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The Right Way is Now Distinct From the Wrong Way "...

Anyone who denounces the devil and believes in God has grasped the strongest bond; one that never breaks. God is Hearer, Omniscient." (2:256) Todays Muslims are faced with a great challenge as this is a time of turmoil, war, famine, and oppression. We either choose to submit our inward beings to the laws and guidance of the Creator, or we will sooner or later be compromised or crushed by the tide of evil. At this point in history, we do not have the option of comfortable, uninvolved neutrality. During the past centuries, the world of Islam has seen some of its adherents drift away from its inner soul, God, leaving the door open for materialism, corruption, unquestioning adherence to tradition, blind nationalism, and the path on the left. Islam is a path which calls on us to prostrate not just our bodies, but our minds and souls to the Lord of the Universe. "God Himself has witnessed that there is no god but He. And the angels and those endowed with knowledge also bear witness that there is no god but He, the absolute god, the All-Powerful, the All-Wise. In the sight of God, Islam (submission to the will of God) is the only right way of life..." (3:18-19) And for the Muslim, the Holy Quran is Gods gift, His guidance and instructions given through the prophet Muhammad. People can lead lives, which are a mixture between the ways of God and the ways of the downward path for quite a while. But there are only two directions, the path toward God, and the path away from God, and we will eventually be forced to make a decision to go one way or the other. One cannot go in both directions at the same time. The Path toward God Islam in its pure form is a spiritual path, simple, challenging and effective. Walking this path with commitment brings certain fruits, including increasing compassion, self control, generosity of spirit, independent thinking, moral courage, respect for others, honesty, and the right use of resources. Islam is not in itself a political system, although political systems may proceed from it. It is not a set of cultural traditions, although cultural traditions may reflect it. It is not the possession of any social or ethnic group, or of any geographical area. Its originator and protector is the Lord of the universe, and human beings cannot own or control Him. Faith in God and His guidance is not a matter of conformity with doctrine, rules, human law, or cultural norms. Over periods of time, the understanding of divine revelation, and practice derived from it, tend to accrue large amounts of interpretation, speculation, and personal preferences, dimming the pure light of Gods guidance. Belief is the internal acknowledgment that we and everything else are created by the One and dependent upon Him, and that obedience to Gods law is life. The path opens up before us as we strive to overcome sins, and to practice righteousness, prayer, charity, compassion, fairness to others, truth, honesty. The situations and events of our lives are lessons which, if we ask Gods guidance and help, can teach us and strengthen our characters. As we progress along the straight

path, we find that bad habits must be overcome and good ones cultivated, mistakes must be corrected, challenges must be undertaken, sins repented of, relationships built on a foundation of respect and truth. Doing that which is right requires constant effort, righteousness does not come automatically with the recitation of Shahadah or by being born into a righteous family. When we find we have done wrong, we repent, we acknowledge our responsibility and remorse to God, make amends to anyone whom we have wronged, and relying on the help of God make a consistent and determined effort to avoid doing the wrong again. There is no forgiveness and no help when we have no intention of avoiding the wrong in the future, no matter how many religious acts we perform. The path can be steep and difficult, and can have many surprises and unexpected hazards. But it also has great rewards, the ability to love and be loved, the deep and healing gratitude of spirit when we behold the natural world; the mental, emotional and spiritual strengths and abilities which can be placed at the service of God in the world around us; the joy of learning. These things last. The diversions and possessions of the material world do not last, and when pursued as ends in themselves inevitably turn sour. Our understanding of God, of creation, and our place and purpose in creation, may have many gaps and inaccuracies at the beginning of our journey to God. But we can only start from where we are, and our understanding grows as we progress along the path. We have free will, and the fact that God knows everything in no way diminishes our freedom or the consequences which ensue from our use or misuse of it. Without freedom there is no growth. Simply doing what we are told without thinking or deciding for ourselves makes us robots at best. To the extent that we willingly relinquish our free will to the control of others, to that extent are we answerable to God for the misuse of His gift of freedom. The Path Away From God Like the straight path of God, the path away from God is a direction and not an instant condition. One "progresses" along the evil path gradually and by degrees, by each decision to do wrong or avoid doing good, by each willing action which violates the law of the Creator. The downward path leads to ruin of individual character, of family and social health, and ultimately to destruction of community and nation. Rejecting Gods path confines ones soul in an ever-increasing cage of illusion, discord and degeneration, and one no longer has the ability to see his or her condition clearly. (6:122) Moral corruption in a family breeds secrecy, distrust and betrayal, with the manipulation and control tending to replace respect, cooperation and mutual responsibility. Corrupt societies rot and die, problems dont get solved, they get shoved off onto others; the leaders are not the wisest or most competent, but those who succeed politically through alliances, force and intimidation, spies, self-serving cliques, propaganda, and "image-building." The efforts to preserve privilege, status and power takes first priority, and collisions with reality are either not perceived in time, or not handled in a way which will avoid eventual disaster. The absolute basic element of Islam is submission to God (41:6) and there is good reason for that. Worship of anything or anybody else cuts us off from the Source as surely as flipping the light switch turns off the light. Our internal beings gradually wither like flowers deprived of water. Idol worship includes worshiping statues, spirits of nature, other creatures, material property, human beings (including prophets and

saints), mythical gods and goddesses. No sane creature would stand for being worshiped, to be considered equal with its Creator in any way, or independent of His life-giving sustenance. Creatures who want to be worshiped and served tend to be weak, twisted and unsavory characters underneath the charismatic exterior. When Satan masquerades as an angel of light, there is lying, deceit, treachery, cruelty and greed underneath. The only effective way to reverse directions, to turn from the path of darkness to the path of God, is by prayerfully seeking the help of God, and making every effort to do what is right. Just as the butterfly tangled in a spider web cannot extricate itself without intervention of something stronger than itself, so we do not have the power without Gods help to free ourselves from the clutches of evil. It is not easy to live a righteous life while the social fabric deteriorates around us. We cannot force our way of thinking and living on others (2:256-257). Let us, then, be a gentle reflection of Gods compassion, a strong pillar of righteousness, and a source of truth and help to all who seek to do what is right. Did we not show him (the human being) the two paths? He should choose the difficult path.Which one is the difficult path? The freeing of slaves. Feeding, during the time of hardship. Orphans who are related. Or the poor who is in need. And being one of those who believe, and exhorting one another to be steadfast, and exhorting one another to be kind. These have deserved happiness. [90:10-18] Maria Abdin