Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Way of Remaining Steadfast.

Ibn Abdallah

It is incumbent upon every Muslim to remain steadfast upon the religion of Allah in order to maintain and adhere themselves at all time to the right path. It is due to several reasons:

i - The condition in which the Muslims live nowadays, with the multitude of trials that they face and the desires and temptations they are engulfed with, as well as the suspicions, doubts and false propaganda that are raised against the religion, to the extent that Islam has become strange in the hearts and minds of many Muslims; the Prophet SAW said that there would come a time when: “He who adheres to Islam will be like he who is holding a burning coal.”

There is no doubt that the Muslims of today are in greater need of having means that aid them to remain steadfast in Islam than the early Muslims, and that the effort required to achieve steadfastness in these times is greater; this is due to the far greater level of corruption in this era, as well as the lack of those who support one to remain steadfast in these times.

ii - The large increases in the number of cases went astray and apostasy, even among those who work for the sake of the religion, which terrifies all Muslims and makes them, strive even harder to seek these means.

iii - The matter of steadfastness is one of the deeds of the heart, which makes it all the more difficult to perform, as the Prophet SAW said: “The heart of the son of Adam change more easily than a pot containing boiling water can turn over.” [Ahmad & Al-Hakim]

The heart is like a feather that flips whenever the wind blows and changes from one position to another rapidly. Maintaining a steadfast heart in the face of the winds of desires and doubts requires means that are equivalent to the level of challenge.

It is from the mercy of Allah that He clarified to us, in His Book and through His Messenger SAW to remain steadfast; the following are some of them:

Recitation of the Quran.

The Quran is the main means for one to remain steadfast, and attachment to it preserves and safeguards a person during trials. He who abides by it will be protected by Allah, and he who calls people to it will himself be guided to the straight path. Allah informs us that the reason behind Him revealing the Quran in segments and over a long period is that it would thereby be a means for steadfastness.

He Almighty Says “And those who disbelieve say: ‘Why was the Quran not revealed to him all at once?’ Thus [it is] that We may strengthen thereby your heart. And We have spaced it distinctly.” [Surah Al-Furqan, 25: 32]

How Quran instil ways for steadfastness.

1. It instils faith in the heart and purifies the soul by connecting it to Allah.

2. It calms the heart of the believer and makes it tranquil.

3. It provides the believer with the correct principles by which he can face the tough circumstances that he endures, as well as providing him with the appropriate criterion with which to weigh and judge matters.

4. It refutes the false claims and suspicions that the enemies of Islam and the hypocrites allege; for example:

When the disbelievers of the tribe of Quraish claimed that Allah had forsaken the Prophet SAW Allah revealed the following verse which means: “Your Lord has not taken leave of you.” [Surah Ad-Dhuha, 93: 3]
This verse emphatically boosted the morale of the Prophet SAW.

When the disbelievers of the tribe of Quraish claimed that the Prophet SAW was learning the Quran from a Christian carpenter, Allah revealed the following verse : “The tongue of the one they refer to is foreign, and this [i.e. Quran] is [in] a clear Arabic language.” [Surah An-Nahl, 16: 103]

These verses and others like them came as means to assist the Prophet SAW and his companions SAW remain steadfast; they refuted such false claims and silenced the ones making them.

It appeared strange that Allah had promised the believers, upon their return from the Al-Hudaibiyyah treaty, that they would gain many war-booties (which referred to the booties of the battle of Khaibar), and that it would be exclusively theirs, and, that the hypocrites would request to accompany the believers, but that the believers would refuse and they (i.e., the hypocrites) would therefore have no share of these booties. These exact events were later to take place before the very eyes of the believers, and the concerned Quranic verses were revealed accordingly, in order to address each event. This undoubtedly planted firm belief in the hearts of the believers.

Adhering to Islamic regulations and performing righteous deeds.

Allah Says: “Allah keeps firm those who believe, with the firm word, in worldly life and in the Hereafter. And Allah sends astray the wrongdoers. And Allah does what He wills.” [Surah Ibrahim, 14: 27]

It cannot be expected of those who are lazy and fail to perform any good deeds to be able to remain steadfast whenever trials afflict them. On the other hand, the believers, who are keen to perform good deeds, are enabled by Allah to remain steadfast and be guided to the straight path.

This is why the Prophet SAW set an example in continually performing good deeds while encouraging his companions SAW to do the same. Moreover, whenever the Prophet SAW would perform a good deed, he would continually perform it thereafter, and his companions did likewise. There are many narrations in which he encouraged his companions to be constant in their performance of good deeds, such as his saying:

“Paradise is confirmed (i.e., by Allah) for the one who continuously performs twelve (optional) Raka’ah daily.” [At-Tirmidzi]

Pondering upon the stories of the Prophets, may Allah exalt their mention, and taking lessons from their lives to apply to ours?

Allah Says: “And each [story] We relate to you from the news of the messengers is that by which We make firm your heart. And there has come to you, in this, the truth and an instruction and a reminder for the believers.” [Surah Hud, 11: 120]

This verse was not revealed for entertainment, but rather for the great reason of helping the Prophet SAW and his companions to remain steadfast.

If one were to ponder upon the saying of Allah: “They said: ‘Burn him and support your gods - if you are to act.’ We [i.e. Allah] said: ‘O fire! Be coolness and safety upon Ibrahim AS).’ And they intended for him a plan [i.e. harm], but We made them the greatest losers.” [Surah Al-Anbiya’, 21: 68-70] would he not feel these verses energising him and boosting him to remain steadfast, especially if he was ever afflicted or tortured? They certainly would have that effect.

Also, when one reflects on the saying of Allah: “And when the two companies saw one another, the companions of Musa said: ’Indeed, we are to be overtaken!’ [Musa] said: ‘No! Indeed, with me is my Lord; He will guide me’” [Surah Ash-Shuara, 26: 61-62] does he not realise the meaning of persistence during critical times, whilst those around him may despair?


One of the characteristics of those who remain steadfast is that they resort to Allah and supplicate to Him to help them remain steadfast; Allah Says: “…Our Lord! Pour upon us patience and plant firmly our feet...” [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2: 250]

Anas RA narrated that the Prophet SAW used to frequently supplicate saying: “O Controller of the hearts! Make my heart steadfast upon Your religion.” [At-Tirmidzi]
The Remembrance of Allah.

This is one of the most important means of steadfastness. Note the connection Allah makes in this verse:

“O you who have believed! When you encounter a company [from the enemy forces], stand firm and remember Allah much that you may be successful.” [Surah Al-Anfal, 8: 45]

Remaining upon the Straight Path.

The only path to be upon is the path of the Ahlus-Sunnah Wal-Jamaa’ah: those of the supported and rescued group of believers; these are the people whose beliefs are pure and methodology is sound - those who adhere to the Sunnah of the Prophet SAW and who hate the enemies of Allah. One should ask himself the following questions: Why did so many people in the past, as well as the present, divert and stray away from the straight path, unable to remain steadfast upon the path of Allah? Or, why did they waste most of their lives by not being upon it? One sees such people fluctuating between innovations, and from one misguidance to another, uncertain and disturbed.

Proper cultivation.

Being brought up upon strong belief and knowledge is an important means to remain steadfast. The belief component of cultivation gives life to the hearts; it gives them hope, fear and love towards Allah; whereas the knowledge component causes people to act according to the texts of the Quran and the authentic Sunnah, and shun the blind imitation of the masses. Additionally, being aware of the plots of the enemies of Islam, the ways of the deviant groups, understanding events, and not being isolated from national and international incidents helps one remain steadfast.

Gradual cultivation in steady and measured steps makes a person firmer upon faith. In order to realise the importance of this means of steadfastness, let us look back at the life of the Prophet SAW and ask: What made people like Bilal, Khabbab, Mus’ab and others RA remain steadfast during the harsh trials and torture they endured? Would they have been able to remain steadfast if faith was not deeply rooted in their hearts and if the Prophet SAW had not properly nurtured them? Khabbab RA was a slave whose owner would heat steel rods with fire until they became red hot and glowing, then, he would uncover Khabbab back and place the rods on his body until his fat would extinguish the glow of the rods. What could have made him persevere through such torture? Another question to ask is: why did many of the Companions RA flee during the battle of Hunain, while others remained steadfast with the Prophet SAW? The answer to both the questions is that those who remained steadfast were those who were correctly cultivated by the Prophet SAW while in the second question; those who ran away were newcomers to Islam.

Being convinced of the path.

Undoubtedly, the more one is convinced and has trust in the path he is upon, the more steadfast he can be. The way to achieve this is by the following:

• Knowing and believing that this path is not a new one, but rather it is something that is deeply rooted in history; moreover, it is the very same path that the Prophets and Messengers, may Allah exalt their mention, were upon, as well as the scholars, the martyrs, and the righteous. This will remove the feeling of estrangement that one might feel; it will cause him to rejoice at being notified that he is a part of an honourable group.

• Feeling that one is chosen by Allah. Allah says “Then We caused to inherit the Book those We have chosen of Our servants…” [Surah Fatir, 35: 32]

What would be one's feelings if he asks himself what if Allah created him as an animal, a disbeliever, an innovator or a sinner? Would this contemplation not make him feel that Allah has chosen him from amongst others to be a committed Muslim? Would this not therefore cause him to be more steadfast? It certainly would.

Calling towards Allah.

If one fails to move and exert efforts for the sake of Islam, his soul will feel as if it has become rotten. Sincere people feel they are being punished by Allah if they are unable to serve Islam by utilising their abilities and resources for His sake. If one does not busy himself in obedience and praiseworthy deeds, it will lead him to indulge in disobedience. Calling to the straight path blocks the road for Satan to divert and misguide a person; it increases one's faith and strengthens it, thus enabling him to become more steadfast.
Being around those who help one to remain steadfast.

The Prophet SAW informed us about such people saying: “There are people who are initiators of goods and thwarters of evil.” Being around such people helps one remain steadfast; there are many incidents throughout history of how the existence and availability of righteous individuals helped many to remain steadfast; an example of this is the stance that Abu Bakar RA adopted during the trial of apostasy, where many people reneged on their faith following the death of the Prophet SAW. This highlights the importance of brotherhood in Islam, and how it acts as a source for one to remain steadfast; righteous Muslims and examples are one's support during his journey towards Allah; they assist in one remaining steadfast; thus, one must be around such people and avoid being isolated, lest Satan attacks him whilst he is alone and away from any type of protection.

Being certain of Allah sending victory, and that the future belongs to Islam.

Whenever victory is delayed, one's need to remain steadfast increases, lest he slips from the straight path at this critical juncture. Allah Says: “And how many a prophet [fought and] with him fought many religious scholars. But they never lost assurance due to what afflicted them in the cause of Allah, nor did they weaken or submit. And Allah loves the steadfast. And their words were not but that they said: ‘Our Lord! Forgive us our sins and the excess [committed] in our affairs and firmly plant our feet and give us victory over the disbelieving people.’” [Surah Al-‘Imran, 3: 146-148]

On one occasion when the Prophet SAW wished to re-assure his companions RA he informed them that the future belongs to Islam, saying: “I swear by Allah that He will bring this matter to its consummation, so much so that a rider will (be able to) travel from Sana’a' to Hadhramaut, fearing none except Allah and the wolves for (the sake of) his sheep - but you are hasty people.” [Al-Bukhari]

The Prophet SAW said this during the most difficult of times, which reflects the importance of reminding the youth with these narrations, whilst cultivating them, in order for them to be optimistic.

Knowing the reality of falsehood, and not being deceived by it.

Emphasising on this point is necessary as a means of assisting the believers to remain steadfast, Allah Says: “Be not deceived by the [uninhibited] movement of the disbelievers throughout the land.” [Surah Al-‘Imran, 3: 196]

Having qualities that help one remain steadfast.

The most important quality is perseverance, as the Prophet SAW said: “Nobody was (ever) bestowed anything finer than perseverance.” [Al-Bukhari & Muslim]

The finest and most superior level of perseverance is to practice it at the point when disaster strikes, or when one first hears of the bad news; this is when it should be applied and when it counts.

When the believers were afflicted with the defeat during the battle of Uhud, there was great shock, as they had expected to win due to Allah promising them victory; however, Allah wished to teach them a tough lesson; Allah Says: “Why [is it that] when a [single] disaster struck you [on the day of Uhud], although you had struck [the enemy in the battle of Bard] with one twice as great, you said: ‘From where is this?’ Say: ‘It is from yourselves [i.e. due to your sin]’…” [Surah Al-‘Imran, 3: 165]

What was it that they did to deserve defeat? The answer is that they disputed amongst themselves and did not strictly follow the instructions of the Prophet SAW.

Receiving the advice of righteous and wise people.

One of the means of remaining steadfast when the Muslims are afflicted with trials is that Allah facilitates a righteous man to advise, remind and guide people. There are many examples of this throughout Islamic history.

When Imam Ahmad RA refused to accept the fallacy that the Quran is one of the creations of Allah which would therefore eventually vanish, and was resolute in the view that the Quran is in fact one of the attributes of Allah and therefore eternal, he was imprisoned. The leader at the time was Al-Ma’mun, who swore by Allah to kill him with his own hands if he did not recant this view; but Allah had decreed good for this great scholar and sent him assistance. When Imam Abu Ja’afar Al-Anbari heard of the news of his imprisonment, he travelled to him and visited him in his prison cell; he said: “O Ahmad! You are an example whom people look up to, so if you give in to this demand, then people will collectively follow your altered view, but if you refuse, then they will refrain. You are going to die at your prescribed time, regardless of whether the leader does not kill you, so fear Allah, remain steadfast and do not give in.” He heard this and started weeping, and Allah helped him remain steadfast.

On another occasion, a wise Bedouin came to him and said: “O you! You are a respected figure amongst the people, so do not cause evil to them; if you give in to what the leader is demanding then everybody will follow you in what you say, and you will thus shoulder the burden of their sins on the Day of Resurrection. So, if you truly love Allah, then persevere; if you are killed, then it is Paradise that you will earn and if you are not killed, and then you will live with dignity.” Imam Ahmad later said: “This man’s words helped me remain steadfast.” Therefore, one should seek advice from wise and knowledgeable people and act upon it.

Thinking about the pleasures of Paradise, the punishment of Hell, and remembering death.

Paradise is the final stage of the believer’s journey and his eternal abode. People usually do not wish to make any sacrifice unless there is something in return that merits them going through hardships; thus, one who knows the reward finds it easy to exert the required effort because he is well aware of the fact that if he fails to persevere and remain steadfast, then he will lose out on a great reward.

The Prophet SAW would remind his companions RA of Paradise in order to help them remain steadfast; an example of this is what he SAW would say to the family of Yasser RA whenever he would pass by them whilst they were being tortured; he SAW would say: “Persevere O family of Yasser! Your reward is Paradise.” [Al-Hakim]

He SAW also used to address the Ansar (i.e., the residents of Madinah) saying: “You will face difficulties after my death, so persevere until you meet me at my fountain (in Paradise).” [Al-Bukhari & Muslim]

Furthermore, one who always reminds himself with death, and the fact that it could come at any moment, will not give in easily, nor will he allow himself to divert from the straight path. Therefore, by doing this, he helps himself to remain steadfast.

Circumstances during which a person needs to remain steadfast.

1. During trials.

One's heart fluctuates during trials; when the heart is tested with something pleasing, or afflicted with adversities, it will not remain steadfast unless the person is strong in his belief. There are many types of trials, such as:

a. Wealth.

Some people become stingy when Allah grants them wealth and thereby give in to their desires.

b. Position.

This trial as well as the previously mentioned one can ruin a person's faith, as the Prophet SAW informed us, saying: “Two hungry wolves sent into the midst of a flock of sheep are less destructive to the sheep than man’s covetousness for money and fame are to his religion.” [Ahmad]

c. Spouses and children.

Allah Says: “…Indeed, among your wives and your children are enemies to you, so beware of them …” [Surah At-Taghabun, 64: 14]

d. Oppression and torture.

When Khabbab ibn Al-Aratt RA went to complain to the Messenger of Allah SAW about the persecution inflicted upon the Companions RA by the disbelievers, he found the Prophet SAW lying down in the shade of the Ka’abah, using his cloak as a pillow. He SAW said in response to the complaint: “Among those people who came before you, a man would be seized and held in a pit dug for him in the ground, and he would be sewn into two halves from (the top of) his head, and his flesh would be torn away from his bones with an iron comb; but in spite of this, he would not wean away from his faith.” [Al-Bukhari]

e. The Antichrist.

This is the most dangerous of all trials as, the Prophet SAW said: “O people! There is no trial, since Allah’s creation of Adam, which is worse than the trial of the antichrist.” [Ibn Majah]

2. During Jihad.

One of the Great Major sins is for a Muslim to escape from the battlefield upon the confrontation of his enemies, this is why the Prophet SAW repeated, whilst crying and digging in the soil during the battle of the Trench: “O Allah make steadfast our feet when we confront them (i.e. the enemies).” [Al-Bukhari]

3. Attempting to maintain one’s faith.

Allah Says: “Among the believers are men true to what they promised Allah. Among them is he who has fulfilled his vow [to the death], and among them is he who awaits [his chance]. And they did not alter [the terms of their commitment] by any alteration.” [Surah Al-Ahzab, 33: 23]

4. At the time of death.

The disbelievers and disobedient are deprived from steadfastness during this grim moment and are unable to utter the two testimonies of faith, which is one of the signs for an evil end. People will die upon what they used to busy themselves with during their lifetimes. Some people’s faces may turn dark at the time of death, while others may emit a rotten stench, and so on - which are all signs of an evil end. Conversely, Allah enables the pious to remain steadfast and utter the two testimonies of faith at the time of their deaths; some of their faces may become radiant and illuminated, and they may emit a fragrant scent. It is such pious people about whom Allah Says:

“Indeed, those who have said: ‘Our Lord is Allah’ and then remained on a right course— the angels will descend upon them, [saying]: ‘Do not fear and do not grieve but receive good tidings of Paradise, which you were promised.’” [Surah Fusilat, 41: 30]

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