Bashir Ahmad Orchard
The Review of Religions, December 1993
Wonderful is the jewel the name of which is righteousness. Blessed is he who practises righteousness. So O ye Muslims! perfect your righteousness.– The Promised Messiah —
Man has been given a lease of life on this planet for the primary purpose of cultivating within himself Divine attributes whereby he may become an embodiment of righteousness shedding heavenly light wherever he treads. There is no worthier or higher goal in life than the acquisition of holiness and righteousness which Muslims have been exhorted to cultivate through obedience to the laws of God. All kinds of blessings have been promised to those who earnestly strive forward on the Right Path:
And whoso obeys Allah and this Messenger of His shall be among those on whom Allah has bestowed His blessings namely the Prophets, the Truthful, the Martyrs and the Righteous. And excellent companions are these. (4:70)
This verse reveals that the doors are ever open to the higher realms of spiritual attainment wherein lie terraces of blessings as far as the eye of the soul can see because both in this life and in the next life rewards are graded according to individual achievement. God says regarding the status of true believers in this world:
They have grades of rank with their Lord. (8:5)
And speaking of their status in the world to come God says:
Therein they will hear no idle talk nor lying. A recompense from thy Lord – a gift in proportion to their works. (78:36-37)
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) has also said:
There are hundred grades in paradise prepared by Allah for those who fight in the path of Allah and, in between each, is as great a distance as is between earth and heaven. (Bukhari)
If every Muslim settled down in earnest to clothe himself with the heavenly mantle of righteousness then very soon every nook and corner of the earth would be lit up with the effulgent light of Islam; but righteousness cannot be attained without the constant worship and remembrance of God. Thus God says in the Holy Quran:
I have not created the Jinn and the men but that they may worship Me. (51:57)
Worship embraces every thought, word and deed and does not relate only to formal prayers. Whatever is done or avoided solely for the purpose of winning the pleasure of God is an act of worship while any intention displeasing to God has been described as an act of idolatry.
Everything thou hast in thy mind,
Every thought thou nourisheth,
Other than that of God
And of winning His approbation
Is an idol which thou worshippeth.
O thou weak of faith!
Beware of these hidden idols!
Guard will thy heart,
And keep it always
Out of their reach.– The Promised Messiah —
Righteousness is the elixir of life because it is the only prescription which tranquillises the mind, heart and soul. The Holy Quran teems with verses exhorting Muslims to cultivate righteousness.
O ye men worship your Lord Who created you and those who were before you that you may become righteous. (3:52)The best provision is righteousness. (2:198)
The clarion call of the Holy Quran summons Muslims into the arena of dedication to fight and conquer the enemies of righteousness. The battle of life is no other than the mastery of self in conformity with the ideals of Islam.
The goal of life is now crystal clear; but it should be remembered that nothing worthwhile can be gained without effort. The shining cloak of righteousness shimmers with resplendence high above on its celestial peak. The ascending path is narrow, tortuous and studded with pitfalls; but the impediments are not insurmountable. He who is in earnest can reach the summit and invest himself with this heavenly mantle.