IS THERE SUCH a thing as invitation cards collections? Among the invitations my family has received, I have always taken to saving those that are especially nice. Admittedly, I have none today, for lack of space and being past the ‘little girl’ stage.
I still like invitations, though. The sophisticated styles, quotes of wisdom and assortment of colors –all neatly packaged into one card that serves to prefigure the event it is intended for– designed to exude a formal outlook and touch the guests imposingly.
Invitations also speak volumes. Aside from the obvious information about the time, date and venue for the occasion, there is more left to be inferred. Is it a formal or casual event? What kinds of gifts are preferred? But perhaps the most significant portion is where four letters reside—R.S.V.P. There you have etiquette at its finest, on the parts of both hosts and guests alike; it demonstrates the hosts’ determination to serve their guests well and the latter’s cooperation to ascertain that the hosts’ party proceeds without a hitch.
In the events of everyday life, when faced with the prospect of sin, many of us shy away from accountability by insisting that it is Satan at fault for leading us into temptation. We absolve ourselves from any responsibility by claiming that, were it not for him inviting the children of Adam –towards the forbidden fruit as he did their forefather– we would certainly be of the righteous. It is a plausible excuse because, as the mannerly people we have become, who are we to say “No” when we R.S.V.P. Satan!
The only problem is our misdirected courteousness, then, because when we are born in this world, we are virtually handed two invitation cards—the first from Allah and the other from Satan. Allah says,
Those invite (you) to the Fire, but Allah invites to Paradise and to forgiveness, by His permission. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:221]
The situation here is like the quandary posed when we are invited to two events taking place on the same day. Naturally, we are torn between them, hesitantly opting for the one that seems more to our tastes or benefit. It may be a difficult choice, but one worth the effort. Thus does our happiness hinge on our responding to the invitation of Allah.
We have all had our moments when we considered going to a fancy cocktail party to be much more fun than to a religious gathering in the masjid. It is those times when Satan’s invite may seem much classier than the simple words of our Prophet, Muhammad ﷺ. At that point, I often remember how misleading some invitations can be. I recall an occasion whose card was printed on common paper in the classic Times New Roman typeface with a mismatched color scheme and even a misprint thrown in; it was actually a very pleasant event. On the other hand, a party, whose invite was in the form of a chic handmade card with ribbons, containing details of dazzling festivities, left me disappointed.
That is how it is with the invitation of Allah and that of Satan. True, the enticing promises of Satan seem more pleasing to the eye than verses encouraging struggle in this life with an eye on the Hereafter. This is what Allah warns us against, when He says,
O mankind, indeed the promise of Allah is truth, so let not the worldly life delude you and be not deceived about Allah by the Deceiver (i.e., Satan). Indeed, Satan is an enemy to you; so take him as an enemy. He only invites his party to be among the companions of the Blaze. [Sûrat Fâṭir, 35:5-6]
So, now that we have received these invitations, what should our next step be?
Etiquette dictates that by virtue of having invitations addressed to you, there is no obligation on you, save to respond with gratitude, or regrets, in a timely fashion. No one can compel you to accept nor force you to decline against your wishes. Allah tells us of Satan’s truthful words on the Day of Judgment regarding our responsibility for accepting his invite,
…But I had no authority over you except that I invited you, and you responded to me. So do not blame me; but blame yourselves… [Sûrat Ibrâhîm, 14:22]
We must put our best interests at heart when deciding which one to eagerly accept—would Satan entertain me better for eternity or will I enjoy far more in my Lord’s Paradise? Also, it is only polite to keep in mind who we are beholden to—the One Who sustains us every day or the one who, himself, is destined for Hell?
And Allah invites to the Abode of Peace (i.e., Paradise) … [Sûrat Yûnus, 10:25]
And I thought I no longer had any invitations. Little did I know that I possess the most prized collectible invitations!