Question: What practices should we adopt to merit Paradise? During the life of the Prophet (sws) people would ask him such questions seeking guidance. What would be the few prominent things that we can pick from all the Aḥadīth that we have with us today and all the teachings of the Qur'ān that have reached us to practice in our life and hope to merit entry into Paradise?
Answer: Four factors can assist us in entering Paradise.
The first is faith. What we have to believe in is known and recognized by everyone. In this world we believe firmly that we are servants of God. We have to present ourselves before Him one day. We will be held accountable. Thus we should believe in the necessary articles of faith.
The second is to do good deeds. This does not require guidance from a prophet. The few matters that may be ambiguous have been adequately explained by all prophets. Otherwise human insight shows the difference between good and evil. God has implanted this knowledge in man before sending him in this world. Thus the required knowledge that is needed for this world already exists in human nature. The Qur'ān has referred to this fact in the verse:
وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَنْ زَكَّاهَا وَقَدْ خَابَ مَنْ دَسَّاهَا (91: 7-10)
And the soul bears witness and the perfection given to it, then [God] inspired it with its evil and its good that he succeeded who purified it and he failed who corrupted it. (91:7-10)
The third factor is that when we come to know of a good thing we should welcome it as a blessing of God. Thus what we have learnt we need to present it politely also to the people around us. We should use the abilities God has given to us, the powers He has endowed us with, the time we have been granted to pass His message. We need to communicate the knowledge we possess to others. We must realize that the learning we have developed is not material wealth which we are supposed to guard. It is something to be distributed freely. Whatever good that we know of should be given to others, whether it is small or great. One may find many occasions in one's surroundings to propagate it. It does not require leaving what one is doing. We are not required to go through strenuous rituals. We can do it while doing our routine business, trading, dealing in a market, working in other professions, wherever and whenever we find an opportunity and meet people.
The fourth factor is that we should look around us and get involved in any good work, any worthy act to which we can devote our time, money, personal effort. If there are such activities, we should think about them, ponder over them and decide on our involvement in the light of our knowledge and reason. We should go ahead and provide support and help.
These are the four main things that could assist us in gaining entry to Paradise. This summarizes the entire message of the Qur'ān.
The Case for Religion
Question: We see that a tendency to follow religion is gradually fading from our society. To what extent have religious scholars in our society contributed to the drifting away of people from religion? What should be the response of religious scholars in propagating religion? What mistakes have they committed in the past?
Answer: Firstly it is not correct to say that our society is losing interest in religion. In my opinion, people are even more inclined to religion than before. However, both tendencies exist. The population has grown considerably. That is why many people seem to be showing more interest in religion and many others seem to be losing interest in it. I believe that, at least in the Punjab, mosques have more attendance than, for example, what I saw forty years ago when I started my public life. I still remember that when I had visited the Frontier province I was astonished to see the mosque full for the morning prayers. Similarly, when I visited Karachi for the first time I was amazed to see that the mosque was so full the prayer hall looked like a Friday Congregation. What struck me more was that the people there would not go to bed till 2 am, yet in the morning they were there in the mosques. Contrarily in the Punjab less people seemed to be devoted to religion. However, thankfully, I see youngsters showing inclination towards religion. Of course Satan is also at work.
Satan is always at work. All the things that we dread: rising disunity, change in behaviour of the people, appearance of so many religious sects, spread of evil – and we say: "Would that God Almighty save us from this situation." It would have been great. But perhaps it is an essential need for the test that Allah has prepared for us. The reason is that if all these troubles exist, only then will we be able to show what our attitude is regarding right and wrong. Man has to find his way through this disunity and has to look for light in this darkness. In a test like this he has to make the right decisions for himself. So I feel that if you see it from this angle, you need not fear.
When I see this universe, the first question that comes to me is that on what principle has it been created? Has it been made on the principle of justice? Or on the principle of fairness? Or on the principle of blessings? The Quran says "No". It says that it is made on the principle of a "test". There is no doubt that it is a complete world if we see it from this aspect. In our own lives, we are put to a test of knowledge, of reason, of understanding, of everything.
Despite all this there is no doubt that there is great contribution by religious scholars in the training of the Muslim nation. And the truth is that contribution is expected from two classes of the people.
It is either the contribution of the leaders and the rulers, as they pay their role in forming the nation, or that of the scholars or intellectuals. The rest of the people are only followers. So the contribution of scholars, especially religious scholars, has been great for the Jews, it has been great for the Christians, and it has not ended to date for them, and the contribution of the scholars with the Muslims has remained extraordinary. Whenever they noted that the leaders had failed to fulfil their responsibilities they pointed this out to the people. This is how they tried to reform them, tried to correct their flaws and shortcomings and tried to correct gaps in their knowledge.
In this aspect, the sacrifices of the scholars and the way they delivered the message have remained a very bright chapter of our history. But for the past two hundred years a tragedy has occurred for Muslims. Once the Muslim nation was a super power in the world. Muslims were running the world and they faced certain challenges. Here is when in the past few centuries Muslims have, due to their own doings, earned the punishment of Allah in the same way as did the Israelites. Consequently, Allah has subjugated them to the rule of the enemies, one after the other.
Muslims then needed to seriously consider this subjugation, analyze it, determine their shortcomings, and see what they should do to correct themselves. The Qur'ān itself offers great guidance on this issue too. However, our scholars were accustomed to the part of guidance provided by the Qur'ān that was valid for the times of power, strength and glory. So they were not able to adjust themselves for such a changed situation.
What message did the scholars have for Muslims at this point? Earlier power and glory were established, there was a powerful government present. Frequently Muslims behaved like superpowers. So all was easy for the scholars.
In this changed situation, however, they had never had any experience to study the part of the Qur'ān that would guide them when they are facing loss of both intellectual, spiritual and material power and glory. This had never been a part of their study. How could it be discussed as there was no need to? Such situations had been faced and tackled by the prophets of God who had already departed.
Consequently the Muslims reacted negatively. Their emotional response and the desire to regain their glory were two things which when combined managed to produce an unbalanced mental view. The approach the Muslims adopted in this situation has turned out to be wrong. As a result of this approach, violence rose among Muslims, extremism increased, impatience became rampant and to obtain political ascendancy became their sole aim. They stopped realizing their responsibilities, and many leaders too invited people to this goal to achieve their political interests and become the rulers.
It is obvious that the law of God would not allow the realization of this goal. The Qur'ān clearly states that it was not achievable that way. When it could not be achieved Muslims suffered frustration. In the first phase of frustration the leadership often controls its effects. However, in the second phase only such type of leaders arise that we see among us today —those who tie bombs to themselves. This is the problem now with our Muslim nation. Now a major difficulty has been created for those people who understand such situations and attempt to guide people. The reason is that what they say is no longer attractive to many people despite the fact that it is based on the Qur'ān.
I would not be exaggerating in saying that the present leaders are inviting people to something that has not been mentioned in the Qur'ān at more than a few places, but what the Muslims should do in this situation has been mentioned in the Book thousands of times. But no one seems to understand this point. This is precisely the problem.
(Translated from the Urdu transcript by Tariq Mahmood Hashmi)