Columnist Salman Abdul Majeed comments on Islamic Spirituality

Columnist Salman Abdul Majeed comments on Islamic Spirituality

In the Name of God, the Most Loving

As someone who studies the Qur’an quite passionately, I’m always fascinated by its literary wonder. In my studies, I came across a beautiful verse that I’d like to share with you.

Before moving forward, however, it’s important to understand the significance of God’s diction: when God uses a particular word, there is a specific, intended, and deliberate reason for the usage of that word. That word could not be replaced by another similarly defined word. Every word spoken by God is deliberate and meaningfully perfect.

In studying literature, I believe some of the most interesting discussions are the most nuanced. However, since our discussion will include a little bit of Arabic, I will try my best to keep terminology as straightforward and simple as possible. (Continued…)

God says in the Qur’an (16:125), “Invite to the Path of your Lord…” 

In this verse, the word that is used for “path” in arabic is sabeel. There are many other words that God uses for path/pathway in the Qur’an, including sirat and tareeq. It then becomes a wonder why God chose sabeel here instead of sirat or tareeq as He does so elsewhere. Interestingly, although all three words refer to “path,” they have subtly different meanings. Tareeq for example is a common pathway that may or may not be difficult to travel upon. Sirat is a path that is surrounded by dangers, and thus it is a path that one must travel with caution and care. Sabeel is, by definition, an easy and easily accessible pathway, one that is simple and straightforward to adjourn upon. I found this to be beautiful: when God commands us to invite His creation to His path, He chooses to call it the path that is easy, accessible, straightforward, and smooth. This reinforces another verse in the Qur’an in which it is stated that God wants ease for His creation and not difficulty (2:185). It establishes the idea that the path to guidance, the road to God, isn’t meant to be a tedious, complicated, or rocky one. Rather, it is meant to be a road of divine and self discovery, contentment, and inner peace.

Furthermore, from a literary perspective, the idea of God calling it a ‘path’ itself is a wonder. God doesn’t command us to invite people to Him (i.e a concrete destination), but rather to His path, which is abstract. If someone is invited to a path, it is unclear where exactly on the path the invitee is supposed to go. This is the equivalent of someone telling you, “Meet me on I-294 South.” It is unclear where. The solution to this supposed obscurity is that if the invitee simply arrived onto that path, it would suffice. In other words, going back to the aforementioned example, someone could be anywhere on I-294 South, and that would complete the invitation to meet on that highway. 

In the same way, the idea is that once an individual finds themselves on the Path of God, it doesn’t matter what point they’re on: it doesn’t matter if they’ve been on that path for years or are at the beginning of their journey. It doesn’t matter whether you’re all the way at the finish line or just starting off. The journey itself is the destination. The Path of God itself is success, whether you’re there running, walking, or crawling.

May we all find ourselves on the Highway to God. Amen.