Islamic Perspectives

Taking Over the Steering Wheel of Your Life

Yusuf Estes


Islam asks us to look around us, examine the things, think, use our mind and then we will begin to understand.

I want to talk to you about how beautiful it is when we can have faith and prove it at the same time.

I recall when I was first learning about Islam I was actually trying to teach a Muslim about Christianity and I was telling him “Oh look at Christianity. This is something good. Why don’t you become a Christian like us?”

And my friend, a Muslim, was saying to me, “Well, I will go to your religion if your religion is better than mine.”

I thought about that, and I said “Well, I guess we are going to have a new Christian now because, number 1, in Christianity it’s very easy, you don’t have to pray five times a day as a Christian. You don’t have to fast the month of Ramadan. You don’t have to pay any Zakah. There are many many things Muslims have to do that Christians don’t have to do”.

But then he finished the sentence and said to me, “I will become whatever your religion is if it is better than my religion, but you need proof.”

And I remember saying to him “Proof?... Proof?! Religion is not about proof. Faith is just about believing. Just have faith. You don’t need any proof.”

He said, “Well, in my religion, Islam, we have both. We have faith and we have proof.”

And I remember saying to him “How? You mean to tell me that you can prove things?”

He said, “Yes. Everything in Islam can be proven.”

And I said to him, “You mean to sit there and tell me as a Muslim that you can prove there’s God?”

Then he said to me: “Do you mean to sit there and tell me as a Christian and a preacher that you can’t?”

I had to think about that, “Hmmm, OK, so Islam is saying that there’s proof”.

Actually more than that. Islam asks us to use our minds to determine and find out about things around us. The things that we take for granted every day are actually a big part of what Islam is teaching us. Islam asks us to look around us, examine the things, think, use our mind and then we will begin to understand.

One of the examples that we have in Islam is the Quran. The Quran of Allah, this is His speech to human beings, and He is telling us in the Quran over and over look about this and look about that, think about this and think about this, and think about that and the answer will come. Often you find this term in the Quran: yas’alunaka. This means that the people are asking Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) about something, and then Allah the Almighty is giving the answers in His speech, the Quran.

Always throughout Islam, as we are learning and teaching, we are coming back to this thing called the mind. You can use your mind. You can determine a lot of things that you see around you, things that you take for granted everyday. You can look to this, you can look to that and begin to discover a whole new world around you. This is one of the beauties of Islam.

Guide us to Your straight path. And this is our request.


The Straight Path

I remember in the Quran when I first read the very first time that it was telling me about the straight path, and I was thinking “What’s that about?” And here it is, you are reading it in the very opening of the Quran in Chapter one called Al-Fatihah. There are only seven verses in this chapter and listen to what this verse says. It says ihdena al-sirat al-mustaqim (guide us to the Straight Path).

We have talked about some of the other verses in the Quran, but today let’s look at that. What does that mean, ihdena?

“Ihd” is coming from hidayah, or guidance, ihdena means guide us. Sirat is the straight path. Al-mustaqim means the straight path you are going to stay on, you are going to go with it. How about the idea here that we only ask for one thing out of seven verses in this chapter. Only one thing we ask for: guidance. Because now, this is showing you there’s only one straight path but many people could be on that path at the same time. Guide us to Your straight path. And this is our request. We are making this request to Almighty Allah. We are asking Him to guide us.

Now watch what happens when we go to the next chapter. We go to the next chapter and it says “alif lam meem. Dhaleka al-kitab la raib fih. Hudan lil-muffaqin”. It says that is the book, meaning the book of Allah, wherein there is no doubt. And then the word huda, which means Guidance. The guidance to the straight path is right here in this book. These are just a few verses after the verse where you have asked for guidance “ihdena al-sirat al-mustaqim”, and then comes “hudan lilmuttaqin”.

What’s Mutaqin? It’s those who are having taqwa, piety and fear of Allah. And now look at this word and it’s so beautiful when you know the Arabic language. The taqwa means to put a partition, a veil or a barrier between you and the punishment of Allah. So if the person is a believer in Allah and he’s trying his best to please Allah and not displease Him, so as not to invite Allah’s anger on him, then this person is going to be on the guidance, the huda. Of course, when we talk about Huda, that’s a special word. We love this word, and it means guidance and this is really what it’s all about.


On the Nile

I recall when I first came to Egypt, the very first time, and a friend of mine was a doctor and I was going down to his place on the Nile River, and he asked me a question:

“Can you tell us what it’s like to go from some other religion from what you were in before to come into Islam? Could you tell us about it?”

I said “I don’t know how I would describe something like that,” and then I realized “I said OK, I was looking at a boat on the Nile River and I said “there’s one word I need from you.”

He said, “What word?”

I said, “On the back of the boat, there’s this thing you steer the boat with, what do you call this?”

He said: “daffa”

What’s daffa? This is the thing at the back of the boat to steer with.

I said “OK, now I can tell you”.

I said imagine yourself now for a minute that you are in the water, you are in this boat and you are blindfolded and you can’t hear. Something is in your ears. Your eyes are closed and you have no daffa, you don’t have a steering wheel. You just feel the boat moving this way and that way, and you have no idea, all you feel is the wind, you feel the water if it rains, you feel the motion but you don’t know where you are going or why, and you have no idea what’s the purpose to be there.

Then someday somebody removes the blindfold from you, somebody is taking this plug out of your ears. You can see and you can hear, and most important is giving you the steering wheel, that daffa.

Now this is the difference because when you come to Islam you can see and you can hear and you have control. You have the control over your life. Now by the way, just in case you didn’t get this, this is a good paradigm because just because you have the steering wheel, just because you can see, just because you can hear doesn’t guarantee that you are going the right way, does it? No, but it surely gives you a head start over the guy who is sitting in another boat with his eyes closed, ears plugged up and he has no daffa. Makes sense?

Yeah, it makes a lot of sense and that’s what I want to come back again to.

As I mentioned, Islam has these beauties and this one particular beauty where you can use your mind and you can ask questions and you can get real answers. Answers that when you really think about they make a lot of sense. You are not forced just to accept something that somebody says -- “Just have faith brother, just have faith”. Well, faith is great if you’ve got something to base it on. If you can see something, you can hear something and you have some control, some steering wheel.

This is a great advantage and it’s probably one of the bigger attractions I think of all the beauties of Islam we’ve been talking about, I think this is one of the most fascinating of all of them that comes to you in a way that once you start using your mind and your heart, and then you see what Allah is having in front of you, it becomes a lot easier. A lot easier to accept and then to put into practice. All of this is just one of the many beauties of Islam. (