THE CHOICE IS YOURS
An article in the Detroit News contrasted the lives of two ordinary persons from
Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan. Two persons joined by faith and
circumstances, yet separated by choices of their lifestyles. One awakens at 4
a.m. every day and walks a mile to the Masjid for the Salaatul Fajr before dawn.
At that time, the other is often just getting to sleep, capping off another
night of drinking and socializing at a bar that caters to tourists and wealthy
Palestinians. One keeps abreast of the latest political developments in the
Middle East to "ensure our future liberation from Israel." The other, "like many
in his Heineken-drinking clique, is oblivious to the latest development or
rather, degeneration in Middle East in continuously deteriorating condition of
Muslim Ummah. But … knows all the words to the latest music videos." One wears a
beard. The other religiously shaves it before happy hour, "because the real hot
girls like soft skin." One is concerned about moral decadence and the mortal
danger it presents to "their country and their afterlife." The other asks, "Why
shouldn't we enjoy ourselves? Come on, you only live once, right?"
The article titled "Partying versus Praying", is pleasantly free of the
propaganda overtones characteristic of the mainstream media reports about the
Muslim world. In a typical piece, the first person would have been depicted as a
"fundamentalist", a fanatic, a "bad guy" who is danger to himself and to the
world. The second person, would, of course, be the "good guy" -- the friendly,
"civilized" person who needs encouragement and support. In contrast, here is an
objective observation about the clash of two currents. Its objectivity compels
those it reports about, to reflect on their situation.
In a way, the story captures the current state of the entire Ummah. For today,
the Ummah is a big refugee camp: Robbed, wounded, tortured, expelled,
dispossessed, and disenfranchised. And just like the refugee camp it has two
powerful but exactly opposite currents: One represents awakening, turning to
Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta'aalaa), overcoming the base desires, and preparing for
liberation from slavery, both physical and intellectual. The other represents
falling asleep, turning away from Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta'aalaa), and "enjoying"
the slavery. This is a clash between piety and profanity, between light and
darkness, between the path to Jannah (Paradise) and the way to Jahannum (Hell).
It is born of the freedom of choice that has been given to every human being.
Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta'aalaa) has created two possible destinations for all
human beings, and there are two opposite paths leading to them.
“and We have showed him the two ways?” (al-Balad 90:10)
إِنَّا هَدَيْنَاهُ السَّبِيلَ إِمَّا شَاكِرًا وَإِمَّا كَفُورًا
“We have shown him the way to be either grateful or ungrateful.” (al-Insaan
The first path leads to success, the other to failure.
وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن
زَكَّاهَا وَقَدْ خَابَ مَن دَسَّاهَا
“and by the soul, and the One who made it well, then inspired it with its
(instincts of) evil and piety, success is really attained by him who purifies
it, and failure is really suffered by him who pollutes it.” (ash-Shams 91:7-10)
Quraan is very emphatic that those who choose the disparate paths cannot be
alike, either here or in the hereafter:
أَمْ نَجْعَلُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ كَالْمُفْسِدِينَ فِي
الْأَرْضِ أَمْ نَجْعَلُ الْمُتَّقِينَ كَالْفُجَّارِ
“Shall We make those who believe and do righteous deeds equal to those who
commit mischief on the earth? Or shall We make the Allah-fearing equal to the
sinners?” (Saad 38:28)
أَفَمَن كَانَ مُؤْمِنًا كَمَن كَانَ فَاسِقًا لَّا يَسْتَوُونَ
“So, can one who is a believer become like one who is a sinner? They cannot
become equal.” (as-Sajdah 32:18)
أَفَمَن يَعْلَمُ أَنَّمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِن رَّبِّكَ الْحَقُّ كَمَنْ هُوَ
“Now, can the one who knows that whatever has been revealed to you from your
Lord is the truth, be equal to one who is blind?” (ar-Ra’d 13:19)
يَوْمَ يَتَذَكَّرُ الْإِنسَانُ مَا سَعَىٰ وَبُرِّزَتِ الْجَحِيمُ لِمَن يَرَىٰ
فَأَمَّا مَن طَغَىٰ آثَرَ الْحَيَاةَ الدُّنْيَا فَإِنَّ الْجَحِيمَ هِيَ
الْمَأْوَىٰ وَأَمَّا مَنْ خَافَ مَقَامَ رَبِّهِ وَنَهَى النَّفْسَ عَنِ الْهَوَىٰ
فَإِنَّ الْجَنَّةَ هِيَ الْمَأْوَىٰ
“on the day when man will recall what he did, on the day when man will recall
what he did, then for the one who had rebelled, and preferred the worldly life
(to the Hereafter), the Hell will be the abode, whereas for the one who feared
to stand before his Lord, and restrained his self from the (evil) desire, the
Paradise will be the abode.” (an-Naazi’aat 79:35-41)
It is, then, for each one of us to make up our mind regarding our destination
and to check whether we are moving in its direction. Of course, the choice would
not be difficult if we were only looking at the destination. No one in his right
mind would choose Jahannum over Jannah or eternal failure over success. But the
eternal success requires us to go uphill. It takes effort and patience. The
journey to Jahannum, on the other hand, is downhill. One can just slide to it.
And so, weak and prone to temptations that we are, we slip. That slip alone
would not be that much of a problem, because one can also recover from it
through repentance. The real problem occurs when we lose all sense of direction
and purpose and start thinking that our fall is our rise.
To complicate matters further, today big outside forces are also busy at work to
smooth our slide and cheer us at our fall. It is a juggernaut of unbelievable
proportions and unprecedented wickedness. The television and music videos,
present everywhere and all the time, are part of it. The UN Social Action
Program and its plans for "development" and "empowerment" are part of it. The
various NGOs working for "Human rights", "Women's rights", or whatever rights,
are part of it. All those propaganda pieces that praise "moderates" and demonize
"fundamentalists" are part of it.
Of course, none of that can do any harm to us if we are willing to cut through
the haze and see things for what they are. It is Allah (Subhaanahu Wa
Ta'aalaa)'s promise that both paths will remain open to us. It is our choice.
The young Palestinian man who walks a mile to the Masjid three to five times a
day has made his choice. So have thousands upon thousands of others like him in
the Ummah who have decided to shun evil and follow the path of piety and
righteousness. So can the millions of others who are just wandering around.
Let us remember! We cannot get to the high ground by taking the low road. We
cannot win our Creator's pleasure by disobeying Him. We cannot enter Jannah by
being ambivalent about it. The clash between the two lifestyles here is actually
the clash between two afterlives. And the choice is ours!!!