Say I believe in Allah Then stay firm
Say, I Believe in Allah, then Stay Firm
قُلْ، آمَنْت بِاَللَّهِ ثُمَّ اسْتَقِمْ
When Sufyan Ibn Abdillah asked Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, “Tell me about a statement in Islam (that will suffice for me) so that I will not ask anyone else aside from you,” the Prophet ﷺ replied, “Say I believe in Allah, then stay firm [on Allah’s religion]” (Muslim).
In Surat Fussilat, Allah ﷻ promises those who stay firm, as Prophet Muhammad ﷺ advised, “Indeed, those who have said, “Our Lord is Allah ” and then remained steadfast – the angels will descend upon them, [saying], “Do not fear and do not grieve but receive good tidings of Paradise, which you were promised. We have been your allies in the life of this world and are so in the Hereafter. You shall have (all) that your soul desires, and therein you shall have (all) for which you ask. An accommodation from (a Lord who is) Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (Quran 41:30-32).
What is ‘istiqama?
If we claim to be Muslims, our actions must fulfill our intentions. To stand up and be straight, as linguists define ‘istiqama, means being firm in our Islamic beliefs and values and choosing Islam whenever we are pushed to question who we are and what matters most to us. It entails fearing transgression against Allah and adhering to His commands despite those who choose hate over compassion. It means not allowing the interference of fear bred by those with no other means of gaining fame and power or the tasteless, cheap chatter of those with nothing more to offer.
Where is ‘istiqama rooted?
The home of ‘istiqama is the heart, the root of faith. If our belief is firm deep in our hearts, all other body parts will follow suit. As our beloved Messenger ﷺ was reported to have said, “There is a lump of flesh in the body. When it is sound, the whole body is sound; but when it goes wrong, the whole body goes wrong (as a result). It is the heart” (Bukhari). Therefore, when our actions are corrupt, our heart is corrupt, which is the root of our challenges.
How does ‘istiqama look?
If ‘istiqama resides in the heart, then the tongue and limbs act following the commands of Allah ﷻ. The Muslim who has ‘istiqama does not engage in pointless chatter on the phone, idle time on social media, or other forms of communication, which eat away at the valuable, limited time we have in this temporary life. An individual with ‘istiqama is not a gossiper, nor are they interested in hearing it. Other Muslims’ personal lives are not a subject of interest unless they seek ways to offer help. Their tongues constantly remember Allah ﷻ in times of happiness and sadness.
In times of distress, the first word uttered from a person’s mouth is a cry for Allah’s help and mercy. Sufyan Ibn Abdullah ath-Thaqafi asked, “Ya Rasoul Allah! What do you fear most for me?” the Messenger of Allah ﷺ = took hold of the edge of his tongue and said: “This” (Tirmidhee).
Sahl Ibn Saad also related that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “Those who guarantee for me (‘istiqama by) that which is between their two cheeks (tongue) and that which is between their legs (sexual organ), I will guarantee for them Paradise (by the will of Allah)” (Bukhari). Then, the Muslim who possesses ‘istiqama protects their eyes and ears from that which will cause their tongues and limbs to transgress against the limits of Allah. ‘Istiqama includes avoiding listening to, reading, or watching displeasing content to Allah, whether in music, radio, television shows, online videos, video games, etc. As Muslims, we are responsible for the content we intentionally expose our limbs to and the consequences of that exposure.
What is the reward of ‘istiqama?
‘Iistiqama requires suppressing desires and temptations just as most Muslims practice every year during Ramadan and are firm and patient in adhering to the commands of Allah. Muslims with ‘istiqama practice this all year and are granted Jannah for their toils. Allah ﷻ states, “As for him who feared standing before his Rabb and restrained himself from impure desires and lusts. Verily, al-Jannah (Paradise) will be his abode” (Quran 79: 40-41).
How do we acquire ‘istiqama?
In times of trials and affliction, we remember Allah’s words, “If Allah touches you with hurt, there is none who can remove it but He; and if He intends any good for you, there is none who can repel His Favor, which He causes to reach whomsoever of His servants He wills. And He is the Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (Quran 10: 107). Therefore, ‘istiqama requires reliance on Allah, fearing none but He, and dispelling all other fears from our hearts. Allah alone knows what is beneficial for us and what can harm us. He decrees pleasures and hardships. As created beings, we cannot completely comprehend nor understand the wisdom behind His decisions. Therefore, we must practice Tawakkul–handing over our affairs to Him and trusting His decisions while being patient during hardships or losses He has decreed. Remember Prophet Musa standing with his people between the red sea and the troops of Fir’awn, the most powerful dictator at the time, as they cried out in despair, “Indeed! We are to be overtaken!” (Quran 26: 61) Musa turned to his companions with nothing to dispel their fears aside from his ‘istiqama stating, “No! Indeed with me is my Lord; He will guide me” (Quran 26:62).
Indeed, trials and difficulties make it more challenging for believers to maintain ‘istiqama since fitnah strikes directly at our hearts. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said, “Al-fitan will continue to be offered to the heart, just as the strips that are being added together form a woven mat. Any heart that accepts them (al-Fitan) will have a black dot engraved in it until it becomes dark with slight whiteness, and just as the cup that is turned upside down (and thus does not hold anything in it), they do not recognize that which is righteous, or recognize that which is evil” (Muslim). How accurate were his words ﷺ in relating to us the hearts of Muslims during the time of fitnah when we become unable to differentiate between that which is righteous nor recognize that which is evil.
Therefore, acquiring ‘istiqama entails:
- Sabr (patience). A person’s patience is tested in hard times, not good times, and choosing to be steadfast can only happen when the choice we are experiencing is difficult; that is why the reward is so great: Al-Jannah.
- Remember Allah and seek refuge in Him. Similar to how Prophet Musa and his followers sought Allah’s help alone, even as they were surrounded by the sea and Fir’awn and his soldiers. We must ask Allah ﷻ to grant us ‘istiqama stating, “Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate (from the truth) after you have guided us” (Quran 3: 8).
- Hold firmly to the Quran and the Sunnah of our beloved Messenger ﷺ. Reading, reciting, memorizing, and understanding the verses of the Quran strengthen our hearts. It is our means of hearing our Lord. Abandoning the Quran causes us to feel despair, loneliness, and a lack of contentment with the decrees of our Creator. The Quran relieves our hearts from these ills. Similarly, adhering to the Sunnah is how our words become actions.
- Remember the transient nature of this worldly life. Who reading this article does not know someone who died in the past year? What about the past month? Remembering that our time here is limited should motivate us to make choices to be satisfied with eternal life.
- Accompany the righteous and seek their knowledge and advice. From whom do we seek advice and religious knowledge? Is it Google, a YouTube video, or a celebrity? If one is interested in gaining knowledge and accompanying the righteous, attending prayers and programs and regularly volunteering at a local Masjid is the best place to do this. Sitting behind a screen or hopping from event to event is not a means of acquiring piety or ‘istiqama. The problem is not in the speakers or programs; our hearts are unwilling to receive them.
- Perform good deeds regularly. The deeds most beloved to Allah ﷻ are the most regular acts of worship.
- Enjoin good and forbid evil. This concept should infiltrate every aspect of our lives, including upholding the rights of oppressed people in this country where we are blessed to reside. Many verses in the Quran highlight the rights of the disadvantaged. They do so without neglecting the rights of the powerful but with complete clarity that there are groups of people whose rights are more likely to be trampled on by society. This is present by the multiple mentions of protecting orphans and upholding women’s rights in the Quran. When Prophet Muhammad ﷺ began preaching his message in Makkah over 1400 years ago, a common complaint of the rich and powerful was that he stressed the rights of the poor and neglected. Therefore, a focus on the plight of disenfranchised people is not to bypass or ignore the struggles of others. Instead, it is to recognize the oppression each group faces.
- Adhere to the correct Manhaj of Ahl-ul-Sunnah, and remember the future is for Islam. There was a point in time when the victory of Islam rested upon the shoulders of two runaways hiding in a cave with no food or water, surrounded by darkness and the enemy searching for them. Allah ﷻ gave victory to His Prophet ﷺ and his loyal companion in a short time. The leaders of Quraysh could not imagine that thousands of people would later stand hearing the calls of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ in his Farewell Pilgrimage and that some of them would be among his followers.
Our victory can only come if we address the ills of our hearts and fill them with ‘istiqama, which requires an understanding and adherence to our manhaj. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ was reported to have said, “I have left you upon clear proofs, its night is like its day, no one deviates from it except one who is destroyed, and whoever lives (long) from amongst you will see great controversy. So stick to what you know from my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the rightly guided caliphs” (Ibn Majah). Our religion is based on clear tenets, including neither harm nor the imposition of harm. Those who rely on extremist views or violence do not understand the basic tenets of our faith.
May Allah ﷻ grant us and our children and their children ‘istiqamah in our hearts and not allow our hearts to deviate after being guided!
By Sh. Jamal Said