Originally published in the May 2014 issue of the Islamic Society of Kingston’s newsletter, The Bond.
Whenever there is a new address I’m driving to, I like to familiarize myself with the area I’m going to by using online maps, even before I use my GPS device. Usually, Google Maps provides me with multiple routes to get to the same destination.
Some may be longer in terms of actual kilometres but quicker, due to higher speed limits and the absence of traffic lights. Others routes may be shorter in terms of distance, but may take longer to travel. Some may be scenic and others not so much.
Regardless of which one I choose, I know they will all take me to my destination. I know that each of the routes consist of public roads (so I won’t need to trespass on private property) that will most likely meet certain standards of safety.
Our life is a journey and we are all headed towards Allah. No matter which route we choose, they will all end up taking us to face Him. He will ask us about our journey and the path we chose. Did we choose the safer, more efficient routes to get to our destination in the best possible shape, while following all laws and guidelines, or did we head off of the established routes, trespassing illegally, causing damage and destruction, and finally ending up in a dirty, bruised state?
In Surah al-Fatihah, Allah instructs us to ask Him to guide us to a particular type of path:
“(O Allah) Guide us to the straight path. The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray.” [Qur’an – 1:6-7)
Allah sent His messengers as guides to show the best route towards Allah. Our beloved prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) has done the same in the most relevant way for our nation.
Within Islam, we find ourselves facing many different choices and paths. Those traveling on these different paths may sometimes be very confident, perhaps even pushy, that the path they’re on is the best path. Yet, the most sincere and humble believers are those who are constantly looking for ways to improve their journey and are willing to make changes to adopt another path that may closer to the guidance of Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him), and that is ultimately more pleasing to Allah.
Whichever path we choose, we should ensure that it has Allah as the focal point and that it continuously refers to the Qur’an and teachings of his Messenger Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Differences in interpreting and understanding these among the people of knowledge and piety will always exist and are acceptable, but we should be on guard against ideas and practices that have weak or superficial links to the guidance of Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon them), especially if they differ greatly from the understanding of those people of knowledge and piety of the early generations of Muslims (who are widely accepted as such today).
After all, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) stated:
“The best people are those of my generation, then those who come after them, then those who come after them.” [Recorded by Bukhari and Muslim]
Thus, the paths that are more closely aligned to the understanding of the early generations of Muslims are more likely to be safer and more acceptable to Allah.
As time goes on, the contrast between the world our early generations used to live in and the world we live in grows starker and starker. Even if we find ourselves facing increasingly challenging circumstances that make traveling upon the paths of the early people of knowledge and piety difficult, we should nonetheless associate a high value to it and look up to it in our hearts and minds, even if we’re not able to practice upon it fully.
This requires an effort on our part to study the primary sources of our faith – the Qur’an and the life and teachings of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) – and how his companions and the early generations of Muslim understood and acted upon these primary sources.
This will give us the knowledge we need to make better choices on the journey to our final destination, insha’Allah. May Allah guide us to choose the path that is most safe and pleasing to Him.