Istiqamah means to hold fast to something or to act faithfully to a particular way.
Imam An-Nawawi tells us in a hadith that he records, that Prophet Muhammad was asked a question by the companion Abu Amr Sufiyane ibn Abdullah Thaqafi who said:
“O messenger of Allah, tell me something in Islam that if I say it and follow it, I’d have no need to ask anyone beside you.”
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
Say, “I believe in Allah and then stay straight.”
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), in few words, he is able to convey so much meaning. This is a miracle of speech; we’re told how that is possible and only a prophet is able to do that, because a Prophet knows exactly how to convey the internal states, meanings, and ideas that he wants to convey and which words to use to convey that adequately.
From this, we can take the following points:
We’re being told to engage two things: To engage in act of belief and to engage in action.
“I believe in Allah”, this aspect involves us believe in Allah, which means that there are a certain set of beliefs that we hold in relation to Allah; we understand Allah in a very particular way. It’s important that our belief in Allah is according to how we understand Him to be.
That’s why the Aqeedah is so important because there we come to know the things that we can say of Allah and the things that we can’t say of Allah.
We must believe in His angels and at the very least, we should know the names and functions of those angels who have been mentioned by name in scripture.
We should know the Prophets which includes us taking their lives as modals for us seeking meaning from their lives.
We must believe in all the books that Allah revealed to His Prophets.
We believe in the Last Day and the Final Reckoning, when our days and moments are tallied up to see what is it that we did.
We believe in the decree. Nothing comes to pass except with Allah’s permission.
2- Fulfilling Duties Towards Allah
The istiqamah aspect involves a person in terms of rectitude, someone who faithfully fulfills their duties towards Allah. In addition to the well-known acts of worship, this involves uprightness in one’s character, being good people who are around us, our family, neighbors, friends, society, having a communal spirit…
If you look at the relationship between the words “istiqamah” and “Sirah mustaqeen” (the Straight Path), we can understand that this is the path that makes our life what is meant to be.
Istiqamah is faithfully fulfilling our duties on that path.
3- Following Sunnah
Istiqamah involves us professing to a paradigm of hijrah to Allah and His messenger (peace be upon him). It’s about remaining within that paradigm of following the sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) because only through his example do we come to understand the meanings of the Quran.
We can really gain deep insights if we look at the companions and the way they would ask the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) questions.
The road of rectitude can begin with small steps as long as those steps are consistent as we’re told by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him):
The most beloved acts to Allah are those which are consistent even though are little.
As long as we’re consistent in the things that we do, that’s what’s important. Why? Because consistency lead to more hopefully.
5- Straight Path
Ramadan is the month where we can see that straight path more clearly and where we are able to spend it entire month journeying along it and we even feel good about it, we feel vertically connected, we feel more patient, we feel more charitable, we feel that the temptations of dunya seem less important now… That’s because we consciously choose to turn ourselves towards this path.
But we must be careful because come to the end of Ramadan, it seems that we take the next available junction and we get off the path. That’s where our lower base self tries to take control again.
And what’s interesting about the lower base self is the word ‘nafs’. If we take it to mean soul, it itself tells us something about the nature of the human soul.
Let’s take the word ‘nafs’ and see how it plays out: nafusa, yanfusu mean to be precious. Is that not what the soul is? If it’s rectified, if it’s upright, if it’s steadfast, is it not the case that the soul is, precious? But with a slight change of vowels, “nafisa” means to be stingy.
In other words, a slight change in our disposition, we go from precious to being stingy.
This Path is not something that we should treat like a commodity; it’s not a product that we go out and buy. This is a way; it’s a long journey; it may have bumps along the way, but these are the ideas and concepts that we adhere to to allow us to make sense of the difficulties that inevitably are going to come.
Prophet Muhammad used to seek refuge from being tested in faith. The companions once said to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to ask Allah to make the torture and persecution lighter. Prophet Muhammad replied that “you are hasty people”.
Keeping in the straight path is embracing this blessed journey that we’re allowed to be a part of with the difficulties but we have the mechanisms to learn how to cope with them.