأَخْسَرِينَ أَعْمَـٰلًا
(١٠٤) ٱلَّذِينَ ضَلَّ سَعْيُهُمْ فِى ٱلْحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنْيَا وَهُمْ يَحْسَبُونَ أَنَّهُمْ يُحْسِنُونَ صُنْعًا
(١٠٥) أُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا۟ بِـَٔايَـٰتِ رَبِّهِمْ وَلِقَآئِهِۦ فَحَبِطَتْ أَعْمَـٰلُهُمْ فَلَا نُقِيمُ لَهُمْ يَوْمَ ٱلْقِيَـٰمَةِ وَزْنًا
(١٠٦) ذَٰلِكَ جَزَآؤُهُمْ جَهَنَّمُ بِمَا كَفَرُوا۟ وَٱتَّخَذُوٓا۟ ءَايَـٰتِى وَرُسُلِى هُزُوًا
(١٠٧) إِنَّ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ وَعَمِلُوا۟ ٱلصَّـٰلِحَـٰتِ كَانَتْ لَهُمْ جَنَّـٰتُ ٱلْفِرْدَوْسِ نُزُلًا
(١٠٨) خَـٰلِدِينَ فِيهَا لَا يَبْغُونَ عَنْهَا حِوَلًا