by Dr. `Abdullah al-Shimemeri
Certainly the ultimate goal of every Muslim is Paradise. As with all aspects of the Unseen, it can be only imagined through analogy, yet its realities are far beyond description in any human language. Allah (subhaanahu wa ta`aala) has prepared for His servants, "what no eye has seen and no ear has heard and has never occurred to a human heart." [al-Bukhaari, Muslim and others] This eternal home is not limited to what is described here of material and spiritual enjoyments, for it includes "all the soul has longed for" and finally, the greatest and most complete pleasure beyond all imagination - the presence and nearness of the Creator Himself.
Who are the inheritors of such blessing? Who are the souls worthy of such reward?
It is common belief among Muslims today that anyone who professes "La Ilaha ill-Allah" and "Muhammadun Rasoolullah" will enter Paradise. Yet this testimony is more than a statement of the tongue. It is an oath, a commitment that must be fulfilled. It has conditions and requirements which affect all aspects of life. It concerns authority - what actually governs our behavior and deeds. The Arabs of Quraish who refused to pronounce this kalimah did so because they fully understood its implications. Yet Muslims repeat it today without a second thought, their actions and lifestyles bearing witness to something totally different. And they expect Paradise!
In the Qur'aan, Allah (swt) has warned against complacency in religion like that of the Jews and Christians who mistakenly claim that God has favored them over others and that Paradise is theirs alone: "It is not by your wishes, nor the wishes of the People of the Scriptures. Whoever does a wrong shall be punished for it, and he will not find other than Allah as a protector or helper."
Yet many of today's Muslims consider themselves a chosen people, while neglecting the commands of their Lord, turning their backs on the sunnah of their Prophet (peace be upon him) and insisting on a secular life far from the blessings of divine law... perhaps even going so far as to deny certain aspects of that law. Customs and traditions, materialism, man-made social systems, national leaders and even their own inclinations are now sharing the authority which rightfully belongs exclusively to our Creator, Owner of the Day of Judgment.
The reward of Paradise is too great not to have a price. That price is true faith which is proven by obedience to Allah and His Messenger. The Qur'aan states, "And whoever desires the Hereafter and exerts the effor due to it while being a believer - those are the ones whose effort is appreciated [by Allah]." [17:19]
We must return to the Qur'aan, not simply in an emotional or academic manner, but with a sense of instruction for obedience and action. We must find out what kind of people Allah has asked us to be and then become as such. This is the road to Paradise.