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Another well timed snow storm...

It seems that snow storms and Seattle have a love affair that's hard to break. For the 2nd time this year (and winter is not over yet) we had a severe snow storm that started very suddenly and dumped in excess of 1 feet of snow in many parts of the region. Literally one minute we were all fine at work winding down our day at 4P and then a few minutes later, one of the heaviest snow storms I've seen, hit the region pelting down snow so hard that in 15 minutes every exposed surface was covered with a blanket of snow inches thick.

With memories of the November snow storm (that also started suddenly, and, like this one, was well timed to hit us at evening rush hour) about half of Microsoft dashed to their cars to get home as quickly as possible before the ground froze up. I followed along and after 30 frustrating minutes trying to get out of Microsoft campus I returned back to my office. If you imagine about 10,000 employees simultaneously trying to exit a campus, however well spread out, you can imagine the traffic backup. Several of my colleagues returned to their offices after similar, unsuccessfully attempts to get out of campus.

At work we mulled over available options: sleep at work (there are showers in the parking level of our building and I had a new toothbrush stacked away for a rainy day like this), find a friend who lived walking distance from campus and could put you up, take the bus (which could prove to be unreliable if the bus itself slid on the streets or never showed up), brave the roads a little later (but the temperature promised to be cooler still), etc. Slowly people went on their chosen path and the hallways emptied.

Around 9:30P I got into my car and drove off campus with relative ease. The roads had been clear of traffic and the conditions did not seem that bad at all. I made it from Redmond to Issaquah in 30 minutes (instead of 20 minutes). Now the only thing that stood between me and a warm home was a steep hill. I had several options, from very steep roads to somewhat steep roads (no, there weren't any non-steep roads!). I tried a few options, got stuck once, saw that the roads going uphill were like parking lots with abandoned vehicles that never made it, and then decided to park at the bottom of the hill in a department store lot. I trekked the 1-2 miles uphill with heavy snow coming down and the roads slick as ice so that it made me nearly slip often. Fortunately, in my car, I had carried a heavy coat, warm gloves and an umbrella for days like this so I was relatively dry and warm. After an hour of climbing by digging my heels in, to prevent from slipping back downhill, I reached home.

The train of pedestrians ahead of me had formed a narrow track in the snow that I followed all the way home. It was this narrow path that I had to carefully walk on because it was hard to discern sidewalks from deep ditches alongside the road when the snow is piled so high. You also want to stay far away from the street (which wasn't always possible) because drivers navigating these roads were likely to slide and hit you. I had wanted to work out this evening and I certainly got one on this trek uphill! I also learned some neat techniques for climbing steep inclinations without proper shoes and balancing from "almost falls" (the last thing I needed were broken bones or a sprain if I fell & twisted the wrong way).

When I was finally on the "home-stretch" I reflected on this narrow pathway that I was diligently trying to stay on. How similar this is from the concept of "seeratul mustaqeem" (the Straight Path) mentioned in the 1st chapter of the Holy Quran (Surah Alhamdo). The Straight Path is one Allah asks us to stay on during our life. There are numerous allegorical mentions of The Straight Path in the teachings of Prophet. Most distinctly I remember learning that The Straight Path is a narrow righteous path that one must strive to stay on, even picking oneself up after slips and falls. Because it is so narrow, it is easy to find yourself astray from the path if you aren't paying attention to where you are going. The Prophet teaches us that staying on The Straight Path leads to eternal felicity. As I walked home I noticed some cars drive by (the lucky few who had made it up the hill). I wondered if The Straight Path to Heaven was similarly easy for some (whose cars made it with ease) but hard for others (who had to trek up a narrow slippery slope). What if, The Day after our deeds are judged by Allah, He grants us all (God Willing!) entry into Heaven but we have to make it to the gates ourselves through a narrow path. What if, for those who lead a righteous life by helping others, feeding orphans and the poor, their good deeds were converted into luxurious 4 wheel-drive SUVs that comfortably took them to the pearly gates. For others who did only a little bit, there was a dim light, regular shoes and a long, winding slippery slope to the gates of eternal bliss - if you made it and didn't stumble and fall into the abyss below! I know Allah promises eternal felicity for the righteous and He keeps His promises. That said, I don't recall anything about the eternal felicity beginning right after the Day of Judgment. What if it began whenever you could complete the trek to the pearly gates!

I pray that we can maximize our short years here by adding to our bank account of good deeds and righteousness so our journey to eternal felicity is a comfortable and easy one. May Allah continue to be in our lives and guide us always!

- Mujtaba Khambatti, January 11, 2007

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