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Sufyan ibn Abdullah ath-Thaqafi (ra) related:” I said: O Messenger of Allah! Tell me of something that I can adhere to. He said: Say: My Lord is Allah. Then be firm and steadfast (stand straight). I said: O Messenger of Allah! What is the thing that you fear most for me? The Messenger of Allah (saw) took hold of his tongue, then he said: This.” (Ibn Majah)

 

Istiqamah or firmness and steadfastness, is one of the most challenging moral values and character traits in our contemporary times. In this hadith, the Prophet’s companion Sufyan ibn Abdullah ath-Thaqafi (ra) requested that Allah’s Messenger (saw) tells him something that he could hold onto and adhere to, obviously to seek his success in this world and salvation in the hereafter. The answer was in a few, but very comprehensive, words:’ Say: My Lord is Allah; then be firm and steadfast.”

 

This means that the first and most important statement of true conviction and belief in the heart that one can utter and hold onto firmly and steadfastly is that our Lord is Allah. The meaning accepting Allah as our Lord is that He is our only Creator, Cherisher, Controller of all events and happenings in the cosmos, the only One who is perfect in His names and attributes, independence of all needs, the One and only Lord who deserves our worship, the only One who sustains us and is sought for in all our needs, the only One whose laws are to be implemented in the universe, and the only One who deserves our unreserved love, fear, obedience, total trust, and devotion.

In other words, the first fundamental principle in having istiqamah is to have the sound and correct believe in Allah as our only Lord, which implies Tauheed par excellence. The Prophet (saw) then told Sufyan to be firm and steadfast in the correct belief in Allah as our only Lord. The meaning of that, as stated by the Muslim scholars, is for one not to swerve from the proper belief in Allah in any form whatsoever.

 

Thus, to have istiqamah we must adhere to that correct belief and understanding that our only Lord is Allah by fulfilling all that it entails. This includes obeying all of Allah’s commands and staying away from all His Prohibitions. It also includes believing in and following the Sunnah of Allah’s Messenger, establishing the prayers, fasting, performing the pilgrimage, and embracing the other acts of worship which are enjoined on us.

 

In the Arabic language the word istiqamah is understood to mean something in the right state, a person going right and pursuing a right course, acting rightly and justly, a person continuing in the way of truth without deviating from it. The word istiqamah is also derived from the stem qiyam which implies guarding over something constantly or checking into a situation and following up to make sure that it is right and good. This is the same usage of the related term which Allah (swt) used to command men to be in charge of and stand up firmly to take care of women and guard them to ensure that they believe and practice correctly in Islam and understand their due roles within it.

From the root meaning of the word ‘istiqamah’ we come to an understanding that it is not just a mere practice of following the straight path. It also implies adhering firmly and constantly attaching oneself to that straight path, trying one’s best to cling to it, and staying within its limits at all times. Thus, this moral value of istiqamah is not easy thing to achieve. In fact, istiqamah was also difficult for the Prophet (saw) as was reported by companion Ibn Abbas after verse 112 in Surah Hud was revealed, apart of which reads:” Therefore, stand firm and steadfast as you have been ordered, you and those who turn in repentance with you; and you do not transgress, for indeed He sees well all that you are doing. Do not incline towards those who do wrong, lest the fire should touch you, and you would have no protectors other than Allah, and then you would have no one to help you.” (Qur’an 11: 112)

 

Imam Al-Ghazali also stated in the same token that being steadfast along the path in this world is as difficult as being steadfast on the path that is over hellfire. Both of them are finer than a strand of hair and sharper than a sword.

 

Perhaps the most challenging and difficult aspect of istiqamah in this world is having control over our tongues and the desires of our hearts. That is why when Sufyan ibn Abdullah ath-Thaqafi asked the Prophet (saw), in the hadith under discussion, about what he most feared for him, the Prophet (saw) directly demonstrated by holding his own tongue and said:” This.” Because of the difficult and challenging nature of istiqamah, the reward is Paradise.

(Prepared by Ustad Abdul Muhaemin Karim)