Worshipping God vs. Self-Worship
Self-worship is the most hidden of spiritual diseases. It is deadly to the soul as it is destructive to our community.
The other day I was in the subway trying to get to my destination. A lady opened the door for me and being lost in my own thoughts, I forgot to say thank you to her. In anger, the lady yelled out “excuse you.” The incident left me thinking; do we do acts of kindness for the sake of the good, or for the sake of being praised? By doing good, is it motivated by self-worship or an honest striving for the good?
There is an inherent danger to self-worship that people do not realize. This is not specific to Muslims but it is a general problem that afflicts humanity as a whole. Consider, for example, acts of philanthropy. Many philanthropists do not commit money because they love the poor or because they love God, but because they want to either be praised or just pat themselves on the back and feel good about who they are.
A more hidden problem is that of prayer. Some people do their ṣālāt (prayer) on time not because God commands it, but because they want to feel that they are good people and superior to those who do not pray on time. Over here it is not love of God or humility that rules, but the sinister problem of pride.
This problem is simply too prevalent, meaning that it is a normal part of the human condition yet this condition has a solution: constant repentance (tawbah). Whenever we feel satisfied with ourselves, or our pride comes out in any shape or form, we repent. With this in mind, we should constantly seek to make God the basis of all of our good works and not for the approval of others. This can only come about when we persistently and diligently remain suspicious of our intentions and follow it up with regular repentance.