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Guide Posts PERSEVERENCE IN VIRTUE (Bashir Ahmad Orchard) “For those who do good deeds, there shall be the best reward and yet more blessings. And neither dark- ness nor ignorance shall cover their faces. It is these who are the inmates of Heaven; therein shall they abide.” (Quran: 10:27). Religion is a practical way of life. All revealed religions have stressed the importance of righteous conduct. Faith without works is dead. The prayer of Balam was: (Numbers 23:10). •(Matthew 4:6). “Let me die the death of the righteous and let my end be like this!” Jesus exhorted his followers to grow in righteousness: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.” A Muslim is taught constantly to pray: “Guide us on the Right Path — the path of those on Whom Thou hast bestowed Thy blessings, those who have not incurred thy displeasure, and those who have not gone astray.” (Quran 1:6, 7). No doubt the path of virtue is not an easy one to tread as it is a slippery uphill journey. We are all liable to slip. Never-the-less it is a delightful and uplifting journey winding its way through scenaries of heavenly enchantment. Progress along this path calls for steadfastness and perseverence. Nothing worthwhile can be achieved without effort and this maxim applies to moral development as much as it does to any other endeavour. Without pains there GUIDE POSTS 3 can be no gains. Religion requires that we should put our best foot forward and strive in the way of God which also involves calling upon Him constantly for help and protection. Both prayer and effort are required. Some people pray for more than they are prepared to work for and then wonder why their prayers are not answered. Our obj ective should be to improve day by day in virtue. In this field there is no end to the road. There is no virtue in being satisfied with our condition. If we are satisfied with our condition then in reality it means we are going backwards. Perseverence is the key to progress. Let it be said of us when we part this life that we died climbing. God says in the Holy Quran: “Persevere in the right path.” (10:89). Again we read: “Allah is with the steadfast.” (2:245). Virtues cannot be developed and polished without constant effort and attention. Keenness, self-vigilance, self-analysis, self-discipline, self-control and prayers are needed. We are human beings and not angels so are subject to imperfections. We may well stumble from time to time. We have to battle with many temptations and inclinations; but if our spirit is strong we need not despair of success. Our every effort to advance will lead us upwards towards heaven; and even if we fall short of the heights of our aspirations we shall have travelled a long way on the holy path of virtue. Even when we slip we should not despair. God says in the Holy Quran: “O my servants who have committed excesses against their own souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah, surely Allah forgives all sins. Verily He is Most Forgiving and Merciful.” (39:54). Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-din Mahmud Ahmad has written in his book Ahmadiyyat or True Islam: “Islam rescues man from despair and tells him that he can, in spite of his errors and mistakes, attain to the purity of mind and conduct which is the highest goal of man. It thus encour- ages him to make constant effort towards virtue and purity and enables him ultim- ately to arrive at his goal.” 4 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS We have to keep on struggling. When we fall we must get up and continue onwards. William Gladstone — a former British Prime Minister of the Victorian era — made the following significant statement: “No man ever became great or good except through many and great mistakes.” When we slip in virtuous conduct we should pick ourselves up and carry on determined more than ever not to make the same mistake again. Two thousand years ago a famous Roman writer wrote the following appraisment of a virtuous man: “The greatest man is he who chooses right with the most invincible resolution; who resists the sorest temptations from within and without; who bears the heaviest burdens cheerfully; who is calmest in storms, and the most fearless under menaces and frowns; whose reliance on truth, on virtue, and on God is the most unfaltering.” It is not by strength alone that great works are performed. Wrestlers are strong men but it is through perseverance that they become champions. Success comes to those who endure to the end; and our goal should be to persevere in the cultivation of virtue to the end of our days ever mindful of God’s exhortation: “Excel one another in virtue and good works.” (Quran 2:149) Nowhere is perseverance needed so much as in the religious life. Virtue gives Joy Virtue alone can give true joy; The sweets of virtue never cloy; To take delight in doing good, In justice, truth and gratitude, In aiding those whom care oppress, Administering comfort to distress: These, are the joys which all who prove Anticipate the bliss above; These are the joys, and these alone, We ne’er repent or wish undone.