We sometime hear from those who consider themselves 'religious' to clarify their position by saying, 'no, no, no, no, no! we dont worship this and this and this, which those inferior people worship, we worship that, that lofty being alone.' And all the while this kind of attitude is exercised, in their mind they declare: 'we're better than those.'
What they (and we are no better immune from this arrogant ignorance) don't even realize that often this talk about 'worship' is just empty words since we hardly appreciate what it means to worship, to adore, to submit, to make obeisance to, to accept as Lord, as the Highest.
What we worship, we don't even have a clear idea, let alone a clear engagement with the act called 'worship'. What does it really mean to worship 'something?' What does it mean when we say, 'only You do we serve?'
How we define worship? That which occupies the heart the most is our object of worship. No matter what we may tell to ourselves, that which occupies the heart most is the thing/object/phenomenon we worship.
For example, if a person all day long think of money, money and how to make more money, how not to lose money, worried about when does his stocks are going up and down, before he sleep he checks the price, after he wakes up he begin his day by scanning the market - what do you think occupies his heart most?
Sometime, thanks to Social Media, all day long we are occupied with attention seeking. In that case our idol is that attention seeking quality. Day and night all he, she thinks is how many people are giving him attention that he, she craves.
The spiritual faculty we call heart within human being is a shrine, a temple and what occupies the heart the most (the most high chamber of it) is its deity. Because we are concerned the most with 'that', that is why it occupies the most space-time in the heart. That which occupies the heart most, that which has more priority than anything else is the higher deity of the heart temple. That is what we are worshiping, day and night, whether we realize it or not. Yes we may inherit a religion from our parents, our forefathers and that religion may have certain principles, may have certain rituals - yet they mean nothing because that's not how we live our life, we only carry a name perhaps that reflect that religion, we may go through some rituals and culture from people of that religion and that's all there is.
2. Ask this question: What occupies my heart the most?
In order to understand what my false deity is, within my heart what idol do I keep at the highest place, I need to ask this question, "What occupies my heart the most?" And only I can give that answer more correctly by observing my heart for few days, for weeks. When my day is finished, when the night has covered the whole world, if I ask, what was it that occupied me the most time, what stirred my heart the most during this entire day and the day before - I may find some hints.
Question your intentions, no matter what you do. If you are a musician, activist, teacher, religious teacher - it doesn't matter. Lets check our intention and try to purify it from traces of wrong incentives.
3. I am better than him
This is the most ancient disease of the heart and mind. The satan when he was commanded by God to bow down to Adam, he refused. When he was asked why he refused, he answered by saying: "I am better than him." This disease still being inherited by us, and religiously zealous people are more at risk of this disease because his acts of devotion actually fuels the fire of this arrogance.
One medicine that may work against this hidden arrogance is first to identify, specially for a religious person, what does he/she has most in his/her heart. Its even more useful if he/she can identify what is it that occupies the heart most, what is given the highest priority in the heart. And by God's grace and if the light of guidance arrives, then he/she may realize in an instant that even though he/she thought he worship this or that, in truth, the false idols has been something else.
4. Know thy idol
If a person who all day long actually worship the material world and its wealth, and money to be precise and if happen to be a religious person or falsely believe himself to be a religious person, his idol is actually worse than a idol worshiper. That idol is all along there occupying his heart, making him obey day and night, make him worship him 365 days. The idol worshiper of Mecca worshiped 360 idols, but the idol of the heart is even bigger in number, that is 365 because they occupy the whole year and years.
If you think carefully you will realize that the false idol that a money maker worship who happen to be religious (who think wrongly that he worship something else), that idol is worse than a idol worshiper who worship a idol knowingly.
To give more explicit example, a zealous Muslim in that matter, may often think to himself that he is superior to Hindus because these idol worshipers worship idols whereas he worship something so beyond! But he fails to realize what a Hindu worship is much better than what he worships. How?
The reason a Hindu's idol worshiping is better than a religious zealot's fantasy because a Hindu will let go of the idol after a certain number of days (through a ritual called bisharjan, final immersion of the idol in water, preferably river), but the money that this religious zealot or material zealot (both are qualitatively the same) worship, they never let go it. There is no bisharjan for him. The thought of money, material comfort and accumulation of wealth occupies his, her heart day and night, week and months, all time, all through his life.
The religious zealot may think how come these idol worshiper worship something that their own hand creates? But he doesnt realize that his money making pursuits are worse than the idols made by hands. The religious idol worshiper's idol is made by hand, but where as the money worshiper toil day and night, both with his mind and hand and with his life, after the money. So money making when taken as the highest priority is worse that idol worshiping.
Those who worship idols know that the idol is just a form and will be dissolved in the water soon, but those who are engrossed in money making are much unconscious of their act of worship of money-god. The idol worshiper worships the idol perhaps certain part of the day, or weekly or yearly once or twice they pay homage, where the money-god worshiper worship the money all day long, all round the year. The worshiping of money-making pursuits, or something like career all remain disguised unless we wish to see things as they truly are. Only then the ugliness of these idols manifest.
Be careful of the society's conditioning us which turns us into a money-making pursuer, be careful of the society's conditioning of your children to think nothing else as loftier than making money, nothing more important than a career with lots of money and material comfort only. Be careful of the society's conditioning that turn each one of us to worship and server none but money and wealth accumulation.
5. Have things really changed?
Now we worship money in a temple which no one really suspect as temple, but if you look carefully you will understand that it really is, it has its own high priests, the ring leaders and ironically enough, it almost has the same symbol (instead of calf, its a bull now). Name of the game has changed, but its the same old game. In this case the truth is not even covered, its out in the open. Indeed truth is distinct and stands separate from falsehood.
6. Communicate this
Say to those who cover up truth.
I do not worship what you worship, I serve not what you serve.
Nor will you worship which I worship.
Nor will I be a worshipper of what you worship.
Nor will you worship what I worship.
For now and in all future 'now,' as long as I exist, I shall not bow down to what you bow down to, for I long to obey only my Lord and not to the false deities which are only constructs of the lower states of mind and world.
For you is yours way, and to me mine.
~ Message of the Qur'an, Chapter of those who cover up truth, 109