“Indeed those who say: "Our Rabb is Allah," and then remain steadfast - the angels descend on them saying "Fear not!" - "Nor grieve! but receive the Glad Tidings of the Garden (of Bliss) which you were promised.” (41:30)
Sufyan ibn Abdillah (RadhiyAllahu anhu) narrates that “I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah (ﷺ), give me a (clear and concise) statement regarding Islam which I need not ask anyone other than you about? ’ Nabi (ﷺ) said:‘Say I believe in Allah (Iman) and then remain steadfast (Istiqamah)” Muslim
The two directives given to Sufyan (RadhiyAllahu anhu) in the above Hadith sets out in amazing brevity the formula for success; Iman and Istiqamah.
Istiqamah means consistency and steadfastness in discharging your obligation in the best possible manner and with the highest possible enthusiasm. Nabi (ﷺ) himself was specifically instructed to execute his obligations with Istiqamah in the following words:“Be steadfast (in discharging your obligations) as you are commanded (by Allah)(11:112) Ibn Abbas states that this was the most difficult verse of the Quran on Nabi (ﷺ) to the extent that he would say that: (This verse of) Sura Hud has made me grey.”
The differences between a believer and a hypocrite, between a looser and a winner, between success and failure lie in the level of your Istiqamah. With Istiqamah you can accomplish the most difficult of tasks. The distinction between achievers and defeatists lies in their ability to be steadfast and consistent in what they do.
How do we achieve Istiqamah?
“Winners make commitments - Losers make promises”. The most important single factor in individual success is COMMITMENT. Commitment ignites action. The best description of commitment is “persistence with a clear purpose.” Commitment is what you do immediately whilst a promise is what you hope to do in the future (Abdullah ibn Masud)
"Man is influenced by the faith of his friends. Therefore, be careful of whom you associate with.” (Abu Dawud) This means that a person’s beliefs, values and character is shaped and determined by those that he associates with. You are as righteous, committed, motivated and as productive as your friends are. “Tell me who your best friends are and I will tell you who you are” The simple but true fact of life is that you become like those you closely associate with- for the better or worse.
The Sincerity of Purpose
“The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions, and every person will be rewarded according to his intention...” (Bukhari)
Our sincerity determines the true value of our actions and also helps us to be consistent in what we do.“There is nothing more difficult for me to correct than my intentions, for it continually attempts to change.” (Sufyan Thawri)
Our sincerity of purpose purifies our actions and gives added significance to what we do. A man approached three workers who were doing the same job. “What are you doing?” he asked each one of them separately and got different answers. “I am cutting stones” replied the first. “I am earning my livelihood” replied the second. “I am building a mosque” replied the third. The value of what we do depends upon the inner purpose in our heart with which we do our work.
“Time is like capital in the hands of an investor, which he invests for the purpose of profit. The greater the amount being invested, the greater the returns. So whoever takes advantage of doing good deeds in his life has achieved success, while whoever wastes his investment will not see any profit but incur great loss.” (Sharaf al-Din Tibi)
Imam Ghazali rahimahullah says" “It is incumbent on every person who believes in Allah and the Last Day that he should not be oblivious of evaluating himself. Every breath of life is a precious jewel which can buy eternal treasures. Wasting these breaths or using them for detrimental purposes is such a great loss which no intelligent person could justify. When a person wakes up he tells himself that the only commodity he has is his life. When life perishes all his capital perishes" (The Provision of Believers)
It is necessary for an individual to pause at the end of each day that has passed, in order to check himself and run through his achievements: What has he done in the course of the day? Why has he done it? What has he omitted? Why has he omitted it? You will not meet a believer except he is evaluating himself.” (Al Hasan Basri)
Unfortunately, honest self-evaluation is one of the hardest skills to master. We generally tend to be self-serving in our thoughts.
Umar (RadhiyAllahu anhu) would often say "Criticize and appraise yourselves before you are criticized and appraised on the Day of Judgment, and weigh out your deeds, before they are weighed out for you." A Sage once said “We take delight in every day that we have lived, yet each day that passes is a portion (gone) of a lifetime.”
May Allah make us of those who persevere and remain steadfast in doing good and abstaining from evil.