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By Br. Khalid Baig

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.

وَهَدَيْنَاهُ النَّجْدَيْنِ

“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 76:3)

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 أَعْمَىٰ 

“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!!!

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