Means of Steadfastness: Standing Firm in Islam [3/4]

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Continued from the previous article…

(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at www.islamia.tv.)

Means of Steadfastness in Islam [continued]

Training and Education

Gradual, conscious training in faith, based on knowledge, is one of the basic factors in standing firm in Islam.

Training in faith is that which fills the heart and consciousness with fear, hope and love (of Allah), as opposed to the dryness which results from ignoring the texts of the Qur’an and Sunnah and devoting too much attention to the words of men.

Training based on knowledge is that which is based on saheeh evidence, as opposed to mere imitation and blind following.

Conscious training is that which recognizes the way of the sinners and wrongdoers, studies the plots of the enemies of Islam and properly understands and evaluates reality and events, as opposed to a blinkered worldview and narrow horizons.

Gradual training is that which takes the Muslim step by step towards achieving perfection with proper planning, as opposed to spontaneous and hasty progress in fits and starts.

In order to understand the importance of this element in standing firm, let us go back to the seerah of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and ask ourselves:

1. What was the source of the Companions’ steadfastness in Makkah, at the time of their persecution?
2. How could Bilaal, Khabbaab, Mas’ab, the family of Yaasir and other dispossessed Muslims stand firm? How could even the greatest of the Sahaabah stand firm when they were boycotted by others?
3. Is it possible that they could have stood firm without extensive training under the supervision of the Prophet ﷺ, which had honed and refined their personalities?
4. Take, for example, the Sahaabi Khabbaab ibn al-Arat (may Allah be pleased with him), whose owner used to heat an iron skewer until it was red-hot, then place it on his bare back where it would burn until it was extinguished by the fat of his back flowing over it. What made him able to bear all that with patience and perseverance?
5. And think of Bilaal beneath the rock on the burning sands, and Sumayyah in chains and fetters…
6. Look at the Madani period: we may ask, who was it who stood firm with the Prophet ﷺ at Hunayn when most of the Muslims fled? Was it the new converts who had become Muslim at the Conquest of Makkah, and who had not yet received sufficient training at the hands of the Prophet ﷺ, most of whom had gone out only in search of booty? No… most of those who stood firm were the creme de la creme of the believers, who had already received that great training.

If they had not received such training, do you think they would have stood firm?

Having confidence in the road you are following

No doubt the more confident the Muslim is of the path he is following, the more steadfast he will be in adhering to it. There are many ways of achieving this, including the following:

1. Feeling that the way which you are following is not something new that started in this century, but that it is an ancient and venerable way which the Prophets, speakers of truth, scholars, martyrs and righteous people have followed before you. This will reduce your feelings of loneliness and replace your alienation with a sense of comfort, and your sadness will turn to joy because you will feel that all these people are your brothers in this way and methodology.

2. Feeling that you are among the chosen. Allah says (interpretation of the meanings),

  “… Praise and thanks be to Allah, and peace be on His slaves whom He has chosen (for His Message)! …” [al-Naml 27:59]

  “Then We gave the Book (the Qur’an) for inheritance to such of Our slaves as We chose… ” [Faatir 35:32]

  “Thus will your Lord choose you and teach you the interpretation of dreams (and other things)… ” [Yoosuf 12:6]

Just as Allah has chosen the Prophets, so the righteous have a share in this being chosen, which is that they have inherited the knowledge of the Prophets.

3. How would you feel if Allah had created you inanimate, or a dumb beast, or an atheist kaafir, or one who calls to bid’ ah, or an immoral wrongdoer, or a Muslim who does not call others to Islam, or one who calls to a way that is filled with error?

4. Do you not see that this feeling of having been chosen by Allah and been made one of those who call to the way of Ahl al-Sunnah wa’l- Jamaa’ah is one of the factors which will keep you steadfast in your methodology and in this path?

Calling others to Allah (da’ wa)

The soul that is not active will stagnate. One of the most important fields in which one can be active is the field of da’wah, calling others to Allah. This is the work of the Prophets, work which will save you from punishment, realize your potential and enable you to achieve great things.

  “Now then, for that (reason), call (them to the Faith), and stand steadfast as you are commanded… ” [al-Shoora 42:15 – interpretation of the meaning]

It is not true to say that someone is neither making progress nor slipping back (for if you are not making progress, you are therefore falling back – no one is static). If a person is not occupied in acts of worship and obedience, he will be busy with sin and disobedience, and faith can wax and wane (it does not remain constant).

Calling to the correct methodology – by devoting time to it, making mental and physical efforts, and speaking out, so that da’wah becomes the main concern of the Muslim – will block the Shaytan’s efforts to tempt him and lead him astray.

In addition to that, being challenged by obstacles and stubborn people on the journey of da’wah will make the da’iyah stronger in faith.

Besides bringing a great reward, da’wah is also a means of being steadfast in one’s faith and protecting oneself from backsliding, because the one who is attacking does not need to defend himself, and Allah is with the da’iyahs, making them stand firm. The da’iyah is like a doctor fighting illness with his experience and knowledge: by fighting the illness in others he will be the least likely to suffer it himself.

Keeping close to people who will help make you Steadfast

These are people whose characteristics the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) referred to in the hadeeth,

 “ Among the people are some who open the way to goodness and close the way to evil. (Hasan, reported by fbn Maajah from Anas, 237, and by fbn Abi ‘Aasim in Kitaab al-Sunnah, 1/127. See also Al-Silsilat al-Saheehah, 1332)

Looking for scholars, righteous people and believing da’iyahs, and keeping close to them, is a great help in remaining steadfast. When times of trial arose in Islamic history, Allah helped the Muslims to stand firm with the help of some individuals.

For example, ‘Ali ibn al-Madeeni (may Allah have mercy on him) said,

  “Allah supported His Religion with al-Siddeeq [Abu Bakr] at the time of the Riddah (apostasy), and with Ahmad at the time of the test.”

Think about what Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allah have mercy on him) said about the role of his shaykh, Shaykh al-Islam [Ibn Taymiyah] in helping Muslims to stand firm,

  “When our fear became too great and we began to think the worst and things got too difficult for us, we would come to him. We only had to see him and hear his words, and all that would go away, to be replaced by tranquility, strength, assurance and calm. Glory be to the One Who made His slaves witness Paradise before their meeting with Him, opened its door to them in this world and caused them to feel its fragrant breezes so that they would devote all their energy to seeking it and competing for it.” [Al-Waabil al-Sayib, p. 97]

Here Islamic brotherhood emerges as a basic source of steadfastness. Your righteous brothers, leaders and teachers are a source of help for you on the path, a strong pillar on which you can lean. They can make you more steadfast through the aayaat they know and the wisdom they possess… Stick with them and live among them; do not be alone, lest the shayaateen overwhelm you, for the sheep that the wolf eats is the one that wanders off away from the flock.

Being confident of the help of Allah, and that the future belongs to Islam

We need to stand firm even more when victory is delayed, so that we will not go astray after being steadfast. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning),

  “And many a Prophet fought (in Allah ’s Cause) and along with him (fought) large bands of religious learned men. But they never lost heart for that which did befall them in Allah’s Way, nor did they weaken nor degrade themselves. And Allah loves al-saabireen (the patient ones). And they said nothing but: ‘Our Lord l Forgive us our sins and our transgressions (in keeping our duties to You), establish our feet firmly, and give us victory over the disbelieving folk. ’ So Allah gave them the reward of this world, and the excellent reward of the Hereafter… ” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:146-148]

When the Messenger of Allah ﷺ wanted to calm down his persecuted Companions and make them steadfast, he told them, at times of persecution and testing, that the future belonged to Islam. What did he say? Al-Bukhaari reported from Khabbaab that he said,

  “Allah will certainly complete this matter (i.e., Islam), until a traveller will be able to go from San’aa’ to Hadramawt fearing nothing except Allah and the wolf that may attack his sheep.” [Reported by al-Bukhaari; see Fath al-Baari, 7/165]

Telling the young generation about the ahaadeeth that give the good news of the future belonging to Islam is an important part of their education and training to stand firm in their religion.

Understanding the reality of falsehood and not being misled by it

Allah tells us (interpretation of the meaning),

  “Let not the free disposal (and affluence) of the disbelievers throughout the land deceive you. ” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:196]

This offers reassurance to the believers and helps them to stand firm.

Allah also tells us,

  “… Then, as for the foam, it passes away as scum upon the banks… ” [al Ra’d 13:17]

This is a lesson for those who have intelligence, not to fear falsehood or to submit to it.

The Qur’an also exposes the aims and means of the people of falsehood, as Allah says (interpretation of the meaning),

  “And thus do We explain the aayaat (proofs, evidence, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) in detail, that the way of the mujrimoon (criminals, polytheists, sinners) may become manifest ” [al-An ’aam 6:55]

So that the Muslims will not be caught unawares and so that they will know from which direction Islam will be attacked.

How often have we heard about and seen movements collapsing and dai’yahs losing their steadfastness because of attacks which they did not expect due to their ignorance of their enemies.

Acquiring the characteristics that will help one to remain Steadfast

The most important of these is sabr (patience). Al-Bukhaari and Muslim report that the Prophet ﷺ said,

  “No one is given any gift greater and more bountiful than patience.” [Reported by al-Bukhaari in Kitaab al-Zakaah, Baab al-Isti faaf ‘an al- mas ’alah; and by Muslim in Kitaab al-Zakaah, Baab Fad l al-Ta ’affuf wa ’l-Sabr]

The greatest patience comes at the onset of a disaster, and if something unexpected befalls a man, the disaster will overwhelm him and he will lose his steadfastness, if he does not have patience.

Think about what Ibn al-Jawzi (may Allah have mercy on him) said,

  “I saw an old man, nearly eighty years old, who always used to come to jamaa’ah prayers. A son of his daughter died, and he said, ‘No one should pray to Allah anymore, because He does not respond.’ Then he said, ‘Allah is stubborn and does not leave us a son.”’ [Al-Thabaat ‘ind al-Mawt by Ibn al-Jawzi, p. 34]

Exalted be Allah far above what he said.

When the Muslims were defeated at Uhud, this disaster was quite unexpected, because Allah had promised them victory, but Allah taught them a hard lesson through the blood of the martyrs,

  ‘‘(What is the matter with you?) When a single disaster smites you, although you smote (your enemies) with one twice as great, you say: ‘From where does this come to us? ’ Say (to them), ‘It is from yourselves (because of your evil deeds). ’ … ” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:165 – interpretation of the meaning]

How could they have been the cause of it?

  “… you lost your courage and fell to disputing about the order, and disobeyed after He showed you (of the booty) which you love. Among you are some that desire this world… ” [Aal ‘Imraan 3:152 – interpretation of the meaning]

The Advice of Righteous Men

When the Muslim is faced with trials and his Lord tests him in order to purify him, one of the means which Allah gives him to help him stand firm is a righteous man who will advise and help him. Through this man’s words Allah helps the believer to stand firm and directs his steps. These words remind him of Allah, the Meeting with Him, His Paradise and His Hell. There follow some examples from the life of Imaam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him), who entered the test and emerged as pure gold.

He was taken to al-Ma’moon in chains, and (al-Ma’moon) had already issued him such a stern warning before he reached him that a servant said to Imaam Ahmad,

  “It hurts me, O Abu ‘Abd-Allah, that al- Ma’moon has unsheathed a sword which he has never unsheathed before, and he swears by his relationship to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ that if you do not accept what he says about the Qur’an being created, he will certainly kill you with that sword.” [Al-Bidaayah wa’l-Nihaayah, 1/332]

At this point, the intelligent scholars took the opportunity to say to their imaam words that would help him to remain steadfast. In al-Siyar (1 1/238), al-Dhahabi reports from Abu Ja’far al-Anbaari,

  “When Ahmad was taken to al-Ma’moon, I was told about it, so I crossed the Euphrates and found him sitting in an inn, where I greeted him. He said, ‘O Abu Ja’far, why did you go to the trouble (of coming here)?’ I said, ‘Listen to me, today you are the leader and the people are following you. By Allah, if you accept that the Qur’an is created, a lot of people will go along with that, but if you do not, then neither will they. Even if this man (al-Ma’moon) does not kill you, you will still die, because death is inevitable, so fear Allah, and do not go along with (al-Ma’moon).’ Ahmad began to weep and said, ‘ Ma sha Allah: Then he said, ‘O Abu Ja’far, say it again,’ so I said it again, and he kept saying, ‘ Ma sha Allah :.. .”

With regard to his being taken to al-Ma’moon, Imaam Ahmad said,

  “We reached al-Rahbah at midnight, and a man came to us and said, ‘Which of you is Ahmad ibn Hanbal?’ He was told, ‘This man.’ He said to the camel-driver, ‘Slow down.’ . . . Then he said, ‘Listen to me, why should you worry if you get killed here and go to Paradise?’ Then he said, ‘May Allah be with you,’ and left. I asked about him and I was told, ‘He is an Arab from the tribe of Rabee’ah who deals with wool in the desert. He is called Jaabir ibn ‘Aamir, and they say good things about him.’” [Siyar A ’laam al-Nubala ’, 1 1/241]

In al-Bidaayah wa ’ l-Nihaayah , it says that a Bedouin said to Imaam Ahmad,

  “Listen to me, you are a representative of the people, so do not be bad news for them. You are the leader of the people today, so beware of doing what they are asking you to do, lest you bear their sins on the Day of Resurrection. If you love Allah, then bear this with patience, for the only thing standing between you and Paradise is your being killed.” Imaam Ahmad said: “His words strengthened my resolve not to do what they were asking me to do.” [Al-Bidaayah wa ’l-Nihaayah, 1/332]

It was reported that Imaam Ahmad said,

  “I never heard any stronger words at that time than what a Bedouin said to me at Rahbat Tawq, a village between al-Raqqah and Baghdaad on the banks of the Euphrates. He said, ‘O Ahmad, if they kill you for the truth, you will be a shaheed (martyr), and if you live, you will be praised.’ And so my heart grew strong.” [Siyar A ’laam al-Nubala ’, 1 1/241]

Imaam Ahmad said of the young man Muhammad ibn Nooh, who accompanied him at that time of trial,

  “Even though he was so young, he had such great knowledge, and I never saw anyone who adhered more firmly to the command of Allah than Muhammad ibn Nooh, and I hope that his end was good. He said to me one day, ‘O Abu ‘ Abd- Allah, you are not like me. You are a man whom people follow, and they are straining their necks to see what you will do, so fear Allah and adhere to His commands.’ Then he died, and I prayed the janaazah (funeral) prayer for him and buried him.” [Siyar A ’laam al-Nubala ’, 1 1/242]

Even his fellow-prisoners, whom Imaam Ahmad used to lead in prayer in chains, had a role to play in helping him to stand firm. One day when he was in prison, Imaam Ahmad said,

  “I don’t care about being in prison – it is no different from my home – or about being killed by the sword, but I am afraid of the trial of being whipped.” One of the other prisoners heard him and said, “Don’t worry, O Abu ‘Abd-Allah, it is only two lashes of the whip, then you don’t feel where the rest fall.” It was as if this reassured him and calmed him down. [Siyar A ’laam al-Nubala 1 1/240]

So try to seek advice from righteous people, and try to understand it if it is given to you.

Seek their advice before you travel, if you think that something could happen to you. Seek their advice when you are facing some trial, or before some test that you expect to face. Seek their advice if you are appointed to a position of authority or if you inherit some wealth.

Make yourself stand firm, and help others to do so too. Allah is the Protector of the believers.

Thinking about the delights of Paradise and the punishments of Hellfire, and remembering death.

Paradise is the abode of joy, the consolation of those who grieve, the final destination of the believers. The soul is by nature not inclined to make sacrifices or work hard or stand firm unless it gets something in return that makes difficulties easy and helps it to overcome the obstacles in its way.

The one who knows about the reward will find it easy to work hard, because he will be aware that if he does not remain steadfast, he will miss out on Paradise as wide as the heavens and the earth. The soul needs something to lift it above the dust of this earth and raise it to the heavenly world.

The Prophet ﷺ used the mention of Paradise to encourage his Companions to stand firm. According a a hasan saheeh hadeeth, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ passed by Yaasir, ‘Ammaar and Umm ‘Ammaar when they were being tortured for the sake of Allah and said,

  “Patience, family of Yaasir, patience, family of Yaasir, for your destination is Paradise.” [Reported by al- Haakim, 3/383; it is a hasan saheeh hadeeth. See Fiqh al-Seerah, ed. Al-Albaani, p. 103]

The Prophet ﷺ used to tell the Anssar,

 “ You will face selfish people after my death, so have patience until you meet me at the Hawd (cistern – on the Day of Judgement). [Agreed upon]

Similarly, one should think about the situation of both groups (believers and kuffaar) in the grave, the gathering, the reckoning, the scales of justice, the bridge over Hell, and the other events of the Hereafter.

Remembering death protects the Muslim from backsliding and helps him to adhere to the limits set by Allah, so that he does not transgress them. If he knows that death is closer to him than his own shoelaces and that his time could come at any moment, how can he let himself slip or persevere in deviation? Hence the Prophet ﷺ said,

 “ Always remember the destroyer of pleasure. [Reported by al-Tirmidhi, 2/50; classed as saheeh in Irwa ’ al-Ghaleel, 3/145]

In the next part of this article series we will look at situations in which one needs to be steadfast and conclude the article series…

(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at www.islamia.tv.)



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