I pray to God Almighty multiple times daily to show me the right path, and with this hope try my best to find one also through personal effort. Now, how do I make sure that the path that I think to be the true path IS ACTUALLY the correct path (as prescribed by Allah), and following which, I will be saved from the FIRE?
This question naturally comes to that person’s mind who is an ardent seeker of the truth. This can be relevant both in the scenario of an interfaith dialogue as well as within the ambit of a particular faith. Undeniably, the truth – religious ethos– that is the real TRUTH, free from all blemishes, can only be one. Yet, with so many belief systems and philosophies scattered around, one can repeatedly be confounded while struggling to conclusively arrive at the real one. Then, there are so many factors and influences that play a decisive role in hampering or facilitating our judgment. Our place and family of birth, friends, teachers, environment, culture, media and above all our own idiosyncrasies biases and prejudices. These, along with a host of other factors, contribute in the development of a personality with its peculiar system of ideas, beliefs and values.
Each one of us is convinced about the veracity of his/her belief system. The real test for us is that if an alternative set of beliefs is presented to us, that, after careful consideration, seems plausible enough to replace our existing beliefs, either in totality or partially, or a flaw in our present understanding is made apparent to us, how would we react. Would it be a condescending sneer or a humble submission? The ultimate analysis would rest on this attitude of ours while searching for the true path.
Moiz Amjad writes in one of his responses:
A general training of the society with reference to the point that even though only one set of religious beliefs can be completely true, yet the understanding and the interpretation of the truth by human beings can be different. In the ultimate analysis it is not the individual’s ascription to the ‘whole truth’ that guarantees his eternal salvation, but his sincere ascription to what he has honestly understood and interpreted to be the ‘Truth’.
The word ‘honestly’ is the key here. It demands eschewing, to the best of one’s abilities, all prejudices, biases, pride, arrogance, material benefits and self-indulgent attitudes in the quest of the glorious path. It demands justice. Doing justice to others and to your own self. The Quran says:
O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do. (Al-Nisaa 4: 135)
All of this might appear to be easier said than done, but realizing this and making a whole-hearted effort to achieve this end should be our real focus. In addition, we should always sincerely pray to God for forbearance and for opening our hearts and minds to be able to smell the essence of truth from miles. Our consolation is that according to the Quran:
On no soul doth God place a burden greater than it can bear. (Al-Baqarah 2: 286)
And on the Day of Judgment, He will not fling anyone into Fire unjustly.
The great jurist of Islam, Imam Shafa’i, so aptly summed up the approach of a truly open minded seeker of truth:
I am convinced about the veracity of my opinions, but I do consider it likely that they may turn out to be incorrect. Likewise, I am convinced about the incorrectness of the views different from mine, but I do concede the possibility that they may turn out to be correct.
My prayers are with you.
February 25, 2003