Is There Only One Way?

 

The title is a question of “whether”, but numerous people ask a similar question in form of a “why”: why should there only be one way? Why should there be a ‘right way’ and a ‘wrong way’? Why cant it be up to us to choose our way? Don’t “all roads lead to Rome”?[1]

Let us reflect and reflect on this.

Imagine both of us are in Hamburg, Germany, on a car. We are going to Rome, with me on the wheel and you sitting by my side. We start from Kalckreuthweg, and I drove West. Realizing that a trip West will not get us to Rome even after circling the Earth 300 times, you reminded me: “we should be heading South! Rome is South!

How would you feel if reply this: “It is my rights to choose my own way, and you have no rights to judge me. Don’t all roads lead to Rome?

Depending on what kind of person you are, you may either: laugh, be mad, cry, or at least roll your eyes at my stupidity. Certainly that proverb isn’t to be taken literally. Many roads may indeed all lead to Rome, but of course there are roads that will not get you there![2]

So is the same for life. Isn’t it not part of an undisputed part of nature that, when one’s goal has been set clear, there is consequently a ‘right way’ and a ‘wrong way’? Despite the trend of human rights and postmodernism today, the so-called human rights will not change the state reality. Just like how Rome will not change its position to West of Hamburg just because it is what I wish to believe.

The choice is only on what to do with the reality.

With its proper non-literal understanding, all (many) roads indeed lead to Rome. It is equally true that, for example, Allah has given us many different ways to achieve forgiveness. The faraid shalats, good deeds, and so many other ways including ‘asking for forgiveness’: each and every single one of these acts would erase your past sins.

But, there are guidelines you have to follow if you really want to reach Rome. It is not up to you to make it up yourself at your convenience, rather you should see the fact of where Rome is and what are your options and only then can you choose which of those is the best. This is true also to this life.

There is one particular and exact prayer we recite seventeen times per day,[3] taught directly by Allah in the first Surah of the Qur’an:

ٱهۡدِنَا ٱلصِّرَٲطَ ٱلۡمُسۡتَقِيمَ (٦) صِرَٲطَ ٱلَّذِينَ أَنۡعَمۡتَ عَلَيۡهِمۡ غَيۡرِ ٱلۡمَغۡضُوبِ عَلَيۡهِمۡ وَلَا ٱلضَّآلِّينَ (٧)

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.” (Surah Al-Faatiha ayat 6-7)

 

The first thing to note from the above ayat is that there is a path that is straight (the right path) and there is another that is not (the wrong path). Very similar to our situation in Hamburg, you do not want to be astray and lost on the wrong path by going with me West. You wish to be on the right path if you still want to go to Rome. But how did you even know that Rome was supposed to be South (and not West) in the first place? You had guidance.

The second thing to note is that through the above prayer we beg ٱهۡدِنَا which means “guide us”. Now take a copy of the Qur’an, and read Surah Al-Faatiha. You know that the above prayer is the last part of the Surah. Then continue reading to the next Surah, just two ayats. Did you realize that Allah directly answers the previous prayer He taught you?

That is Surah Al Baqarah ayat 1-2:

الٓمٓ (١) ذَٲلِكَ ٱلۡڪِتَـٰبُ لَا رَيۡبَ‌ۛ فِيهِ‌ۛ هُدً۬ى لِّلۡمُتَّقِينَ (٢)

“This (The Qur’an) is the Book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah”

 

Right after we ask Him to guide us (ٱهۡدِنَا), He then says how He gave the Qur’an as guidance (هُدً). Now that we have the guidance to the straight path, not a guidance we made up or anything, but straight from The Owner and The Creator of those paths, does it make any sense to not follow this path?

An example would be the previously mentioned ways to achieve Allah’s forgiveness. It is not up to us to make up our own way, but rather we have to see what Allah says are the ways to achieve His forgiveness and only then we can choose. The examples mentioned earlier were said directly by Allah through the Qur’an or through Rasulullah s.a.w., such as the one where good deeds erase sins. We know this not because ‘it would be nice’ or ‘that’s what I think is fair’ or worse ‘its my rights to think so’, but its because Allah said so.[4]

I understand that the idea of “just follow” may sound at least foreign if not outrageously unacceptable. However, if we were to be really honest, this concept is not so foreign or outrageous after all.

Maybe at some point of your life you have sought a doctor to tend to an illness you unfortunately had. If you are not someone learned in medicine, how critical will –or can—you be to that doctor? A person with a long history with illness like myself may generally be more critical, ask more questions, probably seek second opinions. However, there will always be that line where we just have to trust the doctor’s medical education and experience. So, in this case, ‘just follow’ makes perfect sense.

Well, how can it not? Try arguing against your doctor, probably say “I know best of my own body!” just to add to a very typical (uneducated) argument.

A medical doctor is not immune from mistakes, since they are humans. But they typically have almost 10 years of education and training where only the best may pass through so many layers of tests and requirements, and in addition to that they may have pursued further education and training or at least years of experience as a doctor.

This is while you probably don’t know what Metoprolol Tartate is and let alone its side effects,[5] or and you might not now either what an alveolus is despite it being in your own body.[6]

While it makes perfect sense to ‘just follow’ a not-perfect-albeit-very-knowledgeable doctor, certainly it makes more sense to ‘just follow’ the guidance given by Allah who knows everything.[7] When The Lord of The Universe says that you should do something while you (the person who didn’t know what Metoprolol Tartate is) think you shouldn’t, is it possible that He is wrong and you are right?

Allah says:

وَعَسَىٰٓ أَن تَكۡرَهُواْ شَيۡـًٔ۬ا وَهُوَ خَيۡرٌ۬ لَّڪُمۡ‌ۖ وَعَسَىٰٓ أَن تُحِبُّواْ شَيۡـًٔ۬ا وَهُوَ شَرٌّ۬ لَّكُمۡ‌ۗ وَٱللَّهُ يَعۡلَمُ وَأَنتُمۡ لَا تَعۡلَمُونَ

“But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.” (Surah Al Baqarah ayat 216)

 

Does it make any sense that we may have a better idea of proper guidance than He does? If anyone says ‘yes’, then this is pride or arrogance.[8] The hadith mention how pride and arrogance has such serious consequences, and this is despite being ‘only’ being arrogant towards fellow flawed humans. Imagine how illogical, nonsensical, and how severe the consequences may be, if this arrogance is targeted to The Almighty Allah?

Allah says:

وَٱلَّذِينَ كَذَّبُواْ بِـَٔايَـٰتِنَا وَٱسۡتَكۡبَرُواْ عَنۡہَآ أُوْلَـٰٓٮِٕكَ أَصۡحَـٰبُ ٱلنَّارِ‌ۖ هُمۡ فِيہَا خَـٰلِدُونَ

But the ones who deny Our verses and are arrogant toward them – those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide therein eternally.” (Surah Al A’raf ayat 36)

 

So by now we should already understand that although many roads may lead to Rome, but not all do. And here we are in Hamburg, Germany, on a car, moving West, but this time you are on the wheel and I remind you that Rome is South and not West.

Would you not turn South?

[1] This is an old proverb, which is used to express that there could be more than one different ways to achieve a goal.

[2] This proverb uses the word ‘all’, but it is commonly understood to mean ‘there are many’ and used that way. People generally know that ‘all’ isn’t to be taken literally.

[3] Counting only the faraaidh (compulsory) shalaats five times a day, not including the sunnah shalats

[4] Allah says: “Indeed, good deeds do away with misdeeds.” (Surah Huud ayat 114). A summary of more ways to seek repentance together with the basis from the Qur’an or Hadith can be found in the works of the great scholar Ibn Taymiyya, in his Majmu’ al-Fatawa 7/487-501

 

[5] Metoprolol Tartate is a medication for high blood pressure, side effects may include constipation, headaches, etc

[6] Alveolus, in the body, is “a small air-containing compartment of the lungs in which the bronchioles terminate and from which respiratory gases are exchanged with the pulmonary capillaries” (Merriam-Webster Dictonary).

[7] Allah says:“He knows that which is in the heavens and that which is on the earth” (Surah Al-Imran ayat 29)

[8] Rasulullah s.a.w. said: “He who has in his heart the weight of a mustard seed of pride shall not enter Paradise. A person (amongst his hearers) said: Verily a person loves that his dress should be fine, and his shoes should be fine. He (the Holy Prophet) remarked: Verily, Allah is Graceful and He loves Grace. Pride is disdaining the truth (out of self-conceit) and contempt for the people.” (Sahih Muslim Hadith No. 91a narrated by Abdullah ibn Mas’uud r.a.)

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