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The Gates of Paradise

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Examinations are the most nerve-racking experiences in the career of any student. But it serves no useful purpose to withdraw at the eleventh hour, just on account of the nervous strain involved, for it is the result of the final examination that will determine the entire course of his future career. At the very moment when a student can acquire a passport to success – in the shape of a university degree – ­it is sheer lunacy to refuse to sit in the very examination which will certify his fitness to receive it.

Believing Muslims are subject to very similar compulsions because they know from the Quran that God will reserve judgment on their fitness to enter Paradise until He has put them to the test in this earthly life. They know that if they pass this test, their admission to Paradise is ensured. Right-thinking Muslims realize that difficult as the test may be, no good will come of trying to evade it. To ignore its challenge would mean sacrificing the most vital opportunity, just like the student who so ill-advisedly runs away from the examination hall because he cannot bear the mental and emotional stress he will have to undergo.

Under normal conditions, it is easy to take the side of the truth. But when difficulties loom large, people often abandon God’s cause out of sheer weakness and inertia. Islamic on the surface, are in­wardly concerned only with what is convenient or expedient and, at the crucial moment, their piety simply crumbles away. Even when events do not fall into their normal, day-to-day pattern, the so-called believers fall by the wayside, being unable to cope with anything of an unfamiliar na­ture. They are like the people on the seashore who retain their mental balance so long as the sea is calm and the breeze is gentle, but who immediately go to pieces the moment a gale begins to blow, and the waters are whipped to a frenzy. It is when one is surrounded by the towering waves of the ocean that one’s religious fervor is truly put to the test.  

The divine scheme of things is such that our beliefs are constantly being put to the test. But instead of looking upon these moments of trial as ill-fated and unnecessary hardships, we should see them for what they are – golden opportunities to prove our worth so God Almighty may find us eligible for entry into Paradise. How tragic would it be if we were to step away from them at the very time when our Lord was reaching out to us; if we were to withdraw, just when the gates of Heaven were opening for us!

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