Being Istiqamah – The Art of Making Lasting Changes

....Things to discuss
1. The importance of istiqamah.
2. How to make the good changes last long?
3. Sharing session Omar Suleiman’s lecture in Kuala Lumpur by Andini.

Books being discussed
1. The end of procrastination by Petr Ludwig
2. A Commentary on Ibn Taymiyyah’s Essay on the Heart by Bilal Phillips
3. Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin
1. The importance of Istiqamah (steadfastness)
Istiqamah (Steadfastness) is an important concept of Islam. It has several meanings. It means to be straight, to follow the straight path, to remain firm on one’s principles and not to give in to difficulties or challenges. Some scholars say that it also means to be sincere and do good things in public as well in private life. Some others say that it means to be straight in words as well in deeds.
According to Omar Suleiman, it’s a stage of one self that is unchangeable no matter what the situation is. Ex. Usman Ibn Affan –> he kept maintain the good deeds (generosity) both in times of hardship and ease.
The importance of istiqamah according to the Qur’an and hadith:
“Indeed those who say, ‘Our Lord is Allah,’ and, further, stand straight and steadfast, the angels descend on them (from time to time): ‘Fear you not! (they suggest), Nor grieve! But receive the Glad Tidings of the Garden (of Bliss), that which you were promised!’ We are your protectors in this life and in the Hereafter: therein shall you have all that your souls shall desire; therein shall you have all that you ask for!’ A hospitable gift from One Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful!)” (QS Fussilat 41: 30-32)
“Those who are following guidance from their Lord and they are those who are successful.” (QS Al-Baqarah:5)
Sufyan Ath-Thaqafi reported, “I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, tell me about Islam in one word that I would not ask anyone other than you (according to Abu Mu’awiyah he said, “anyone after you”).’ The Prophet (pbuh) said, ‘Say I believe in Allah and then stand steadfast.’” (Ahmad, 14869)
Therefore, being a muslim requires istiqamah everywhere and at all times. Those who live with istiqamah Allah has promised them great reward and blessings in this world and in the Hereafter.
1. The relation of the sound heart and istiqamah
• Being istiqamah is related to the sound heart. Therefore, the heart is extremely important to make a new habit last long. It is the master of limbs as the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Indeed in the body there is a clump of flesh, if it becomes good, the whole body becomes good, and if it goes bad, the whole body goes bad. Indeed it is the heart.”
• Ibn Taymiyyah introduced the concept of “Heart Intelligence”, where the intellect resides in the heart not in the brain. At the end of the day, one heart will make a decision, that we called as the “guts”. Some of the Qur’anic verses to prove this view are:
“…That they have heart by which to understand…” (QS Al-Hajj, 46)
“Indeed there is a reminder in it  for one who has a heart”. (QS Qaaf: 37)
How many thinkers do not find the knowledge they seek, just as many looking for the new moon do not see it, and many listening for a particular sound do not hear it. Some people do not find the truth they seek because of closemindedness. “…It is not the eyes that are blind but the hearts”. (QS Al-Hajj: 46)
• Allah has placed in the hearts a warner for each of us whenever we approach evil. This is evident from the hadith, in which the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Allah has laid down a parable of a straight path. On each side is a wall with open doors and curtains hanging down over the open doors. At the top of the path there is a caller saying, ‘Go straight, all of you, on the path and do not deviate.’ Above him is another caller who says, whenever anyone tries to open any of those doors, ‘Woe to you! Do not open it, for you do so, you will go through it’. The path is Islam, the open doors are the things that Allah has forbidden. And the curtains hanging down are the limits of Allah. The caller at the top of the path is the Qur’an and above him is the (one who) admonishes for Allah’s sake and who is present in every Muslim’s heart.” (Ahmad).
• The warner is sometimes referred to as the conscience. If careful attention is paid to its warnings, the individual’s inner thoughts and outer action improve and the warnings in turn get stronger. If the warnings are ignored, the outer actions and inner thoughts become increasingly destructive and the signals become progressively weaker until they can no longer be perceived.
• The heart naturally understands matters in the same way that the eye naturally sees and the ear naturally hears. Training may help the heart to understand things better to develop and maintain new habits. Therefore, it is important to take care of the heart because it is a king that will command its limbs of the body. If it is good, the new habit will develop and maintain it for last long.
1. Tips to make a new habit last long
◦ Know yourself. Nail down whether you’re a novelty lover or familiarity lover.
◦ You have to know the reason why you do that. Use your heart if you want to understand “why” in the same way you use your eyes when you want to see.
◦ Habits have 3 components: (i) Cue; (ii) Actual Routine; and (iii) Reward that you’re brain identifies. Therefore, you can keep your eyes on the prize if you want to develop a new habit because your brain will think about that reward and it is good for your mental health when things done.
◦ Don’t ruin your day by thinking about tomorrow. Focus on today, so it will calm your brain.
◦ Don’t cheat yourself. Ibn Abbas related to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “There are two blessings about which most people are cheated: health and spare time.” (Bukhari)
◦ Pick one good habit that suits to yourself. Make sure you’re comfort with that new habit.
◦ Ask Allah to make us steadfast in the good deeds .
◦ Do baby step, be moderate and don’t push hard on yourself.
◦ Tracking your new habits by making sort of like “good habit tracker”, so you will know the development of yourself.
◦ Focus on your goals (new habits), and don’t make any unnecessary commitment.           
1. One of the issues to maintain new habit is “procrastination”. Below is the tips to end procrastination:
◦ Reflection. Take a weekly meeting with yourself (The reflection or internal meeting with yourself)
◦ Prepare your days
◦ Get motivated  by answering why you do that
◦ If you already knew the reason why you want to do that, then just do it. Stop thinking process and get distracted with any unnecessary or trivial matters.
1. Further readings
◦ Purification of the Heart – Hamza Yusuf
◦ The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg

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