It is only Allah whose discretion holds supreme in this world. No one else's discretion has in reality even a trace of authority. However, for the sake of trial, Allah has sanctioned freedom to man, who has been given considerable liberty in an otherwise completely enslaved existence, to see how he uses it: does he opt for the realistic choice of submitting to Allah's -- the real Master's-- will or does he get carried away by the thrills of his undeserving liberty and, as a consequence, resort to rebellious attitude.
Allah has prepared the paradise for those who despite possessing many options choose to remain optionless; those who volunteer to fear Allah even on occasions when fear is not seemingly warranted; those who, despite wielding full authority, surrender all their authority to Allah.
When such people are provided with sustenance through the medium of some apparent material source, they acknowledge that it is in fact Allah Who has arranged it for them. They have the liberty to be unfair to others, but they check the sinful inclinations of their liberty for fear of Allah. Opportunities of demonstrating anger, hatred and revenge come their way, but they choose to exercise restraint on occasions of anger and offer forgiveness on occasions of hatred and revenge. Allah allows them to be praised lavishly by others, but they find solace in remaining humble. Allah makes them wealthy, but instead of spending their wealth to satisfy their vain desires, they find it more satisfying to spend their wealth in His way. They follow the way of Allah instead of following the way of their own whims; instead of living for their own sake, they live for the sake of Allah.
The serene world of paradise is indeed for such people. They make themselves subservient to Allah with their own free will; they choose to remain constrained within the divinely ordained restrictions, despite enjoying the freedom to remain unrestricted.
Many of us find it difficult to practise Islam properly because despite acknowledging it as the true religion of Allah, we feel that we are not strong enough to take up the challenge. It is only this feeling of lack of inner strength that enables us to dissuade ourselves from following the right path. The month of Ramadan, however, comes to make a complete mockery of this satanic argument.
Ramadan revolutionises our lives for atleast one month by completely changing the pattern of life, taking it away from its worldly orientation towards an overwhelmingly religious orientation. Before it arrives, many of us fear that the month is going to be difficult to endure because of the extra restrictions it imposes on us. However, no sooner does it arrive , it completely changes our attitudes, enabling us to follow the additional requirements of the month without much difficulty. We feel hungry and thirsty during the days of Ramadan but despite having the ability and resources to eat and drink, we stay away from obeying our desires because of fear of Allah. That enables us to realise that following the way of Allah is, after all, not as difficult as it first seems. If we can do it in Ramadan, why can't we do it outside it? Let this Ramadan be the final turning point in our lives for, who knows, we may not get the opportunity of experiencing another one next time!
The Quran says:
"O you who believe, save yourselves and your families from the Fire whose fuel will be men and rocks, over which will be appointed stern and severe angels as wardens who would never disobey what God would command them, and would do what they will be commanded." (66:6)
An individual who believes that a Day of Final Justice is bound to dawn would do everything possible within his means to save himself, his family and his friends from the Fire of Hell. Consequently, whenever he would find any of his close ones deviating from the right path, he would hurry to bring them back. His attempt would be at least equal in earnestness to that of someone attempting desperately to rescue a close one from the flames of a threatening fire. The fear that his attempt would earn for him the displeasure of fear of temporary unhappiness of some relatives and friends is far easier to face than the accountability in the Hereafter if this responsibility is avoided. The Prophet of Allah, may Allah be pleased with him, had warned thus:
"Each one of you is a shepherd, responsible [to the Almighty] for [the conduct of] his herd." (Muslim, Kitab-ul-Imaarah)
Love and sympathy for others, if carried too far, can make an individual lazy and unmindful about religious matters. Emotional attachment to the religion of Allah, as a result gradually drops to a level where open violations of the Almighty's injunctions even by the close ones fail to move him to take corrective measures. He satisfies his conscience by entertaining the deceiving thought that time itself would reform them gradually. There are many who instead of reforming their kin, spare no efforts in justifying their faults. This highly unbecoming attitude is adopted even by those who have taken up the task of reforming the entire society!
The obvious reason why people donot take up the responsibility of reforming their near ones seriously is that they fail to realise that true love does not demand individuals to meekly overlook the irreligious conduct of their family and friends and to allow them to face grave consequences in the Hereafter; it requires, instead, that they should somehow be pushed away from it, even though the process might necessitate some discomfort to them. Remember, anyone who remains unconcerned at the un-Islamic behaviour of his close ones is not loving them, but is, in reality, callously allowing them to move closer to the wrath of the Almighty.
The Holy Quran warns us that many people would find themselves and their families in an unenviable fate on that Fateful Day. It says:
"You would see them brought before the Fire, abject in disgrace, looking stealthily. And those who believe will say, 'Indeed losers are those who have failed themselves and their families on the Day of Resurrection.' Be informed that these transgressors will suffer a lasting torment. They will have no protector to help them than God. He whom God allows to go astray has no way [to revert]." (42:45-6)
We, therefore, pray to the Almighty: 'O Lord, give us of good in the world, and give us of good in the life to come and save us from the torment of the Fire.' Aameen.