Purification of the Soul
Typography

Introduction

Praise be to Allah; we praise Him and seek His help and forgiveness. We seek refuge with Allah from the evil of our own selves and from our evil deeds. Whomsoever Allah guides cannot be led astray, and whomsoever He leaves astray cannot be guided. I bear witness that there is no god except Allah alone, with no partner, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger.

Steadfastness in the religion of Allah is a basic requirement for every sincere Muslim who wants to follow the Straight Path with determination and understanding. This matter is of great importance for a number of reasons, including the following:

  1. The present situation of the societies in which Muslims live, the types of temptation to which they are painfully exposed and the kinds of whims and desires, doubts and confusion which have caused religion to become something strange, so that those who adhere to it are likened to something weird, and people say: "The one who holds on to his religion is like one who holds on to a burning coal." Anyone who has a brain will not doubt that Muslims today need the means of steadfastness more than their predecessors among the salaf did, and that the effort required is greater, because of the corruption of our times, and the scarcity and weakness of brothers and supporters who could help.
  2. The high incidence of apostasy (riddah) and backsliding, even among those who are working for Islam, which causes Muslims to fear ending up the same way, so he seeks the means of standing firm so that he can reach dry land, as it were.
  3. The relationship of this issue to the heart, of which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: "It changes more than a pot of rapidly boiling water."[1] The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) also gave another example of the heart: "The heart (qalb) takes its name from its constant changes (taqallub – alteration, variation, ups and downs). The likeness of the heart is that of a feather at the root of a tree, being turned over and over by the wind."[2]

As a later poet said:

"He is only called insan (man) because of his nasyan (forgetfulness)
And it is only called al-qalb (the heart) because it constantly varies (yataqallib)."

Making the one stand firm who is tossed about by the winds of doubt and confusion is a serious matter which needs tremendous means as befits the seriousness and difficulty of the task at hand.

It is part of Allah's mercy towards us that He has shown to us, in His Book and through the words and life of His Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) many ways of being steadfast in Islam. I will discuss some of them below.

Means of Steadfastness in Islam

Turning towards the Qur'an

The Qur'an is the foremost aid to standing firm in Islam. It is the strong rope and clear light of Allah. Whoever adheres to it, Allah will protect him; whoever follows it, Allah will save him; and whoever calls to its way will be guided to the Straight Path.

Allah has stated that the reason why this Book was revealed in stages was to help His Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to stand firm in his faith. In the context of refuting the doubts of the kuffar, He says (interpretation of the meaning):

"And those who disbelieve say, 'Why is not the Qur'an revealed to him all at once?' Thus (it is sent down in parts), that We may strengthen your heart thereby. And We have revealed it to you gradually, in stages. And no example to similitude do they bring (to oppose or to find fault in you or in this Qur'an), but We reveal to you the truth (against that similitude or example), and the better explanation thereof."
Al-Qur'an 25:32-33

Why is the Qur'an such a source of strength?

  1. Because it cultivates faith and purifies the soul through contact with Allah.
  2. Because these ayat bring peace and tranquillity to the heart of the believer, so he will not be tossed about by the winds of fitnah; his heart will be content with the remembrance of Allah.
  3. Because it provides the Muslim with the correct understanding and values with which he will be able to evaluate the situation around him. It also gives him the standards against which he may judge things in a proper and consistent manner, without varying from one situation or person to another.
  4. Because it refutes the doubts that are stirred up by the enemies of Islam, kuffar and munafiqin alike, as in the following examples from the early days of Islam:
    • The effect of the ayah (interpretation of the meaning): "Your Lord (O Muhammad) has neither forsaken you nor hated you."[3] on the heart of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), when the mushrikun said, "Muhammad has been forsaken ... "[4]
    • The effect of the ayah (interpretation of the meaning): " ... The tongue of the man they refer to is foreign, while this (the Qur'an) is a clear Arabic tongue."[5]. The Quraysh claimed that Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was taught by a human being and that he took the Qur'an from a Roman carpenter in Makkah.
    • The effect of the ayah (interpretation of the meaning): " ... Surely they have fallen into trial (fitnah) ... "[6] on the hearts of the believers, when the munafiq had said, "Grant me leave (to be exempted from jihad) and put me not into trial."[7]

Is it not the greatest of help, strengthening the heart of the believer, refuting doubts and silencing the voices of falsehood? Indeed it is, by Allah.

When the believers were coming back from Al-Hudaybiyyah, Allah promised them much war booty which they alone would go and take (i.e., the booty of Khaybar). He told them that the munafiqun would ask to accompany them, but the Muslims would say, "You shall not follow us." They would persist in trying to change the words of Allah, and they would say to the believers, "Nay, you envy us," to which Allah responded by saying, "Nay, but they understand not except a little."[8] Then all of this happened to the believers, step by step, word by word.

From this we can see the difference between those whose lives are connected to the Qur'an, who read it, recite it, memorize it, study it, ponder its meanings and take it as their starting-point and their refuge, and those who are preoccupied with the words of man.

Would that those who seek knowledge would devote most of their efforts to understanding the Qur'an properly!

Adhering to the Laws of Allah and Doing Righteous Deeds

Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): "Allah will keep firm those who believe, with the word that stands firm in this world and in the Hereafter. And Allah will cause to go astray those who are dhalimun (polytheists and wrongdoers, etc.), and Allah does what He wills."[9]

Qutadah said: "As for the life of this world, Allah will help them to be steadfast in doing good and righteous deeds, and in the Hereafter (He will help them) to remain steadfast in the grave." A similar interpretation was narrated from more than one of the Salaf.[10]

Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): " ... but if they had done what they were told, it would have been better for them, and would have strengthened their faith"[11], i.e., it would have strengthened them in their adherence to the Truth.

This is clear, for how can you expect steadfastness on the part of those who are too lazy to do righteous deeds when fitnah raises its ugly head and calamity increases? But Allah will guide those who believe and do righteous deeds by their faith to the Straight Path. So the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to persevere in doing righteous deeds, and the most beloved of good deeds to him were those that were continuous, even if they were small. When his Companions started to do anything, they would persist in it, and when 'A'ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) did something, she would keep it up.

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to say: "Whoever perseveres in doing twelve rak'ahs [i.e., the sunan rawatib or sunnah prayers which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did constantly], Paradise will be his right."[12]

According to a hadith qudsi, Allah says: "My slave will keep drawing near to me with nafil acts of worship until I love him."[13]

Studying the Stories of the Prophets and Following their Example

The evidence for this is the ayah (interpretation of the meaning): "And all that We relate to you (O Muhammad) of the news of the Messengers is in order that We may make strong and firm your heart thereby. And in this has come to you the truth, as well as an admonition and a reminder for the believers."[14]

These ayat were not revealed at the time of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) for the purpose of mere entertainment and amusement. They were revealed for an important purpose, which was to strengthen the heart of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and likewise the hearts of the believers ...

  1. Think about the meaning of the ayah (interpretation of the meaning): "They said: 'Burn him and help your alihah (gods), if you will be doing.' We (Allah) said: 'O fire! Be you coolness and safety for Ibrahim!' And they wanted to harm him, but We made them the worst losers."[15]. Ibn 'Abbas said: "The last thing Ibrahim said when he was thrown in the fire was, 'Allah is Sufficient for me and He is the Best Disposer of affair' "[16] Do you not feel how he stood firm in the face of oppression and torture, when you read this story?
  2. Think about the ayah in which Allah tells us about Musa (interpretation of the meaning): "And when the two hosts saw each other, the companions of Musa said: 'We are sure to be overtaken.' Musa said: 'Nay, verily! With me is my Lord, He will guide me.' "[17]. Do you not feel how he stood firm when he was being pursued by the hosts of Pharaoh and was surrounded by cries of despair from his own people?
  3. Read the story of the magicians of Pharaoh, which is an example of a small group that adhered firmly to the truth once it had become apparent to them. Do you not see how they stood firm in the face of threats issued by the oppressor who said, "Believe you in him (Musa) before I give you permission? Verily! He is your chief who taught you magic. So I will surely cut off your hands and feet on opposite sides, and I will surely crucify you on the trunks of date-palms, and you shall surely know which of us [I (Pharaoh) or the Lord of Musa] can give the severe and more lasting torment."[18]. The small group of believers stood firm, with no thought of retreat, and said: "We prefer you not over the clear signs that have come to us, and to Him Who created us. So decree whatever you desire to decree, for can only decree (regarding) the life of this world."[19]
  4. Also think about the story of the believer in Surah Yasin, the believer of Pharaoh's household, the people of the Ditch (al-ukhdud), and others, which teach us the greatest lessons we could ever learn about standing firm in our faith.

Du'a' (Supplication)

One of the characteristics of the believing slaves of Allah is that they turn to Allah with du'a', asking Him to help them to stand firm.

"Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate (from the truth) after You have guided us."
Al-Qur'an 3:8 – interpretation of the meaning
"Our Lord! Pour out constancy [patience] on us and make our steps firm ... "
Al-Qur'an 2:250 – Yusuf 'Ali's translation

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) told us that "The hearts of the sons of Adam are as one between the fingers of the Most Merciful, and He directs them as He wills."[20] The Messenger of Allah often used to say, "O Controller of the hearts, make my heart adhere firmly to Your religion."[21]

Remembrance of Allah (Dhikr)

This is one of the greatest means of being steadfast in Islam.

Think about the combination described in this ayah (interpretation of the meaning): "O you who believe! When you meet (an enemy) force, take a firm stand against them and remember the Name of Allah much, so that you may be successful."[22] Dhikr is one of the most effective aids to standing firm in jihad ...

"Think about how the physical strength of the Persians and Romans let them down when they needed it most."[23] – despite the small numbers of men and weapons of those who remembered the Name of Allah much.

How did Yusuf (upon whom be peace) stand firm in the face of temptation of the part of the powerful and beautiful woman who called him to do wrong? Did he not enter the fortress of "seeking refuge in Allah" and thus defeat the waves of temptation? This is the effect of adhkar (remembering Allah) on making the believers steadfast.

Striving to Follow the Correct Way

The only correct way, which every Muslim must follow, is the way of Ahlus-Sunnah wa'l-Jama'ah, the path of the victorious group and the saved sect, the people of pure 'aqidah and sound methodology, the followers of the Sunnah and the (sound) evidence. The Muslim must be distinct from the enemies of Allah and be different from the people of falsehood.

If you want to know the value of this in standing firm, then ask yourself: why have so many people, in the past and nowadays, been led astray? Why have they become confused? Why have their feet not stood firm on the Straight Path? Why did they not die following it, or why did they come to it so late in life, after wasting so much precious time?

So you see them, moving from one kind of misguided bid'ah to another, from philosophy to 'ilm al-kalam (Islamic philosophy), from Mu'tazili thought to the way of twisting and misinterpreting the clear ayat of the Qur'an, from one Sufi tariqah to another ...

Thus are the people of bid'ah, confused and shaky in their faith. See how the people of 'ilm al-kalam are deprived of steadfastness at the time of death. Hence the salaf said, "The people who suffer the most doubt at the time of death are the people of al-kalam." But think about it: has any follower of Ahlus-Sunnah wa'l-Jama'ah ever turned his back on this way in discontent after he has come to know and understand it? People may abandon it because of their whims and desires, or because of doubts if their understanding is weak, but no one has left because he saw something more correct or because he thought this way was wrong.

The proof of this is to be seen in the questions posed by Heraclius to Abu Sufyan about the followers of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). He asked, "Has anyone ever left this religion out of discontent after entering it?" Abu Sufyan said, "No." Then Heraclius said, "This is how it is when the joy of faith fills the heart."[24]

We have heard a lot about great leaders who moved from one kind of bid'ah to another, and others whom Allah guided and so they left falsehood behind and joined the madhhab of Ahlus-Sunnah wa'l-Jama'ah, despising their former ways. But do we ever hear about the opposite?

If you want to stand firm in your Islam, then you must follow the way of the believers.

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 sahih 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 sirah of the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and ask ourselves:

  • What was the source of the Companions' steadfastness in Makkah, at the time of their persecution?
  • How could Bilal, Khabbab, Mas'ab, the family of Yasir and other dispossessed Muslims stand firm? How could even the greatest of the Sahabah stand firm when they were boycotted by others?
  • Is it possible that they could have stood firm without extensive training under the supervision of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), which had honed and refined their personalities?
  • Take, for example, the Sahabi Khabbab 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?
  • And think of Bilal beneath the rock on the burning sands, and Sumayyah in chains and fetters ...
  • Look at the Madani period: we may ask, who was it who stood firm with the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) 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 (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), most of whom had gone out only in search of booty? No ... most of those who stood firm were the crème de la crème 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:

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.

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-Qur'an 27:59
"Then We gave the Book (the Qur'an) for inheritance to such of Our slaves as We chose ... "
Al-Qur'an 35:32
"Thus will your Lord choose you and teach you the interpretation of dreams (and other things) ... "
Al-Qur'an 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.

How would you feel if Allah had created you inanimate, or a dumb beast, or an atheist kafir, 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?

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 Ahlus-Sunnah wa'l-Jama'ah is one of the factors which will keep you steadfast in your methodology and in this path?

Calling Others to Allah (Da'wah)

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 ... "[25]. 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'iyah, 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 hadith, "Among the people are some who open the way to goodness and close the way to evil."[26] Looking for scholars, righteous people and believing da'iyah, 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-Madini (may Allah have mercy on him) said: "Allah supported His Religion with As-Siddiq [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 ul-Islam [Ibn Taymiyyah] 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 tranquillity, 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."[27]

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 ayat they know and the wisdom they possess ... Stick with them and live among them; do not be alone, lest the shayatin 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 as-sabirin (the patient ones). And they said nothing but: 'Our Lord! 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 ... "[28]

When the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) 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-Bukhari reported from Khabbab that he said: "Allah will certainly complete this matter (i.e., Islam), until a traveller will be able to go from San'a' to Hadramawt fearing nothing except Allah and the wolf that may attack his sheep."[29]

Telling the young generation about the ahadith 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."
Al-Qur'an 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-Qur'an 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 ayat (proofs, evidence, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) in detail, that the way of the mujrimun (criminals, polytheists, sinners) may become manifest."[30] – 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-Bukhari and Muslim report that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: "No one is given any gift greater and more bountiful than patience."[31]. 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 jama'ah prayers. A son of his daughter died, and he said, 'No one should pray to Allah any more, because He does not respond.' Then he said, 'Allah is stubborn and does not leave us a son.' "[32] 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. How could they have been the cause of it?

"(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).' "
Al-Qur'an 3:165 – interpretation of the meaning
" ... 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 ... "
Al-Qur'an 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 Imam Ahmad (may Allah have mercy on him), who entered the test and emerged as pure gold.

He was taken to Al-Ma'mun in chains, and (Al-Ma'mun) had already issued him such a stern warning before he reached him that a servant said to Imam Ahmad, "It hurts me, O Abu 'Abdullah, that Al-Ma'mun has unsheathed a sword which he has never unsheathed before, and he swears by his relationship to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) that if you do not accept what he says about the Qur'an being created, he will certainly kill you with that sword."[33]

At this point, the intelligent scholars took the opportunity to say to their Imam words that would help him to remain steadfast. In As-Siyar (11/238), Adh-Dhahabi reports from Abu Ja'far al-Anbari: "When Ahmad was taken to Al-Ma'mun, 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'mun) does not kill you, you will still die, because death is inevitable, so fear Allah, and do not go along with (Al-Ma'mun).' Ahmad began to weep and said, 'Mashallah.' Then he said, 'O Abu Ja'far, say it again,' so I said it again, and he kept saying, 'Mashallah' ... "

With regard to his being taken to Al-Ma'mun, Imam Ahmad said:

"We reached Ar-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 Rabi'ah who deals with wool in the desert. He is called Jabir ibn 'Amir, and they say good things about him.' "
Siyar A'lam an-Nubala', 11/241

In Al-Bidayah wa'n-Nihayah, it says that a Bedouin said to Imam 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."

Imam Ahmad said:

"His words strengthened my resolve not to do what they were asking me to do."
Al-Bidayah wa'n-Nihayah, 1/332

It was reported that Imam 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 Baghdad on the banks of the Euphrates. He said, 'O Ahmad, if they kill you for the truth, you will be a shahid (martyr), and if you live, you will be praised.' And so my heart grew strong."
Siyar A'lam an-Nubala', 11/241

Imam Ahmad said of the young man Muhammad ibn Nuh, 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 Nuh, and I hope that his end was good. He said to me one day, 'O Abu 'Abdullah, 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 janazah (funeral) prayer for him and buried him."[34]

Even his fellow prisoners, whom Imam 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, Imam 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 'Abdullah, 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.[35]

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 (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used the mention of Paradise to encourage his Companions to stand firm. According a a hasan sahih hadith, the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) passed by Yasir, 'Ammar and Umm 'Ammar when they were being tortured for the sake of Allah and said:

"Patience, family of Yasir, patience, family of Yasir, for your destination is Paradise."
Reported by Al-Hakim, 3/383; it is a hasan sahih hadith. See Fiqh As-Sirah, ed. Al-Albani, p. 103

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) used to tell the Ansar:

"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 kuffar) 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 (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

"Always remember the destroyer of pleasure."
Reported by At-Tirmidhi, 2/50; classed as sahih in Irwa' al-Ghalil, 3/145

Situations where Steadfastness is Required

There are many such situations, which need to be discussed in detail, but we can only list them in brief here.

Times of Trial and Tribulation

Trials and tribulations can cause the heart to change. Whether they are the trials of ease or of hardship, only those who have understanding and whose hearts are filled with faith can remain steadfast.

Among the different types of trials are:

  1. The trial of wealth. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): "And of them are some who made a covenant with Allah (saying): 'If He bestowed on us of His Bounty, we will verily give charity and will be certainly among those who are righteous. Then when He gave them of His Bounty, they became niggardly, and turned away, averse."[36]
  2. The trial of worldly power and authority. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): "And keep yourself patiently with those who call on their Lord morning and afternoon, seeking His Face, and let not your eyes overlook them, desiring the pomp and glitter of the life of the world; and obey not him whose heart We have made heedless of Our Remembrance, one who follows his own lusts and whose affair (deeds) has been lost."[37]

    Concerning the danger of these two types of trial, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: "Two hungry wolves sent against the sheep could not do more damage to them than the damage done by a man's eagerness for wealth and power to his religion."[38] The meaning is that a man's desire for wealth and power will do more damage to his religion than the damage done by two hungry wolves to a flock of sheep.

  3. The trial of one's wife. Allah says (interpretation of the meaning): " ... Verily, among your wives and your children there are enemies for you (i.e., may stop you from the obedience of Allah), therefore beware of them!"[39]
  4. The trial of children. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: "Children are the cause of cowardice, the cause of stinginess and the cause of grief."[40]
  5. The trial of persecution, oppression and injustice. Allah has described this in the most evocative terms in the Qur'an (interpretation of the meaning): "Cursed were the people of the ditch, fire supplied (abdunantly) with fuel, when they sat by it (the fire), and they witnessed what they were doing against the believers (i.e., burning them). They had nothing against them, except that they believed in Allah, the All-Mighty, Worthy of all Praise! To Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth! And Allah is Witness over everything."[41]

    Al-Bukhari reported from Khabbab (may Allah be pleased with him) who said: "We complained to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) when he was reclining on his cloak in the shade of the Ka'bah. He (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: 'Among the people who came before you, there was a man who was taken and put into a hole dug for him in the earth, then a saw was put on his head and he was cut into two pieces, and an iron comb was used to tear the flesh from his bones, but this still did not turn him away from his religion.' "[42]

  6. The trial of the Dajjal (Antichrist), which is the greatest trial in this world. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: "O people, there has never been any fitnah (trial) on the face of the earth since Allah created Adam greater than the trial of the Dajjal ... O slaves of Allah, O people, stand firm, for I shall describe him to you in a way that no Prophet before me has described him ... "[43]

Steadfastness in Jihad

"O you who believe! When you meet (an enemy) force, take a firm stand against them ... "
Al-Qur'an 8:45 – interpretation of the meaning

One of the major sins (kaba'ir) in our religion is running away from the battlefield. When the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was carrying earth on his back when they were digging the trench (Al-Khandaq), he repeated with the believers, "Make us steadfast when we meet our enemies."[44]

Steadfast Adherence to the Manhaj (Methodology of the Qur'an and Sunnah)

"Among the believers are men who have been true to their covenant with Allah [i.e., they have gone out for jihad (holy fighting), and showed not their backs to the disbelievers], of them some have fulfilled their obligations (i.e., have been martyred), and some of them are still waiting, but they have never changed [i.e., they never proved treacherous to their covenant which they concluded with Allah] in the least."
Al-Qur'an 33:23 – interpretation of the meaning

Their principles are dearer to them than their own souls, and their determination knows no compromise.

Steadfastness at the Time of Death

The kuffar and immoral people are denied steadfastness at the most difficult and most stressful times, and they cannot utter the Shahadah at the time of death – which is one of the signs of a bad end. A man was told when he was dying to say la ilaha illallah, and he started to move his head from right to left, refusing to say it. Another started to say, "This is an excellent piece, this is a bargain," when he was dying. A third began to mention the names of various chess pieces, and a fourth started to hum the tunes of songs, or to mention the name of someone he loved. This is because those things distracted them from remembering Allah in this world.

You may see some of these people with blackened faces, or a foul odour, or turning away from the qiblahla hawla wa la quwata illa billah (there is no strength or power except with Allah).

But the people of righteousness, who follow the Sunnah, are helped by Allah to stand firm at the time of death, and so they utter the Shahadatayn. You may see some of them with a cheerful face and a pleasant scent, looking as if they are hearing good news when their souls are taken from their bodies.

This is an example of one of those whom Allah helped to be steadfast at the time of death. His name was Abu Zar'ah ar-Razi, one of the Imams of the scholars of hadith. Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn 'Ali Warraq Abu Zar'ah said:

"We were with Abu Zar'ah in Shahran, one of the villages of Ar-Riyy, when he started dying, and Abu Hatim, Ibn Warah, Al-Mundhir ibn Shadhan and others were with him. They remembered the hadith, 'Tell those who are dying to say la ilaha illallah,' but they felt too shy to tell Abu Zar'ah to say it. They said, 'Let us mention the hadith.' Ibn Warah said: 'Abu 'Asim told us, 'Abdul-Hamid ibn Ja'far told us, from Salih,' and he started to say 'Ibn Abi ... ' but he could not go any further. Then Abu Hatim said, 'Bundar told us Abu 'Asim told us, from 'Abdul-Hamid ibn Ja'far, from Salih ... ' but he could not go any further, and the rest remained silent. Then Abu Zar'ah said, whilst he was dying, he opened his eyes and said: 'Bundar told us, Abu 'Asim told us, 'Abdul-Hameed told us, from Salih ibn Abi Gharib from Kathir ibn Murrah from Mu'adh ibn Jabal who said 'The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, 'Whoever says as his last words La ilaha ill-Allah, will enter Paradise.' ' Then his soul departed, may Allah have mercy on him."
Siyar A'lam an-Nubala', 13/76-85

These are the ones of whom Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

"Verily, those who say: 'Our Lord is Allah (Alone),' and then they stood straight (followed Islam truly), on them the angels will descend (at the time of their death) (saying): 'Fear not, nor grieve! But receive the glad tidings of Paradise which you have been promised!' "
Al-Qur'an 41:30

Conclusion

With regard to the heart and the trials it is subjected to, the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:

"Hearts are exposed to trials one after the other. Any heart that succumbs to them is stained with a black spot, and any heart that resists them becomes pure white, until all hearts of one of these two types. The white heart is intensely white and will not be harmed by any trial so long as heaven and earth remain, and the black heart is intensely black and does not recognize good or forbid evil, except what suits its own whims and desires."
Reported by Imam Ahmad, 5/386, and by Muslim, 1/128 – this version was narrated by Muslim

O Allah, make us among them. O Allah, we ask you to make us adhere to Islam with determination and wisdom. And the end of our prayer is: praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds.

 From the Shaykh's official website, Islam-QA

Footnotes

  1. Reported by Ahmad, 6/4; Al-Hakim, 2/289; As-Silsilat as-Sahihah, 1772 ^back
  2. Reported by Ahmad, 4/408; Sahih Al-Jami', 2364 ^back
  3. Al-Qur'an 93:3 ^back
  4. See Sahih Muslim bi Sharh An-Nawawi, 12/156 ^back
  5. Al-Qur'an 16:103 ^back
  6. Al-Qur'an 9:49 ^back
  7. Al-Qur'an 9:49 – interpretation of the meaning ^back
  8. Al-Qur'an, 48:15 – interpretation of the meaning ^back
  9. Al-Qur'an 14:27 ^back
  10. Tafsir al-Qur'an al-'Adhim by Ibn Kathir, 3/421 ^back
  11. Al-Qur'an 4:66 ^back
  12. Sunan At-Tirmidhi, 2/273; he said, the hadith is hasan or sahih; see also Sahih An-Nasa'i, 1/388 and Sahih At-Tirmidhi, 1/131 ^back
  13. Reported by Al-Bukhari; see Fath Al-Bari, 11/340 ^back
  14. Al-Qur'an 11:120 ^back
  15. Al-Qur'an 21:68-70 ^back
  16. Al-Fath, 8/22 ^back
  17. Al-Qur'an 26:61-62 ^back
  18. Al-Qur'an 20:71 – interpretation of the meaning ^back
  19. Al-Qur'an 20:72 – interpretation of the meaning ^back
  20. Reported by Imam Ahmad from Ibn 'Umar; see Sahih Muslim bi Sharh An-Nawawi, 16/204 ^back
  21. Reported by At-Tirmidhi from 'Anas. Tuhfat Al-Ahwadhi, 6/349; Sahih Al-Jami', 7864 ^back
  22. Al-Qur'an 8:45 ^back
  23. Ibn Al-Qayyim, may Allah have mercy on him, in Ad-Da' wa'd-Dawa' ^back
  24. Reported by Al-Bukhari, Al-Fath, 1/32 ^back
  25. Al-Qur'an 42:15 – interpretation of the meaning ^back
  26. Hasan, reported by Ibn Majah from Anas, 237, and by Ibn Abi 'Asim in Kitab As-Sunnah, 1/127. See also As-Silsilat as-Sahihah, 1332 ^back
  27. Al-Wabil as-Sayyib, p. 97 ^back
  28. Al-Qur'an 3:146-148 ^back
  29. Reported by Al-Bukhari; see Fath Al-Bari, 7/165 ^back
  30. Al-Qur'an 6:55 ^back
  31. Reported by Al-Bukhari in Kitab Az-Zakah, Bab Al-Isti'faf 'an al-Mas'alah; and by Muslim in Kitab Az-Zak'ah, Bab Fadl at-Ta'affuf wa's-Sabr) ^back
  32. Ath-Thabat 'ind al-Mawt by Ibn Al-Jawzi, p. 34 ^back
  33. Al-Bidayah wa'n-Nihayah, 1/332 ^back
  34. Siyar A'lam an-Nubala', 11/242 ^back
  35. ibid, 11/240 ^back
  36. Al-Qur'an 9:75-76 ^back
  37. Al-Qur'an 18:28 ^back
  38. Reported by Imam Ahmad in Al-Musnad, 3/460; see also Sahih Al-Jami', 5496 ^back
  39. Al-Qur'an 64:14 ^back
  40. Reported by Abu Ya'la, 2/305 – it also has corroborating reports. See also Sahih Al-Jami', 7037 ^back
  41. Al-Qur'an 85:4-9 ^back
  42. Reported by Al-Bukhari, see Fath Al-Bari, 12/315 ^back
  43. Reported by Ibn Majah, 2/1359; see Sahih Al-Jami', 7752 ^back
  44. Reported by Al-Bukhari in Kitab Al-Ghazawat, Bab Ghazwat Al-Khandaq. See Al-Fath, 7/399 ^back
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Be Mindful O Mankind!

Absorption in worldly affairs breeds darkness in the heart, and absorption in the affairs of the next world enkindles light in the heart.
'Uthman ibn Affan (d. 35H), may Allah be pleased with him