An Ilāh (pl. ) is a ‘god’ in the sense of something or someone that is actively worshipped, whether intentionally or not.
Objects of worship are by no means limited to the physical realm. In Qurʾān 45:23, Allāh asks, “have you seen the one who takes as an Ilāh their own desire [...]?” If you ultimately follow your own desires, you are literally a slave to them. In Islam, each of us is a slave and worshipper of Allāh alone, with no intermediates or add-ons.
- “one whom everything turns to, and whom everyone worships” (Ibn ʿAbbās)
- “any object that is worshipped” (al-Rāghib al-Aṣfahānī)
- “any object that is taken as an object of worship” (Ibn Manẓūr)
Own desires (hawá) as an ilāh
- Have you seen he who has taken as his god his [own] desire, and Allah has sent him astray due to knowledge and has set a seal upon his hearing and his heart and put over his vision a veil? So who will guide him after Allah ? Then will you not be reminded? 45:23
- Have you seen the one who takes as his god his own desire? Then would you be responsible for him? Or do you think that most of them hear or reason? They are not except like livestock. Rather, they are [even] more astray in [their] way. Have you not considered your Lord - how He extends the shadow, and if He willed, He could have made it stationary? Then We made the sun for it an indication. Then We hold it in hand for a brief grasp. And it is He who has made the night for you as clothing and sleep [a means for] rest and has made the day a resurrection. And it is He who sends the winds as good tidings before His mercy, and We send down from the sky pure water that We may bring to life thereby a dead land and give it as drink to those We created of numerous livestock and men. 25:44-49