إِنَّ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا رَبُّنَا اللَّهُ ثُمَّ اسْتَقَامُوا تَتَنَزَّلُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْمَلَائِكَةُ أَلَّا تَخَافُوا وَلَا تَحْزَنُوا وَأَبْشِرُوا بِالْجَنَّةِ الَّتِي كُنْتُمْ تُوعَدُونَ
Innaladhīna qālū rabbunal-lāhu thummas-taqāmū tatanazzalu ‘alayhimul-malā’ikatu allā takhāfū walā tahzanū wa-abshirū bil-jannatil-latī kuntum tū‘adūn
Indeed, those who say, ‘Our Lord is Allah!’ and then remain steadfast, the angels descend upon them, [saying,] ‘Do not fear, nor be grieved! Receive the good news of the paradise, which you have been promised.
(Sūrat Fussilat, No 41, Āyat 30)
Steadfastness is one of the highly coveted virtues in Islam. To have faith in the path is not enough. Nor is it enough to just start the trek. The real challenge is to go the entire way and reach the destination. That is the true test. Obstacles and disappointments along the path sometimes lead to an evaporation of enthusiasm. For some it can mean losing the will to continue. It is no wonder that steadfastness or ‘istiqāmah’ is the litmus test of the believer. How strong is the commitment to the path?
The above verse talks about the reverence of the angels for those who are steadfast. These people have the two necessary qualities all throughout their life: faith and good deeds. Tafsīr-e Namūneh says this verse encapsulates all that is beautiful about a believer – turning to the Lord with deep faith that colors all of life and brings forth determination to be firm on the path. Tafsīr Majma‘ al-Bayān quotes from the Prophet sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam about this verse: People say it but then most of them disbelieve. So, whoever says it until he dies, he is the one who is steadfast. Amirul Mu’minin Imam Ali ‘alayhis salām says: Action! action! Then look at the end; the end and remain steadfast; steadfast. (Nahjul Balāgha, Sermon 176)
The command to be steadfast was given to the Prophet in Sūrat al-Shūrā: Be steadfast, just as you have been commanded (Q 42:15). In Sūrat Hūd he was also told: So be steadfast, just as you have been commanded—you and whoever has turned to Allah with you (Q 11:112). Both these verses talk about the importance of being steadfast, but the Prophet said about the latter: Sūrat Hūd has aged me, referring to this verse. Scholars say he did not mention about Sūrat al-Shūrā, because here the command applied to him alone while in Sūrat Hūd the command applied to those who were with him also. That was heavy for him. He knew that his Ummah would find it difficult to be steadfast on the right path.
When we think of what we have been able to achieve in the month of Ramadan in terms of spirituality and closeness to Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā there is a feeling of happiness and gratitude to Allah for the chance. By the Grace of God, we have, during this month, embarked on a path towards Allah (swt). After the month, the challenge is to remain steadfast on it. How are we going to continue practices that we performed in the holy month, but which will now need some extra determination and perseverance to continue? How steadfast are we going to be? Imam Zaynul ‘Ābidīn (a) prays for that after he asks Allah for the tawfīq to practise noble habits in the month of Ramadan. he says: O Allah, make us like this in the other months and days as long as You give us life, and place us among Your righteous servants, those who shall inherit paradise, therein dwelling forever (Q 23:11) (Du‘ā 44, Sahīfa Sajjādiyya)
We need to identify practices that should continue in our lives after the holy month is over. These could include saying the daily prayers on time, reciting and pondering over the Quran, setting time aside for quiet and reflective worship, and reaching out to others. The month of Ramadan was a training ground for the habits that were formed. After the month is the time to put them into real practice. Let this verse remind you of the need to be steadfast after the holy month.
Sources: Shaykh Tabarsī, Tafsīr Majma‘ al-Bayān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; http://www.imam-khomeini.ir/