BEING STEADFAST AFTER RAMADAAN
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The blessed and glorious month of Ramadaan is a few weeks behind us and like a receding tide slowly the ummah returns to sin and vice, making us less devout than we were in Ramadaan. As we move further from the month of Ramadaan the spiritual gap widens and deepens until we once again become deserving of Allah Ta’ala’s displeasure more than anything else.

Our rigid obedience only in Ramadaan makes us seasonal Muslims which is not the brand of obedience required and expected by Allah Ta’ala and His beloved Messenger Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Sallam. A Muslim’s commitment and dedication to His Creator is perennial and constant. This is what makes him a true Muslim. Thus, this brings us to the point of what is the missing ingredient in our lives as Muslims- that ingredient that would make us true and not flawed.

A train or locomotive runs on a track. This track affords the train direction, focus and a point of destination. As long as the train remains on track, all is well-it would move at a constant speed and rate and within the allotted period of time it is sure to successfully conclude its journey and safely reach its destination. However, when the train moves off its track it is commonly said that a derailment has taken place. In the wake of a derailment is nothing but disaster and sometimes horrific can be the consequences.

The life of a believer is no different from that of a train on track. As long as the believer leads his life in accordance to the dictates of His creator, he remains on track and has 100% chances of successfully reaching his destination of Jannah. On the other hand he too can derail when he moves off the track of obedience and steers onto the track of disobedience. The consequences need not be elaborated on. In Islam, ‘staying on the track’ could well be referred to as Istiqaamah.

The literal meaning of "Istiqamah": to go straight into the right direction, acting rightly, allowing no deviation. It is derived from the stem "Qiyyam", which implies the continuity of doing something, following up with it and making sure that it is done in the right way and there is neither deviation nor swerving.

On the authority of Abu 'Amr, Radiyallaahu Anhu who said:

I said: "O Messenger of Allah, tell me something about Islam which I could not ask anyone about save you." He answered: "Say: 'I believe in Allah', and then stand firm and steadfast." [Muslim]

 

The term has also been used in the Qur'aan in many verses. Allah Ta’ala says:

"Therefore, stand firm (on the straight path) as you are commanded and those who turn in repentance with you. And do not transgress, for He (Allah) sees well all that you do." [Surah Hud, verse 112]

Ibnu Abbas said that this verse was the hardest and most difficult verse of the Qur'aan on the Prophet Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Sallam.

Indeed it is a difficult task to achieve Istiqamah, hence, the Prophet Sallallaahu Alaihi Wa Sallam said; "Be straight on the path or be close to it."

In another verse, Allah Ta’ala says:

"So unto this (religion) invite (the people). Stand steadfast as you are commanded and do not follow their desires....."

[Suratus-Shura, verse 15]

Based on these two verses, it can be inferred that Istiqamah is to stand firm as a pillar and steadfast to what we have been commanded by Allah, i.e. to fulfil His obligations and to avoid His prohibitions. Also, we should not allow ourselves to follow or be misled by desires (whether it is our desires or the desires of others) as it will cause deviation and lead us astray.

 

Ways of attaining Istiqaamah

 

  1. Always being aware of the final destination, i.e. the Day of Judgment (Akhirah). And to use this awareness in a positive way as a motive to do good deeds. One way to do it is through remembering that a person's journey towards Akhirah starts the minute he / she passes away and leaves this world. One pious man said: "If you live until the morning do not wait for the evening and if you live until the evening do not wait for the morning."
  2. Commitment (Musharatah). One has to make a commitment that he/she will be steadfast and will do things in the right way and in the best way possible, and to adhere to conjunctions of Islam. Unfortunately many Muslims are being lenient in making such a commitment.
  3. To make continuous efforts (Mujahadah) to bring that commitment to reality. Some Muslims dare to make the commitment, but dare not to make the effort to make the commitment a reality.
  4. Continuous checking and reviewing of one's deeds (Muraqabah). Being honest with oneself so as not to give false excuses for failing to fulfill a commitment.
  5. Self-accountability (Muhasabah). This should be done twice: Firstly, before we start doing something, ensuring that it pleases Allah, that we do it for His sake only, realizing the right way it should be done. Secondly, after the action has been done, to check whether we have achieved what we aimed for, and to check for defects and shortcomings, and that we still could have done it better by not being satisfied with our action.
  6. Blaming one-self for not doing it perfectly after it has been done. Self-blame here is a positive one by using it as a motive, and by aiming for improvement and having the intention of doing things better next time. This leads to making another commitment and continual commitments to improve our performance.
  7. Striving for improvement (Tahsin). We have to make improvements in all that we do (daily activities, work, actions, good deeds, ibadah, etc.) as one of our objectives.
  8. To be humble towards Allah, realizing that no one is perfect except Him, seeking His forgiveness, guidance and support.

It should be emphasized that these steps/conditions apply to worldly matters as well as ibadah and good religious deeds.

Factors that lead to the weakening of Istiqamah include:

  1. Committing sins (ma'siah), insisting on repeating them again and again, without istighfar (seeking Allah's forgiveness) and without practicing repentance.
  2. Shirk (associating anything with Allah) whether in intentions, by showing off our good deeds to others, seeking others' appraisal, avoiding being blamed by others, being afraid of someone, or to seek rewards from others than Allah. This part of shirk is also called riyya' or showing off. All these lead to deviation in Istiqamah, and when these stimuli are not there, the person's work is not perfect anymore and it is not done in the best way possible.
  3. Nifaq (hypocrisy). There are two forms of nifaq: in belief and in action. The Muslim who surrenders totally to the will of Allah and accept Islam based on his/her choice is free from the first form of hypocrisy. However any Muslim is subject to and should avoid the second form of nifaq which the Prophet, sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam, warned us about: Not keeping promises and breaking them continuously without good reasons or excuses, not fulfilling commitments we make with others, being aggressive and unjust to others in quarrels, and disputes, failing to shoulder responsibilities/burdens we are entrusted with, etc. All these bad qualities should be avoided since they lead to the weakening of our Istiqamah.
  4. Bida'ah (innovations in ibadah), whether genuine bida'ah (performing ibadah which has not been ascribed by Shariah, i.e. revelation), or relative bida'ah (failing to observe the requirements of doing ibadah - the five criteria discussed in Hadith 5), will lead to decreasing the quality of good action or ibadah.

 

Istiqamah is an important and indispensable Islamic concept. Its significance can be seen where every Muslim is required to recite Surah al-Fatihah at least seventeen times each day seeking continual guidance to the straight path from Allah.

Ramadaan has come and gone. The same Allah Ta’ala that we had become so conscious of in Ramadaan is still right here with all His attributes and qualities. Bear this in mind and you would need nothing else to attain Istiqaamah.

We are an estimated 2 billion Muslims worldwide.  With Imaan we are already on the right track. Ramadaan helped us and drove us to move on that track with remarkable and amazing speeds. It is now up to us to continue moving in the same direction and with the same constant speed as in Ramadaan. With this, our destination can only be success. No one can derail us. We ourselves would derail when we forget the lessons and disciplines that Ramadaan taught us!

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