By Abu Amina Elias for FaithinAllah.org
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
We must guard ourselves from taking our own desires as a god and an idol that is worshipped. This is a form of idolatry when a person refuses to follow the will of Allah and instead follows their own passions for the worldly life.
Allah the Exalted said:
أَرَأَيْتَ مَنِ اتَّخَذَ إِلَٰهَهُ هَوَاهُ أَفَأَنتَ تَكُونُ عَلَيْهِ وَكِيلًا
Have you seen the one who takes his own desire as his god? Then would you be responsible for him?
Surah Al-Furqan 25:43
And Allah said:
أَفَرَأَيْتَ مَنِ اتَّخَذَ إِلَٰهَهُ هَوَاهُ وَأَضَلَّهُ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ عِلْمٍ وَخَتَمَ عَلَىٰ سَمْعِهِ وَقَلْبِهِ وَجَعَلَ عَلَىٰ بَصَرِهِ غِشَاوَةً فَمَن يَهْدِيهِ مِن بَعْدِ اللَّهِ ۚ أَفَلَا تَذَكَّرُونَ
Have you seen he who has taken his own desire as his god, and Allah has sent him astray with knowledge and has set a seal upon his hearing and his heart and has put a veil over his vision? So who will guide him after Allah? Will you not be reminded?
Surah Al-Jathiyah 45:23
Often the outward idols that people create are merely representations of their desires.
إِنْ هِيَ إِلَّا أَسْمَاءٌ سَمَّيْتُمُوهَا أَنتُمْ وَآبَاؤُكُم مَّا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ بِهَا مِن سُلْطَانٍ ۚ إِن يَتَّبِعُونَ إِلَّا الظَّنَّ وَمَا تَهْوَى الْأَنفُسُ
They are not but names you have named them, you and your forefathers, for which Allah has not sent down authority. They follow nothing but assumption and what their souls desire.
Surah An-Najm 53:23
Satan intends to mislead people into idolatry by calling them to their desires in contradiction to the will of Allah. Satan has now power over us to control our behavior, but rather he entices us to pursue our lusts and passions.
وَقَالَ الشَّيْطَانُ لَمَّا قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَعَدَكُمْ وَعْدَ الْحَقِّ وَوَعَدتُّكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُكُمْ ۖ وَمَا كَانَ لِيَ عَلَيْكُم مِّن سُلْطَانٍ إِلَّا أَن دَعَوْتُكُمْ فَاسْتَجَبْتُمْ لِي ۖ فَلَا تَلُومُونِي وَلُومُوا أَنفُسَكُم ۖ
Satan will say when the matter has been concluded: Verily, Allah has promised you the promise of truth and I promised you, but I betrayed you. I had no authority over you except that I called you and you responded to me. So do not blame me, but rather blame yourselves.
Surah Ibrahim 14:22
Therefore, whenever a person follows their desires against the will of Allah they are in reality following Satan, and Satan can only influence those people who give into their desires.
Fakhr Ad-Din Ar-Razi comments on this verse, saying:
هذه الآية تدل على أن الشيطان الأصلي هو النفس وذلك لأن الشيطان بين أنه ما أتى إلا بالوسوسة فلولا الميل الحاصل بسبب الشهوة والغضب والوهم والخيال لم يكن لوسوسته تأثير ألبتة
This verse shows that the original Satan is the ego (nafs). For Satan makes clear that it is only by means of insinuation (waswasah) that he is able to reach the soul. Had it not been for an already present disposition due to lusts, anger, superstition, or fanciful ideas, these insinuations would have had no effect at all.
Source: Tafseer Ar-Razi 14:22
Not only will such a person be a follower of Satan, but they are in fact worshiping Satan.
يَا أَبَتِ لَا تَعْبُدِ الشَّيْطَانَ ۖ إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ كَانَ لِلرَّحْمَٰنِ عَصِيًّا
Abraham said: O my father, do not worship Satan. Verily, Satan has been ever disobedient to the Most Merciful.
Surah Maryam 19:44
Abraham’s father was not performing rituals for Satan, but rather he was worshiping an idol that represented his desires. Although he was not explicitly worshiping Satan, he was following the path of Satan.
أَلَمْ أَعْهَدْ إِلَيْكُمْ يَا بَنِي آدَمَ أَن لَّا تَعْبُدُوا الشَّيْطَانَ ۖ إِنَّهُ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ مُّبِينٌ
O children of Adam, did I not enjoin upon you not to worship Satan? Verily, he is a clear enemy to you.
Surah Ya Seen 36:60
Very few people perform the black magic rituals involved in the explicit worship of Satan, but many people fall into the trap of idolizing their desires and thereby they associate partners with Allah.
Such was the case of the man who owned a garden but he was ungrateful to Allah and thus he was counted among the idolaters. The man owned a great garden but he said:
وَمَا أَظُنُّ السَّاعَةَ قَائِمَةً وَلَئِن رُّدِدتُّ إِلَىٰ رَبِّي لَأَجِدَنَّ خَيْرًا مِّنْهَا مُنقَلَبًا
I do not think the Hour will occur and if I am returned to my Lord, I will find something better.
Surah Al-Kahf 18:36
His desires led him to commit unbelief, and in the end the man was punished and he said:
يَا لَيْتَنِي لَمْ أُشْرِكْ بِرَبِّي أَحَدًا
Woe to me! Would that I had not associated a partner with my Lord!
Surah Al-Kahf 18:42
Although this story mentions no idol which the man worshiped, he was still recorded among the idolaters because the partner he associated with Allah was himself. His own desires were his idol.
Indeed, some people worship material things like money and clothes, even to the point that they becomes slaves to the materials they desire.
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
تَعِسَ عَبْدُ الدِّينَارِ وَالدِّرْهَمِ وَالْقَطِيفَةِ وَالْخَمِيصَةِ إِنْ أُعْطِيَ رَضِيَ، وَإِنْ لَمْ يُعْطَ لَمْ يَرْضَ
Wretched is the worshiper of gold, silver, fine clothes, and garments. If he is given he is pleased, but if he is not given he is displeased.
Source: Sahih Bukhari 6071, Grade: Sahih
Such people end up miserable in this life if they cannot attain what they desire and for certain they will be punished in the Hereafter.
Nevertheless, Islam is a religion of ease and moderation. It is permissible in Islam to fulfill our harmless desires but only if they are subordinate to the will of Allah. If we follow the commands of Allah and perform our obligations, then we may fulfill our desires in moderation according to what is lawful (halal).
However, we must never let our desires cause us to stray from the path of Allah.
وَأَمَّا مَنْ خَافَ مَقَامَ رَبِّهِ وَنَهَى النَّفْسَ عَنِ الْهَوَىٰ فَإِنَّ الْجَنَّةَ هِيَ الْمَأْوَىٰ
As for him who feared to stand before his Lord and he restrained himself from his desires, then Paradise will be his refuge.
Surah An-Naziat 79:40
Therefore, we must beware the trap of Satan who entices people to follow their desires against the will of Allah. Rather, we must submit ourselves to the will of Allah by restraining our desires when they contradict the will of Allah.
Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.