Have you seen the one whose god is his own ego?… (25:43)
Recall that Moses said to his people, “O my people, you have wronged your souls by worshiping the calf. You must repent to your Creator. You shall kill your egos. This is better for you in the sight of your Creator.” He did redeem you. He is the Redeemer, Most Merciful. (2:54)
What is this thing called “ego” which God advises us to kill? We all have a feeling of what it is, but Western culture has confused the issue for us. The dictionary definition of ego is almost useless, perhaps even harmful:
The thinking, feeling and acting self that is conscious of itself and aware of its distinction from the selves of others and from the objects of its thought and other operations.
That sounds harmless enough, doesn’t it? But is it really? Interestingly, even the dictionary suggests the Quranic truth. The word “distinction” is the key here. The very word implies that some are better than others, and thus should be followed in preference to others. But the messengers are just vehicles for God’s guidance, and it is that guidance we must follow, not the individuals themselves. In the same way, making a distinction between others and ourselves implies that one or the other is inherently better. Yet we know that the only thing which distinguishes the people is righteousness:
O people, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes, that you may recognize one another. The best
among you in the sight of God is the most righteous. God is Omniscient, Cognizant (49:13).
And even righteousness comes from God alone:
He is the source of righteousness; He is the source of forgiveness (74:56)
Our ego directs us to make distinction among our self and others, making us better than them in our own eyes. It is also the piece that makes us feel that we have some power, control or influence over things. It is the piece that gives importance to our personal opinions, to our grudges, to our desires.
The ego is that piece which got us into trouble in the first place when
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