By Azni M. Zain
Istiqamah in Arabic loosely translates in meaning ‘to persevere’ or in simple terms, to continue. Many times in aiming to reach a certain goal, we only set our eyes on the finish line, but istiqamah requires the ‘stamina’ to get us through the journey of reaching the desired destination. The goal for every Muslim is to return ‘home’ to the ultimate abode; the highest level of Paradise, Jannatul Firdaus, and we are reminded that in order to get there, we must persevere in this temporary place called the Dunya. So despite the challenges, the hardships, the tests, and all the ‘battles’ that we face in this temporary world, we as true believers, must ‘soldier on’ and be strong enough to carry on moving forward, one step at a time, through patience, prayer, and istiqamah.
Traveling in this Dunya Through Istiqamah
A famous hadith says that we should ‘live in this world as a stranger or traveler’ and that is just what we are; travellers on our way to the Final Destination, that ultimate Home that we long for. But in actuality, we sometimes forget that this journey requires effort, hard work, and perseverance in order to reach that final home. Therefore, the efforts we make in this dunya will be the determining factor as to where we will be in the Hereafter. We long for Jannah and want to be kept out of Jahannam, but we need to remember to increase our efforts to attain that eternal reward. We need to remind ourselves that this continuous mode of striving is what we should be consciously aware of, as we travel through this journey called Life.
One of the ‘paths’ to Jannah among other good deeds is seeking knowledge. A person who seeks knowledge is set to be paving their way to Paradise. It is said that “Allah will make a way for the one who seeks knowledge. Rasulullah (Peace and Blessings be upon him) said:
“Whoever follows a path to seek knowledge, Allah will make the path to Jannah (Paradise) easy for them.” (Sahih Muslim).
Hence, it is something that all Muslims should aim to do in this dunya; learn, seek ilm, get knowledge, and apply it.
Our basic human understanding is that the simple formula of good outweighing the bad should take us straight into Jannah, right? But it isn’t that easy, and with the tests that we face, it is sometimes a lonely journey. How do we pave the way to Jannah with istiqamah, when we can sometimes feel alone and demotivated? How can we aim to please our Creator, and increase our efforts to get closer to Him?
Istiqamah, Ilm-Seeking & Sisterhood Through the AlKauthar Experience
Allah SWT says: “Take one step towards me, I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards me, I will run towards you.” (Hadith Qudsi). I never really understood this analogy, until I experienced a situation that caused me to turn back to Him in askance when tested with a health issue a couple of years ago. Sometimes, in our moments of darkness, we will have no other choice but to cry out for help and the moment we take that step, realization dawns upon us that Allah was always there; we were the ones who may have been distant. As reflected in Surah Ad-Duha: “And He found you lost and guided you (93:7), the promise of Allah is true. He will guide you when you are lost, and when you take that step, He will come even closer. And so I found myself searching to make a change, taking a step in the direction of unfamiliar ground, venturing on a journey towards something new.
Though I cannot pinpoint the exact time I started this need to embark on an ‘ilm-seeking’ journey, I would say that the doors to learning were opened by opportunities via AlKauthar’s courses, events, and classes. My AlKauthar journey began when I had the privilege of attending the first ever Being Me conference in June 2012. Being a complete ‘newbie’ at the time, I thought it would be a once-a-year commitment to an annual event, and that would be that.
But then I started attending the Twins of Faith conferences at the end of every year, and so it became a biannual occurrence, and this leads to even more ilm-seeking opportunities, MashaaAllah. Once I started attending weekend seminars, I was becoming somewhat ‘addicted’ to the ‘high’ of being in an environment unlike any other that I’d experienced before… and the rest, as they say, is history.
The very first-weekend seminar I ever went to was “The Forgotten Jewels” in September 2015, taught by Sheikh Daood Butt, and though I had always wanted to go for a weekend course, it hadn’t been an ‘easy’ journey to actually get to one of these classes. Admittedly, I had been procrastinating all this while: it was too much of a sacrifice, it was costly, it would take up a whole weekend (excuses, excuses).
But then by Allah’s will, an unexpected opportunity came via a friend who had already registered and paid for the course but could not go at the last minute. This beautiful ‘soul sister’ refused to take any payment from me (when I offered to pay), saying that it was her intention for sadaqah jariah (to give her purchased seat at the class for free) and all that she asked for in return was that I pass her the course notes, later on. Maybe it was Allah’s way of answering my prayer, and pushing me in the direction I needed to be in, but because of this unexpected gift, I knew that I just had to go; no excuses this time. As it turned out, it was indeed, a life-changing experience and a spark to the beginning of more good things to come, in shaa Allah.
One of the things I unexpectedly discovered when attending that the first-weekend course was the serene atmosphere; that aura of calmness that surrounded the entire event. The setting of a weekend seminar, as I discovered, was much different from a large conference, due to a smaller number of people, and a more intense scrutiny of a topic or issue centered on a specific theme. With the very organized and systematically compiled course notes, being in the presence of fellow students who seemed enthusiastic to learn, and having the opportunity to be up-close and have face-to-face interactions with the course instructor/sheikh, the learning experience was much more meaningful than the conferences I had attended previously. The environment was unlike being back in university days, except that this time, it was learning about the deen, which left me in awe, by the end of the course.
Somehow the feeling of seeking ilm for the sake of Allah, is truly indescribable. Maybe it’s because the angels are gathered above us unseen, maybe it’s the barakah of such gatherings… whatever it is, that ‘iman high’ keeps coming back and you long to feel it again and again. Which is why you actually look forward to these events, because of that feeling of serenity, and the peace of mind that it provides, like a dose of a ‘drug’ but one that is actually good for you. Some people have referred to this as a ‘dose’ of “Vitamin Deen” and yes, truly, this is one type of vitamin I could get addicted to!
To further add to this meaningful experience during that particular weekend, AlKauthar just happened to be launching the Enrich Pass which would enable AlKauthar students easy access to a wide range of resources, for a monthly fee. Besides free attendance to weekend seminars all year-round, there were also e-Book course notes, audio and video lectures, online Q & A sessions with the masha’ikh and so many other features that seemed too good to be true. On the spur of the moment, I decided to sign up for the pass, with the hope of committing myself to being disciplined about consistent ilm-seeking, and it was a decision that became the trigger to something even greater, it seems. Alhamdulillah, since that first-weekend seminar I became “addicted” to being a participant of courses and I always look forward to attending more.
The other surprising factor I discovered was the bond of sisterhood that developed when meeting people at these classes. Where initially I would attend these courses on my own, feeling quite alone, I then started seeing regulars, and even some people I had already been acquainted with, though we had met previously in different settings; not an ilm-seeking one, like a weekend ilm seminar.
Over the months, which are now turning into years, some friendships have been fostered, developed, and renewed and I now refer to these fellow ilm-seeking friends as my “AlKauthar Sisters.” We have managed to keep in touch, looking forward to seeing each other again and again, and sharing what we learned with one another in an effort to strive for understanding and in an attempt to put theory into practice, which can be quite a challenge. The fact that we keep meeting and parting for the sake of Allah is a beautiful way to be acquainted, and learning has truly become a priceless gift to share with others, as I am discovering, and I truly love that feeling!
Keep Striving and Investing in the Akhirah
It can be a lonely journey, this. But Allah’s promise is true “seek help through patience and prayer” and by setting the intention to please Him, He will make a way for us when there didn’t seem to be one before.
He will send help your way, in every form. He will send friends your way; strangers who seem to be seeking, just like you. And it will be a beautiful, rewarding experience that you get to embark on with others, in shaa Allah.
As mentioned in Surah Az-Zukhruf (43:67): “Close friends, that Day, will be enemies to each other, except for the righteous.” Thus, the importance of good companionship is emphasized as one of the things that can save us on the Day of Judgment. Would that not be motivation enough for us to ‘invest’ in our akhirah, through seeking good companionship? Thus, in listing out our goals, seeking ilm, good companionship, and istiqamah are among the basics that we should be aiming for on our way to paving the path to the Hereafter.
They say you never know which deed can take you to Jannah, so keep doing good deeds. May Allah reward that sister for the good deed she passed on, because merely through the kind gesture of offering her place for free attendance to the course, it motivated a fellow sister like me, to strive for betterment and to keep on learning.
May the experiences of those who get to embark on an AlKauthar Journey of learning, become one of the good deeds that can take us to Jannah. May Allah grant us istiqamah in our efforts to please Him. May we keep learning and striving to seek ilm and do good deeds, and may we be granted opportunities in strengthening our motivation to learn and earn a place in that ultimate abode, Jannatul Firdaus, ameen ya Rabbal Alameen!