Praise be to Allah who established Islam and made it easy for those who approach it and gave strength to its columns against anyone who tries to overpower it. So Allah made it (a source of) peace for him who clings to it, safety for him who enters it, argument for him who speaks about it, witness for him who fights with its help, light for him who seeks light from it, understanding for him who provides it, sagacity for him who exerts, a sign (of guidance) for him who perceives, sight for him who resolves, lesson for him who seeks advice, salvation for him who testifies, confidence for him who trusts, pleasure for him who entrusts, and shield for him who endures. It is the brightest of all paths, the clearest of all passages. It has dignified minarets, bright highways, burning lamps, prestigious field of activity, and high objective. It has a collection of race horses. It is approached eagerly. Its riders are honorable. Testimony (of Allah, Prophet etc.) is its way, good deeds are its minarets, death is its extremity, this world is its race-course, the Day of Judgment is its horses, and Paradise is its point of approach. – Nahjul Balagha, sermon 106
We are quick to reply with a "thank you" when handed a gift, given a nice comment, or if someone does us a favor. Let's think about the last time we said "Shukranlillah, Islam is my way of life." Unfortunately, many of us are quick to think of how many responsibilities come along with being a Muslim in this day and age, and especially in a non-Muslim environment. Imam Ali (peace be upon him) beautifully defines what Islam is for those who are lucky enough to take it for what it is really worth.
Today we have unfortunately seen the works of Shaitan clear in our view. Young Muslims have lost sight of the Straight Path, adults have stopped their quests for knowledge, and oppression is being allowed on our watch. Many people today say they are simply looking for peace, Imam Ali replies that those who cling to Islam will reach it. Many are quick to lose faith because of wishes being unfulfilled immediately. Islam teaches us that patience is a key, and faith is what takes you to high places.
Today, with Islam under attack, we have become apologetic and almost scared to openly say or practice our faith. Incorrect Hijab is being justified as correct, improper mixed-gender behavior is being allowed and pushed past the limits Allah has set, and the number of Muslims practicing even the simple obligatory acts of Islam is dwindling.
Let us look to our examples, our Khomeinis, Mutahharis, Hussainis, and Sadrs. They put their full trust in Islam; did it not become their confidence? Imam Ali states Islam is a pleasure for him who entrusts, so let us entrust our lives and our ways to our Creator, and only then will we attain pleasure. And as Imam mentions, once you entrust, Islam will be a shield for him who endures.
The Commander of the Believers then goes on to describe the pathway of Islam as a race-course, the brightest and the clearest. Islam has nothing but defined objectives and goals, and awaits the meeting with the Creator. He goes on to say that Islam has dignified minarets, which could be represented by our forefathers, our Holy Prophet, our Ahlul Bayt, our leaders and respected scholars, and most importantly, our Imam Mahdi (may Allah hasten his reappearance). Islam is a religion with bright highways, passages which lead us to our Ultimate, like prayer, acts of charity, and humanitarianism. When was the last time we can honestly say we even thought of the oppressed and needy peoples of the world? These are our roads to peace and salvation.
One thing which we need to take from this sermon is where Imam says Islam has a prestigious field of activity and high objective. We need to realize that Islam is not a religion meant to be at a standstill. We need to continuously, and sincerely, put our every action towards the advancement of Islam, with the intention to get nearer to our Beloved Master. We need to focus on our high objective of perfecting one's self and ridding injustice by helping those in need, practicing equality, and standing up for truth no matter what the consequence. For how long will we continue to hold our heads down and obey the evils of society? For how long will we sit quiet as our religion, which Imam has defined as such a bright and beautiful thing, is hated and made a mockery of?
It is time that we step up to the plate and take hold of our responsibilities. We need to become thirsty for knowledge, of Islam, and everything else, and go quench it. Islam gives us no limit when attempting to reach our goal of pleasing Him. As Imam says, death is its extremity. How wonderful is a religion which gives you no bounds except the end of one's life, for it is then where our efforts will cease to exist, as will we. We need to realize that we have burning lamps, our Prophets, Imams, and ability to learn, there to guide us and strengthen our faith, and we need to put our full trust in Allah's words, found in our Holy Qur'an. Once we have recognized the many benefits of our religion, we need to teach others. Surely we have been created for this purpose, so let us fulfill it.