One young friend of mine, who is a pilot, recently flew to Australia. Due to the ash clouds, they were told they would not be able to take off. They were thus delayed a few days.
When he returned, I asked him : "There was still a lot of ash …What did you'll do?"
He said : "They gave us a flight path whereby we could bypass the ash clouds. We took this route and we avoided the ash."
I then asked him : "Did you take any lesson from that?"
He, in turn, asked : "What lesson?"
I explained :
"The lesson is this : When there was a lot of ash, then there was danger that the ash cloud would damage the engine of the Boeing you were flying. Your life was in danger and the lives of all the passengers were in danger. If you were caught in such an ash-cloud, you could have gone and the passengers could have gone. …So they gave you a 'round about' route, to avoid the ash clouds and reach your destination.
The lesson we take is that when there is temptation to sin, or some fitnah approaching, we must avoid it. We must take a 'round about' route. If that plane crashed, the lives would have gone. However, here, if there is a crash – i.e. the person falls into sin – the spiritual life – Imaan - can go.
…Some of those crashes take the person's Imaan away. Some pretty face takes away the Imaan of a person, or some other temptation or invitation to Haraam leads to a spiritual crash. The environment of drugs, pornography, fornication and adultery, gambling, music, etc. are like those ash-clouds.
The Muslim avoids all areas of sins – whether the cinemas, clubs, theatres or other venues of vice. To whatever extent he can avoid, he avoids. He takes a 'round about' route so that he can reach his destination safely. And the destination of a Muslim is Jannat.
If there is a group of young girls dressed indecently and the gaze falls on them accidentally, then try and avoid an encounter with them. Don't even look again. Think that the ash clouds are approaching. …If the person cannot lower his gaze and quickly walk pass, then he must move in another direction. Cross the street. Go over to the other side. Take another route lest he gets caught in the ash cloud of fitnah and loses his Imaan and Aakhirah."
I told this pilot friend : "When you are flying the plane, then you avoid the ash clouds. Avoid those clouds of fitnah as well. …On the plane itself, there will be encounters with the air-hostesses and female passengers. At that time, guard the gaze. You must be an example. You must show to others that I am a Muslim. …That you don't behave like the other pilots behave."
And the same applies to all of us. We too face different 'ash-clouds' of fitnah – whether on the plane or train, whether at work or in the bazaars and market places, whether at school or college. How do we respond ? Do we adopt Taqwa? Do we fear Allah Ta'ala? Do we take the opportunity to prove our sincere and deep love for Allah Ta'ala? Do we subscribe to "Fafirroo Ilallaah' – i.e. we flee to Allah Ta'ala? Or do we recklessly 'fly' into the ash clouds of sins, unconcerned that we may be meeting our spiritual death?
There is no doubt that the environment around us is hazardous, dangerous and high-risk for our Imaan. Despite the scenario, a Muslim must be courageous. We do have the courage. We need to only make use of that courage.
Steer the heart and body away from those ash-clouds of fitnah if we want to reach the Hereafter safely, if we want to enter Jannat without delay; and above this, if we want to earn the Pleasure of Allah Ta'ala.
How do we build up this spiritual strength, whereby we avoid sins like how the pilot avoids the ash clouds, or like how we would avoid the plague… ?
We work on developing the quality of Ihsaan.
Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) explained the quality of Ihsaan as :
"THAT YOU WORSHIP ALLAH AS IF YOU ARE SEEING HIM, AND IF YOU CANNOT SEE HIM, THEN HE SEES YOU (ANYWAY)."
The understanding and knowledge has to be deeply impressed in the heart and mind :"Wherever I am, my Allah is watching."
My Shaykh, Hazrat Maulana Hakeem Muhammad Akhtar Saheb (Daamat Barakaatuhum) says in poetry :
"If you hide and commit sins,
A Muslim works towards developing the sifat (attribute) of Ihsaan in all aspects of his life. It is not confined to the different forms of Ibaadah (worship), like Salaah, Fasting, etc.; rather it is a reality which should be found across the spectrum of our lives.
Unfortunately, this quality of Ihsaan – this Conscious Awareness of Allah Ta'ala - is something which is lacking in our lives. As such, we very quickly and easily lose sight of Deen and Shariah, we lose sight of that khauf and khashiyat of Allah Ta'ala, or muhabbat and love of Allah Ta'ala.
The moment we are occupied in the mundane activities of life, we incline towards negligence. We forget Allah Ta'ala is watching. And this 'ghaflat' (negligence) is the stepping stone to spoiling the harmony of life. This 'ghaflat' is the HEN which lays the eggs of sins.
However, if this attribute is cultivated and nurtured in all aspects of life. ..."That you worship Allah as if you are seeing Him, and if you cannot see Him, then He sees you (anyway)." …then this is opening the doors of success in both worlds.
The person who has developed within himself the beautiful state of "ihsaan" will lead a very balanced life. …Temptations will come his way, but he will not fall for those temptations. The quality of Ihsaan does not mean that Shaytaan will then leave him (or her) alone. Shaytaan will work harder and will continue to tempt. However, due to this Muslim's conscious awareness of Allah Ta'ala, he will not fall for the temptations. He will resist them. And in this manner, he will also secure the noor of Taqwa. In this way, he becomes the friend of Allah Ta'ala.
"…VERILY NONE ARE THE AULIYA (FRIENDS OF ALLAH) EXCEPT THOSE WHO REFRAIN FROM HIS DISOBEDIENCE…"
That Conscious Awareness of Allah Ta'ala makes us apply brakes and resist the temptation to sin. If we are faced with temptation, we will move away. Wherever we feel we will be tempted, then we will keep far from such areas. If an invitation to sin is extended to us, we will refuse and reject it.
Our dua is, as my Shaykh says, in poetry :
'(O Allah) wherever I am – whether on earth or in the skies –