A young friend of mine, a pilot, recently flew to Australia. Due to the ash clouds, they were told they could not take off. They were thus delayed a few days.
When he returned, I asked him: “There was still a lot of ash; what did you'll do?”
He said: “They gave us a flight path whereby we could bypass the ash clouds. We took this route, and we avoided the ash.”
I asked him: “Did you take any lesson from that?”
He, in turn, asked: “What lesson?”
I explained :
“The lesson is this: When there was a lot of ash, there was a danger that the ash cloud would damage the engine of the Boeing you were flying.
Your life and the lives of all the passengers were in danger. If you were caught in such an ash cloud, you could have gone, and the passengers could have gone. They gave you a 'round about' route to avoid the ash clouds and reach your destination.
The lesson we take is that when there is a temptation to sin, or some fitnah is approaching, we must avoid it. We must take a 'round about' route. If that plane had crashed, the lives would have gone. However, here, if there is a crash – i.e. the person falls into sin – the spiritual life — Iman can go.
Some of those crashes take the person's Iman away. Some pretty face takes away the Iman of a person, or some other temptation or invitation to Haram leads to a spiritual crash. The environment of drugs, pornography, fornication and adultery, gambling, music, etc., is like those ash clouds.
The Muslim avoids all areas of sins – whether the cinemas, clubs, theatres or other venues of vice. To whatever extent he can avoid, he avoids. He takes a 'round about' route to reach his destination safely. And the destination of a Muslim is Jannat.
If there is a group of young girls dressed indecently and the gaze falls on them accidentally, then try and avoid an encounter with them. Don't even look again. Think that the ash clouds are approaching. If the person cannot lower his gaze and quickly walk past, he must move in another direction, cross the street, go over to the other side, or take another route, lest he gets caught in the ash cloud of fitnah and loses his Iman and Aakhirah.”
I told this pilot friend: “When flying the plane, you avoid the ash clouds. Avoid those clouds of fitnah as well. There will be encounters with the air hostesses and female passengers on the plane. At that time, guard the gaze. You must be an example; You must show others that I am a Muslim and that you don't behave as the other pilots behave.”
The same applies to all of us. We, too, face different ‘ash-clouds' of fitnah – whether on the plane or train, at work or in the bazaars and marketplaces, and whether at school or college.
How do we respond? Do we adopt Taqwa? Do we fear Allah Ta'ala? Do we take the opportunity to prove our sincere and deep love for Allah Ta'ala? Do we subscribe to “Fafirru Ilallah' – i.e. we flee to Allah Ta'ala? Or do we recklessly ‘fly' into the ash clouds of sins, unconcerned that we may be meeting our spiritual death?
Undoubtedly, the environment around us is hazardous, dangerous and high-risk for our Iman. Despite the scenario, a Muslim must be courageous. We do have the courage. We need only to make use of that courage.
Steer the heart and body away from those ash clouds of fitnah if we want to reach the Hereafter safely, and if we want to enter Jannah without delay, and above this, if we want to earn the Pleasure of Allah Ta'ala.
How do we build up this spiritual strength, whereby we avoid sins like how the pilot avoids the ash clouds or how we would avoid the plague?
We work on developing the quality of Ihsan.
Rasulullah (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) explained the quality of Ihsan as:
“That you worship Allah as if you are seeing him, and if you cannot see him, then (know) that he sees you.” 
The understanding and knowledge have to be deeply impressed in the heart and mind: “Wherever I am, my Allah is watching.”
My Shaykh, Hazrat Maulana Hakim Muhammad Akhtar Saheb (Damat Barakatuhu), says in poetry:
“If you hide and commit sins,
Someone is watching from above (Allah Ta'ala)….”
A Muslim works towards developing the Sifat (attribute) of Ihsan in all aspects of his life. It is not confined to the different forms of Ibadah (worship), like Salah, Fasting, etc.; instead, it is a reality which should be found across the spectrum of our lives.
Unfortunately, this quality of Ihsan – this conscious awareness of Allah Ta'ala – is lacking in our lives. As such, we very quickly and easily lose sight of Deen and Shariah; we lose sight of that khauf and Khashiyyat of Allah Ta'ala, or the muhabbat and love of Allah Ta'ala.
The moment we are occupied in the mundane activities of life, we incline towards negligence. We forget that Allah Ta'ala is watching. This ‘Ghaflat' (negligence) is the stepping stone to spoiling the harmony of life. This ‘Ghaflat' is the hen which lays the eggs of sins.
However, if this attribute is cultivated and nurtured in all aspects of life: … “That you worship Allah as if you are seeing Him, and if you cannot see Him, then He sees you (anyway)”, then this will be the opening of doors of success in both worlds.
The person who has developed within himself the beautiful state of “Ihsan” will lead a very balanced life. Temptations will come his way, but he will not fall for those temptations. The quality of Ihsan does not mean that Shaytan will leave him (or her) alone. Shaytan will work harder and will continue to tempt. However, due to this Muslim's conscious awareness of Allah Ta'ala, he will not fall for the temptations. He will resist them. And in this manner, he will also secure the noor of Taqwa. In this way, he becomes the friend of Allah Ta'ala.
“…Verily none are the Auliya except those who refrain from his disobedience…”
[Surah Al-Anfal 8:34]
That Conscious Awareness of Allah Ta'ala makes us apply brakes and resist the temptation to sin. If we are faced with temptation, we will move away. Wherever we feel that we will be tempted, we will keep far from such areas. If an invitation to sin is extended, we will refuse and reject it.
Our dua is, as my Shaykh says, in poetry:
‘(O Allah) wherever I am – whether on earth or in the skies –
my Taqwa must always remain safe.'
(Extracted from one of Hazrat Maulana's last informal programmes)
 Sahih al-Bukhari