Rest Stop Paradise
Bismillah alhamdulillah wa salaatu wa salaam 'ala rasoolillah.
Have you ever gone on a long car ride across several states, leaving home and setting out for a family vacation? If you live on the east coast of the United States, you might be driving down to Florida to go to Disney World or some other vacation spot. I'm talking about long drives, like driving for hours, all day, maybe even two days of driving. Along the way, especially with kids in the car, you're going to need to stop for a bathroom break. So you you pull into a rest stop. Now, this isn't some run down place, this is a nice big clean travel plaza. Of course for the parents, for the adults, this is not a big deal. It's just a quick place to take a break from driving for a few minutes, maybe get something to eat, and then get back on the road.
But not for the kids. When they walk in, they are so excited to be there, it's like they've already made it to their vacation destination, and that's how they treat this place. They see the food court with Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds, and Burger King, everything they love, they notice the gift shop with t-shirts and toys and souvenirs, their eyes catch the arcade games and vending machines, and of course they see the 50 cent machines with gumballs, skittles, plastic rings, stickers, temporary tattoos, and more! They start running around all over the place and acting crazy, and their parents are trying to control them! They're saying, "Guys, come on, this is just a rest stop, we're not even their yet. Save all this energy for when we get to our destination." But the kids don't listen. They can't even think that far ahead. All they see is here and now. They love it there so much that when the parents tell them, "Come on kids it's time to leave," all you hear is, "No! Please a few more minutes please!" They just want to stay there and let that be their vacation.
But this is more than just a cute story about some kids playing at a rest stop. The Prophet Muhammad (saws) is reported to have said, "Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveler." We know that this life is not our final destination. We are headed towards the akhira, towards the hereafter, and this world is merely a short rest stop along that journey.
In the Qur'an, Allah says:
A'udhu billahi min ash shaytan ir rajeem
"wa maa al Hayaat ud dunyaa illa mataa'u ul ghuroor"
"And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion."
People often become distracted by the temporary delights of this world, but those with the most intellectual and spiritual maturity recognize that the focus should be not on this life but on the next. That is where we are truly headed, and that should be our primary concern. This life must be a time of preparation, because the only thing that we'll be carrying with us on the Day of Judgment will be our faith and our actions, and based on that, Allah will determine where we'll be staying.
Allah says in the Quran:
"fa `ammaa man taghaa
wa `atharal Hayaat ad dunyaa
fa `innal jaHeema hiyal ma`waa
wa `ammaa man khaafa maqaama rabbihee wa nahan nafsa 'anil hawaa
fa `inna al jannata hiyal ma`waa"
"So as for he who transgressed
And preferred the life of the world,
Then indeed, Hellfire will be home.
But as for he who feared to stand before his Lord and restrained himself from (evil) desires,
Then indeed, Paradise will be home."
So you want to get to Paradise insha'Allah, but you're not sure if you are headed in the right direction. Let the Qur'an be your GPS. The Qur'an is Al Furqan, the criterion for right and wrong, so read it, and if the road you're on doesn't match the directions that that Allah has given in the Qur'an, then change course now and get on the right path while you have the opportunity insha'Allah.
I will leave you with a few verses from the Qur'an, from Suratul A'ala.
a'udhu billahi min ash shaytan ir rajeem…
"Qad aflaHa man tazakka
wa dhakar asma rabbihi faSalla
bal tu'thiroon al Hayaat ad dunya
wal akhiratu khairu wa abqaaaa
inna hadha la fiS SuHuf il oolaa
SuHufi ibraheema wa moosa"
"He has certainly succeeded who purifies himself
And mentions the name of his Lord and prays.
But you prefer the worldly life,
While the Hereafter is better and more lasting.
Indeed, this is in the former scriptures,
The scriptures of Abraham and Moses."
Thanks for reading, and travel safely. Assalaamu 'alaikum.