Try this experiment and research yourself. Search ‘Straight Path” on the Internet and land to your surprise in Islamic territory.
I mean no disrespect to Islam; the truth is I was relieved rather than shocked by the discovery that the concept can be found in other religious traditions. Searching the term led me to Islamic literature, particularly a book entitled “Islam: the Straight Path” by John Esposito. More significant, the search directs you to passages in the Koran that explicitly talk about the straight path leading the believer to eternal life. To locate the Christian references to the straight path, I had to take a circuitous course.
After President Aquino assured Sen. Bong Revilla that Tuwid na Daan was real and not a movie fantasy (taking a dig at Revilla’s cinematic roles), I decided to test his assurance by undertaking serious research on the Straight Path.
I was also impelled to inquire for another reason. Since the term was first used during the 2010 presidential campaign, President Aquino and his communicators and the Liberal Party have never spelled out what the Straight Path exactly means and what we are supposed to do in order to adhere to it. It is fair to ask President Aquino and LP president Mar Roxas the following questions:
1. Is the Straight Path the Ten Commandments?
2. Is SP a code of Ethics for public officials and employees? If so, show us the code.
3. Is SP the Golden Rule (Do unto others what you would have others do unto you)?
The point is for anyone to take the Straight Path mantra seriously, the administration has to provide a structure of values for people to follow and honor. Absent that structure, it is just a campaign slogan and catchy propaganda.
My search took me not only to various Internet websites, encyclopedias and books, including books on ethics and morals. After weeks of searching, I can report confidently that the Straight Path can be found in both the Islamic and Christian traditions. But it is in Islam, where the term “Straight Path” is explicitly and repeatedly used.
As Sirat-al Mustakim: The Islamic tradition
In Islam and in Arabic, the Straight Path is called “as Sirat-al Mustakim”, which is mentioned in the Koran, or sirat for short.
There are five obligatory daily \o “Prayer in Islam” prayers in Islam. During the two first cycles of each prayer the following phrase is included: “Show us the straight path, The path of those You bestowed favor upon, not anger upon, and not of those who go astray.”
According to the professor and author, Dr. Alaaddin Baºar, the key concept is the following:
“Straight path means true path. There has been suggested some descriptions about straight path such as moderate way free from all sorts of extremes, true guide, smooth way, or justice. The revealed Quran describes this way as ‘The Way of Allah’.
“The way to happiness in this world depends on the straight path. It will not be possible for us to get happiness unless our body with all its organs and our heart with its whole senses are on the straight path.”
Straight and Narrow: the Christian Tradition
In the Holy Bible of Christianity the closest reference to a Straight Path can be found in the gospel according to St. Matthew in the New Testament.
The passage reads: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
In other versions of the Bible, it is rendered as
“Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life.”
As a code of conduct, it has come to be understood as the proper, honest and moral path of behavior or the way of virtuous and proper conduct.
Aquino on the Straight and Crooked Paths
In his first State of the Nation address (SONA) in July 2010, President Aquino spoke of a forked road, one direction leading to the straight path, and another leading to the crooked path. He declared:
“Our administration is facing a forked road. In one direction, decisions are made to protect the welfare of our people; to look after the interest of the majority; to have a firm grip on principles; and to be faithful to the public servant’s sworn oath to serve the country honestly. This is the straight path.
“On the other side, personal interest is the priority, and where one becomes a slave to political considerations to the detriment of our nation. This is the crooked path.
“For a long time, our country lost its way in the crooked path. As days go by (since I became President), the massive scope of the problems we have inherited becomes much clearer. I could almost feel the weight of my responsibilities.”
President Aquino is confused and confusing here. (Same with his speechwriter, if there was one.) He is confusing a code of personal behavior with the code of conduct of an entire government administration. In his rush to draw a contrast between his would-be virtuous regime and the allegedly corrupt Arroyo regime, he loses sight completely of the fact that the Straight Path is something that individual citizens and believers are supposed to faithfully observe in their lives.
His forked road is completely false. Both the straight path and the crooked path are a mystery to him.
Consequently, except for some vague generalities, Aquino does not spell out what the Straight Path principles are. Instead he assumes that by reciting the alleged sins of the previous administration, he is articulating the guiding principles of the Straight Path. This is infantile reasoning, totally inadequate.
In the SONA, Aquino seems to be more specific by zeroing in on the management of the funds of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) during the previous regime, as follows:
“The entire payroll of the MWSS amounts to 51.4 million pesos annually. the board of trustees get P14,000 for attending board meetings. This totals P98,000 a month.
“And that’s not all. They get a mid-year bonus, productivity bonus, anniversary bonus, year-end bonus, and financial assistance.”
Alas, under the Aquino administration and its Straight Path program, today the practice of awarding excessive bonuses to trustees, directors and corporate officers has become more rampant. Besides the MWSS, 30 other government-owned and -controlled corporations are being milked to the hilt by Aquino-appointed trustees and officers.
Most controversial were the brazen actions taken by the board of the Social Security System (SSS), which awarded bonuses and other benefits to themselves, while imposing an increase in the contributions of members to the system.
The corporate boards and officers uniformly cite the approval of the bonuses by an Aquino-appointed governance body. The entire practice is now under investigation by a committee of the House of Representatives.
Like the “Pilipinas kay Ganda and “It’s more fun” tourism campaigns, Tuwid na Daan was apparently not fully vetted for originality and provenance.
It’s bitter irony that after getting Tuwid na Daan as a gift from the prophet, three years later the Aquino government would only watch while his believers were being mowed down in Sabah.